What is the UUPCC?

The UU Partner Church Council is a non-profit 501(c)3 membership-based organization composed of individual and institutional members and governed by a twelve-person Board of Directors. UUPCC is an independent affiliate of the UUA.

UUPCC exists to connect Unitarian Universalist congregations and individuals in North America with congregations around the world. The UUPCC is committed to supporting and fostering:

  • Personal Transformation by giving individuals the opportunity to learn and reflect on unique international experiences that result from face-to-face contact and discussion with the people of a country about global and social justice issues.

  • Congregational Partnerships that join two communities in a long-term, mutually-caring relationship where each community learns from the other.

  • Student Sponsorships that help to educate the next generation of Unitarians and UUs and help to break the cycle of poverty.
  • Community Capacity Building that equips Unitarian Universalist partner congregations with tools, ideas, and training that allows them to become the architects and managers of community development within their broader communities.

What is the UUPCC's mission?

Read the full UUPCC Vision and Mission Statement

The Mission of the Unitarian Universalist Partner Council is to foster and support partner relationships between UU congregations and individuals in the United States and Canada with Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist congregations, orphanages, schools and students in all other countries where partnering is sought and welcomed.  These will be mutually beneficial, responsibly sustained, and linked by joint and mutual covenants.

Grounded in the UUA's Sixth Principle, UUPCC's mission is based upon the conviction that our liberal faith requires that global participation be a core moral and spiritual principle of UU congregational life, and that the transformational shared experiences that result from long-term international partnerships will increase our awareness of the interdependency of all people and our common struggle for human rights, social justice, and happiness.

Where are UUPCC partners?

US and Canadian congregations are partnered in Transylvania – the birthplace of our Unitarian faith – as well as in Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, India, Hong Kong, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya.

Are there churches in other countries that  are still looking for partners?

There are Unitarian and UU congregations seeking partners all around the world, including congregations in Transylvania, Hungary, India, the Philippines, and Kenya. To learn more about these congregations, please review the profiles of congregations who are actively seeking partners.

Why would my congregation or I join the UUPCC?

We live in a world where fear, isolationism, and stereotypes are often the norm for international thought and policy. Never before has the need for international understanding and engagement been greater. Unitarian Universalist partner congregations provide a ready portal for North Americans to see and experience the world in a new way.
 The newspaper may keep us well informed about world events and travel may show us the monuments that form historical context, but opportunities to build personal relationships with people abroad are more difficult to find. Institutional and individual membership supports the work of UUPCC.  

Through our work with partners around the world you have a unique opportunity to connect personally and directly with the U*U international community in a mutually beneficial relationship. These partnerships help us see our common bonds, rather than our differences. Through the eyes of our partners we gain a different world view -- of a new region and country, people with a different history and traditions and the types of problems and opportunities that the future may bring them.
 UUPCC international partnerships enrich congregational life through new friendships, cultural exchanges, international understanding, and spiritual growth.
 Your membership supports these connections.

Individual membership supports the mission and the work of the UUPCC.  Contributions are tax detuctible. Congregations can be institutional members and support UUPCC's goal of creating a world community of Unitarian Universalists and Unitarians.

What does a partner church do?

Because each North American congregation possesses a unique set of skills and interests, the UUPCC supports a variety of partnership activities. Each church generally has a committee that works with its partner to organize activities, communication, and events. Here are some of the most common things our partnerships are doing:

Visits and Exchanges – Most partnerships start with visits and find this to be one of the best ways to learn about your partner, their village, and their lives. Life-long friendships form from the very first visit. Many churches host choir visits. Others are successful in bringing youth groups to visit during the summer vacation. Young people from both churches have an amazing cultural exchange, permanently opening their worldview.

Connections between congregations - Ministers connect to share sermons, send greetings for holidays, exchange prayers.  Children connect with writings and drawings and even Skype calls.  Women's groups connect around common interests and programs.  Choirs share music and learn from each other. 

Church Support – Some partners choose to supplement the minister’s salary -- generally it is abysmally low, forcing them to focus attention on farming or other activities to make ends meet. Others have helped with the upkeep of the church building, many of which have fallen into disrepair and their small congregations may not have the resources to repair them.

