After a highly competitive application process, nine additional congregations have been selected by the presidents and staff of the Central East Regional Group to participate in the second cohort of the region's Threshold Congregation growth program. They join the nine congregations that were selected last year in the program.
The congregations chosen are healthy, vibrant, exciting and religiously involved. The Threshold Congregation Program is designed to build on their strengths and to enable them to grow -- in numbers, in spiritual depth, in purposeful commitment within, and in outreach. While the aspect of growth that is easiest to measure is "seats in the pews" (and this is a critical component of success), it's not the only ingredient. Of equal importance is that the congregations offer vibrant and challenging worship experiences, welcome and true hospitality, an effective system of governance with effective leaders, loving social action beyond its walls, and radical inclusivity.
Individualized congregational program planning is taking place in April and May with work beginning June 1 and continuing for the next three years. Along with working with a staff consultant, all eighteen Threshold Congregations will also be working with one another in an intentional learning community—both in person and on line.
The Central East Regional Group - CERG – consists of the St. Lawrence, Metro New York, Ohio-Meadville and Joseph Priestley districts. For more information about how your congregation can apply for the next round, click here or contact your District Executive.
These nine CERG Threshold Congregations (alphabetical by city) for 2012 are:
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, OH
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron has a long history of leadership in the Akron area, going back to the historically Universalist congregation's founding of Buchtel College, now known as the University of Akron. Their former downtown location hosted the great abolitionist leader and former slave Sojourner Truth when she made her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech in 1851. They moved to the outskirts of Akron in 1961, and added a fellowship hall and technological improvements in 2004. In 2009, they called the Rev. Tim Temerson and have since experienced a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm.
Today the congregation remains dynamic and vibrant with programming and activities for all ages. Their mission states: We seek to grow spiritually, support and care for one another, and reach beyond our walls with deeds of justice and compassion in the community of Akron and the wider world.
Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, a vibrant community of over 300 members, stands poised to fulfill its vision of being a beacon of liberal religion in southern New Jersey, welcoming questioning minds and growing spirits, and nurturing civic, social, and environmental justice. Literally rising from the ashes after a devastating fire in 1997 destroyed their Fellowship Hall, the community stayed together and mounted a campaign that raised more than one million dollars and resulted in the creation and dedication of a beautiful new building in 2002.
With the arrival of a new minister in 2009 and the adoption of policy governance in 2010, the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill has already experienced great change. That trend will continue as the congregation looks to grow by deepening its organizational structures and capacities, implementing a vigorous leadership development program, reaching out to others in the community, deepening faith journeys both within their congregation and with other faiths, and serving as a leading congregation in their District and their Region.
Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, Lewes, DE
The friendliness of this small congregation of approximately 120 members, located along the eastern Delaware shore in the picturesque town of Lewes, is embodied in its three word tag line: Meaning, Connection, Acceptance. The Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware believe that they have much to offer to the people in their surrounding area and see growth as a way to enrich their programs and have an increased presence in their community. Focused on all five areas of growth (numerical, maturational, organic, incarnational and associational), the Threshold Team is poised to work with already existing groups in the congregation to create a more vibrant church and to fulfill its vision and mission.
As a significant partner in the UUs of the Delmarva Peninsula cluster group and as regular attendees at various District, Regional and National events, this congregation has extended its influence and involvement beyond its congregational walls. As a Threshold Congregation, that pattern is expected to continue.
UU Congregation of Montclair, NJ
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, now in its 114th year, enjoys a rich history of spiritual exploration and social justice activism. This self-described "activist congregation" stated in their Threshold Congregation application that they are "a liberal religious community bent on transformation." The future they envision for themselves as they grow into a 500 member congregation is one which includes social justice programs "working towards peace, against racism and towards easing the causes of poverty." Their strong faith development programs for children, youth and adults are a key component in their growth goals and they believe "that the development of our members faith and spirituality has to be our ultimate focus."
