I attended my first General Assembly in 1998. I had only been a member of my congregation for 2 years, and had just completed my first year as the Director of Religious Education (DRE). My congregation was small - around 50 members, 20 children and youth - and I was working about 10 hours a week. We were over an hour drive from any other congregations and cluster meetings didn't always work for me because of that. So a member of our congregation, who was a member of the UUA Board of Trustees, suggested that my husband and I attend General Assembly as the congregation's delegates. We checked our schedules, made arrangements for grandparents to keep the kids, and said yes.
When I agreed to attend, I wasn't exactly certain why I was being encouraged to go to Rochester that June. I had grown up in the Presbyterian church and had been a delegate to the their local, state and national gatherings. So I understood the governance side of things. How exactly would this help me in my job I wondered? But I went. Was I surprised. I was not prepared for the list of workshops on so many different topics. How to choose! So many provided me with opportunities to learn about new ideas I could use in my work. I met so many other religious educators who shared so much with me. And the exhibit hall - wow, so many things UU! But the best part was worship. Singing with 3000 UUs. Hearing ministers preach who I had read about and studied their books. It was an amazing experience.
I have missed only one General Assembly since then. Over the years I have attended as a congregational delegate, a religious educator, a district staff person, a regional staff person, and then a UUA staff member. I've given workshops, participated in panels, met with colleagues, planned in-gathering activities, and staffed booths in the exhibit hall. Most recently I've been part of the streaming team who wrangles the technology behind the scenes so that those who attend virtually are able to participate.
When I'm asked, "Should I go to General Assembly?", my answer is a resounding yes. Everyone should attend at least once for the experience. Whether in person or virtually, the benefits are many.
General Assembly 2021 will be fully virtual and registration is open. Please join us June 23-27, 2021 online. I'll be one of the many staff and volunteers making sure you are able to take part. We hope to "see" you there! Full details can be found at the UUA GA webpage.