The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is the central organization for the Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious movement in the United States. The UUA’s 1000+ member congregations are committed to Seven Principles that include the worth of each person, the need for justice and compassion, and the right to choose one’s own beliefs. Our congregations and faith communities promote these principles through regular worship, learning and personal growth, shared connection and care, social justice action and service, celebration of life’s transitions, and much more. (from http://www.uua.org/about).
General Assembly (GA) is a multi-day, annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Attendees worship, witness, learn, connect, and make policy for the Association through democratic process. There are general sessions in the first half of the day, and workshops, programs, worship and forums in the second half of the day. Its a chance to revisit old friends, learn what’s new within the denomination, and to represent yourself as an individual UU, and your congregation – if you are chosen as a delegate.
The entire event was held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans – it’s a HUGE facility, and we were not the only conference there during my visit. There were several areas of interest – the main exhibit hall, which is the networking hub for the event including exhibits, sales and information from social justice organizations, UU-related organizations, individual UU artisans, and many other organizations and vendors. This diverse marketplace of ideas is one of the hallmarks of the UUA – an opportunity for many different offerings and voices.
Delegates had to register in advance as such, and were given credentials so that they could participate in the voting. Checking in at the beginning of the conference made it easy for you to be identified as a delegate (important for those who wanted to speak to you and advocate for their area of interest, a particular question to be handled during the business session, and – because we were also going to elect a new UUA President at this conference – a chance for candidates and their staff to identify you and build a relationship.
This is one of the great benefits of congregational polity – though we are all independent congregations, we come together to discuss and decide big questions. There is a governing body, but it answers to and is responsible to the individual congregations. We can decide, to a great extent, the fate of our movement and our denomination. We can discuss and decide what we want to support and what we wish to “leave on the shelf.” It’s not a perfect system, by any means – because we as human beings are wonderfully imperfect – but the fact that our voices are taken seriously is a true sign of inclusion. It’s this organization working to live out the Seven Principles.
One of the events I looked forward to was the New England Region Meeting – this region is comprised of four (4) districts:
- Ballou Channing District (BCD) includes forty-five congregations from Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts, including the South Shore, Cape Cod and the Islands.
- Clara Barton District (CBD) incudes sixty-three congregations from central and western Massachusetts, and all but the southwest corner of Connecticut.
- Massachusetts Bay District (MBD) includes fifty-three congregations from Greater Boston and Northeast Massachusetts.
- Northern New England District (NNED) includes seventy congregations from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
I found my way to the New England Region meeting and was greeted by congregations from all of the districts listed above – lots of old friends and familiar faces. We all “checked in” and celebrated how many of us were able to attend GA and this session. Congregational polity again at work – we all are linked by the Region, and within the Region to our respective districts. We share what’s working and what we are struggling with, the interest of our congregations from very large to micro-sized, and we share the region’s UUA staff.
After catching up with my region, it was time to have some dinner and prepare for the Welcoming Celebration and first General Session. The ingathering and welcome session is a wonderful chance to worship together, to invite the spirit of resistance and rejoicing, and to see the strength of our denomination. One of my favorite events is the Banner Parade – congregations create amazingly beautiful and colorful banners that represent their individuality and at the same time, honor our connection as Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists. It’s one of the highlights of my visits to GA – I love to see what congregations do graphically to make their banners stand out.
Here’s the full video of the Banner Parade and Celebration – it’s over an hour long, so feel free to just watch a bit of it, but the music and banners are awesome to see and hear!
After the Banner Parade, I retired to my residence for the week – I mentioned the UU HomeStay program in my previous post here.