by Eva Kortekaas
Since I went to my first ICUU conference in 2016, I have had the chance to get to know some of the international community of Unitarians, Unitarian Universalists and other liberal religious groups outside of EUU. One of the special things these explorations have given me is the chance to meet many inspiring people from all around the world. It’s quite often that people ask me what those encounters have brought me, and I hope to write a little bit about that today. The easiest way I have found to summarize my experience is in three phrases: it inspires me; it challenges me, and it nourishes me.
I found it inspires and encourages me because I see and feel that I am part of a larger, worldwide whole. I remember after my first few years at NUUF that I felt a kind of longing for something more, something larger. It was not until I started becoming more involved first in EUU, then ICUU later on, that I could identify and fulfill this feeling of longing. It was feeling like being a part of a larger whole. It goes above an intellectual awareness of it because I had heard of EUU and UUA and other groups before. But it is something I feel on the level of my heart. No longer is it just me and my small group. Instead I know it is many more hearts beating together.
I found that it challenges me because I am asked, maybe even demanded to reflect on myself. While the fourth UU principle espouses an open search for truth and meaning, I have learned that when you’re walking a path for a long time… a path that works for you, you become comfortable. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s even a good thing, but it also makes you less aware of other equally valuable paths that might have something to offer. Meeting someone who walks a path different from yours allows you to critically reflect on your own path. Of course one can decide it’s not for them, but then that choice is made in the full awareness of it. Or you may instead find that the other path has something to offer for you, even if only a different perspective on your own path. Secondly, you are also challenged on a personal level. You are asked to listen with an open mind and an open heart without jumping to judgement. Something that is not always easy to do I know from my own experience.
I learned it nourishes me because I find new stories, new music and songs, new meditations and ritual from which I can draw. When you are being inspired or being challenged, you may find you need ‘spiritual food’ to keep going during that process. In meeting other groups, you might find new elements of worship that will give you that. And it is not just things on that level. There are also new ideas and new philosophies out there which will serve to nourish you on a different level.
I hope I have given you a little insight into what being an active part in the world-wide community meant for me. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, but which is important, is that while I am being inspired, challenged and nourished, I am hopefully doing the same thing for someone else. It’s something I hope to keep doing for a long time.