Schenectady Unitarian Universalists have a diverse religious background. Only about 10-15 % of us are lifelong Unitarians. About 60% were once associated with one of the many Protestant groups and about 20% come from a Roman Catholic background. Other members range from Zoroastrian and Greek Orthodox to Quaker, and a bit more than 10% ascribed to no religious group prior to associating with us. The congregation is a highly educated group, almost all having some college education and two-thirds having postgraduate degrees, but what really binds us together is an appreciation for a thoughtful approach to the important questions in life. More than half of us work (or worked) for either some level of government or for a not-for-profit organization. More than 10% are self-employed.
Nearly half of the members have belonged to the congregation for more than 25 years and nearly 10% more than 50 years, but we have a strong group of new members (about 25%) who have joined us in the last five years. Consistent with this picture, roughly half our members are more than 60 years old. We have few members less than 30 years old. We are not a particularly diverse group; only a few members from minority groups. We are a welcoming congregation, and that is also reflected in our membership.
Our religious interests (as opposed to our background traditions) are similarly broad. Ethical religion (including Christianity) is by far the most popular choice. Humanism, naturalistic theism, and agnosticism are not far behind. Many of us avow interest in mysticism, pantheism or paganism, but what best characterizes us is perhaps eclecticism, as many of us express interest in a combination of the above, with a few other choices as well. Our religious education program includes about fifty families, and upwards of 100 children attend on a regular basis.
Our preferences for the Sunday service are, perhaps, largely conditioned by long-standing conventions, but of paramount importance is the sermon or address. We enjoy singing as a congregation, and on occasion by our small choir. We have a strong music program, and musical/aesthetic appreciation is felt to be one of the three most important reasons for attending the Sunday Service. The other two are intellectual stimulation and fellowship. These are closely followed by personal reflection, exploration of common values, and spiritual experience, which are felt to be very important by nearly half of the membership. When it comes to topics for consideration in our services, ethical and social issues easily top the list. There is a very strong interest in philosophical ideas, religion and science, and family and church community. There is little interest in most traditional religious issues (e.g., the Bible), but there is obviously interest in the relation of spiritual/religious thought to current problems.