Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Philippines 2012–Less Jetlag, New Friends, Worldwide Unitarians–the oldest to the newest

Today will be the second full day of the council meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, at South Sea Hotel Resort (don’t be too impressed) in Dumaguete City, on Negros Island.

Tuesday night I slept 9 hours and Wednesday had more coffee, so I nearly made it through the day without a nap or nodding off.  Today, Wednesday, I’m very rested.  It rained heavily last night, and the A/C was so loud in the bedroom that you heard the rain (and the roosters) only while in the bathroom.  The humidity makes my finger tips stick to these keys, but it’s much less cooler outside.  I sit on the patio as the young ladies set up for breakfast.  The wind and the waves are strong.

Yesterday began and ended with worship.  The man from Mexico City read poems in Spanish and translated them into English, introduced chocolate as a gift from Latin America (chocolatl is an Aztec word), and introduced a chocolate communion.  We sang Spirit of Life, and a few of us knew the Spanish Fuente de Amor to sing those words with him.  After dinner and the evening session of the ICUU Council, we walked about 10 minutes to get to the headquarters and local church of the UU Church of the Philippines.  I’ll attach pictures after our ICUU President posts them.  We gathered in a circle of plastic chairs, inside the building, but the circle spilled out into the grounds.

Wednesday evening worship was led by Joshphat, a young man who is secretary of the UU Council of Kenya.  Tall, thin, very dark, with a big smile that showed with every word he spoke.  He wore long black pants and a baggy shirt of tan corduroy.  Afterward I told him would be dying and asked if he was hot.  He was, but he had not expected this hot, humid climate.  He said Nairobi was not as bad.  That made his earlier invitation to visit Kenya seem feasible.  I offered him tee shirts, but he said he had some lighter clothing.

He had typed out the short worship service, and it was copied for us to have as handouts.  It was four “Prayer Subjects” and then singing in Kiswahili.  He read aloud the paragraphs of the prayer subjects:  The people of the Philippines for their warmth, and for the victims of floods and landslides and the recent quake.  His country of Kenya, still dealing with political unrest.  The people of Somalia, Syria Egypt, Libya, “for peace, stability and prosperity in their countries.”  The people at the conference, its organizers, and the families we have left back home.  We stood to “hold a one minute silence reflecting on the subjects” and read in unison a prayer he had written out.

Then he got his guitar and taught us two short sung responses in Kiswahili, over and over until we got it.  Then he sang short verses, and we responded.  It was celebratory and prayerful (I could tell by the spirit of the singing and by the words translated).  After that, we sang one of the refrains over and over and walked around and around, shaking hands and greeting one another with the sung refrain, hakuna matata.  People of all nations did this just right–the words, the tune, the smiles, the melee of fellowship.


Right after worship, the Bishop of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania (Hungarian-speaking province in Romania) asked for us to quiet down.  Earlier that day at the council meeting, Kenya had been recognized as our newest “Emerging Group” of Unitarian Universalists in the world.  (This means they are still in formation but are on their way to becoming members of the ICUU.)   As the representative of the oldest Unitarian church in the world (450 years), he had some gifts to present to the Kenyans, the newest Unitarian church in the world.  He gave a small white crocheted table cover (because hospitality is of primary importance in religious community), a ceramic candlestick glazed with designs from Transylvania (and a candle), a wall hanging of the Translyvania’s Declaration of Religious Tolerance (1658) from the Unitarian king, John Sigismund, and another wall hanging of a house blessing.


I chatted over a beer in the hotel bar with a man from the staff of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in the United Kingdom, and a member of the congregation in Toronto.  I also got to know a young woman painter from Maryland, who will be moving to California to attend seminary soon.



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