Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Glimpses of a Global Faith—Earthquakes, Handshakes, & Hugs in the Philippines

Family Minister’s Message about the ICUU Meeting–and Us

A 6.7 quake hit minutes before our plane from Manila landed February 6 in Dumaguete City, Philippines.  We had lunch by the sea, watching for “weird waves.”  We felt a 4.8 aftershock, and other aftershocks, for days.

Luckily a geo-physicist from Norway was one of the 71 folks attending this meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU).  Checking the Web, he told us the tsunami warning was over.  Yet the quake had cut off remote UU villages on the north part of Negros Islands from international visitors, and from power and supplies.

Unitarianism and Universalism are found in 50 countries–and counting.  A Canadian minister (the current president of the ICUU) says that we global UUs are not all the same, but are a collection of indigenous expressions of liberal religion.

At this meeting we experienced variety of UU worship style, theology, economic circumstance, and cultural standards.  And much love!

Borrowing Sacramento’s pledge drive theme, all the indigenous versions of our global faith are giving safe harbor, and sharing a beacon of love and justice.

  • The Philippine UU Church brings village lay leaders to the city for training sessions at headquarters.  It is advocating for a national bill for reproductive health.  Rev. Nihal (a December speaker here) operates a micro-loan program for villagers.  He monitors the progress of the boys and girls who receive student sponsorships from UUs in North America.  In the dirt-floor village churches, ministers preach the love of God for everyone.
  • An Australian ICUU delegate gave us testimony about his atheism.  He said he values his church as a safe harbor to explore all matters of spiritual significance and life purpose.
  • The Czech Unitarians will mark 90 years in Prague this year.  The tribal Khasi Hills Unitarians in Northeast India mark 125 years.  Both invite us to visit!
  • A Netherlands denomination representing 47 liberal congregations was voted in as a new ICUU member at this meeting.
  • UUs from Nigeria updated us on the anti-gay oppression they must confront, plus government corruption.  One said:  “We are in the midst of plenty, yet we eat like ants.”
  •  The lay leader of the UUs in Mexico City counts 25 souls at services—and 450 online members.  He has a prison ministry—translating and teaching the adult level of the UUA’s “Our Whole Lives” sexuality course to inmates (male and female).
  •  In Britain, Unitarians practiced congregational democracy long before a Parliament gave power to the people.  In Romania under communism, the state required the minister of every Transylvanian village church to do all the work, disempowering lay leaders.  They’ve been relearning church democracy—and trust of one another—since 1989.
  •  A former Catholic brother in Burundi serves as minister of the new UU church in Bujumbura.  Now married with kids, he works for a British nonprofit, so his ministry is a side job, as it is in most poor countries.  They’ve built a new building and have 80 members.  And the Burundi church is mentoring the Kenyan churches in building up liberal religion.
  • In Kenya, every UU church family has an AIDS orphan living with it.  A young lay leader led worship for us one night. He said prayers for our host nation, his own, and all those in trouble or transition.  He taught us a Kiswahili song, and we went around in a circle shaking hands and hugging one another, singing.
  • The Kenyan UUs were recognized as an “emerging group” by ICUU.  Then the Bishop of the Transylvania church (the oldest Unitarians) presented this newest group with a table cloth and copy of the 1668 Edict of Religious Toleration.

When I see what a liberal church means to people all over the world, I get choked up.  I realize that our own congregation is just as important to me, to us, and to our own corner of the world.  I re-commit myself to support UUSS as much as I can.

What we create here does matter.  Thank you for being a part of it.

Yours in service,

PS—Right now at UUSS, we are pledging financial support for our congregation for the coming fiscal year.  Pledge cards will be turned in by Celebration Sunday, March 4.  We have one service at 10:00 AM with RE classes.  Hope to see you there!


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