Letter from the Board Chair, Gary Smith

It’s nearly time for our General Assembly in Louisville, and I write to invite you to join us there. We will have several chances to celebrate our twentieth anniversary year: a special video to be shown at a plenary session, our Annual Meeting and Luncheon, where we will recognize our Founders and this year’s Cornish Award winner, and participation in two different worship services with other international partners. We’ll also be launching our new UUPCC Endowment Fund, designed to help ensure our financial and institutional viability in the years to come. We will be sharing booth space in the display area with our international partners. We’ll welcome some international visitors. We look forward to seeing you in Louisville in late June!

In early February I had the opportunity to represent the UUPCC at the annual meeting of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India, a celebration marking the end of their 125th anniversary year. When the British came into this part of India, Welsh Presbyterian missionaries followed close behind, promulgating hellfire and damnation. It was Hajom Kissor Singh (1865-1923) who reacted to this theology, believing the teachings of Jesus revealed a kinder God than that. He began to preach what was essentially Unitarianism, attracted followers, and eventually learned of Unitarians in Madras and in Boston and elsewhere. Boston sent hymnbooks and a relationship was begun. The celebrations are held in Jowai, in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of the Indian state of Meghalaya, just north of Bangladesh, and that was our destination.

Dinner with some terrific food was served one night in a large nearby home and, as we entered, we could hear singing. I filled my plate and headed for the sound: it was a visiting youth group, sitting around, singing their hearts out. At some point, I realized that they were singing “Blue Boat Home,” a relatively new and popular UU song. Later, in the cold outdoor amphitheater under lights, one youth choir after another came on stage to sing, ending with all of them singing “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” together.  That moment, in itself, made the trip worthwhile.

On Sunday afternoon, I preached in an outdoor amphitheater to 3,000–3,500 people. It was a beautiful day. I know there were lots of faces. As I finished my sermon, I just couldn’t resist: I asked my translator if he’d ask everyone to wave at me, at all of us up on the dais, all of us who would be headed home the next day. And they did. Can you imagine it?

Your Board met over four days in Mt. Vernon, Virginia in mid-January, doing the business of reshaping our strategic plan, celebrating a balanced budget, seeking new ways of strengthening the hundreds of partnerships we have around the globe. This is work that transforms lives, and we are all proud to be a part of it. There are congregations now—in the Philippines, in Hungary, in Transylvania, and elsewhere—who are seeking partner congregations here. If you are reading this newsletter, and your congregation is not involved in a partnership, we eagerly invite your application. We need you!

And finally, please do watch for the launch of a special fund drive to establish a new UUPCC Endowment Fund. We will need your support to make this a reality. Our funding now comes in large part from the UUA, from individual and institutional memberships, from our Annual Appeal, and from our travelers. We need some predictable source of income, as well, and we will ask for your help.  ••

Thanks for all you do.

Gary Smith