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

Plenary V, General Assembly 2010

General Assembly 2010 Event 4010

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. See the UU World General Assembly Blog for up-to-date reporting.

Call to Order

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

I now call to order the Fifth Plenary Session of the Forty-Ninth General Assembly [GA] of the Unitarian Universalist Association [UUA].

Chalice Lighting and Recognition of Departed Donors

[John Buehrens speaking]

Religion comes to life at that place between memory and hope.

In these moments, now, we touch both of these points of this life’s spectrum. For here, now, we remember friends who passed away this past year. We remember friends who loved this faith with all their hearts and whose hopes for our future now rest with us. We remember Unitarian Universalists who bequeathed to our religious institutions memorial gifts, so that our work might live on.

Herb and Karen Tyson will now light our chalice for this truth that touches us all. “What they dreamed be ours to do.”

[Chalice lit by Herb and Karen Tyson]

[John Buehrens speaking]

As the images of these faithful Unitarian Universalists fill our eyes, might we feel appreciation for these we’ve known and loved. Might our hearts and minds be filled with still more images of other UU friends whom we’ve lost. And might we hold on dearly to the hopes and dreams of all of these fellow-faithed, friends who touch us still.

What they dreamed be ours to do.

[Dearly Departed PPT; music provided by UU Musicians Network]

[John Buehrens speaking]

Religion comes to life at that place between memory and hope.

Friends, let us now sing of the religious community we are—that we ALL are—with thanks for those who continue to guide us.

Song: “Rank By Rank”

[John Hubert speaking]

UU minister Carl Seaburg’s most familiar text, “Rank By Rank Again We Stand,” proclaims “Though the path be hard and long, / Still we strive in expectation, / Join we now their ageless song, / One with them in aspiration.” Please rise in body or spirit and honor our departed stewards in singing Rank by Rank Again We Stand, music by Henry Walford Davies.

Rank by rank again we stand, from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls demand whence we come and how, and whither.
From their stillness breaking clear, echoes wake to warn or cheer;
Higher truth from saint and seer call to us assembled here.

Ours the years’ memorial store, honored days and names we reckon,
Days of comrades gone before, lives that speak and deeds that beckon.
From the dreaming of the night to the labors of the day,
Shines their everlasting light, guiding us upon our way.

Though the path be hard and long, still we strive in expectation;
Join we now their ageless song one with them in aspiration.
One in name, in honor one, guard we well the crown they won;
What they dreamed by ours to do, hope their hopes, and seal them true.

Breakthrough Congregation: The UU Area Church at First Parish, Sherborn, Massachusetts

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

Please welcome our third breakthrough congregation, First Parish, Sherborn, MA.

[Nathan Detering speaking]

My name is Rev. Nathan Detering, this is Howard Teibel, President of our congregation, this is Kate Holland, our Director of Religious Education, this is Maureen Gormley, our Membership Development and Communications Coordinator, and this is Laura Jensen, our Director of Music. We are delighted to share with you our video about the Unitarian Universalist Area Church at First Parish in Sherborn, MA.

Video Transcript


Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again come.

Look around you. Look around you and see a full church on what has turned out to be a miserable morning …(laughter)…Impressive and touching. Thank you everyone.

First Parish Sherborn had a difficult century… Ha ha… Between…you know… the 1900s were a difficult time for the church in general. The time of transition and change, a lot of different ministers… They had a merger happen with our church down the street in a neighboring town…

We were at that point where it was, you know, is our church going to be kind of a historical building with red ropes in the back, and people kind of come to the back of the church and look in to this kind of dead community, or are we going to open it up?

When I first arrived in 2003 the church was in a state of hopeful…and maybe a little bit desperate expectation…

The interim minister who came in, Deborah Pope Lance, helped hold up a mirror to us and show us what we were like.

And she said to us “if you want the settled minister that you really want, you want to be a successful church, there are things you have to change.”

We use the Field Of Dreams quote, you know, “If we build it, they will come.” And, so, we worked on building it.

