At the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015

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Nearly 10,000 people from 50 faith traditions and 80 countries convened last week for the world’s largest interfaith gathering, the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, to commune in harmony and to grapple with and explore solutions to global issues like climate change, war, the widening wealth gap, etc.

Founded in 1893, the first World’s Parliament of Religions, as it was then known, spanned 17 days and was held in Chicago. No event of its kind, bringing together thousands of representatives of the great historic religions of the world, had ever been attempted up to that point. Read more about Unitarian involvement in the first Parliament on this informative Tapestry of Faith leader resource sheet.

Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s International Office, was one of the UUA staffers at this year’s first US-based Parliament since 1993, connecting with hundreds of attending UUs and interfaith partners.

It was an amazing gathering that included presentations from a long list of powerful global leaders:

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Unitarian Universalists were deeply engaged in the event and present in large numbers – perhaps as many as 500 in attendance! – and were heavily involved in more than 15 workshops and presentations during the Parliament.

The Rev. Patty Willis of South Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, wrote and performed a special hymn for the gathering and led the crowd in song. (Salt Lake Tribune – 10.16.15)

“There are people of deep faith here,” said Christine Ashworth, an attendee who represented the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City and a volunteer who helped at the convention.


“How can you not be inspired by the idea of all faiths getting together to be a solution?” (International Business Times – 10.15.15)

Exploring Faith

At the Unitarian Universalist exhibit booth we invited visitors to participate in a video project exploring three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your religious tradition?
  3. Is there another religious tradition, beyond your own, that impacts your religious or spiritual life?

Here’s what they said!

Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015

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The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

To accomplish this, individuals and communities who are equally invested in attaining this goal are invited and welcomed. Over 10,000 people from all walks of life and faiths will gather in spirited community in Salt Lake City from October 15-19, 2015.

This year, the Unitarian Universalist Association will be represented by a number of people including Rev. Eric Cherry of the International Office.  Eric will be participating in several workshops and present at the UUA’s booth in the exhibit hall#567. Stop by and say hello! (here’s a quick map)

If you’ll be attending this year’s Parliament, please consider yourself warmly welcomed to an informal, BYOB (bring your own bagged lunch) UU lunch gathering on Saturday October 17th from 12pm-2pm in Ballroom G: RSVP here!


Remembering Dr. Albert Schweitzer

schweitzermemeOn September 4, 1965, the world lost an incredible polymath: Humanitarian, theologian, philosopher, organist, musicologist, physician, and scholar, Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

A lifelong Lutheran, Schweitzer challenged both the secular and traditional Christian views of Jesus, observing in his historiographical research of depictions of Jesus dating back to the late 18th century—1906’s Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (eventually translated and published in English as The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1910)—that the image and understanding of “the historical Jesus” evolved with the times and outlooks of the various authors who wrote about him, ultimately concluding that the life of Jesus must be interpreted in the light of Jesus’ own convictions.

It was his ethical interpretation of Christianity that led him on a search for a universal concept of ethics. While on a boat trip through French Equatorial Guinea (now Gabon) in the early 1900’s, the phrase “Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben” (in English, Reverence for Life) came to him in an epiphany, forming the basis for his ethical philosophy of the same name, which he developed and put into practice through written word and humanitarian action for the rest of his life.

A letter from Dr. Schweitzer adorns the walls of the offices of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Click here for a transcription & translation.

In 1923’s Civilization and Ethics he concluded that ethics was synonymous with reverence for life: “Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.”

A bust of Dr. Schweitzer at UUA Headquarters.
In 1952 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his Reverence for Life philosophy, expressed most famously in his founding and sustaining of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Guinea, where philosophy was put into healing practice. It was his hope that Reverence for Life would catch on worldwide; it is no coincidence that Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), widely credited as sparking the environmental movement, is dedicated to him. In fact, innumerable ethical & charitable organizations formed since the ’50s align with and revere his core philosophy.

Between his theological seeking, reverence for life, and humanitarian work in Lambaréné, Unitarians were among the first Americans to respond to his simpatico philosophy. In 1947, Dr. Charles Joy, an administrator of relief programs, and Melvin Arnold, the editor in chief of Beacon Press, donated $4,000 to Schweitzer’s hospital in Lambaréné. Numerous articles on Schweitzer were published in The Christian Register applauding his numerous contributions to world community.

