Rev. Dawn Cooley's Four Challenges

Rev. Dawn Cooley, who serves the UU congregation in Louisville, KY, has written a series on "removing barriers to congregational participation." She challenges the conventional wisdom in four areas:

1. Congregations need multiple worship services with different styles and at different times to make it more possible for more people to worship with them.
2. Congregations need to provide more avenues for participation in the work of the church; attendance in worship should not be the only path to membership.
3. Congregations need to extend their reach with technology and social media.
4. Congregations need to develop more ways to ask for money than the annual pledge campaign.

Any of these would be a tall order for many congregations. Unitarian Universalists stick pretty close to one model of organized religious life: Building + Minister + 1 Liturgy + Congregation that does many small projects and programs.

Implied in Dawn's 4 challenges is a vision of a different kind of liberal religious movement: a network of people that engages each other and the surrounding community in many ways, but is held together not by a building, but through social media, and which provides many ways to participate in the functions of worship: gathering, inspiring, sustaining, dedicating, holding.

Reading through Dawn's series, the question occurs to me. What if we asked ourselves this question: What are the barriers to our congregation participating fully in the life of our wider community?


  1. Can you or Rev. Cooley point to an example of a successful political / social movement "held together through social media"? I

  2. I'm wondering if that question can be rephrased: What does participation in the wider community look like--to congregants as well as church leadership? What opportunities for participation present themselves? Which are a good fit for our congregations/communities?


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