The beliefs of most of the people in the church, at this transition time, was that we were a poor church…And as-and most people didn’t understand where the money was or what it was about…
There was a pocket of money that was the Natick Endowment, and then the church itself, the building, had been put into a trust, and then there was the First Parish Alliance Trust, and then there was many different music memorial funds…

…But nobody ever really looked at it all together…and when you looked at it all together and sort of…looked at the total amount of money that the church had, we were maybe not a rich church, but we weren’t poor.

People began to ask themselves, well, what can our church be? The opportunity to dream. The opportunity to think that we have things to share. What ministers like to call, sort of a theology of abundance rather than a theology of scarcity. Which means what don’t- it’s the difference between asking “what don’t we have” to asking “what do we have that we can share?”

The other thing she held up the mirror about, that I think was harder for people to hear, is she told us that we weren’t kind to each other. And I think at that time in the congregation there were ways in which we weren’t. There were sort of, some old, turf battles.

And one of her things was, you have the shortest coffee hour on record. And coffee hour is that social time when people integrate with one and other.

Back 10 years ago we were a very small congregation where virtually every one knew each other. And when you do that you don’t know everybody. But you have to, kind of have a friendly heart. Go up to people you may not know and strike up conversations. So we actually did classes. We called them Welcoming 101. We just teach people how to welcome each other, and when new people come in, they feel like they are warmly welcomed, and that we want them here.

Behind every visitor card is a person. And the management of the process of membership is not the management of a process about membership, it is about the invitation of human beings into our religious community.

Before Membership Development Coordinator was put into place, there was not a really good path to membership, structures in place, classes, educational classes, so that people had a real sense of what the commitment was to membership, and what is to be a Unitarian Universalist, and I feel that people have a deeper sense of why they’re here and therefore make a more long term commitment to the congregation.

Now one of the first questions that’s asked when people start talking about membership process is, “do you have a membership coordinator? A paid person on your staff for membership?” So wildly successful.

We had sort of gotten rid of the “silo church”. Now what I mean by the “silo church” is you have the DRE doing his or her work, and their role, and you have the minister who takes care of the sermon, you have the music director take care of the music on Sundays, you have the board doing their work as leaders…

When I first got here there was, you know, we have to fight for this RE program because we’re the only ones who will say anything, we have to make sure we get our piece of what we need, and it became factioned, and a lot of people felt like they had their one or two things they did at church, and they wanted to make sure their things were really taken care of, and they needed to advocate loudly for them. And I think that over the last 10 years, we’ve, all of us, really worked together to really change that attitude of… it’s not about a religious education program, it’s not about a social action program, it’s not about a music program, it’s about a congregation as a whole.

Originally I think that idea came from music committee meetings, where we talked a lot about what the choir was going to do, and I really felt that my role here was to not be a music director for the choir or choir programs, but to be a music director for the community. And, so, out of that came the idea that we really needed to involve the congregation more in singing. So doing more hymns, doing rounds, even having them sing things like introits and benedictions…

To remind us in that music that what we are involved in here in this hour of worship a collective endeavor. That it’s…that it’s co-created.

So, as a result of that what we did was…we created a ministry council. And the ministry council is made up of committee chairs, the minister, and the president elect, who is both on the board but is also a liaison to these groups. And the things we discovered over the last couple years doing this is that this group now has the opportunity to really discover what they’re doing, and the dependencies with each other and their work. Whereas before, there was very little dialogue when they came together.

The children start every morning, well most mornings, in the service for the first 15 minutes of the service with the congregation, often we have children light the chalice for us, and I think that that’s a nice way for the kids to really feel like they really own that ritual as part of the service, and a lot of people have really stepped up and started talking differently about teaching. And instead of saying “teaching our children” and “committing to” its more that we work to minister to our children.

What I enjoy most is seeing the new families. And it’s that sort of vibrancy that children bring, but also that their parents bring, have rejuvenated the church. And I have to say, something that I’m absolutely delighted with is a sense that the children in this church belong to all of us, weather they’re my children or not, they’re our children. I know most of the older pillars of the church and they feel the same way. These are our children.

It becomes even more important in a place that’s inherited a long history, in my mind, to really view the time in which we’re living as a special time, a special opportunity for change, And so what that means is to constantly ask ourselves “who are we not yet, that we might need to be?”

