UU United Nations Office: Join Us for Our Fall Fundraiser!

This November, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office invites you to be part of its fall fundraiser: “Celebrating the Inter-Connected Web of Life.”

Featuring a silent auction, food, music, and more, the event will honor Rev. Terry Sweetser for his instrumental role in uniting the UUA and UU-UNO; all are welcome!

If you’re not close in proximity to the NYC area but are close to this invaluable work in spirit, please consider donating an item to the silent auction! Each item donated goes a long way in support and celebration of Unitarian Universalist values represented at the United Nations and in engaging congregations in the world-shaping work of the UN.

Details

The event will take place Wednesday, November 5th from 6:00PM – 9:00PM at Fourth Universalist Society located at 160 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023.

Get Involved

  • Tickets -  Each ticket is $50.00 and can be purchased online
  • Donate – Have an item or service that you’d like to donate, for use in our live and/or silent auctions?
  • Sponsor – Sponsor a prospective Fall Fundraiser attendee!
  • Volunteer – Interested in volunteering your time? We are always looking for extra help to make this evening a great success!
  • Share – Share the Fall Fundraiser invite with your friends, family and local congregation. RSVP via Facebook and invite your friends!

If you are interested in donating, sponsoring or volunteering, please get in touch!

UU Basel Joins Hands with OnePeople

Lorraine Rytz-Thériault, of the Unitarian Universalists of Basel, Switzerland, shares the following update from the fellowship’s social action program.

UU Basel’s Social Action program is still young in the making, yet strong in its conviction in supporting causes that align with our UU Principles. OnePeople, a new Swiss Verein (Association) with a global reach, is proving to be a good fit. Their global initiative of making our connection as One Human Race a tangible, lived experience – by creating human-chains spanning the world – is a celebration of a one world community that’s dear to our beliefs.

UU Basel members, aged from 7 to 70+ turned out on 20th September to participate in OnePeople-Day 2014. We joined hands & hearts, together with hundreds of people encircling the beautiful Schützenmatt park proclaiming OnePeople’s message, ‘We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin – and we all belong to ONE human race.’

It was a grand opportunity to debut our Standing on the Side of Love yellow t-shirts, and to share UU publications while speaking to people about our UU Basel fellowship as an open, inclusive and welcoming faith community. We invite you to save the date 20th September 2015, as this annual event definitely deserves a growing global following. UU Basel plans to be there!

The People’s Climate March

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UU-UN Office reflections from the historic People’s Climate March Sunday September 20, 2014.

 

 

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 “The People’s Climate March on September 21st, 2014 brought together people of all identities from around the world.  What struck me the most about this march was the boundless positive energy throughout the march.  We all saw the humanity in one another, we were connected spiritually and emotionally, and we moved as one strong body. The UU-UNO participated in the march held in New York City and thanks to screens set-up throughout the march we were able to see marches in other countries.  Many international participants in the NYC march wore the flag of their country proudly.  Humans working solidarity around the world as global citizens and participants of this movement.  What an energizing and inspirational time in history that will be talked about for years to come! We came together, calling attention climate change and climate justice – we need to take action now.  We sang, we danced, we chanted, we meditated, we lifted our voices and we were present in intentional international community for the good of the globe.”

- Kamila Jacob, Envoy Coordinator

 

“From the powerful signs like “I can’t walk on water!”, to the march and people on the sidewalk cheering, clapping and singing to each other, an incredible force of spiritual empowerment has risen along Central Park West on Sunday, September 21. This is a historic day to be remembered, where over 400,000 people joined the People’s Climate March in New York City.

 

rayInspired by each other, people picked up the yellow sign distributed on the street that writes: Another ___ for people’s climate. So, there we went, another “Buddhist”, another  “bike rider”, another “hot lesbian”…The collective empowerment doesn’t stop at people’s creativity in the various ways they identify themselves. The empowerment is tremendously diversified and widely disseminated through collaboration among different people and different groups.

