Thursday, July 26, 2012

Westward Ho!

 I don’t know if the ARIS Survey puts exactly the same boundaries on US Regions as the UUA does, but regional findings from this survey  are pretty interesting.
In 1990, the Northeast contained 21% of the American Population and 26% of the UU’s.  (Remembering that this survey counted as UU anyone who claimed that, which was a lot more people than are actual members of churches.)    The Northeast area shrank in population, and in 2008, contained 18%  of the population and 19% of the UU’s.    The Midwest lost less population (2%) but more UU’s (6%).   The South gained 2% of the population and 3% of the UUs, and the west gained 3% of the population and a whopping 10% of the UU’s.    Still…that’s a lot of growth.  The upshot is that, as of 2008, this chart shows regional distribution of those claiming UU identity.  

We have a lot of history and heritage in New England.  And there is a lot of current life and vitality in New England.  I went to Seminary there and was fascinated for three solid years. But I was glad to leave because even 35 years ago, New England UU'ism seemed dull, dug in,  and old fashioned to me.  My ministries have been in the South and the West.    And I don't think I am alone among southerners or westerners in chafing at the New England Mindset that so often rules our denomination.  At this time of year, it is particularly irksome, as the privileged  UU calendar which involves churches and ministers taking the summers off because churches are not air conditioned and "everybody" is at the beach or in Maine until Labor Day, after which school and Church start up for the year.  Those of us who manage year-round, full service programs in modern buildings and start our program year Mid-August with the rest of the West and South, especially notice that we're outsiders in the UUA at this time of year.   But really, we're not outsiders!   Further, we westerners are doing quite well, capturing the hearts, if not the membership, of a significantly larger percentage of the population than other regions.  Not all of that is our own doing, of course; the south in particularly is known as a haven for conservative religions and the Northeast is nearly European in its disdain for religion of any kind.  Still, something is going well in the west that we should take note of!

1 comment:

puzzler said...

I am moving to Massachusetts and already am uncomfortable with the differences that you have outlined so well. Perhaps the UUs in the West and South could together write a best practices guide to what they are doing and how the spaces they occupy and the climates they are in make a difference. We have much to learn from them. I'm moving from the Wash DC area and am in a church that is of relatively modern construction. Way more friendlier to inhabit.