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

Welcoming Celebration & General Session I, General Assembly 2015

Captions were created during the live event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

General Assembly (GA) 2015 Event 113

Program Description

Building a New Way! An in-gathering hymn sing, followed by the opening session, banner parade, and worship. As we gathered together, we grounded and deepened in the gift of one another’s presence. We explored beauty, brokenness, forgiveness, and building anew through poetry, music, dance, and story.


  • Jim Key
  • Rev. Wendy Bartel
  • Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley
  • Rev. Lynn Gardner

Worship Leaders

  • Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley
  • Rev. Lynn Gardner
  • Rev. Wendy Bartel
  • Sarah Bush Dance Project
  • Susan Peck, GA Music Coordinator
  • Mark David Buckles, GA Band Leader
  • Dustin Hunley, keyboards
  • Tim Gilson, bass
  • Timothy Rap, drums
  • and all the other wonderful musicians and participants!


Approximate start times noted in parentheses.

  • Banner Parade (41:30)
  • Review and Adopt Rules (58:30)
  • Introduction: Chaplains (1:05:00)
  • Introduction: Right Relations Team (1:08:00)
  • Introduction: Youth Caucus and Young Adults@GA (1:13:30)
  • Introduction: GA Accessibility (1:18:00)

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.

Gathering Music

Susan Peck, GA Band, Angel de Armendi

  • "Gather the Spirit," by Jim Scott
  • "For the Earth Forever Turning/Por la Tierra sempiterna," by Kim Oler, trans. Gaylord.E. Smith
  • "Ven, ven, alégrate hoy/Enter Rejoice and Come In," by Louise Ruspini, trans. Lilia Cuervo
  • "Love One Another," by First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Nashville Youth

Opening Song

Michael Guinn, G.T. Rideout, S. Peck

  • "Building a New Way," by Martha Sandefer


Moderator Jim Key: I now call to order the Fifty-Fourth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

Are you ready for a great week in Portland? Are you ready for inspiring music and worship—over 10 hours of worship and music? Are you ready to sample some of the 175 workshops to inspire you and challenge you, about 2000 hours? Are you ready for the Ware Lecturer, Dr. Cornell West? Are you ready for the witness event on Saturday? The 4 hours of evening entertainment?

Are you ready to participate in the democratic process as our Association conducts its business, about 14 hours? There are over 42 hours of programming you could participate in over the next four days if you have the stamina for it.

Do we have any governance wonks in the audience? If you answer yes to ANY of those questions, you are in the right place: the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR!

My name is Jim Key and I am privileged to serve our Association as Moderator and Chief Governance Officer.

If this is your first GA, raise your hand and wave! If this is your first year and you are also a delegate raise your hand. If this is your 10th or more GA, raise your hand! 20th or more? 30th or more? 40th or more?

Would you like a better seat? Denise Rimes, our head usher, could someone on your team offer these folks a seat up front?

Whether this is your first or fifty-fourth, you are going to have a great four days.

The Board, staff, and GA Planning Committee have taken notice of previous year’s comments and evaluations, so you GA junkies will see some changes as we go through the week: in worship, in witness, and in our general sessions, the sessions formerly known as plenary.

We have asked our presenters to link their remarks to this year's theme of Building a New Way. We have also asked them to connect their presentations to our Association's Global Ends or Shared Vision which hundreds of you participated in crafting over the past several years. You can find them on page 115 in the program book that you may have on paper or that you may have on your electronic devices via your increasingly popular APP: UUA GA; I encourage you to become familiar with our ENDS. These Ends statements are our North Star guiding your association into the future.

Additionally, we have asked presenters to challenge us to think about the issues facing this free and liberal religion in this increasingly troubled world, and how we might learn from what they share. And we hope you enjoy the GA Talks that are sprinkled throughout our general sessions.

Like TED talks, we hope they introduce ideas worth spreading. These GA Talks are inspired by an idea from the young adult leadership and you will notice they have four of their own branded as YA@GA talks.

