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Plenary II

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General Assembly 2006 Event 2081

UUA Moderator Gini Courter called the Plenary session together at 2:45 p.m. She then introduced the members of the General Assembly Planning Committee. Chair Linda Friedman reminded delegates that nametags will need to be worn to all events; the sole exclusion will be people who are on stage presenting since the nametags reflect light and create bad images on the stage, and made several other announcements.

The Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, from the UUA's Accessibilities Committee, was introduced, and engaged Courter in a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"-style survey, including "ask the audience" and "phone a friend" features, about proper respect and behavior around accessibilities issues. These included allowing people who needed elevators to use them, not touching working dogs, not speaking without microphones, and supporting the needs of those with fragrance sensitivities.

James Bennett Award

Courter introduced Susan Leslie, Director of the Congregational Advocacy & Witness Staff group, to present the James Bennett Award recognizing congregational action on human rights and social action projects. This year's recipient was the Winchester (MA) Unitarian Society, for their hurricane relief work. Seventy members of the congregation (including thirty-five teens) made six trips to work to work with their partner congregation, the North Shore Unitarian University Society in Lacombe, Louisiana; held a New Orleans Night fundraiser to raise over $4,000 directly for the UUA/UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund, and youth of the congregation made a documentary video, With Our Eyes Shut, to share their experiences. The congregation's minister, the Rev. Mary Harrington, accepted the award, noting that the $500 prize will be used to establish an aid fund named in memory of a NSUUS member who died recently, an aftermath of hurricane-related trauma.

Louis C. Cornish Award

Barbara Beech, president of the Partner Church Council, was joined by PCC Executive Director Cathy Cordes and board member Linda Lu Burciaga as they presented the Louis C. Cornish Award to former UUA Moderator Natalie Gulbrandsen. Gulbrandsen, they said, "reinvigorated the sister church program after the fall of the Ceausescu regime. Natalie worked hard to connect people, and aid the congregations that had been so devastated. Natalie, we celebrate your faithful engagement."

Holmes-Weatherly Award

On behalf of the UUA's Advocacy and Witness Staff Group, Rob Keithan, Director of the Washington Office for Advocacy, presented the Holmes-Weatherly Award to Dr. Fred Seidl. Seidl has been involved with helping UU congregations learn how to become involved in community organizing, has worked to support work at the UUA, and worked actively to help UU congregations in voter registration and mobilization drives. Seidl, in accepting the award, sang to the delegates "People like you help people like me go on." He described himself as a UU working for social justice, gave thanks for the award, and said, "I will work hard to deserve it."

Skinner Sermon Award

Rob Keithan, who presented this award, explained that the Skinner Award honors Clarence Skinner, and is awarded annually to the presenter of the sermon that most reflects Skinner's social justice involvement. This year's recipient, Andover Newton Theological School student Joann Giannino said that a reality of our lives is that "the poor will always be with you," and that it is only by relationship with the poor that we will know ourselves.

Angus H. MacLean Award

UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery presented the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education. This award, given jointly by the UUA and the Alumni Association of St. Lawrence Universalist Theological School to recognize contributions to religious education in the spirit of MacLean, was presented to Jacqui James. Through her work as director of religious education at First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, as architect of the hymnal Singing the Living Tradition, as director of the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop program, and as Anti-Oppression and Multicultural Resources Director, Jacqui James "transformed the landscape of our faith." The citation honoring her continued, "She brought an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural lens to all she has touched, and has devoted years of service in this cause."

Preliminary Credentials Report

UUA Secretary Paul Rickter to present the preliminary credentials report. Rickter reported that as of June 22, there were registered:

  • 1662 member delegates
  • 332 minister delegates
  • 13 minister emeritus/emerita delegates
  • 6 credentialed religious educators, masters level
  • 4 Associate Member organizations
  • 26 Board members

for a total of 2043 delegates representing 601 congregations from all 50 states, and three Canadian congregations. There were an additional 271 youth registrants and 2001 non-delegate attendees for a total registration of 4350.

Courter declared that a quorum is and has been present since the beginning of the meeting.