In 1962, Schweitzer graciously accepted honorary membership into the Church of the Larger Fellowship:

From The Unitarian Register and the Universalist Leader, February 1962:

Dr. Albert Schweitzer Accepts Membership in UUA’s Church of the Larger Fellowship


Dr. Albert Schweitzer, noted for his work as a physician in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa, and as winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, has become a life member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship. A certificate of life membership in the CLF has been sent to him.


Dr. Schweitzer accepted an invitation extended to him by the Rev. George N. Marshall, CLF minister, “to receive our materials and become an honored member,” issued “because of your broad sympathy and understanding of the liberal religious position.”


Dr. Schweitzer replied: “I thank you cordially for your offer….I accept with pleasure. Even as a student I worked on the problem and history of the Unitarian Church and developed sympathy for your affirmation of Christian freedom at a time when it resulted in persecution. Gradually I established closer contact with Unitarian communities and became familiar with their faith-in-action. Therefore I thank you that through you I have been made an honored member of this church.”


Time magazine, reporting Dr. Schweitzer’s acceptance, said: “By the time he became a Lutheran preacher at 24, Albert Schweitzer had already begun to question orthodox Christian doctrine and to hedge on the divinity of Christ….Was Schweitzer renouncing Lutheranism? His own eclectic exegesis: ‘For a long time now I have had connections with the Unitarian Church. Yet there is no question of my breaking with the Lutheran Church. I am a Protestant, but above all I am a scientist, and as such I can be on good terms with all of the Protestant churches.’ As for the matter of the Trinity, which Lutherans affirm and Unitarians deny, Schweitzer wondered rhetorically: ‘Did Christ or Saint Paul believe in it?'”

On occasion, our admiration of “le Grand Docteur” has led us to claim Dr. Schweitzer as one of our own.

In honor of his 90th birthday, the January 1965 issue of “The Unitarian Universalist Register-Leader” commemorates Schweitzer’s incredible legend, reality, and humanity through a series of pieces written by several that had the privilege of knowing him. Then-UUA President Rev. Dana McLean Greeley astutely notes in the issue’s editorial column:

“We who are religious liberals are honored that Albert Schweitzer on several occasions has chosen to associate himself with us. We have tried to repay that honor in part by interpreting his life and work. We must not exploit Schweitzer’s association with liberal religion, for we know that he is above partisan labels. …Because of the power of his example, our own lives are richer and he makes us want to devote an ever-greater portion of our lives to service.”

We invite you to dig into the full issue of “Albert Schweitzer – an Evaluation at Ninety” in remembrance of an extraordinary life whose philosophy and accomplishments continue to reverberate and resonate today.

Shared here with permission, you’ll find reflections from Rev. Homer A. Jack, Robert M. Goldwyn, Jack Mendelsohn, Charles R. Joy, and George N. Marshall.

Click the image to view this issue of “The Leader”


The Albert Schweitzer Visiting Ministries program seeks to connect Unitarian Universalist Association ministers with Deutsche Unitarier Religiongemeinschaft (DU) congregations in Germany.

Ministers in Final Fellowship with the UUA and in good standing with the UU Ministers Association, with considerable fluency in German and an interest in providing short-term professional services to DU congregations in Germany are invited to explore this opportunity.

Did You Know

In recognition of UU Church of the Philippines’ founder Toribio Quimada’s outstanding service to liberal religion and the people of the Philippines, the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) presented Quimada with the Albert Schweitzer Award for Distinguished Service in 1984.

A Recap of the International Human Rights Work at the UU-UNO in 2014


December 10th is International Human Rights Day. Guided by our principles, Unitarian Universalists are called to advocate for international human rights; to be a voice for the voiceless by promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all living things. Our Unitarian Universalists United Nations Office is the UU voice to the United Nations. I would like to share with you all of the important accomplishments of our office in 2014.

High Level Consultations

The UU-UNO’s reputation has grown over the past few years, to the point where we are consulted and asked to speak at very influential forums. Over the course of 2014, we have been invited to speak and consult with the: Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development on human rights including religious freedom, women’s rights and sexual orientation and gender identity human rights. These consultations included staff from the Office of the Prime Minister. We enjoy a close working relationship with Amnesty International’s UN Office, and their offices in Canada and the United Kingdom.    1

We have been asked to join a consultative group at the United States Department of State that pulls together faith-based leaders to advise the State Department on the areas of Social Justice, Development, Peace and Conflict Resolution. We have played an important role on the Social Justice subcommittee which has focused on sexual orientation and gender identity human rights. (more…)

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.


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!

The People’s Climate March

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




 “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.

