After seven years, my time on the ICUU Executive is coming to a close. Whatever I might have been able to do to help the international Unitarian movement, I have received much more in return. Getting to know Unitarians and Universalists from around the world has been a constant education. It has opened my eyes in ways I never would have imagined.
Every national group approaches our liberal tradition in a different way, a way that is rooted in their culture and history, not mine. Many years ago some Canadian ministers launched a program called “Listening to the Language of the Land”. They demonstrated that our religious views and values are affected by the very geography of the places where we live. So to does place affect culture and everything we do, often in ways we do not understand.
Every time I have had the chance to cross a cultural border I have had to ask about what Unitarianism means in their land. How do they express their faith? What do they believe? How do they understand liberalism? And after listening, I had to ask myself what I had discovered about my Unitarianism.
I have learned that my expression of faith is mostly humanistic. My expression of faith is less centred around belief in God than in many places. I have also learned that because we live in such a privileged place (Canada) we have the luxury of enjoying our faith without really having to risk or sacrifice for it. Church might be part of our lives here, but it is not the centre of our lives. We benefit from church, but I am not sure many of us are saved by it.
In some places the church is the centre, a community not just for worship but a place where wealth is redistributed where social programs are based and in some places where it’s even risky to be a Unitarian.
I have grown to love the lessons of our diversity even though I have mostly discovered those lessons by making mistakes and accidentally stepping on cultural boundaries. Our international connections offer us so many opportunities for building community across borders to be sure. But it also offers each one of us the chance to understand and deepen our own expression of faith as well.