Opening Celebration and Plenary I, General Assembly 2013
General Assembly (GA) 2013 Event 1013
Opening Celebration is a powerful gathering with our traditional banner parade, lively music, the official welcoming of new congregations and our first plenary session. This year, in the hospitality of Louisville, KY, we meet to ask “what do we promise one another?”
Reports from UU World
- General Assembly Opens in Louisville
- UUA Welcomes One New Congregation at 2013 GA
- New Rules Approved for Ministers’ Relationships
- Call to Order
- Welcome New Congregations
- Review and Adopt Rules
- Introduction: Youth Caucus and Young Adult Caucus Managers
- Making GA 2013 More Accessible
- Introduction: Right Relationship Team
- On Covenant
DAVID M. GLASGOW: You know it's hard to see with all these lights up here. But it looks to me like we've got a sizable crowd of Unitarian Universalists in the room. Am I right?
Should we have, I don't know, a general assembly or something, do you think? My name is David Glasgow. It is my great privilege to serve as your GA music coordinator for this year and next. We're going to get started at about 8 o'clock tonight with the banner parade and the chalice lighting and just more passionate Unitarian Universalism that you can shake a stick at. But would you mind if we did a little singing first?
Somehow I didn't think so. We have a terrific roster of musicians lined up tonight to help us do what we do this week including an amazing collection of folks who just love the kind of music that Kentucky is known for with an infectious soul stirring, foot tapping kind of love. In a moment, you're going to meet singer, storyteller Reggie Harris who has one of those smiles that you just get into and the Reverend Dan Shots who is both a UU minister and a Grammy nominated folk musician and producer. But I am absolutely thrilled that the first musician to take the Plenary Hall stage this year is one of the brightest rising stars in Appalachian music and that he is one of our own. He often performs under the stage name of Crispy. Friends, may I introduce to you from the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Christopher Watkins.
CHRISTOPHER WATKINS: Good evening.
[SINGING AND APPLAUSE]
REV. DAN SCHATZ: Thanks too to Emma's Revolution for helping us out.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you.
REV. DAN SCHATZ: I wrote this song as a chalice lighting. But it's really about community here and in our congregations and wherever we find it.
[SINGING AND APPLAUSE]
Welcome by Three District Presidents of MidAmerica Region
AMY TAYLOR: My name is Amy Taylor. And I am President of the Heartland District and the MidAmerica Region.
Welcome to the 52nd Annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Welcome to Louisville, Kentucky.
We welcome you to the Heartland District with arms open wide.
BILL SASSO: My name is Bill Sasso. I serve as President of the Central Midwest District of the MidAmerica Region and President of the MidAmerica Region. Welcome to the MidAmerica Region where we're building a new era in Unitarian Universalism. Welcome all or welcome to General Assembly where all of our faith gather for worship and fellowship.
KATHY BUREK: And I am Kathy Burek, President of the Prairie Star District and Member Elect of the MidAmerica Region Board. With joy let us gather our congregations and worship as one. Let the banner parade begin.
Opening Words and Lighting of the Chalice
IRENE LEVY: My name is Irene Levy from the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
We come here this evening banners flying, music jumping, life alive.
WILLIAM TAYLOR: My name is William Taylor from the First Unitarian Church of Louisville, Kentucky.
We come here this evening from oceans and plains, from cities and towns, from congregations small and large to this place in the heartland, in midAmerica to be together.
IRENE LEVY: We come here on Juneteenth, a day of promise and freedom, to be open to the promises of commitment, of covenant, of how we can be together and how that makes us free.
WILLIAM TAYLOR: We come here open, open wide to the possibilities of who and what we can be together.
IRENE LEVY: We come here seeing old friends and gathering new to be reminded of what we already know and to learn afresh things we cannot yet see.
WILLIAM TAYLOR: We come here to find our best selves again, understanding where we have stumbled in the past and open to the new, to the way we can be here now together in this century.
IRENE LEVY: We come here to find our best selves again to renew and create relationships of hope and promise with each other. We come to learn new ways to be. What the depth of our centuries-old covenant call to us be this year in this place in our homes.
WILLIAM TAYLOR: We come here to be lit again with chalice light to know that what we have we must share that who we are must be enlarged that what we can do it must be unlimited.
IRENE LEVY: We come here to the city where horses and baseballs are both made to fly to know again where we have stumbled, but that we, in the home of the greatest, can ourselves float and soar into the sky.
WILLIAM TAYLOR: As we light our chalice, the symbol of our free and chosen faith, may we be together here now for the future in covenant and promise again.
Introduction to Congregational Singing
DAVID GLASGOW: Friends, our chalice that we light again tonight recalls the flames of chalices in other places and in other times. But this flame is different from any that came before because this moment brings new opportunities that have never existed. Tonight, we, you and I, and those who join us by streaming webcast around the world, light this flame as a symbol of our common commitment to the principles and ideals of Unitarian Universalism. Please rise now in body or spirit, and join me in singing this beloved anthem of our common faith following along with the lyrics on the monitors or in your accessibility song books as we celebrate the fire of commitment.
