A new book by our own Beacon Press, Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith
By Suzanne Strempek Shea received a blessing of review in this morning’s Boston Globe. Shea spent a year visiting a different church each Sunday morning. What really grabbbed me, as someone interested in what really makes churches growing and vital places was this:
And what does she conclude at the end of her road trip? I’m not giving away anything by saying that her ideal church would be a composite of the best ones she visited, “a community that welcomed me warmly, didn’t give a whit about my politics or lifestyle, gave tons of whits about the social justice needs locally and beyond, contained little-to-no hierarchy . . . offered a spiritual message inspired by love rather than by fear, and did all this in an art-filled place that rang with awesome music.” (my emphasis)
As we in the UUA continue to focus our attention on growth, I think we need less focus on traditional mass marketing (especially ads that present an existential crisis, however clever they may be) and more focus on new media (things like youtube, social networking, blogs, instant messaging, etc.) Most of all our congregations need to focus on the things Suzanne Strempek Shea mentions above. You can have all the clever ads in the world, but if people come to one of our congregations and find a politically partisan place that is not involved in social justice and has its own internal hierarchy (and in spite of our non hierarchical polity there’s an unspoken hierarchy in many organizations, including UU congregations) with music they can’t related to or don’t care for, then as much a those folks may agree with our liberal theological stances they aren’t staying or coming back.