Monday, June 26, 2006

Introduction (Louise)

Welcome to our report as delegates at the 2006 UU General Assembly in St. Louis, MO. We are Louise Hornor and Sean Welsh, husband and wife. For those of you unfamiliar with how a blog works, a few explanations are in order.

First, the entries are in reverse chronological order. If you read from this entry down, you will be traveling backwards in time. It probably makes more sense if you start by clicking here and reading upwards. If you do, you will notice that there are more entries further down. That's because I (Louise) was a delegate in 2005 and used this same blog to record my impressions then. So, if you really want to start at the beginning and work forward from GA 2005 in Ft. Worth, TX, click here.

Sean and I posted our entries in an intermingled, all-inclusive, higgledy-piggledy, rather UU sort of way, which is how we do pretty much everything. Recognizing that a casual reader might not hear our individual voices very clearly, we've put the name of the author for a given entry in parentheses at the beginning of the post.

A few photos and one brief video are also included to break up the monotony of the written word. We hope you find this blog an interesting account of GA 2006. Feel free to comment by clicking the word "Comment" at the bottom of any given entry. Or, you may email us at louise.hornor (at) and slwelsh (at)

Final day (Louise)

My final GA day was much less emotional than previous days, which is odd in that Sunday contains two big show-stoppers: Morning Worship and Closing Ceremony. While I enjoyed both, neither was the highlight of the week for me.

Morning Worship was terrific in the way it always is: a sense of wonder and amazement to be worshipping with THOUSANDS of UUs. We could fill a small city. Hymns were sung. Amens were shouted. Babies cried. Folks wandered in late. An offering was taken (why don't we do that in the CLF service? Giving, offering our resources, is a spiritual act...) I felt for an hour like a member of a Mega Church that could whup a big Texas Protestant evangelical church in tug of war.

Sean did a good job describing Sunday's plenary business. All week, as we listened to reports and debate in plenary, I jotted notes in the margin of my agenda about things that caught my interest or moved me. No jottings on Sunday. One item that I knew intellectually was important, the report from Meadville-Lombard Seminary on radical new thinking in the theological community, was given in such a dull 30-minute presentation that I really struggled to pay attention. The main speaker was a M-L professor and convinced me that if I go to seminary at some point in my life, it will be at Starr-King. Maybe it was just that 5 days into GA I was tired of "ministerial phrasing;" you know, that sing-song meaningful voice that many sermons are given in. 20 minutes of sermon once a week is fine, but GA contains dozens, maybe hundreds of hours of sermonizing and a body does tire of The Voice. Don't get me wrong; I realized this year that I have truly become an adult because I actually found 20 minutes to be too short. But, still. One of the reasons Rev. Meg Barnhouse's piece at Closing Ceremony was so wonderful is that she speaks like "jes folks." Plus she is so funny she makes me tear up.

We had a wonderful visit with our friends Pam and Di over dinner. It was great to catch up and talk deeply about our spiritual lives.

Closing Ceremony started off a little rough during Choir warm up. Earlier in the day we had exactly the right number of chairs on stage for our group of over 175 but by 7pm a chair was missing. The bass gentleman who discovered he had no seat did not seem to have the skills to handle this minor crisis, so I offered him my seat. It wasn't entirely altruistic; I was at the far edge of the tenor section, with basses who didn't know their part very well singing quite loudly (and incorrectly) behind me. One of the people around me smelled very bad, and I was anxious to move anyway. Hey, I'm flexible, I'll find a seat. It took a bit of asking around to find where an extra chair could be squeezed in. I am disappointed to say that the dozen or so other choir members that I asked if there was an empty seat further down their row or to shift their chairs a bit to see if we could find room were mostly rather rude and uncooperative. There was certainly no sense of "we're part of a group and in this together."

I resigned myself to sitting on the steps, and was truly okay with that. We were going to sing eight pieces including hymns, so I'd be standing much of time anyway. Plus, I was in the lowest 10th percentile age-wise, so better me than someone with arthritic knees. However, when I went to inform the tenor section leader of my plan, she would have none of it, waved her hands and put me between two of the soloists in the front row. This was ideal. The woman on my right smelled of fresh lavender and they both sang like powerful goddesses. We rocked and shouted and loved that music into ministry, oh yes!

The music was great, but the complicated nature of conducting us, the Children's Choir, the band, and the congregation (often simultaneously) in the large echoing hall seemed to make Mimi anxious. Watching her worried face saddened me, a little. I think she truly loved working with us, but was a bit disappointed in the final performance. I loved the rehearsals more, myself. I suspect she did, too.