Song: “Fire of Commitment”
Introduction of Frank X. Walker by Rev. Cain
CYNTHIA CAIN: My name is Cynthia Cain, and I serve as Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, Kentucky.
[APPLAUSE] Love you too.
For some years at General Assembly we have invited a representative of the Native American or indigenous community from the region where General Assembly is being held to participate in our opening ceremony to remind us of the history of the communities who have lived on the land. We also acknowledge that the ground upon which we meet has been sacred ground.
There are no federally recognized Native American tribes in Kentucky today. Though, historically, the Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and other peoples lived here. What my Native American heritage and the African American heritage of Frank X Walker share in common is that our histories and cultures have been disappeared in Appalachia.
We are working together to bring the fullness of all people of Appalachia into today's reality. Native Kentuckian and Kentucky's Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, is well qualified to speak on behalf of communities that are part of this land and with whom we would work to be in right relations. The author of six poetry collections, most recently, Turn Me Loose, the Unghosting of Medgar Evers.
Walker has said, I had dreams thanks to books. Co-founder of the Affrilatchian Poets, he currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Director of the African American and Africana Studies program at the University of Kentucky.
Walker is known internationally for his unique approach to teaching writing and numerous literary accomplishments and awards. Most famous is his creation of the word Affrilatchia a term that unifies Appalachian identity and the region's African American culture and history. The word Affrilatchia is included in the Oxford American Dictionary. He is the leader of the Affrilatchian literary movement that prides itself in giving voice to the previously muted and silenced peoples and promotes excellence in teaching, writing, art, and activism.
A native of Danville, Kentucky, Walker is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and completed a Master of Fine Arts in writing at Spalding University. He's lectured, conducted workshops, read poetry, and exhibited at more than 300 national conferences and universities. He has been most gracious to us with his time and his presence and his generosity of spirit is well documented.
This spring, he was inducted as Poet Laureate of Kentucky. The first, but he says, he hopes, not the last, African American to be so named. And the youngest
The youngest Poet Laureate ever in the Commonwealth. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his mother and said, I am not an accident. For he learned through her example that creativity is something everybody does. And he says of the diverse audience at his induction ceremony, my mission is to say Kentucky looks like this, beautiful and diverse.
Truly, we are honored to have Frank X Walker welcome us. And let me add, you may purchase some books afterwards in the lobby. Thank you so much. Mr. Walker.
Frank X Walker Speaks
FRANK X WALKER: Thank you. And welcome to Kentucky, my Kentucky, for the next couple days, our Kentucky. And I'm just going to welcome you in the language I know best. I'm going to share three poems that, hopefully, challenge some ideas and preconceptions you arrived here with and gives you some new information that you can carry in your pocket out the door.
This first one is called "Kentuck."
Kentuck. once bloody ground. Hunting Eden for native tongues. Apologetically eliminating buffalo for sustenance, not sport or profit or pleasure. Uncommon wealth. Re-populated with immigrants and freed man who discovered black lung with as indiscriminate as calluses and hunger.
You remain North and South. Interstate highways your crucifix. Blessing yourself with 64 and I-75. You have derbied and dribbled yourself a place in the world that would not let you forget. You corrupted basketball. Your cash crop causes cancer. And the Run for the Roses is only two minutes long. Kentucky.
Beautiful, ugly cousin. I, too, am of these hills. My folks have corn rowed tobacco, laid track, strip mine, worship and whiskey from Harlan to Maysville, old Dunbar to Central. Our Whitney Youngs and Mae Street Kidds cut their teeth on bourbon balls. And though conspicuously absent from Millionaire's Row we have Isaac Murphied our way down the back stretch. Cassius Clayed our names in cement. We are the amen in Churchill Downs. The mint in the julep. We put the heat in the hot brown and gave it color. Indeed some of the bluegrass is black.
This next poem is for those of you with an activist heart that goes out to our brothers and sisters living under the ravages of mountaintop removal. "Nyctophobia."
At first, they came to satisfy a sense of adventure, traveling for miles to climb the bountiful breasts growing the length of her spine recording their discoveries in comic strips and murder ballads, declaring mountain culture a regional side show attraction. Now, they are back with draglines and dozers, performing dime store mastectomies to cure their fear of the dark removing and discarding her tops, pealing brown skin back, harvesting her ovaries, silencing her loud beauty, poisoning her underground dreams just to turn on your lights.
And I'm going to close by reminding you, you can't leave the state unless you try some Kentucky Fried Chicken. But it may taste different with this taste of reality that goes with this. This is called "Kentucky Fried." Who really believes that the best fried chicken came from an old white man?
When governors, squires, and colonels ain't cooked nothing else, ever. Where's their famous recipe for Red Velvet cake, homemade yeast rolls or finally ground chicken, apple sausage? How do you stumble upon 13 different recipes and spices and ain't never licked nothing but your fingers or your plate? There's a lot not said when you say, this is an old family recipe. Who really believe all that the cooking required to coax corn to sour mash and the wisdom to let it rest in charred oak barrels was something ever left up to amateurs? Who else talks to plants and recognizes their medicinal value? Who else sees the effect of peach brandy, wines, and bourbons and got enough sense to call them spirits? Who really believes an old white man discovered a fried chicken recipe anywhere else but from over a black woman's shoulder? And her not even get credit for ringing his neck.
