Fellowship and Not Just Fellowships

EUU President Carolyn Burlingame-Goff

I am luckier than most when it comes to explaining my commitment to Unitarian Universalism in the workplace.  In an English Department, many people know of the connection to Emerson and the Transcendentalists.  Some even know about John Adams and the origins of Harvard University.  But whenever someone does ask me for a brief explanation of Unitarian Universalism, I usually say “Well we have these Seven Principles that make the Ten Commandments look pretty easy.”

Recently I was asked for a brief explanation of EUU by someone who already knew what UU meant, having been a member her whole life.  I’d like to share my official answer.

EUU serves English-speaking Unitarian Universalists and like-minded individuals in Europe.  It strengthens the connectivity between its members and fellowships by

  • sponsoring two retreats a year to provide a safe space for our members to learn, express their beliefs, grow spiritually and worship together,
  • providing a website, newsletter and email list with weekly sharing of joys and concerns, as well as opportunities to meet online using Zoom and to join several Facebook groups — all to promote the activities of our fellowships and at-large members and encourage joint events and social action and to create a sense of religious community,
  • supporting the development of new fellowships and providing continued guidance for mature fellowships,
  • organizing visits from our UUA Ambassador to provide worship opportunities for our fellowships and wisdom for our leadership, and
  • representing our members in other organizations such as UUA, ICUU, IARF and EUT.

I’d also like to share a more personal vision.  I would like to see EUU increase its efforts to promote an actual coalition of fellowships and at-large members rather than solely relying on retreats to bring us together.  I would like our UU Ambassador’s visits to become the core of shared experience between our fellowships.  I also want to develop a speaker’s circuit and publicize joint events including social action projects.

Many of our members (especially those not blessed by proximity to a thriving fellowship) want to be part of something year-round and not just twice a year.  EUU has limited resources, but by making members aware of the various fellowships’ activities, we can surround ourselves with the feeling of a constant commitment and make fellowship (and not just fellowships) available both on-line and to those lucky enough to have the resources to travel and participate. And the good news is that increasing our online offerings does not even require more financial resources — it just requires volunteers who want to facilitate meetings like chalice circles, discussion groups, or lifespan learning groups.

At the June CC Meeting in Brussels, we discussed how EUU could best support this vision.We especially want to help our emerging fellowships, who are often precariously balanced on the shoulders of one or two dedicated individuals.  We also want to make sure that we are there to lend a hand when at-large or new UUs want to find like-minded individuals in their own communities and perhaps start a Fellowship.

  1. Currently EUU offers support in three ways:
    We can offer a small grant to help, for example, with a first month’s rent on a worship space.
  2. We can offer a page on our website so that the major time commitment of publicizing groups activities and maintaining an internet presence is easier.
  3. We can offer individuals who are willing to bring a homily or a full service (including copies of the Order of Service) to your community in exchange for travel costs, a place to sleep and a tour of your city.

What other ideas can we come up with?  Without strong fellowships, EUU can’t survive.  Without fellowship, we wouldn’t want it to.