General Session III, General Assembly 2018
General Assembly 2018 Event 303
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Co-Moderators Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams preside over the general sessions in which the business of the Association is being conducted.
- Call to Order
- Chalice Lighting
- Preliminary Credentials Report
- Covenant and Beloved Community
- Right Relationship Team Report
- President’s Report
- Beacon Press Report
- Introduction: International Guests
- Presentation: Distinguished Service Award I
- Presidential Search Committee Report
- Commission on Appraisal Report
- UU Women’s Federation Report
- Presentation: Angus MacLean Award
- Rules and Process Review
- Closing Reading
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.
Call to Order
Elandria Williams: I now call to order the Third General Session of the Fifty-Seventh General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Kathy Burek: E. B. White wrote, “If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning, torn between the desire to improve (or save) the world, and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
I think White poses a false dichotomy. All Are Called to simultaneously save and savor the world. Indeed, we cannot achieve the Beloved Community without saving the world from what is broken and harmful, and savoring what is beautiful and worthy. As we engage in the work of this General Assembly, may we be mindful of the call to both save and savor.
Right Relationship Team Report
Barb Greve: Does the Right Relationship Team have anything to report?
Hannah Roberts Villnave / Yadenee Hailu: (live caption)
Elandria: It is now time for the President’s Report. Please everyone give it up for the President of the UUA Susan Frederick- Gray! It has been a pleasure to work with her over the last year in the transformative work of our faith.
[Slide #1] Susan Frederick-Gray: Fellow Unitarian Universalists.
What a time this is! A time when we are all being called into a deeper practice of our theology—living into the call at the heart of Unitarian Universalism for beloved community—a community that practices a radically inclusive and compassionate, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural, multigenerational faith within and acts powerfully in partnership and solidarity for justice and liberation beyond.
This call comes to us in the midst of a time marked by tumult and pain. Last year, in the months leading up to General Assembly, our Association went through a period of major disruption. UUA president Peter Morales and several other senior leaders resigned, and we grieved for the death of our moderator, Jim Key. [Slide #2] Our interim co-Presidents, the Rev. Sofia Betancourt, the Rev. Bill Sinkford, and Dr. Leon Spencer provided a pastoral presence, stabilizing leadership and a call for deeper transformative action—a call to renewal and change—for the UUA and across our congregations and communities.
GA 2017 was a time of truth telling about the past and the present. We wrestled with and named the heartbreak, the mistrust, the broken promises and unfulfilled dreams of our faith. We were also confronted with an increasingly dangerous and dehumanizing political situation in our country and the world.
Last year was not the beginning of these challenges. And wrestling with them has been painful and difficult, but it has also been profoundly faithful. In a culture that loves debate but runs from conflict and discomfort, being faced with our own distance from the beloved community we espouse is an invitation to real and transformative change. And yes, we have many examples of both succeeding and falling short of this.
There is pain in change and growth. There is pain in childbirth, in resetting a bone, in building new muscle. The most painful wounds though, are those that go unattended, unnamed. And so we are called to do the attending that these times necessitate because the stakes are too high if we don’t.
Right now, the liberating achievements generations have won are being rolled back. The extrajudicial killing of black lives by police continue. The assault on the rights of transgender people, repeated attempts to ban Muslims, rolling back reproductive and health care access, the separation and jailing of children at the border affront our senses. [Slide #3] And all of this fueled by a rising nationalist movement that is proud to claim the symbols and ideology of Nazis and the Confederacy. I witnessed this all too clearly in Charlottesville, VA last August—a story I will tell on Sunday morning.
We are also living in a time in this county when mass shootings are becoming normal and our global climate is in chaos. [Slide #4] Last summer was a devastating season of storms and fires that moved us to establish a general disaster relief fund so many of you have donated to knowing climate disruptions will be ongoing.
At the same time, Unitarian Universalists have been examining the ways that a culture of white supremacy [Slide #5] continues to inhibit the fullness of the practice of our theology, each of our liberation, and the ability of people of color to thrive within this faith. We have seen how the burden of this institutional change work does not fall equally on all people. This year, we have seen a record number of religious professionals of color face challenges and conflicts in their ministries. Each instance and context is different, but the overall number is heartbreaking.
It is also important to acknowledge and celebrate that the number of religious professionals of color in our movement has been growing. [Slide #6] There are wonderful stories of success. And this year’s attendance at Finding Our Way Home, the UUA’s annual gathering of religious professionals of color for collegial support and continuing education, was the largest in its history. To Unitarian Universalists of Color, and Unitarian Universalists with identities that have been marginalized, dismissed or ignored in this faith—I want to say first and foremost, I am sorry for the hurt that has been and continues to be done. I know that microaggressions and practices that diminish and discount your leadership, your presence, your dignity and humanity are real. And the work of changing this reality is for all our leaders and congregations to take up. This is your faith.
You know its deep liberating theology and see who and what Unitarian Universalism can be if we live into the fullness of our calling. To each of you, I am committed to being a partner and ally with you so that you see yourself recognized at the center of this faith and it is felt with a clarity that no one can question.
What does it take to really live into bold change? It requires a clarity of direction and values to guide the work. It also requires diverse leadership committed to and knowledgeable about what is needed.
At the UUA, we are committed to institutional change work that we call the work of Inclusion, Equity and Change. [Slide #7] We are approaching this change work on three levels—at the Organization level of the UUA; at the Institutional level across the broader UU landscape; and at the Congregational level.
