International Unitarian Universalism

The Second International Convocation of U*U Women

By Nicole McConvery

On Thursday October 4, 2012, the Second International Convocation of Unitarian*Universalist Women kicked off its three day conference in Marosvásárhely, in the Târgu Mureş region of Transylvania. Drawing over 240 participants from Transylvania, the United States, India, Hungary, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Germany, and beyond, the meeting's theme is centered around "Keeping Your Balance in a Changing World." Among the many purposes of this conference is the rare and wonderful opportunity for U*U women to come together from all over the world in solidarity around women's issues. Participants are afforded opportunities for cross cultural understanding and sharing, in essence, the chance to broaden horizons while strengthening our global community. Thursday night's opening ceremony featured opening remarks from Barbara Kres Beach, president of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women, greetings from Rev. Bálint Benczédi Ferenc, Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church (previously known as the Transylvanian Unitarian Church), and Nagy Gizella, Co-President of the Women’s Association (Unitarian Church of Marosvásárhely). Following the welcoming dinner, participants learned traditional Transylvanian folk dances while a live band performed! The 1st International Convocation of U*U Women, which took place in Houston, TX, in 2009, inaugurated a small-group process, "Global Sisters," a process adapted from the Community Capacity Building program. The key principle of this community-based planning process is the belief that, with the help of experienced facilitators, a community can organize its existing information, mobilize its resources, and can ultimately create consensual action plans to help its own development. Implementing this small group process for this year's convocation, participants have been split into 11 Global Sisters Groups to collaboratively problem-solve some of the issues affecting women in their respective communities throughout the three-day conference. The process has revealed, so far, overwhelming similarities in the issues facing women across the various represented cultures. Friday's morning program entailed a panel discussion on balancing religious/spiritual practices with our fast lives, in exploration of the various aspects of our faith in today's world. Rev. Jill McAllister (USA), Rev. Dr. Ann Peart (England), and Rev.Székely Kinga Réka (Transylvania) each spoke about the various ways they pursue and achieve balance in their lives by way of spirituality. After a festive coffee break, Margot Adler and Dr. Komáromi Tünde discussed folk culture, pagan traditions, and different approaches to the holy. A panel on developing women's leadership for peace and multicultural understanding, featuring Dr. Kathy Matsui (Japan), Smaranda Enache (Transylvania), and Dr. Creamlimon Nongbri (India) followed, as did a variety of workshops ranging in topic from domestic violence prevention to compassionate communication to leadership training and traditional herbal healing. Saturday's program will feature the official opening ceremony, presentation of the colors, Unitarian march, a short presentation of the wandering tablecloth, a forum on balancing family and career, and reports from the UNOSZ (Unitárius Nők Országos Szövetsége). An afternoon presentation featuring dance and music from Hungarian, Gypsy, Armenian, Romanian, Jewish, and Saxon cultures is also planned, prior to a panel on the feminine face of the divine. The convocation concludes on Sunday with a panel on weaving a web of sisterhood around the world, and a variety of workshops on community capacity building, partnerships, improving the status of women, and even one on vampires vis a vis Earth and its moral struggles. Packed to the brim with discussions, workshops, and activities, these three days bring together a dazzling cast of dynamic U*U women engaged in their communities to lead us all in activities designed to educate, enrich, and empower not only the lives of all in attendance, but also of those at home in our respective congregations and communities who stand to benefit from the learnings we will all carry with us in the days, months, and years ahead.

Rev. Jill McAllister (People's Church, Kalamazoo, MI) and Dr. Creamlimon Nongbri (Unitarian Union of North East India).

Rev. Bálint Benczédi Ferenc shares words of greetings with the attendees of the 2nd International Convocation of U*U Women.

One of the Global Sisters Groups discussing leadership and gender roles.

Margot Adler and Dr. Komáromi Tünde speak about folk culture, pagan traditions, and different approaches to the holy during a Friday morning panel discussion.

A traditional Transylvanian folk band performing for an avid group of dancers.