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

Opening Celebration and Plenary I, General Assembly 2011

General Assembly 2011 Event 1013


Welcome to 50th Anniversary

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: My dear friends, fellow Unitarian Universalists, honored guests, my name is John Buehrens. And as chair of the 50th Anniversary Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have the honor of welcoming you to a very special celebration. The 50th annual General Assembly since consolidation in May, 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.

Both families of congregations, with roots going back to 1825 and 1793 respectively, continue through us, through a blended family of faith that has grown and changed and now includes more than 1,000 local congregations across this land. It is fitting that we should begin, as is our custom, by seeing the banners and representatives of congregations whose delegates are here to worship, to learn, to bear witness, and to act to make our covenant with one another and with our values visible, relevant, and real. So let the banner parade begin.

Banner Parade Music







Call to Order

GINI COURTER: I now call to order the 50th General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.


Chalice Lighting

GINI COURTER: And I call upon Jessica Coates, the Reverend Robin Tanner, and the Reverend Clark Olsen, representing our host district, to light the chalice that is the symbol of our faith.

REV. ROBIN TANNER: Come gather before the kindling flame.

REV. CLARK OLSEN: Come remember the stories of this sacred body.

JESSICA COATES: Come rejoice with us as dreams are born into prophecy.

REV. ROBIN TANNER: We welcome the presence of this flame, looking across the history of 50 years together, 50 years of struggle and witness, as well as of hope and celebration. Gather together this hour. Gather your stories. Gather your banners proud. And gather those of a chosen faith treading upon the impossible path. Gather now Unitarian Universalists. The present calls out to you.

REV. CLARK OLSEN: We meet as inheritors of Unitarian and Universalist traditions, which 50 years ago came together through the efforts of our predecessors, energized by their hope to create a stronger faith and enduring legacy of the free spirit. And history guides us. Illuminated by our shared truth, we enter into a history not solely our own, as we recall those ancestors across the seas who first dared to live a faith marked by love, compassion, and reason.

We encroach upon a land not of our own, but of those Native Americans who lived on this expanse of earth long before our faith touched these rolling hills of the Piedmont. We tread upon the land of the Cawtaba and the Cherokee nations and all the ancient ones who have passed this way before their history was written, knowing that pain and heartache live on as surely as love and beauty. We recall those rights were denied, yet whose hands touch history. This hour, we gather as their holy witness, grateful that time does not bind us by color or creed, sex or gender, nor by whom we love, but speaks a story universal, of a people who walk toward the impossible call of love and justice.

JESSICA COATES: From across the strands of our shared story, rejoice at the future before us, a future engendered by faces and voices still unknown, names of those who will carry forward this future, who will make the coffee, attend the meetings, visit the sick, write the words to the song, sing the song into dance, and the dance into a just and compassionate world. We kindle now the names of those who will live lives of real courage.

ALL SPEAKERS: Forward through the ages, we gather, remember, rejoice, as Unitarian Universalists. The flame burns bright, dear friends. Across these 50 years we traveled. The path leads on. Join us on the journey.

Welcome New Congregations

GINI COURTER: Please welcome the trustee from the Clara Barton district, and First Vice Moderator of your UUA Board of Trustees, Miss Jackie Shanti.


JACKIE SHANTI: Thank you, madam moderator. One of the most rewarding experiences each year at GA is to welcome new congregations into our UUA family. Starting a new congregation is an extraordinary piece of work and an astonishing act of faith. It takes vision, courage, leadership, patience, bureaucratic brilliance jumping over hurdles and through hoops, but most of all, it takes love. The leaders that you will meet in a moment have given all of this and more to their dream of a Unitarian Universalist congregation serving their communities. New congregations come into being because local UUs work closely with district staff and district presidents. And so it is my pleasure tonight to ask district presidents to introduce to you people of vision and faith in their districts who have planted and nurtured five new congregations.

I will ask President Peter Morales and Moderator Gini Courter to join me in greeting our newest UU member congregations, and ask you to welcome them with hearty applause as they are introduced. From the Pacific Northwest district, District President Elton Hall.