Introduction to Congregational Singing
DAN SCHATZ: Well, we'd like to sing you a song. It comes from a wonderful 90-year-old woman from Eastern Kentucky named Jean Ritchie. Jean grew up learning the old songs, the old ways from her parents who learned them from their parents and on back down through the centuries. And she taught them to millions of us. When she came to write some of her own songs she turned back to the sounds and some of the language that she had grown up with.
This song sounds like it could have been a hymn in the old regular Baptist Church in Viper, Kentucky where Jean grew up. It uses that old, biblical language. My Lord he said unto me. But if you listen carefully, you'll hear some powerful new ideas about covenant. Our covenant with the divine, our covenant with the Earth, our covenant with each other. It seems right that we sing this song here in Kentucky in this place and at this time. Because now is the cool of the day. Sing it with us.
Song: “Now is the Cool of the Day”
Call to Order and Welcoming New Congregations
GINI COURTER: I now call to order the 52nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
How are we doing tonight? Who's happy to be here?
We have a little business to do tonight. So welcome my friends. And I'm going to ask you to welcome the trustee from the Clara Barton District and First Vice Moderator of your UUA Board of Trustees Ms. Jackie Shanti.
JACKIE SHANTI: Thank you, Madame Moderator. One of the most rewarding experiences each year at GA is welcoming new congregations into our UUA family. You know that starting a new congregation is an extraordinary piece of work. It is an astounding act of faith. It takes vision, courage, leadership, patience, bureaucratic brilliance, jumping over hurdles and through hoops, but most of all, it takes love.
The leader that you'll meet now has given all this and more to a dream of Unitarian Universalist congregation. New congregations come into being because local UU's work closely with district staff and district presidents. So it is my pleasure tonight to ask the MidSouth District Vice President, DeAnn Peterson, to accept this plaque. And is Penny here? No. All right. So DeAnn is going to accept this plaque on behalf of a member of the new congregation from Cookeville, Tennessee.
I'm going to ask Peter Morales and Moderator Gini Courter to join me in greeting our newest UU member congregation and ask you to welcome them with another hardy applause.
Shake hands. Friends, members of this great UU family, let us once again welcome this new congregation to our association with hopes that they will be as enriched by our association with us as we are by their presence among us.
GINI COURTER: Stay here a sec.
JACKIE SHANTI: OK. We're running ahead of schedule.
GINI COURTER: We're running ahead, a long way ahead. So, hey, guess what?
JACKIE SHANTI: Penny.
GINI COURTER: This would be a clue that if you think your sometime in Plenary tonight, get over that way because we're running ahead. Isn't this exciting? Thank you, Jackie. Thank you, Penny. And thanks, Peter.
Explanation of Juneteenth
GINI COURTER: Earlier tonight you heard a reference, a short reference, about Juneteenth. And I've actually asked Mr. Raziq Brown to say a few more words about that. Raziq, would you come up, please? Welcome Raziq please.
RAZIQ BROWN: Good evening, everybody. My name is Raziq Brown. I'm from Fort Worth, Texas. I represent the First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church.
So it is very fitting to recognize that we gather on this particular day, June 19th, to start our General Assembly. Why is this day so special? Today's Juneteenth, the commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States of America.
Dates matter, folks. President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was made official on January 1st, 1863. But it would take time, another 2 and 1/2 years, until word reached Galveston, Texas via Union soldiers. So Texas was the last state where all slaves would learn of their freedom. From its Texas origins in 1865, the observance of June 19th is the African American emancipation day has spread across the United States and beyond.
Juneteenth is a time for reflecting and rejoicing. As Juneteenth takes on a more national and global significance, the events of 1865 and Texas are not forgotten. They are honored. Today, cities such as Louisville and states such as Kentucky are celebrating Juneteenth. In 2005, Kentucky passed a resolution making this a state holiday.
We're lucky to be celebrating here today.
Juneteenth is a partial or a full state holiday or an official observance in about half of the United States. My home state of Texas was the first to propose such a resolution in 1980. Across the diaspora, people of all races, nationalities, and religions are joining hands and hearts to truthfully acknowledge a period in our American history that shaped and continues to influence our history today.
We need to be aware of this part of our history because it is our history shared as Americans and as human beings. What do people do for Juneteenth? They pray. They sing. They eat. And they gather with family and loved ones. People tell stories, troubles seen and how we overcame them. A range of public community and private events are held to celebrate Juneteenth often on the weekend closest to June 19th.
We, Unitarian Universalists, can participate in celebrating Juneteenth. We can raise awareness, our awareness and that of others. And quite a number of our congregations Juneteenth is commemorated with celebrations that honor the African diaspora, offer us educational opportunities, and allow us to break bread with our neighbors.
Let us now take a moment of silence in honor of Juneteenth.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Raziq.
