by Kevin Abuga Ragira*
The Unitarian Universalist faith was received in our community with open arms by many people and it was introduced to us by Rev. Patrick Magara and his wife Alice Magara. It is unique since it encourages and acknowledges people in their status. It also has principles that already match with our culture which is the rule of democracy in handling issues.
Unitarian Universalism Beginning in Kenya
Unitarian Universalism was started in the highland of Kisii, Gucha county in December 1999 with Rev. Patrick Magara, who later traveled to Nairobi in 2001 where he met with me, Dansteve Isoe Ragira, my elder brother, Shem Omwoyo and Josphat Mainye. Rev. Patrick and his wife Alice Magara introduced this new UU faith to us, and we found it unique since it allows each and every one to choose for his or her own path and search for his or her own truth and meaning. My elder brother offered a place for us to meet for worship for free and we managed to make a very strong congregation in Nairobi called Tena Unitarian Universalist, which was the first UU church Rev. Patrick Magara founded. Rev. Patrick planted many other UU congregations.
When Patrick relocated to Kisii and left me in charge of the Tena UU Church, we realized that many members were traveling from Ruai village to come and attend the worship service every Sunday and due to the high number of membership, we decided to open a branch in 2004 near their village to enable them access to the UU service easily and also promote UUism in that particular village. That is how the Ruai Unitarian Universalist Church began.
In 2007, I opened another UU branch called Tasia UU Fellowship under the leadership of Joas. It is in Eastern part of Kenya in Machakosi county.
[The UUWorld wrote on May 2009, One tribe, one people:Unitarian Universalism is growing rapidly in Africa, uniting people from many tribes to serve the poor.]
In 2010, we opened another congregation in Rift valley province Kajiado county which is 150km from Nairobi. I opened this branch after the people from the same community accepted our faith and welcomed us in their community and donated 5 hectares of land to put up a UU church and projects. This is located in Maasai land under the leadership of Justin.
The Ruai UU Church and Tasia UU church are working hand in hand since they are coming from the same community and we do the same activities, as sister congregations. I decided to work with Tasia UU church so that they can learn from us for mutual understanding. The leaders of Ruai UU Church and Tena UU Church, entirely depend on me for spiritual matters, advise, counseling and many other helpful issues. This has been very challenging work for me but I have to support and promote UUism to grow in Kenya which I do from my heart. I also have a job to support my own family.
Friendships from the United States of America
In 2010 – 2012, I met two members of Davies Memorial UU Church on Facebook through mutual UU friends. DMUUC is a small congregation with limited resources, but they helped to create this website and are trying to help in other ways.
In 2013, Rev. Susan Smith came to visit to learn more about us and other congregations started by Patrick in Kenya – you can learn about her trip here. Members of DMUUC, who did not know Susan, spoke to her to learn more about us.
In 2014, DMUUC put on a worship service about us using photos and videos we sent them. We also skyped with them. Our children traveled with us to use a laptop computer for better communication and we talked to children and adults of DMUUC. They posted about it on their website.
Rev. Susan Smith told them that all of our congregations could use friends to help us as they are trying to do.
Concerns which need to be addressed.
Adequate supply of water which is scarce compared to a large population in the area. Also there is need to put up more schools and health facilities. Due to the increased population growth and the overwhelming number of children who require school services.
Unemployment to our people is the major challenge. If ways can be sought to turn the potential of our people, i.e engaging them in income generating activities, like carpentry (see video), tailoring, embroidery, farming, grocery, kerosene pumps, milling (see video) and many more projects (see fundraising list here). One way is to sell our products – please buy them if you can.
There is need also to help some of our members to train and learn more about UUism so that we can help our community to adapt to the practices of equality, which are not typical of our culture.
There is need to be supported with religious materials and any helpful material for mutual understanding. This will help our community become a better place to live in.
We want to establish a vibrant UU community across the globe where there shall be the gift of love, a gift of mutual caring, acceptance and forgiveness spirit. We work with everybody even if there are differences of opinions; we move towards the same direction by respecting each and everyone’s opinions.
For more contact our team at HopefNationGroup[at]yahoo.com.
* Edited by our web site manager, Joyce Dowling of Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church