The Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC)
The Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC) is a registered Canadian charitable society dedicated to the sustainability and enrichment of the Doukhobor Life-Concept based on the Law of God and the Teachings of 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 Peaceful Life”, “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 and most active Doukhobor organization. It is a union of fifteen member communities operating in three community groupings — Grand Forks, Kootenay North and Kootenay South in the Kootenay Boundary region of south central British Columbia with smaller extended communities of members referred to as the open list membership residing in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan regions of B.C., the Calgary area of Alberta, with additional members throughout Canada and overseas.
The organization is governed by an Executive Director and seven Executive Committee members elected from the membership, and nine Community Representatives elected by members, three from each group of communities, each responsible for Spiritual and Cultural Development (SCD), Youth, Membership and Communications (YMC) and Finance and Asset Stewardship (FAS) in their group of communities. The organizations many activities, events and programs are conducted under the auspices of four USCC standing committees SCD, FAS, YMC and ERA, each consisting of an Executive Committee Liaisons and 3 Community Representatives. The Executive Director and the Chair of the Executive Committee roles include being in an ex-officio capacity on all four standing committees. The External Relations and Administration (ERA) is currently attended to by the Executive Director, the Executive Committee and USCC employees. Annual General Meetings or Organizational Conventions are held during the last weekend in February, alternating between Grand Forks and Castlegar, at which delegates elect governing bodies, present and hear annual reports, adopt an annual budget, formulate new policies and consider resolutions and recommendations to approve the organization and its operations. The many programs the USCC offers to members and friends are organized and run by volunteers and are open to all members as well as friends of the organization.
The USCC maintains contact and works cooperatively with other Doukhobor organizations and individuals in Canada, in Russia Georgia and the Ukraine, and is a founding member of the Council of Doukhobors in Canada. In addition the USCC maintains relations with many non-governmental organizations, institutions, government departments and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and other bodies at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Facilities and Staff
The USCC is a registered charitable society, and funds its operations, functions and facilities through annual membership donations determined at Annual Conventions, grants from different levels of government and contributions from local corporations, businesses, industry, and trusts and donations from friends. It employs up to ten full time and part time personnel, including the Executive Director, Co-Editors and support staff of ISKRA, Administrative and Office Secretaries, and two Caretakers. USCC owned facilities include the Community Centre, Sirotskoye or Official Residence, and Fructova Heritage Centre in Grand Forks, and the Brilliant Cultural Centre, the Arts and Crafts Training Centre in Castlegar. The USCC also administers the Verigin Memorial Park in Castlegar in partnership with the government of British Columbia. Member communities also own and operate smaller halls in their areas for local Community use. The USCC is also entrusted with stewardship of several hundred acres of organization owned property in the Kootenay Boundary regions of B.C. and is investigating the development potential of these properties for recreational, residential, agricultural and other uses consistent with Doukhobor values by its membership and the wider communities in which they live.
Spiritual, Cultural and Social Activities
The USCC organizes and offers a rich program of spiritual, cultural, social activities and events for its members and friends – including Russian language programs for preschoolers, regular prayer meetings and spiritual discussion groups for children and youth, adults and elders, a cappella singing groups for all ages as well as psalm singing in the unique Doukhobor tradition. Concerts, commemorations, talent nights, festivals, memorial meetings and special events are held throughout the program year, culminating in the Annual USCC Union of Youth Festival during the long weekend in May with a history spanning seven decades. The Festival is planned and hosted by the USCC Union of Youth Council and attracts Doukhobors, friends, and special guests, including eminent persons from across Canada and the world.
The USCC Doukhobor Cultural Interpretive Society (CIS) and USCC Kootenay Men’s Group (KMG) offer arts and crafts workshops and activities for members, students and the general public at the recently built Arts and Crafts Training 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 men and women in the general local arts community. The CIS group participates in Castlegar’s Art Walk and many of their products are also displayed and available for sale at the gift shop at the Brilliant Cultural Centre.
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 the USCC and are proud to be part of an organization that values community and that works collectively and cooperatively to maintain Doukhobor values and traditions, while at the same time addressing common contemporary issues and challenges in a non-violent manner, often with other spiritual and/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.