They Came From Other Churches
A new survey gives a picture of Unitarian Universalism as a growing movement of (mostly) humanist seekers.
Nevertheless, a concerted effort to appeal to high school youths and young adults has apparently paid off "During the past decade the number of high school youth in our congregations increased fivefold, and the number of young adults increased sixfold," said Buehrens, who this fall is a visiting professor at the UUA's Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of high school youths increased and the UUA transformed "a large number of lay-led fellowships into congregations with professional ministry," Buehrens said. From 1993 to 1997, congregations sponsoring campus groups went from 19 to 135, and the growth has continued, he said.
Buehrens was skeptical about surveys showing only 10 percent of members being born-and-bred UUs. Among young adults, he said, roughly one-third were "raised UU." And the percentage of New England church members whose parents were in Unitarian or Universalist congregations would be much higher than 10 percent, most observers say.
So, just what is "UUism," the denomination's unusual umbrella term? Though critics usually look upon the UUA as a union of unbelief and uncertainty, the church body's Web site upholds a belief that "personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion." Since "human understanding of life and death, the world and its mysteries, is never final," the association endorses the "free search for truth," or more precisely, "unfolding truths" over time. Underlying its actions is the belief "that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion."