Michigan churches are having a hard time, too, of course. When times get hard, discretionary income goes down. And churches are, well, discretionary, particularly in the guilt-free UU version where tithing isn't a religious obligation in the same way that it is in some other faiths.
One measure of rough things are in Michigan might be to look at the level of ministerial transition. Sometimes these transitions are a result of ministerial tenures happening naturally, but sometimes they're because of a need to decrease the level of ministry due to budget. Even when the transitions are not budget related, the budget may pose problems for them finding a minister quickly, so the transition may last longer.
Michigan has 22 churches that are in our district (the U.P. churches are not). Of those, 20 have ministers right now. I count ten that next year will have interim ministers, consulting ministers, or no ministers of that twenty, unless either Muskegeon has called a minister (which is possible--I'm out of touch with their situation). That's half of our churches with ministers in transition in some way. And this is a year when transitions, overall, are down, because when things are stable, ministers are wanting to hang on to their positions right now. It's not a good time to try to sell a house or for a spouse to move jobs, so that promotes a lack of transition.
Even for those of us not in transition, of course, the difficulties in our communities translates into difficulties in our churches. Chip Roush writes in his blog that the UU church in Traverse is experiencing difficulties:
Our church budget (including and especially my compensation) has been slashed;
our four-year capital campaign has been terminated (I prefer "postponed," but
others insist it's now or never); and our Michigan economy continues to
decline--and these things open us to new possibilities.
We have yet to find out what the situation in our own church will look like, as we're still waiting on pledge data before building the budget, but I know that in the #1 worst small city for jobs, it's unlikely to be amazingly good. For those who still have jobs, rumors of more companies closing are circulating, which brings fear. If you're afraid you're going to be out of work soon, that often equates to not raising a pledge, even if that fear never manifests.
So with all that doom and gloom, here's an unlikely source for pride: Eminem.
I never thought I'd be posting him on this blog! But this video, reminiscent of Mitch Albom's "The Courage of Detroit" is well worth watching.