IARF U.S. Chapter Newsletter

Fall - Volume 22, Issue 2


A Special Thank You to Betsy Darr! 

Betsy Darr, who has devoted decades of service and leadership to IARF is stepping down as president of the US Chapter. We applaud her success in reinvigorating our chapter and leaving us with inspiration to expand upon what she has brought to this chapter. Incoming president, John Young, sat down with Betsy and asked her to share some of her personal and IARF history with our readers.

Betsy grew up in many locations on the East Coast as her father's job with Dupont Chemicals Company changed with some regularity. She was active in various Methodist congregations as a youth. She met her husband Jack while attending Douglas College at Rutgers University. They have two sons, Bryan and Alex, and a daughter, Karen. Betsy's family first became Unitarian Universalists when they joined the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Society 47 years ago. Betsy was soon teaching Sunday School classes and was the Religious Education Coordinator there for six years. Then, from 1993-1997, she completed her master's degree in Religious Education at Meadville/Lombard Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. She returned to San Francisco to serve first as RE assistant and then as RE Director. After Jack retired, she traveled east to serve as RE Minister at the UU Church in Winchester, Massachusetts, for a year, and for two years at the UU Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno. She then retired and returned to San Francisco, where she is an active member once again of the UU Society of San Francisco.

In 1988, Betsy attended her first IARF Congress was held at Stanford University. There, she served as an active volunteer and participant, and enthusiastically embraced its values and recalls it as an important experience in her development as an advocate for promoting communication between the world's great religions. She was soon recruited to participate in the IARF US Chapter and eventually attended International Congresses in Vancouver, Budapest, and India. She was treasurer of the International IARF Council for four years, and served for twelve years on the IARF US Council, usually as treasurer and/or president. While serving in these many positions she was constantly searching for ways to connect the US Chapter with chapters around the world, and to introduce others to their local IARF activities.

While she has savored and benefitted from her many IARF experiences, two lingering memories she has was of a Japanese cultural evening she attended while at the Vancouver Congress, and her travels with Rev. John Rex to the Khasi Hills Unitarians in India.

The Rise of Religious Nationalism

in the Worlds Two Largest Democracies

October 27, 2022   |   4 pm PDT - 7 pm EDT

Please join the U.S. Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom as we explore this timely issue. The Constitutions of both India and the United States guarantee their citizens' rights to religious liberty and freedom of conscience and defend the rights of all denominations to equal treatment within their laws. However, our two largest democracies are confronting the rise of religious nationalisms that would privilege Hindus in India and Christians in the United States over other religions and philosophies. 

Our two presenters are both involved in confronting the rise of religious nationalism in their home countries. They will discuss how religious nationalism is manifesting itself, how those policies are affecting practitioners of other religions or philosophies, and explain how these forms of religious authoritarianism are being countered within Indian and American societies.

 Speaking to the religious nationalism in India will be Nikhil Mandalaparthy, the Deputy Executive Director at Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based organization that provides an inclusive Hindu American public voice and advocates for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America. He also serves on the executive board of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.

Addressing the rise of religious nationalism in the United States will be the Rev. Will McGarvey, serving the Community Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg, CA, and as the Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County (Bay Area, CA) and helps with the advocacy and programs of the Interfaith Climate Action Network of the Interfaith Council.


 August 2023 International IARF

Congress Announced

The next International IARF Congress will be held in August 2023 hosted by the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Kolozshar, Romania (Cluj Napoca - the Romanian region of Transylvania.) This will be a hybrid conference format with room for up to 100 in-person participants and all registered Zoom participants.

Cluj has an international airport; the church offers reliable internet service, conference facilities, audio and video installations, and a recently renovated House of Religious Freedom. Cluj offers many accommodation options and is a tourist and academic regional hub.  

Joint Chapters Meeting on Zoom

On Friday, November 11, 2022, the IARF Japanese and US Chapters will hold a joint 1 hour 45 minute zoom meeting, hosted by the Japanese chapter and offering simultaneous translation services. The meeting will commence with brief self-introductions by all participants,  followed by 3 paired presentations as listed below: 

1.  Japanese Peace Activist

2.  Japanese Participant discussing  the Japanese Ainu

3.  Japianese Risho Kosei Kai Buddhist

United States Nonviolent Activist Rev. Dr. John Young

Hawaiian Indigenous Leader

Mr. Kuma Glen Kila

Mr. Stephen Schwichow

UU Japanese Buddhist practitioner

A final presentation will be given by UU John Gubbings reporting on the US Chapter October 27 Zoom presentation on Religious Nationalism in India and the United States.

The remaining time will be devoted to general questions and comments.

Hungarian Romanians Host and

Support Ukrainian Refugees

Kinga Reka Szekely, our Hungarian-Romanian Unitarian IARF International Council member reports that the Hungarian Unitarian Church (in Romania) began helping Ukrainian refugees in February 2022. Since then they have been hosting an average of 50 people on church properties in the Cluj area. They created a day care center, a kindergarten, and a summer camp for groups of 20 or more children each, and have received and delivered more than $250,000. in aid to these Ukrainian refugees. Additionally, they have gathered and delivered into Ukrainian cities being bombed some $50,000 worth of medical supplies to hospitals in Odessa and Mikolajiv, which has been bombed by Russia. 

Donations may be made through the Providence Charity organization of the Cluj Refugee Task Force at: (https://www.facebook.com/Unitarius.Gondviseles.Segelyszervezet)

Reviews of

Nurturing Your Spiritual Path: Exploring the Rainbow of Belief

by John L Young

(Available on Amazon Books in soft cover and Kindle versions)

Betsy Darr, former IARF Council Treasurer and former U.S. IARF Chapter President, and professional UU Religious Education Director: “Reverend Young’s new book is aimed most pointedly at the spiritual seeker, but of interest to all who would like to refresh or expand their knowledge of the most prominent world religions and spiritual practices. He clearly brings a lifetime of study and encounters with these religions and tells how he has adopted or adapted elements into his own regular spiritual practices. Each chapter includes sections on central beliefs of a religion, its historical evolution, and its scriptures with illustrative elements. I found the final two sections of each chapter on what he found most troubling and relevant in each chapter most interesting and valuable. His journey stretches from Prehistoric Religiosity through “New Age” spirituality and Neo-Paganism, something that is a significant part of my practice as UU, and I found his evaluations fair. His readers are unlikely to be “true believers” unwilling to do anything but consider their dogmas unquestionable.”


Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter, Senior Minister of the Dallas, TX, Unitarian Church: “John Young is good at asking questions, and he helped me to evolve on my own spiritual path. This book will ask you who you are and why? It will introduce you to many paths and then help you shape a way forward, recognizing the tragic dimensions of life, while forging ahead in being spiritually hopeful and celebrating life’s richness in spiritual terms. You will become more wise reading John’s thoughtful narrative as he invites you to turn toward the pathway in front of you for the good of your heart.”


His book has also been recommended by Rev. John Buehrens, former President of the UUA, Dr. Sharon Scholl, Emeritus Humanity Professor in Florida, Akbar Ahmed, Pakistani-American, diplomat, professor and Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Lewis Randa, founder of the Peace Abby in Massachusetts. “Your book’s a real treasure.”

IARF United States

Chapter Board

John Gubbings

Janice Marie Johnson

Stephen Schwichow

John Young

US Chapter Advisors

Doris Hunter

Abhi Janamanchi

Roy Kaplan

Bruce Knotts

Kathy Matsui

Nyla McCulloch

Gregory McGonigle

Peter Richardson

Don't forget to follow IARF worldwide on Facebook here.