- UU Connection
Think back to the first time you heard about Unitarian Universalism. What was it that excited you? Maybe it was a specific community. Maybe it was the principles. Or the idea of combining freedom of religious thought with spiritual exploration. Think back to the feeling of excitement that drew you to explore UUism and now, imagine carrying all that excitement and enthusiasm only to discover that almost all of the materials about Unitarian Universalism were written a language you do not speak and read. Having nearly exclusively English materials means that UUism is only accessible to one in five people. There are 115 million people in Africa alone, speaking thousands of languages.
La communauté Sans Frontières is an online Francophone Ministry that seeks to serve UU Francophones around the world through a combination of online services and face to face activities. This is a fundraising for the annual retreat of this budding ministry. This annual retreat seeks to bring together UU Francophone Africans from 5 countries for a 5-day gathering August 1 – 5, 2018. The retreat will be an opportunity for fellowship, to know one another through sharing personal and community stories, to deepen our faith through morning worship services. We also plan to discuss the relevance of UUism in the African context and how our respective cultures can balance its best elements with the timeless elements of UUism. An expert in Ubuntu Philosophy will join us to do a workshop that allows us to explore ways to make our faith relevant in our lives and communities. This third retreat in our growing ministry will be an encouragement to go back home and build something relevant to the local community.
Some of the participants to this retreat are people who are Unitarians or Unitarian Universalists but are not connected to communities or congregations because there are no communities in their countries. This is the case for Congo Brazzaville. Other participants are Unitarians who are part of communities and find it hard to nurture their faith because most of the available materials are in English. These include Burundians who are active in the Burundi Unitarian Church. There are also people who used to be part of Unitarian Communities but are now refugees and not part of Unitarian communities. La communité Sans Frontières will be one way for them to be connected to a larger network in a language they can understand.
All participants will benefit from a time of deepening our faith and gaining skills such as designing meaningful worship by taking into account the culture and the local practices. Apart from the individuals people who will participate and benefit from the retreat, communities will also benefit from the skills that members will bring back. We hope that new communities may be be formed as a result of people who have enough confidence in their understanding but also a learning community they can go back to for questions and future exchanges.
The retreat is one aspect of a larger project that will be implemented in the coming year. The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) has signed on to support the Canadian portion of the project through the Northern Lights grant that will support our online capacities and other activities.
The people involved in this project bring various skills. The coordinator of the retreat is Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence who now lives in Canada as a refugee as has been working with Burundian Unitarians both those who stayed in the country and those who are refugees in East Africa and in other countries. You can read more about Rev. Fulgence’s journey, theological reflections, and experience here.
An African from Congo Brazzaville who is an expert in Ubuntu Philosophy will lead a workshop during the retreat and help participants explore how Ubuntu and Unitarian Universalism can be integrated. There will be a seminary student from Meadville who will be attending and will help facilitate the work happening during the retreat. We expect to have 30 participants.
La Communauté Sans Frontières believes in partnership and will put our forces together with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) to make the retreat happen. BLUU will help us cover a big portion of the cost of the retreat. Plans are underway to allow several members from the BLUU Organizing Collective to attend the retreat, with translators, it will be a moment of connection across the African and Black diaspora. We are excited about this growing partnership. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis (UUFC) has been working hard to accept donations to support Burundi Unitarians wherever they are and are will once again facilitate the collections of donations for this campaign.
A model of this ministry has existed for decades and serves isolated UUs around the world and prisoners in the USA. The Church of the Larger Fellowship has been helpful in sharing their experiences of serving communities separated by distance. We are grateful for them to have accepted to share their experiences of doing similar ministry. We learned a lot also from the Spanish Ministry as they serve Spanish speaking people in different countries.
This is a project that will bring together people from different countries for the retreat. The people will stay connected through the rest of the work that will happen online. Worship services will be held starting from September and it will be easier for people who had an opportunity to meet during the retreat. There will also be small group ministry meeting online and face to face in different parts of the world. The project will share its learning through the website which is being built and other groups and people will be able to learn from that model and adapt it as needed and appropriate to different contexts.
The outcomes we expect from this retreat are leaders who have a deep knowledge of our faith and how it can transform lives. Skilled Unitarian Universalist leaders who can help communities thrive and a community of accountability and support throughout Francophone Africa. An active and strong small group ministry online and in person depending where people live in isolation or in proximity with other Unitarian Universalists.
BLUU will match every dollar given through this Faithify up to $5,000! Please give generously. The reason the amount is $5,800 is to cover fees associated with processing credit cards so in total, if we are successful with this campaign, we will raise just over $10,000 toward making this African Francophone Retreat happen in Rwanda. Please make your gift today!