01: While observers may assume that American metaphysical groups are aging or declining, Christ Church Unity (CCU) in Orlando, Florida is one example of a fast-growing church in this tradition, reports Philippe Murillo (Toulouse University, France).
Founded in 1939, and now described as “the fastest growing Unity church within the American metaphysical tradition,” it has tripled its membership since 2008, from 150 to 526 members. This development is linked to the arrival of a new minister, Rev. Alice Anderson, in June 2008. CCU new members come from a variety of backgrounds: Catholic, Baptist and Methodist primarily. New members report being disillusioned with denominational religion and find in CCU an environment adequate to a “spiritual but not religious” approach.
The theme of “soul growth” is central to Rev. Anderson’s message. Moreover, the fully dedicated youth and family ministry that CCU offers may also play a role in its growth and contribute to explaining why two-thirds of the adults it attracts are below age 45. According to Murillo’s analysis, CCU answers longings for an open spirituality: more amorphous spiritual paths, “in which boundaries do not apply, nor do dogmas or rules,” seem to be enjoying a growing attraction in America’s religious landscape.
Apparently, one could add when looking at the CCU, the recipe for success is to combine the offer of a “non-judgemental, diverse, non-denominational spirituality” with the creation of a dynamic, welcoming structure.
(Source: A paper by Philippe Murillo delivered at the 2010 conference of the CESNUR—organized jointly with the Italian Sociological Association—in Torino from Sept. 9 to 11).