Bringing the Message Home at UUA’s General Assembly 2014
By Jerry Rubin
Every year Unitarian Universalists from the United States and around the world assemble at General Assembly, not to bring its members closer to God, not to make us better Unitarians, but to remember our purpose: — to celebrate diversity, to discuss and debate how we can best allocate our resources in order to help others and plan how we are going to go about doing this. And yes, we also ponder how we can grow our membership. For we believe that our values of inclusiveness play an important role in making the world a better place.
The 53rd GA was attended by 4,573 people. We started the day with a worship service and ended the day with more worship. In-between, delegates went to eight business sessions and there were 156 workshops to choose from. Of course, there was wonderful music throughout and the keynote speaker, Sister Simone Campbell, a Roman Catholic nun, was remarkable. Her message was to be peaceful activists and not be afraid to walk toward trouble.
What surprised me the most about this GA were the worship services. Having grown up culturally Jewish, evangelical worship has always felt unnatural; but to my surprise, I was moved by the gospel flavor that permeated the services at this GA – a more intimate expressiveness, evoking a different sense of connection than I am accustomed to in a UU congregation.
Imagine people preaching and singing passionately about how they had been lost, but now have been found. But this time, and this is important, it is not a savior that has delivered us, but a religious practice with core teachings that proclaim: we are a place where everyone belongs.
The embracing of inclusiveness and expressions of vulnerability in these services moved me and I have since thought about those of us who are UUs to the core, but go to New England Chapel from time to time to get a “hit” of rapture. I am guessing that those UUs who are distancing themselves from their more traditional religious upbringing may have a more difficult time with this gospel flavor than someone like myself, who was raised by atheist parents. But is it also possible that we are not reaching potential members who are willing to sever their beliefs in a divine deity, but still yearn for something more – spontaneous expressiveness?
In each GA, delegates vote on which social issues submitted by UU member congregations in the previous year, will be studied for the next four years, ideally by all congregations. In the third year of study, GA can vote to approve a Statement of Conscience resulting from congregational feedback. The fourth year is devoted to implementing the study/action issue.
The five Congregational study/action issues (CSAI’s) at this year’s GA were:
- Escalating Inequality
- Gun violence as a public health issue
- Renewing and securing our American democracy
- Ending the war on terror
- Empowerment age inability
When all of the votes were counted, escalating inequality won. In summation, this CSAI addresses how upward mobility-the American Dream –has become a myth. Concentration of wealth and power has skyrocketed. Dr. King’s dream of justice and equality has fractured. Half of all Americans are impoverished or struggling, as the middle class shrinks and billionaires take the profits. Where’s our commitment to the Common Good?
- The Washington Office for Advocacy will prepare a resource guide, which will be ready in November for all UU congregations and districts.
- Official Comment Forms will be are available online later in the fall to solicit feedback on the resource guide and the progress congregations and districts have made. This form is submitted to the UUA in March and comments must reflect group opinions, not the thoughts of one person.
- At GA 2015, the Commission on Social Witness (CSW) will conduct multiple workshops on the CSAI for congregations and districts to share best practices, address challenges and identify opportunities for collaboration among congregations and districts and with outside groups. Forums may also be held that feature outside speakers on the issue.
If you have questions about this GA initiative, Escalating Inequality,please join us Nov. 9 at FUSF after services to discuss this issue. If you have more questions about GA, please go to the UUA website.