By Holly Bussey and Jim Sanders
It seems like only yesterday that approximately 3,000 UU’s descended on Kansas City, Missouri for the 57th Annual General Assembly. What is General Assembly? It’s a time when for about 5 days (or any portion thereof), you get to be with fellow UUs throughout the country AND the world! People who have the same mind set as you. It’s also an opportunity to share ideas, make new friends and see how our work locally has a national and international impact.
As participants in our first General Assembly in Charlotte, NC in 1993, the changes in the look and feel of leadership of our Association that we see are quite significant – in a very good way – in our honest opinions.
The changes were exciting, involved more people. YOUTH and POC were present everywhere and it was exciting. This time is filled with valuable sessions, worship, music, presentations and speakers. Never a disappointment, the WARE LECTURE, by Brittany Packnett, gave us much to think about and exchange feelings as no realities were held back.
Congregations near and far attend and for UUCWC, only two of us made it this year. (We missed other UUCWCers attending. In the past there have been up to 42 of us in attendance!!!)
We were also delegates which meant, for the “business of being UUs,” we represented, as best we could, the thoughts of our entire congregation (given our size, we can have up to six delegates, either in person or virtual off-site—keep that in mind for 2019). We considered all that we had done as a community this year, what our dreams are, and how this related to the topics of General Sessions. This included voting to permit DLRE’s the ability to vote at GA, as they were previously unable to do so! Our own DLRE, Robin Pugh, presented the motion and rationale for this change.
One of the main focuses of this GA was racial justice. It wasn’t business as “usual” and there were deliberate changes in focus and presentations throughout GA. As many already know, this year was a time of upheaval regarding hiring practices at the UUA, which was the catalyst inspiring the implementation of the Commission on Institutional Change. As a result, the atmosphere was very different and in a GOOD way!
Because of changes in UUA practices and in our own congregation’s work in or Racial Justice Initiative, we were both keenly aware of how some of our fellow UUs as well as POC in the community were treated by both police and civilians of the local community. Several approached us wanting to know more about our 8th Principle Adoption process.
We saw injustices first hand that impacted us all, and we were made aware that we cannot passively look away from many indignities that fellow citizens and friends are being treated in a world that “has turned upside down.” More than ever, we need to be vigilant in our work for a fairer and kinder world community – and General Assembly helped us to see that work in action.
With that lens, we were made aware that the responsibilities in running our association are evolving and becoming much more inclusive and balanced, reflecting more of who we are becoming as Unitarian Universalists. The work is long, hard and uncomfortable, but it’s done in an atmosphere of love and caring. Amazement and inspiration enveloped all that was done during our time at GA.
General Sessions (formerly called Plenary) now have a tone of ‘open-ness’ and we saw many who weren’t delegates attending just to find out more of what our faith is doing! Next year, there will be a focus on how the changes in denominational structure and in how we grow into the new normative, as congregations will be bringing feedback on support that will be given to them during the year ahead, to create the same anti-racist structure in our communities.
They say that pictures speak more powerfully than words, so check out the photos we’re including. Look at the links. Take time to get a feel for what goes on and HOW YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE PART OF THIS IN THE COMING YEAR. Want to experience more from this past GA? It’s difficult to summarize all that happened, all there was to see and do. We encourage you to see all the highlights at https://www.uua.org/ga.
What about next year? General Assembly will be in Spokane, Washington. A wonderful place to explore and consider vacationing afterwards. It is the gateway to the upper west portion of our country. Easily accessible to Seattle, Salt Lake City… and over three national parks are within driving distance! Mark your calendar for June 19-23… and beyond? Consider going as a family. It would be a wonderful experience and you’ll be hearing more this coming January.