Sunday morning worship was led by the Transylvanian contingent of ministers who briefly shared their story of call to ministry. For some it was a family tradition, for others – the first women to enter the ministry – it was a pioneering challenge. Hearing their stories and singing Transylvanian hymns was a rich beginning for the day.The day’s focus was ministry in the service of justice and
oppression. The first session was led by Rev. Kinga Reka Szekely sharing the experience of Transylvanian Unitarianism. These Unitarians are Hungarian in ethnicity, but various treaties placed their lands under Romanian rule. It has never been an easy situation, but it became worse under Communist rule and especially under the rule of Nicolai Ceacescu (whom Kinga only called “The Dictator”). In those difficult times the church lost its lands and school and had severely restricted activities. Ministers were intimidated and responded to that intimidation in very different ways.
She related the story of the 1989 revolution that happened suddenly and how life began to change so quickly. Nevertheless healing and the rebuilding of trust has come very slowly. She concluded, “The biggest teacher is the experience of being defeated,” and then added a statement of mission for colleagues, “Ministers have an irrational view of life, driven by faith and love.” That view of life gives us both a unique set of tools and a unique responsibility.
During the afternoon sessions Rev’s Ann Peart and Tina Geels gave us the chance to share stories of the role of gender in our culture and churches, and room for a discussion of same sex issues and efforts to make justice and – to borrow a UUA phrase – To Stand on the Side of Love.
Rev. Rebecca Siennes of the Philippines described the particular issues facing her community where domestic violence is a significant part of culture in that country and is certainly part of the village life where the churches are. She told how she started a non-governmental organization for women called “Do it!” to try to help them build solidarity around social issues and how the church sponsors two different microloan programs.
In Uganda Mark Kiyamba briefly described how his congregations educate impoverished and AIDS orphan children for free using volunteer teachers, but then spent most of his time discussing the resistance to anti Gay legislation in that nation. He spoke of the quiet and yet courageous organizing of a rally for Gay rights in Kampala. Their organization managed to garner such international media support that the government has, for now at least, buried the proposed legislation which would have seen serious jail terms for homosexuals and even terms for those who did not report them.
But after a day of good justice work, conference participants paid due homage to the Soccer/Football Gods. It turns out that this was World Cup Final day, and that the Netherlands was playing for the cup. About 20 of us went to the square in Kerkrade and joined the local citizens in their sea of orange as they cheer on the ‘Oranje’. In fortunately the home team lost in overtime. Ah well, at least it was a wonderful way to experience the local culture.