Being of Service to One Another

by Cathy Cordes, Executive Director  
This quote was sent to me recently by Eileen Higgins. When she saw it she said it reminded her of the philosophy of partnerships that UUPCC tries to uphold.

“Service is not the same as helping. Helping is based on inequality; it’s not a relationship between equals. When you help, you use your own strength to help someone with less strength. It’s a one up, one down relationship, and people feel this inequality. When we help, we may inadvertently take away more than we give, diminishing the person’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem… Serving is also different to fixing. We fix broken pipes; we don’t fix people. When I set about fixing another person, it’s because I see them as broken.

Fixing is a form of judgment that separates us from one another; it creates a distance. So fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see life as whole. When we serve in this way, we understand that this person’s suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy…

We may help or fix many things in our lives, but when we serve, we are always in the service of wholeness.”

Rachel Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings


And then at the UUPCC Regional Conference in January in Bethesda, someone mentioned the expression “Parity not Charity.”

The partnership movement is not about charity work. It is about joining two communities together and growing together. It is about service to each other. It is about working through our differences and similarities and broadening our understandings about the other. It enriches the lives of both congregations. And along the way we create some great friendships.

In a recent phone conversation with someone in a partner church connection, the person said to me, “It seems like they don’t need us anymore.” I tried to assure the caller that, not only do they need us, we need them. We need our partners in faith around the world.  We have learned so much from one another and we have given much to each other.

Doing this work internationally takes effort to make the intentional connections and keep them going. Partnership is not a program that a church adopts for a few years. It is, I hope, an integral part of congregational life that gets passed from one generation to the next. As we look forward to the next 20 years, may we take the time to nurture our connections and to pass on to the new people in our congregations, to our children and our grandchildren the loving international community of Unitarians and UUs around the world.  ••