A letter in the 1 May 2010 issue of the Unitarian magazine, The Inquirer, complains that recent issues of that journal have focused too much content on the subject of growing congregations. "An unworthy motive" is how the author of the letter describes growth. The fact that detailed suggestions have been offered is termed "prescriptive" and the whole focus on growth considered perhaps "a new orthodoxy."
Although the author of that letter did not mention any names, you - dear reader - can be certain that I am the target of the barbed phraseology of this letter in which the author pretends to fret about "stepping over newly defined boundaries of heresy." The tone is called "strident", which I have learned often translates as 'American'.
No one is telling congregations to grow. I and others are responding to their desire to grow by providing information on how to go about that process.
To be honest though, I am fully in support of Unitarian growth. I would go so far as to say that to oppose that growth is immoral.
If you 1) believe you have something that can change people's lives for the better and 2) you consider yourself a generous person, are you not obligated to do what you can to share it? That sharing means something more active than waiting in the dark with the lights off hoping that no one shows up but being gracious if someone does. It means doing what you can to make your presence known and your life-changing proposition appealing.
This endeavor is called 'trying to grow a congregation.' It is not for the sake of money or abstract numbers - it is for the sake of the lives that can be changed and the peace that can arise as a result.
Some - and perhaps many - Unitarian congregations don't really want growth; they don't really want to reach out to people outside of their existing communities. They have good reason for this. The truth is that sharing Unitarianism is not without discomfort. It means change to the community where they find comfort - perhaps very dramatic change - and that is not at all easy.
I understand this discomfort and I understand that helping others in this way may not be what they signed up for. I can only hope that such congregations will come to feel that as they have eaten the fruit and sat in the shade of trees planted long before their birth, that they also must plant trees for the future.