Cultural Programs – Many partners have combined visits to partners in Eastern Europe with trips to see the locations of the historical origins of the UU faith such as Torda, Deva and Kolozsvár.

Some partners sponsor an ongoing fair-trade crafts fair where women from their partner village make crafts that are sold in the US. Many North American churches contain handmade banners created by their village partners, a cultural reminder of the connection with another congregation. And many overseas churches have banners made by their U.S. or Canadian partner.

Community Support – Many partnerships participate in the UUPCC Student Sponsorship program to help families with the expense of sending a child to elementary and secondary school and beyond. Depending on the country, annual scholarships range from $130 to $3000 per year.

Community Capacity Building - Some N. American partners have become more active in community development work and have helped provide financial support for village improvement projects such as clean drinking water or a new health clinic. Some of these projects have been exclusively funded by the North American partner. But it is more common now that the partners jointly-fund these community improvement projects, with the North American church matching locally raised funds.

What makes a partnership work?

There are many different models for partnership, but some key factors characterize the most successful ones:

  • Widespread Interest – Although the active support of the minister is helpful, an actively involved lay leadership and interested participants makes the partnership most fruitful for the congregation at large.
  • Mutual Participation – Agree on how the two partners will work together so that there is equal involvement in decision making with mutual determination of goals. Some partnerships go through a covenanting process wherin they discuss and agree on goals for the partnership.
  • Open Communication – Communicate as frequently as possible via email, phone calls, social media, Skype, and letters. Minimize the language barrier through language training or help from a translator. Visit as frequently as possible. Online translation programs are helpful.
  • Open Hearts – Begin to understand and accept the partner’s history, culture, customs and theology. Share crafts, songs, and traditions. Involve the youth in visits and activities.
  • Operating Principles – Establish how or if financial support will be provided to the partner. Establish accountability procedures for any financial projects.
  • Community Capacity Building – When considering community development projects, establish a process that ensures participation from the entire community to avoid “pet projects” without widespread support. Ensure that the partner is part of the plan and accountable for the solution, even if they are not able to provide all the financing locally. If you feel you need expertise in this area, seek advice from experts at the UUPCC office before starting.

Are there things we should watch out for?

Of course, establishing a thriving partnership takes time and sometimes there are stumbling blocks, but these can be avoided by proper planning:

Communication – Access to communication is often the first stumbling block that is encountered. Email, letter, and phone access is sometimes difficult. Your congregation’s first activity may be to help your partner find reliable ways to communicate.

Joint Decision Making – Because there are often financial inequities between the North American congregation and the overseas church, it is important that your partner feels that decisions are made jointly. Joint decision making -- from activity selection to partnership goals – ensures that both partners share power in the relationship. 

Financial Relationship – Determine the nature and role of the financial relationship your congregation will have with your partner and its community. This will be particularly important if you decide to participate in a Community Capacity Building program. Without agreed upon guidelines and accountability measures, misunderstanding may occur. The key is to manage the economic component so that it does not manage the partnership. The UUPCC Fairness and Awareness Guidelines, in the UUPCC Partnership handbook, offer helpful guidance on this difficult subject. 

How does my congregation become a partner?

The first step is to contact the staff at the UUPCC. We will be excited to learn about your congregation and provide some ideas about potential partners for you. Once you decide to go forward, you will need to go through a process with your congregation to commit to partnership. We'll introduce you to your new partner and the rest is up to you.  We have lots of support for all your questions.  Give us a call. 

How is the UUPCC organized?

The UUPCC is a membership organization, with a Board of Directors elected by the membership and an Executive Director appointed by the Board. It is affiliated with, but separate from, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The annual meeting of the UUPCC membership is held annually during UUA General Assembly (GA).

What services are provided by the UUPCC?

How is the UUPCC financed?

The UUPCC receives about 30% of its annual budget from membership dues and contributions. There are three types of memberships:

  • Individual ($30/year)
  • Family, for two or more people at the same address ($50/year)
  • Institutional ($150/year)

The remaining funds come from travel fees for pilgrimages, with a small amount of revenue from sales of promotional/educational materials such as pins, posters, videos; and an annual contribution from the UUA.

