For my own reference, here are links to the General Assembly workshops and events that I wrote up for the UUA Web site. Two of the events I covered are definitely worth reading about, and I’m listing those first. The rest of the links appear after the jump.
Toward a Safer Congregation The dramatic story of how one Unitarian Universalist congregation survived when a beloved member of the congregation was accused (and later convicted) of child molestation. If you are a leader in a congregation, you must read this!
Home Grown Religion William J. Doherty, author of Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times, happens to be a Unitarian Universalist. In this lecture, he talks about the inadequacies of Sunday school, and he begins to outline what you families can do at home to pass on religious values to their kids. Anyone concerned with the current sorry state of religious education in Unitarian Universalism should read this.
At this year’s General Assembly, an NPR reporter named Krissa Palmer volunteered with the Web staff, and produced a series of “audio postcards.” Much more interesting than the usual podcast fare. Worth listening to, and thinking about, as you plan ways to promote your own local congregation — which is exactly what I’ve been doing.
My flight out of Portland keeps getting delayed. The gate attendant just assured me that I would get to San Francisco in time to make my connection to Boston. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in Portland for another day. Here are some reasons why I like Portland:
Everyone I have talked with in six days in Portland has been unfailingly friendly, polite, and just plain nice. It’s amazing what a difference politeness makes.
For me, the climate is ideal: cool, relatively dry air, plenty of clouds and light rain to break up the sunshine. You know you’re north of the 45th parallel.
It is a truly multicultural city.
The coffee is really, really good. True, good coffee is probably necessary to make it through the long, gray winters. But the coffee is so good, even here in the airport, that it just might be worth it.
You can see snow-covered mountains from downtown Portland.
The public transportation system is just as good as you’ve heard. The light rail system is fast, clean, efficient, and free in the city center. The Portland street car is charming. No one pushes or shoves or casts glowering glances. And they have special bicycle hooks built into the light rail cars.
Everyone rides bicycles. Riding the light rail out to the airport today, I stood behind a wiry man in a black t-shirt standing next to his hotshot mountain bike. I realized that his funny-looking bicycle helmet was actually a hardhat, and that his black t-shirt was from the local ironworkers union. In Boston, he’d drive a truck.
Lots of trees grow in downtown Portland, making the city feel green and delightful.
Free wifi throughout the airport.
Of all these reasons, the first one is most important:– it really does make a difference when everyone is polite. (One of the reasons I like New Bedford, where I live, is that most everyone is polite.) And the fact that everyone is polite and friendly has made the delay here at the airport far more bearable.
I manage to break away from my volunteer job at General Assembly long enough to go to the closing worship service, where Ysaye Maria Barnwell sang a couple of her songs. Dr. Barnwell is one of my favorite songwriters (and do I have to remind you that she is also a Unitarian Universalist and member of All Souls Church in Washington, DC?). (48 sec.)
I have to admit that I skipped out of the worship service soon after Ysaye Maria Barnwell sang, so I didn’t have to hear my least favorite Unitarian Universalist hymn, “Spirit of Life.”
For this fifth General Assembly update, I interview Peter Bowden and the purple space alien. We talk about using online video as a means for spreading the word about Unitarian Universalism. A pink space alien joins us, and offers his/her/its own, umm, visual commentary. (3:07)