First—Organizationally and internally at the UUA. Here are some of the first moves we’re making in changing the UUA’s internal workplace culture: This fall, we completed a thorough review of hiring practices to implement the diversity hiring goals set by the interim co-Presidents last Spring. [Slide #8] These changes include putting our theological values in our personnel manual, changing requirements for job openings to allow for a broader range of experience to be considered, and creating diverse hiring teams and training for hiring managers on these practices.
We embraced collaborative leadership models, including co-Directors for the Ministry and Faith Development department (Sarah Lammert and Jessica York) and in the Southern Regional Lead position (Connie Goodbread and Natalie Briscoe). We’ve put diversity of leadership as a foremost priority—including professional diversity, promoting religious educators and lay leaders into top level positions at the Association.
[Slide #9] I invited Taquiena Boston to serve as Special Advisor to the President for Inclusion, Equity and Change, recognizing that in order to live into multicultural religious community, the commitment needs to live not as a department of the UUA, but at its center. Next year, we are putting together a cross-staff institutional change design team to help guide further organizational and culture change.
One lesson that already emerged in this work is a reminder that we can do big change at the UUA. The Justice GA created in response to the boycott in Arizona is one example. The move from 25 Beacon Street to 24 Farnsworth is another. This was a major change and it was guided by the values of collaboration, accessibility, innovation and environmental sustainability. I am grateful for former President Peter Morales leadership in the move. And similar to the work of dismantling a culture of white supremacy, our commitment was not a question of if the change would happen but simply how to make it so.
Now at the larger Association-wide level, here’s how we are engaging and supporting broader institutional change.
First is the UUA’s support for the vital work of the [Slide #10] Commission on Institutional Change which is examining in breadth and depth the culture and practices of Unitarian Universalism, the UUA and congregations—and how there are real differences in outcomes for members, leaders and religious professionals based on identity. The supportive relationship between senior staff and the Commission is essential to guiding the change work at the UUA. To the members of the commission, Leslie Takahashi, Chairperson, DeReau Farrar, Natalie Feinimore, Mary Byron, Elias Ortega-Aponte and Caitlin Breedlove—Thank you! And thank you to the congregations you serve for supporting you in taking on this wider Associational leadership. It is a gift these congregations are giving to the larger Association. Thank you.
The funding of the Board’s $5.3 million commitment to Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is another bold investment in institutional change and has been a key priority this year. [Slide #11] BLUU is one of the most innovative and exciting ministries in Unitarian Universalism—committed to 1. Providing spiritual care for Black UU’s, 2. Supporting and amplifying the leadership of Black UU’s and 3. Providing UU spiritual sustenance to grassroots justice movements. You’ll hear more specific updates later at GA but we are approaching nearly $3.1 million in gifts and pledges so far.
And over the next few years, we need to be building and investing, right alongside the commitment to BLUU, the resources for the UUA and congregational change work, as well as support for the ministries of DRUUMM and TRUUST and EqUUal Access to make sure we are funding institutional change work across our association.
Okay, congregations! The most important part, yes? This year has been one of a lot of transition at the UUA and we are diving deep into examining and shifting our culture, but the truth is, the work takes deepest root within our congregations—where we live into the fullness of the calling.
So, here is how we are bringing this work to congregations this year—and it’s only the beginning.
[Slide #12] A cross staff team, including the Faith Development Office and Outreach and Public Witness curated resources and skill building tools for congregations on dismantling white supremacy. The Office of Church Staff Finances has put together resources on staffing for diversity in congregations. We’re strengthening our commitment to the annual Finding Our Way Home retreat, support for a TRUUST gathering of transgender religious professionals and THRIVE leadership school for young adults. We are also doing an audit of the UUA’s many scholarships, grants and assistance funds for congregations and leaders through the lens of equity, inclusion and change.
Next year, we will invest in training on cultural competency and race, gender, identity and power dynamics for UUA staff, particularly staff who work directly with congregations so we are skilled partners with congregations in their own change efforts. We also are looking to invest more attention and support for ministerial start ups, particularly for congregations calling or hiring religious professionals of color.
These are just the next steps in the long haul work of nurturing cultural and institutional change.
And the work is not just internal. [Slide #13] One of the most important ways the UUA serves the mission of Unitarian Universalism is by amplifying a national moral voice for our values in the world. This year, we’ve invested in a strategic review of our public witness work and made the intentional decision to center our justice work in solidarity with grassroots organizing that is led by people of color, indigenous people, and folks directly impacted by oppression and injustice.
In collaboration with EqUUal Access, we responded to the call to change the ableist language of Standing on the Side of Love and renewed our justice organizing campaign to be [Slide #14] Side with Love!
The UUA and Unitarian Universalists across the country have been showing up and organizing with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival with Bishop William Barber. [Slide #15] A campaign with a broad moral agenda that addresses poverty, access to healthcare and quality education, climate justice, LGBTQI rights, women’s rights and the fight against criminalization, deportations and expanding militarism.
Last month, I was arrested alongside 19 other UU’s as well as other religious leaders on the first day of 40 days of direct action with more than 100 UU’s taking direct action with the campaign since that first Monday.
The examples go on but a final one: we see this centering in our justice work in the growing response of Unitarian Universalists to the work of expanding sanctuary and through the Love Resists campaign combatting criminalization of immigrants and communities of color.
