Sunday, June 27, 2010

Plenary, plenary, plenary... and Ware Lecture!

Left: A picture I took of Winona LaDuke, signing books after giving the Ware Lecture at the 2010 UU General Assembly.

These last few days, I have been in 5 Plenary sessions (where we vote and do the actual business of GA) for a total of at least 11 or 12 hours. When I am home and have more energy, I will write a post on the highlights of what we voted on... what passed, and what failed. It's pretty interesting stuff. A quick recap (with no detail):

We voted that the 2012 GA in Phoenix will be a "Justice GA", not a business-as-usual GA. We passed the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience. As for Actions of Immediate Witness, we passed three: A) Oppose Anti-Immigration Measures at the State Level... and Hasten Federal Immigration Reform; B) Gulf Coast Environmental and Economic Justice; C) Clean Up the Clean Energy Bill. We did NOT pass: D) End Blockade of Gaza and Growth of Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Territory, nor E) End the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (In light of the new Statement of Conscience I find the failure of what I'm labeling "D" and "E" above to be quite interesting... more on that in a later post.)

Earlier during Plenary, local Congressman Keith Ellison spoke to us. He was very inspiring. See the video:

Today was the last day of Plenary. And we had a surprise guest in the final Plenary: Senator Al Franken from MN. He was very funny and very poignant, talking about his father and his Jewish roots. He said, "You guys are so cool, I'm going to talk about religion." Great speaker. Here's his talk, broken into two videos:

There was even a marriage proposal from the procedural microphone during the final Plenary (I guess we were gettin' slap-happy). It was very sweet.

Moderator Gini Courter was amazing as she always is.

I took a little time off during GA, just to see my surroundings. I walked down to the Mississippi River and then rented a bike (there are places all over Minneapolis where you can rent them, and drop them off at another site, all automated). Great system. I even hopped on the Light Rail and went to see the Mall of America. I've heard so much about it. I suspected there would be a sermon in it... there WILL BE! I will say nothing more about the Mall of America on this blog because I want to save it for my sermon!

One of the highlights for me, as is often the case at GA, was the Ware Lecture. This year, it was given by Winona LaDuke (pictured at the top of this post). She was just so inspiring, and really fun. I enjoyed her sense of humor. Her talk is about an hour long, and I highly encourage you to watch the video, because I can't do it justice by describing it. Watch it on this page: LINK.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

GA Days 1, 2 and 3

Left: The Opening Ceremony, ending Day 1 of General Assembly (just a partial day).

First, I must apologize. I thought I would be posting each and every day from GA, but this has not been possible. So I'll do a summary now, and will come back with details later. I am sorry!

Wednesday afternoon was a day for registering, getting delegate credentials, and the Opening Celebration and Plenary 1.

The first Plenary (where business is done) actually has very little business other than to officially start GA. Gini Courter, the Moderator of the UUA, is always fun and funny and smart.

The Opening Celebration includes the customary banner parade, which seemed bigger and more spirited than it has in years. The highlight of the service for me was the music. There was some great music by both Ann Reed and Peter Mayer. I was particularly taken with "Holy Now", a Peter Mayer original that he performed. Here's a video of him performing it a couple of years ago at a different location:

Thursday, Day 2 of GA, was particularly packed. I went to three different workshops and one lecture, each excellent. The first program I went to was "Our Journey Stories: Creating Multiracial and Multicultural Congregations". It was a panel led by Rev. Dr. Qiyamah Rahman of Meadville Lombard, a UU seminary in Chicago. Panelists included Rev. Marlin Lavanhar (Tulsa, OK), Rev. Rob Hardies (Washington, D.C.), and Rev. Dr. Fred Muir (Annapolis, MD), all of whom are senior ministers of multiracial, multicultural congregations. I will blog on their insights some time after I return home from GA.

Next, I went to "Leadership in Small Congregations", led by Janine Larsen and Tandi Rogers Koerger. I always enjoy these small congregation workshops and try to go to one each GA to learn from others facing similar challenges, and to make connections. Once again, it was useful, fun and encouraging to talk with ministers and lay leaders who are in the same boat!

Next, I went to a workshop that was much more enlightening than I had even hoped: "Future Generations of UUs: What Will They Value?" This was a panel of three young adults, Chris Wulff, Julia Angley, and Andrew Mertz, who did a truly great job of unpacking the "Millennial" generation, and what they might (and might not) be looking for from a congregation in terms of worship and programming. I will also blog on their insights some time after I return home from GA. It was fascinating.