Before I introduce the Banner Parade, let me suggest you keep your smart phones and tablets handy. We encourage you to tweet if you are so moved, and you might want to use the hashtag UUAGA so others can follow all the comments and pictures you might share this week about what you are experiencing. If you haven't yet downloaded the GA App, you might want to do so now. Search the App store for UUA General Assembly 2015 and take it from there.

Processional: Banner Parade

Moderator: The Banner Parade is always a highlight of our first day together. It shows us the creative and artistic ways congregations and other UU organizations choose to represent our values, theologies, and our geographies in textiles.

Always fun, always energetic! Let the Banner Parade begin!

Wendy, Leon, Lynn, Matt Meyer, and Friends

  • "Drum Call"

Glen Thomas Rideout and GA Band

  • "Build It with Love," by Londonbeat

Jeff and GA Band

  • "Dancing Down the Road," by Jeff Chamberlain

Moderator: Wasn't that fantastic? Great music, beautiful and fanciful banners from all over. I have walked in the banner parade a few times myself; always fun!

General Session I

Review and Adopt Rules

Moderator: Our singular business item for tonight’s general session that requires the delegates to vote is the adoption of the Rules of Procedure for this General Assembly. So those of you who are delegates, start fumbling for those yellow voting cards.

The proposed Rules of Procedure can be found on pages 92 through 94 of the Final Agenda or Program Book.

These rules will govern our consideration of, and voting upon, the business items that come before us during our general 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 5 provides that no amendments to a business resolution, bylaw change or rule change will be in order unless submitted for consideration at the mini-assembly for that item.

Also, please note that Rule 2 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. A vote will be counted only in two instances.

If there is doubt about the outcome of a 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 the request.

In either instance, the count will be made by the tellers who are present on the floor of the assembly. They are wearing those tres chic and highly visible vests. Please remember that if debates get heated–these tellers are volunteers just like you so please treat them with compassion.

In addition, Rule 7 provides that separate microphones will be designated as pro and con for discussion of proposed bylaw amendments, rules, resolutions or actions.

The pro microphone is up front on your right (point). The con microphone is up front on your left (point).

There is also an amendment microphone which has been placed at the front of the arena (point), and a procedural microphone which has been placed immediately in front of me (point).

Please note that points of personal privilege and points of information must be made from the procedural mike, not from the pro or con mikes or the amendment mike. By the way, only delegates may speak from the microphones, except by express permission of the Moderator.

I strongly urge those of you who are attending General Assembly General Sessions for the first time to read the Rules of Procedure. Particularly look at Rule 6 on page 92 of the Rules, so that you understand the time limits in effect. No person may speak on any motion for more than two minutes. Thirty minutes is the time allowed for discussion of any proposed bylaw amendment, rule change, resolution or action on a report that is on or admitted to the final agenda.

Before proceeding with our business, I want to introduce you to Tom Bean, our legal counsel and parliamentarian. He is sitting over there to my left.

All clear? There will be a pop quiz on this in the morning.

Will the Vice-Moderator make the appropriate motion with respect to the Rules of Procedure?

Donna Harrison: Moved: That the Rules of Procedure of this General Assembly as set forth in full on pages 92 through 94 of the Final Agenda be adopted.

Moderator: Is there a second?

Does anyone want to discuss the rules?

There being no [time for further] discussion of the Rules of Procedure, discussion is now closed and a vote is in order. All those in favor of adopting the Rules of Procedure, please do so by raising your voting card. (Pause for response.) All those opposed (Pause for response.)

Let's wait for the off-site delegates to vote on these rules.

(A two-thirds vote is required to adopt the Rules of Procedure; any Amendment requires a two-thirds vote. The Moderator announces the result of the vote.)

The motion carries and the Rules of Procedure are adopted.

Moderator: Before I introduce some important volunteers essential to this General Assembly, I want to recognize two special guests. The Honorable Cheryle Kennedy, Councilwoman of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council is in the house. Ms. Kennedy is a descendant of the Chinookan people, the first nation of the lower Columbia River area. Also with us is The Honorable Sam Robinson, Vice President of the Chinook Tribal Council. We are pleased to have you both with us.