 

There was one moment when the host asks us to connect our spirit with the ones standing next to us. Our office intern, Kira, reached out to the two people sitting on the ground in front of her, and connected with their hands against hers. Public voices take place in so many different forms that is built on one another’s ideas and power. By gaining affirmation and collaboration from hundreds of thousands of people, we will be able to heal the world like we never have before. After all, this world belongs to all of us!”

- Danning, Intern

 

“To me, being part of the march meant to explore what it means for me to be a woman. I joined 400,000 other individuals from every part of the world to march in solidarity with mother nature. I find it no coincidence that mother nature is being abused in exploited by what I deem our misogynistic global community.”

- Bri, Intern

 

“It was truly an amazing experience to be part of something so historic. The collective energy was so invigorating and powerful. I believe the best way to get someone to hear what you have to say is by showing up and saying it, and boy did we. Over 400,000 global citizens came together to get our message across and I don’t see how our world leaders and policy makers can ignore the message shared yesterday. Not only from the people in New York City but from marches all around the world. I felt truly spiritually connected to everyone there, just being people of the earth. One other thing that stuck out to me was the fact that not one arrest was made. I feel like this spoke to the overwhelming positive energy behind the commitment, focus, and message of the people.”

- Kira, Intern

 

“The empowering and inspiring march united 400,000 people with a message for world leaders on climate change. At the starting point near Columbus Circle, many marchers held signs with a variety of powerful words: “There Is No Planet B”, “Preserve Our Fossil Carbon”, “Solutions Exist”, “Respect for the interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part” and “Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy”. Marchers expressed their thoughts and souls in order to let their voices be heard by all the people living on the motherland. Different appeals rising in the demonstrators include clean water and air, green forest, less carbon emission, global warming, new alternative energy instead of fossil fuels, etc, which inspired people on the street to join the march. People hold the same strong faith and beliefs that we need to save the earth and we can do it through the collaboration among diverse organizations, ethnic groups, races and ages. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to get involved in this historic and memorable event with other awesome marchers. I believe every major social movement can be achieved when people get together.”

- Meng, Intern             kira

 

“Marching in the People’s Climate March was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.  I have never participated in an event of that magnitude.

I was not only impressed by the sheer volume of people, but our commitment to fighting for a more just and sustainable way of life. That commitment was evidenced in the hours and hours people waited to march. In the miles that people with disabilities covered, despite their physical limitations. In the countless signs people made. And in the myriad other ways we expressed our shared concern for the only place we call home.

I was especially pleased that the Climate March organizers purposely placed Indigenous communities in the front of the march, in order to highlight in the plight of these communities. These peoples are on front lines of climate change now, so it was appropriate for them to lead from the front of the march. They bear the brunt of climate change, as their way of life is threatened by increasing frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, droughts, increasing water shortages, and the spread of tropical-born diseases. Out of all of us marching yesterday, it is these communities whose circumstances are the most dire, and I was grateful that they were front and center.

At the Climate March, I heard calls to action, languages I did not know, chanting, the drums of indigenous tribes, singing, and laughter. I felt proud to be unified with my brothers and sisters for a cause that is bigger than all of us. But I also felt the weight of the issue at hand. As Chris Hedges said recently: “It is both an obligation and a privilege to be around right now.” Indeed, I am inspired by the Climate March. But I also feel the immense obligation to do my part to secure this earth for us and for future generations.”

-Raymond, Intern

 

To learn more about our work to combat climate change, visit our UU-UNO webpage, the Climate Portal and the UUA Commit2Respond initiative. For more photos from the People’s Climate March, visit our Facebook page.

A Seminarian’s Experience at Tsubaki Grand Shrine

Ranwa Hammamy is a UU seminarian & 2015 M.Div candidate at Union Theological Seminary. In September 2014 she was the recipient of the UUA’s Tsubaki Grand Shrine Scholarship. Tsubaki Grand Shrine is an ancient Shinto shrine in Suzuka, Japan, and an historic interfaith partner of the UUA. In this essay, Ranwa reflects on her powerful, moving experiences in Japan.