ELTON HALL: Please welcome Kris Gabrielsen and her husband Eric. Chris is a current chair of the board. And Eric and Kris were founding members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of McMinnville, Oregon.


JACKIE SHANTI: And from the Southeast district, District President Jim Key.

JIM KEY: Please welcome Jeff Pender. He's the President of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Lake Norman up 25 miles north of this great convention center. Jeff.


JACKIE SHANTI: And now from the Joseph Priestley district, District President Mike Harris.

MIKE HARRIS: Please welcome Rita Lazar, Treasurer of the Unitarian Universalists of the Blue Ridge in Washington, Virginia.


JACKIE SHANTI: From the Florida district, District President Ken Hurto.


KEN HURTO: Please welcome Regina Kilmartin, founding member All Faiths Unitarian Congregation, Fort Myers, Florida.


JACKIE SHANTI: From the Heartland district, we welcome Erinn Tucker, founding member of Harmony Unitarian Universalist Church in Mason, Ohio.


I'm sorry. I was told to go to the podium.

AMY TAYLOR: I'm Amy Taylor, the District President of the Heartland District. And I'd also like to introduce Erinn Tucker, the President of Harmony Unitarian Universalist Church in Mason, Ohio, the congregation that could.


JACKIE SHANTI: Friends, members of this great UU family, let us once again welcome these five spectacular new congregations to our association with hopes that they will be as enriched by their association with us as we are by their presence among us.


Review and Adopt Rules for this General Assembly

GINI COURTER: Our business item from tonight's plenary session is the adoption of the rules of procedure for this General Assembly. The proposed rules of procedure can be found on pages seven through nine of your final agenda. It looks like this. These rules will govern our consideration of, and voting upon, the business items that come before us during our plenary sessions. The rules are largely the same as in previous years. There are a couple of rules that I want to direct your attention to. Please note that rule five provides that no amendments to a business resolution by law change or rule change will be in order unless submitted for consideration at the mini-assembly for that item. This procedure is the same with respect to social witness statements, such as a statement of conscience and actions of immediate witness. Mini-assemblies start promptly tomorrow.

Also, please note that rule two provides that unless the association's bylaws otherwise require, action on all matters will be decided by an uncounted show of voting cards, or by an uncounted standing vote. Who's got a voting card to show off already? They look like that. A vote will be counted in only two instances. If there is doubt about the outcome of the vote, I will call for a count. A count will also be taken if so requested by a delegate, and if 99 other delegates join that request. In either instance, the count will be made by the tellers who are present on the floor of the assembly. They are wearing GA vestments. Let's see some tellers. What have you got on, striped things this year? Look at how good looking they are.


So I'm going to tell you something that I absolutely know is not necessary. But if things heat up— they just might, especially if we have to count all of us one by one— remember that these folks are UU volunteers, just like you. And just like you, they will do their best. And so just as we treat each other, we will treat them with kindness. Yes?


GINI COURTER: In addition, rule seven provides that separate microphones will be designated as pro and con for discussion of proposed bylaw amendments, rules, resolutions, or actions. We're a little wide in the hall. The pro microphone is over here on the left. See the teller's showing it off like this. Very nice. Thank you. Pro microphone. The con microphone is all the way over here. And there is an amendment microphone over there and a procedural microphone that is right here in front of me. Please note that points of personal privilege and points of information must be made from the procedural microphone, not from the pro mic, not from the con mic, not from the amendment mic. And by the way, only delegates may speak from the microphones, except by express permission of the Moderator. That would be me.

I strongly urge those of you who are attending General Assembly plenary sessions for the first time to read the rules of procedure. What a novel idea. Particularly look at rule six on page seven of the rules, so you understand the time limits in effect. No person may speak on any motion for more than two minutes. 30 minutes is the time allowed for discussion of any proposed bylaw amendment, rule change, resolution, or action on a report that is on, or is admitted to, the final agenda. Time limits for debate on actions of immediate witness are found in rule 13. According to our bylaws, a responsive resolution is a resolution made in response to a substantive portion of a report by an officer or committee reporting to the General Assembly.

