The Greater Washington Association: Achieving Interdependence Among Unitarian Universalist Congregations.

“The Greater Washington Association of Unitarian Universalist Congregations was an organization comprised of congregations in the District of Columbia, and many nearby congregations in Maryland and Virginia. During the tenure of Rev. Dr. A. Powell Davies at the All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC from 1944 to 1957, many people from surrounding communities were attracted by his inspiring sermons and social action. This resulted in the spread of Unitarianism throughout the area, fulfilling the mission of expansion that Dr. Davies initiated and propelled into being. By coordinating their efforts and working together, the new congregations spawned other congregations. Thus the Unitarian movement (later becoming Unitarian Universalist) continued to expand over the decades. The Greater Washington Association (GWA) was formed in 1950. Out of the burst of new congregations established in the 1950s, grew 26 GWA congregations by the end of the 1990’s.

At monthly meetings of the Association, representatives from the congregations shared information and stimulating ideas to bring back to their own congregations. In addition to the monthly meetings that were hosted by the various congregations, there were annual dinners and various programs that benefited each congregation, including an annual Presidents’ Roundtable and an annual UUA General Assembly orientation session.

The work of the Association was supported solely by contributions from the congregations and all of the work was performed by volunteers. The funds collected from the congregations were used to provide advertisements in the Washington Post, the Yellow Pages phone directories, and a local public radio station to help people find their way to our congregations. Funds were also used to support a number of programs in the area, including Beacon House Community Ministry, the UU Affordable Housing Corporation, the GWA Religious Education Council, WomuunCircle, Wesley Theological Seminary (where many prospective UU ministers were enrolled), and the Chesapeake UU Ministers Association summer ministry program.

GWA provided a vital role in maintaining connections among the congregations. Just as it is essential that people within a congregation establish connections with other congregants, it is also important that congregations establish helpful connections with one another. Eventually, it became more and more difficult to generate sufficient support for the work of GWA to enable it to sustain its grass-roots momentum and GWA ceased its operation in the mid-2000’s. GWA was proud of its achievements and its role in supporting the growth of Unitarian Universalism in the Greater Washington Area for more than five decades.

This workshop will include a presentation on the origins and achievements of GWA followed by ample opportunity for action-planning discussion among participants for establishing meaningful, personal networks and organizational structures for sharing resources and best practices to work together and accomplish what cannot be done as well if done separately. The resulting empowerment of this coming together gives increased zest for furthering the UU movement as a whole. Such a mission continues to fulfill A. Powell Davies’ America’s Real Religion dream for our country.”