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Large churches meet in Boston

UUA triennial conference.
By Staff Writer
May/June 2005 5.1.05

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Thirty of the largest UU congregations were represented at the UUA's sixth triennial Conference for Large Congregations, as were 13 growing congregations that are approaching the 550-member threshold that defines "large"; for UU congregations. Attendance at the conference, held in Boston in February, exceeded 300 people.

Activities included worship led by the Rev. Stefan Jonasson, the UUA's coordinator of services for large congregations, workshops, and a keynote presentation on building social capital by author Don Cohen. Perhaps most important, Jonasson said, the conference gave large congregation leaders a chance to learn from each other and develop interchurch relationships.

Jonasson said that out of the 1,039 UU congregations, the 40 large congregations account for almost 20 percent of our total church membership. The number of large churches in the UUA has hovered between 37 and 43 for two decades, Jonasson said, but the national trend is toward larger churches and he expects that number to exceed 50 by the end of the decade.

While the number of small churches continues to decline each year in most religious denominations, Jonasson said, midsize churches, which many experts believe will dramatically decline in number during the coming generation, feel the greatest strain. "American culture seems to favor both large institutions (which offer quality, relevance, and choices) and smaller ones (which offer intimacy and familiarity),"; he said. "It is midsize institutions that have a harder time defining their place."

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