The USCC as an Organization…
The Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC) is a registered Canadian charitable society dedicated to the sustainability and enrichmentof the Doukhobor Life-Concept based on the Law of God and the Teachingsof Jesus Christ. Tracing their roots to Southern Russia, the Crimea and Georgia, members of the USCC are active pacifists and aspire to abstemiousness and vegetarianism in their personal lives. Their values are reflected in the following slogans coined by their leaders, “Toil and PeacefulLife”, “Sons of Freedom Cannot be Slaves of Corruption”, and “The Welfare of the World is not Worth the Life of a Single Child”.
Structure and Membership
The USCC is Canada’s largest Doukhobor organization, occasionally being referred to as the Orthodox or Community Doukhobors. It is a union of fifteen Member Communities scattered across the Kootenay Boundary region of British Columbia, with smaller extended communities of members (open list membership) residing in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, the Thompson-Okanagan, the Calgary area of Alberta, and even overseas.
With an elected Honorary Chairman as a symbolic figure-head, the operations of the organization and its many programs and activities are overseen by an elected Executive Committee and Board of Trustees representing member communities. Annual General Meetings (AGM) or Conventions are held every February, alternating between Grand Forks and Castlegar, at which delegates elect governing bodies, present and hear annual reports, formulate new policies and address resolutions. The many programs the USCC offers to members and friends are volunteer based and funded by donations by members and friends of the organization.
The USCC also maintains contact and works cooperatively with other Doukhobor organizations, groups and individuals in Canada and abroad, and is a founding member of the Council of Doukhobors in Canada.
Facilities and Staff
As a charitable society, the USCC funds its operations, functions and facilities through annual membership donations determined at Annual Conventions, grants from governments and corporations, and donations from friends. It employs up to ten full time and part time personnel, including the Executive Director, Editor and Assistant Editor of ISKRA magazine, Administrative Secretaries, Sites and Services Coordinators and two Caretakers. USCC funded facilities include the Community Centre, Sirotskoye or Official Residence, Fructova School Heritage Centre, Pride of the Valley Flour Mill, and Sion Cemetery in Grand Forks, and the Cultural Centre, the Arts and Crafts Training Centre, and Verigin Memorial Park in Brilliant. Member communities also own and operate smaller halls and cemeteries for their local use. The USCC is also entrusted with the stewardship of several hundred acres of commonly-owned property in the Kootenay Boundary regions of B.C. and is investigating the potential feasibility of these properties for recreational, residential, agricultural and other uses by its membership and the wider communities in which they live.
Spiritual, Cultural and Social Activities
The Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ organizes and offers a rich program of spiritual, cultural and social activities and events for its members and friends – including Russian language programs for preschoolers, Sunday prayer meetings and spiritual discussion groups for children and youth, adults and elders, choral singing groups for all ages as well as psalm singing in the unique Doukhobor a cappella tradition. Concerts, talents nights and festivals, memorial meetings and special events are held throughout the program year, culminating with the Annual Youth Festival in the month of May, a major long-weekend special event that is planned and hosted by the USCC Union of Youth and attracts Doukhobors, friends and special guests, including eminent persons, from across Canada and around the world.
The USCC Doukhobor Cultural Interpretive Society (CIS) and USCC Kootenay Men’s Group offer arts and crafts workshops and activities for members, students and the general public at the new Arts and Crafts Centre in Brilliant. Although their activities primarily focus on the practice and preservation of traditional Doukhobor fibre and wood crafts, these groups also present opportunities for social interaction and networking with other skilled craftsmen and women in the general local arts community. The CIS group participates in Castlegar’s Annual Art Walk and many of their products are also displayed and available for sale at the centre gift shop.
USCC Ladies Organizations and related groups in Grand Forks and the Kootenays are also actively involved in organizational governance and all activities. They also specialize in the preparation of traditional Doukhobor cuisine, catering dinners and banquets for USCC and general public events that are hosted at the organization’s Community and Cultural Centres. Traditional lacto-vegetarian Doukhobor food items including home-baked bread, lapsha, borshch, vareniki and pyrahi can also be purchased from these groups at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, for home consumption.
The general internal and external functioning of the USCC depends on the voluntary participation of its membership. Whether men or women, children or youth, adults or elders, members of the USCC routinely and tirelessly contribute their love, time, and energy, organizational and technical skills, and their physical labour and financial resources to maintain the operational well-being of their organization. Notwithstanding the degree or character of their involvement, members are proud to be part of an organization that values community, and that works on their behalf to maintain their Doukhobor values and traditions, while at the same time addressing common contemporary issues and challenges in concert with other spiritual or secular organizations.
The USCC and the Global Village
In its commitment to non-violence and regard for the sanctity of human life, and its education and advocacy for peace and freedom, the USCC, through its Working Groups sponsors and participates in various programs and events dealing with global peace and disarmament, human rights and responsibilities and social and economic justice. It cooperates with other humanitarian agencies in disaster relief and other initiatives to help alleviate human suffering associated with poverty, illness, persecution and conflict. As Doukhobor culture is deeply rooted in agrarian traditions, members of the USCC also have a deep concern for the welfare of the natural, local and global environment.
On a local level, the USCC works with school districts and Selkirk College, inter-faith and multi-cultural groups, regional districts and city councils, and non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental agencies, to improve the quality of life in the Kootenay Boundary region of British Columbia.
While maintaining traditional Doukhobor values, USCC members are also, as individuals, proud Canadian citizens and participants in the economic, social and cultural landscape of this country.