How do we choose the country where our partner will be?

This is really a matter of choice for the US or Canadian congregation to decide. We can talk with you and give you some ideas, but you really have to think about this on the basis of your congregation:

  • Do you have members of your congregation who have a heritage from one of the places where we have partners?
  • Does one country appeal more to you than another?
 If not, we can help you think about other conditions that might make a difference in a long-term sustainable relationship such as ease of travel to the partner, composition of your congregation (young families, lots of kids), urban or suburban settings, size of the congregation. Contact us to discuss what might work for your congregation.

How do we choose a partner?

Check out the profiles of available congregations looking for partners. You are invited to read the profiles and let us know which village or town or city interests you the most. We cannot guarantee that the one you choose will be available when your congregation ultimately votes to partner, but we will do our best to reserve a congregation if you identify one you think is a good fit.

How do we get started?

Notify us of your interest. Set up a steering committee to review the UUPCC support materials. Educate your congregation about the benefits and responsibilities of partnership. Explore the profiles of churches looking for partners and fill out your own application for partnership. Join the UUPCC as an institutional member. Let us know when your congregation has voted (or you have Board approval - depending on the governance of your church.) We will put the two of you in touch and you are off and running.

Who will be our support person in the UUPCC?

You can always get help from the office staff.  In addition, we attempt to have a nearby partnered church agree to mentor you - especially during the first few years of start-up.

How do we handle difficulties in communication?

Frequent communication is at the heart of a solid partnership. Our advice is to spend time at the beginning of the relationship to establish effective communication. Pick the communication methods that work best for your situation whether it is email, phone calls (there are many inexpensive services these days), video calls, Facebook, text chatting and even snail mail. You will have to experiment to learn how you can best keep your relationship alive, then commit to a regular practice of staying in touch. 

If your difficulty is translation, ask around for someone in your community who speaks the language and is willing to translate. One community we know actually put an ad in the local newspaper and ended up with several new members of their church as a result. Or your partner might be able to find a translator easier than you can. Ask.
 If the difficulty is the mechanics of communication, take heart. This is getting easier and easier to solve with access to text messaging, video conferencing and email. It is worth the effort to solve this and we can help with specific advice for your problem. Write us or call 781-275-1710.

How much does it cost to be a partner?

Institutional support for UUPCC is $150 per year or $500 a year if you want to be a supporting congregation. For churches with fewer than 150 members, annual dues are $50 or $200 for supporting congregations. Any additional costs are up to the individual church to determine. UUPCC does recommend that you help establish communication links and this often means financial support for internet or cell phone connections.

We also know the importance of face-to-face contact and that requires travel. Sometimes members of your church might have frequent flyer miles they can donate. We often hear that visits to partners is a life-changing experience.  UUPCC highly recommends that building the relationship come before “gifts” of money are sent. Immediate gift-giving can get the partnership off in a paternalistic and unequal direction. Our handbook has a list of recommendations on economic fairness and awareness.

What kind of organization does our congregation need to maintain a partnership?

Every successful partnership has a local steering committee of anywhere from 2 to 20 people that shepherds the relationship, plans trips, keeps the congregation informed and plans local events. Sometimes this committee is part of an overarching committee, like a social action committee. Some times it is a stand-alone committee. Occasionally it is a part of a denominational outreach or some other committee of your church. However you choose to fit your partnership into your church life, what is most important is that this structure work best for your congregation.

How do we send money safely?

The UUPCC offers a fund transfer service to our member congregations.

How can we locate speakers for our congregation?

Give the office a call at 314-918-2618. We can help you identify resources in your area. If none can be found we can recommend people who can travel to your congregation, if you can help with travel expenses.

Are there regional Partner Church organizations?

The Greater Washington DC Area has a wonderful regional partner church gathering that meets quarterly. They rotate the responsibility of hosting among the groups that attend. The Mass Bay District has one that meets once a year. There is also a regional group in the Pacific Northwest District. We would love to help you start a regional support group in your area. Please contact the office if you are interested in establishing a regional gathering.

Are there ways we can be involved internationally short of entering into a congregational partnership?