International Guests

The Rev. Will Saunders, member of the UUA Board of Trustees (New Hampshire-Vermont District), introduced the international guests in attendance. They are:

  • Linda Thomson, Associate Executive Director and Director of Regional Services, East, Canadian Unitarian Council
  • David Dawson, President of the British General Assembly, accompanied by his wife Christine
  • John Slattery, Vice President of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
  • John Clifford, Executive Secretary of the ICUU (the sole paid staff member of the ICUU) and his wife Barbara
  • The Rev. Zsolt Solymosi, a Unitarian Minister at the Unitarian High School in Koloszvar, Transylvania, who has also been at Starr King School for the Ministry this past year.

Report of the Special Review Commission

Courter advised delegates that a special review commission was created last September to study the events impacting the UU community which had occurred at General Assembly last year. Commission members were the Rev. José Ballester, the Rev. Margaret Keip, Janice Marie Johnson, Hafidha Acuay, and Rachel Davis.

Ballester told delegates that the full text of the report is available on the UUA website, and recommended that delegates read the report, but also do more. The core issues, he said, were not new—the commission found references to similar incidents and concerns back to 1961, and that's where they stopped. He suggested that congregations must discuss the report and act, so that in fifteen years, people won't say that the same issues still exist.

Davis identified herself as the youth of color member on the commission, and said that for her, the hardest part about serving on the commission was the discovery that multiple youth of color no longer identify as UU anymore. This, she said, broke her heart. "Before entering the Plenary today, I wondered what will happen if in ten years we don't do anything, and we continue to drive away our youth, and how lonely it will feel then." Davis said she feels affirmed in the presence of our faith, and isn't willing to risk its future if we don't do the work.

Acuay identified herself as the young adult of color on the commission, and said she came to UUism from another faith that had a lot of issues about internal racism. At least here, she continued, "we talk about it. And it may seem bigger here because we are talking about it." Acuay said that she is currently the only UU in her family, and she has faith that we can become a tradition where she could invite her family to our congregations, knowing that they would be welcome and secure in the knowledge that there is something in this faith for them.

Johnson said that she comes as "a bridge builder, someone who has the optimism that we can do better, and do well." She said that she "wants this faith and its people to rise to the occasion," and knows we can do this work.

Keip identified herself as the "token white person" on the commission, and said that it had been a privilege to serve. She acknowledged that she is a privileged person, and as the eldest member of the group, she testified that there is no age at which we will stop learning what it means to be privileged, "especially those of us with white hair and white skin who have been around for quite some time. Being people of good will means lifting ourselves out of privilege and welcoming everyone and understanding what we don't see with our wonderfully privileged lives."

The Commission members then shared with the delegates the preamble to the report, written by Ballester, which does not appear on the website:

This is not about nametags

This is about people

This is about relationships

This is about power

This is about how we treat each other

This is about communication

This is about the assumptions we make about each other

This is about human limitations and fragility

This is about how we handle conflict

This is about the myths of our accomplishments and denial of our failures

This is about entitlement across a broad spectrum and at all levels

This is about theological understanding of covenant

This is about sin, confession, penance and absolution

This is about owning our history and learning from that history

This is about creating and sustaining a religious covenanted community

This is about hope, and love, and pain, and tears, and love, and hope again

This is about never forgetting and letting go

This is about humility

This is about the future

This is about all of us.

Commission on Appraisal

Courter echoed Ballester's words, saying, "this is about all of us, friends, this is indeed about each and every one of us." She then introduced James Casebolt, chair of the Commission on Appraisal.

Casebolt introduced the members of the Commission and told delegates that the COA has a written report in the Annual Reports booklet distributed at GA. Last year's COA study, Engaging Our Theological Diversity, has sold out the printed version, but is available on the COA website.

The job of the COA is to study important projects in the life of the Association, and this year they will begin one such study: the UUA bylaws say that Article 2 (the Principles of the UUA, as well as the Sources, Purposes, statement of freedom of belief, and statement of on-discrimination) will be reviewed at least every fifteen years and twenty-one years have elapsed, so the review is overdue. This Article is, said Casebolt, "fundamentally a community covenant—how we will be together. At the request of the Board of Trustees, the COA has taken on the project of review."

Casebolt noted that during the last COA study, the principles and their role in the Association were discussed. Since this covenant is an agreement among the entire community, Casebolt said the COA will be as collaborative as they can in the process they design.

Study/Action Issues

The Rev. Meg Riley, Director of the Advocacy and Witness staff group, explained that although Study/Action Issues (SAI's) and Statements of Conscience (SOC's) do not define staff priorities in a given year as much of the staff's work covers a long time span, these documents do provide the outer edge for demonstrating what staff can and do say in their witness and advocacy work. They are used to reply to media, and in making decisions about which activities and coalitions to support.

