Tuesday, 20 July 2010

ICUU Symposium Blog Part One

Ah, well, describing the symposium day by day just won’t work, although I will look at the themes of the papers later in this blog. And since life intervened in a way that means I am posting all the articles at the same time I will post them backwards from a blog point of view, which is to say in reading order.

Although the three day schedule looked much the same as for the ministers meeting in Rolduc a few days earlier, the content requires a different treatment. Collegial conversations about ministry and call were replaced with carefully researched and content-rich academic papers. It was neither better nor worse, but rather a different set of savoury dishes tabled for this event’s buffet.

Some 60 lay and ordained participants from 14 nations joined for three days of thoughtful reflection, debate and conversation on the theme, “Belonging: Our Unitarian Identities and the Nature of our Relations”. It was a great chance to learn about each other more deeply and more personally.
The papers will be available online through the Amazon.com in the near future, as soon as they are given final edits and delivered to us. I highly commend them to you, for they were of impressive quality and depth. We will spread word of their availability through all of our lines of communication as soon as that comes to pass.
So instead of a day by day account what follows are some observations grouped around themes.

Daily Worship

In some parts of the ICUU, most notably North America, even that word ‘worship’can cause a stir, but it is what we joined to do. The collection of shared worship services at an international Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist event is a most marvellous experience, as we come together to see what we can learn from and be moved by one another.

There were 30 minutes services morning and evening. Sometimes they spoke to the day’s academic theme, sometimes not. Sometimes they taught about how our friends worship elsewhere in the world, sometimse not. As the days go by a worshipping community developed that was real, marked by close connections and appreciation for what was offered.

This week we experienced Filipino and African worship (featuring leadership from three countries), a service by an American ministering in Germany, an American ministering in French Canada, a native Englishman now a Canadian citizen, and two UK ministers.

Within that we heard music from Africa, USA, the Philippines and Europe, enjoyed two sacred dance meditations, and lit the chalice in seven or more languages. We heard sermons and moving personal stories. We sang Scripture, and Gospel and Latin chants and simple popular hymns. We held hands and gazed into each other’s eyes in deep greeting. To follow a simple dance step while looking into another’s eyes gives room to go beyond any language barrier and any cultural difference, giving us the chance to meet as merely human beings.

And when the chalice light was extinguished and the flame was carried only in our hearts... well the whole world and the U*U world seemed just a little smaller, a little more friendly, a little less foreign.

Amen. Go in Peace.

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