Introduction: Chaplains

Moderator: Please welcome Reverend Jennifer Brooks to tell us the important work of the GA Chaplains.

Jennifer Brooks: Greetings, Portland General Assembly.

I’m Jennifer Brooks, and this year at GA I’m the Lead General Assembly Chaplain. There are many chaplains at G.A. serving many of our constituent groups.

Let me tell you what makes the G.A. Chaplain Corps unique. We are the chaplains chosen by the GA Planning Committee available to everyone 24-hours a day. All of our chaplains are UU ministers, and we come from a diversity that we hope reflects the beauty of this gathering.

Your G.A. Chaplains offer several services:

We will have morning devotional practices in the Meditation Room, Conference Center Room D131. That’s also a great place to give yourself a break of silence, meditation or prayer during these long days at GA.

If you’re in need of spiritual support or pastoral care, every day there are drop-in hours in the Chaplain Office, Room 550B.

If you need a chaplain outside office hours, or the office is just too far away, it’s OK to call the Chaplain phone. It’s monitored 24/7, so even if it rings to voicemail please leave a message and one of us will get back to you right away.

As with last year, the GA Chaplains are working closely with your Right Relations team—in fact our offices are next door. We know that often a breach of relationship needs both an institutional and a pastoral response. Working with the Right Relations Team, we’ll seek to meet both needs.

Now say hello to your 2015 GA Chaplains (in alphabetical order):

  • Jan Carlsson-Bull
  • Alex Holt
  • Rebekah Montgomery
  • Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa
  • Andrew Weber

All during GA, you’ll find us roaming throughout the Convention Center. You’ll know us by our hats: Look for the bright gold UUA logo. Even if you're not needing to talk to us, feel free to pull us aside to say hello—or drop by the chaplains' office.

We are here to serve this gathering of beloved community.

Introduction: Right Relations Team

Moderator: Please welcome the co-chairs of your 2014 Right Relationship Team, Raziq Brown, and Mr. Barb Greve.

Raziq Brown: Good Evening.

This is Barb Greve, I am Raziq Brown, and we are your Right Relationship Team Coordinators.

I would also like to introduce the rest of our team: Becky Leyser, Ben Gabel, Coleen Murray, Elizabeth Mount, Kristin Famula, Lisa Bovee-Kemper, Phoebe Masterson Eckhart, Steven Ballesteros, Tessie Mandeville, and Tomoko Takano.

In the words of one our predecessors Garner Takahashi Morris:

The goal of the Right Relationship Team is to support General Assembly (GA) participants. 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 [The Team] will do our best to help you rebuild that faith and trust.

Very plainly, we exist to take the pulse of the community for the GA Planning Committee and every one of you here. Whilst carrying out those duties we endeavor to make sure everyone feels safe, if they don’t, then we try find them the help they need.

We are not enforcers, we are not ushers, and while some of us are ministers we are not chaplains.

Why? Well, to make a long story short: Once there was a General Assembly where many participants felt that when they came into conflict with other members of our beloved community there were no channels to create healthy dialog between themselves, other participants, the community, and the GA Planning Committee. What ended up happening was that much of the business that gets done at GA was put on hold. Many people’s nights were ruined. Some people, my own friends, left the faith all together.

From that… let’s call it: “growth moment”, The Right Relationship Team was born a team. A group of volunteers, just like you, who like talking helping people, serving their faith, and having healthy dialog.

What does that look like?

Well, let’s say you have an issue with another attendee. For example, an attendee stands up in the middle of general session and starts loudly swearing at the top of their lungs.

First, try and talk to them about it, ask them why they are swearing and if they could please stop. If that does not work or you feel like you might need some help getting a conversation started with a screaming person you can one of us in the orange shirts. If you feel you need pastoral care because profanity is triggering for you, we will find a chaplain. If you feel that you’ve noticed a trend of people standing in the middle of GA events and swearing at the top of their lungs talk to us and we will send that information the GAPC via our annual report and remind the rest of the conference on the following day that swearing at a room full of people is very disruptive behavior.

Does that sound straight forward enough?