During this past year, for the first time in the history of the UUA, the UUA opposed the nomination to the Supreme Court of Samuel Alito. Riley explained that it was the UUA's SOC on civil liberties which urged the UUA's administration to speak out against individuals with track records of insufficient sensitivity to civil liberties that provided the grounding for this action.

Courter moved to debate on the proposed Study/Action Item which will be referred for two years of study. She asked the Rev. Susan Smith, Chair of the Commission on Social Witness, to outline the process for considering the proposed Study/Action Issue.

Smith told delegates that in 2002 a Social Witness Review Panel was formed to study the process of creating Statements of Conscience. Delegates and congregational leaders expressed the opinion that the current process considers too many issues for too short a time, at a hectic and frenzied pace, and therefore they have not always had the deep study that they deserve. The proposed changes that delegates will be considering later in the week will help get us off the "social witness hamster wheel," Smith said. Only three proposals for SAIs were received this year, Smith said, and only one of them met the criteria for consideration. So many of the SAIs critique others, and this one gives us the opportunity to differentiate our faith community from others and examine our own functioning in personal, congregational and civic life.

Smith explained that the proposed SAI needs a simple majority of votes in this Plenary to be referred to congregations for study in 2006-07, in a cycle of study, action, and comment, with a SOC possible at GA 2008. With those comments, Smith moved the Study/Action Issue #1, Peacemaking.

Discussion in support of accepting SAI #1 for study included:

  • A daughter of a WWII veteran said that she would fight like her father with peace in every step, that we must have the courage to act non-violently, and that we need a focused conversation on issues of peacemaking
  • A minister identified himself as a graduate of a Church of the Brethren seminary, which is historically a peace church, and said that we need a theology of non-violence, to figure out how to make the world better, and discuss just war theories and pacifism.
  • A representative speaking on behalf of the Youth Caucus said that although peacemaking is a cornerstone of our UU faith, there are a wide range of views on peacemaking and just war, and therefore it is important to discuss this. By having these conversations we will join the Mennonites, Quakers, Buddhists, and Jains.
  • One woman wished that we all could have heard the mini-assembly conversation where UUs of different perspectives spoke, and were heard, and they discovered common language and concerns. Imagine, she said, what we can do in two years, and suggested that we could then distinguish reason from rationalization, justice from justification, and learn how to prepare youth for decisions about military service and economic poverty draft, as well as learn how to better support UU military families. She said she is not a pacifist, and she is not sure we should become a peace church, but we need to discuss the issues.

Courter suggested the delegates were ready to vote on the motion to refer SAI #1, Peacemaking, to congregations and districts to be considered for a UUA SOC in the process as set out in the bylaws. The motion carried.

GA Service Project

Kim Hampton and Patsy Sherrill Madden introduced several young people from "Lift for Life," this year's service project for General Assembly. The affiliation between the UU congregations and Lift for Life began with a $352 grant in 1998. Now the group serves many people within the city. The young people led the delegates in social justice stretching and other energy break activities.

UUA 2006-07 Budget Presentation

UUA Trustee Lyn Conley (Mid-South District), chair of the UUA Board's Finance Committee, was introduced to present the budget. Conley acknowledged and thanked the members of the Finance Committee (John Blevins, Burton Carley, David Friedman, and Will Saunders), UUA Financial Advisor Dan Brody, and retiring UUA Treasurer Jerry Gabert.

The fiscal Year 07 (FY07) income is budgeted at $22,572,174. The breakdown is:

  • 67% from designated sources, including endowment and restricted funds such as the Holden India Fund, Veatch, and capital campaign funds
  • 14% from Friends of the UUA
  • 3% from bequests
  • 15% from investment income
  • 4% from administrative fees
  • 19% from other services such as rentals and Bookstore sales
  • 45% from Annual Program Fund Donations from member congregations.

