30 June Minister Moment

I’m on vacation this week. Last week was incredible. Our congregation sent delegates to General Assembly in New Orleans. New Orleans responded by giving us Tropical Storm Cindy and then hot humid weather. The storm played havoc with travel plans, and many folks had their flights canceled: some never made it to the UUA General Assembly at all.

For those who made it (and for those who stayed home and participated online) the annual gathering of about 4,000 UUs from over 600 different congregations did not disappoint. The big feature of the week was the UUA Presidential Campaign. Folks from across the USA wore Jeanne Pupke t-shirts, and Alison Miller supporters were everywhere too. In the end, Susan Fredrick-Gray received the majority of votes in the instant-runoff election — www.uuworld.org has a nice article on this with the acceptance video.

Martha Shore and I went to a small concert by Reggie Harris and Greg Greenway, who will be touring together as “Deeper Than the Skin” giving concerts and workshops and “Building Bridges with Music.” They were promoting the Living Legacy Pilgrimage  http://uulivinglegacy.orga civil rights pilgrimage from October 21-28. The bus tour visits landmarks in the history of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil Rights. Thanks Barbara Z. who suggested we go hear Reggie and Greg! Maybe you can afford to go on the tour?

In general, I try to avoid the plenary sessions at General Assembly. The organization is the “Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations” and I attend as a minister. Two resolutions attracted me though, as they would modify the Purposes and Principles of the organization I serve. I voted to table the modification of our principle “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” to “being.” The motion to table would end consideration of that bylaw amendment. This change would be too big for our association, and a large majority agreed to table it – it was not taken up from the table, and the motion expired at the end of the session.

The second change to that section was to modify the phrase: “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;” to “…prophetic people which…”  I supported this, as the listing of “women and men” was provocative in the 1970s, but is now seen as limiting. Many speakers who do not identify as woman or man spoke of the exclusionary nature of this source. The assembly agreed, and voted to not only consider this bylaw change, but also to (with 4/5 majority) approve it for the first of two assembly affirmations.

There is much more, and our delegates will have a report on their activities later this summer. I want to end with some points from our Ware Lecture — the big evening lecture which is often the highlight of General Assembly. Brian Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, spoke about his work with prison inmates wrongfully condemned to death. He listed four things “we have to do”  (my transcription, so I may have gotten the phrasing wrong).

1) Get Proximate to the poor, neglected, abused, the imprisoned. He challenged us to make our lives proximate—with and involved with – those on the margins, to listen to their reality.

2) Change the narrative that sustains inequality. He spoke of how drug addiction was a crime in the USA, but alcohol addiction was a disease. How the reinforced narrative on race keeps people fearful and angry. And how the statement that Americans had not known terror until 9/11/01 neglects the era of terror from the Civil War to World War II experienced by African Americans. Let’s change the narrative.

3) Remain hopeful in the fight against hopelessness.

4) Get uncomfortable — we cannot change the world without doing uncomfortable things.

And he ended by saying “The opposite of poverty is justice”

Now, back to vacation! Happy Independence Day! I’ll see you on July 9th.

I love you,
Rev Charlie