The San Francisco Bay Area Labor Heritage Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus, which I recently joined, will be singing at the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist church on Sunday, September 6. They’ll be performing a musical biography of Pete Seeger, that great Unitarian Universalist folk musician and labor advocate. I’ve heard some of it in rehearsal, and it sounds pretty good, so if you’re in the San Francisco area over Labor Day weekend, check it out. (I won’t be there, alas, since I’ll be at my own church.)
Some trivia for you: As I was reading “The Caucus Blog” report on the Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, I realized that two Unitarian Universalists played a key role. (1) Unitarian Universalist singer-songwriter Pete Seeger sang all of Woody Guthrie’s verses to “This Land Is Your Land.” (2) Unitarian sculptor Daniel Chester French created the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln that kept a watchful eye on the proceedings.
Fort Wroth, Texas
Today’s General Assembly schedule called for a lunch break from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I realized this just about at 11:00, and ran out to try to beat the crowds streaming out of the Convention Center. Dwight from the Web staff recommended the Corner Bakery on Main and 6th, but by the time I got there there were at least 50 people in line — and probably more. Lines everywhere, and still more crowds of people streaming out of the convention center.
I finally wound up back the the Human Bean. The line was short — only seven people ahead of me — but the staff was overwhelmed, and the food was running short. After nearly ten minutes, I got to place my order.
“Large coffee, half decaf, and one of your breakfast sandwiches,” I said.
The very pleasant young woman at the counter said, “Sorry, we can’t make you one of those until our boss comes back with more food.” No chicken salad either, which was my second choice.
That sounded ominous. I thought quickly. “What do you have?” I said.
She looked at the young man making the sandwiches. He said, “We have grilled chicken breast….”
“Great, that’s just exactly what I want,” I said.
The young woman laughed. “Just what you want because we still have it?”
“Exactly,” I said.
As I waited for my sandwich (which took another ten minutes — they really were overwhelmed), I chatted a little bit with them. Their boss had been told that 4,000 people were going to be at the conference, but he just hadn’t expected how busy that would make the coffee shop. They looked hot and tired — but they also said that everyone from General Assembly was very nice and polite. And I could see that as people waited patiently in line, and didn’t complain when they learned how limited the menu had become. Made me proud to be a Unitarian Universalist. Looks like we’re learning to really live out our faith in the wider world.
Yesterday’s opening ceremony was quite good, with excellent music. We got to sing a few more songs from the new hymnal supplement, and there was great music from Geoff Kaufmann, Gabrielle West, Stan Strickland, and others. But the real musical highlight was the appearance of Pete Seeger, who came out and told the story-song of “Abiyoyo,” familiar from his several recordings of it. Pete Seeger is getting old, but he was still the consumate performer. He sang one of his most famous songs, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” inviting everyone to join in. The singing was a little ragged at first.
“I donâ€™t have much voice any more,” he said with his trademark modesty, “but if you sing it, this is going to sound good.â€ We sang another versesounding only marginally better. Seeger commented, “I see a few of you with your mouths like thisâ€ — he closed his mouth tight, then continued — â€œkeeping your academic objectvity….â€ Everyone laughed, in self-recognition. Next verse, it did indeed sound as if many more people began to sing.
As usual, the highlights of General Assembly for me have been the informal conversations. I ran into Sally, from a church I used to serve, and she filled me in on the progress of all the kids in that church. Had lunch with Chris and Michelle and had a long conversation about the role of worship in congregational life, among other things.
And there were the missed opportunities. I missed having lunch with Josephine — we were supposed to meet yesterday, but I had left her cell phone number at home, couldn’t remember where we were supposed to meet, and didn’t know what she looks like (we have been corresponding via email) — perhaps I’ll catch up with her before the end of General Assembly. Missed having lunch with Roger, but we were able to reschedule.
General Assembly is a big, complex meeting. It’s easy to miss connections among 4,000 people — in fact, it’s amazing that you manage to meet up with anyone at all.
Given the long lunch lines, it’s clear that Fort Worth isn’t ready for a conference of 4,000 people. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m ready either!
Later note: I can’t resist leaving the typo in the very first line…