Conley recognized and gave thanks to those UUs who had died in the past year and whose generosity will help the UUA. Those individuals included:

  • The Rev. J. Frank Shulman, whose $4.5 million donation will support scholarships, building loans and other projects
  • Marie Greenwald, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Norma E. Cossey, Staten Island, New York
  • Theodora Schwarz, Scituate, Massachusetts
  • Rev. Dr. Donald Szantho Harrington, New York, New York
  • Barbara Spencer, Andover, Massachusetts
  • Edwin Lutton, First Unitarian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Jean Kapuscik, Hinsdale, Illinois
  • Hugh "Bud" Wylie III, Clearwater, Florida
  • Helen Pratt, Eno River, Durham, North Carolina
  • Warren Bryan, New York, New York
  • Jeanne G. Culbertson, Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • Fred Haverland, Bradenton, Florida
  • Shirley Foster, Newtown, Pennsylvania
  • Edna B. Heidgerd, Concord, New Hampshire
  • John D. Blumgart, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Elise B. Miller, New York, New York
  • James Ross, Denver, Colorado
  • Harold Lucien Jones, Dallas, Texas
  • Eva Gordon, Lexington, Massachusetts
  • Helen Wahl, Rochester, New York
  • The Rev. Nathaniel P. Lauriat, Hartford, Connecticut, and Sun Cities, Arizona
  • June Baker Carr, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Henry H. and Priscilla Smith, Ellsworth, Maine
  • Andrew W. Ladner, Dallas, Texas
  • Elsie Irvin, Surprise, Arizona
  • Dorothy MacPherson, Richmond, Virginia
  • Louis Pojman, New York, New York
  • Alan Greelee Perry, Houston, Texas
  • LeRoy B. Wilson, Portland, Maine
  • Audrey and Raymond Sorenson, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Barb Brown, Chair of the Annual Program Fund (APF) Committee, recognized the retirement of Mary Miles and Betty Cummins, long time APF staff. She also introduced Laurel Amabile, the new Director of the APF, and Julie Lichtman, departing staff assistant. APF contributions are the fuel source for our UUA, she noted, and ribbons on attendees' nametags that recognize their congregations' APF donations are outward signs of the fuel needed to get the wheels turning in our Association. At the time of this Plenary, we were within five percent of the Annual Program Fund's $6.49 million budget. Conley pointed out that if all congregations gave their full fair share, we would have an extra $1.3 million, and much of that would be returned to districts through grants.

Conley reported that the total expenditures for FY07 are budgeted at $22,572,174, broken down as follows:

  • 8% for administration, including 3% for contingencies
  • 27% for infrastructure
  • 7% for board and leadership
  • 58% for program expenses

The program expenses (58% of the total) break down as follows:

  • 21% for district services, including grants to congregations and field staff
  • 21% for ministry and professional leadership, including credentialing and settlement
  • 17% for publishing, including UU World, UUworld on line, and useful tools for congregations
  • 4% for identity based ministry, including work on becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive multicultural association
  • 7% for lifespan faith development, including curricula, resources, leadership training, family ministry packets, youth office
  • 17% for advocacy and witness
  • 13% for congregational services, including annual conferences and other direct services

Breakthrough Congregations

The Rev. Michael McGee (Lead Team Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia) and Kathy Keith (Executive Director, All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK), members of the UUA Growth Team came to the stage with a crowbar to leverage opportunities and a hammer of commitment and collaboration.

Other members are: Judith Frediani (Director of Lifespan Faith Development, UUA), Ken Brown (UUA District Executive, Pacific Southwest), Tandi Rogers Koerger (UUA Program Coordinator, Pacific Northwest District), Tracey Robinson Harris (Director of Congregational Services, UUA), Bill Sinkford (UUA President), and Harlan Limpert (Director of District Services, UUA), convener.

The Growth Team chose four "Breakthrough Congregations" to present how they have grown and become more vital during this year's General Assembly. It was a challenge, they said, to choose four congregations from such a long list of congregations that are doing good work and growing quickly; each of the four have a story to tell, and they will be doing presentations in Plenary and also workshops.

Breakthrough Congregation: UU Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes

The first Breakthrough Congregation to present was the UU Fellowship of the Eastern Slopes, Tamworth, New Hampshire. The Rev. Mary Giles Edes, founder Rod Forsman, Board President Ruth Hall, and director of religious education Joy Maidment presented the report which included a video presentation focusing on the common and recurring theme of genuine invitation. Members of this congregation routinely invite people to be part of the congregation, through radio, newspaper, restaurants, and many other venues, and increased growth and vitality in the congregation has been the result.

Plenary Open Discussion: Growing and Declining Congregations

Moderator Courter informed delegates that one of the new parts of Plenary this year would be the opportunity to discuss at least two substantive issues of import to the Association without having a motion on the floor.

