Reflections on General Assembly from a Religious Professional

What a week last week was. It started with collegial conversations between religious professionals (musicians, religious educators, ministers, membership professionals and administrators) on the work being done to create a common ethics code across our professional organizations and the understanding that we don’t all hold the same amount of power or have the same resources to respond to professional matters in our groups. I am proud of the work that my organization, Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA), has done to create a code of ethics that provides accountability, transparency and commitment to anti-racist, anti-oppression work, and look forward to witnessing the result of increased training for our Good Officers.

Wednesday was the annual meeting of LREDA where officers were elected and we spent a morning learning and sharing our experiences around creating communities that welcome and include all ages. As I listened to other stories, I realized how far ahead of many congregations Live Oak is, and was reminded that while there is still important work to be done to increase our connections across the generations, we are well on our way.

Thursday was a day full of General Assembly Workshops: Power Mapping for Congregations, James Luther Adams, New Youth Safety Guidelines in the UUA, Fahs Lecture by Paula Cole Jones, worship in morning and evening. Then, on Friday morning, after all the tiring events of the previous days, the first business session was held. Remember that Consent Agenda that Rev. Joanna mentioned last week? It took us at least an hour and a half, and what felt like two, to pass the consent agenda. The resistance to a new process (which, by the way, we voted on at the beginning of the session) was palpable in the room.

While lots of great progress was shared regarding our efforts as an organization (UUA) to dismantle white patriarchy and white supremacy, including increased numbers of diverse staff at all levels of employment, it is clear that we still have work to do. Change in a system is hard. Voices that have been historically silenced were heard as strident and combative by those who are used to having their way. Efforts to be more democratic in our business session processes were challenged by those who felt what they had to say was more important than what the majority in the room held or the process we voted on. It was clear that some present had a difficult time acknowledging the authority of the co-moderators–all the more disappointing as those people then held up past moderators, all who were white, and the “way we’ve always done it” as challenges to our current leaders. We need to be okay being uncomfortable y’all.

The theme for General Assembly was “The Power of We.” Not I, WE. Continually those leading worship and workshops held up the idea that ‘we’ means all of us in the room. Our work is to not just be welcoming, but to create a ‘Big Tent’ Unitarian Universalism, where those who come with open hearts and open minds are home. This is the promise of our faith, but it is up to all of us to realize it. May our work make manifest this promise.

(Next week: Reflections on Fahs Lecture: Building a Community of Communities)

See you on Sunday,

Carrie Krause, DLFD

PS – If you have read or heard about letters written and some tensions at General Assembly, please ask me about it. I’ll be happy to share what I know and my perspective.