Sitting in my dorm at Union, I often hear the bells of Riverside Church chime in the morning to announce the 8:00AM hour. I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to pause and listen to their familiar ring, reminding me that a new day is beginning – new opportunities, learning, and connections await. On days when my time management is lacking, their sound is also a reminder that I should be preparing for class. The Riverside bells have become a welcome piece of my routine, serving roles beyond simply being a marker of time.

Since my return from Japan, these bells have taken on a new function. They remind me of another sacred sound, one that became familiar and welcome in my routine at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine. Every morning for my 10 days at the shrine, I would hear the sound of the taiko drum at 8:25AM, five evenly spaced beats, announcing that it was time for chohai, or morning worship. On most of these mornings, I would be helping clean the inside walkways of the shrine or sweep leaves from the gravel paths of its outside grounds.

This practice of cleaning, of purifying the shrine, took place every day before worship. Its deliberate motions helped me remember each morning that the ground I walked upon was sacred. When the drums sounded at 8:25, I would pause in my cleaning and perform temizu, a purification ritual with water, before entering the main sanctuary for worship. The drum would return later in the service, as the leading priest would beat a specific rhythm towards the end of worship. I asked Ochiai, one the priests at the shrine, what the drum beat meant. He told me it was another form of purification. When I felt its vibrations run through my body, I was inclined to agree. (more…)

Interfaith Dialogue for Human Rights

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Abby McBride is a youth representative for the UU-UNO. She attends Lehigh University and is pursuing a a degree in International Relations.  She is a blogger and manager for The Assembly.

Religion tends to have a bad rap in the media. When people think of zealous religious figures, terms such as “bigot” or “xenophobe” often come to mind. A group of religious non-governmental organizations met at the United Nations on Friday, August 29th, 2014 to discuss putting an end to this trend. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) sponsored the interfaith dialogue workshop, entitled “Interfaith Progressive Values Promote Universal Human Rights” as part of the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference. Co-sponsors included Muslims for Progressive Values, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, the Tzu Chi Foundation, Soka Gakkai International, Won Buddhism, and Buddha’s Light International Association.

 

Kamila Jacob and Debra Boudreaux
Kamila Jacob and Debra Boudreaux

In the workshop, participants emphasized that, while faith is important, it should not stand in the way of basic human rights. Debra Boudreaux, Executive Vice President of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, spoke of her dedication to Buddhism, but said her foundation will help any kind of person, not only Buddhists. Kamila Jacob, representing the UU-UNO, told the workshop that her drive for social justice is put into action by her faith.

 

Hiro Sakuri of Soka Gakkai International voiced his regrets that there is no longer an interfaith conference at the United Nations. In 2005 he established an interfaith conference at the UN, with support from 75 member states, 15 UN agencies, and a set of religious non-governmental organizations. Following this development was the first ever General Assembly high-level dialogue on inter-religious communication for peace. However, the interfaith conference no longer occurs since members of certain agencies and organizations have left. Now, he struggles to find committed people to bring this conference back to life.

 

Bruce Knotts and Ani Zonneveld
Bruce Knotts and Ani Zonneveld

Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values, addressed the conflict that occurs between religion and human rights. She proposes that it is not religion itself that creates tension with human rights, but men’s interpretation of it. Of her own faith, Islam, she said “Sharia law is the interpretation of that divine inspiration [Sharia] by men of patriarchal society.” Zonneveld clarified that Sharia is the spiritual path of Islam. However, Sharia law has been warped by the values of the time (centuries ago) when it was enacted and the cultural issues it conflicts with today.

The UU-UNO affirms the Unitarian Universalist belief that there is inherent worth and dignity in every individual. Humanity is diverse in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, and the UU-UNO recognizes and embraces this fact. The UU-UNO wants to foster interfaith dialogue so that no religious groups stand in the way of the rights of individuals. We must be aligned in what is true, what is right, and what is good.