This is not to say that this GA was a disappointment, though. Both Sean and I are inspired to give more of our time to the church. We are planning to step forward to help with making CLF a Welcoming Congregation, and are thinking about which UUA committees we are best suited for. We're setting our goals pretty high: he's considering running for Planning Committee and I've got my eye on the Board of Trustees. We'll see how that all fits in with our Red Cross work.

The party's over...(Sean)

GA is over, and I'm wiped out. We were scheduled to leave here this morning, but we're going to extend another night just so we can get a day of rest. (Well, OK, we'll probably also go to the arch and maybe see a bit more of St. Louis, since we did not get the chance at all during GA.)

We had a wonderful worship service yesterday morning. The room was packed -- I would estimate close to 5,000 in attendance, which would be most of the 4,000+ registered attendees, some of whom brought their children, plus folks from the surrounding community. Reverend Gail R. Geisenhainer delivered a very moving sermon, centered on her introduction to, and acceptance by, the UU faith at a time that was even less safe for persons of differing sexual orientation. She is a powerful speaker, and I was moved to tears several times during her sermon. CLF's own Rev. Jane Rzepka delivered the blessing.

Plenary was long, but fruitful. Several Actions of Immediate Witness passed uncontentiously with little or no debate. An Action of Immediate Witness calling for support of the creation of a US Department of Peace generated lively debate, culminating in a vote split nearly evenly. The AIW did not pass, as a 2/3 majority is needed. An AIW on immigration reform also generated lively debate, including debate on a proposed amendment to strike a bullet item opposing any government attempts to declare any official national language. Ultimately, the AIW passed with the wording intact. You will find all the AIW's on the UUA web site.

Ginny gave over a good chunk of her alloted time for the moderator's report to the youth, who spoke to us about youth of color once again being disenfranchised and disrespected through a variety of incidents throughout GA. I will not repeat them in detail here, for fear that I will misremember or misstate the issues -- I am sure you will have the chance to learn about them through a follow-up report that I can only assume will be forthcoming. It would appear that few of the delegates or other attendees read the report of the special commission from the Fort Worth GA, and history has repeated itself. We still have much work to do in this area to actually live the values that we so strongly profess.

I am sorry to say that a prior commitment meant that we were out of the room as the SOC on Global Warming and its myriad amendments were debated and voted upon. I understand that it was finally hammered out and passed as amended. Let me take a moment to say here that the matter of this SOC came before us early in the week -- with 50 proposed unincorporated amendments. The assembly, wisely seeing that we could not possibly, even if we took the entire week to do so, formally debate and vote on 50 individual amendments, then on the entire motion, moved into discussion as a Committee of the Whole. (Although, first, a Motion to Refer, which would have sent the entire matter back to the congregations for another year, was defeated.)

In the Committee of the Whole, we discussed the fact that this SOC coming to us, as it did, in such an unfinished and un-agreed-upon state, reflected a broken process, wherein the work that rightly should have been done in and by the congregations was not done. It became clear that we were attempting to do, in four days at GA, work that should have been much further along in two years of congregational process. This was a key insight that informed our later voting on the bylaw changes to modify the process, on which I previously reported under the title "Making Sausage" -- come to think of it, an apt title for this post, too. At any rate, the Committee of the Whole was able to agree on incorporating quite a number of the amendments without the lengthy and cumbersome formal process. When time ran out, we reported back to the assembly a recommendation, which was readily adopted, to incorporate said amendments, refer the matter back to the CSW for further work during the week, and bring the product of that work back to the assembly at this final plenary session.

Which brings us back to last night's plenary, extended, as it was, to accommodate the additional work. Again, a previous commitment precluded our participation, but I was quite comfortable that we had sent all the right messages back to the committee. We also knew that many more interested persons would become engaged in the further work during the week. You should find the final, passed SOC on the UUA web site.

We were back in the hall in time for closing ceremonies, where Louise sang in the choir. The music was very upbeat and moving, and, as usual, closing ceremonies were also upbeat, with only one speaker, at-large board member Tamara Payne-Alex of San Jose, hinting at the problems of earlier in the week. Rev. Meg Barnhouse delivered a set of reflections on the week that was at once uproariously funny and also extremely moving, and I teared up for the second event in one day. I hope her words end up on the web site, either in printed or audio form -- I think you would enjoy and appreciate them.

