Sarasota News Leader

02/22/2013

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RELIGION BRIEFS The Unitarian Universalist Church is located on Fruitville Road in Sarasota. Photo by Rachel Hackney LOCAL CHURCH BUCKS NATIONAL TREND IN GROWING BY 8 PERCENT At a time when many people have been turning away from organized religion, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota (UUCS), already the largest of its kind in Florida, saw its membership grow 8 percent in 2012, the church has announced. Members cite the open-minded, inclusive nature of the faith, a new minister, an invigorated religious education program and stronger marketing among the reasons for the uptick, according to a news release. A 2012 Pew Charitable Center survey found that 16 percent of American adults claim no religious affiliation ��� up from 2 percent in 1950, the release points out. This group ��� dubbed the ���nones��� because they say, ���None,��� when asked to state their religion ��� is overwhelmingly socially liberal and includes atheists and agnostics as well many who say that they are spiritual or pray every day, the release adds. who are looking for a spiritual home without dogma,��� says the Rev. Roger Fritts, the UUCS minister since August 2011, in the release. ���We welcome people of all religious backgrounds, including theists, atheists and agnostics. Our members represent a variety of racial, socio-economic, ethnic and sexual orientations, [and they] come here to be part of a friendly, caring, socially conscious community that helps each person find meaning in their lives,��� he adds in the release. The UUCS has also attracted families through its revitalized religious education program. In addition to overseeing the childcare and Sunday School programs offered weekly, the congregation���s new director of religious education, John Irvin, has started a Coming of Age program geared toward middle schoolage children, and he has supervised the renovations of the religious education classrooms, the release notes. From January through ���The inclusive nature of our congregation March, the church also offers a family-friendmakes us a perfect fit for ���nones��� and others ly, contemporary service on Sundays at 9 a.m.

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