Monday, 19 July 2010

Part Three - New Friends

One delight of both conferences was meeting new friends from Dutch liberal religious communities. Two groups in the Netherlands share long ago historical ancestors and connections with modern day Unitarians and Universalists. People like Netherlander Jacobus Arminius challenged Calvinism in the same era as David Ferenc (Francis David) and Faustus Socinius. From these common roots arose the Dutch Remonstrant Church.

Brian Kiely with NPB Hospital Chaplain Diet van Dorsser

The liberal wing of that group has a great deal in common with us and some congregations have direct ties and partnerships with Transylvanian Unitarian churches.

A newer arrival has been the NPB (sorry the business card with the full name is in my checked bag. I am writing during a long layover at Heathrow. Mostly they call themselves NPB). Their communities (seldom called churches) seem to be liberal and humanist. While there are NPB ministers, many communities are lay led. I expect many North Americans would be very comfortable in the NPB.

Eric Cherry of the UUA enjoys the World Cup
Final with remonstrant minister Tina Geels.
Tina led a sacred dance workshop at the Symposium

The two groups are on very friendly terms with each other, often sharing work and projects. In one city the groups are so close that membership lines seem to blur. Each group has 5,000 to 6,000 members.

A total of seven ministers and lay folks attended one or both of the conferences including NPB Executive Director Wies Houweling. They were a pleasure to have on hand and gave invaluable local support to our events.

In between the two conferences, Executive Secretary Steve Dick, Program Co-ordinator Jill McAllister and I met with Wies Houwleing and Tom Mikkers Executive Director of the Remonstrant Church. We got to know each other and explored similarities and differences. It may be that we can take on joint projects on social justice or for youth in the future. As well, the NPB will be having an internal discussion about the possibility of joining the ICUU someday. Regardless of what may happen, new friendships were made and old ties strengthened by their participation.

One of the great joys of ICUU events is the chance to make new friends from around the world and learning about their culture and their faith. The presence of the Dutch – as guests and as hosts – guaranteed that this joy would come to pass.

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