The UU-UNO recognizes that if religious groups are to succeed in protecting human rights, a greater degree of dialogue and cooperation in the future is essential. The workshop cast a look at what such a future might entail. Members attended from a plethora of religious groups – Jewish, Humanist, Catholic, Atheist, and a variety of others. The UU-UNO is hopeful that interfaith dialogue will continue as we need unity to secure fundamental rights around the world, rather than the division that has plagued religious dialogue in the past.Audience2 - nb

Through Eyes That Have Cried

Rev. Colin Bossen, a Unitarian Universalist Minister and PhD candidate at Harvard University, shares the following abridged version of a sermon originally preached at the First Parish in Lexington on August 17, 2014.

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Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  ndlon 

NDLON delegation in El Salvador, July 2014

The martyred Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero said, “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.” Unitarian Universalist theologians Forrest Church and Rebecca Parker offer us similar advice. Church claimed that the core of our Universalist theology was “to love your enemy as yourself; to see your tears in another’s eyes; to respect and even embrace otherness, rather than merely to tolerate… it.” Parker, meanwhile, writes, “There is no holiness to be ascertained apart from the holiness that can be glimpsed in one another’s eyes.”

Last month I spent a week in El Salvador as part of a delegation organized by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, also called NDLON. Our goals were to better understand the reality of migration from Central America to the United States; the reasons for migration; and the experiences of deportees. During our week in El Salvador we met with academics, representatives of the Salvadoran government, and a popular education organization. The most visceral parts of the trip were our conversations and interviews with deportees and the stories we heard about migrants.

I invite you to see through their eyes. Let me share with the story of a deportee and the story of a migrant. (more…)

34th IARF World Congress Recap

From August 24-27, the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) held its 34th World Congress in Birmingham, UK. A quadrennial event, this year’s theme was “Challenges for Religious Freedom in the Digital Age.”

UUA President Rev. Peter Morales introduced keynote speaker Karen Armstrong, who delivered an impassioned speech titled “Religious Problems and Imperatives of Our Age” to over 250 attending delegates hailing from 25 countries. During the introductory proceedings, Armstrong was presented with the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.

The two and a half day program hosted 11 sessions featuring 39 presenters from all over the world. Three plenaries were held addressing the following topics: “The coming-online faith world,” “How (not) to liberate the world,” and “educational potential of religious narrative animation.”

The second plenary address was delivered by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.

Providing a powerful opportunity for interfaith connection, discussion, and collegiality across borders, this year’s Congress was hosted in Birmingham, a city whose rich history of “indigenous British religious nonconformity” made it a perfect milieu for 2014′s gathering.

Check out this Storify collection of tweets and facebook posts from Congress participants:

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Related

My Summer with the UU-UNO

Hi everyone,

Like my fellow intern Zandy, today marks my last day as an intern with the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Through the last ten weeks with the office I have had such an amazing experience and will thoroughly miss it. The other interns and staff members I met here will be connections and friends for years to come I hope, and the opportunity to work on important causes about which I am passionate has been both affirming and inspiring.

My name is Sage Mitch, and I am a junior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I came into this internship without any clear expectations for what this internship might look like or what my role with the office would be. While searching for positions this summer, I discovered the UU-UNO, and thought as a life-long UU and budding international relations enthusiast, the position would be a perfect fit. At the end now of a summer here that passed altogether too quickly, I know that I was right.

The small, but ambitious nature of the office allowed me to explore many different interests and participate in several projects. Like Zandy, I began my summer making calls to our Envoys in congregations across the US and Canada in order to get feedback on the program and update our database of contact information. It was inspiring to speak with such dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been involved with the office for years and years. It was intimidating at first as a brand new member of the office to be speaking to such expert enthusiasts, but I quickly came to enjoy the task. It was really a great reflection of the care and passion in so many UUs that envoys, young and old, would take the time to speak with me quite extensively about their ideas and experiences. After speaking with so many people about their passions, I was eager to begin working with my own at the office.

