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Welcome New Members AND Why does Membership Matter, Anyway?

By Nancy Pinson, co-chair of Member Engagement & Development

Please welcome our newest members to First Unitarian Church, joining in December: Beth Chen, Kate Franta, Christy-Anne Mathews, Robert Mathews, Bob Ullrich, and Susan Wilson.  We are so glad to have them as members of First U.
As I was handing out flyers for the “Membership Matters” workshop in October, I was asked the question, “Why DOES membership matter?”  This was from an active, energetic, and fun participant in First U programs, someone who contributes to the financial support of our church as well as a volunteer in many ways, and someone I assumed is a member – but isn’t.  In fact, we have a number of “contributing friends” who have been active for many years.  Reasons for not joining are personal.  In some cases, for example, our friends are honoring their family members who came before them and who practiced a different faith.  In other cases – much more prevalent among people today – people are just not “joiners.” At First U, we name several benefits of “membership”:  the warmth and inspiration of being part of a spiritual community that helps us grow and nurtures us in times of need; the right to contribute to significant decisions in the life of the church through voting privileges; access to our minister for on-going support, including rites of passage at no charge; and access to leadership roles in the church.  These may not be so convincing in today’s world, however. While we grow our circle of friends with great joy, we also continue to seek to grow our membership.
As written by Rev. Finkelstein, and read at the recognition ceremony for our newest members on December 13, “Membership in this church is both simple and difficult.  It is simple because all that is required is to sign our membership book.  It is difficult because that simple act carries with it complex meaning. That act means you have made a decision to join a community searching for truth with no promise of success. That act means you have joined a congregation that is struggling for justice, knowing that the struggle is often long and hard.  That simple act means that you have joined with a people who strive to live in loving relationship with each other.  These are not easy things.  Truth is often unwelcome, justice can be slow and painful,  love is the ultimate challenge in each of our lives.  Unitarian Universalism holds no set creed which everyone agrees upon.  What we do affirm is that we will walk together and support each other in our varied understandings of spiritual life and development. We acknowledge that we must take responsibility, personally and corporately, for the world we live in and the life we lead.”
I believe when we sign our name, we are making a significant commitment in all these ways to stick with and support each other through the many ups and downs of church life.  And it feels good – just ask our newest members.