After that, I went to a lecture, the "John Murray Distinguished Lecture". This is an annual lecture series featuring scholarly thought on Universalism or a Universalist. This year Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker gave the lecture; she is the President of the Starr King School for Ministry, a UU seminary in California. Her talk was entitled "Connecting Beauty and Justice". What a great talk! Again, I will blog on her insights some time after I return home.

The day ended with the Service of the Living Tradition, a service that honors the professional ministry, professional religious educators, and professional musicians of our tradition. I will link to the video of the service at a later date.

The next day, Friday, was a Plenary Day for me. I will post about the plenary sessions all together at a later time. I'm running late for something -- it never ends at GA!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UU Ministry Days ends, GA begins

Picture: There is a skywalk that connects practically everything downtown. It goes on for something like 8 miles! This is on the way from my hotel to the Convention Center. I'm inside the skywalk, looking out at another part of the skywalk. Came in handy today when I got caught in the rain without an umbrella.

Today started off with worship at UU Ministry Days. It's the annual "25/50 Year Worship." This service honors those ministers who were ordained 25 years ago and 50 years ago. Each of these cohorts elects from among its members one person to deliver a homily at this service. Now, these elected sermonizers are the cream of the crop. Surviving 25 or 50 years in successful ministry is an accomplishment in its own right, and so the selected speaker from each group is the cream of the cream of the crop. Not surprisingly, these sermons are consistently excellent. This year was no exception. From the 25 year class, the Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove was selected. From the 50 year class, the Rev. Kenneth Torquil MacLean was selected. Both sermons touched me deeply, each moving me to tears at different moments. I'll have to post links to their sermons when they're available.

The UU Ministers Association (UUMA) then had its official Annual Meeting. The UUMA is the professional organization for UU ministers. It was somewhat less inspiring than the worship service, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I appreciate the efforts of the UUMA Exec! There was an interesting discussion about the upcoming 2012 GA in Arizona, and whether boycotting is the right route to take, or whether we should go there and protest. I'm actually quite torn between the two strategies. The important thing is, Unitarian Universalists should speak out on the racist immigration laws and work to keep other states from passing similar legislation. I personally think the most important things we can do are between now and the 2012 GA, not at the 2012 GA. But the interesting conversation will continue into GA and plenary.

Finally, the UU Ministry Days ended with the Berry Street Lecture (a tradition that dates back many years). The lecturer this year was the Rev. Gary Kowalski. His talk was (to my surprise) about poetry. I was expecting animal rights or ethical eating or something like that. But Rev. Kowalski is more than an animal rights activist and vegetarian! He gave a very enlightening talk on the importance of poetry and its connection to religion and ministry. The response was by the Rev. Lynn Ungar, minister for lifespan learning of the Church of the Larger Fellowship and a poet herself. She said that poetry and religion both connect the little things to the big things. I never thought of it that way... and she ended with "metaphors be with you". I love puns. Well, good ones.

Tonight is the Opening Celebration and the official start of the UU General Assembly. I'll tell you about it tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You're gonna make it after all....

To left: Statue of Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis, as I saw this afternoon. She can turn the world on with her smile, you know.

Today was mostly a travel day, flying from Boston to Minneapolis. But this afternoon and evening were the start of UUMA (UU Ministers Association) Ministry Days. Ministry Days always come right before UU General Assembly. We had an opening worship service at 7 p.m., followed by a talk with (and Q&A with) UUA President Peter Morales.

Tomorrow is the main "Ministry Day". There will be the 25/50 Worship Service (I'll explain in tomorrow's post); the Berry Street Lecture (I'll explain in tomorrow's post); and the UUMA Annual Meeting. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you how it all goes... Should be a full day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sweet June Days Are Come Again....

What a wonderful June it has been so far.

My partner and I went to our first retreat at Cape Cod, long a tradition of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) in the summer. Everything about it was even nicer than we had imagined! What a beautiful camp, and a great get-away. What a great chance to get to know folks a little better, too!

To the left: "The Infirmary", the building where many stayed during the retreat.

This past Sunday was New Member Sunday, and we welcomed four new members to the UUCiA. Each of the four new members is already a bright light in our community. We're so lucky to have them, and so happy they found us!

It's hard to believe, but next week I will be in Minneapolis for the annual UU General Assembly. I will be posting here regularly from GA, so check back to see what I'm up to... to see what the Association is up to... and to hear what I'm learning.