General Session II, General Assembly 2014
General Assembly 2014 Event 202
Order of Business
- Call to Order
- Right Relationship Team Report
- General Assembly Planning Committee and Greening of General Assembly Report
- Committee on Social Witness Report
Call to Order
THE MODERATOR: I now call to order the second general session of the 53rd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Are the delegates ready to do the business of this association of congregations? [APPLAUSE]
Now, you might think as the Chief Governance Officer, that this is the best part of general assembly for me. But you'd be wrong. What we just experienced is what I live for and what I come back year after year after year for. [APPLAUSE]
Enjoying worship with so many thousands of Unitarian Universalists every year in this big hall calls me back to the work that I try to do. And I suspect you as well. The worship arts committee that have been putting these worship services together have just been marvelous. That was one of the more lively and beautiful services I've experienced in my decades of coming to the General Assembly. So I very much appreciate the worship committee. [APPLAUSE]
And you would think that would be the highlight of the week, but there are others to come. So you don't want to miss any of the worship services. 8 o'clock is early, but you'll want to start the day off this way, I think, every day. There's no better way to do the business of our association than corporate worship. I need to call out Mark Job from South Carolina. Is he in the hall? He better be.
During the tweeting last night, he challenged me to give him a shout out. He and I come from the same state, South Carolina. And I just wanted to give him a shout out. But he's apparently slept in. [LAUGHTER]
So if you see him, let him know that his two seconds of fame have evaporated. But let's start the business this morning. And our first report is from the Right Relationships team. And do you have anything to report this morning? I think they do. So let's hear from them. [APPLAUSE]
Right Relationship Team Report
Mr. BARB GREVE: Being in right relationship is about radically loving one another and the connections we have. The Right Relationship team exists to help this General Assembly stay in healthy relationship with one another. If you find yourself falling out of love with what other attendees here this week and would like help returning to right relationship, we can help. Our team will support you in directly addressing those with whom you are out of relationship.
Right relationship, it is easy to say, harder to achieve. Each and all of us have room to grow, and chances are good that all of us are going to feel stretched outside of our comfort zones this week. General Assembly is an extensive experience. It's physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting at times. The schedule offers the possibility to keep us busy from morning until late evening and beyond.
There will be moments when we are hot or tired or hungry and distracted, and not attentive to the fact that each encounter we have is a chance to practice being in right relationship. We are going to make mistakes.
SPEAKER 3: Making mistakes doesn't necessarily mean that you will be out of right relationship. Stopping in the moment to notice your own or someone else's discomfort can make all the difference. Set aside your desire to protect yourself. Listen to what each other is saying. And take the time to make amends. The Right Relationship team is here to help you find a way back to covenant, back on the side of love.
You can easily find a member of our team by stopping by our office hours in convention center room 550b. We'll be there from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM every day. Or stop any one of us wearing our bright orange t-shirts. [APPLAUSE]
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Barb and the Right Relationships team. Let me introduce now the GA planning committee. So let's welcome Bart Frost, chair of the General Assembly planning committee, or GAPC as we lovingly call it, and director of religious education at First UU in New Orleans. [APPLAUSE]
Report of the General Assembly Planning Committee
BART FROST: Good morning, friends. Sorry, I'm a little bit choked up. Singing with 4,000 people just tugs at my heart strings. Before I introduce the members of the General Assembly planning committee, we have a couple of announcements. If you were at General Assembly last year, you may remember that we had gender neutral bathrooms. We had them again this year as well. [APPLAUSE]
Part of being in community with one another is acknowledging that sometimes it is hard to be together for a variety of reasons. I encourage you to make it a little bit easier by not questioning whether someone is in the correct restroom. Trust that they are where they need to be just like you are where you need to be. If you have questions about the gender neutral bathrooms, feel free to find a member of the Right Relationship team, a chaplain, or one of us up here.
First, before we even arrived here today though, two groups of volunteers helped put together the program in your book. The program development group selects the workshops and programs for General Assembly, and new to this year, the worship arts team planned and put together the worships you'll be attending, including the one that started this session that was so good, and the one last night that was also quite amazing.
If you like their work, make sure you find a member of that team and say thank you. There's a metric ton of other volunteers who are currently helping right now. So if you see someone with a blue GA volunteer shirt kind of like right here, smile and say thank you. Without these volunteers, there would not be a General Assembly. Some of these volunteers are even back of house right now, way back there, actually sorting out trash into recycling compost and landfill as part of our greening efforts.
And they will be back there all week hanging out. [APPLAUSE]
So what happens is everything that you purchase in the Dunkin' Donuts center or in the convention center is 100% compostable, which is fantastic. That means it doesn't go to landfill. But what happens in this space is when we leave this space, the staff comes in, they sweep it all up into a big bucket, and then they take it out back and our volunteers sort it. So if you could help us by taking it back out with you to our sorting piles, our sorting stations, that would be fantastic.