The first topic is: what are the common traits of growing congregations? What are the common traits of those congregations with stagnant or declining membership?

The Rev. Tracey Robinson-Harris, director of the UUA Congregational Services Staff Group, began the conversation by sharing the preliminary results of the 2005 Faith Communities Today survey, in which over half of our UU congregations took part. Robinson-Harris noted these characteristics of growing and non-growing congregations:

  • Two-thirds of the congregations experienced conflict in the last two years, and there was major conflict in those congregations that were either rapidly growing or rapidly declining (defined as twenty percent up or down over a five year period)
  • Major conflict was more likely to result in a loss of members, withholding of money, or departure of money
  • If conflict is not addressed well or at all, it can block growth and/or accelerate decline
  • There were some similarities observed, regardless of size: congregations over fifty members have websites, there are programs to attract newcomers, people follow up by mail or phone with newcomers, many engage in advertising.

Robinson-Harris said that many of our congregations are doing the right things—we know what to do, what to do to be and become welcoming and hospitable. The difference is that growing congregations are more likely to have new member recruitment, advertise on radio, TV and in the media, invite people to worship, have people who are in charge of hospitality within the congregation, offer classes for new and perspective members, describe worship as ‘exciting' and ‘inspiring,' and focus on religious education and fundraising as key congregational ministries.

Declining congregations have these characteristics: members tend to not tell or invite people to church, are more unlikely to have current members involved in recruitment, congregations have ‘informal' worship, and hardly any young adult members. Only about fifty of the responding congregations said that they contact newcomers to their communities directly.

The Rev. Peter Morales, minister of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado, continued the presentation by saying it is clear we do know something about congregations growing and declining. UU growth has been at the rate of one person per congregation per year for a generation, and this is "sad and inadequate." But when you look deeper, said Morales, "about sixteen congregations (1.5% of our congregations) account for one-quarter of our growth over the past ten years; sixty congregations contributed two-thirds of that growth, and nine hundred-fifty congregations did not grow much at all."

On the Faith Communities Today survey, declining congregations were much more likely to say, "my congregation feels like a close knit family"—but how, asked Morales, do you join a close knit family? Growing congregations said that they were vital and large, a moral beacon in the community, had a clear vision, cared about people, and were evangelistic. The key difference, he said, is not what congregations do, but how they feel. It's not about whether you have a welcome table, but what kind of welcome—borderline hostile, or open and accepting. "The best statistics we have indicate that our congregations get a quarter of a million visitors every year—and the key to our growth is to repel fewer visitors. It is truly that simple." The central difference is a religious one—being faithful and being passionate—and when we touch what is really important to us, we grow.

Delegates then began the period of discussion and comment, which included these:

  • It's helpful to invite another congregation from the district in to help a congregation assess their program and see what part of the "chain" is broken, and how to fix it
  • The problem seems to be members turn over: the come in, are welcomed, join, spend some time, and then go off into the sunset
  • Using the examples of the Breakthrough Congregations has been helpful, as was the UU University program that was held prior to this year's General Assembly
  • One congregation found putting signs on their buildings and on their campus helped people feel welcome and let them know how to negotiate the multiple buildings
  • One person suggested that the best thing to do is not tell people what we believe, but instead to tell them that we are a covenantal community, and that the important things are the promises we make to each other.
  • The twenty newest members of one congregation found the church through the internet. This congregation also sends NPR donations in together to buy underwriting spots on behalf of the congregation.
  • Another person cited her congregation's programming and inclusion of young adults as one way they are growing
  • It was pointed out that eighty-five percent of people who come to congregations come because they have been invited, and we need to invite more people
  • Making events easily accessible to families with children, and finding ways so that they can interact outside of their own family unit, is important
  • One congregation said that they act as a "committee of the whole" for membership, with everyone taking responsibility for welcoming and incorporating new people, and they have also found that social justice work is another way to come together
  • At UU University, Peter Steinke suggested that we only grow as far as our ability to tolerate pain, and this is true of congregations. Congregations in decline or with membership "churn" might have difficulties with conflict, or be conflict avoidant
  • It is important to listen to our children and youth—they are not just our future, they are our "right now."
  • Growing congregations are the ones taking risks. It's something that they learn how to do, and it's not about doing something scary, but believing in their own capabilities. When they fail, they learn that life goes on.
  • It is important not only to recognize new members, but it is also important to recognize long-time members and their commitment to the congregation.
  • What's important is listening to visitors and find out why they come to us, and then creating a dialogue with them.
  • We need to address people of color in a new light and a new way. We need to commit to and understand our privilege in all areas, and be conscious of these in ministry groups, when we are on stage, or in covenant groups. We need to be witnesses to who is speaking, and who is not.