Rule G-4.16.1 instructs that the Moderator shall take such steps as the Moderator considers practical to advise delegates and other persons or bodies as early as possible, preferably in writing, of the contents of any actions or resolutions presented to the General Assembly which are not on the final agenda. And further, that sometime shall be scheduled when the sponsor, or sponsors, of the action, or actions or resolutions, can discuss that with those interested. Procedural rule 10 on page eight is new. It has a deadline for notifying the Moderator about responsive resolutions so I can schedule the time that you have called for in your bylaws and rules. Before proceeding with our business, I want to introduce you to the two gentlemen seated at my left who are going to help us through all of these proceedings. First, let me introduce our legal counsel, brand new with us this year, Mr. Tom Bean.


Did I say new this year?


Thank you. Next, please say your warmest GA welcome to retired Massachusetts District Court Judge Gordon Martin, who will serve us as Parliamentarian and has done so since the 1969 General Assembly.


Hm. I think we're ready then. So we need a motion with respect to the rules of procedure. Will the First Vice Moderator now please make the appropriate motion with respect to the rules of procedure.

JACKIE SHANTI: Move that the rules of procedure of this General Assembly, as set forth in full on pages seven through nine of the final agenda, be adopted.

GINI COURTER: Is there discussion?


How novel. There being no discussion of the rules of procedure, a vote is in order. Find your voting card. All those in favor of adapting the rules of procedure, please raise your voting card. It's a wide hall. Thank you. All those opposed. Not as many.


The motion clearly carries. I draw your attention to an important— yes, we voted on something. Let's cheer.


I draw your attention to an important matter set out in rule 13, which you just passed, defining the two deadlines for submitting proposed Actions of Immediate Witness. A copy of your proposed Action of Immediate Witness, or AIW, without signed petitions attached must be delivered to the booth of the Commission on Social Witness in the exhibit hall by 5:00 PM Thursday. The proposed Action of Immediate Witness will be posted there for public view. The proposed Actions of Immediate Witness must also be filed with the requisite delegate support in the GA office, General Assembly office, by 5:00 PM on Friday. This is all set out in detail in rule 13 of the rules of procedure on page nine of the final agenda. Good.

Introduce Youth Caucus and Young Adult Caucus Managers

GINI COURTER: So please welcome, now that we've learned how to welcome, please welcome the co-Deans of your youth caucus and the co-Moderators of the Young Adult Caucus for General Assembly 2011.


NOEL BURKE: Good evening, everyone.

SARA SURFACE: My name is Sara Surface of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia.


NOEL BURKE: And my name is Noel Burke of Eliot Chapel in St. Louis.


SARA SURFACE: And we are the co-Deans of the Youth Caucus, otherwise known as HUUPERs, at this year's General Assembly. The Youth Caucus is sitting right over there and will be sitting—


—and will be sitting together there throughout the plenaries.

NOEL BURKE: We've got a few important things to announce. We would like to formally invite everyone to share our space in rooms 211 and 212, designated as the Youth Caucus room. We'll be giving out special beads for adults to wear on their name tags so they come visit us.

SARA SURFACE: We would also like to invite everyone to the amazing Synergy Ceremony planned, where we will get to see our very own youth bridging into young adulthood.


NOEL BURKE: Lastly, we would like to invite you to attend the youth and young adult worship, which will be held in room 203 AB on Saturday night.

SARA SURFACE: Youth caucus will be carrying around pink bandannas around GA. So don't be shy. Stop and say hello. We want to get to know you. And we won't bite.

NOEL BURKE: Have a great GA everybody.


VICTORIA MITCHELL: Good evening. I'm Victoria Mitchell of the Church of the Younger Fellowship.

LAURA GILMORE: And I'm Laura Gilmore from San Francisco.

VICTORIA MITCHELL: And we're the Young Adult Caucus co-Moderators. Our Chaplain this year is Cathy Ryan.