We had a discovery day…actually numerous days for people who couldn’t make the first one, where we had the opportunity to interview one another. Each member of the church who participated interviewed…they split off and they interviewed one another, and from that, it was to get the personal stories: what is it that does make us so special. Because that’s now…that’s the foundation for the strategic plan. Now we know: these are the things that…that we do really well. When we make a difference in someone’s life, these are the things that we’re doing that make that difference. And so now we know that this is what we want to focus on. And so, as a church aspect, as the organization, the entity… alright, these are the building blocks. But individually, I think everybody who participated in that came away with a understanding themselves…really…how important the church is to us.

And I think that that perspective about always, not staying stagnant, always thinking, what is the special opportunity here, what are we called to do, who are we called to be, a sense of even urgency about our place in the world as a church…leads to really important places. Has led us…there’s…it creates a certain…dynamism in the church that is infectious…

One of the key pieces is the whole idea that what we were doing was dreaming about our future. And in that articulation of: what does that dream mean? What do we want to be like? What do we want our congregation to be like? What do we want our facilities to be like? And I think that was really the inspiration to dream big.

UUA President’s Report

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

It is my pleasure to introduce our president, Rev. Peter Morales, to give his report.

[President Peter Morales speaking]

Report of the UUA Staff Leadership Council

(Kay Montgomery and Harlan Limpert speaking]

UUA Staff Annual Report (PDF, 43 pages)

Offering for the Katie Tyson Fund for Young Adult and Campus Ministry

Donate to the Katie Tyson Fund.

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

We will now take a moment to remember a very special young woman whose life and leadership touched many Unitarian Universalists. Katie was a leader in the young adult group at Arlington Street Church in Boston and a rising leader in our movement. I did not know Katie well, but our paths crossed often and she was someone I wanted to know better—someone anyone would want to know better. I spent time with Katie and her partner Liz Weber after an Emma’s Revolution concert in the Boston area last year. As I was leaving, Katie said “I’ll see you at GA, Gini” and I asked her to bring her energy to the Moderator’s Reception on opening night. She did, and I’m glad. To speak with you about our dearly beloved Katie Tyson and how you can honor her memory, here now the Rev. Kate Walker of Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, VA.

[Rev. Kate Walker, Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church, speaking]

In the middle of the night last summer, Karen and Herb Tyson experienced every parents worst nightmare with a knock on their door. Their daughter Katie had been killed in a car accident. She was 21 years young.

Her life ended on a highway in Colorado when she and her friend Heather Concannon were returning from General Assembly in Salt Lake City. They were hit head on, instantly killing Katie and seriously injuring Heather.

Every parent in this assembly today is likely, and understandably experiencing a deep knot of fear. Perhaps some of you have had your own nightmare of losing a child to an early death. I’m not here to stir up horrific feelings. I’m here to bring hope and love. Katie Tyson brought hope and love to many people, and her parents are continuing her legacy.

Katie was at the heart of Mount Vernon’s youth group, attending local and regional CONs and serving as a district youth leader. When she arrived as a freshman at Boston University, Katie’s first order of business was finding a local Unitarian Universalist church. Her search brought her to Arlington Street Church. Katie served as a leader of the large and thriving young adult group, sang in the choir, even joining the canvass committee. Sometimes she called mom for fundraising advice, and consulted with dad for his chocolate truffles recipe, which she made for the largest donors to the canvass.

Much to everyone’s joy, Katie had aspirations of one day serving our movement as a minister. Following her 2009 graduation from BU with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics, she planned to begin her doctoral work in biostatistics in the fall. She had assumed that becoming a minister would come later in her life, but found those plans accelerated after experiencing the love and spirit of GA. As she was leaving GA, Katie said to her father “GA messes with your mind.”

One of the extraordinary moments I experienced with Karen and Herb occurred very shortly after learning of their daughter’s death. They told me they wanted to launch an endowment campaign dedicated to supporting Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults.

Deep in their grief, they already had a vision for youth and young adults to be able to participate in district events, receive leadership training, and attend GA so that it could mess with the minds and hearts of more UU youth. The Katie Tyson fund was soon established and immediately began receiving significant donations.

To help make this a reality, my congregation has made a commitment to take an annual collection for the Katie Tyson fund. And my church sponsored one of our star young adults to come to GA this year. In the spirit of hope and love, I urge all of our congregations to do the same each and every year. Take a collection for our youth and young adults, send them to UU events such as GA.