Plenary Open Discussion: What do we need to teach?

After a song break, Courter invited delegates into the second conversation: What do we need to teach—as best we can—to children, youth, and new members?

Setting the stage for the conversation were the following comments:

Marissa Gutierrez, Youth Ministry Associate in the UUA Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group, framed the conversation saying, " We should teach our children about those who came before them, people like Martha and Waitstill Sharp (recently named as Righteous Among the Nations in Israel ). Children learn through stories, and we should tell them about the new genocide in Darfur, and other refugee situations in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We should teach them they have an obligation to address these atrocities, and not just the words on paper of our principles. Anti-oppression work must be continued each day. We need to teach them, and ourselves, that as UUs we are lovers of justice, truth seekers, and we stand with all people."

Tracey L. Hurd, Children and Families Programs Director in the Lifespan Faith Development staff group suggested that "we need to look for the everyday miracles in the world we create, but we must also love our children now, and welcome them into our congregational life now. We need to do this through religious education. Children need to know that UUism is a religion and they must understand this faith in order to know what they want to become. Our ethics are tied to creativeness, and to valuing all people. We need to tell them we cannot provide all the answers, but we can provide the tools to navigate the wonder and mystery as well as the burdens and challenges of life. It is about our lives together more than about our lives apart, about gratitude for the here and now, and about planting seeds in a garden that is trampled and worn. When we nurture our children, we do nothing less than nurture ourselves."

Finally, The Rev. Susan Smith, incoming District Executive for the Southwest UU Conference said, "The faith community can be described as a triangle: you, me, and that which is transcendent. We could use God, or justice, or peace, or love to describe that which is transcendent. We must teach stories, and one example is the story of Santa Claus. Depending upon age, the story is either scary, literally true, literally not true, or an image or metaphor of life. Eventually, if we are lucky, we get to play Santa Claus. So tell stories. Children, youth, and newcomers need a constant diet of shared imagining."

Delegate discussion contained these comments:

  • We need to teach that a faith community can be a priority in our lives over sports and arts and lessons. If we make faith a priority in our lives, our children will learn that. We also need to do social justice work with all ages. We need children and youth in worship with ministers who create worship valuable for everyone. We need to make sure our young people know what worship is as they grow so they won't be left at a cliff edge when they come of age.
  • We need to teach peace, and do conflict resolution as part of our congregational programs. When we can state our needs, we can hear needs of others, and then we can grow to deal with others' needs.
  • As a young adult who has grown up in our tradition, it is frustrating to have newcomers who think they know everything after only three to five years. They haven't always looked beyond the walls of the one congregation they have found to see the variety and diversity that exists. They think that UUism is what they see in their own church, and no more.
  • One religious education teacher said that what happens on Sundays should be different than what children get Monday through Friday. Children need to be mentored and cared for, and it is not just the young people, but also the mentors who grow and learn in these encounters. Some of the YRUU members could also be mentors to the little ones. It shouldn't be about tests they have to take, or the scores they get, but it has to be about spiritual life. It's not about what we teach, but how.
  • One person suggested that by the time the youth reach the age of fourteen, they should be involved in the decisions about what is taught in their church community. If we let teens have a choice, then they will be more involved than if we tell them what they will learn.
  • We need to teach about history and responsibilities to the larger world, and that the "call" can be answered in a lot of different ways. We need to walk in the footsteps of abolitionists and those who were in the Underground Railroad. We should teach people to test their religion between Sundays.
  • We don't do enough for young people who leave for college to keep them attached to our congregations. If we were to explore spiritual wants and needs of young people, this would help more.
  • One person said that what she appreciated was learning a language that she could use with her peers when she was a child. When others were given answers to religious questions at age seven or eight, she was given a language to explore what she believed, a spiritual language. She was taught about the Bible and what others believed, and she was then able to discuss this with her friends.
  • What we can teach our children is how to learn, mostly by modeling learning and never stopping

This being the end of the second Plenary discussion topic, Courter declared the Assembly in recess until the next scheduled session.

Reported by Lisa Presley; edited by Deb Weiner.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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