I just can’t stop reflecting on ‘who’ ‘we’ are – EUU. The picture keeps developing, especially with the upheavals the world has experienced over the past year.
Last month, a sizable part of the BUUF (Brussels) community energized a “UU Basics” course that was led by Dorcy Erlandson of UUFP (Paris). In addition to exploring the history of Unitarianism and our personal religious & spiritual histories, the group in Brussels asked Dorcy to present more about the role and organization of ICUU. She rose to the challenge, with support from ICUU representative Eva Kortekaas of NUUF (Netherlands), and so we saw a clear snapshot of the diversity and extent of Unitarians throughout the world today. The EUU is but one short acronym amidst many Unitarian groups worldwide. But being ‘UU’ (not just a single ‘U’) is an important part of our identity.
Just last week, at a ‘Tuesday Evening Cheer’ gathering on Zoom, a new friend asked for information about what EUU is. We ‘regulars’ of ‘evening cheer’ jumped in to describe the pragmatics and meaning of our gathering together, whether in-person or online, locally or across national borders. Of course, the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism were part of our response.
We UUs do our best to use the Seven Principles as a moral guide, avoiding dogma, and insisting on responsible and critical use of our human ability to think and evaluate, guiding our actions in the context of our shared values (using Six Sources for our continued learning and growth). Significantly, five of the seven clearly focus on human relations, in the here and now. Another, on our highly entangled human relationship with the non-human world. Only one is focused on our individual search for truth and meaning (which for many of us, leads us back outside of ourselves).
Our EUU community has grown over the past year, beyond the collection of fellowships and friends we meet at retreats. We are being discovered by people we didn’t know before, through local fellowships, our website, and our online retreat. We (some of us) are finding ‘old’ friends who now live outside of Europe. We are learning, giving, sharing, receiving, reflecting and deepening our understanding of the meaning of life. We are being stretched, our flexibility and resilience tested. Paradoxically, we are getting closer, despite having to stay physically apart.
Yet the ‘we’ of EUU that I’ve described above is not universal, is not complete. And this fact becomes important to me – hopefully all of us – in reviewing our UU principles: “We, the member congregations … covenant to affirm and promote … 1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” This prompts me to ask: Are we also reaching members of our communities (local and far-flung) who do NOT connect using Zoom, for whatever reasons? Not everyone is able to connect using Zoom, or is comfortable with it. Even for us who can and do connect virtually, our connections to others in the community – in our best way – may be less rich than before.
We don’t need this ‘1st principle’ to tell us that we should affirm the worth and dignity of every person. But it’s a helpful reminder and guide. So here is an invitation and a challenge. Join me in refreshing our memory about the Seven Principles of UU. Consider how any one of them provides a focusing lens for our perceptions of the world around us, right now, and how they might guide us to look, see, listen, reflect, think and act – fully in line with the values that we embrace.
Looking forward to our continuation as a beloved community, with an ever-widening social group and impact.