The fund in Katie’s name could make a real difference because we know there are others like Katie. Karen and Herb Tyson are not done with parenting, and are pursuing a dream for Unitarian Universalist children. We are asking you to further their vision and Katie's legacy of hope and love by making a generous financial commitment to our youth and young adults.

The Katie Tyson Fund for Youth and Young Adult Ministries is dedicated to kindling the sparks of leadership among UU youth and young adults. The Fund will support scholarships, grants, and programs for youth and young adult projects, conferences, outreach, and more. With your generosity, young leaders will be empowered to live out their dreams, to weave our UU principles into the fabric of their expanding lives, and to encourage others to do the same.

Please join me now in making a generous donation to the Katie Tyson Fund for Youth and Young Adult Ministries, for Katie, for all our youth and young adults, and for the future of our faith.

Thank you.

From the moment you're born,
With every beat of your heart,
There's an endless flow,
Of love and you know
Each of us is a part.
When you wake in the morn,
And you see the sun rise,
Drawing strength from the love,
And the light from above.
Then you realize (that)

It begins with the heart,
When you answer love's call.
And the reason we give,
And the reason we live,
Is for the heart of it all.
Repeat Chorus

Every road that you choose,
Every path that you take,
Every day, every night
How you live your life,
Is a choice you make.
Every heart that you lift,
Every burden you ease,
Every hand that you hold,
Are the ways that your soul,
Helps the world find peace. (And,)

I don't know if the answer,
Can ever be found.
But, the justice we seek,
And the truth that we speak,
Are our common ground.
In that moment of truth,
We must answer the call.
Go wherever love goes,
Letting everyone know,
It's for the heart of it all.

Chorus (Twice)
And the reason we give
And the reason we live,
Is for the heart of it all.

Report of the Committee on Socially Resonsible Investing

[Tim Brennan speaking in video]

As far as Socially Responsible Investing and shareholder advocacy, the UUA has been there from the beginning. A lot of people mark the beginning with the anti-apartheid movement, which was very important. But 10 years before that, the UUA along with TIAA-CREF and the Methodists, filed the first socially based shareholder resolution in the country. It was at Eastman Kodak, and it was over race issues. And it actually was successful. The company changed their policy in response to that.

[Glenn Farley speaking]

"The meaning of life is found only by those who enter into the struggle for justice in history."
—James Luther Adams (1901-1995)

I’m Glenn Farley, and these words by the great 20th century Unitarian ethicist and theologian James Luther Adams guide me in my service to our association as co-chair of the Committee on Socially Responsible Investing.

We work in close collaboration with the Investment Committee to make sure we invest the Common Endowment Fund, a key to our future vitality, in accordance with our liberal religious values. Currently 55% of the overall portfolio has some type of minimal screen, which we are committed to increasing over time. Both committees are in agreement that all our investments should be evaluated based on risk, return, and values. More long-term evidence comes in each year that responsible investing does not deter from returns, but can add to returns and reduce risk.

The UUA was a forerunner in the modern era of responsible investing, back in the 1960s. However, our commitment has ebbed and flowed over the ensuing years. That is why we need you to tell your representatives on the Board of Trustees that the responsible allocation of financial resources is important to you, so that together, we will continue to bend the historical arc of this association towards justice.

[Vanessa Lowe speaking]

I’m Vanessa Lowe and I chair the community investing working group. I’m happy to report that the UUA portfolio of high impact investments continues to perform well in spite of the continued economic challenges. In the workshop we sponsored yesterday you had an opportunity to hear from three long-time investment holdings. Shared Interest uses our money to guarantee loans to South African business owners. Since inception in 1994, they have helped South Africans create more than 80,000 new small businesses, 1.6 million jobs and 101,000 safe, affordable homes, all among the country’s most economically disenfranchised people. Open Door Housing Fund, started by a group of UU church members in 1989, has helped to create or sustain thousands of units of affordable housing in the DC metro area, and their goal is to create or sustain 5,000 more over the next five years. Finally, Calvert Foundation has been an innovator in bringing community investing to the mainstream financial marketplace. Their “Calvert Notes” can be purchased through online trading platforms right along with stocks and bonds. Stop by our booth to learn more about these groups.

