The last of my general assembly reporting

A few last posts by me on the GA blog:

Scholars of color assess UU history, report on brief talks by Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Rev. Monica Cummings, and Rev. Patricia Jimenez.
Music and cultural change in UUism, interviews with UU musicians Nick Page and Jeannie Gagne.
Commission on Appraisal continues study of ministry and authority, covering the Commission on Appraisal’s report to GA, and brief interview with Megan Dowdell of the Commission.
Moderator’s report: All of us working together, covering Gini Courter’s report to GA.

As before, comment here, or comment on the posts themselves.

(Earlier links to my reporting are here, and here.)

More of my General Assembly reporting

Some more of my reporting on General Assembly is up on the blog:

The continuing power of liberal theology today, lecture by Gary Dorrien, with responses by Rebecca Parker and Dan McKanan.
UUA Financial Advisor reports a brighter situation, report from Plenary this morning.
Faith formation in a multi-cultural world, conversation with Mark Hicks, professor of religious education at Meadville/Lomard Theological School.
The cultural challenge of digital media, conversation with Rev. Scott Wells.
Report of the president of the UUA, report from Plenary this afternoon.

As before, comment here, or comment on the posts themselves.

Yet another General Assembly conversation

Yesterday I ate dinner with Roy, a seminarian who is also a psychiatrist and a professor at Stanford; Helen, a retired minister who is a former college professor and one of the more incisive theological thinkers I know; and Don, a playwright who is also a staff writer and editor for NASA. (And before you ask, yes, I did feel a little out of my intellectual league.)

Helen said to Roy that she thought his insights into psychiatry and psychology would be of great value to Unitarian Universalism. Because, she said, Unitarian Universalists too often concentrate on the rational side of human beings. Roy said that yes, he thought Unitarian Unviersalism could improve on its understanding of human beings, and they talked about the huge unconscious power beneath the rational self. Don pointed out how Freud drew heavily on Greek myths to provide examples for his psychological theories, while he could have drawn on the Hebrew Bible — the story of Abraham and Isaac is certainly rich in psychological insight — but as a Jew who had rejected his heritage, Freud seemingly didn’t want to turn to the Bible. (I thought: yes, and that does sound like many Unitarian Universalists.) But then, Don pointed out that the Greek myths offered such rich material for Freud, he didn’t need to look beyond them.

And as I sat there listening to them expand on this idea, I wished I had the skills of James Boswell — I wished I could remember long stretches of conversation, and accurately report them. Books have their place, and online resources like blogs and videos and Web sites have their place, but listening to really good conversations — where you’re sitting at the table with the people who are talking, and where you could even speak up (though you don’t because you’d rather just listen), and where you can see and feel and hear the interaction between the people — is, to my mind, the best way of all to learn and grow as a human being.

Liveblogging the GA Opening Celebration

8:59 p.m. The opening service is over. Now it’s the GA equivalent of social hour — time to look for people whom we haven’t seen for a long time.

8:51 p.m. “We look forward to being a part of a vibrant and vital Unitarian Universalism fifty years from now,” the children say. Listening to, and watching, the children and youth speaking to us it occurs to me that while they might be around for the one hundredth anniversary of the UU, I most certainly won’t be there.

8:48 p.m. Anthem is going on. I’m looking around at people here in the hall. I see a couple of babies, and one boy that looks to be about 8. Now the anthem is over, and a group of children, youth, and young adults are speaking. “As children we are the youngest members of our communities,” say two children. “We are often the reason why our parents seek a Unitarian Universalist congregation in the first place.” And their words are greeted by applause and laughter — for after all, it’s very true. Continue reading “Liveblogging the GA Opening Celebration”

Ministry Daze, er, Days

Charlotte, N.C.

General Assembly hasn’t begun, but ministers and religious educators have already arrived here for professional meetings: “Ministry Days” for ministers and seminarians, and “Professional Day” for religious educators. I won’t say that the streets around the convention center are swarming yet with Unitarian Universalists, but when I went out to get lunch today I ran into Rosie and Marie, old friends from seminary, on the sidewalk, and Nancy, a minister from the Bay Area, while crossing the street, and I saw several other people at a distance whom I felt sure I knew.

Just after four o’clock, I went over to the Hilton Hotel to register for Ministry Days. There were ministers everywhere: ministers in sandals, ministers in seersucker suits, ministers in dresses, ministers in hip black West coast urban garb, ministers in Midwestern pastels, old ministers, young ministers, ministers all over the place. Some of them were people I have never seen before, some of them were people who looked familiar, some of them were people I once knew, a few were people I know quite well. Unfortunately, my brain does not allocate much processing power to my facial recognition software, so when I am in large groups of people I often cannot cannot process faces rapidly enough; as a result, I tend to wander around looking vaguely dazed and slightly bewildered (more so than usual, that is).

Fortunately, I ran into my old friend Ellen, with whom I served at First Parish in Lexington, Massachusetts under Hellen Lutton Cohen. Ellen had not yet eaten, and was looking a little pale, so we went right out and looked for a place to eat. All the cheap restaurants I had looked up on the Web seemed to close at five o’clock. We finally wound up in Halcyon, the restaurant next to the Mint Museum. Ellen told me all about the things they’re doing in her church in Chelmsford, Massachusetts — the successful evening worship service, the way she mobilizes amateur musicians within her congregation, their coming of age program, their youth service trips to Saint Bernard Parish south of New Orleans. Then it turned out that our waitress grew up on Nantucket, so she and I tried to figure out if we had any common acquaintances, but the people I know who live there are all quite a bit older than she. Then Carol joined Ellen and me, and we began talking about families. We walked Ellen back to her hotel, talking all the while.

By the time we got done, today’s program for Ministry Days was over. Yet though I hadn’t attended any official programming, I got more good ideas while eating dinner with Ellen than I get in most half-day professional workshops.

Preparing for a road trip

We’re about to head off on a road trip across the country. Carol is stopping the newspaper and asking the neighbors to keep an eye on our apartment; I’m ironing and packing. Tomorrow we’ll start driving towards Charlotte, North Carolina, planning to arrive in time for General Assembly.

Along the way, I’ll spend the Friday and Saturday before General Assembly at the National Sacred Harp Convention, and that Sunday at the annual all-day singing at the Macedonia Church outside Section, Alabama. I’ll be at Ministry Days before General Assembly. At General Assembly, I’ll be reporting for the UU World Web site, and I’ll be making a brief appearance at workshop no. 3049.

If you’re going to be at any of those events, look for me — I’d love to say hi!

Sacred Harp at GA?

Scott Wells, at Boy in the Bands, poses an excellent question regarding the upcoming General Assembly (GA) of Unitarian Universalists: “What might we show or teach one another in the hallways and caf├ęs of Charlotte?”

My answer: I really want to share some Sacred Harp singing at GA. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s “theologically incorrect,” but it’s rockin good music that draws in punk rockersGrammy-winning performers of medieval musicavant-garde sound artistsyoung urbanitesfolkies — and just ordinary people like you. This is whatreal hymn singing sounds like: loud, raucous, unrestrained, by turns mournful and ecstatic.

I kinda doubt there will be many Sacred Harp singers at GA, but if you’re one, let me know, and let’s see if we can set something up.