General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Plenary VI, , General Assembly 2009

Chalice Lighting

The Chalice was lit by Rev. Mitra Jafarzadeh, minister of Westside Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, Rev. Chris Buice, Senior Minister of the Tennessee Valley UU Church (TVUUC), and Brian Griffin, Director of Lifespan Religious Education, TVUUC, all from Knoxville, TN. They thanked many people for their support following the shooting at their church on July 27, 2008. They thanked Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Bill Sinkford, the Thomas Jefferson District, and the UUA trauma response team which was there so quickly. They also thanked the children who have sent artwork to the church, and lit the chalice in memory of the two congregants who died that day, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger.

Youth Ministry

Sinkford named all of the organizations of prior youth groups, among them Young People’s Christian Union, Common Ground, Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) and Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU). Participants in all of these youth programs were invited to stand or raise their voting cards. We sang “We Would be One,” since it is the hymn symbolic of the merger in the 1950s of the Unitarian and Universalist youth movements.

With appreciation for our past, the new model for youth programming was presented. Five values of youth ministry were presented. The Mosaic Project was reviewed which identifies actions we can take at all levels to minister to all UU youth of color.

Moderator Gini Courter and Sinkford reviewed two important points:

  • This new programming builds on meaningful programs existing already. Nothing calls for eliminating successful programs.
  • Youth ministry is the responsibility of all Unitarian Universalists. This will entail a culture shift.

Plenary members then repeated after Courter, “I am the future of Youth Ministry” and then “We are the future of Youth Ministry.”

President’s Award for Volunteer Service

Sinkford presented the President’s Award for Volunteer Service to Eric Isaacson, a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, CA. He has provided his legal skills, pro bono, in a variety of purposes where these skills were needed. These cases include those in support of the UUA's position on freedom to marry for same-sex couples, historic separation of church and state, and naming discriminatory practices of the Boy Scouts of America.

Beacon Press

Helene Atwan said that Beacon Press is about to close a 7th financially surplus year in a row, and that Beacon Press is going to be the publisher for The King Legacy. She reviewed the existing titles of Beacon Press, and noted the green initiatives of printing on recycled paper and digital audio download.

Courter then welcomed an announcement from Nick Allen, the new Youth member of the Board. He introduced Joe Gayeski from the Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, CT, as the new youth observer to the UUA Board.

Green Sanctuaries Recognition

This program is now being administered by the UUA Office of Congregation Stewardship Services brought the Environmental Justice Passport program to General Assembly (GA). Robin Nelson announced that there are 116 congregations that are candidates to become Green Sanctuaries, and 98 that are already Green Sanctuaries, for a total of 214. Of those, 25 were newly recognized as Green Sanctuaries.

Annual Program Fund

Rev. Terry Sweetser introduced Laurel Amabile, who said that the Annual Program Fund will raise nearly 7 million dollars for the Association this year. She introduced and recognized the Annual Program Fund Committee. She introduced Jim Sanders, who currently serves in the Metro New York District, and will serve as acting chair of the APF Committee next year. They both thanked Barb Brown, the current chair, for the work she has done.

Actions of Immediate Witness

Next on the agenda was consideration of the Actions of Immediate Witness. Each proposed Action was introduced for debate and a vote.

The final text of these Actions of Immediate Witness is available online at > Social Justice.

The closing song, “One More Step” by Joyce Poley, acknowledged that we all move in different ways.

Moderator’s Report

Courter thanked the congregation for electing her for another 4 years in which she will moderate General Assemblies This work, she said, is what she does that gives her life meaning. She recognized the Web Staff at this point, by donning an orange hat, the same as the Web Staff have been wearing all GA to identify themselves.

Courter reflected on her moderator job in between General Assemblies. She also chairs the UUA Board of Trustees and recognized the members of the Board. After traveling around to congregations she has some concerns. In congregations there is mystery about who holds power and how they get it. There are duly elected boards afraid to make decisions. Our polity is to exercise power through elections and democracy, she said, not money or privilege. If a self-appointed group of people have power over worship, that is a problem. She asked delegates to go home and get clarity on relationships between boards, called ministers, and committees.

Courter said that she has talked to too many of us who are isolated. She encouraged leaders to stay in connection with other congregations and to be with close congregations who are in trouble. She noted the importance of rules and how to be together, in kindness and assuming the best of intentions, honoring the inherent dignity and worth of every person, if not of every opinion.

She noted that the UUA Board is bringing work that they feel it is congregations’ work to do. One of these is the proposed changes to the nominating process. The Board is committed to bring a final amendment in 2010. Another change is how often we meet in GA and this work is being done by the fifth principle task force. Another change being considered is the size of UUA Board of Trustees. This is some of the biggest business that has reached the floor of the assembly since the merger. In fact, she, said, "This is work they were too afraid to do 48 years ago." She urged care about who to send to GA in Minneapolis and Charlotte, NC.

She closed by saying, “It has been an absolute honor to serve as moderator. I simply love being with UUs. If this faith did not exist I would have no place to feed my soul. “

She then entertained many Responsive Resolutions from the procedure microphone, and all but 2 passed. The language of the Responsive Resolutions will be posted at > Social Justice.

Courter then recognized the folks who made General Assembly happen:

  • GA Planning Committee
  • Commission on Social Witness
  • GA Staff
  • GA Volunteers
  • Conference Services

Right Relationship Team

This report was presented by facilitator Scott McNeill. A couple of nights ago they heard there might have been an incident of violence. There have been other little incidents, like pushing that has gone too far. Even today, we have heard difficult language.

Invitation to GA 2010 in Minneapolis

David Lauth then presented a few words about next year’s GA with an invitation to the Twin Cities. He gave many reasons to come to Minneapolis next summer:

  1. There will not be ice on the lakes.
  2. All the women are strong, men are good looking and the children are above average.
  3. Recently elected first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress who was sworn in with Thomas Jefferson copy of the Qur'an.
  4. Pride festival on the final day only blocks from the convention center.
  5. Home of Bob Dylan and Prince.
  6. Lots of culture, music, sports.
  7. Extensive series of lakes.

Paul Richter started his remarks with “Now showing on and GA from SLC to the world.” This was his way of thanking the Web Staff members who have been hard at work publishing content to the web. He also announced that at Sunday worship, we raised $29,776 for the Pride Center.

Final credential report noted that there were 1545 delegates, 416 Ministers, 3 Credential DREs, 4 associate members, 23 board members for a total of 1991 total delegates from 582 congregations. All 50 states were represented and 3 Canadian provinces, Washington D.C., and the Virgin Islands. There were 145 youth for a total of 3385 total registrations.

Thus ended the last plenary of General Assembly 2009, which Courter gavelled to a close on a motion from the Planning Committee Chair, Elizabeth McGregor.

The Benediction, written by Rev. Nancy Schaeffer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the meditation, “Instruction in Joy.”

Reported by Sally Russell; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.