LAURA GILMORE: If you're looking for us in Plenary Hall, the Young Adult Caucus is sitting over there together. This year, you can also pick young adults out in the crowd by the ocean-blue ribbons on our name tags. Young Adult Caucus staff are also wearing ocean-blue bandannas in some form or fashion. We can be found in room 210 AB.

VICTORIA MITCHELL: We would like to honor that this GA is not only the Association's 50th anniversary, but that it is also the Young Adult Caucus's homecoming. Young Adult Caucus began right here in Charlotte in 1993, 18 years ago.


LAURA GILMORE: We have some programming that we'd like to bring to your attention this year. Look for specific details in your program book. Please join us for the second annual Contemporary Joint Worship with the youth on Saturday evening.

VICTORIA MITCHELL: If you're interested in campus ministry, attend our workshop called Conversations on Campus Ministry, where we'll discuss common challenges and share our solutions and experiences. Back for the third year in a row and always a favorite, we will be holding an interactive workshop about what young adults look for in a congregation. Come with your questions, and young adults will be there to answer them.

LAURA GILMORE: And finally, since this is the 50th anniversary, we will be collaboratively visioning our future in a conversation and panel called The Young Adult Movement: What's Next? We hope everyone will make wonderful multi-generational connections at this historic General Assembly.

VICTORIA MITCHELL: Have a wonderful GA.


Introduce Right Relations Team

GINI COURTER: Please welcome the convener of your Right Relationship Team, back again, Garner Takahashi-Morris.

GARNER TAKAHASHI-MORRIS: Good evening. Wow, there is a lot of you out there. This is going to be fun. My name is Garner Takahashi-Morris, and I'm the chair of the Right Relationship Team. Joining me are Michael Tino, Daniele DiBona, Beth Norton, Rezeek Brown, Morgan Ivens, Chip Roush, Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, Laurie Thomas, Michael Han, Christian Smit, and Lee Freeman. Our goal is—


Our goal is to support you. In a community of this size, we are blessed to have so many perspectives and experiences in one place. And when the inevitable happens, and our trust and faith in each other is broken, we will do our best to help rebuild it together. It is hard work to stay in Right Relationship. And it matters, what we do and say to each other. Oppression is a reality of the world that we live in, and so it's present and active in our community as well. It takes all of us to realize the transformative potential of this community. If one person is hurting, we are all hurting. By the same turn, with each moment of learning with grace, we grow as a community and as a religious movement. If we cannot learn in this gathering of beloved people, then how can we ask it of our world?

And so as a team, we ask it of you. Have challenging conversations with each other and help each other to grow. If you need help in having these conversations, call us. When you have these conversations successfully, please let us know. As found in your GA banner, our phone number is 980-228-1162. We'll be wearing these green shirts— or green ribbons and buttons, as several other people are displaying for you— and we'll be in many workshops. And I will always be standing at the back of Plenary Hall. Come say hi. We look forward to talking with you.



GINI COURTER: Thank you. There being no further business to come before us tonight, and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this plenary session portion of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:00 AM on Thursday, June 23, 2011.

50th Anniversary Introduction

GINI COURTER: And I now call on the Reverend John Buehrens, Chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee to help me in calling us now into a spirit of worship, reflection, and aspiration.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: We come from the four directions.

GINI COURTER: We arrive out of many singular rooms.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: We come together to remind one another in covenant.

GINI COURTER: To rest for a moment on the forming edges of our lives.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: To resist the headlong tumble into the future.

GINI COURTER: Until we claim for ourselves awareness and deep gratitude.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Because of those who came before, we are.

GINI COURTER: Because of, and in spite of, the horizons of their vision—

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: —we keep this faith, that there is a deep unity in our diversity.

GINI COURTER: That the moral arc of the Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: That we are universally connected, in mystery and miracle, to a spirit not of our own making.

GINI COURTER: That in that spirit, we can turn the world around.