Review and Adopt Rules
GINI COURTER: Our business item for tonight's Plenary session is the adoption of the rules of procedure for this General Assembly. The proposed rules of procedure can be found on pages 78 through 80 of the final agenda. Everybody has one of those? Find them, good time. These rules will govern our consideration of and voting upon the business items that come before us during our Plenary sessions. These rules are largely the same as in previous years. There are a couple of rules I want to direct your attention to.
Please note that rule five provides that no amendments to a business resolution, bylaw change, or rule change will be in order unless submitted for consideration at the mini assembly for that item. So if you want to amend something, you have to have thought about it before it comes to the floor here in this hall.
Also, please note that rule two provides that unless the Association's bylaws provide otherwise, action on all matters will be decided by an uncounted show of voting cards or by an uncounted standing vote. A vote will be counted in only two instances, if there is doubt about the outcome of a vote, I will call for a count. A count will also be taken if so requested by a delicate and at least 99 other delegates join the request. In either instance, the count will be made by the tellers who are present on the floor of the Assembly. They get to where really cool vests, and I'm jealous.
So let's have a shout of from our tellers. Where are they?
I know this request is not at all necessary because we're totally enlightened human beings. But remember if things aren't going your way, these folks are just volunteers like all of the rest of us. So we're going to treat them exceptionally kindly. And we can start by saying right now, Thank you tellers.
ALL: Thank you, tellers.
GINI COURTER: Pay it forward. The love starts now. In addition, rule seven provides that separate microphones will be designated for pro and con for discussion of proposed bylaw amendments, rules, resolutions, or actions. The pro microphone is right over here in the front. The con microphone is over here. There's also an amendment microphone over there. That's magic. Let's do that again. There's also an amendment microphone over there. Wow. OK, and a procedural microphone that is placed immediately in front of me right here.
Each of those microphones will have a teller at it. And so you actually go to them. You don't quite go to the microphone. They will stand between you and the microphone. It's their job. And at that time, you'll say, thank you, teller. Right. OK.
Please note that points of personal privilege and points of information must be made from the procedural mic not from the pro mic, the con mic, or the amendment mic. And by the way, only delegates may speak from the microphones except by express permission of the moderator, that would be me. I strongly urge those of you who are attending Plenary sessions for the first time, where are you? Who are our new delegates?
Oh wow. Woohoo. All right. You should read the rules of procedure. It just makes it so much easier. They are only three pages long. Particularly look at rule six on page 78 of the rules. So that you understand the time limits in effect. No person may speak on any motion for more than two minutes, 30 minutes is the time allowed for discussion of any proposed bylaw amendment, rule change, resolution, or action on a report that is on or admitted to the final agenda.
Before proceeding with our business, I want to introduce you to the two distinguished gentleman to my left and your right who will be helping with these proceedings. First, let me introduce Tom Bean our legal counsel.
Next, please give a shout out to Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ned Leibensperger who will serve as our parliamentarian.
Thank you, Tom and Ned. Now, if you're expecting to do some business here, there are times you might think you want to talk to me about how you would do an action of immediate witness or a responsive resolution, but trust me, start here. Truly. Because they are here to serve you. And they're very, very good at what they do.
All right. So I need to First Vice Moderator to make a motion.
I could have grabbed the Secretary but that would be less fun. Well, eh.
We're just going to leave this, aren't we?
Thank you. Hi, Jackie. Sorry.
JACKIE SHANTI: That's OK. This is my first year doing this. I would be under the chair somewhere. But that's OK. Moved, that the rules of procedure of this General Assembly as set forth in full on pages 78 through 80 of the final agenda be adopted.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
JACKIE SHANTI: Is that all?
GINI COURTER: Yeah, that's all. You can stay up here. Is there a second?
GINI COURTER: OK. Now, we also have an amendment. This is the first time this has happened in 10 years. So I'm going to ask the Secretary of the association, Mr. Tom Louchrey, to give us a short explanation of why we are going to amend these rules before we vote on them.
TOM LOUGHREY: We have a problem. The first sentence in section C 4.7 of the UUA bylaws, you have a copy in your program book, states voting at each regular and special General Assembly shall be by accredited delegates from certified member congregations, certified associate member organizations, and trustees. However, the rules of procedure beginning at page 78 of the program booklet refer to delegates but not to trustees of the Association.
GINI COURTER: Oh no.
TOM LOUGHREY: Oh no.
GINI COURTER: Oh no. Oh no. And so I wonder if there's someone who could bring an amendment-- I have someone at the procedural microphone. You'd almost think we knew this was going to happen.
You'd almost think that we'd obsessed about this for 40 minutes earlier today.
I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
JAMES SNELL: Madame Moderator, thank you. I am James Snell from the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, Texas. I have a motion.
GINI COURTER: OK.
JAMES SNELL: To ensure that the rules of procedure apply to trustees as well as to delegates, I move to amend the rules of procedure to add a second sentence to section one of the rules that provides as follows. The word delegate, as used in these rules of procedure, shall be deemed to refer to both delegates and to members of the UUA Board of Trustees.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. So the essence is every time the rules of procedure, which are not our bylaws, they are the short rules, say delegates it should be read delegates and members of the Board of Trustees. Is there a second for this amendment?