Yes. We offer opportunities for international relations with Unitarians and Universalists through community organizing and planning and support for building UU churches through a building fund.

How can we educate our congregation about the U*U's in other parts of the world?

There are many resources about U*Us available. Please see our resources for curriculum materials for both adults and youth.The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists also have wonderful materials from around the world; and finally, the UUA Office of International Resources has materials for congregations interested in becoming involved internationally.

When do we fill out the application form?

As soon as you have gathered a small steering committee and are serious about partnering, fill out the application. You need not wait till the congregation or the Board of Directors votes to partner.
 It is often helpful to have some information about the potential partner to encourage the church to partner.

Is a partner church relationship forever?

Like all relationships partnerships might not last forever. Partnerships have been terminated for various reasons. The length of the relationship is based on the two churches involved and should be discussed with your partner. If you are having trouble with communications or other issues, UUPCC can help. Please contact the office by email at office@uupcc.org or call 314-918-2618.

Can we share a partnership with a neighboring church?

Yes, if all the churches agree to it and can work out the details. This can sometimes lead to everyone thinking the “other” is taking care of things, so it does add a level of complexity. We do have successful shared partnerships, so it is possible.

What will our partners expect of us?

UUPCC recommends that this be answered by the partners together in some of the earliest conversations. In fact, it is one of the questions we ask churches to answer on the application form.  Be realistic about your interests and commitments. Work on relationship first and find your common interests. Are both congregations engaged in social action work? Are environmental issues important to both of you? Do you have Women’s associations that might engage together? Be clear about your expectations and interests and ask them to be clear as well. Talk to as many people in their congregation as possible.

How do we handle the difficulties involved in not speaking each other's language?

Language differences can lead to some really funny stories. Relax and enjoy the challenge. Overseas communities are better at this than we are. They generally have access to at least a few people in each community who speak English. This is an opportunity to find others in your wider community who can help. Ask around in your church or community. Is there an ethnic group that speaks the language of your partner? They will probably be glad to translate letters. Phone conversations where you need a translator on each end are very difficult.
 When you travel, hire a local translator (pay them and their expenses). If you travel with the UUPCC Pilgrimage service translators are included. It is helpful to have your own and not just rely on someone local. We can help you find one and have suggestions for what to pay. Write to our travel coordinator John Dale at travel@uupcc.org.
 Above all, keep in mind that you are speaking different languages with all their nuances. Keep your sentences short. Don’t use complicated sentence structure or colloquial phrases. 
Even those who speak English fairly well might have trouble writing and definitely will have trouble spelling. So be understanding in your communications.

What if we can't afford to travel?

Face-to-face contact is an important goal for a relationship to develop. Travel is expensive and it is quite likely only affordable for the U.S. or Canadian congregation, but recently there have been several self-funded trips from Hungary and Transylvania to the US.  Even one contact can go a long way to bring the partnership to life. So consider taking up a collection and paying for your minister or another “ambassador” from your congregation to travel. Or consider bringing the minister or an “ambassador” from overseas here. Perhaps someone has frequent flyer miles they are willing to donate. The UUPCC also has travel grants that can help with some of the expenses for first time visits from or to your partner.

How do we get the whole congregation involved in supporting our partnership?

When partnership or some topic related to your partnership is the subject of the sermon on Sunday, everyone is involved.  The reality is that you will never get the whole congregation “involved” unless you have a variety of projects and programs. You can keep everyone informed through “News of our Partner” articles in your newsletter, sharings during your worship service (weddings, babies, deaths, holidays) and by having the UUPCC newsletter posted in a convenient location. Many partner churches have an annual church-wide event: a potluck, brunch, cultural event or even a yard sale can focus the congregation's attention.

How can we plan a visit of our congregation to see our partners in Transylvania? In India? In the Philippines?

UUPCC has a travel coordinator and can help you plan a trip. We can provide information and contacts you need. We offer at least one trip per year to India, the Philippines, Uganda and several to Transylvania. If you have five or more people in your church that would like to travel together, we can help make arrangements for your trip. Write to our travel coordinator John Dale at travel@uupcc.org.

Do we have partnerships in Africa?

Yes. We have one partnership in Kenya.