KELLIE WALKER: I can't wait to hear you sing on this next song. Let's raise our voices together in Harry Belafonte's inspirational "Turn the World Around." It asks us to get to know each other. Nick Leonard and I invite you to rise in body or in spirit and harmonize as you will.


REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Of course, to turn the world around, we'd do well to begin by trying to turn ourselves in the right direction, starting by admitting our past mistakes. No two people have helped us more to do that over the years than my onetime colleagues in UUA leadership, the former trustee from this district, and co-Chair of our Journey Toward Wholeness, Dr. Leon Spencer, and Denise Taft Davidoff, who served as Moderator when I was President 1993 to 2001.


DENISE TAFT DAVIDOFF: My first ever General Assembly was in 1968, when the UUA was just seven years old. This was the famous, or infamous, Cleveland GA where the black empowerment controversy began, or erupted, or entered, our institutional consciousness, depending on your viewpoint. Within a few hours of our arrival in Cleveland, Jerry and I became active in Full Back, the white support group for the Black Affairs Council and the Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus, and our lives were forever changed by the experience.

Then we Unitarian universalists backed away from controversy and from issues of race. We knew it. It went on too long. In 1992, as an at-large member of the UUA Board of Trustees, I helped to draft, bring to the GA floor, and secure passage of a resolution calling for the UUA to find the heart, the money, the methods, to become anti-racist and multicultural. We responded to President Bill Schulz's report to the delegates with the passionate support of Moderator Natalie Gulbrandsen. Leon Spencer, my friend, mentor, and inspirational colleague, trustee, will remember.

A year later, in 1993, I came here to Charlotte unopposed to succeed Nat as Moderator. But my excitement was tempered by agony over our clear lack of progress in understanding what it would mean to be anti-racist. That GA's highlight was to be a Thomas Jefferson ball, historic costumes optional. I can never forget Hope Johnson rising to a point of personal privilege to ask, in costume, the scars, and the rags, and the chains of slavery, in costume. I didn't go to the ball. Neither did John. We were on the patio of the hotel protesting, with brave people of color and their white supporters. It was 25 years after Cleveland, and what had we learned? I remember my sadness, my fury, my anguish, and my resolve to do whatever I could to make us more aware, more engaged, more determined, and damn it, more effective.


It has been, and continues to be, very hard work, this justice we like to talk and sing and pray about. Tonight, I salute the many who have taught me, companioned me, encouraged me, and you, on this gritty, painful, very necessary journey toward wholeness.


DR. LEON SPENCER: I remember my first General Assembly. It was in Atlanta, Georgia, 1985. The theme was Like the Phoenix Rising. I was a member of the military, just returning from five years of Church in the Box, and Church of the Larger Fellowship in Europe. At the Atlanta General Assembly, I was excited to be in touch with other Unitarian Universalists, especially UU people of color. Bill Schultz was elected President of the UUA. Natalie Gulbrandsen was elected Moderator. The amendment to the UUA bylaws purposes, article principles and purposes gained final approval. And the Ware Lecturer was Shirley Chisholm.

I remember all these events. But most of all, I remember that a part of the agenda at that General Assembly was a resolution forming the Black Concerns Working Group. The discussion and debate around the resolution to form the Black Concern Working Group was painful. And at the same time, it was another attempt to restart the journey to start truth telling again and to move towards reconciliation. Little did I know that three months later, I would become chairperson of the Black Concerns Working Group.

The journey and process has been long. I now realize that I have never attended a General Assembly where there was not an instance of someone from a historically marginalized group being wounded. It is also true that each General Assembly, there has also been the gift of an opportunity for healing. No one intended to hurt, but the hurt happened however it happened, and it continues to happen General Assembly after General Assembly. I think that we are called to remember it is not the intention, it is the impact.

I also remember the 1993 General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina. The theme was Universalists for such a time as this. John Buehrens was elected president. Denny Davidoff was elected Moderator. The Ware Lecturer was Marion Wright Edelman. Both Denny and I were members of the UUA board. I was the trustee from the Thomas Jefferson district. Delegates came to the GA renewed in our enthusiasm for our work around anti-racism programming. However after the Charlotte GA, all the pain surrounding the realities about our identity, we returned to our congregation knowing how much more work needed to be done on our journey towards wholeness.

