The Meaning of Membership
The decision to become a member represents recognition that, in the Unitarian Society of New Haven, you have found a spiritual home. The decision to become a member is often rightly a joyful one, but it should not be taken lightly, for it signals your commitment to your ongoing spiritual growth and to the shared stewardship of USNH.
A strong and healthy congregation depends on members who are committed not just to the experiences that please them, but to embodying our Unitarian Universalist Principles, understanding the history and polity (institutional structure and governance) of Unitarian Universalism and their place in it, and helping to shape and live the mission of the congregation by giving of their time, talents and financial support.
Members are not consumers of services, but people committed to deepening their spiritual lives through on-going participation in worship and spiritual enrichment programs; deepening their UU identities and their knowledge and understanding of our traditions and values through religious education classes for themselves and their children; and their connection to the community through Small Group Ministries or other programs of the Society. While all are welcome to benefit from these opportunities, members understand themselves not as consumers of these things, but as committed stewards of USNH, who share responsibility for the institution and its mission.
Becoming a Member of USNH
Practically speaking, one becomes a member of USNH by submitting an Intent-to-Join form to the office, making a financial pledge, and signing the membership book. New members are celebrated and formally recognized in worship services a couple of times each year.
Prior to signing the membership book, interested parties should attend a Pathways to Membership orientation and/or a New UU Class and/or meet with the minister.
If you are interested in becoming a member of USNH, contact Laurel Gray, our membership coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New to Unitarian Universalism?
Before considering membership, you are encouraged to spend several months participating as fully as you are able in the life of the congregation. We welcome you to join with us as we worship together on Sundays; attend an orientation to membership or New UU course; contribute financially, volunteer your time and talents, join a Small Group Ministry group or participate in any one of our other programs, all of which are open to members and non-members alike.
If you’ve come to USNH from another religious tradition, you should know that there are significant differences between Unitarian Universalism and the tradition from which you’ve come. Each of our congregations is self-governing and self-supporting. We join with other UU congregations in our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (the UUA) in order to accomplish things our congregations could not accomplish alone, such as developing lifespan religious education/faith formation curricula; credentialing ministers; and developing programs that support the health and growth of our congregations and equip us to live out our principles in our congregations and the world. The UUA is not a governing body, but an association of our congregations. The UUA and the regional districts that directly serve our local congregations are governed by Boards of Trustees elected by delegates from our congregations, and run by paid staff. The cost of these services is borne in part by the pledges of our member congregations, who are asked to make an annual contribution of approximately $60 per year per congregation member.
While each UU congregation chooses its own style of governance, all embody our commitment to the use of democratic principles in their governance. This means that, while the minister, staff, lay leaders and members each have particular roles and responsibilities, the authority to carry them out, the right to elect lay leaders (to the Board), to call or dismiss ministers (except Interim, Contract, and Assistant Ministers, who are hired by the Board), and to make final decisions about the budget are responsibilities and privileges reserved for the membership. Discernment about the purpose and mission of the congregation and how to achieve them is shared in a variety of ways between lay leaders and other members and the minister. Members work with the minister and staff to carry out the mission of the congregation, contributing their time, talents, and financial support. At present, the cost of running USNH is approximately $2000 per member per year. While this cost is not borne equally by all members, every member is required to make an annual financial pledge to USNH, according to their abilities.
If you are prepared to accept the privileges and responsibilities of membership and feel this is the right time for you to become a member of USNH, please contact Laurel Gray, membership coordinator, at email@example.com.