This year’s UUA General Assembly marked my second pilgrimage out to the land of chalices and yellow t-shirts, which happened to be located in Louisville, Kentucky. Although my attitude, agenda, and activities differed significantly from the ones that dominated my 2012 “Justice GA” experience, I am pleased to say that one crucial element carried over from last year – the intense commitment of our denominational leaders and membership.
Workshops of Note
This year’s GA included numerous workshops, from those on how to run successful stewardship drives, to how to engage in meaningful action around immigration, to an hour of soul-charging dance. One powerful workshop was the Rev. Dr. Thandeka’s talk on the “race campaigns” of previous centuries. Her analysis of the “seditious emotions” behind their racism encouraged us to see social justice through an emotional or pastoral lens. She invited us to touch places within us that we feared, and to recognize that social change requires healing at a personal level. If you want to learn more about her talk, or see what other workshops were offered, check out the GA program site. More recordings will be available in coming weeks.
Inspirational Worship and Powerful Speakers
We are a living tradition that celebrates our past, present, and future. This year’s Service of the Living Tradition, which ushers in our newest leaders and honors those who have completed their ministry, included some of the most tweeted words of the week (#uuaga). Rev. Vanessa Southern reminded us of the love and unity that is our everlasting mission, and encouraged us to fully live into the Age of the Spirit. Looking for more inspiration? Check out the Sunday morning worship, which includes amazing music from the GA choir, and a reflection by the Rev. Dr. Bill Schulz of the UUSC on our fragile and interconnected existence with all of creation. Perhaps you have not yet witnessed the ability of our former moderator, Gini Courter, to inspire a room with wisdom, wit, and gratitude. If so, you don’t want to miss Sunday night’s closing celebration.
Celebrating the Future of Our Faith: Ware Lecture & Bridging Ceremony
Our Ware Lecturer this year was Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel, a visionary in the world of interreligious engagement. There is no other way to say it – he nailed it. Patel spoke to the unique role and ability that Unitarian Universalists have in the area of interfaith cooperation, and the responsibility we have as a pluralistic tradition. He challenged us to acknowledge both the “resonances” and differences, and to consider “who is excluded in a movement that trumpets inclusivity.” More importantly, he encouraged us to listen to the voices of those who will lead our tradition in coming years – our youth and young adults. Continue to celebrate the beautiful future of our faith by watching the Bridging Ceremony, in which youth were welcomed into the next phase of their lives by their young adult peers. Our future is an inspiring one to watch!
Voting and Elections
Our fifth principle took center stage as delegates participated in several votes to strengthen our denomination. Learn about the bylaws amendments around electronic voting, or the Actions of Immediate Witness on ending corporate personhood, the “New Jim Crow” criminal justice system, and our dependence on oil money. Delegates this year also had the important task of voting for the next UUA Moderator. The candidates, Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex, though with different views on how to help move our denomination forward, were equally committed to our tradition’s future. Both had something valuable to offer, and many UUs agreed: Jim Key was elected as the new UUA Moderator by a margin of 40 votes. Other votes included electing new members to the UUA board and the re-election of Rev. Peter Morales as UUA president.
Groups and Organizations
This year’s exhibit hall was filled with dozens of booths for more organizations and vendors than one could imagine. Booths for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UU Christian Fellowship, UU Addictions Ministry, Interweave, UU Trauma Response Ministry, UU State Advocacy Networks, Interfaith Power and Light, the UU UNO – all of these and so many more were available to participants to explore. Check out the full listing of vendors/organizations here.
Our Resilient Hope
We UUs are a resilient bunch. In the face of setbacks and systemic injustice, we continue to push forward, never ceasing in our commitment to love. We come from a long line of fighters; have a history of struggle within and beyond our denomination; have endured silver-lined cloud after silver-lined cloud, knowing that the sun will always come out, and our efforts will bring us that much closer to creating the beloved community. Our hope is not what gives us our energy, but is an expression of our faith, the product of our love. If GA illustrated anything, it is that the love that is at the root of our faith, that fuels our hope, that motivates us to try one more time, every time; this love is what keeps our vision of a bright future not only a possibility, but a probability.
Experience General Assembly for Yourself
The above is just a glimpse of all of that was offered at this year’s General Assembly. Take a look at this list for even more electronic resources available for all to explore.
UUA Website Videoes: http://www.uua.org/ga/2013/index.shtml
UU World Blog: http://blogs.uuworld.org/ga/
Twitter #hashtag for Review: #uuaga
Flickr Photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uuworld/sets/72157634048906904/
Get Ready for Next Year
Mark your calendars and get ready for a road trip! Next year’s General Assembly is on the East Coast, in Providence, Rhode Island, from June 25-29, 2014. With a location so close to home, I invite us to make a commitment to sending a FirstU Philadelphia delegation like none other. GA is a powerful experience that offers us a reminder of why it is we are Unitarian Universalists. It is a celebration of all that we have done, all that we can do, all that we are, and all that we can become. I hope to see you there!