Planting Black UU Churches?

Lizard Eater at The Journey asked about intentional planting of UU churches in order to develop an African-American Unitarian-Universalist church.  This comment grew so long that it seemed more appropriate to post it here, rather than on the original thread.

All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church is a UU church planted in Durham, North Carolina, with apparently a fairly Universalist orientation.   They had to borrow white folks from local churches in order to give it a critical mass, at least in the beginning, but the goal is to develop UU churches in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods.  Not sure we can call this an attempt to create an African-American church per se, rather than to create a racially integrated church that is both white and black.

Davies Memorial Church was planted in a majority black area, and has about 30% African-American membership, but I don’t know if this was an attempt to specifically draw black members.

There are churches that are significantly black, not sure if there are any that are majority black.  In the late 1990s Community Church of New York was about 1/3 African-American.  This was not because of planting practices, but because it was an urban church with a long history of direct involvement in social justice issues, had African-American clergy, and had a longstanding critical mass of African-American members such that newcomers generally felt comfortable.  It probably still has this rough percentage of black members.

All Souls Unitarian in Washington D.C. used to have a large African-American membership (not sure if it was a majority), which is presumably still the case.

There was a Rev. Carter, himself black, who ministered in a primarily black neighborhood in Cincinnati for a couple of decades in the first half of the 20th century.  White Unitarians of the time didn’t tend to give him much support.

What can be taken from all this is that UUs have more or less supported occasional concerted efforts at creating diverse, integrated churches, either through intentional planting or through active work to change the complexion of existing churches.  But there has been little support for creating majority black churches as such.  Integration and racial cooperation, rather than empowerment through separation, has been by far the more favored position in UUism.  This relates of course to the profoundly divisive black empowerment crisis that developed in UUism at the end of the 1960s, when the divergence between these two ideological positions resulted in deep, perhaps permanent damage to the denomination.

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2 Comments

Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

2 responses to “Planting Black UU Churches?

  1. At Lizard Eater’s blog, I mentioned the 1996 start of The Church of the Open Door on the South Side of Chicago — a GLBT-friendly, predominately African American congregation affiliated with the UUA and the United Church of Christ. (Alma Crawford, now on the Starr King faculty, was one of its founding ministers.) The church doesn’t appear to have a website, although it’s still listed in the UUA Directory.

    Also, see UU World’s February 6, 2007, article, Sinkford outlines plan for more diverse ministry, which introduces the “Diversity of Ministry” initiative. More on this fledgling initiative here and here.

  2. Thank you VERY much for all of the information!

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