International Unitarian Universalism

International Presence at General Assembly 2011

By Nicole McConvery

The 50th anniversary of the UUA's General Assembly was a hub of activity on the international front. With guests from over ten countries in attendance and numerous events, workshops, and celebrations, this year's proceedings were particularly historic. Drawing over 4,000 attendees, this year's annual gathering lent itself to a deep sense of interconnectedness and high visibility of our international partners.

International Guests in Attendance

Rev. Erika Demeter Transylvania, Romania Rev. Erika Demeter is minister in Erdőszentgyörgy, Transylvania. Together with her husband, Rev. Levente Lázár, they serve five congregations. Rev. Steve Dick International Council of Unitarians and Universalists - England Rev. Dick is the Executive Secretary of the ICUU and serves as a congregational minister and District Executive in England. Jennifer Dickson Canadian Unitarian Council - Canada Ms. Dickson is the Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council, headquartered in Toronto. Eric Hausman Deutsche Unitarier - Germany Mr. Hausman served the congregations of Deutsche Unitarier throughout Germany for the last year. Tina Huesing European Unitarian Universalists Ms. Huesing is the current President of the European Unitarian Universalists (EUU); the EUU is a founding member of the ICUU. Rev. Mark Kiyimba UU Church of Uganda Rev. Kiyimba is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Uganda and founder of the New Life School and Orphanage for HIV/AIDS-affected orphans. Rev. Levente Lazar Transylvania, Romania Rev. Lazar is spent the 2010-11 academic year in Berkeley, CA, as the Balázs Scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry. Rev. Kosho Niwano Rissho Kosei-kai - Japan Rev. Niwano is the President-Designate of the six-million member Rissho Kosei-kai, a Buddhist religious organization headquartered in Japan. Rev. Derrick Pariat Unitarian Union of North East India - Khasi Hills, India Rev. Pariat is the President of the Unitarian Union of North East India, located in the Khasi Hills. He and his wife Dani recently visited with partner churches throughout the U.S. Dani Pyrbot Unitarian Union of North East India - Khasi Hills, India Ms. Pyrbot is the wife of Rev. Pariat and is currently working on a PhD on the international aspects of Unitarianism. Rev. Petr Samojsky Prague Unitarian Congregation - Czech Republic Rev. Samojsky is the minister of Prague Unitarian Congregation, in the Czech Republic. Rev. David Usher General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches - England Rev. Usher is the Unitarian London District Minister for the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Introduction at Plenary

International guests were warmly welcomed at plenary on Saturday June 25th, during the morning’s first session. From left to right: Rev. Steve Dick (International Council of Unitarians and Universalists), Tina Huesing (European Unitarian Universalists), Rev. David Usher (England), Rev. Eric Hausman (Germany), Rev. Mark Kiyimba (Uganda), Rev. Erika Demeter (Transylvania), Rev. Levente Lazar (Transylvania), Jennifer Dickson (Canadian Unitarian Council), Rev. Petr Samojsky (Czech Republic), Dani Pyrbot (Khasi Hills, India), and Rev. Derrick Pariat (Unitarian Union of North East India) Video of the introduction is available online (slide the time bar over to the 8 minute mark) along with a transcript of the proceedings.

International UU Village

Located in the exhibit hall at booth #612, the International Village was comprised of the following international UU organizations:
  • IARF - International Association of Religious Freedom
  • IALRW - International Association for Liberal Religious Women
  • ICUU - International Council of Unitarians and Universalists
  • ICUUW - International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women
  • PHH - Project Harvest Hope
  • UU-UNO – UU United Nations Office
  • UUA International Resources Office
  • UUGAC - UU Global AIDS Coalition
  • UUPCC - UU Partner Church Council
The International Village hosted several events during GA, including a musical performance by emma’s revolution, a film screening about the UU BUILD project in the Philippines, informational sessions about each organization, and a German UU worship service.

Workshops & Events

This year's 50th General Assembly was a hub of activity and events on the international front!

International UU Worship Service

[vimeo 25834174] Co-presented by the UUPCC, ICUU, and UUA International Office, over 150 attendees gathered together for the International UU Worship Service, which featured prayers from Rev. Petr Samojsky, Rev. Erika Demeter, Rev. Mark Kiyimba, Rev. Derrick Pariat, and others. Rev. Dr. Justin Osterman delivered a moving sermon on Unitarian-Universalism's past, present and future, focusing on how international partnership teaches us our religious history, connects us to our brothers and sisters in faith, and shapes the world that could be. Video and audio of the service are available online here. Rev. Kosho Niwano Addresses Plenary One of the highlights of this year's General Assembly was the powerful and moving speech delivered by Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-Designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, during plenary. Joining the UUA in celebrating its 50th anniversary, Rev. Niwano personally thanked the UUA for its contribution of $120,000 for relief work after the tsunami struck Japan earlier this year. In brief remarks she described the overwhelming devastation and spoke about the importance of helping others. She said the disaster has helped her own members “uncover the meaning of their own lives through helping others.” Video of Rev. Niwano's speech is available online. UU Holdeen India Program After 28 years of working with the UU Holdeen India Program, Director Kathy Sreedhar has announced her retirement. Both Sreedhar and the new Director of UUHIP, Derek Mitchell, attended General Assembly to connect with UU's and international guests, as well as to celebrate Sreedhar's invaluable contributions to social justice work in India. Sreedhar was awarded the first-ever Rev. Annie Margaret Barr Award by the International Convocation of UU Women and Kay Montgomery delivered a beautiful speech about her incredible accomplishments during plenary. Video of the plenary speech is available online. In Celebration of Michael Servetus In recognition of the 500th anniversary of Michael Servetus's birth, the UUA International Office partnered with the ICUU, UUPCC, and IARF to present a wonderful lecture on the life and times of the infamous 16th century Unitarian martyr. The celebration was opened with a few words from UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and a devotional by Rev. Petr Samojsky. [vimeo 26044360] Delivering the lecture were Nancy & Lawrence Goldstone, authors of "Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World." Their lively presentation was attended by over 50 participants and concluded with a book signing that temporarily put their tome out of stock at the UUA's bookstore. Audio from the lecture is available online. Interfaith Dialogue UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, and Karen Armstrong participated in an incredible interfaith luncheon at the UUA General Assembly. Interfaith Breakfast Interfaith history was made on Friday, June 24th on the 25th floor of the Westin Hotel when leaders from two great faith traditions met with UUA President Peter Morales over breakfast at General Assembly. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a renowned American Muslim cleric and spokesperson, also known in the media as the force behind the Ground Zero Mosque, and the Rev. Kosho Niwano, President Designate of the Japanese Rissho Kosei-kai, met in Morales’s suite to share a meal and talk about their different approaches to spirituality and the possibilities of greater interfaith cooperation. Read Jane Greer's blog post about the occasion. Additional coverage of the international goings-on at General Assembly is available at, including videos and photos and more photos!
UUA General Assembly 2011
UUA General Assembly 2011
UUA General Assembly 2011