This is not a new survey. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I completed a survey of Unificationist Sunday Services as they are experienced by various members around the world. It was my first research project. I was inspired by the qualitative research of Brene Brown (The Power of Vulnerability), and dealing with a lagging interest in attending a service 90 minutes from home. I was also frustrated that my experience and that of my husband wasn’t part of the conversation. I wanted to find out what others had to say.
Engrossed thoroughly as I was in reading the responses as they came in, the work pulled me through a tough winter in Belgium, and helped me tap into a passion I’ve had all my life: giving voice to the silent or the unheard. Grassroots stories from the field always catch my interest. All told, I logged in over 600 hours, spanning a period of 3 months. The people who responded had something to say and were glad to be asked.
The finished survey was sent out to everyone who had participated, and then published on the Applied Unificationism blog, but that was as far as it went. This week, I went back for the first time, and realized it might be time to make the website public. For anyone out there who’s interested or involved in similar research, I hope it is edifying and finds fertile soil in your garden as well.
Of course, a lot has happened in 3-4 years since your survey to UC/BFMembers. it’s Murphy’s law, if something can go wrong; it will. Yet, Murphy was an optimist. I think Murphy’s law would apply to the Providence of recreation; but, optimist was not universally held by a few key position holders and a number of followers. Peace and understanding.
That’s great Robin, and your survey is right on spot. It was also 2013 that we became Faith Fusion in NH, and created services that were 100% guest friendly, personal, relevant, uplifting and social. We had many guests and some new members joined.
To some degree we were successful, but it was hard to sustain as we all became empty nesters within the first 3 or 4 years as second gen went away to college. Being a very small and spread out community, it didn’t take much for attendance to dwindle down to a handful of first gen and 2 new members. We had to stop doing Sunday School due to lack of staff, and music became recorded instead of live.
After I went to Bridgeport things declined even more, now they meet twice a month and it’s not a service, it’s a reading and discussion circle, but still 100% guest friendly. It’s actually more real for who we are. We are not a church, we are activists seeking to create change in the world first though our own internal changes which manifest next in our words and deeds.
However, over the years we found that the format of the service was not the main problem. The main problem was the attitude of members who could not embrace or understand what “guest friendly” means both internally and externally. Essentially, many 1st gen are so cloistered in their thought processes that they don’t know how to talk to the average person without offending them. That’s also why the second gen are running away, and the more open minded feel afraid to bring someone to a service. We are not here to judge others, and we are not here to be the people with “the right theology”, because theology and judgment can’t save the world. It’s love, God’s heart, that saves people. If new people aren’t joining and old members and second gen don’t want to come to service, it’s because they can’t feel God’s heart of unconditional love within that gathering of people.
Thanks, Cheryl. I would agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. Time will tell where whether we learn the lessons or not. I’m still working on it!!
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