The Shareholder Advocacy subcommittee has been working in partnership with a broad coalition of religious investors, public pension funds, social investment funds and union pension funds to curb excessive executive pay for more than a decade. Under the Obama administration shareholders of banks receiving tax payer money now can have a say on executive compensation packages. Another significant accomplishment this year is that the UUA successfully pressed the Travelers companies and Home Depot to include gender identity in their non-discrimination polices. That means that nearly 350,000 people working at Home Depot and Travelers in your communities now work safely without fear of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We continue to press through these efforts with Verizon, ConocoPhillips and Wal-Mart. We’d like to thank the UU leaders and their congregations who stood up at annual shareholder meetings who moved resolutions that promote UU values.

[Takiyah Nur Amin’s words in video]

I have a deep personal commitment to making sure that my religious values are lived out in the way that I spend my money. I mean quite plainly, I was very interested in thinking about the ways in which, as a Unitarian Universalist, I can better marry my investment strategies personally, with the sort of ethical values and principles that I've learned as a member of this liberal religious movement.

Unitarian Universalists and Congregationally-Based Community Organizing

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

[Slide 1]

[Mark Belletini speaking]

Good afternoon, I’m Rev. Mark Belletini, Minister of First Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbus, OH. I want to talk to you today about how congregation-based community organizing supports the mission of our congregation.

Our Mission Statement reads:

We are here:

  • To learn and practice true hospitality
  • To revere the reasoning mind and the generous heart
  • To claim our diversity as a source of our strength, and
  • To relinquish the safety of our unexamined privilege for the freedom to engage in transforming justice [Slide 2]

Our interfaith organization is called BREAD: Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity [Slide 3]. BREAD’s mission is simple: People of faith building power to “do justice.” Working to live out BREAD’s mission gives new life and breadth to our own congregational mission. [Slide 4]

Through the relationships we have formed we [return to live] are working to practice a deeper hospitality, engaging with Jews, Muslims, Mainstream and historic African American Protestant communities, Anabaptists, and English and Spanish speaking Catholics, many of whom are recent immigrants. We welcome diverse theological and prayer practices to live side by side in a way that transcends even the diversity in our own Unitarian Universalist congregation.

We work with organizers and religious leaders to identify reasonable solutions to problems affecting our community. By so doing, we have helped to get health care centers built, and stopped the downward spiral of generational poverty by legally limiting devious payday lending.

We taught ourselves what generosity really means as we worked long days behind the scenes to address the alarmingly high rate of truancy in Columbus schools. That generosity has slowly but surely led to a reversal of that trend.

Our Unitarian Universalist embrace of diversity is a source of strength that we bring to the organization—our religious diversity and our embrace of the GLBT community. The fact that I am openly gay and active in the organization has invited acceptance and growing affirmation from other clergy. And BREAD strengthens the diversity of our own relationships with other religious communities across race and class lines.

When we commit our resources, our leaders, our time, and our money—and let go of our need to call all the shots and decide which issues to work on—when we take leadership from others in BREAD—listen to their concerns– and foster interfaith cooperation, we relinquish the safety of our unexamined privilege for the freedom to engage in transforming justice.

Now Eric Meter, associate minister and a member of our congregation’s core team, would like to tell you how BREAD’s mission is being accomplished.

[Eric Meter speaking]

Good afternoon!

People of faith building power to do justice. That’s BREAD’s mission.

Last month, 2,600 members of BREAD congregations showed up at BREAD's Annual Nehemiah Action. State Representatives committed to work to close Payday Lending loopholes. City and County officials agreed to study and plan for the implementation of an "active" land bank. Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris agreed to end the practice of suspending students out of school for truancy, to work with the organization to identify and implement "evidence-based" practices for dealing with disruptive behavior in lieu of out of school suspensions, and to find ways to fund the expansion of Project KEY (a proven truancy reduction program).

That is power! Here’s some footage from our action this spring at which I was proud to represent our congregation.


