There are 476 UU “Churches:” The Answer to Today’s Quiz

There are well over a thousand UU congregations.  But most of them are not churches, at least, not by name.  Rather, the majority of UU groups are called something other than “church.”  A UU College Student correctly guessed that the number of UU “churches” is somewhere between 400-499.  In fact, there are 476 at present.  That’s about 44% of currently affiliated or emerging UU congregations of the UUA.  Until about a decade ago, that percentage would’ve been over 50% (though not hugely so).  It has reduced in number as the UUA has grown, adding new groups that are less likely to use the term “church,” and also as several historically “church” named congregations have voted to change names to something that doesn’t include “church,” a loaded term for some.

Church remains the single largest title for UU groups.  Other common titles include “congregation,” “society,” and “fellowship.”  A smaller number of groups merely identify themselves by place name (i.e. “UUs of Santa Clarita Valley”).

Is “church” a loaded term for you, either in a good or bad way?  What about societies, fellowships, or congregations?  Has this been an issue for your group?

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4 Comments

Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

4 responses to “There are 476 UU “Churches:” The Answer to Today’s Quiz

  1. Oh, boy, did I get into a discussion with a member on this one! I personally love the word ‘church’, and have used it freely, even though I belong to a ‘congregation’. I don’t mean church in a Christian sense, but in a sense that we are a religious organization, and the other words just don’t carry that sense for me. (I don’t mind congregation or fellowship, but I have a strong dislike for ‘society’) Well, a member (of Jewish roots) told me he would leave membership if we were to become a ‘church’. Another person I heard actually did because the word ‘church’ was used in services…

  2. Oh dear, don’t I just love “my way or else” politics. I wonder where the demands end.

  3. “Is ‘church’ a loaded term for you, either in a good or bad way? What about societies, fellowships, or congregations? Has this been an issue for your group?”

    It hasn’t been an issue for my congregation but it has been discussed at a nearby UU congregation.

    One member of this nearby congregation is originally from Iraq (raised Shiite but now UU). His case for staying “UU Fellowship” and not “UU Church” is the following paraphase:

    “Church” is no more a neutral term than “Mosque” or Synagogue.”

    If we called ourselves a “UU Mosque,” we would be appear less welcoming to some.

    Likewise, the word “Church” is too closely tied to Christianity to be welcoming to everyone.

  4. Peggy Ward Rawheiser

    In North Carolina there are churches, congregations and fellowships. In my history of North Carolina, I used congregation to include all of them. In my own mind, a fellowship is a very small informal group not yet ready to call themselves a church or congregation. It seems strange for a congregation which is in the “large church” category to still call themselves a fellowhip unless there is some reason. I know of one large congregation that has chosen to continue to be called a fellowship because they are very informal in their worship format and wish to remain informal, thus prefer to call themselves a fellowship.

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