[Wait for Audience Reply]

Great. While I’m here let me just get this out of the way now, “If you are having a bathroom related issue, by that I mean:

  • Where the restrooms are located
  • How much traffic is going into the restrooms


  • Who is using the bathroom

There is probably nothing any of us on the Right Relationship Team can do about it. You can trust me when I say, somewhere in this building is a restroom just for you, ask an usher and they will help you find it.

Let us remember our Unitarian Universalist commitment to the worth and dignity of all people. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) affirms its commitment to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The Association expects all attendees to conduct themselves in a professional manner with concern and respect for all.

As a courtesy, please allow persons using wheelchairs and scooters to exit meeting rooms first. Also, please leave elevators free for the use of persons using wheelchairs and scooters.

Please remember that a chaplain is available at any hour during GA for assistance in case of personal emergency or need for pastoral care. Office hours and after-hours phone numbers will be posted.

Thank You. Enjoy the conference. And have a pleasant morning.

Introduction: Youth Caucus Deans

Moderator: Please welcome Olivia Calvi & Andrea Briscoe, the co-deans of the Youth Caucus for this General Assembly.

Olivia Calvi: Hello everyone!

Andrea Briscoe: My name is Andrea Briscoe Briscoe, and I am from Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania.

Olivia Calvi: My name is Olivia Calvi, and I am from Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park, California.

Olivia Calvi: We are the co-deans of the Youth Caucus here at General Assembly 2015. There are over ____ youth at GA this year! We could not be happier sharing our faith with you all, working together to build a new way towards the future.

Andrea Briscoe: We would like to formally invite everyone of all ages to share our space in room ____ of the Convention Center. We’ll be hosting workshops and worships all week that you can find in your program book.

Olivia Calvi: --and when we say all ages, we really do mean it. We would love to see every one of you share our space throughout GA, working with us to create inter-generational connections.

Andrea Briscoe: Youth Caucus Staff will be wearing pink bandanas throughout the week and today we are all wearing our Staff t-shirts. Please come up and talk to us if you have any questions. Or if you just want to talk, we love doing that too.

Olivia Calvi: Last fall when Andrea and I began planning for General Assembly, we created a vision statement that guided us through the planning process. We want to share it with you in hopes it will help guide you throughout GA.

Andrea Briscoe: We envision GA 2015 as a spiritual gathering and collaboration of a multigenerational community, focused on reconnecting to our values and 7 principles.

Olivia Calvi: We envision a place where we strive to adapt our traditions to fit the growing and diverse society of which we are part.

Andrea Briscoe: We hope this vision statement helps you reconnect to our Unitarian Universalist values, reach out across generations and try something new!

Olivia Calvi: We are so excited to be a presence in this community and we hope you join us in celebrating our faith. Thank you!

Introduction: Young Adult Leaders

Moderator: Thank you Andrea and Olivia. Please welcome the Rev. Jonathan Rodgers and Ayla Halberstadt, the Co-Facilitators of YA at GA.

Jonathan: Hello GA, I’m Rev. Jonathan Rogers from the UU Congregation of Atlanta....

Ayla: And I’m Ayla Halberstadt from the UU Fellowship of Central Oregon, and we are the co-facilitators for the Young Adults @ General Assembly Group, now branded as YA@GA.

Jonathan: We could not be more pleased to be y’all’s co-conspirators in Building a New Way! You can identify us and other YA@GA staff throughout the week by looking for these blue bandanas that we will all be wearing. You can also find us by coming to room A107-108, where we will be hosting programming, worship and community-building sessions all week.

Ayla: We would like to call your attention particularly to the YA@GA GA Talks that will be taking place during programming slots and General Session. These dynamic and engaging presentations represent innovative ministries and initiatives within our movement. They are what Building a New Way looks like.

Jonathan: YA@GA will continue to collaboratively seek out and promote innovative and inspiring ministries in the years to come. To paraphrase GA Talks presenter Chris Crass: We believe in collective liberation, and we believe in our ability to win. Thank you!

Introduction: GA Accessibility

Moderator: Ayla and Jonothan, thank you.

The GA Planning Committee and Patty Cameron have done a great job over the years at making GA more and more accessible to more and more people.

