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Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Report, General Assembly 2018

UUA General Assembly Off-site Participation: Kansas City, Missouri | 2018

Part of General Assembly 2018 Event 403: General Session V

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions of General Session V (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

Co-Moderator: The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is an incredible social justice organization propelling UU values throughout the world. The UUSC advances human rights through grassroots collaborations in dozens of countries around the world and in the United States.

Promoting economic justice, bolstering environmental justice and protecting rights at risk is the work of the UUSC.

Lyssa Jenkens: [Slide #1] Marshall Islander Kathy Jetnil- Kijiner shared a poem written for her infant daughter at the 2014 UN Climate Summit: “Dear Matafele Peinam.” She begins with lamentations for her child given the possibility of a homeland lost to the ravages of climate change [Slide #2].

they say you, your daughter and your granddaughter, too will wander rootless with only a passport to call home She then goes on to promise that she will do everything in her power to ensure that there will never be another “climate change refugee” and that they are not alone.

She tells her daughter “there are those who see us” with [Slide #3]: hands reaching out fists raising up banners unfurling megaphones booming Wow. That sounds a lot like [Slide #4]—us!

And, yes, Matafele Peinam, as Unitarian Universalists, we see you. We see you, your people and your neighbors throughout the South Pacific [Slide #5] confronting the immediate and existential threats of a rising sea. We see you. Just like we see the Rohingya [Slide #6] desperately fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma, Syrians [Slide #7] escaping unending and horrifying civil warfare. We see the 65 million people displaced by conflict and climate seeking safe harbors only to find that they are not safe.

We see [Slide #8] the mistreatment of immigrants in this country, the escalating acts of hatred on our streets and from the highest offices [Slide #9] in this land. We see all of this and so much more. And, then, we do [Slide #10].

Our Unitarian Universalist values tell us to see and, then, to do.

That is the mission of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee—to put our UU values to work in this world [Slide #11]. It has been our mission [Slide #12] from the moment we joined with local resistors in World War II helping Jews, intellectuals, children, all enemies of the Nazi state get to safety. Seventy-eight years later, we remain true to our mission to defend the human rights of oppressed people everywhere.

Fidelity to this mission has moved UUSC from strength to strength across the generations. It has sustained us in this past year, when the world tilted off its axis. And, this glorious mission has sustained us in a time of our own institutional transition.

None of this is possible without our UUSC family. Our board, our staff, our partners and you [Slide #13], this faithful community of UU ministerial leaders, congregational liaisons, members, volunteers, donors.

You [Slide #14] are our greatest asset—40,000 UUs already engaged. You [Slide #15] are the ones our poet described: “with hands reaching out, fists raising up, banners unfurling, megaphones booming.” We are “marching hand in hand” with people across the world in the world in partnership and in defense of basic human rights. Thank you for your engagement, your vision, your support.

Today, I am happy to introduce a new member of our immediate UUSC family. The Rev. Mary Katherine Morn [Slide #16] has been in our larger circle for 30 years as a UU minister serving congregations, communities, and our larger association. After many months of a very robust search, the UUSC Board is delighted that Mary Katherine accepted our invitation to be our President and CEO. We are confident that Mary Katherine will lead us, all of us, to live our UU values more passionately and effectively in this time that needs people just like us! Please, join me in welcoming Rev. Mary Katherine Morn to this new role in our UUSC family and in our movement that she has already served so well.

Mary Katherine Morn: Thank you, Lyssa. I am honored by your invitation to serve and thrilled to take on this tremendously important role leading our UUSC. UUSC’s staff and board leadership inspire me and give me confidence that we can and will do even more as we navigate the treacherous waters ahead—UUSC was made for times like these, by times like these.

From its beginnings, UUSC has effectively centered the voices and leadership of our partners around the world who are creating change and defending human rights.

Partners like Ursula Rakova [Slide #17], an environmental activist from the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea and leader of Tulele Peisa.

Tulele Peisa means “sailing in the wind on our own” in the local Halia language. Tulele Peisa supports Carteret Islanders through all stages of relocation [Slide #18] and works to ensure that when they leave their homes behind, they can create a new home [Slide #19] that fits, as best it can, with their identity and way of life—leaving them not rootless, but rooted in the beauty and history that has always held them, even as they lose so much to shifting tides.

Because of your support, at UUSC, together we see Ursula, we see Matafele. And then, together [Slide #20], we reach out our hands, we raise up our fists. Thank you [Slide #21].