UUism in Kenya: Justice Work in Emerging Groups

UUism in Kenya: Justice Work in Emerging Groups

Crowdfunding Completed: January 30, 2016

Amount Funded: $1000

Project Owner: International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

Short Description of Project

Building a coalition of congregations and individuals around the world to mentor, encourage and support the development of U-Uism in Kenya.

How was this project connected to UU?

The ICUU is the international network of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist organizations and groups in more than 30 countries. Member groups include the UUA, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Hungarian Unitarian Church, the Indian Council of Unitarian Churches, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (UK), the UU Church of the Philippines, and more.
We are UU’s (and U’s) working with other UU’s to grow and sustain UUism in a new part of East Africa.

Full Description of Project

The Kenya Coalition is a project of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. It is part of an effort to create and sustain a new model of partnerships between U-U groups around the world. These new partnerships are focused on supporting the organizational development and sustainability of emerging groups of U-Us wherever they are emerging (currently, for example in Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.) This coalition project brings together U-U groups, organizations and individuals around the world to join in working toward a shared goal of helping an emerging U-U organization become viable. The first project using this model is the Francophone Africa Coalition, comprised of three small emerging groups of UU’s in East Africa (in Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo Brazzaville) who have joined together as the Francophone African Unitarian Association, plus 6 congregations outside of East Africa (in the USA and Canada) working together to support the East African groups. For two years, this coalition has planned shared goals such as support for ministry students, web site design and implementation, and training in worship and pastoral care. For each goal, all partners in the coalition offer their most appropriate forms of help – including professional expertise, mentoring, materials preparation, financial support, and more.

The Kenya coalition is the ICUU’s second effort to build an international coalition, this one focused on supporting the development and sustainability of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kenya (UUCK). Each coalition will be unique in some ways, according to the different and particular cultural contexts of the emerging group, and the different and particular characteristics and contexts of the coalition partners. The UUCK is small and very tenuous organization made up of 6 smaller U-U groups in Kenya. These groups are located in Nairobi, Kitengela, Kayole, Central Kenya, Mt. Kenya, and Manga (North Kisii). They call themselves congregations, but they are not quite congregations in the North American sense; house churches is a better description.

The Unitarian Universalism of these groups is real, and similar to U-Uism in other parts of the world in their appreciation of religious freedom and democratic organization. Yet there are specific local realities which make this emerging U-U community unique and extremely challenging. These individual though related U-U groups in Kenya, in trying to be a U-U organization, have struggled mightily with huge obstacles to organizational viability. The challenges include tribal, political and generational differences; economic instability; and the fact that so far, in the 5 years of their history, nearly EVERY outside contact, including work with the ICUU, has caused tensions and conflicts between the groups, grounded in the shared and very real needs for material resources. Because of these challenges, the work of the ICUU in supporting the development of a coalition to work with the UUCK has been slow and careful, learning along the way and trying always to engage in best practices. But it is time now for this work to go forward, for the future of the UUism in Kenya.

We aim to build this coalition by beginning where the Kenyans begin by necessity – that is, by helping support their efforts to do social justice work in their own communities. We have begun to build this coalition by first connecting non-Kenyan congregations in North America and Canada to the social justice projects of the Kenyan groups.

One of the unique characteristics of this new U-U community in Kenya is that even before they have a coherent U-U theological foundation, they are already deeply engaged in social action and justice work, as their context demands. Each of these six small groups has one or more justice projects at its core – including care and feeding of children and orphans, food production and sharing, and microcredit. In our early meetings with the leaders of the (UUCK) one of their specific requests for the building of a coalition was that they could develop partnerships for their justice work. The ICUU staff agreed to help by supporting the creation of a UUCK Social Justice Fund, through which the six small Kenyan groups could attend to their local needs while at the same time working together as an organization. The UUCK proposal for this social justice fund included the following introduction:

“The UUCK was formed to oversee and coordinate the activities of UU churches in Kenya which are represented in 6 congregations. Most of the members of these congregations are from humble backgrounds. They have no regular employment and the majority are generally poor. Most of the members survive on one or less than one dollar a day arising from small unpredictable business ventures. In spite of their poor economic status, they are spiritually strong and have kept believing and practicing the teachings of the UU Church and always looking forward to a better life tomorrow. Already some congregations are currently involved in taking care of orphans and supporting a number of destitute children and sharing the little they have with the needy. This is a clear indication that much more can be done by these people if they are empowered in various ways.”

ICUU staff and volunteers have been working with the leadership of the UUCK and at the same time recruiting possible coalition partners for three years. There are now at least six congregations in the USA and Canada who are interested in becoming part of this coalition. Ministers from two of those congregations, in Albuquerque NM, and Toronto, Ontario, have recently visited Kenya with ICUU staff, to meet the leaders of the Kenyan groups. The aim, and the goal of this project, is to help this coalition get started. We propose to use funds as follows:

Contribute to the UUCK social justice fund, for projects designed and developed by the member groups of the UUCK, as a step in facilitating international collaboration on justice work in Kenya.
Recruit several more non-Kenyan congregations to join in this coalition,
Provide continued professional training and consulting in U-U organizational development, leadership, and sustainability for the Kenyan UUs, and for the coalition in general.