Through Love Resists, we’re strengthening our work to end the Money Bail system—the highlight of the public witness this year led by Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. We offer educational resources, coaching, and spiritual sustenance for those engaged in sanctuary policies, community support networks, and accompaniment programs. [Slide #16] Currently, across the country, over 80 UU congregations are part of the UU Sanctuary Movement. 8 UU congregations are currently providing physical sanctuary to individuals or families, more are ready if asked, and more are accompanying immigrants through the court system.
And this Spring, through Side With Love, when the US President threatened a caravan of refugees coming to the US border, many UU’s opened their homes to sponsor refugees and show that as hate tries to close our borders, we will open our hearts and our homes. This is the foundation of our justice work—the call to keep our hearts open in the midst of policies and politics that tell our hearts to be afraid and cut off from one another.
From Love Resists to Side With Love we are showing up again and again for humanity and with a spirit of bold and courageous love.
All of this incredible internal and external work—and the work to come in years ahead—is the work of a tremendously faithful group of people—so many of you in your congregations, and the amazing staff of your UUA.
I want to take a moment to introduce the person that I have the great privilege to work most closely with at the UUA as the newly appointed Executive Vice President—Mr. Carey McDonald!!
Carey’s experience and background in public policy, education, government and economics bring so much to the UUA. His skills in strategic thinking, organizational detail, management and his obvious love for Unitarian Universalism and his commitment to the ways our faith is being called into transformative work—make him an excellent EVP. I am—we are—so fortunate to have Carey serving this role.
I want to turn it over to Carey for a few more thank yous.
Carey McDonald: It is such an honor to be working at the UUA at this moment, especially side by side with the UUA’s first elected woman president. Every day, I am grateful to have such a talented, committed, and courageous group of colleagues. If you see them in the hall, with the staff ribbon on their name tag, feel free to stop them and to say thank you. I’ll ask the UUA staff to rise so that you can show your appreciation for their service to our faith.
Susan Frederick-Gray: And on behalf of both Carey and myself—we are grateful for the leadership of the Board of Trustees and the work that together we are doing to build a collaborative partnership and to invite Unitarian Universalists as a whole into a larger conversation about our purpose, our calling and how we can be organized not only for impact but to live more fully into our values. It is a pleasure to work with each and every one of you.
As UUA President, my priorities for this first year have been to strengthen the relationships across our faith and to put mission at the heart of all we do.
I have had been blessed to show up in witness and in worship with UU’s and UU congregations all across the country. And guess what I am finding? Good news comes when we live into our mission. In the past year congregational giving to the UUA has increased and adult membership across our Association has grown for the first time in years.
[Slide #17] This is the power of mission unleashing the vitality of our communities. The messages of decline in religion are a testament to the ways that religious communities have succumbed to cultural and consumerist values and lost sight of a greater mission to heal the world, to side with the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed, and offer all people a way of living, liberated from the systems that seek to define and confine us and our relationships. And I want to be clear—as a white person—I am in this work for my own liberation.
The key to growth and health for our congregations is a recommitment not to be conformed to the dehumanization that infects our society, but to transform it in ourselves and organize to liberate our society from its destructive exploitation of life and the planet. In this moment, we are being called to imagine and experiment with new ways of living our faith.
We can be a faith where those who have been marginalized see themselves centered. We have to be a faith where those who have been marginalized now thrive. Indeed, our values call us to this future. We have all been called to this. We are all called to manifest our Unitarian Universalism as deep spiritual compassion and as meaningful resistance. In these times it must become a practice of protecting each other and an inspiration for the world we know is possible—and that is longing to be born.
This is a time to invest in your faith and your values like never before. This is the time for each of us to decide how we will answer this call.
The way ahead, my faithful companions, will not be smooth. The challenges ahead internally and externally are serious. And pain is always a part of growth and change. We will make mistakes and fall short; forgiveness and grace will be needed.
I know, for me, some of answering the call will be on the streets, and in neighborhoods canvassing in Florida and Ohio for ballot initiatives that expand voting rights and democracy. For you, it may be for candidates you are excited for, in direct action resisting criminalization and militarism. It may also be in creating rituals of resilience and sustenance that we need to survive. Music that inspires in us joy, tending the spiritual community that is a sanctuary of both resistance and resilience, a place of both love and justice. Wherever you are, whatever your passion is, listen for the ways your heart, your values are calling you—calling us—to show up in this time.
I want to thank each and every one of you for how you are already doing this. These times may be challenging but I fully believe we are ready for them. I thank you for your commitment, your risks, and your generosity to your faith—to your local congregation and to the UUA, and to how you live your values in large and small ways every day. As your President, it is my great honor and my deep joy to serve with all of you.
Beacon Press Report
Barb: Beacon Press has long been the UU’s voice to the wider world. I’m happy to see that the Press continues to do good work and to flourish. Here to tell you about Beacon’s work this year is Helene Atwan, who has been Director of Beacon [Slide #1] since 1995.
Helene Atwan: Thank you so much; it’s a pleasure and honor to be with you today, and a real privilege to report on the work of Beacon Press.