So here we are in Charlotte, North Carolina, 17 years later, celebrating our 50th anniversary as Unitarian Universalists. We remember this space, yet we come with renewal. The TJ district spent nearly 17 years finding a new name. The action came from congregations and bold leadership and the use of the democratic process. It was recognized that people of color and allies with feelings about the name were already here with voices. We got a new name. Name changing is a spiritual process. It was not painless, and it offered us the opportunity once again to tell truths about our journey, to hear one another, to honor the democratic process, and to honor the sacred process of naming. Welcome. Welcome to the Southeast district.


REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Having acknowledged and confessed our imperfections, I invite you now to join voices responsibly in A Litany of Atonement, adapted from the words in our hymnal by my dear friend and colleague the Reverend Rob Eller-Isaacs. For being too often blind to inherited and unmerited privilege—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For remaining silent when a single word would have made a difference—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For each time that our fears made us rigid or inaccessible—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For each time that we have struck out in unrighteous anger—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For the self-centeredness that too often separates us from the needs and experiences of others—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For falling short of the admonitions of the spirit within and beyond—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For losing sight of our unity—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: For these and so many acts and omissions, both evident and subtle, which have nurtured the illusion of our separateness—

AUDIENCE: —we seek forgiveness and begin again in love.


REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Our collective past blessedly has not been all one of failings. The 50 years of our life as an association have also been marked by courageous witness on behalf of justice and human rights. Joining me now to remember some of the past 50 years are my predecessor as UUA President William F. Schulz, now President and CEO of the UU Service Committee, and my successor William G. Sinkford, now Senior Minister of First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon.

REV. BILL SCHULTZ: After the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America each met in Boston in 1960 and voted to consolidate, they gathered in Symphony Hall for a joint service of worship and covenant. Donald Harrington, Minister of the Community Church of New York, who had worked hard to find mutually agreeable language to describe the spiritual heritage and purpose of the new UUA, gave a stirring sermon on Unitarian Universalism yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

REV. BILL SINKFORD: The first President of the UUA, Dana Greeley, helped Dr. King organize interfaith leaders from all over the United States to march together at Selma, where both a UU Minister, James Reed, and UU lay woman, Viola Liuzzo, gave their lives for the cause of racial justice.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Greeley so believed in Unitarian Universalism as a catalyst for interfaith cooperation that he worked with founder Nikkyo Niwano of the Rissho Kosei-kai, a 6 million member Buddhist reform group in Japan, to create both the Interfaith International Association for religious freedom and the influential World Conference on Religion and Peace. Tonight, Kosho Niwano, granddaughter of the Founder and President Designate of the RKK, honors us all by her presence here, as we work, and pray with and for, the people of the land of Japan, and pray with all of her followers for peace in the world we share today.

REV. BILL SCHULTZ: During the 1970s, under the leadership of President Robert Nelson West, the UUA courageously took the lead in publishing the full text of the Pentagon Papers, documenting government deception about the war in Vietnam.


REV. BILL SINKFORD: In 1977, the General Assembly passed the Women in Religion Resolution, and newly-elected President Paul Carnes, a strong supporter of justice in all its forms, acted quickly to implement it by forming the Women in Religion task force. Carnes' time in office was sadly cut short by his death of cancer in 1999. The Women in Religion movement led the way in revising and deepening our covenantal statement of principles and purposes. By the 1990s, the percentage of women in our active ministry would rise to become a majority.


REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Pioneering among religious groups in comprehensive sexuality education had led to our beginning to take seriously the full worth and dignity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, from the founding in 1973 of the first denominational office devoted to such concerns, to a leading role in the national effort for equal marriage rights for all.


