IARF U.S. Chapter Newsletter
Fall 2020 - Volume 20, Issue 2
Chapter Update
With Covid-19 continuing to dominate our lives longer than anyone had expected, we were inspired by the International Council's Motivational Dialogues via Zoom, and started to offer our own open discussions to Chapter members as a way to facilitate our gathering together to share ideas and reflections. The first presenters have been Chapter board members, but we welcome contributions from the entire membership at future presentations. We hope those of you who joined us at the Motivational Dialogue and some or all of the Open Discussions held between May and November found them engaging and thoughtful events that offered you opportunities for sharing. We look forward to continuing with another discussion, likely in January. Below you will find summaries of these events.
Good News! The international secretariat of the IARF has just published its first newsletter in a number of years, describing some new initiatives and the new structures to support them. It comes as an email attachment, which we will forward to you soon.
Betsy Darr, IARF-U.S. Chair
Motivational Dialogue #2:
Sudden Chaos, Creeping Chaos:
What Can We Learn?
May 2020
Julia Zubiago, IARF-U.S. Board
Open Discussion #1: How Do We Keep Momentum? One Month After Juneteenth 2020
July 19, 2020
Fairly early in our Covid year, the International Office, spurred by the Religious Freedom Youth Network (RFYN), our youth and young adult wing, organized a series of Motivational Dialogues on Zoom. I was asked to speak at Motivational Dialogue #2 in May and, having been long involved with the movement to halt climate change, I chose the topic "Sudden Chaos, Creeping Chaos: What Can We Learn?" I pointed what responses to the current pandemic are informing us about how we might respond to looming Climate Chaos, and how the IARF might respond. Concluding with how the pandemic was shifting so many aspects of life that other things would probably be quite different as we recover. (Our President-Elect’s slogan is Build Back Better.) Those present were invited to contribute their thoughts and questions. Most of the nearly 50 present were from India, with Europeans the second largest group. I loved talking with people from these varied and distant parts of the world!
This presentation was intended to define #BlackLivesMatter and discuss the protests that occurred this summer as a reaction to a long history of state violence against Black people. I also discussed several instances where racism impacted the health of Black Americans, such as redlining (legally barring Black people from buying homes in certain neighborhoods), the War on Drugs (White people are more likely to have used illegal substances, but are far less likely to go to jail), and Covid-19. We discussed as a group what racism, white supremacy, and discrimination mean, and brainstormed strategies to support the Black Lives Matter movement going forward.

Dr. Janice Marie Johnson, IARF-US Board
Open Discussion 2
Building Bridges through
Accountable Relationships
August 30, 2020
Steven Schwichow, IARF-US Board
Open Discussion 3
Leave Your Assumptions and
Shoes at the Door
November 8, 2020
Dr. Janice Marie Johnson brought her years of experience as a minister to create an experiential discussion. We began with two TEDx talks (links below) to frame these discussions with an understanding that each person moves through the world differently based on our racial identity. For example, Dr. Johnson talked about how her Jamaican family's Christmas celebrations did not involve snow or a white Santa Claus. We broke into small groups to discuss our own racial identities and their impact on our lives. We came back together, and defined race, racism, and white supremacy as a group. These definitions are attached, as well as some examples of ways that whiteness is set as the norm.

Tedx Talks:

In 1970, Stephen, a White American, began his Buddhist practice in a Japanese tradition in Philadelphia at the age of 25. In 1990, he joined the UU Society of Sacramento, Ca, and has maintained his dual religious affiliations ever since. Stephen, now 76, shared his experiences in entering these faith groups and how both he, a gay man, and his co-religionists have dealt with the assumptions we all carry about those around us and how honesty and authenticity can also break through to the realities behind the assumptions we have about each other. Stephen indicated that it's necessary to first recognize one’s own filters, biases, and the privileges one is born into, and from that recognition, re-examine the assumptions one carries around regarding those around us.
IARF International Council Report
John Young, U.S. Representative

This is my first report to the IARF US Chapter as one of two US representatives to the International Council. My fellow representative, Alicia Forde, is Director of the International Office at UUA headquarters. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Council has only been able to meet via Zoom since joining the group.

International Council Members with Region/Group allocation & representative(s)

  • President: Robert Ince - Europe & Middle East (2)
  • Vice President: Janhvi Gupte - Religious Freedom Youth Network (RFYN) (1)
  • Treasurer, Yoshinobu Miyake - East Asia (2)
  • Kimie Yanagida - East Asia (2)
  • Bob Carroll: Europe & Middle East (2)
  • Esther Sutor - Int'l Assoc. of Liberal Religious Women & IARF’s UN rep. (1)
  • Surendra Brown & Prakash Rao - South Asia (2)
  • Alicia Forde and John Young - North America (2: 1 for UUA, 1 for chapters)
  • Kinga Reka Szekely - Open Seat (1) (Romanian)

Administrator: Lukasz Liniewicz

During 2020, I have met with two geographic subgroups through Zoom meetings; first in April with my Japanese, US, and European-Israel colleagues, and on July 8 with my Europe-Israel, US, and Indian colleagues, and with the entire Council on August 12.
The primary agenda for the last several years has been addressing a complex issue stemming from updated British financial legal provisions. Blessedly, through Robert’s and Lukasz’s persistent efforts, a satisfactory resolution has been achieved. The IARF is now a certified Charitable Incorporated Organization (CIO) and can establish appropriate banking services in England.

Going forward, the priorities for the International Council are to: 1) develop a communication strategy, and 2) establish a transparent membership policy. I have volunteered to serve as the US representative on the membership policy development committee, which my fellow US Chapter board members recently confirmed (thank you). I will also be serving on their editorial board, focusing on communicating the diverse spiritual reflections from our board members.

Our Japanese chapter has the most members and is our largest financial contributor. It appears to be the best organized and most active regional chapter. I believe other IARF chapters can learn much from their diligent efforts.
As the International Council’s work progresses, I will communicate regularly with the US Chapter via this newsletter.

Respectfully submitted, John L. Young
A Reminder to Renew - Just in Case.....
 If you meant to join our chapter or renew your 2020 membership, here's your last chance. We will be collecting dues and donations for 2021 early in the new year.
Please make your check payable to the IARF US Chapter, and send it to:
c/o Betsy Darr
183 22nd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
Individual Membership: $30          Household Membership: $50
We do not have a postal address for many of you on our mailing list. As we plan regional events, it would be very helpful to know what state you reside in, so we can alert you to programs in your area. Please send your name and state to betdarr@gmail.com.
Thank you!
IARF United States
Chapter Board

Betsy Darr
Janice Marie Johnson
Stephen Schwichow
John Young
Julia Zubiago

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.