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Who's in Charge Here?

Governance in Unitarian Universalist Congregations

By John B. Bennett

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In carrying out their responsibilities, the officers of your society may choose to turn to the Unitarian Universalist Association for help. The UUA, with headquarters at 25 Beacon Street in Boston, provides our denomination with a continental voice in matters of religious, ethical, and social concern. It carries out the directives of its member congregations.


The UUA offers local congregations and societies and their members a wide range of services and resources. These are available directly from the UUA or from district executives in twenty-three districts across North America, each with a professional staff and a volunteer board.


From their regional offices, district executives bring UUA consulting and advisory services to local societies for long-range planning and organizational development, leadership training, and conflict management. They work with clusters of congregations to present training programs on ministerial recruitment and settlement, fundraising, and ccongregational growth.


Funds for the services offered by the UUA come from voluntary contributions of member congregations, called the Annual Program Fund (30%); from investment income (45%); from individual contributions to the Friends of the UUA (10%); and from miscellaneous sources (15%).


The UUA is governed by a board of trustees made up of twenty district trustees selected by the districts, a moderator and financial advisor, and four at-large trustees. The Board meets four times each year.


The president of the UUA, as chief executive officer, is charged with the operation of the Association but exercises no formal control over local congregations. The president works with an executive vice president, a communications and development vice president, a treasurer, and professionals in the fields of congregational growth, religious education, social justice, and ministry. The director of the UUA-owned Beacon Press also serves on the executive staff. The president and a staff of 140 work under the guidance of the board of trustees and the General Assembly.

General Assembly

Every June, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Association meet for six days to debate and act on a range of issues that will guide the UUA in the years ahead. More than 1,000 societies and congregations send some 1,400 delegates to the General Assembly, which meets in different locations in the continental United States or Canada. Action is taken concerning timely social issues and the governance of the Association. Actions of the delegates do not bind local societies. Every four years, the delegates elect a president, a financial advisor, at-large trustees, members of certain key committees, and a moderator to manage the business of the Association. The moderator presides at the General Assembly and at meetings of the board of trustees and represents the Association on occasions of special importance.

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