Report from General Assembly July 2017
I am writing this as I sit in the Louis B. Armstrong airport on my way home to New Jersey after a week of meetings with Unitarian Universalists. The first two days were with over five hundred UU ministers and the other five days was with FOUR THOUSAND (!!!) UUs from all over the continent (and, in fact, all over the world).
There were five of us from TUS present at General Assembly (“GA”), our strongest showing ever (or at least in recent memory). On July 30, you’ll get to hear from the other four who attended – they will be bringing their impressions to you as part of our Sunday service that day. No doubt their enthusiasm will be infectious. I am so thankful for their attendance, their excitement, and how seriously they took their responsibility of being a voting delegate representing this congregation.
This was my third full GA, so I am not “old hat” at it. It still very much feels like a new experience each time I have gone. I find it a combination of exciting and inspirational, overwhelming and, on occasion, disappointing. After a week of overwhelm in 2015, I came away unsure of where in Unitarian Universalism I belonged. This time, I have come away with a deep sense of connection: to my ministry, to my colleagues, to our faith movement, and to you. I come away feeling invigorated and in touch with a renewed sense of creativity.
GA is the one time Unitarian Universalists get to experience worship mega-church style. Worship every day, several times a day. In the early morning, it’s likely “only” 500 or 800 people show up. But in the evening, or on the last day? Well, the whole 4,000. Singing songs, listening to powerful sermons, moving along with amazing music, and resonating with the voices of thousands of other UUs – it’s amazing.
This year we went deep:
- We continued to examine and re-examine how patterns of white supremacy impact who we have been and who we are today, offering up the choice to change it. I am so thankful to the organizers of Black Lives of UU who have raised up this issue – sometimes with jarring language – so that we might not repeat history that brought pain and betrayal.
- We took a new look at the Principles and Sources, considered changes to language that aimed for broader inclusivity. We deferred a change to the First Principle for further conversation. We changed the wording in the Second Source from “women and men” to “people” to reflect a more inclusive understanding of gender identity beyond the binary.
- We are taking seriously, for the first time since it was raised, consideration of an 8th Principle that would explicitly address racial justice.
- We are moving away from able-ist language in the term, “Standing on the Side of Love,” to “Answering the Call of Love,” as we listen to prophetic voices that remind us human bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities.
- After having the first woman president serve as part of the recent three-person co-presidency, we elected the first woman president of our UUA: Rev. Susan Frederick Gray.
This is such a juicy time in our faith movement’s history. So much is possible. So much to gain and so much to lose. So much possibility to repeat problematic history. So much opportunity to co-create new narratives of liberation and hope. I come away not certain of the outcome, but hopeful that we are moving in a good directions.
I am blessed to be on this journey with you,