After doing a little work with the Every Child is Our Child program, I began working chiefly as the climate change intern within the office.  As the climate change intern, I prepared to be in contact with Climate Action Teams (CATs), research climate issues and potential projects, and encourage the expansion of the CAT program. In the first week of July though, I heard murmurs about the People’s Climate March. Between inquiries to our office and our own research, it quickly became clear that this March was going to be a big deal, and something we had to get involved in. I made the necessary contacts with UUs involved in the early organizing, and we reached out to our Climate Action Teams. I thought that this would be a good event for the office to participate in in September, but not a major project. Then sometime toward the end of the month, the March exploded into action. I feel as though I’ve spent most of the past month in communications about the March and the activities and workshops scheduled surrounding it, and I have loved every minute of it. The March is scheduled for Sunday, September 21 to correspond to a UN Summit for world leaders on climate change the following week, and is supposed to be the largest climate march in history. Thousands of UUs will be involved among a massive interfaith movement. Witnessing the connection between so many different faiths and climate justice has been truly inspiring. It is very difficult for me to have to leave this project now and miss the March itself. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who can to participate in the myriad of UU and interfaith activities that weekend and to carry the messages of climate justice beyond!

In addition to my work with climate change, I did some work with the NGO committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, specifically with the publication they produce called The Disarmament Times. In this work I was able to research and learn about leading disarmament experts and efforts. Through this work, I also learned more about the interconnected nature of many of the human rights issues our office works to address. For instance, between my two main areas of climate change and disarmament, I was able to see how an increasing climate crisis and dearth of natural resources is leading to more global political conflict; and in reverse, the defense industry is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. And the connections extend throughout the realm of human rights; in helping to prepare materials for congregations to celebrate UN Sunday I repeatedly saw the connection between this year’s theme of indigenous rights to my focus of climate justice – among the many other areas it can connect to including women’s rights, SOGI/LGBT rights, and economic justice. Because our office addresses such a broad range of issues, I saw more the universal effects of human rights abuses and the need for action in all areas.

I leave my internship impassioned to take these lessons with me in my work in the future. This summer I had the opportunity to shake hands with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and see Mala Yousafzai speak (both of which left me feeling star struck and inspired), but was most impressed by the work I see going on in the UU-UNO every day. I learned this summer how much work goes in to true progress and the role that I can play in working for human rights. I hope to have the opportunity in my work in the future to pursue something I am as passionate about with as talented a group of people as the staff and interns at the UU-UNO this summer.

In Peace and Justice,

Sage

UU-UNO LogoIf you are interested in learning more about the UU-UNO internship program, please email Nickie Tiedeman at ntiedeman@uua.org.

Nine Weeks in the Life of a UU-UNO Women’s Program Intern

 

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Zandy in front of the UN.
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Zandy and Gerardo Porteny Backal

Hi, my name is Alexandra “Zandy” Stovicek and this is my last week as the intern in charge of the Women’s Initiative for Security and Peacebuilding (WISP) in the Unitarian Universalist United Nations (UUUNO) office. I had an incredible time getting to know my office supervisors, fellow interns of all ages and academic backgrounds, and learning about the structure and agenda of the United Nations. As the only intern focused on the WISP program during my time here, I was able to work on a plethora of projects of my own volition. One of my goals for this internship was to focus on networking and partnership building. Although I consider myself an extrovert, I have not had a lot of opportunity to practice building professional relationships in my young adult life, and I know that these skills are invaluable for the road ahead. Two of my objectives were to create a partnership with the US Mission and UN Women. Although I have not had as much success as I would have hoped partnering with the US Mission on indigenous women’s rights, my goal of partnering with UN Women was achieved. I recently met with Gerardo Porteny Backal, the Global Youth Consultant for the HeForShe Campaign at UN Women. HeforShe encourages men to join the fight for gender equality on behalf of universal human rights. Hopefully our organizations will start collaborating on women’s rights after such a successful meeting!

