There is an audio problem from about 21:40 to 22:55.
General Assembly 2009 Event 2003
And so it begins...
The real work of General Assembly (GA) started early (way too early, for someone still running their body clock on Pacific Time) on Thursday morning. Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator Gini Courter called the session to order at 8:02 a.m. by welcoming the members of the Council of Cross-Cultural engagement who led the sparse crowd in "Gathered Here," a round from Singing the Living Tradition.
Danielle diBona offered the invocation, and Ellen Zemlin lit the chalice.
The congregation launched into a UU favorite—"We'll Build A Land"—only to be stopped after the first verse. Disembodied voices representing people's internal self-talk expressed the mix of feelings people might feel when they sing this song. It's a triumphal, hopeful song that many of us love; but it also contains themes of imperialism and superiority, exclusion and specialness. We have a lot of choices about how we hear it. Most of these choices to lead to question: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are going?
Identity emerged as the theme of this opening worship. Janice Marie Johnson and Keith Arnold spoke of their own identities—ethnicity, family, profession, personal characteristics. Gini Courter challenged us to ask: Where do we find ourselves in this hymn? Are we the people so bold? Or do the waters of justice roll right by us? What do we mean by "we?" Do we accept the invitation to be part of this?
And thus emerged the recurring theme in this year's worship: "The invitation is always there."
Other voices offered their own thoughts on personal identity, and the way the people and places we come from, our education and experiences, and our personal traits shape the way we engage with UUism. We heard again from each of the earlier speakers, plus Wendy von Zirpolo, Linda Friedman, David Takahashi-Morris, Nancy Lawrence, and Sophia Bettancourt in a liturgy piece that explored this theme.
The closing hymn—another favorite, "Come, Sing A Song With Me"—ended the brief service with another invitation, this one to join with other members of the community in deeper sharing of our insights and experiences.
(Your faithful correspondent will find it much easier to ponder that invitation after she's had some coffee.)
Following the service, Rev. Theresa Cooley introduced the deans and tracks at UU University (UUU). She explained how the UUA had come to the decision to give over nine hours of GA programming to this effort, and outlined the core values that guided the design of UUU. Their goals were to create a program that is:
- Experiential. All the tracks will provide an experience, not just a lecture. Workshops are designed to be interactive, diverse, multigenerational and based in storytelling.
- Visionary: Tracks will emphasize right relations, many voices and community building,
- Transformational: Tracks will provide a space were people can connect to spirit, consider theology and make meaning.
- Relevant to life back home: Tracks will be grounded in the everyday experience of congregations, and focused on strengthening UUism as a movement.
Courter closed the second plenary at 8:39 a.m. (Where’s the Starbucks?)
Reported by Sara Robinson; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.