Like the Entire association, we’ve been very focused on confronting the systemic issue of White Supremacy and working to dismantle it. [Slide #2] First, I want to affirm that books do matter—we’re reaching a lot of people! These are just two examples from our comprehensive Social Impact Report. [Slide #3] And sometimes our books work in ways even we couldn’t foresee, like these two congressional interventions on gun violence and prison reform. Both issues, of course, which disproportionately impact communities of color. [Slide #4] Beacon first published this book 25 years ago, two years before I came to work as the director. After all that time, we’ve managed to pull back all the rights that were licensed so we now have the hardcover, paperback, eBook *and* the audio book, all with new material. This book may be older than some of you listening to me, but I promise it will speak to you as powerfully as it did to readers of all races and generations 25 years ago. And Cornel West continues to be on the front lines in the fight for racial justice. [Slide #5] Today we are seeking out new activists, with new ideas and perspectives, who have a lot to teach us about what true racial equity looks like, and how we might achieve those goals. In fact, it was Cornel West who called out to us the work of Charlene Carruthers. [Slide #6] We’re learning more about what it takes to build community, to honor people, and to find common ground.
In Crystal Fleming’s memorable title, we need to learn How To Be Less Stupid About Race. [Slide #7] We’re examining closely what steps we need to take, all of us, to have a more inclusive and equitable society—in our churches, in our workplaces and even in our friendship circles. [Slide #8] Many of you have seen Robin DiAngelo in action and know the power of her ideas. For the first time, and for us, she’s put those ideas into an accessible, inexpensive book. We couldn’t bring her to Kansas City, but we do have the book at InSpirit in the exhibit hall—and we will try hard to bring Robin back for workshops at the next GA. [Slide #9] One of Beacon’s most celebrated strengths is in putting a historical lens on current issues—and reframing the “master narrative.” These books look closely at the legacy of civil rights movements….
And at what we can learn from the outrages of our past— the terrible injustices we visited on African Americans, as in medical experimentation on slaves in the 1840s, or the Army hanging at Levenworth all 8 of the black soldiers on Death Row while all 9 of the white soldiers were freed-- and this in the 1960s. Our authors work to surface this history, to lift up these stories so we can learn from them.
[Slide #10] And so that we can learn how history teaches us to resist.
In the political arena, and on our playing fields. [Slide #11] Many of you know our ReVisioning American History through Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s revolutionary book, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE US. That book has now sold over 100,000 copies! These are the latest books in that series, the Paul Ortiz was just published and the Daina Berry/Kali Gross is coming later this year. Upending the “Master Narrative.” [Slide #12] And while we focus on these urgent issues of racial equity, we’re also publishing books that address the full range of social justice issues we’re all concerned about.
Part of the struggle for racial equity is the fight for economic justice, worker’s rights, good jobs and good pay; and of course, it all starts with our public schools, and making sure all children are afforded a quality education, not the Betsy DeVos vision of privatized, religiously affiliated, and even *cyber* charter schools, that have White Supremacy built into their very fabric. All the issues you see displayed here are part of building a just society. [Slide #13] So, I give you these words from Reverend Barber: “We need you to stand up again, to speak up again, to come together again until justice is realized, love is actualized, hate is demoralized, war is neutralized, racism, classism, and religious bigotry is marginalized, and the beloved community is actualized.” [Slide #14] And we have two powerful authors about to speak… hope you can join us! [Slide #15] We couldn’t do this work without your support, and the support of the UUA and the Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. [Slide #16] And for the past two decades, we have been lucky enough to have Tom Hallock helping to guide our work daily; starting in July, he leaves us—but not entirely. We can’t thank you enough.
Introduction of International Guests
Elandria: [Slide #1] We welcome UU leaders from around the world to General Assembly each year, and extend our gratitude to them.
Many have traveled a long distance to share their experience, their wisdom, and their faithful solidarity during challenging times.
To introduce them to you, please welcome Rev. Eric Cherry, the Director of the UUA International Office.
Eric Cherry: Thank you. We say these leaders are “Guests” as a reminder to American Unitarian Universalists that hospitality is our privilege and responsibility when people journey here. In fact our ‘Guests” are leaders of our global faith: your leaders. As we welcome them, please note the commitment they bring to our faith every day. And, we hope you will be inspired to explore how your local UU community can find itself within the global U/U story and engage supportively.
[Slide #2] Dr. Rica Lamar is a physician and social activist, focusing her energies on issues relating to drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and the health and welfare of women and children. She is the co-founder and Chief Functionary of Manbha Foundation, an organization working in the field of Drug Abuse, HIV and Women/Children’s empowerment. She is also a leader of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India’s Women’s Wing: Seng Kynthei. Dr. Rica is focusing on a project to adapt and teach the Our Whole Lives curriculum in North East India.
Prof. Rupaia Lamarr is a church elder of the Unitarian Church of Jowai, North-East (NE) India, which is the pioneer church established in 1887 by founder Hajom Kissor Singh. He was born to a second generation Unitarian mother and an indigenous religion (Niam- tre) practicing father. Professionally he has taught Political Science in Government Colleges for 30 years and recently retired. Rupaia is the Vice-Chairperson of the Church and the chairman of the Hymnal Committee. And he is one of the 5 U/U theologians from around the world who are leading a year-long theological dialogue inspired by the 450th Anniversary of the Edict of Torda.