I’ve also looked into partnering with UU groups. We are in the process of working with both the UUA Reproductive Justice Advisory Group and the All Souls Reproductive Justice Task Force on an informative panel on international reproductive health. My other big task related to Unitarian Universalism in particular has been calling envoys from UU congregations to update our database and gather feedback, in order to improve UU-UNO communications and our Envoy program. Perhaps I spoke to some of the individuals who are reading this right now! I enjoyed getting to know UUs from around the country and Canada, hearing their goals for implementation of UN Sundays and other international human rights advocacy events at their congregations.

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UN Women’s Meeting

My main project has been preparation and planning for the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March. This two-week conference consists of meetings at the UN headquarters and our very own church center, headed by UN Women and the NGO Committee on CSW. After researching a dozen potential topics, I narrowed down our proposal to focus on two themes. The first is about global women’s self-esteem. When the issue of “self-esteem” is addressed, it is often in the context of a Western woman’s issues with her body image, exacerbated by the media. Self-esteem, however, should be considered to mean the worth and value of all women around the world. This is not a national issue; it is a global, universal, pervasive issue: the low self-esteem of women. I intend the event to have a discussion-based format; I’d love for audience members to discuss what self-esteem really means and how it is the root of many issues. The topic will be approached through the lens of a discussion on the war against girl children. Think about this: a man who kills or abandons his female children because they are female must not think a female life is worth living. If a woman kills, aborts, or abandons her female children because they are female, she must not think a female life is worth living, and therefore that her own life is worth living. What creates and perpetuates the dehumanization of women and their low self-esteem? And, how can we change it?

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Zandy and UU-UNO Office and Intern Coordinator, Nickie Tiedeman

The second panel stems from a desire to continue the work and writings of former intern Russell Hathaway, who is passionate about the plight of women in Syria. I developed a panel focusing on the Reproductive and Mental Health of Syrian Refugee Women. The Syrian Civil War is a relevant and important topic. Yet much of the focus on the war concerns bombings, military engagements, and use of chemical weapons, rather than civilians, particularly women and their reproductive and mental health. There is a dire need to focus on this specific topic since many women have suffered physical and sexual violence in conflict, and all have experienced trauma. A number attribute their feelings of insecurity, or their experiences of harassment or exploitation, to the fact that they are living without an adult male, who would ordinarily provide social and physical protection. Many of these women now live in poverty in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon settlements. They are the survivors of war, the unheard voices, and the lives forgotten. Health facilities have been deliberately targeted and eviscerated during the war and the specific treatment and concern directed towards sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors in particular is crucial. It has been a privilege to watch my work come to fruition, from brainstorming about potential topics to formatting the specific topics to having co-sponsors and panelists commit to participating just this week!

As I head back to Wesleyan University for my sophomore year this month, I am excited to continue promoting gender equality and all human rights on my campus. I belong to many social justice groups that focus on an eclectic mix of topics, from girls’ education to HIV/AIDs to discrimination against LGBT persons to advocating against sexual violence towards women. I hope to use the skills and knowledge base that I have acquired at the UU-UNO in order to become a more conscientious, action-focused member of these groups. In order to remain in contact with this lovely office and the UN in general, I applied to become a UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group Youth Representative. The position would entail meetings with the Executive Director and other representatives in order to include the input of youth on gender equality initiatives. Fingers crossed! You might also find me running around the office come March, as the UN prepares for CSW. I hope to volunteer for this office or NGO CSW during my spring break to see my passionate work come to completion. Best wishes for a peaceful, justice-filled year ahead!

With love,

Zandy Stovicek

UU-UNO LogoIf you are interested in learning more about the UU-UNO internship program, please email Nickie Tiedeman at ntiedeman@uua.org. 

Giving, Receiving, Sharing: God Particles

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 8.51.32 AMThe Remonstrant church in the Netherlands – a century-long liberal religious partner of the UUA – is embarking on an innovative ministry called ‘Goddeeltjes’ (God particles).  They will be publishing 6 small spiritual booklets by church leaders about finding parts of God through Giving, Receiving and Sharing.  After approaching Dutch Television producers about this idea, they produced a short movie (7 minutes, includes English subtitles) to introduce the idea.  Isn’t it beautiful?

May it be a blessing.