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Does anyone really want to discuss this?
Seeing no need for discussion, find your yellow voting card. This is a great time. And by the way, you don't get just to get to vote with any yellow piece of paper you can find. It's supposed to be a voting card. And we hold them up, and you do this until we let them down. So all those in favor of adapting the rules, raise your voting cards. Then we go look.
Oh, the amendment yes. Adopting the amendment. Thank you. All those against the amendment, raise your voting cards. We like the amendment so far. OK. So now we're going to vote the entire motion as amended. Thank you, Jerry. All those in favor of the entire set of rules of procedure as you just amended them, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. It's good to amend something so you have something to vote against. That's always a better way to do that. Great. So this clearly passes. Thank you.
I want to give a shout out to the folks sitting in the front of the far section by the door. If the votes are really close, we're going to have a hard time counting that far section of delegates. So I'm going to ask if you're delegate that you sit in one section. Does that makes sense? Those of you who think I just talked to you who are delegates, raise your voting cards. You got it. Thank you. Thank you. This is a really narrow but wide hall that we're trying to work here. Thank you.
Explanation of How to Tweet from GA
GINI COURTER: Cool. Who's on the back channel already? Who is already tweeting about GA 2013? Because there's stuff in-- yeah, OK. Thank you. We want more of you to be able to be in exactly that space. So James Curran is going to come tell us a little bit more about how you too can be part of the back channel for GA 2013. James. He's on his way. So far not James. OK. There he is. You did sneak up on me. That was really good.
JAMES CURRAN: Hi.
GINI COURTER: Applause is great right now.
JAMES CURRAN: Thank you. Thank you very much. As Gini said, I'm James Curran. I work on staff at the UUA. And Twitter is pretty cool. It's a great way to keep track of an event or something that's happening right now. And it's also a great way to share your thoughts on such an event. And we have an event here that we're all at, GA. So we would encourage you to try Twitter out. And the way you do that is if you have a smartphone, it's pretty easy. Check out the app store on your phone. Or if you don't have a smartphone, you might want to browse on the web. We've got instructions at UUA.org/GA/twitter.
And if you use Twitter at all, one of the things you'll quickly run into something called a hash tag. And that might be a scary idea. But really it's just Internet speak for pound sign and then a word or a phrase. And we also have a great hash tag for GA. It's UUAGA. So I would encourage you to try that out. Try tweeting about your experience at GA and use that hash tag. And, yeah, hope to see you online.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, James. Now the other thing that's really cool about this is you're going to hear tomorrow morning about some processes that we're doing that we're going to collect all of the data on Twitter. So if you've thought, I'd really like to know how to do this. This is a great time to want to learn. Because we can be a community of learners together. And then on Friday afternoon, we're going to be discussing the future ways we might gather in General Assembly and govern. And all of that is going to be fed back through Twitter.
So how many of you currently tweet? How many of you like want to, but you don't know how? See this is cool. This is the perfect learning environment. How great is this? So if you have a smartphone go ahead and work through the app store. That's sort of the low hanging piece of this. And then we'll talk more either tomorrow or Friday about some other strategies you might use if you want to have different ways to communicate on Twitter. Cool.
Introduction: Youth Caucus and Young Adult Caucus Managers
All right. So there are folks we have to meet so that we can all be a great community together. And we're going to start with I'm going to ask you to welcome, excuse me, the Co-Deans of the Youth Caucus and the Co-Moderators of the Young Adult Caucus for this General Assembly. And let's have the Youth Caucus Co-Deans up first. Come on up.
OWEN HUELSBECK: Thank you.
ASHA ARORA: Hello, everyone.
OWEN HUELSBECK: Hello.
ASHA ARORA: My name is Asha Arora. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona.
OWEN HUELSBECK: And my name is Owen Huelsbeck. And I'm from the Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tacoma, Washington.
ASHA ARORA: We are the Co-Deans of the Youth Caucus at GA 2013. This year we have over 200 youth registrants.
We could not be happier to be here, standing on the side of love with you all.
OWEN HUELSBECK: We would like to formally invite everyone of all ages to share our space in room L15, the Youth Caucus room. Youth Caucus staff will be wearing or carrying pink bandannas around General Assembly. Don't be shy please. Stop and say hello. We would love to get to know.
ASHA ARORA: When Owen and I came together last year, we crafted a vision statement that has guided us through the process of leading Youth Caucus. And we would like to share it with you in the hopes that it will also guide you through GA.
OWEN HUELSBECK: We envisioned GA 2013 as a General Assembly that engages people to create integrated, multi-generational and inclusive communities where people are encouraged to bring their whole selves.
ASHA ARORA: We envision a gathering grounded in our faith that inspires us to take action in our home communities reflecting our journey from promises to commitment. We are very excited to bring these visions to reality with you this GA as we move from promise to commitment.
OWEN HUELSBECK: Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. And if you were a youth looking for Youth Caucus, where would we find them in Plenary Hall again?