Dr. Diptymoyee Das is a retired principal of government college, Jowai. She has done her M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy and her doctoral thesis ‘Gandhi’s Doctrine of Truth and Non- Violence: A Critical Study’ has been published as a book. She has an interest in the Philosophy of Religion. She belong to ‘Ek Saran Naam Dharma’ faith a school of Hinduism in Assam. Through her marriage she came into contact with the Unitarian faith. She is an active participant in church activities and has also participated in UU conferences and pilgrimages abroad. She lives with her husband Rupaia and daughter Kheinkor.
[Slide #3] Reverend Norbert Zsolt Racz is the Minister of the Central Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár, Transylvania. He is a graduate of Hungarian Unitarian Church’s John Sigismund College and the Protestant Theological Institute In Kolozsvár. Before being called to serve the Church in Kolozsvár he worked for the Hungarian Unitarian Youth Association: ODFIE. He is married to Reverend Mária Racz. Norbi, as he prefers to be called, is also one of the 5 U/U theologians from around the world who are leading a year-long theological dialogue inspired by the 450th Anniversary of the Edict of Torda.
Rev. Lidia-Emese Bodor was born and raised in Cluj- Napoca/Kolozsvár, Romania. She finished her high school years at the János Zsigmond Unitarian High School. After that she studied at the Protestant Theological Institute and became a Unitarian minister. At the end of her studies she returned to the János Zsigmond Unitarian High School and started work as a religious teacher and school chaplain. For the last eight years most of her work has been related to children, youth and a variety of educational issues. She believes in the importance of education and loves working with students. This year Emese has been the Starr King School for the Ministry Balazs Scholar.
[Slide #4] Paul Niyonizigiye is a member of the Allen Avenue UU congregation in Portland, Maine—but he is originally from Bujumbura, Burundi and served as a leader of the Unitarian church there before coming to the US. In Bujumbura he worked as a high school teacher and administrator, and supervised community-based grants on behalf of the Unitarian church. He continues to be involved with Burundian Unitarians, especially those who are refugees in Rwanda due to dangers in Burundi—and we introduce you to him today at his request that we all remain in faithful solidarity with Burundian Unitarians in whatever country they may be living in.
[Slide #5] Rev. Dave Clements is excited to be serving as the Interim Minister to the Cape Town South Africa Unitarian congregation. Cape Town is a beautiful place to be serving and the Unitarian church is celebrating all this year their 150th anniversary. Ministry is a second career for Dave, he was a organizational and fundraising consultant and he is finding those skills very useful in his ministry calling. Home base for Dave is Cleveland Ohio where his partner Jerry resides. Dave is a Meadville Lombard alumni and in his spare times enjoys painting and quite walks along the beach. If you have never been to South Africa come and discover the Unitarian church and the people. You will have a life changing experience.
[Slide #6] Visit us online to find doorways into the Global U/U Story, including ways to join the global UU celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Edict of the Edict of Torda and the upcoming Reimagining Interfaith Cooperation event that will take place in Washington, DC, from July 29-August 1.
Welcome into the Global U/U Story. And, please welcome global U/U leaders around the world at GA this year.
Distinguished Service Award: Danielle Di Bona
Christina Rivera: If Unitarian Universalism as a faith has a chaplain, it is Danielle Assunta Di Bona. Your service to Unitarian Universalism spans more than thirty years.
During that time, you have touched thousands of Unitarian Universalists’ lives in ways seen and unseen. If anyone in this hall has been the beneficiary of Danielle’s ministry please waive your hand, stand or make yourself known.
Typically, this presentation of honors begins with a recitation of the honoree’s educational degrees and qualifications. The ways in which our dominant culture recognizes those accomplishments forms a basis of the value we place on a person and their place within our society. Unitarian Universalism exists within our dominant culture, and our reverence of these accomplishments is no different. But for people of color, these accomplishments are not simply indicators of class status.
Your successes, first at Smith College for your bachelor’s degree and then at Ursuline College for your master's degree, were and are an act of Resistance. You dared to imagine institutions that would have no choice but to recognize your tenacity and brilliance. You dared to bring your whole self to institutions built upon the exploitation and oppression of the Ancestors. You dared to insist that your place at the table be recognized AND valued.
And it is that daring sprit that your Unitarian Universalist ministry embodies. In the earliest years before what we now know as DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Multicultural Ministries), you were instrumental in recognizing that if we were going to confront racism within Unitarian Universalism, we needed a shared language to even discuss the issues. You were instrumental in creating the work around defining what anti-racism, antioppression, multiculturalism (ARAOMC) looks like for Unitarian Universalism. Because, at the time it, wasn’t something that UUs really understood, and many bristled at naming it within their faith. If this looks easy because many now so easily utilize the language of ARAOMC, we need only look to our current difficulty embracing the terms around white supremacy culture. You are a steady, and sometimes fiery, presence in drawing UUs into conversation around ARAOMC and white supremacy, and then holding them in that space as they experience hurt, shame, anger, reflection, laughter, and resolution to begin again.
Several UUs of color were consulted in the writing of this commendation. Clyde Grubbs, who shares a similar native identity to yours, shared a meaning of the name of your people, the Wampanoag. He said, “The creator gives assignments to the People and an assignment to the Wampanoag is to be greeters of the dawn, of the morning light. This is fitting for a people who live on the shores of what is now known as Massachusetts.” And it is in this bringing of the light to Unitarian Universalism’s challenges and strengths that you have shone. One such time was at the 2001 General Assembly in Cleveland, Ohio. Folks gathered here may remember that Cleveland has this little problem with its baseball team, its racist name. Well, you were not about to let our faithful gathering take place in a city with so clear a continued attack upon our native communities. You helped coordinate a public witness event that included our siblings in faith, the United Church of Christ, and placed hundreds of UUs in protest directly outside a Cleveland baseball game. You led them through a torrential downpour in order to give witness to our gathered commitment to justice. Now public witness events are a part of GA schedules, with dedicated resources given to living out our faith in the world.
