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!