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown, NJ
Founded in 1955, the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship is a vibrant, caring community with over 300 members who have a wide diversity of beliefs and traditions, all of which are respected and honored. Their historic building is the centerpiece of a nearly six-acre property with mature plantings and lovely garden spots that is widely used by community and interfaith partners. A recently completed Strategic Planning process has brought this diverse congregation together around the vision of "A dynamic congregation, growing in spirit, community, numbers and impact seeking to transform ourselves and the world beyond us" and they are ready to move into a bright future as partners in the Threshold Congregation program.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester, Mt. Kisco, NY
Five years ago, the UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester made a commitment to a mission of spiritual growth and the work justice. In the years since, they have grown in numbers—a 40% increase in adult members and a 350% increase in children and youth. They have seen maturational growth, with a strong commitment to faith development. They have experience organic growth, with a higher level of multigenerational participation, shared ministry and member commitment. They have celebrated their incarnational growth, with more members becoming involved in the community, district and association. The UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester was the recipient of the national UUA O. Eugene Pickett Award for 2011 in recognition of their dedication to growth and District/UUA involvement.
They hope their participation in the Threshold Congregation program will enable them to continue to follow their current trajectory of living their mission: "We are committed to building and sustaining a supportive Unitarian Universalist community, promoting personal, religious, and spiritual growth, and nurturing our common search for truth and meaning. We create and pass on traditions of joy and celebration. We embrace diversity, encouraging love, acceptance and understanding. We provide service to those in need inside and outside our community. Together, we are committed to sharing these values with our children."
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County, Reading, PA
During the last few years, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County, located in the city of Reading, PA, has steadily built a commitment to shared ministry, nurtured a spirit of inclusivity and community generosity, and fostered a culture that appreciates the diverse talents of its members. For members of this congregation of approximately 185 members, growth would be evident by the degree to which they have created a community that "nurtures people's spiritual journey and well-being and served the cause of justice and love in the World."
That sense of justice and love is embodied in the efforts of the congregation to reach out to the citizens of Reading, which was designated the poorest city of its size in the nation according to the most recent US census. Through participation in the city's Poverty Commission to serving as a site for food distribution for the County Food Bank, the UU Church of Berks County extends its reach of a beloved community to meet the needs of a hurting city. It is one way in which they live out their mission of "encouraging respect for and knowledge of all spiritual paths, promoting generous giving of time and resources, putting Unitarian Universalist values into action, and acting as a strong voice for social justice."
BuxMont UU Fellowship, Warrington, PA
BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, founded in 1961, says that they are "pursuing a growth path that allows us to become an even stronger spiritual haven, a beacon in our community, and a vibrant, dynamic fellowship." This growing 223 member congregation emphasizes the integration of newcomers and prides themselves on their vibrant religious education program. As this energetic fellowship continues to grow in numbers they have successfully added a second service and increased staff hours. They believe that the Threshold Program will help provide "focus, training, mentorship and accountability" as they work towards their ongoing growth goals.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County, Wooster, OH
Founded in 1972 with 19 members, The UU Fellowship of Wayne County, OH, has since grown to 170 members and was named a Breakthrough Congregation in 2008. This designation was partly due to the construction of their current building: They are the first church to have been honored with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. They have recently grown to the point where their building may soon be too small and they want to prepare for the challenges that their continued growth has brought them.
They have also been important participants in the Growth and Vitality program led by CERG consultant Mark Bernstein. They also have been intentional in offering training around Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Multiculturalism, with 20% of their leaders participating. Their mission states: The UUFWC is an inclusive community for spiritual exploration devoted to social and environmental justice.
All Threshold Congregations will engage with regional staff and consultants for a three-year period. In that time, the congregation has the opportunity to implement its own ideas about what it wants to do and how it wants to develop. The congregation will carefully monitor its progress, and both successes and new problems will be noted, and the congregation will have expert assistance to deal with whatever occurs.
CERG expects that a Threshold Congregation will later become a mentor congregation, acting as a resource to other congregations. By the time the three years of work is done, the Threshold Congregation will offer its experiences and learning to others, in both formal mentoring roles and less formal means of communication. The staff and leadership of CERG believe that whatever is learned, and whatever growth occurs, will be infectious, leading others to follow successful models of new development and growth.
The next round of applications will be accepted in fall of 2012. More information about next year's application process and news about the congregations selected for this year will be posted to the CERG website on the Threshold Congregation Program page