Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unitarian Congregational Membership Numbers

For the first time the Annual Report of the General Assembly had included membership numbers in it's report. I still think it should include the total number of Unitarian congregations and the total composite membership numbers as a matter of policy. The UUA does this as part of it's annual reporting. But this is a step in the right direction.

I think the way the numbers are reported they're probably 18 months out of date by the time they're published. It is possible to compare the 2009 numbers posted by Andy Pakula here

I haven't got time to post the full results here, but I'll list the largest congregations by membership below for interest.

London Hampstead 168 (up 5)
Dean Row 80 (down 4)
Bury 75 (down 6)
Newington Green and Islington (counted as one congregation with two sites) London 70 (up 14)
Eccles 67 (up 3)
Atherton 62 (up 3)
Edinburgh 60 (up 6)
Hinkley 59 (down 5)
Shefield Norfolk Street 58 (up 2)
Bolton Bank Street 58 (up 2)

Now I'm sure there's plenty of inaccuracies in these numbers. For example it's taken me two and a half years to get the membership list anywhere near accurate for my congregation (Bolton Bank Street). So it's actually been very difficult to know whether we are growing or shrinking in membership numbers until now. I'm not quite sure how our reported membership numbers have gone from 56 to 58. My understanding is that our membership is 53, and that's the first time I've been confident that this number in some way reflects reality.

Nevertheless the numbers do give some impressions. Hampstead remains, by far, the largest congregation in the country, but Islington and Newington Green are growing at a fast rate, so may catch up in the next few years.

There is then a cluster of "medium-sized" (for us) congregations who seem reasonably stable. This would include my congregation. And then there's 150 small congregations. And it's difficult to know their health by a quick analysis. And yes, in case any Americans are reading, and not quite getting it, all other congregations in the denomination have a membership of less than 58.

I bang on about numbers because I want us to realise where we are and increase the sense of urgency and hunger for change.


Anonymous Scott Wells said...

Hi -- I wondered

(1) how you got the annual report. Perhaps it was mailed to you, because I didn't see the 2010 annual report on the GA website.

(2) if the pathway to membership recognition for new congregations even publicly known

10:22 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...


The Annual Report is posted to me as a Minister (=a member of the General Assembly). I don't think it's ever been published online. Although as a charity it might eventually be available on the Charity Commission website.

I don't think the pathway to recognition of new congregations is widely known. Having said that a new "small congregation" is being recognised this year, Bangor Unitarians ( Obviously my opinion is that much more energy should be put into supporting those kinds of congregations.

4:40 pm  
Blogger Scott Wells said...

You can download the 2008 and 2009 Annual Report -- and other goodies -- here

Thanks for the word about Bangor.

7:18 pm  
Anonymous Robertson said...

Although not a conventional 'congregation', the association for dispersed Unitarians ,the National Unitarian Fellowship has roughly 240 members currently ; there are plenty of parts of the UK which are well 'out of reach' from existing churches,and with Bangor apart, no immediate sign of new 'plantings',I think it is time that the GA thought 'outside the envelope' a bit about growth. The NUF maintains a strong connection with its members with monthly newsletters/Viewpoints and the availability of an Internet discussion Forum and the facility for pastoral support from a minister,if required. All this provided by a very small number of enthusiastic people ;the example of the internet 'church'- st. pixels,sponsored by the Methodist church - is the kind of initiative that I feel the GA should consider more closely ; in Africa new Unitarian churches are springing up solely through encounters with Unitarian websites in the US and UK,yet the main GA site,although informative and much better than it used to be,still has little interactive aspect to it.

8:42 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Scott: my mistake. Presumably the Annual Report will be available online eventually then. I don't know when.

1:55 pm  

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