Let's now welcome to the Caucus Co-Moderators for the Young Adult Caucus.
ELLEN ZEMLIN: Thank you, Madame Moderator. And good evening, everyone. I'm Ellen Zemlin of the Church of the Younger Fellowship from Newark, New Jersey.
HANNAH ROBERTS: And I'm Hannah Roberts from the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Maryland.
ELLEN ZEMLIN: And we are the Young Adult Caucus Co-Moderators.
We would also like to acknowledge Sarah [? Napalin ?], our chaplain, and Andrew Coate, our worship coordinator.
HANNAH ROBERTS: If you're looking for us in Plenary Hall, the Young Adult Caucus is sitting together over there.
This year you can pick young adults out of the crowd by the ocean blue ribbons on our name tags. Young Adult Caucus staff are also wearing ocean blue bandannas in some form or fashion. We can be found in room L14.
ELLEN ZEMLIN: At this General Assembly, the Young Adult Caucus is excited to join with the rest of you in multi-generational and multicultural community to learn, build relationships, and work for change.
HANNAH ROBERTS: We have some programming that we would like to bring your attention to this year. Look for specific details in your program book on page 13. And join us for a contemporary joint worship with the youth on Sunday morning,
ELLEN ZEMLIN: We also invite you to join us at the multi-generational synergy worship where we will welcome our bridging youth into the young adult community. And back by popular demand, the workshop where we address the question, what do young adults want in a congregation? You can hear many young adults' answers to that question on Thursday at 10:45 am.
HANNAH ROBERTS: We hope that everyone will make wonderful connections at this General Assembly. Have a great GA.
Making GA 2013 More Accessible
GINI COURTER: And now to talk with us a little bit about how we will be in community around accessibilities, please welcome Patty Cameron.
PATTY CAMERON: Thank you, Gini. And welcome to General Assembly. My name is Patty Cameron. And for the past 10 years, it's been my pleasure to coordinate accessibility services for General Assembly.
I want to express my appreciation to the GA planning committee for allowing me this time to share with you how we can be together in beloved community, all of us, including those who use mobility equipment, listening devices, have chemical sensitivities, assist dogs, or need special seating to accommodate for vision or hearing.
Our services are available to anyone registered at General Assembly. And our goal is to provide assistance that allows everyone to participate fully in General Assembly. I hope you'll all take notice and particularly take notice as we pass along the halls, navigate the Public Witness event, and attend the same workshops together.
We are all part of this General Assembly where we worship, learn, teach, sing, and express ourselves together. In order to be together where we acknowledge one another and, hopefully, value one another, it's important to be open. Open to meeting people who are more like you than different. But they get around on a scooter or a wheelchair. The reasons that they use mobility equipment may not be visible to you. But neither is your open heart.
As you move around the convention center, the hotels, and restaurants this week, be sure to open your heart and look around you, all around you. Remembering that someone using a wheelchair or scooter is going to be outside your field of vision. Open your field. Take in all those around you, whether they walk or ride. Please move along the hallways because scooters don't have brakes. So please don't stop suddenly to chat. The person behind you using a scooter can't stop suddenly.
I invite you to be with one another this week in ways that allow you to practice radical hospitality, stretch your comfort zone, enrich your spirit, open your heart a little or a lot, that give you tools and messages to take to your home congregations. We are one beloved community. A bright wonderful community of people of all abilities. Be with each other in love. Thank you.
Introduction of the GA Chaplain Team
GINI COURTER: Every year when we come together, it's an opportunity for us to be the kind of community that we say we'd like to help create worldwide. So I appreciate everybody who's helping us here. Please welcome the Head of our General Assembly Chaplain Team, the Reverend Aaron Payson.
REV. AARON PAYSON: It was the mystic Rumi who said, you're not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop. Oh, beloved sea of friends. I and six chaplains who have been gifted with the opportunity to provide spiritual care to you in the midst of a gathering that does little else. What can I say to you that is unique? If you need one of us, we are here. Would the chaplains who are in the Hall please stand?
You will find us with our white caps that say chaplain with the General Assembly logo. We are in room 114. There is a phone number to call us at times when we are not in that room that is to be found in your program. As you care for each other and you care for the Earth, please also take care of yourselves. Sleep well. Eat well. Hydrate well. Meditate. Congregate. And remember as one of my favorite benediction says, thanks to Mark Belletini, take care of yourselves as bodies for you are a good gift. Thank you.
Introduction of the Right Relationship Team
GINI COURTER: I think what is it seven years, we've had a Right Relationship team at General Assembly? This is the first year we've had a Right Relationship baby at General Assembly. And a Right Relationship young person, young, young person at General Assembly. Welcome please, if you would, the Right Relationship Team Family Co-Conveners Ms. Elandria Williams and the Reverend Mr. Barb Greve. Give it up for the team.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: Hello, everybody. I'm really Elandria Williams from the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
REV. MR. BARB GREVE: And I'm Barb Greve Interim Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Georgia.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: We are the Right Relationship Team. We exist to help us all live into our Unitarian Universalist covenant of care and love as a more just and sustainable community that counters oppressions. We call for compassion, wholeness, and liberation.
