by Revs. Barbara W. & Jaco B. ten Hove
We love to report back on the particular ways our annual UU General Assembly(GA) unfolds each year! It is very heartening to be among thousands of Unitarian Universalists from all over the world, who gather to do business (change by-laws, honor leaders, vote on statements of conscience, etc.), engage with workshops and presentations (on a really wide variety of topics), participate in large, very musical worship (always a highlight), and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. It’s usually an exhausting but exhilarating week.
Every GA is different and yet has similar gifts. We are grateful that we could be part of this one in Charlotte, NC, to participate again in the annual love fest of religious liberals. We’ll bring much of what we gained during these days to our work at Cedars (and lots of helpful online coverage is specifically linked below).
This year our UU Association of Congregations (UUA) notably celebrated the 50th anniversary of the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America in 1961. Here are some of our highlights from this important GA.
- Attending (with my fellow homebred UU Charlotte cousin) a “Standing on the Side of Love” march and rally supporting marriage equality in NC (where anti legislation is currently under consideration). We were both mightily impressed by a young person who shared the challenges of dealing with gender identity as a teenage child of immigrants. We were proud to show NC that we support the rights of GLBTQ people, especially as reported in the mainstream Charlotte media.
- Singing through 50 years of UU Music in 50 minutes with lots of other UUs.
- Discovering my own youth group advisor and dear friend was at GA with her husband. Over a meal we shared memories and reconnected.
- Listening to Karen Armstrong (pronounced Car’-ren), in my opinion the greatest living interfaith scholar, who reminded us that all religions have compassion at their heart. Her new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, is on my list to read this summer, and she celebrated that Seattle is the first city to sign on to the Charter for Compassion that she has spearheaded.
- Worshipping at the inspirational Sunday morning service with 4,000 UUs, lots of stirring music and another Kaaren (Anderson, UU co-minister in Rochester, NY), who preached on the importance of moving beyond the false dichotomy of Humanism and Theism to a commitment to live out of connection and compassion—other words for Unity and Love!
- Leading worship (with Barbara) for our colleagues in the Clergy Couples group that annually gathers just ahead of the GA.
- Experiencing a number of deep and stirring theological lectures that embolden us toward more effective articulation of our saving UU message. One pair of presentations, by Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, focused on what it would take to make Unitarian Universalism a “church for the new millennium.” Among his remarks:
- UUism will fade away if we allow a “spiritual but not religious” attitude to dominate;
- Our job is to creatively save religion from the cynics and manipulators; and
- Religion is not a set of beliefs but a holistic way of life; “where we keep reminders of life’s meaning.”
- Being on stage as an elder in the annual Young Adult Bridging/Synergy Worship Service (the first one of which Barbara and I helped create at the 1995 GA in Spokane). See me in chalice lighting action at 1:09 of the online video.
- Voting to amend and then affirm the final version of our UU Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating, a significant and challenging document, representing three years of dynamic, widespread reflection and process.
Next June’s General Assembly will be a “Justice GA” in Phoenix, AZ, focusing on our country’s immigration struggles. GAs after that will be in Louisville, KY, and Providence, RI. If you can arrange to attend at least once, it will reliably expand your religious horizons in exciting ways.
Meanwhile, join us and Barbara’s visiting sister Brooksie (mother of our niece Julie, the friendly young pianist living with us this summer) when she presents a musical service at Cedars on July 24!