But you know what would be great? Let's all give them a really big thank you back there right now. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]
This is our collective congregation. Let's work together to keep it clean and green. As chair of the General Assembly planning committee, I have the pleasure of being a part of one of the best committees in the entire UUA. Each person behind me serves our faith by putting in long hours to create a welcoming, inviting, worshipful, musicful and inspirational General Assembly. They do it because General Assembly is a living embodiment of our faith, and an event that changes and, as Meg reminded us, saves lives.
From the up and coming leaders practicing their leadership skills with the youth caucus over here, and the attendees experiencing General Assembly for either the first time or the 30th time, to our ministers and lay leaders, General Assembly is a community where we live and practice our faith and values as one. And here is this year's General Assembly planning committee, Debra Boyd, [APPLAUSE] the Reverend Chip Roush, [APPLAUSE] Kathy Charles, [APPLAUSE] Gregory Boyd, [APPLAUSE] Mary Alm, [APPLAUSE] the Reverend Paul Langston Daley, [APPLAUSE] Ila Klion, [APPLAUSE] Kevin Debeck, [APPLAUSE] Tim Murphy, [APPLAUSE] our district coordinator Beth McGregor, [APPLAUSE] and last but not least, she's not currently with us because she's doing, well, way more work than we are, but all of the General Assembly and conference services staff, including the award winning Jan Sneegas. [APPLAUSE]
Thank you all. If you'd like to stop by and said hi, we'll be in the exhibit hall during lunch hours. You can stop by the feedback table there. Or we'll be sitting up front in this area. Or in your new GA mobile app, there's this wonderful feedback thread that we're actually following. So come and say hi and have a great GA everybody. [APPLAUSE]
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to our GA planning committee and all the volunteers. You just have no idea. We'll give them all their due at the end on Sunday, but they're just legions of volunteers that pull all of this together. The Commission on Social Witness is another important committee articulated in our bylaws in Article five on page 110 of your program book. The commission's duties on behalf of us are detailed in Article four on pages 106, for those making notes.
Now, please welcome the chair of your commission on Social Witness, Doctor Susan Goekler. [APPLAUSE]
Report of the Commission on Social Witness
SUSAN GOEKLER: Thank you. Between the 2013 and 2014 General Assemblies of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Commission on Social Witness, also fondly known as CSW, solicited proposals for new congregational study action issues that delegates could consider here at the 2014 General Assembly for four years of study and action. Congregations submitted seven proposals. We recommended that two of them be combined, which the proposers agreed to.
The CSW accepted the merged proposals plus the remaining five for a total of six for inclusion in the congregational poll. Of the congregations that were certified to vote in the congregational poll, 82% voted either yes, no, or abstain on one or more of those six issues. As a result of the poll, the CSW submitted the following five issues for inclusion in the final agenda.
And they are found starting on page 87 in your program book. Each of these received a majority of yes plus abstain votes. Escalating inequality, gun violence- a public health issue, renewing and securing our American democracy, ending the war on terror, and empowerment—age and ability reconsidered. Those interested in finding out more about any of these issues or finding how they can be supportive should attend the mini assembly today at 12:30 in the convention centers room 551.
There will be a vote to select one of these five for four years of study in action, and it will occur at the plenary on Friday at 2:15. Following that plenary, the CSW will conduct a hearing on the newly selected issue, which we invite you to attend. In addition, the CSW solicited and reviewed comments on the current congregational study action issue, which is reproductive justice.
You can find additional information on reproductive justice on the UUA website. And if you have comments that you would like to share, you can do so at the CSW booth in the exhibit hall, which is booth number 823. Commissioners also revised information on the UUA website that explains the CSAI process and judge submissions for the Social Witness sermon contest that the CSW co sponsors with the Unitarian Universalist Minister's Association.
The sermon contest winner will lead a worship service tomorrow at 2:30 in the Omni Providence ballroom, and we invite you to attend. In addition to facilitating the CSAI process, and if you are a delegate, you received this morning which tells about all the menu of initials. We also provide help to those who are proposing actions of immediate witness, or AIWs. And these must be posted by 5:00 today at the CSW booth in the exhibit hall.
And then proposers have until 5:00 tomorrow, Friday, to collect the required number of signatures. Saturday morning at the plenary, delegates will decide which three of the actions of immediate witness they want to add to the final agenda for a vote to adopt at the morning plenary on Sunday. Mini assemblies, which are the only place you can propose amendments to proposed AIWs, well immediately follow the Saturday morning plenary.
In addition, we're going to share activities implemented on the statement of conscience, immigration as a moral issue, that was adopted at last year's General Assembly. And we are hosting a workshop on immigration Saturday at 12:30. I'd like to introduce the other members of the Commission on Social Witness, who can be found by looking for these hats and at the front of the plenary hall.