REV. MR. BARB GREVE: The Right Relationship team is here to help us stay in healthy relationship with one another. Our role is two fold. One, if you find yourself out of relationship with other attendees of the Assembly and would like help returning to right relationship, we will help you directly address those with whom you are out of relationship. And two, the Right Relationship team will pay attention to the multiple and intersecting realities of injustice, suffering, and oppression in our lives noting the places where we do well and the places where we, as a community, need to work.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: To live in right relationship takes effort and practice. As a religious community, all of us here must be committed to staying engaged with one another, to listen carefully to each other, to remain open and curious, to learning about the worries, our words and actions impact those around us. This work can sometimes be challenging yet rewarding. It requires that sometimes we let go of or need to be right. And instead of embrace a state of unknowing. But this is the work that our faith calls us to do.
REV. MR. BARB GREVE: To be in right relationship means we have to be forgiving when we make mistakes and trust the best intentions of those around us. Because we are human and fallible, we can also trust that there will be times when we make mistakes. This is OK. Being in right relationship also means that at times admitting that we don't know everything. It might even mean apologizing for saying or doing something that would didn't realize would hurt someone else.
A simple acknowledgment of the situation is pure gold in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood. You can always find us because we'll be wearing this fabulous bright orange shirts.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: Or these amazing orange bandanas.
REV. MR. BARB GREVE: Remember that we are here to help you directly address each other. And we will help facilitate conversations if you feel like relationship has been broken.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: This year's team is made up of us, Karin Lin, the Transformation Team Member at First Parish Cambridge, Kimberly Tomjack Carlson and Miles Carlson, the Director of Religious Education and Membership Coordinator at UU Church in Rockford, Illinois, Raziq George Brown, who is a writer from Fort Worth, Texas, Reverend Fred L-- ooh, sorry. Missed too far. Halcyon Westall, Youth Ministry Facilitator the New England Region, Reverend Fred L. Hammond, Minister of the UU Congregation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Reverend Melissa [? Carvel ?] [? Zimmer ?], Minister UU Church of [? Kent ?] and President of the Unitarian Universalist Allies for Racial Equity, Reverend [? Megan ?] [? Kreflu ?] Minister UU Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley, California, Chris Crass, author of the amazing new book Towards Collective Liberation which can be found at the exhibit hall, and long time organizer Rianna Johnson-Levy, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Phoebe Masterson Eckhart, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Fransisco, Reverend Chip Roush, The First Unitarian Church of South Bend, Indiana and Liaison to the GA Planning Committee, and Reverend Aaron Payson, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester, Massachusetts and Liaison to the GA Chaplains.
REV. MR. BARB GREVE: The Right Relationships Team will hold office hours downstairs in room L7 should you need us. We'll be there from 11 AM to 2:00 PM. Or grab us any time we're wearing an orange shirt or bandana.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: Thank you.
Introduction of Troubadours of Divine Bliss by David Glasgow
GINI COURTER: I think now you've met most of the people who don't get to sleep between now and Sunday night but perhaps not all. It's impressive, I think, what we've learned about how much infrastructure it takes so that a community of folks who share values but who don't necessarily know each other can work well together and can be in a loving community. So please take advantage of all the folks and all the services that you've seen. Please welcome back one of my favorite folks because we get to work together on music for all of this GA, Reverend David Glasgow, please.
REV. DAVID GLASGOW: Thank you, Gini. We are, I promise, going to get to do some more singing in just a moment. But before we do, I'd like to introduce you to just a few of the wonderful musicians who answered the call for applications way back in October and who'll be helping us to raise the roof of the Kentucky International Convention Center just a few inches higher over the course of this week.
For the sake of time. I would like to ask-- you know what, we're running long, we're running short aren't we? We've got plenty of time. Applause your butts off. And I'm going to tell you who we've got on. We've got in the GA band tonight, our band director from Groton Massachusetts, Sean McCann.
On keyboard from Greensboro, North Carolina Mark Freundt.
On guitar from Albuquerque, New Mexico Vance Bass.
On base from Nashville, Tennessee Carol [? Screkky. ?]
On drums from Spring Hill, Tennessee Brian Foody.
And we've got on stage with me tonight from Longmont, Colorado Jennifer Freedmen.
You've already met for Middleburg, New York Reggie Harris.
From Oakton, Virginia Sarah Jebian.
From Roxbury, Massachusetts Matt Myer.
From Warrington, Pennsylvania Reverend Dan Schatz.
From Knoxville, Tennessee Christopher Watkins. [APPLAUSE] They're all hiding. From Mount Rainier, Maryland Pat Humphries and Sandy O, aka Emma's Revolution.
And from right here in Louisville later tonight, you'll meet Aimee and Renee, The Troubadours of Divine Bliss. Applaud now. You'll want to later.
Let's all thank them all for their leadership tonight.