In your current “retired” professional life, you are a palliative care chaplain at hospitals in your community.
You’ve also served in ministry positions at congregations throughout New England as well as a stint as the antiracism program associate for the UUA. You currently serve on the Board of Trustees for the Church of the Larger Fellowship and are a past president for DRUUMM.
The Nominating Committee of the UUA was blessed by your constant vigilance about diversifying the membership of our committees, including your deliberate and expansive allyship for our LGBTQ community.
Congregations have been blessed with you as facilitator for Beyond Categorical Thinking workshops to help them move beyond narrow views of what ministry looks like.
You have mentored dozens and dozens of religious professionals in their ministerial formation. And no recitation of your accomplishments would be complete without the fabulous triumphs of your Pumi dogs at national dog show events.
But it is as a chaplain that your ministry has so beautifully flourished. Time and time again, you have offered yourself to Unitarian Universalism as the minister to come to in times of trouble, when grief is present and threatening to overwhelm, when anger is so palpable you can see it shimmer in the air, when joy and laughter are to be found. These are the times we find you, Danielle, at the center. You have been a chaplain for General Assembly, DRUUMM, and Finding Our Way Home, and you currently serve as chaplain to the UUA Board of Trustees.
Many people wonder why Unitarian Universalists of color need our own a chaplain, so let’s share why your chaplain ministry has been literally life-saving for so many POC. It is because you know the struggle of people of color down in your very essence. You too have been brought to the very brink of despair in Unitarian Universalism. Where any reasonable person would consider just throwing in the towel, where the thought of waking up to face one more day of micro and macro aggressions is just too much, where the abuse and injury is just too much to bear on behalf of and in service to our faith, it is your capacity to viscerally know those depths of despair and yet help the person you are ministering to transform that despair into a resiliency, a core of strength that brings our Ancestors to the center, and then witnesses our collective joy at faith reborn. That is what we honor here today. This type of service isn’t often recognized--the one-on-one, quiet (and sometimes not so quiet!) service from the edges. So I’ll ask again to the assembled faithful here, who have now heard all the ways in which you have served our faith, who here has been touched by the ministry of the Reverend Danielle Di Bona!!
Today we celebrate and consecrate your ministry, Reverend Danielle Assunta Di Bona, recipient of our highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
Danielle Di Bona: (live caption)
Presidential Search Committee Report
Barb: Five years ago, you created the first ever Presidential Search Committee. The Committee was charged to present at least two names for election to the office of UUA President. Their final report is online.
Matthew Johnson and Jacqui Williams, joined by the other committee members, will give us highlights.
Matthew Johnson: What did we do over five years?
Jacqui Williams: We created a process.
Matthew: We researched.
Jacqui: Listened, a lot.
Matthew: Wrote a job description.
Jacqui: There wasn’t one.
Jacqui: Took suggestions.
Matthew: Recruited, widely.
Jacqui: Received eight applications.
Matthew: All white female ministers.
Jacqui: A group of powerful leaders.
Jacqui: Checked references.
Matthew: And nominated two.
Jacqui: We thought we were done.
Matthew: …Not exactly.
Jacqui: We improvised.
Matthew: Thankfully, there was another.
Jacqui: Then we stepped back and watched.
Matthew: After the election,
Jacqui: we researched.
Matthew: we interviewed.
Jacqui: we discerned.
Matthew: And reported.
Jacqui: Our committee was created because we, the UUA, wanted a different way of doing this.
Matthew: And we did a lot different.
Jacqui: But here’s the truth:
Matthew: The Presidential Search Committee was instituted as an attempt to change the entire system of electing a UUA President by changing only one small part of the system.
Jacqui: Our final report contains 14 recommendations.
Matthew: You should read them all.
Jacqui: Among other things, we call for:
Matthew: A much, much shorter election process, including congregational-based voting in the fall before the President takes office.
Jacqui: A closer relationship with the Board.
Matthew: Clearer authority about what happens if someone drops out.
Jacqui: No more running by petitions.
Matthew: Three candidates.
Jacqui: An opportunity for a team of people to run and serve together.
Matthew: And, a study of the whole area by the Board and the Staff—
Jacqui: including how we might have a fully publicly funded campaign and clarity about how and if a UUA staff person can actually run, among other questions.
Matthew: These and other recommendations are designed to provoke and encourage us to go further than we were allowed to go, to serve the association, our congregations, and potential candidates in ways that are more just, humane, and faithful.
Jacqui: We are very proud of our work.
Matthew: This was an extraordinary group of people to work with.
Jacqui: We look forward to how the next process unfolds.
Commission on Appraisal Report
Elandria: The Commission on Appraisal is a body that is accountable to the delegate body of General Assembly. It is an independent body that exists to review any function or activity of the Association, study and suggest approaches to issues that might be of concern to the Association and report at least once every four years on the program and accomplishments of the Association. I know welcome Xolani Kacela, the chair of the Commission on Appraisal.
Xolani Kacela: Good morning!
