What term do you use to describe your community?
On his blog Chop Wood, Carry Water John Blevin’s writes about this question and shares some messages from the UUA’s leader discussion list.
According to one of the messages quoted the breakdown of how UUA member congregations are named is as follows:
- 504 contain the word Church
- 307 contain the word Fellowship
- 151 contain the word Congregation
- 106 contain the word Society
- 40 contain the word Community
- 27 contain the word UUsStarting in 2000, of the 64 new congregations, only 15 have Church in their name.
And in there, at least from around New England, are lots with the word “Parish.” In my region we have a number of congregations with names like “The First Congregational Parish of Somecity Unitarian Universalist.”
As someone working with a wide range of congregations as a speaker, consultant and coach, issues around these words confront me constantly. I tend to speak about all of our churches, fellowships, societies and congregations collectively as “congregations” as in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. However, I will say that I still use the word “Church” a good deal.
I know… Some people aren’t comfortable with this word. Some are recovering from a previous “church” experience. Others come a tradition that do not use this term at all. I’ve spoken with many people coming from Jewish families who have trouble with the notion of going to a church.
I think it is helpful to discuss this language in as much as it keeps us from our real work and ministry. In Blevin’s post he quotes UUA Moderator Gini Courter who says…
To the extent that a conversation about our name focuses our attention on “who we are/are not” rather than “who we are called to be”, it’s a poor use of our time and energy. Even worse, it’s a distraction from the real transformational work of the church/fellowship/congregation/society/community.