Tuesday's PortlandTribune had an interesting cover story about the plight of Portland's downtown churches. I used to attend First Unitarian, Scott and I met at the beautiful First Congregational UCC, and we often admire First Presbyterian Church. I can't say we stopped attending First Congregational because it was a downtown church. While we liked the church and its service, both of us didn't really connect within anyone else there -- not that we're really connecting with anyone at the church attend now. We are both really bad at church socializing -- hence why it took us three months to meet. I suppose we liked the church we attend now because it's much smaller and more intimate than First Cong, its closer to Scott's house, and (admittedly this is shallow) has a later starting time of 11:00 a.m.
I suppose the glaring ommission in the Tribune article is that religious fundamentalism is a major contributing factor in the growing appeal of suburban churches compared with the stagnant/declining sizes of many traditional and theologically careful (and liberal-leaning) downtown churches. Most downtown churches carry traditional mainline denominational baggage (hence all the "First" church names), such as whether to include/exclude gays, whereas many suburban churches are fundamentalist-orientated have already concluded such debates.
More positively, the Tribune edition included an article about First Unitarian which seems to have the opposite problems of the other downtown churches. As a proudly theologically/politically liberal church, it continues to grow, has expansion plans, and is considering adding a third Sunday service. They're currently building on their block and have plans to build a new sanctuary (if they ever raise the money from the admittedly thrift UU members).
I attended First UU for about a year. Although its size was intimidating, I liked its progressive culture and Dr. Sewell is a great pastor. My main reason reason for leaving was that I missed Christian tradition and, again, didn't really connect with anyone.