REV. BILL SCHULTZ: All this activism, plus our own imperfections, plus deep financial difficulties and painful cutbacks, cost Unitarian Universalism something. All liberal religious groups lost members and momentum in the 1970s. But starting in the 1980s, in the presidency of Eugene Pickett, we began to rebuild and expand, especially in regions where we had never been strong, like the Southeast, where Pickett himself had ably served. We had strong help from what is now the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Long Island and its Veatch program.


REV. BILL SINKFORD: We returned, we built, we changed, we strengthened our witness. Then in the summer of 2008, as the economy faltered, our congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee was visited with violence. That outrage inspired an outpouring of love. And that, in turn, inspired us to launch Standing on the Side of Love as an embracing national campaign on behalf of the worth and dignity of same-sex couples, immigrant families, and all those threatened by violence.


REV. BILL SCHULTZ: More than 50 years ago in that Symphony Hall service, Universalists and Unitarians united in reciting the deeds and illustrious names of many spiritual forebears. How many more could we recite from these past 50 years? There are now too many to name or count, both known and unknown. Yet you can recall them by retelling their stories for our posterity.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: I challenge you to honor the known and the unknown who served our faith well by recording testimonials and memorials in the video booth at the 50th anniversary exhibit here at this General Assembly. Meanwhile, I invite you to join with Kellie Walker in singing a hymn composed in prophetic anticipation of the consolidation of our two liberal religious traditions, and sung at that first joint worship service in Symphony Hall, As Tranquil Streams.


That service at Symphony Hall was one of the covenanting. I invite you now to join with us in recovenanting together.

REV. BILL SCHULTZ: We remember that we are both heirs and stewards of this living tradition.

AUDIENCE: Grateful for the persevering souls who came before us, we join in proclaiming our kinship with all people, in defending the liberty of conscience, in seeking a prophetic social justice that rejects every form of oppression, and in living in the transforming light of love.

REV. BILL SCHULTZ: Surrounded as we are by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us take up with faith and courage the fresh tasks to which this gathering calls us.

REV. BILL SINKFORD: The words of W.E.B. Debois ring down through the years. Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient time.

AUDIENCE: Today is the seed time. Now are the hours of work. And tomorrow comes the harvest.

REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: Sustained by that holy mystery from which we come, and to which we will all return, may we be of one spirit in laboring, as did those who came before, for an Earth made free and fair, with all her people one.

AUDIENCE: Thus do we covenant. So may it be, and amen.

KELLIE WALKER: We are privileged tonight to premiere a new Unitarian Universalist hymn, commissioned for this anniversary with words by Thomas Mikelson and music by Tom Benjamin, who is with us here tonight to conduct. He will conduct this fine Southeast choir, and I invite you to rise in body or in spirit with the choir and join in singing Together. Leonard and I will sing with you on your part. And we'll sing it twice, just as shown in your music.


REV. PETER MORALES: Let us join together now in a spirit of reflection and prayer. Oh spirit of life and love that lives within us and among us, be with us now. Help us to take our history not just into our minds but into our hearts. Open us so that we can feel our past live in us, the joy, the disappointment, the passion, the pain, the hope. Let the past, all of it, live in the core of our being. Let us be humble. Let us be honest. Help us to take instruction from our past. And let us also be inspired. But more than anything, let us feel your spirit, the spirit of deep compassion, here among us, this very moment. Oh spirit of love and life, help us to know, truly know, that we are your people. We're not perfect. We mess up. Sometimes we talk too much. We are bound together by our collective memory and more importantly, by our shared aspirations. We are drawn together by what we love, by what we hold sacred, and by our vision of what we may yet create together. Finally, tender and gentle spirit, guide us, inspire us, embolden us. For our work, your work, oh spirit, is not yet done. Amen.



SPEAKER 1: We are the young, the present and the future.

SPEAKER 2: In this community, we have loved and been loved. We have lived and grown.

ALL SPEAKERS: We have called this our home. We have made this our own.

SPEAKER 3: Through our faith, we have been challenged.

SPEAKER 4: Through our faith, we have learned and dreamed.

ALL SPEAKERS: We have called this our home. We have made this our own.

SPEAKER 5: In the future of our faith, we will continue to grow and lead.

