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Largest gathering of Cuban Unitarian Universalists

Unitarian Universalism gains momentum in Cuba.
By Jane Greer
11.7.05

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Cuban UU community

The Cuban Unitarian Universalist community gathered in September for the first time for a worship service, dinner, and musical program. (Photo by Carmen Guerra de Vila)

Approximately 100 Cuban Unitarian Universalists overcame transportation problems, many arriving in the back of a truck, to assemble for the largest communal gathering to-date of Cuba’s Unitarian Universalist fellowships in September. The historic event included a worship service, dinner, and musical program.

Unitarian Universalism is a fledgling movement in Cuba that has emerged from various sources including an email theological discussion group, exploratory visits by the Rev. Colin Leitch and the Rev. John Hickey, and two tours of Cuba by the choir and a musical group of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon. Several small UU groups, largely around Havana, have begun meeting.

According to George Vila, a Cuban-American member of First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, there are about 120 UUs in Cuba today. Cubans are especially receptive to a message that is not dogmatic, says Vila. “There’s a real thirst there for a church that accepts them as people with their own lives but values coming together in community as well,” he says.

Vila helped organize the Sunday gathering, conducted solely in Spanish, which featured a sermon, joys and concerns, UU hymns, and a flower communion. After the service, UUs gathered to enjoy a traditional Cuban roast pork meal, as well as performances by a choir, interpretive dancer, and guitar player, all UUs.

UUs have several ties to Cuba. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has been working with the Medical Commission of the Cuban Council of Churches since 1997, the same year the UUA General Assembly passed an action of immediate witness supporting “political action to end that part of the United States embargo which pertains to food, medicine, and medical supplies.” Part of UUSC’s ongoing program work in Cuba is lobbying the U.S. Congress to end the embargo.

First Unitarian Church in Portland made two trips to Cuba, the first in 2003 with its choir, and the second in 2004 with a musical group. As a result of the connections made on these trips, several congregants set up a program called Cuba AyUUda to foster relations between the two countries.

A delegation from the International Council of Unitarian Universalists visited Cuba for the first time in October.

Unitarian Universalism has been growing in Latin America. The Latin American Unitarian Universalist Association (Alianza Unitaria Universalista Latinoamericana, AAULA) met for the first time in January 2005 in Argentina with leaders from emerging UU groups in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Chile, and Puerto Rico. The conference, organized by the International Council of Unitarian Universalists, with support from the UUA Denominational Grants Program and several donors, was a big success, according to Jaume de Marcos, a Spanish UU. “Participants proved to be strongly committed to Unitarian Universalism and the cause of liberal religion, even those who had learned about our faith only recently,” he said.

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