We, on the Commission for Appraisal, have been busy preparing for our next study. Earlier in the year, we distributed a survey to congregations and UUA committees that included several potential topics. Among those were: institutional support for religious professionals of color, democracy in our governance models, and methodologies for attracting millennials.
The largest support was for a study on how the UUA provides support that enables religious professionals of color to have sustainable and fulfilling ministries, followed by democracy in our movement. Then, after considerable deliberation, we conceived another topic that incorporates both themes: covenant. We believe that gaining a better understanding of covenant, the practice that undergirds Unitarian Universalist theology and community-building, has great potential for advancing our movement.
As we considered many of the events that have shaped the direction of UUism over the last two years, we are convinced that had covenants been in place and taken seriously, much of the pain that we experienced as a faith may have been avoided. We may have still needed to redirect our efforts and undertaken the hard work of reflection and renewal, but with more positive intent, trust, and transparency in our processes.
We would like to hear more of your ideas and your response to our future focus. So, we invite you to attend our session on Friday at xx. It will be held in Rm xx.
During the session, I will share with you my story of how I’ve experienced covenant in my ministry. Then, we will invite you to share your story with your fellow UUs in small groups, which will be followed by a feedback session with the larger audience.
Please join us for this important work of preparing for the next Commission on Appraisal study. Thank you!
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation Report
Barb: Founded in 1963 through consolidation of Unitarian and Universalist women’s organizations, the UU Women’s Federation [Slide #1] or UUWF, has evolved into an education, advocacy, and funding organization with a vital mission: To advance justice for women and girls and promote their spiritual growth. UUWF is one of two associate member organizations of the UUA (along with UUSC).
Please welcome UUWF President Claire Sexton.
Claire Sexton: Good morning! I am so happy to be here and so honored to be a part of the UU Women’s Federation.
It’s been quite a year! From the energy of the Women’s March, to the explosion of the #MeToo movement, to the smaller, quieter daily activities, millions of people have spoken out and called out gender injustice lately. We seek to push our society further and faster toward the end of the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to break the cycles of oppression within and beyond our denomination.
Our small & active board is comprised of passionate volunteers committed to gender justice and intersectionality.
As announced [Slide #2] at last year’s GA, we are proceeding for UU Women and Religion to become a key program of the UUWF, combining forces in our mutual quest toward diverse religious feminisms and gender equity.
The New Prophetic Sisterhood [Slide #3] a project of the UUWF, continues its work to amplify the voices and ministries of women-identified religious professionals and serve as a platform for sharing their sermons and other public acts of ministry. This year we expanded the scope of this project to include not only clergy, but all religious professionals, and now engage over 250 colleagues. One of the initiatives of New Prophetic Sisterhood is the annual Justice for Women and Girls Sermon Award, this year’s submissions most frequently addressing #MeToo, both inside and outside UU.
The award recipient [Slide #4] for 2018 is Clare Fortune- Lad, the Director of Religious Education in Haverhill, MA.
She will deliver sermon: “#MeToo, Now What?” during the next program slot at 11:15, where there will also be time for discussion.
Our Margaret Fuller Projects this year include major funding to document UU women’s herstory [Slide #5] in the Heresies special collection at Meadville-Lombard, one that was close to Denny Davidoff’s heart. She asked UUWF to contribute to the preparation of the HEResies archives to be converted to searchable online documents.
Additionally, we are providing funding for the authors of an upcoming Skinner House book project “Speaking Our Stories and Telling Our Truths: Black Women Clergy in Unitarian Universalism” to share their stories in person in promotion of this important, timely anthology.
An Equity [Slide #6] & Justice grant this year provided funds for a congregation in Harrisburg to offer childcare during the 40-day season of civil actions by the Poor People’s Campaign, Pennsylvania at the state capital as part of the larger Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival.
The Marjorie [Slide #7] Bowens-Wheatley scholarship provides direct financial support to aspirants or candidates to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, or candidates in the UUA’s religious education or music leadership programs, who identify as women of color, Latina, or Hispanic.
This past year’s [Slide #8] recipients were Dianne Daniels of Norwich CT, and Sana Saeed of Arlington, MA. We are so pleased to support Dianne and Sana on their paths to ministry and encourage others to apply—The next application deadline for the scholarship is October 1st.
Our interfaith [Slide #9], intersectional equity and justice work in 2018 has included support of equal pay, with an ongoing commitment to recognizing the even greater disparity for women of color and women with disabilities, advocacy for a federal paid family leave policy, and continued fierce opposition to efforts to overturn reproductive rights and choices. Many thanks to the UUWF minister, Rev. Marti Keller for her expertise and energy for this important and ongoing advocacy.
And we [Slide #10] regularly post these actions and other information to our members through social media.
The UUWF seeks to amplify the voices of women in the Unitarian Universalist movement and the voices of UU women in our country. We are committed to engaging UUs in the work for gender justice in an intersectional way. For more information here at GA come talk with us at Booth 322 in the Exhibit Hall. Look for The Red Tent!
Like us on Facebook, follow on Twitter and see our website [Slide #11] for updates throughout the year. We invite you to join us in our quest of gender justice. Thank you!
Presentation: Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education
Elandria: Welcome Jessica York, Faith Development Director and Interim Director of Ministries and Faith Development, for the presentation of the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellenc in Religious Education.