And they are Reverend Doctor Breeden. Would you stand up please? Caitlin Cotter, the Reverend Christina Sillari, and the Reverend CJ McGregor. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
Presidential Search Committee
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Susan. The next presenter is not in your final agenda, but we do need to hear from the Presidential Search Committee, a committee of the association authorized by article five of our bylaws. So please welcome Liz Jones and the Presidential Search Committee. [APPLAUSE]
LIZ JONES: Good morning. I'm Liz Jones, and the other members of our Presidential Search Committee are Alandria Williams, Jackie Williams, Joanna Fontaine-Crawford, Matthew Johnson, Michael Tino, and Wayne Arneson. You will be able to identify is throughout GA, because we will be wearing buttons with large eyes on them. [LAUGHTER]
Our charge is to nominate at least two candidates for the presidency of the Unitarian Universalist Association. To do our work in service of a healthy association and accountable to you, the members of this association, we have begun by developing a value statement which reads as follows, in part. We are stewards of a process, not advocates for a particular outcome. We acknowledge that there is value in diversity of leadership, and we also maintain that in our process, we will consider people with regard to their qualifications.
We are committed to engaging in conversation about what kind of leader our time calls for. We will be relying heavily on Unitarian Universalists to be the eighth member of our committee, helping identify qualified leaders and encouraging them to apply. We invite people to nominate diverse candidates for this position in the context of our commitment to becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural association.
We have also begun creating a job description. We will be presenting that draft and seeking feedback at our workshop to be held at 12:30 in Omni-Narragansett A and B. If you are unable to be with us there, you can find the full text of the value statement and the draft job description following our workshop in the Commission on Social Witness booth number 823 in the exhibit hall.
We also have created a process for giving us your feedback in a way that will ensure that we all hear what you have to say. We are reaching out to you in the spirit of love as we look to the future of this association. We want to hear from you. Let us know what you want in the president of our association. And then when we announce that nominations are open, encourage people to apply to be nominated or send their names to us and we will ask them. We are relying on you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for that report. Another of report you need to hear from this morning that is not in your agenda is the Appointments Committee. So I'll welcome Chris Bell to the stage and his team. [APPLAUSE]
CHRIS BELL: Good morning . As you've already seen this morning, in addition to our great staff, the Unitarian Universalist Association depends upon the talents of many devoted and skilled volunteers, some of whom are elected by you, the General Assembly, with others appointed by the UUA board of trustees with the assistance of the newly formed Appointments Committee, which replaces the delightfully named Committee on Committees. [LAUGHTER]
I'm sorry to see it go, myself. [LAUGHTER] Among the committees that we find appointees for are the audit committee, the various investments committee, journey toward wholeness, election campaign and practices committee, the presidential and moderator search committees, the commission on appraisal and the GA planning committee. And I want to introduce you to the members of the appointments committee. Neil Anderson, Tim Adkins, Hope Johnson, Carol Montgomery, Annie Vote, not present, Duncan Teague, and our new member, Marsha Bowman.
If you are curious—[APPLAUSE]
Oh, thank you. Good. If you're curious about volunteer leadership at the national level, you are invited to a reception, which we've cleverly disguised as a workshop, this very afternoon at 4:00 in ballroom E of the convention center. Come and enjoy drinks and hors douvres with the members of the appointments committee and the nominating committee, and discover the many opportunities to serve. Please look for all hearts on deck in your program guide. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Chris. And now it's time to bring on the Secretary of our association, the Reverend Doctor Susan Ritchie. [APPLAUSE]
SUSAN RITCHIE: Jim's acting like he doesn't know me. So I'm delighted to share with you what I'm sure it's going to be the sleeper hit of GA 2014, the announcements. Please handle your excitement with appropriate self care. At the General Assembly orientation yesterday, wrong information was shared about the time on the vote for the fossil fuel divestment. That vote will actually take place Saturday afternoon and not on Sunday.
All of you who are delegates should have voting cards with your name on it. If you don't have your name on the voting card, please take time to do that now. It's much easier for us to return a lost card than it is to replace it. And also a reminder that you should only vote with the card with your name on it. If you are a delegate and cannot be present for a vote, you cannot simply hand that card off to an alternate.
A couple notes about our exits. We've had some traffic jams, especially at this exit located next to the tech deck, that is our accessibility exit. So if you could be especially mindful when going through that exit not to stop and chat at that particular point. That would be lovely. Also the youth and young adult areas reserved for seating, they really are for those constituencies. So please be mindful of not sitting there. [APPLAUSE]
Wow. Easy to please crowd. I love it. There's an interfaith rally today for fair wages for workers. This will take place at the Renaissance Hotel at 11:30 to 12:30. And that's at Five Avenue of the Arts. Support low wage hotel and fast food workers seeking economic stability and dignity for themselves and their families. Fast food workers across the country are courageously calling for a living wage of $15 an hour.