Interfaith Dialogue for Human Rights


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

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.

Hiroshima: Interfaith Dialogue & Peace

The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage—a multigenerational, multicultural, interfaith peace exchange program coordinated by All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington D.C.)traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, for ten days to visit with interfaith partners at the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.

Excerpted from the most recent All Souls newsletter, minister Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies reflects on the group’s powerful experience of interfaith connection with its hosts and shares observations on the anniversary of Hiroshima Day.

lantern ceremonyI am writing you this letter from the train station in Osaka, Japan, where thirty-seven All Souls pilgrims—ages 12 to 82—are waiting for a train to Kyoto.

This morning as we departed Hiroshima Station, our host families from the Rissho Kosei Kai Dharma Center waved goodbye to us from the platform.

For three days our Buddhist hosts welcomed us into their homes and hearts, engaging us in interfaith dialogue and peace study. We are so grateful for the generosity they showed us, and look forward to reciprocating their hospitality when they visit All Souls in 2015.

In Hiroshima we visited the museum that chronicles the atomic bomb’s devastation, listened to the testimony of survivors, and on the 69th anniversary of the bombing participated in several memorial ceremonies for victims.

One experience stands out for me. At Honkawa School—where All Souls has had a relationship for over 65 years—we offered flowers and 1000 origami cranes at an altar for the 400 children who were incinerated in their classrooms at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. As we remembered the dead and listened to a chorus of current Honkawa students singing songs of peace, I couldn’t help but think of other children. Children huddled in shelters in Gaza, waiting for the bombs to stop falling. Children languishing in limbo on the US-Mexico border.

When will we learn that all the peoples of the earth are one?

We and our friends from Hiroshima agreed that the shared history of violence and reconciliation between our two peoples places on our shoulders a responsibility to build peace—not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of the world.

I can tell you this: those of us who witnessed Hiroshima will return to the States ever-more committed to this great cause.

Related Trip Coverage

Hiroshima: Reflections on Reconciliation & Friendship

The Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage delegation began its journey on August 1st and will be visiting with their interfaith partners in Japan for ten days. This guest blog post was composed jointly by three youth pilgrims from All Souls Church Unitarian (Washington, D.C.): Vicky Nier, Aheri Stanford-Asiyo, and James Ploeser. 

“Obama will say, ‘I’m sorry.’ This I hope. I hope…”

These were the words of a Hiroshima resident who approached a member of our group last night. On the eve of the 69th anniversary, his greatest wish was for the US government to finally issue an apology for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. His English was better than our Japanese, so with the assistance of a smartphone — but without any hint of animosity towards us as Americans — he expressed his opinion with the same warmth and kindness that has repeatedly humbled our group of pilgrims. Motivated by love for humanity rather than a desire for vengeance, all he wanted was an apology.

Sadly, at the top levels of our government no such words have been spoken, no such forgiveness asked. Even so, the people of Hiroshima and of Japan have greeted us with a nearly inexplicable hospitality. Our RKK hosts have outdone themselves at every opportunity to extend offers of friendship and love, demonstrating to us in a most powerful way the capacity — and the responsibility — of everyday people to sow and nurture the seeds of reconciliation.

Our day began fittingly, under a steady downpour making our way to join over 45,000 others in Hiroshima Peace Park for the annual commemoration. Grade school children offered wishes for peace. The Japanese prime minister offered condolences and renewed calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Gray and black birds flew overhead, disappearing into the trees that surrounded the rows of endless white folding chairs.

Afterwards, we returned to the Hiroshima Dharma Center of the RKK.

We exchanged gifts. We bonded. We made memories. We opened our hearts to one another in friendship. Although at our luncheon tables we spoke little of politics or of the deplorable events of 69 years ago, every word, every bow, every smile, was an offering of peace.

Later in the night the Pilgrims not staying with host families returned to Ground Zero to participate in the floating of lanterns down the river in downtown Hiroshima. The prayers of the Heiwa Peace delegates included:

“May every flower touched by tragedy grow back as beautifully as Hiroshima.”
“May no child, no family, ever face such horror again.”
“May we all live together in peace one day.”
“May all those who suffered here find comfort; may we the living work for an enduring peace”

It’s been moving and powerful and exciting and exhausting and wonderful. Though we cannot pretend to apologize for an entire nation, our work here is sprouting new opportunities for reconciliation and friendship. We are humbled, and grateful to have shared this momentous, beautiful and tragic day with the wonderful people of Hiroshima.