Please welcome Patty Cameron, who is here to tell us about Accessibility Services at this General Assembly.

Patty Cameron: Come, come, whoever you are; wanderer, worshipper….no doubt you’ve sung this in your congregations. Here at General Assembly, it’s our collective role to welcome all! It is our collective role to practice radical hospitality in order to build a beloved community—a community that includes everyone—those who use mobility equipment, listening devices, interpreters, have chemical sensitivities, assist dogs, or need special seating to accommodate for vision or hearing.

My name is Patty Cameron and it’s my pleasure to coordinate Accessibility Services for General Assembly. Our services are available to anyone registered here at General Assembly, and our goal is to provide assistance that allows everyone to participate fully in GA.

While you’re here at GA, please pay particular attention as we pass along the halls, navigate the public witness event, and attend workshops together. Move along in the hallways, remembering that scooters don’t have brakes—please don’t stop suddenly to chat because the person behind you using a scooter can’t stop suddenly. Please reserve the elevators for people with mobility or health needs.

But don’t let this experience stop here; I hope you’ll take notice of all the accommodations available and bring these ideas back to your home congregations and become welcoming, inclusive communities.

I invite you to be with one another this week in ways that allow you to practice radical hospitality, stretch your comfort zone, enrich your spirit, open your heart a little (or a lot!), and widen your field as you take in all those around you whether they walk or ride. We are all part of this General Assembly—one beloved community—a bright, wonderful community of people of all abilities. Be with each other in love. Thank you!


Moderator: Thanks Patty and I echo her call to take this notion of full accessibility back to your congregations.

There being no further business to come before us, and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this general session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015. Please note that tomorrow’s session will immediately follow the Morning Devotional at 8:00 am.

Chalice Lighting

Moderator: Now we move into a period of reflection, worship, and celebration. Please welcome Katie Sykes, a youth from the Sierra Foothills of CA and Nathan Fraser, a youth from Silver Spring, MD to come forward to light our chalice. This is their first General Assembly.

Call to Worship

Peter Morales: We come this week from yet another place where tears cannot stop. The murders of nine black people in Charleston last week weigh upon us. We must remind one another that in a world where fear, ignorance and anger become a racial hatred that kills—in such a world love matters. We matter.

Let us share a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Charleston. In our silence let us rededicate ourselves to standing on the side of love.

Moment of silence (slides of Charleston victims)

Moderator: (After last slide).

These words from the Reverend Danny Reed, minister of The Unitarian Church of Charleston: “We will never be the same. Charleston will bear the scars of the assault on Mother Emanuel church, yet we will not be defeated. The work of justice is never-ending and commitment to the beloved community is ever needed. …love will prevail.”


  • Honoring the Ancestors…Earth…Now


Rev. Wendy Bartel

  • "Keepers of the Earth" by Joyce Poley


Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley

  • "Forgiving Helens" by Leon Dunkley

Adventure Story

Rev. Lynn Gardner

  • "Impossible Beauty"


Sarah Bush and Jeanette Jing Male



A Truth

Andrea Newall, Beth Norton, Deb Weiner

  • "There is a Love," by Beth Norton



  • We Rest in this Love


Leon, Lynn, and Wendy

Closing Song

Jeff Chamberlain and GA Band

  • "Hand in Hand," by Melissa Monforti

Accessible Recessional

  • "Hand in Hand, Love One Another"


  • "Build it with Love"
Dancers Jeanette Jing Male and Sarah Bush

Jeanette Jing Male and Sarah Bush performed an interpretive dance during opening session worship.

Mr Barb Greeve and Raziq Brown, co-chairs of Right Relations Team at General Assembly 2015

Mr. Barb Greeve and Raziq Brown introduce the work of the Right Relations Team.

UU World: liberal religion and life
Logo for General Assembly 2015 in Portland Oregon.

The theme of General Assembly 2015 in Portland, OR, wasBuilding a New Way.

Banner Parade

Opening Worship - Joyce Poley’s Keepers of the Earth

Opening Worship - Exploration - Forgiving Helens by Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley