Part-Time Church

Can I just say how amazingly frustrating it is that so many Unitarian Universalist churches seem to go on vacation for the summer, with either no service or very little ones or ones not regularly led by the church’s minister? We were planning on trying to find a new home church this summer but it is virtually impossible since the ministers aren’t around and aren’t leading services, there are almost no activities, and some churches are 100% closed? I understand this is tradition, ministers need a break, people go on vacation, etc. And I guess I am pretty understanding of that – but what about people that really actually need to find a church home soon? It’s just sort of not very welcoming feeling. For us, we can handle it, although it is sort of frustrating. But what about people who might just be coming to the faith? Or looking for a faith? I hope that this tradition dissipates.

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5 Responses to Part-Time Church

  1. Very well said Elizabeth. I had never quite thought about this U*U “tradition” as being yet another way in which U*U “Churches” can be rather “Unwelcoming Congregations” until you said, “It’s just sort of not very welcoming feeling.”

  2. Elizabeth,

    I totally agree that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It seems to me that there are a couple possible solutions that congregations should consider.

    One is to negotiate a different vacation plan with ministers, one that still gives ministers a fair vacation package, but that distributes that vacation in a way that doesn’t leave a congregation preacher-less for months at a time.

    Another solution that we have been trying at my home congregation, is to pair paid guest preachers with lay worship associates. In choosing guest preachers, we look for people with a personal connection to our congregation. The lay worship associates are well-respected and well-known members of the congregation who have experience speaking from the pulpit. We also are having two services this summer that are run entirely by laypeople from the congregation. Although this solution is probably less optimal than having our ministers leading some of the worships over the summer, it does provide some continuity with the church year, and allows newcomers to identify and connect with some of the key lay leaders in our congregation.

    One final note I would make is that we have invested a lot of time and energy in training lay people to lead worship services, both in the summer and during the church year. Because of that investment, I am always confident that our lay leaders will do a great job, and am proud and inspired following their services. Planning summer services shouldn’t just be about “filling in the gaps” but about taking the opportunity to help worship leaders create meaningful, high-quality services that meet the spiritual needs of congregants.

  3. superkk says:

    Elizabeth, I found your blog through your UU tag. I agree to some extent, though I think it seems to be more of an issue for smaller congregations. From what I’ve heard, many congregations are wising up to this and moving away from it. My opinion is that we don’t stress attendance enough as it is; basically sending people the message to take the summer off reinforces this. The one upside of this practice, however, is that I have been to some *very* good lay-led services which may not have had enough “space” in the regular church year.

  4. Hence the old joke: “Why don’t Unitarian Universalists go to church during the summer?”

    And the punchline is: “Because they don’t have to.”

    Though I identity now as a liberal Christian, I’ve seen this phenomenon occur in Christian churches as well. It’s particularly frustrating for young adults and people in that crucial 18-35 dynamic. Building community in that group is difficult because so few people in that dynamic have any desire to go to church at all. Those who seek to find community during that time period find themselves alone and frustrated.

  5. jacqueline says:

    well, you do know it is because we UU’s see ourselves living FOREVER on the academic calendar. I always thought it was kind of funny… kind of like a Peter Pan syndrome.

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