So the song we're going to sing now was created as an African American map song that slaves used to tell one another that an escape attempt was planned. These brave women and men used this music to encourage and empower one another and to say that no matter how difficult the road became they would travel it together until they reached their dream of freedom. The courage it took to sing these words is something that few of us can even begin to fully appreciate. But we draw upon the courage of our spiritual forebears every time we covenant together to change the world for the better. Are you feeling brave? Are you ready to go? Then let's rise in body or spirit, and let's go.
Song: “I’m on My Way”
Introduction of Video by Terasa Cooley
TERASA COOLEY: Good evening.
ALL: Good evening.
TERASA COOLEY: I'm Teresa Cooley, and I serve our association as the Director of Congregational Life.
It's great to see you all here. When we become Unitarian Universalists, we make a number of implicit and explicit promises. We promise to treat others with respect. We promise to honor the inherent worth and dignity of all. We promise to work for peace and justice and democratic process. We promise this and so much more. We promise to show up. We promise to pour the coffee, to pass the plate, to offer a caring hand, and to listen with a loving heart. We promise these things as individuals and as a people.
Last year at General Assembly in Phoenix, we made a promise to show up in solidarity with others for immigration rights and reform. We promised--
Absolutely. We promised to testify to the worth and dignity of all and to call for justice and to offer a helping hand and a listening heart. We promised this, and we showed up. Who was there with us in Phoenix at that General Assembly?
We've made many promises at General Assemblies. We've promised to work for women's rights and choices and oh, my goodness don't we need that now.
And I can tell you that Planned Parenthood will attest that we have showed up.
We have promised to work for equal marriage. And when I wrote this script, I wrote 11 states are now proof that we have showed up. It is now 12 states.
We have showed up in these ways and in so many others to promise Lto work in the world. At this General Assembly, we're asking you to think deeply about the promises that you make as a Unitarian Universalist. What are your promises to each other? To your fellow congregants, to the people in this room, to any Unitarian Universalists in the world. How do we show up for each other?
What are our promises to our faith, to what it calls forth within us, to move deeply into our spirit? How do we show up as a faithful people? What are our promises to the world around us, to people who may not even make this promise with us, to those who need our partnership and our witness and even to those with whom we may disagree? How do we show up in the world?
This is what covenant is about, the promises we make and how we show up for them. To seek that which is worthy and to make of our lives a worthy testament. As human beings, we do this imperfectly. We may promises we don't fully keep. We forget to show up. We sleep late. We get distracted. We get fearful and tired. And then we try again.
At this GA, we ask you to go deep into this cycle to promise to open yourselves to one another and to show up for this conversation about who we are as a liberal religious people in this time.
Video on Covenant: Narration
Humans have been asking questions about faith and commitment throughout history. In Jewish and Christian traditions, commitment was understood as Covenant.
God made promises to humankind and humankind to God. In covenant, people promise to keep God’s commandments …and God abides by the promises he makes. But…Covenant is very difficult to keep. Covenants were made, broken and renewed.
Our Puritan forebears in covenantal religion struggled in their time to understand how they might live a moral life, and build a godly commonwealth. But they failed to ask “who is our neighbor? They failed to ask “do I love, if I love only my own?”
Religious triumphalism in religion and their greed for land led to violence and the slaughter. It led to the enslavement of native peoples of this hemisphere and those of Africa. Their covenant was inadequate, because without including love for God’s creation and its peoples, it produced a covenanting community turned in on its own.
Our covenanting must strive to be inclusive and transformative, so that we might nurture a world of creativity and peace. What responsibilities do we have, to what and to whom?
UU James Luther Adams thought there was something greater to which we could commit our loyalty...to something he called an ultimate human concern. What is your ultimate concern? To what do you owe your loyalty and commitment? As we grow our personal understanding, strengthen (deepen) our community and practice spiritual justice-making we ask: What do we promise one another? How willing and capable are we, of commitments that ask us to live our high aspirations? What Promises do we make to our Faith? What sacrifices are we willing to make/to create and sustain communities of welcome, hope and service? What Promises do we make/to the World? How do we become the people who other can count on to stand on the side of love?
Each day of GA we have created a space to hear one another. We can meet one another, hear one another, understand more of what we need to know to understand our promises. We can meet one another, We can explore what calls other people into deeper relationships to the holy, one another, and all beings. And how when we break them, we can renew our promises. What do we promise one another?
DAVID M. GLASGOW: Are we ready?
Are we feeling bold enough to open ourselves to one another and to show up for the conversation? We have some images to share with you of past General Assemblies. For some of us they'll recall memories. For others, they'll serve as a foreshadowing of things to come. As we look ahead to this our 52nd General Assembly, I've invited the Troubadours of Divine Bliss to share some music with us. Sit back. Watch. Listen. And brace yourselves folks, it's going to be an amazing week.
[MUSIC PLAYING, SINGING, APPLAUSE]
GINI COURTER: Well, well, that's what's ahead. How many of you are glad you're here now?
So when I normally say there will be no further business, you start packing up. But you don't want to do that for just a minute. There will be no further business to come before us. And in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, and remembering that worship at 7:45 tomorrow morning in this hall is going to rock the house, I declare that this Plenary session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:45 AM on Thursday June 20th. But stay right in your seats for Emma's Revolution.
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