And hotel workers in Providence are speaking out against the abuses they face at work, poverty level wages, exposure of pregnant women to dangerous chemicals, unsustainable workloads, and termination if they speak out. Our faith calls us to respond to these injustices. The UUA and the UUSC are sponsors of this rally, along with the Local Faith Labor Coalition to support the hotel workers at the Renaissance.
The Reverend James Ford from the First Unitarian Church Providence will be speaking. And the Reverend Amy Carol Web will be singing. Food trucks will be nearby. [APPLAUSE] And this from the phone. The Unitarian Universalist commission on appraisals is excited to announce that our next study topic will be class. We hope to increase understanding of how class structures in our society impact us as we build the beloved community.
Over the next three years, we'll examine how class affects our movement with an emphasis on intersectionality, inclusion, congregational culture, and how different class roles can aid our work for justice and liberation. We'll explore how our theology is a class and examine how classism and structures of class privilege might create barriers to the depth of our faith. If you have any questions, we expect this to be a conversation. You could join us in that conversation by attending our workshop today at 12:30 in room 554. That said, I hope you have a beautifully informed day. [APPLAUSE]
THE MODERATOR: Susan never disappoints. You know, Susan has a new book published by Skinner House, Children of the Same God- the Historical Relationship Between Unitarianism, Judaism, and Islam. I just finished reading it. And it breaks new ground about our multi faith origins. And if Oprah can have a book club, I think the moderator can too. So I commend the book to you. [APPLAUSE]
In tomorrow's general session, in a spirit of restorative justice and healing, we will hear a report addressing the issue of clergy sexual misconduct within our association. I know this is a difficult subject, and it is necessary for us as a community to address it together. Please know that your GA chaplains and Right Relations Team are standing by as resources. But I wanted you to be aware of tomorrow's programming.
Now I want you to meet our head teller, Denise Rimes. Come on out the Denise. [APPLAUSE] Now, I have to say that she was selected by the previous moderator. You may remember her. That would be Gini Courter. [APPLAUSE] But I couldn't be happier with the choice. Denise is the president of the Southeast district, which I have a little bit of connection to, and a member of the first UU Church of Richmond, Virginia.
A congregation—[APPLAUSE] very good—a congregation that has been agitating the Confederacy since 1830. [APPLAUSE] But Denise, I noticed there's something going on in the back of the hall. Could you check what's going on back there?
DENISE RIMES: I think there are some maybe smaller people out there that want to come in.
THE MODERATOR: Should we let them?
DENISE RIMES: They look harmless to me.
THE MODERATOR: Let them in. Come on in. [APPLAUSE] I have been told by Michelle Richards, the GA children's day camp director, that the fourth through eighth graders will be gathering while you and I are in general sessions and attending workshops. As a part of a this experience, they will be exploring issues of identity and oppression and engaging in projects to bring awareness around this topic. How good is that? [APPLAUSE]
Today's exploration—today's exploration is of racial and cultural identity, and it seemed like a natural fit to connect them with the Ribbons Not Walls project, a Fabric Arts project for immigrant rights and culture sponsored by the UU humanists and created by some 40 artists around the country. These panels depict migrant workers, border walls, and other themes to bring awareness to the oppression of immigrants in our country.
The Ribbons Not Walls project has been touring at UU congregations, district meetings, and humanist groups since the spring of 2013 and has been viewed so far by something like 3,500 people. It was featured at the humanist booth at the GA in Louisville and is here this week at the exhibit hall. So please stop by booth 416 to view the art and to participate in the creation of the latest part of this project, a commemorative ribbon for until recently anonymous victims of the 1948 Loss Catos plane crash.
Both kids and adults are welcome to add a small panel to the final work. So we thank the kids for coming by, Thanks to Michele for organizing our day camp so families can participate in GA. How good is that? [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Don't you love the timing? I'm going to draw this general session to a close in a few moments. But I wanted to—you can tell that these are aisle ways, as you saw last night, are fairly narrow.
So I'm going to encourage the folks on scooters, if they want to make their way out earlier. And the rest of you stay behind and do some singing. David has graciously agreed to lead us in some singing while people with mobility issues can get out ahead of the crowds in these narrow aisles. Would that work for you? We're always ready to sing aren't we? There being no further business to come before us in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this general session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:30 tomorrow morning. Be there. [APPLAUSE]
DAVID: Thank you, Jim. I grew up in a domination where we often told one another, be careful that you are not so Heavenly minded, that you are no earthly good. [LAUGHTER] We grew up in the same faith movement. So as we sing this next song, I encourage you to remember to keep our eyes both up and down and around as we are welcoming one another in our various abilities. [SINGING]
[APPLAUSE] [PIANO PLAYING]