uuworld.org: liberal religion and life

Beyond the horizon

Seeing Unitarian Universalism as an international faith.
By Christopher L. Walton
Fall 2010 9.1.10

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I didn’t fly on a passenger plane until the weekend of my twenty-third birthday, when I flew to a UU young adult leadership training conference. I spent the flight staring out the window in amazement. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what the tops of clouds looked like. After all, movies and TV had shown me flights to the stars and submarine dives to the deepest parts of the sea. My amazement was rooted, I suppose, in my awareness that this time I was 30,000 feet in the air, hurtling along at 400 miles an hour.

It is one thing to know that there are Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists in other countries and other cultural contexts; it is something quite different, something amazing, to find oneself welcomed into their lives. I haven’t had the good fortune to visit the ancient Unitarian villages in Transylvania, or the Unitarian communities in the Khasi Hills of India, or the Unitarian Universalist churches in the Philippines, but I have seen the way people return from those trips amazed, stretched, puzzled, and transformed. I’m jealous.

The Rev. Gretchen Thomas was among the first Unitarian Universalists to visit the Unitarians in Transylvania after the end of the Cold War, when travel to Romania became possible once again. Her new book, Walking in Others’ Shoes, provides a vivid account of the early years of the partner church movement, which over the past twenty years has helped the members of as many as 180 North American UU congregations and 144 Transylvanian churches see beyond their local horizons to become true international partners. As her article (page 26) shows, partner church relationships don’t simply introduce you to different places; they change you, where you live.

Please welcome our new online columnist, the Rev. James Ishmael Ford, who joins the Rev. Meg Barnhouse and Doug Muder in writing for our website, uuworld.org. Ford is minister of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island, and also a Zen master. He is the author of several books, including Zen Master Who? A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen, and writes the blog “Monkey Mind.”

And thanks to the interest readers showed in Michelle Richards’s three-month stint as a “UU Parenting” blogger for uuworld.org in the spring, we’ve brought her back with twice-monthly posts.

Finally, thanks to McCall Breuer, an undergraduate at Tufts University who grew up in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland, for her contributions as UU World’s intern this summer. Breuer wrote two of our blogs—“Unitarian Universalists in the Media,” which tracks news about UUs, and “The Interdependent Web,” which monitors UU blogs—as well as a news story (see page 48). Learn more about our internship program.

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