SPEAKER 6: We will share, we will hope.

ALL SPEAKERS: We will call this our home. We will make this our own.

SPEAKER 1: We represent Unitarian Universalist children, youth, and young adults. We are the present of our movement. Our actions have already begun to lay the foundation for what our faith will look like in years ahead.

SPEAKER 3: As young adults, we have been, and will continue to be, passionate and committed leaders of our faith. Thanks to our attention to practicing new styles of worship and young adult conferences, congregations around the country now hold soulful sundowns and include other forms of alternative worship in their programming.

SPEAKER 5: Young adults and older youth have worked together in the past to support our faith's commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multi-culturalism work by leading and facilitating groundwork trainings for Unitarian Universalist youth.


SPEAKER 1: As youth in our community, we are a source of new leadership and inspiration. We constantly remind our families, and others around us, that we are valued and valuable members of our communities.

SPEAKER 4: We are proud to have taken a leading role last year in scheduling next year's assembly in Phoenix, as a justice assembly of social witness. We will continue to be inspiring to and inspired by this faith. And that holds us together.

SPEAKER 2: As children, we are the youngest members of our communities. We are often the reasons why our parents seek a Unitarian Universalist community in the first place.


SPEAKER 6: We constantly remind our communities to be more welcoming to persons of all ages and ways of worshipping. Of all the people in our community, we will be the most affected by the choices made today.


SPEAKER 3: Like others of all ages, we too have dreams of how our faith could be even better in the future. We envision a vibrant, sustaining, inspiring organization, doing a massive amount of good that surpasses all expectations. We can create lasting, sustainable changes, that will outlive all of us, allowing generations after us to continue growing and evolving our faith.

SPEAKER 2: As present and future leaders of our faith, there are elements of Unitarian Universalism that we will treasure and seek to preserve as we move forward.

SPEAKER 1: We will treasure the unconditional acceptance we feel, our intentional and participatory worship with one another, and how we maintain and sustain feelings of close relationship. We will continue to encourage spiritual exploration, and to value the support of our congregations in that quest. We aspire to grow in numbers and in influence to be more active participants in the issues that affect everyday life.

SPEAKER 6: In the future, we will be everywhere, in cities, towns, and overseas. People all around the world will know about Unitarian Universalism and have access to join us.


SPEAKER 4: 10 years from now, 50 years from now, we imagine being part of a faith community that is radically inclusive of people of different races, ages, and religious backgrounds. We look forward to being part of a community that intentionally engages with diversity. We will test and re-test new methods of worship that make our community more spiritually welcoming and fulfilling. We look forward to promoting our dynamic faith through both technology and face to face experience, like conferences, social justice initiatives, church services, and small group ministries.

SPEAKER 3: The rising generation of UU leaders has many unique skills to contribute to this vision of the future. We look forward to using our intuitive yet tech-savvy skills to spread the good news of Unitarian Universalism in its very spiritual paths and its inclusive spirit.

TWO SPEAKERS: We are the present.

We will be the future.

We look forward to living and worshipping in a vital, vibrant, Unitarian Universalism 50 years from now.


What they dreamed, and more, be ours to do.


KELLIE WALKER: Let's rise, in body or spirit together, and sing that vision into being with The Fire of Our Commitment.


REV. PETER MORALES: Please remain standing and take the hand of your neighbor for our closing words. As we take the hand of our neighbors, let us feel, right here and now, the power of the bonds that unite us. We are one people. Feel the spirit and the ideals of our forebears. That spirit is here. It lives in us when we love each other and when we dream bold dreams. Let us go and make those dreams come true. Let our future being.


REV. JOHN BUEHRENS: A birthday anniversary is a chance to party. Please follow us to the UUA's 50th Anniversary party, next door in the Exhibit Hall.


Members of the Community Church of New York walk in the banner parade.

Members of UU congregations and organizations from all over the world marched with their banners during the Opening Ceremony's Banner Parade.

Banner Parade participants at General Assembly 2011.
Banner Parade at General Assembly 2011.