Jessica York: Good morning. Have you ever heard it said that ours is a questioning faith? Often, when I’m giving my elevator speech—you know, the answer to, ‘Unitarian Universalism? I never heard of that religion. What do you believe?’, part of what I might say is, “If you ask ten UUs what they believe about God or ‘What happens after you die?’” you will probably get ten different answers. That is because, in Unitarian Universalism, we ask questions.
Dealing with life’s big questions is the basis of our faith development. We feel it is not just our privilege—it is our responsibility to ask the question and wrestle with the answers, individually and communally.
Now sometimes you might will hear some of us say, “The important thing is not so much the answer but to ask the question.” Yet, sometimes the answers are vitally important.
I am an Our Whole Lives facilitator and trainer. In that program, we use a Question Box. How many of you have used or created a Question Box? We tell participants that they can use the Question Box to ask any question and, at the next meeting, we will answer it. The first time the congregation I was serving offered junior high Our Whole Lives, the facilitators brought me a question from the Question Box. It was, “How do fish have sex?” They said to me, “We don’t have to answer this, do we?” And I informed them that, yes, they did, so they might want to start researching.
Some questions that come through the Question Box may seem silly, but one of the values we want to lift up is that we respect the search for knowledge. Because knowledge can sometimes lead to power.
Another reason we answer every question from the Question Box is because we believe no question is too dangerous to be asked and no truth too hard to be told.
The religious educator being recognized here today is nothing if not an asker of questions.
Last spring, they asked a question whose answer forced a hard truth: that our faith was not living up to its ideals.
That religious professionals of color were not only not playing on a level playing field, but that most were not even admitted to the ballpark. That a culture of white supremacy, inherited from the white, dominant culture, was engrained deep in Unitarian Universalism’s norms of behavior and thought.
Since that time, the question has sprouted many other questions. It has also opened space for some possible antidotes. How many of you participated in a White Supremacy Teach-in in the last year? The first one was created by three religious educators—Christina Rivera, Kenny Wiley, and this morning’s honoree, Aisha Hauser.
Now, Aisha could have stopped with just asking the question. Instead, they rolled up their sleeves, plunged their hands in deep, and went to work. Because that is what religious educators do: they do the work of sensing the margins of living our faith in this uneven, distorted, unjust world and they pull those margins out further yet.
Or, from the inside, they push those edges, stretching them—not to a breaking point, because our faith is strong—but to a place of a greater wholeness. Religious educators do this work from a deep, powerful love. A love for what we could be, together.
Bringing people together to create something more than what exists right now is ministry Aisha has been doing for a long time. After working as a social worker, they found their calling in service as Director of Religious Education at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County, Orange, NJ and Fourth Universalist Society, New York, NY and as Director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, WA. Aisha was a colleague of mine in the Lifespan Faith Development office for three years, writing and developing curricula and programs to bring people together in congregational religious education programs.
They have chaired the LREDA Integrity Team, a committee of the Liberal Religious Educators Association that works to try to keep LREDA true to its antioppressive, antiracist, multicultural principles.
As a religious professional and as a volunteer, Aisha has demonstrated and promoted different models of shared leadership in service to UU institutions from the UUA Nominating Committee, to the Religious Education Credentialing Committee and by co-authoring with Rev.
Natalie Fenimore a chapter in the book, Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry.
Aisha created a bystander training to empower people to intercede in bullying situations. As Aisha received more and more requests for the training, instead of marketing it for sale to UUs, they created a webinar showing others how they could hold their own bystander training.
Speaking engagements and requests for trainings from secular organizations are increasing and yet Aisha always finds time to collaborate with others toward stretching the margins of our faith, as witnessed by their work over the past several months on the team creating a White Supremacy Accountability Assessment Tool for religious education programs.
Now here is another hard truth: Asking the hard questions can make you a target for others’ fear. Aisha has been attacked on social media, has lost friends, has been labelled as hysterical and a troublemaker. No one ever said our ministry would be easy. But one of the qualifications for this award is someone who has “Brought dignity to the profession of religious education.” Aisha leads Unitarian Universalism to labor toward creating the heaven on earth we all dream of. Aisha makes me proud to be a Unitarian Universalist religious educator.
My people, I give you the recipient of the 47th annual Angus H. MacLean Award, Aisha Khadr Hauser.
Aisha Hauser: My friend and colleague Kenny Wiley wrote, "There are so many things to fight—and fight for— in the world. We mostly do a great job on climate justice and immigration. Our LGBTQ work has saved and changed lives. Black lives, too, are worth fighting for.
When the next Ferguson happens—and sadly, it will—we can and must do more. We have to show up, be willing to follow others, and be willing to change ourselves. The next call to action for racial justice has arrived. My people: Will we answer?" The UU White Supremacy Teach In movement was unprecedented in its scope, and it was just the beginning of a crucial conversation. This conversation has angered some and empowered others. It is for the first time an honest conversation. What is at stake is the heart and soul of Unitarian Universalism. We are a people of faith, a faith that demands of us reflection, determination, and yes, a commitment to justice. Centering the voices of the marginalized will be part of becoming whole as a faith and as a people.
I am grateful for this award and I thank the UUA and I share this honor with Kenny Wiley, Christina Rivera, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism and all the religious educators who collaborated together to help move this faith we love forward together.
Lucia Santini Field: The following words are a poem from Jess Reynolds entitled “Love is Calling.”
Elandria: 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 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.