[Eric speaking]

As part of building power to do justice we are developing leaders—in our congregation and in our community. From training at workshops to on-the-job training in organizing meetings and at actions, our folks are learning how to be effective. The impact can be felt in the whole culture of our congregation. Like Rev. Mark said our congregational mission is alive!
Want to know more about how you can get involved? Here’s Susan Leslie, Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director to tell you [Slide 5].

[Susan Leslie speaking]

Thank you Mark and Eric!

Today there are now over 130 UU congregations engaged in congregation-based organizing [Slide 6]. The UUA and the UU Veatch Program at Shelter Rock [Slide 7] are supporting congregational engagement in interfaith community organizing with staff support, resources, and funding. The UU Funding Program [Slide 8] has a $40,000 program for matching membership grants as well as matching grants for training.

To learn more about how to participate in this growing faith-based movement and to find a CBCO near you, visit our CBCO website [Slide 9]; talk to our new President of the UUA CBCO Ministers Council Rev. Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry [Slide 10] and other members [Slide 11]. Come by the Advocacy & Witness booth for more information including our CBCO Guide [Slide 12], the Fund for UU Social Responsibility [Slide 13] $5,000 matching grants for training and for first years dues for congregations new to CBCO. If you’re already participating send us your stories for CBCO-News and pick up your ‘CBCO Congregation!’ sticker at the Congregational Advocacy & Witness booth [Slide 14].

I’ll leave you with sounds of the interfaith choir from the BREAD action. Thank you.


UUA Board Report: Business Resolution on GA 2012

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

Updates on Arizona SB 1070 and Related Issues

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

Song: “Meditation on Breathing”

[John Hubert speaking]

Before we begin our discussion around the Phoenix GA, I invite us to take a few moments to breathe. Sarah Dan Jones wrote the chant Meditation on Breathing in 2001 following the September 11th tragedies as a part of a larger song. The chant is in three parts. Sarah Dan Jones from Georgia Mountains UU Church will lead the melody, Kellie Walker, from Valley UU Church in Chandler, AZ, will lead the descant and I will lead the drone. I encourage you to sing any of the three parts that resonate with you. Please rise in body or spirit.

I’ll start with the drone.

Breathe in, Breathe Out (Repeated)

Then Sarah Dan will add the melody

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out love.

Those who want to sing the descant will sing with Kellie

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out love.

Debate and Vote on Business Resolution: General Assembly 2012 in Arizona

[Business Resolution: General Assembly 2012 in Arizona (Passed)]

Plenary on Immigration Before Vote on GA Boycott of Phoenix

[Peter Morales speaking]

Peter begins with his message of “A Struggle for America's Soul” and introduces a video.

Theological Reflection

[Rev. Abhi Janamanchi speaking]

At 3 a.m., on a warm, muggy day I stood in line for hours outside the gates of the U.S. embassy in Chennai, India, to obtain a student visa. With hundreds of others, I waited for the gates to open, praying that I would be among the few to be allowed inside. Once inside, I had yet another long wait before my number was called. Finallyat the window, I was asked brusquely to show my papers. The visa officer growled that he had never heard of Unitarian Universalism and that I was lying to get into the USA. Yet, despite his disbelief and total disinterest, since my paperwork was in order I was granted a visa. A year later, my wife and infant son underwent a similar experience and also were arbitrarily detained upon arrival in Chicago. After more dehumanizing experiences with the INS in obtaining a religious professional visa and an eventual green card, we are now permanent resident aliens. But withregular pat downs at airports and being yelled at by unknown people to "go back to Iraq," my family and I live with constant reminders that we are outsiders, foreigners, people who don't belong.

It is painful. It is a struggle. What helps me find balance and calm through all this, is my Unitarian Universalist faith. By affirming my inherent worth and dignity as a human being, by accepting me for who I am, as I am, my faith gives me the strength to work through the pain and anger of these experiences. By showing hospitality of the heart and hand, our Unitarian Universalist faith community helps my family and me feel at home in this country.

Radical hospitality is a core Unitarian Universalist value. As the Rev. Barbara Wells-ten Hove reminds us, “Ours is a faith built on unity and love;” a faith that upholds and promotes freedom and dignity of all human beings.

In our faith, the center is outside of itself, in the stranger. Our ‘good news’ proclaims that God loves difference, and prefers to be discovered through difference rather than sameness, entering our lives through the presence of the stranger. We are called to create holy communities where strangers are not welcome but accepted and loved.

This call to welcome the stranger, the alien, the immigrant is also an ancient precept of many religions. Yet it is desperately needed in today's world which is so infected by xenophobic fears . Failure to adequately deal with this fear at many levels has led to what recently happened in Arizona.

Today’s world desperately needs to hear words of welcome spoken across dividing lines. Today’s world needs to see examples of strangers being welcomed as guests. Today's world needs religious communities, such as ours, responding to the call to practice radical hospitality.

This is the hospitality of the heart and it begins here with us when we accept that we are all wanderers in exile, all sojourners. And we are all invited into the tent, to be part of the Beloved Community.

This hospitality of the heart compels us to step back from ourselves, and view our own lives and actions as if we were another. This compulsion to wrestle with our consciences, discloses our openness to the infinite which is the root of our human dignity.

This hospitality of the heart calls us to step out of our comfort zones, to encounter, wrestle with, and reconcile with stranger and friend. It reminds us that encounters with the stranger can sometimes be wounding experiences, but a wounding that will heal and transform us.

This hospitality of the heart helps us cross all the boundaries and borders that separate us one from another. It calls us to be in right relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world and to recognize that in our effort to embrace the stranger, we need not wound our friends, that we need not wound each other.

This hospitality of the heart could create a world of potential friends than probable enemies. It certainly could help us reform how we treat the strangers among us, our immigrant brothers and sisters, our migrant and undocumented workers.

God has given us hearts with many rooms, prepared us to be living sanctuaries, not only bold and daring but compassionate and accepting. It is fundamental to us that we attend to the safety, well-being, dignity and respect of all human beings.

May our solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters be a transforming power in the world. May we choose the blessed path of hospitality. May we open our hearts and hands and welcome stranger and friend alike. May we listen to one another with openness and compassion. With thanksgiving, may we be empowered to make it so.

[Victoria Safford speaking]

An image from the march in May, in Phoenix: an early morning rally before we started walking, tens of thousands of people, a rainbow of people, lots of speeches. We were ready to go. Two African American women came to the platform and said, “Good morning, Arizona!” They had come all the way from New Orleans, LA. One said, “We are here with you because we know, we’ve known for more than 350 years, about racial profiling. We know what that does to a person, to a people, a community, to our country, and we are here to stand with you and say we will not stand for it.” The second woman said, “Arizona, we’ve got your back.” It was the most elegant solidarity.

They were speaking, and we were marching, not only about the hateful racism inherent in Senate Bill 1070 (though that be reason enough);

they were speaking not only about the desperate urgency of immigration reform (though that would be enough);

they were speaking, as Peter Morales has been speaking to us, about the soul of our nation, and they were speaking, as Abhi spoke so powerfully just now, about the human soul.

A second image, from the local paper here: a photo of two women at the Minneapolis airport. One holds a baby; the other is wearing handcuffs and a face of abject anguish. She’s reaching for the baby, sobbing, and the caption reads, “Before she was to be deported and flown to Nicaragua, Nidia Vallecillo pleaded with Immigration agents to remove her handcuffs so she could hold her son.” She was arrested in her house in the night and taken to the airport, where she was told that her son, who is a U.S. citizen, could stay. “With whom?” she asked, and they were both flown to New York, where they were separated because the baby didn’t have a passport. In the last moment, a temporary stay was granted, and they were flown back here, where Nidia awaits the next knock on the door.

When you leave town on Monday some of you will see the big sign flashing at our airport, urging you to report suspicious activity to Homeland Security. What could be more suspect than taking a mother (who is not a criminal) from her infant by force in the night?

Nidia’s threat is that she’s here, working, paying taxes, raising her child, and in every way, every day, showing us the face, the complexion, the complexity, of our beautiful America. 100 yeas ago she was Irish, Italian, Chinese, German. She speaks two of the 80 languages spoken by Twin Cities public school children. I’m telling you, friends, you have stories just like this in your own home town. We are all Arizona—and this is not about Arizona.

It is about fear.

It is about the insidiously interdependent global economy of privilege and power.

For us, It is about love.

