Holy Conversations: You Should Have Been There

You should have been there.

That was what the buzz was among those UUCA members and staff who traveled to Minneapolis last month to attend the annual General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). For some of us self-confessed GA junkies who have been going for quite a while, these gatherings of a small, by most denominational standards, tribe of liberal religious folk from all over the country (with guests from around the world), are always amazing.

To be in the company of several thousand other UUs, many of them in the same convention center coffee lines, for us, is itself a wonder. To be part of the amazing worship services, the banner parade, the bazaar of chalice art and books, the conversations about common congregational successes and challenges, is always worth the trip, whether it be in the center of our movement in Boston, or the relative sparseness of Utah. But this year, this particular year, as UUCAer and UUA Board of Trustees member from the Mid South District Nancy Bartlett put it, she felt “a sea change” in the way our business was conducted in that big, chilly hall where the plenary sessions were held: sessions with significant votes taken, including finally passing a Peacemaking resolution that was inclusive of those who are opposed to all wars and those for whom there are just wars; those who work in the military and those who have actively opposed the draft and military funding.

We had work to do, deep listening, as we voted on which congregational study action issue to work on for the next four years, with competing and compelling proposals from an examination of the state of our American democracy, to slavery in the 21st century, to the one overwhelmingly selected: immigration as a moral issue. And there was much trepidation about what the nature of the debate would be when we had to grapple with a UUA Board- proposed business resolution to move our GA in 2012 out of Phoenix in response to the passage of a law (SB1070) in Arizona giving much broader powers to local policing authorities to proactively check immigration status, with great fears of even more prevalent and punitive racial profiling.

Moderator Ginny Courter led us in a process of reflection by prominent ministers and prayer and song before the discussion even started. The eventual vote supported an alternative, no business as usual “Justice” General Assembly there, rather than a full-out boycott, with a renewed commitment to working on the safety and accessibility of our gatherings for people with “historically marginalized” identities and opposition to systemic racism. The cheers that went up when the result of the vote was announced were not just for the content of the resolution. It was for the sense of collective decorum, dignity, respect, and yes, love as well.

You should have been there, our UUCA delegates agree, for this achievement in civil discourse, for exemplary democratic processes, for the model set by the UUA Board, our YAYA (youth and young adult) caucuses, by the leadership of DRUUMM (diverse revolutionary UU multicultural ministries).

You should have been there, I want to add proudly, to see our own UUCA delegates in action, from the first time they sat together at the Mid-South ingathering there; to that night during the display of banners, this year ours carried by Tim Atkins; to the ways in which they stayed connected, even when scattered throughout the massive convention center. It was a large and impressive showing. On behalf of Rev. David and myself, I want to personally thank our delegates: Lynne Anderson, Tim Atkins, Barbara Burnham, Marjorie Girth, Oreon Mann, Marshall Orson, Karen Reagle, Howard Rees, David Yamashita, and Julie Weisberg, many of whom played other important roles there. And of course your staff, including Chance Hunter and Pat Kahn, who participated in significant ways as well.

You all did us proud, and we have much to be proud of. You should have been there. Consider being there in Charlotte for the next General Assembly in June 2011.

Note: In addition to passing the business resolution about the Phoenix GA 2012, a call went out in Minneapolis for Unitarian Universalists to go to Phoenix from July 28-30 2010 to be part of the National Day of Compliance with SB1070, the day the law goes into effect, or whether or not the law takes effect that day, as a demonstration of our opposition to this kind of legislation, proposed now all over the country, including here in Georgia. A special request was made that clergy come and support this human rights movement on the ground in Arizona. Along with at least two of my Mid-South ministerial colleagues Revs. Fred Hammond and Jeff Jones, I will be there. Look for reports from the field.

Rev. Marti Keller, Minister