Another reflection about going to GA in Columbus OH in June:
From Lee Bannor
A great deal of my time at GA this year was spent circulating petitions for the “Action of Immediate Witness” sponsored by our church. The AIW called for the General Assembly to show support for the congressional resolution introduced by Cong. John Conyers to establish a commission to study reparations to African Americans. The other members of the UCE delegation circulated petitions as well and we had help from other groups as well. I’m pleased to report that we had more than twice as many signatures needed to place the AIW on the agenda.
The Commission on Social Witness winnowed out some of the proposals. Some didn’t have enough signatures, and some were too similar to recently passed AIWs. Ours was one of six placed on the Saturday agenda. On Saturday, the GA voted on which three would be on the final agenda Sunday. Unfortunately, our AIW didn’t make the cut. All of the proposals were worthy, though. In spite of this setback, UCE remains committed to racial justice.
In my opinion, the highlight of GA was the speech by Rev. Dr. William Barber, head of the N. Carolina NAACP who has been leading the charge to restore voting rights in our country. I also attend the forum for the three candidates for president of the UUA. I was impressed with all three, but I have a favorite at this point. Ask and I’ll tell you.
Another reflection about going to GA in Columbus OH in June:
From Ellen Rockett:
The best aspect for me of GA was just how diverse the experience was.
Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout led the GA choir in civil rights protest songs for our warmups each day, and his music showed an important consciousness of African American musical traditions. He treated choir practices as spiritual gatherings, and really “ministered” to the choir as the short time allowed.
The speakers were of course almost universally spectacular and powerful, and it was food for thought to see the gap between their speeches and the actions being taken.
I appreciated the chance to connect with the young adults who were there and in particular the chance to find common ground with the young adults of color I met. It really gave me a chance to listen and learn about their experiences on a personal and more heartfelt level. Those connections left me realizing how little I know and how much work I have to do – because the UU denomination as a whole made it clear they aren’t going to step up and do it for me. In response to seeing the pain of the young adults of color around me, I understand better in my gut what is meant by the Lilla Watson quote, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
And we saw how diversity can bring painful but important discussion – around the racial justice items and workshops, but also in the debate around the divestment from the occupied territories item and response to Rabbi Jacobs co-opting the opening ceremonies to bring a message he felt was very important. Seeing how messy the democratic process can get, even among a group of relatively-likeminded people, was an important experience to me in this election year.
All in all, I came away feeling better rooted in my spirituality and “put back into myself” by the community around me, but I also came away with a lot of the pain and confusion and anger of the people, and a motivation for action.
Some additional reflections from UCE members who attended General Assembly (GA) in June:
From Karen Courtright:
The single most important thing for me was the courageous sermon delivered by Reverend Sinkford. The take home message was: The UUs were great allies in the ’60’s civil rights work, until they weren’t. DON’T SCREW UP THIS TIME. Stand by the movement even when it gets difficult. This is what I was thinking about when we declined to lead the action that OPAL requested (I was in Europe and could not offer to work on the issue). Too difficult because of Dallas police shootings??? I say we step into this work, and don’t step away.
From Eileen Wiviott:
I do have to say that in addition to Rev. William Barber’s electrifying sermon (I can’t call it anything else) at the rally, the Sunday morning worship service was one of the best I’d been a part of. I particularly appreciated Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd’s message of opting out of the fake fights, to continue to connect and meet across difference. Here’s the link to the Sunday morning worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v-AR9-3JKY
From Barbara Ghoshal:
Besides the various General Sessions, Religious Services, and Ware Lecture, I attended seven ninety-minute programs (out of the hundreds being offered). These programs were replete with useful and surprising information for a relatively new Unitarian Universalist, and included:
- With You at Every Turn, offered by the All Souls Unitarian Church (Tulsa), on congregational leadership tips and tools;
- Healthy Leadership 101: New Patterns for Conflict Transformation;
- Beyond “The Word”: Sensory-Rich Worship for Our Whole Selves, offered by the Rev. Erika Hewitt;
- Congregational Leadership in the Interim Time, in which those connected with the Deerfield, IL church discussed their recovery process after their minister’s departure;
- The 2017 UUA Presidential Candidates Forum, with the Rev. Jeanne Pupke, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, and the Rev. Alison Miller;
- Listening to the Humanist Voices: An Open-Hearted Unitarian Universalism;and finally,
- Creative Fundraising for Today’s Ministries, with Denny Davidoff, Jessica Cloud, and Sean Neil-Barron.
Several UCE members & friends attended General Assembly in Columbus, OH in June. Rather than writing one, big summary article, we chose to ask attendees about their “favorite moment” at GA. Here’s a sampling of impressions from GA:
Also note, you can watch talks/speeches/performances, etc from GA by browsing this page.
From Martha Holman:
“High point for me was seeing many many youth and young adults amass at the microphone on the very last day to say Wait a minute! They were very disappointed in the seemingly easy dismissal of a Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) on the issue of race. As was I. These young people, many of them people idolize, proposed a responsive resolution that the UUA and congregations across the country step up and act to help end racial injustice. They said “the Black Lives Matter banners are fine, “but what else will we do to work at healing, to make this country and our congregations safe for everyone? The moderator invited this large group up on stage to speak at the podium. The resolution was passed.”
From Heike Eghardt:
Two favorite moments: 1) Rev. Barber at the State of Emergence event. I particularly liked it when he told the gathered crowd that the next time we have an event like that, we should have it outside – inclement weather or not – because we need to be visible if we want to make a difference. Watch his speech here.
2) I loved it when the angels blocking out Westboro’s message of hate.
From Peggy Boccard:
For me there were three major highlights among a host of smaller ones:the powerful message of Rev Dr William Barber at the Thursday morning address and later in the day at the racial justice rally; Bill Sinkford’s gently phrased but firm admonition to UUs to do better at the Service of the Living Tradition; Ware Lecturer Krista Tippett who reminded us that Words matter; that Listening is a social art and questions are civic tools; and to Dare to Name Love. Other joys, in no particular order, the inspired performance of Glen Thomas Rideout performing and leading the GA Choir; Dawn Clark Cooley at the Opening Celebration; the Angel Wing team in response to Westboro. The surprise winner for me: the Social Action Witness Sermon Contest Award on Friday afternoon; the only time this year we had a mass rising of the Youth Caucus and Young Adult Caucus* together to join with the Black Lives UU (BLUU) team to chastise is for weak-kneed response to action on Black Lives Matter (which left me shaken and in tears) at the end of the last Plenary on Sunday afternoon which led directly into a powerful Closing Celebration.
Additional reflections on GA will appear in future newsletters, Also, feel free to ask GA attendees questions about their experiences (at church, via email, etc.)