EUU Retreat Workshop on the ICUU April 10, 2022

This online workshop was held as part of the semi-annual EUU retreat in the session from 11:30am to 1pm. There were 8 people in attendance: John Eichrodt, the host, Gevene Hertz, Roland Siebeke, Christine Hinterlang, Sherif Soliman, Alinda Helleman, Wolfgang Jantz and your rapporteur, Peter Jarrett. Sadly, we did not benefit from a mailing sent by ICUU President Inga Brandes the previous day.

Most of the discussion was structured based on individual people people giving their personal experiences of ICUU and their views of where it should go from here. That meant that some people, with a lengthier experience, spoke more than others.

In general, perhaps not surprisingly, the group had a very positive view of ICUU and were sad to see it dissolved. John said that the relevance of ICUU’s objectives is undiminished and that its promise needs to be saved. EUU should have a voice in its future, as it did so crucially in its foundation and operation over the years, for example through the executive role of a number of its members such as Gevene, Richard Boeke, Lara Cowtan and Galen Gisler (as well as EUU members Wolfgang Jantz and Antje Paul, though they served ICUU as representatives of Deutsche Unitarier) . For John, ICUU meetings were a pilgrimage, notably the one in Kathmandu in 2018.

Gevene said that her early ICUU evangelism and activism came to an end about a decade ago when she lost her enthusiasm, as she felt her involvement was being plainly discouraged by ICUU leadership at the time.

One key topic for discussion was why ICUU had folded. Peter said that it was in his opinion clearly a question of financial sustainability: while he served as EUU’s ICUU representative, that matter was always high on the agenda, and that continued into the period when Galen was Treasurer. This idea received some support; although, John disagreed that it was the primary reason, and Wolfgang said he was still baffled. Wolfgang raised the matter of the UUA’s budget share (something around 90%), which naturally led it to try to control ICUU’s actions, and said that the asymmetric size of different national groups would remain problematic. John, of course, alluded to the long history of ICUU refusing to allow individual membership, in contrast with the IARF, for example. In any case Peter argued that cutting ICUU’s ambitions to fit available resources was never given a fair chance or was seen as impossible.

Looking forward, several participants, led by Roland, opined that costs should be easily reducible because of greater recourse to digital technologies. Travel can be avoided for almost all purposes, and communications could be more electronic than heretofore. Alinda followed up by expressing the widely held view that more publicity will be needed for its successor organization.

As to the current situation, the design committee’s composition and remit seemed to some to be lacking in transparency, though Inga’s email helped resolve that. There is a need for EUU to be more involved for us to be assured that progress is being made. John reminded the group that over the years the EUU’s CC has already endorsed individual membership, put forward ideas on reform and finally voted against dissolution. A successor organization should be both a body operating at an organizational level, but also at the grass-roots because it is a symbol of global UUism, which is dear to the hearts of many. John stressed that, if possible, the EUU should be present in the leadership design group, given its traditional ICUU role and experience over the past 25 years.

There was little time to discuss concrete proposals, but a couple did come forth. Gevene thought EUU could hold an online event on a topic to be agreed upon, to promote international awareness. She initially said that only Europeans could be invited, but Peter pointed out that if we have contacts, there is very little extra effort involved in including others from around the world in the event. She also proposed to establish an EUU CC committee on the ICUU renewal; this was welcomed as a good idea. Sherif suggested that if ICUU had been still in existence, it could have coordinated UU donations to Ukraine; failing that, EUU could do so. Since then, information became available from the Service Committee (UUSC) about their activities in this area.

There was not sufficient time to discuss in depth the question of possible competition of ICUU or a successor organization with the IARF and the International UUA Office. But the workshop closed on a positive note; it was clear to all that it was good that it had happened.

Peter Jarrett