Massachusetts Bay District In-Gathering
The Massachusetts Bay District Ingathering was held in a room filled with one 130 delegates and fifty non-delegate attendees from the district. The district's executive, The Reverend Teresa Cooley, briefly welcomed the group, introduced other staff, and invited district board members to introduce themselves. Rev. Cooley asked for names of the congregations represented (there were fifteen) and the number of congregational presidents (twelve), acknowledged recently graduated seminarians, introduced newly ordained ministers, and asked the eldest (eighty-seven years old) and youngest (twenty-three) to identify themselves. Incoming district ministerial interns, Andrew Tripp for marketing and growth, and Andrew Taylor for social justice initiatives, were also introduced.
The Reverend John Hickey and Sam Williams were identified with their staff roles for the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry. Mr. Williams described the weekday and weekend youth programs of the Urban Ministry, the United Souls program for men who have participated in the criminal justice system, the Rice Sticks and Tea culturally appropriate food pantry, and the work of the shelter program serving victims of domestic violence. Rev. Hickey encouraged the delegates to advocate for and engage the local work of justice using the activist energy generated by the more distant work in the Gulf Coast. Petra Aldritch and Jason Lydon spoke briefly as members of the General Assembly (GA)'s Right Relations Team, which was formed after last year's GA. The team's mission is to "support and help all to live our faith/values" through addressing issues of oppression that may arise within the structure and practices at GA. District attendees were given opportunities to connect with each other and to hear of learning congregation events back in the district later this year.
During the gathering, Unitarian Universalist Association President William Sinkford came by to offer his welcome and some brief remarks. Rev. Sinkford told the group "You came a long way!" to be part of the largest GA since Boston, with registrations in the 5400-5600 range, about two thousand more than the average GA attendance. He explained the changes in this year's assembly, an outcome of his effort to create a gathering where the attendance of congregational leaders is normalized and where a greater sense of collective vision is generated by collaborating congregations. Through the technique of Open Space Technology (OST), this GA is creating an opportunity for a vision to emerge and give a direction for "our considerable resources".
Rev. Sinkford also described the public presence—interviews and media exposure—which has also become a necessary part of GA. He concluded his remarks with a description of two public witness opportunities at this GA, one on immigration rights and the other on intervention in Darfur. He linked both of these to the religious values of Unitarian Universalism, speaking passionately about rights, dignity and the need to address 'broken' systems which allow harm to the innocent.
Reported by Rebecca Kelly-Morgan, edited by Pat Emery.