International Threads at GA
International Threads at GA

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”


- Herman Melville

It was an honor to welcome many guests from around the world to the UUA’s General Assembly in Salt Lake City, USA (June 24-28, 2009). Though many guests attended Ministry Days prior to General Assembly, the first opportunity for us all to gather together was during the International Guests Dinner on Wednesday evening. Breaking bread with guests from eleven countries, and getting to know each other while sharing this meal, was a very appropriate way to set the stage for all that was to come. The nearly 4,000 GA attendees began to get a taste of the presence of our honored guests during the Opening Worship Service on Wednesday, which began with an introduction of Rev. Mark Kiyimba (UU of Uganda) followed by a presentation of photos of former UUA President William G. Sinkford’s pilgrimage to six African countries last November. As the slide-show commenced, Dr. Ysaye Barnwell was joined by three drummers in providing an incredible musical accompaniment to the photos. Following the last slide, one of the drummers came to the podium and was introduced as Mr. Olufemi Matimoju, the General Secretary of the First Unitarian Church of Nigeria. Thunderous applause echoed through the assembly hall as the GA attendees welcomed our esteemed international guests. Later in the opening worship service Rev. Endre Nagy and Rev. Helpme Mohrmen, guests from Transylvania and North East India, participated in a beautiful arrangement of the hymn “Spirit of Life” sung in Spanish, Hungarian, and Khasi as well as English. Throughout the service, experiences and lessons learned through international engagement added a rich texture to worship. It felt good to have our deeply valued international relationships highlighted during opening worship at GA. (Audio) The following morning, the UUA’s International Office (UUA-IRO) offered a workshop describing its general work and various resources for congregations that are involved in international ministry, including the “Faith Without Borders” program, the “International Engagement” workshop, the “Sharing Global Faith” e-devotional, and many others. Further information about these and other available resources can be found here. During Friday’s GA Plenary session, all of the guests representing U/U and interfaith partners of the UUA from around the world were formally introduced, including: • Rev. Petr Samojsky – Religious Society of Czech Unitarians • Mr. Olufemi Matimoju – First Unitarian Church of Nigeria • Rev. Mark Kiyimba – UU Association of Uganda • Rev. Helpme Mohrmen – Unitarian Union of North East India • Ms. Jennifer Dickson – Canadian Unitarian Council • Ms. Jian Li – UU Society of Hong Kong • Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana – Unitarian Christians Alliance of Burundi • Ms. Tina Huesing – European Unitarian Universalists • Rev. Ferenc Balint – Bishop, Transylvania Unitarian Church • Rev. Koichi Barrish – Tsubaki Grand Shrine • Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe – Rissho Kosei-kai On Saturday, the UUA-IRO held two additional workshops. The first was a fascinating theological dialogue about international engagement which included reflections by Rev. Balint, Rev. Mohrmen and Rev. Watanabe. Each representative shared unique perspectives and wisdom, concluding the workshop with a lively question and answer session. The second workshop was a more detailed overview of President Sinkford’s pilgrimage to Africa, which included presentations by Rev. Kiyimba, Rev. Ndagijimana and Mr. Matimoju. It would be impossible to describe all of the events at GA that gathered International Threads. But, lunches, dinners, and receptions held by the UU United Nations Office, Project Harvest Hope, the UU Partner Church Council, and IARF-USA all had excellent programs and strong attendance. Workshops offered by the UUPCC, the UU United Nations Office, and the International Convocation of U/U Women were also incredibly informative and inspiring. Finally, on Sunday morning, our honored guests were invited to join together for an early breakfast with newly elected UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales. It was wonderful that the UUA President’s relationships with all of these honored guests were able to proceed with a personal greeting and discussion. Other “International Threads” during GA were wound around the “International Booth” in the exhibit hall. For the first time at this GA, seven organizations involved in U/U international engagement shared a large exhibit space in order to provide “one-stop shopping” for attendees interested in international matters. The seven organizations were: Project Harvest Hope, UU Partner Church Council, IARF-USA, UU Global AIDS Coalition, International Council of U/U’s, the UU United Nations Office as well as the UUA’s International Resources Office. This shared space also served as a location for special events, including video presentations by various organizations, a musical presentation by Project Harvest Hope, and public introductions of guests. For full coverage of UUA General Assembly events, please visit

About the Author

  • Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving...

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