Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GA ends...

I am back from GA.  Saturday was mostly plenary and voting...  one significant change was we delegates voted to reduce the size of the UUA's Board of Trustees from 26 to 14.  Hopefully this will make the Board less cumbersome.

Saturday night was the Ware Lecture, featuring Karen Armstrong.  Her talk was entitled "The Challenge of Compassion".  She is a very engaging speaker.  You can watch her lecture online (see embedded video below).

Sunday morning started off with worship, co-led by Rev. Scott Tayler and Rev. Kaaren Anderson.  After that, we hit the road and drove back to Massachusetts.

Another busy, but inspiring, GA!

Watch live streaming video from uuaga at

Saturday, June 25, 2011

GA day 4

 (Picture:  Cool art in Charlotte.)

Today was LOTS of plenary, time for the official business of GA.  We heard reports from lots of folks, including the UU Women's Federation, the UU United Nations Office, and the UU Service Committee.  The election of candidates was uneventful as no one was opposed.  Then we voted to change the name of the Thomas Jefferson District to the Southeast District (at their own suggestion).  We also voted to change the conditions to appointment to the MFC.  Four Actions of Immediate Witness will move forward for consideration:  "Protest Rep. Peter King's Hearings on Muslim 'Radicalization'"; "Support Southern California Supermarket Workers' Struggle for Decent Wages and Benefits"; "Toward Ending the US Military Engagement in Afghanistan"; and "Oppose Citizens United -- Support Free Speech for People".

During the one program slot of the day, I went to the "Greeley Award Sermon: Ethical Aspects of Climate Change", a sermon co-written (and delivered) by Rev. Craig Schwalenberg and Sarah Summers.  The competition was supported by the UU-UNO, a wonderful organization.

After this post, I'm going back to plenary!  Lots of business today!

Friday, June 24, 2011

GA days 2 and 3

Busy, busy, busy!  This will be a cursory overview... Details to come at a later date! (Picture to left: Mass Bay District banner in the convention center.)

First, I'll tell you about the rest of my day yesterday, Thursday.  In the afternoon, I went to a discussion by the UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales, called "Our Future Depends on Three Things".  What are the three things, you ask?  He believes that we must 1.) Get Religion. 2.) Grow Leaders 3.) Cross Borders.  By "get religion", he means figuring out what we're passionate about, using our experiential tradition.  When people experience something together, it can be very powerful.  "Grow leaders" is fairly self-explanatory.  And "cross borders" means crossing borders of class and culture, intentionally.

Next, I went to a lecture called "The UU Great Commission", by Rev. Howard Dana and Tandi Rogers, both very dynamic.  Rev. Dana is the senior minister of the congregation in which I grew up, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA (UCH).  He made me proud.

The day ended with the Service of the Living Tradition, a time to honor religious professionals.  I was moved when, among those UU ministers who died last year, there were two that I knew and loved.  One was Rev. Jean Cook Brown, who was the chair of my intern committee.  The other was Rev. Nancy Haley, with whom I attended Harvard Divinity School.  They are missed...  May they rest in peace.

This morning (Friday), I started out in plenary where we passed the Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience.  That was good news!  Then, off to a workshop called "Views from the Pews: Race and UU-ism".  The panel was moderated by Rev. Clyde Grubbs, and the speakers were Jacqui Williams, Karin Lin, and Gregory Boyd (who is a member of the UCH!).  Their stories were very moving and powerful... a powerful reminder of the importance of anti-racism work in our congregations.

Next, I went to "Theology in Practice for a Multicultural World", moderated by Gail Forsyth-Vail (our neighbor in Andover, and one who has preached for us a few times), with speakers Dr. Sharon Welch and Dr. Kat Liu.  They were both excellent.  Dr. Welch has long been a theologian that I have admired. 

Dr. Welch (pictured here) was also one of the speakers at the next workshop I attended, "Implementation Year for Creating Peace Statement of Conscience".  This workshop was put on by the UU Peace Ministry Network.  I learned a lot about what some other UU congregations are doing.  I wonder if the UUCiA could work toward becoming a Peace Advocate Congregation....  something to think about!

But wait, there's more!  It was time for the public witness at Marshall Park in Charlotte. Many, many UUs (with yellow "Standing on the Side of Love" t-shirts, pictured) walked over to the park to "Stand on the Side of Love with LGBT People Everywhere!"  According to the organizers, "In North Carolina, the only state in the south that has not written discrimination against LGBT families into its state constitution, proposals to ban marriage equality -- as well as civil unions or any legal relationship between same-sex couples -- have been introduced and could reach the ballot in November."  We gave witness on the side of marriage equality, and against any discriminatory proposals.  There were local clergy members from other faith traditions (including Jewish, Unity, and Lutheran, among others) who stood with us (and spoke), too. [Addendum:  Here's a link to a news piece and video on the rally.  Here's a link to the front page article in the Charlotte Observer.]

Phew!  I'm beat!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ministry Days end, GA begins

Greetings from Charlotte, North Carolina, and the UU General Assembly! (Picture: Charlotte Conference Center with UU GA banners.)

Yesterday started off with worship at UU Ministry Days. It was the annual “25/50 Year Worship.” This service honors those UU 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. Lindi Ramsden was selected. From the 50 year class, the Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert was selected. Both sermons touched me, as happens each year. It was particularly interesting for me to hear Rev. Dr. Gilbert, who wrote the “Building Your Own Theology” adult RE curriculum from which I have been drawing for the past two years. He assured the gathered ministers that “the first 50 years are the hardest”. Imagine my relief!

(Picture: Banner detail.)  Whenever I come to GA, I always wish that you congregants could be here. It is inspiring to be with thousands of Unitarian Universalists from all around the country. But I am very much thinking of you all, and (as always) trying to figure out which workshops will be the most useful ones for me to attend, thinking of the year ahead.

UU Ministry Days ended yesterday late afternoon with the annual Berry Street Lecture, the longest-running lecture series in the United States.  The talk was called "Whence We Come and How and Whither" (about clergy misconduct), given by Rev. Dr. Deborah Pope-Lance.  Her talk was quite thoughtful and thought-provoking and very helpful to hear. 

Last night was the official start of GA with the Opening Celebration, including worship and the banner parade.  The theme was the 50th anniversary of the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists.  Along with the current President of the UUA, Rev. Peter Morales, and the current Moderator, Gini Courter, several past presidents and moderators participated (including Rev. John Buehrens, Rev. Bill Schulz, Rev. Bill Sinkford, and Denny Davidoff).

Today, I started off with an early meeting of the Board members from the UU Mass Action Network who are here at GA (I am on the Board of the UU Mass Action Network).  It was nice to see folks from home and to take advantage of the chance to be together.

(Picture: Opening Celebration and Banner Parade.)  After that, I attended the workshop "Creating a Congregational Focus for Social Justice", led by a team from the UU Church of Charlotte.  They shared with us their journey from being a congregation that took on multiple social justice issues and a bit of a "band aid approach" to a congregation focused on a specific social justice issue -- dealing with the causes as well as the symptoms -- and becoming known in the community for that good work.  (They chose homelessness and affordable housing, and their program/ministry is called "AHHA" (ah ha) for Affordable Housing and Homelessness Action.)  It was helpful to hear how they gained consensus around becoming more focused on one important area and trying to make a real difference in that area in Charlotte.

Now it is noontime, and I am pausing to give this blog update.  More news tomorrow!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Massachusetts Tornado Relief Fund

To left: UU church in Monson, with damage....  (picture from District website)

Please consider making a donation to the Massachusetts Tornado Relief Fund of the UUA.  Learn more at this link.