"In today's complex world, what is our mission as a faith community?" The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) are applying "Open Space Technology" (OST) during this General Assembly (GA) to get broad input from members and leaders of our congregations to answer this question. They intend to use the results to guide them in setting the priorities of the Association for the next five to ten years.
During Plenary II on Thursday morning, Moderator Gini Courter invited all GA attendees to participate in this process and called on Open Space facilitator Helen Bishop to provide an explanation of how it would work. Bishop asked all interested people to attend one of ten "Domains," where groups of people, separated according to the registration number on their nametags, would gather to discuss topics related to the Open Space question being posed. All ten Domains were to meet in different locations directly after the plenary, and each was asked to generate up to twelve topics relevant to the main question. These topics were to become the subjects of as many as 120 workshops to be held, twenty at a time, during six different program times on Thursday afternoon and Friday. At the end of the plenary, many people were still scratching their heads, wondering how this would work, but hundreds of them decided to give it a try and attended the Domains.
Bishop had told attendees that during the workshop phase of the OST process, participants were to discuss their topic and come up with a statement that gave direction to the UUA Board on that issue. Once all the Open Space workshops have been held, participants will return to the rooms in which their Domain met for Convergence sessions to discuss statements generated on the topics that were chosen by that Domain, which will be discussed and put together. Then, during Plenary VI on Saturday afternoon, there will be a presentation of the results of the OST process, and during Plenary VII on Sunday morning, the delegates will vote on Open Space priorities.
The first round of workshops on Thursday afternoon ranged in attendance from as few as one person to as many as twenty-five. Discussions were lively (except perhaps during the workshop attended by a single person.) The discussion about UU Evangelism: Sharing our Faith started by distinguishing between "evangelism," which participants defined as sharing the good news, and "proselytizing," which they saw as trying to force others to agree. The one on Be a Voice and Work for Global Peace articulated a desire for the UUA to coordinate a country-wide day for peace on which all Unitarian Universlist (UU) congregations with the desire to do so could participate in vigils or other forms of protest at the same time.
The Open Space Master Schedule has provided topics for all 117 workshops that were generated in the initial Domain meetings. That variety is a testament to the wide variety of issues that UUs all over the country care deeply about. Initial reports indicate that more than 1,000 GA attendees participated in the Domain meetings; meetings continue through General Assembly and results of the convergence session will be shared in a separate GA report.
Reported by Pat Emery; edited by Deb Weiner.