The biennial Council meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) began on Tuesday night in Dumaguete City, The Philippines. This is the first time in the 15 years of ICUU’s existence that the Council meeting has taken place outside of Europe or North America. And, it has been a uniquely powerful gathering for all of us. The UU church of the Philippines has been a fantastic host, and we all feel grateful for the long hours spent planning for the arrival of the international UU community.
Unitarians and UUs are here from many countries, including: Australia, Romania, Germany, Mexico, India, the Czech Republic, Uganda, Hungary, Burundi, Denmark, Norway, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Canada, the UK, and South Africa. And, perhaps the most exciting development during Wednesday’s business meeting was the formal welcoming of two Full Member groups: The Assembly of Unitarian Christians of Burundi and the NPB – A Dutch liberal religious movement.
Each day we also gather for worship led by leaders of various member groups, and “Chalice Circles” bring diverse people together to share in theological reflection and build global friendships.
The first major speech was delivered by the Dean of the Divinity School at Silliman University – here in Dumaguete City. Dr. Muriel Montenegro shared a message entitled “Reclaiming the Erotic” which recommended the pursuit of an “embodied” religion that can confront injustice with power. Dr. Montenegro has a long association with UUism through her theological training at Union Theological School in New York City. Her ultimate message was one of resilience, and she urged UU’s to “keep on the path” of justice-seeking faith. Following her presentation small-group discussions were held to discover whether the global UU community is ready to embrace a shared voice on one or more social justice issues. This is the first time that ICUU has raised that possibility, and it will be interesting to see where that discussion leads us.
While Monday’s earthquake is very much on our minds, we are finding it to be a great joy to be together for this special gathering.