It is about welcoming the stranger, which is about pluralism, which we have been about for a long, long time.

Now we have hard work to do. Our old hymn reminds us: “revelation is not sealed,” the borders of imagination cannot, should never be, fenced. Our congregations are not gated neighborhoods of protected certainty, but open fields of spiritual possibility, beckoning to every visitor, “Come in. Enlarge our thinking. Expand our perspective. Enrich our shared story, our history, with your story, your experience, your way of seeing and being a human being, even if and especially if it differs from our established way.” We say to the stranger, “Come in. We need you. Without you, our circle can’t be whole.”

We are called to the defense of freedom, spiritual freedom: not that I defend my own, but that I fight for yours, making the widest welcome I can for your beauty, your dignity, your truth, your pain, your flourishing, which will ever enrich and not diminish my own. This is how we’ve always done theology, and it is a hard, brave covenant.

What we choose to say this afternoon and then soon enough in public, matters. But how we speak here matters more. Beloved community is about the way that people commit to move forward together. It is a living covenant.

We are compelled here to honor many critical commitments, which hold us in right relation with each other and the holy:

  • covenants with immigrants, refugees, sisters and brothers of color who are at risk in every state;
  • covenants with immigrants, brothers and sisters of color and allies within our own Association, who are calling out the real risks, moral and physical –of travelling to Phoenix, and the terrible implications of exclusion;
  • we are called to honor our UU comrades in Arizona who have been standing with immigrant communities and are imploring us to come;
  • we are called to be faithful stewards of our Association’s resources.

These and other covenants compete and coexist among us and inside each of us. We will go forward now, as always, with imperfect wisdom, not toward the one, true, right outcome, but toward the most faithful statement we can make together in this moment, mindful that every person in this room is struggling to live out, to live into, our living, loving faith.

Our decision today is important, but more important is what we will do, each one of us and every congregation, starting Tuesday morning, when we’re all back home in our beautiful, broken America where the real struggle awaits our courage, our commitment and our love.

From Roque Dalton, poet of El Salvador:

… I believe the world is beautiful
And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone. 

How UUs Are Involved with the Struggle

[Susan Leslie speaking]

Partnership, AZ, Introduces Salvador Reza

[Susan Frederick Gray speaking]

[Salvador Reza speaking]


[Leslie Takahashi-Morris and José Ballester speaking]

Lament de la Raza

Cry, my beloved people,
For your words have turned to dust,
For you have become a punch line in a bad joke,
For your children no longer speak your language,
For the grasping hand no longer has yours,
For you have become a ghostly shadow.

Cry, my beloved people,
For you have been stolen from your lands,
For your lands have been stolen from you,
For your sacred hills are tourist attractions,
For your songs are sung by other voices,
For your rites are entertainment.

Cry, my beloved people,
For the water that fed your crops now greens their lawns,
For your hands make trinkets for their amusement,
For your culture is reduced to caricatures,
For they pass you on their way to pray,
For you have been forgotten.

Cry, my beloved people,
For the Middle Passage,
For Guadalupe Hildago,
For Wounded Knee,
For Chinese Exclusion Act,
For Manzanar,
For the Zoot Suit Riots,
For Selma,
For Black Empowerment
For Thomas Jefferson Ball
For Prop 187,
For GA Fort Worth
For Prop 8,
For SB 1070

Transition to Debate

[Rob Eller-Isaacs and Moderator Gini Courter speaking]


Debate & Vote

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

We will now take up consideration of the proposed Business Resolution found at page 33 of the Final Agenda concerning the location of the 2012 General Assembly.

Will the Chair of the Planning Committee make the appropriate motion.


Moved: That the Business Resolution found at page 33 of the Final Agenda be adopted by this Assembly.

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

I call upon Jake Morrill, trustee from the TJ District, to give the position of the Board of Trustees.

[Debate occurs]

[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

There being no time for further discussion, a vote is in order. All those in favor of the Business Resolution please raise your voting cards (pause). Opposed (pause).

[Announce results. A two-thirds vote is required to adopt a business resolution. Bylaw Section 4.11.]


[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]

There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your final agenda, I declare that this Plenary Session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until Sunday, June 27, 2010, at 10:45 a.m.