I have been hoping to visit the UU community in Mexico City for a couple of years, but things never worked out schedule-wise. Last week I finally got the chance, and it was a great experience.
One of the exciting things happening in the international world of Unitarian Universalism is the springing up of UU communities. These communities are typically the result of someone finding us on the web and realizing that they are and have long been UUs. The Mexico City group is led by the amazing and indefatigable Francisco Javier Lagunes Gaitán.
Francisco arranged for media interviews in the morning, followed by a lunch with a group of a half dozen theologians and seminary professors. They came from a spectrum of faith traditions including Catholic and Presbyterian. Religion in Mexico is undergoing rapid change just as it is in the U.S., but with special twists because of the setting in Mexican culture. Like here, young people are drifting away. Yet there remains a deep spirituality among Mexicans (a quick visit the to shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe proves that!). Our little delegation included Ramon Urbano, a member of the President’s Council and Pacific Central District President, his wife Karen, my wife Phyllis and my assistant Dea Brayden. Four of the five of us speak pretty fluent Spanish.
After the lunch, the community had its service. It meets for worship twice a month. We had a record attendance helped by the theologians staying after lunch to attend and, I hope, by the fact that the UUA president was there. Twenty-nine people were in attendance.
The service itself was an amazing mixture of cultures. It included readings from such UUs as the UUA’s the Rev. Sarah Lammert (Sarah leads our Ministries and Faith Development staff group) and UK Unitarian minister Andy Pakula.
Francisco uses the UUA’s Worship Web resources and also reads tirelessly sermons by UUs on the web. Part of the service also included a reading from a ten year old sermon of mine that he found! (By the way, anyone who has ever tried to translate knows what a labor this is.) The highlight of the worship was a chocolate communion. That might sound frivolous, but in fact in was a sharing of almost pure chocolate (not sweet, and very strong in flavor) as a symbol of embodied spirituality. I spoke for a few minutes on the theme of religion that goes beyond a creed.
Among the work Francisco does is to do chaplaincy at a prison. He had hoped we could visit, but the authorities did not like the idea of the UUA president coming to the prison.
I left thrilled and filled with new questions. How can we help nurture such emerging communities? Especially, how can we help without being heavy handed and culturally inappropriate? Francisco and his small group certainly don’t want a relationship of dependency (indeed, they have so much to teach us). What are the possibilities of expanding his ministry electronically?
One thing is for certain: the potential for Unitarian Universalism in places like Mexico City is enormous.