Judi McGavin invited us all to Portland, Oregon for GA 2007, and I will close for this year by saying I hope to see you there.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The 2006 GA choir, singing at the Closing Cermony. Louise is smack dab in the middle of this photo.
Just a few of the congregational banners, displayed around the convention center
Louise waiting for the MetroLink into St. Louis

Saturday (Louise)

Sean did a good job summarizing the business of yesterday's plenary, but did make one small factual error. This morning he attributed that to "association-sponsored wine drinking." The donor appreciation party last night was quite lovely, with a wide variety of finger foods, a jazz combo, and free-flowing vino. Also, if you want to know where the stylishly-dressed UUs hang out, this was the place. Not a Birkenstock in sight.

To correct his minor mistake: the Statement of Conscience adoption process never required any set percentage of congregations to participate. One presenter mentioned that statistically we might get as high as 10% participation in a good year. So, a leap to a 25% requirement is statistically huge.

Yesterday I had the option of attending two elective sessions, plus two plenaries and choir rehearsal. The first elective, after morning plenary and before a noonish choir rehearsal, I sat in on a workshop called "Using UU Values to Cope with Difficult Behavior." Most folks were hoping to gain skills to take back to their Board meetings, but I'd like to apply it to my Red Cross work. By the time the second elective time rolled around, I felt like I had been going non-stop and the wimp factor kicked in again. I wanted to attend a workshop on being an ally for the differently-abled, but my energy was gone.

Hidden deep in the 132 page program, on the same page as the "ally" workshop description, in a tiny blue box at the bottom of the page, was listed a quiet sanctuary from GA madness: the location and hours of the meditation room. My heart leapt! A beautiful round room, filled with pillows and sunlight, quietly embraced and soothed me. I left calmed and centered, walking more slowly than I had in weeks. That end of the giant convention center was so quiet, and as I walked back into GA I had this lovely transition time. First I heard a murmur of traffic outside, then two quiet voices conversing. As I passed the "ally" workshop room, I saw they had broken into small, intense groups. One man was weeping, with his hands over his face. I was sure that good, healing work was happening there. Around the corner, dozens of colorful banners greeted me, and I could hear footsteps, more talking. Down the escalator, into the exhibit hall, and people were talking more loudly, with animation. The exhibit hall swirled with people, and I plunged in, smiling.

Plenary highlights: We have a self-funded health-care plan for employees and ministers. Yay! Hearing about a group that is working on rituals for women with breast cancer caught my attention. I spent a bit of time day dreaming what those rituals might look like. And one of the discussions about congregational life made me wistful. I do miss the intimacy of my old church in Palo Alto. I miss having the details in my life noticed: my tears, my joys, a new haircut, my slow changes into the person I am now.

I spent some time talking to a staff member at the UUA office of Identity-Based Ministries about what it would take to make the CLF a welcoming congregation. Sean and I both want to do this work, and we hope to talk to Jane Rzepka today.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Making up for lost time (Sean)

It seems like I am making up for not posting until today by posting three times in one day.

Plenary this afternoon involved a fairly contentious vote on what amounts to a complete restructuring of the way we create, agree upon, and act on statements of conscience. I will not duplicate here the text of the bylaw changes or amendments thereto, as they either already are or soon will be available on the UUA web site.

The gist of it all is that several years of introspection, analysis, and work have culminated in a recommendation to move from a process whereby a study/action item is adopted each and every year, then follows a two-year trajectory leading to resolution by the assembly as a SOC of the UUA, to a process whereby study/action items may be adopted at most once every other year, each then following a three-year trajectory to resolution. The overall intent is to involve the congregations more fully in the process, and one manifestation of that intent is to also require a full quarter of all congregations (vs. previously only one tenth) to ratify any such issue before it can be resolved in assembly.

An amendment was proposed early in the debate to lower the ratification requirement back down to 10%. Many passionate arguments were asserted both pro (that is to say, in favor of amending the original bylaw change proposal so as to lower the 25% threshold down to 10%) and con. The synopsis of the pro argument is that participation by more than 10% of any general demographic is difficult (at best) to achieve, and that UUA policy, not unlike civil law, is crafted, adopted, and implemented by those who care most (or, as it was worded, "those who show up"). The synopsis of the con argument is that, as people of faith, we must have real commitment to the principles which we are adopting -- in short, if 25% of congregations can not, in the new extended time frame, get charged up enough by or involved enough in any proposed statement of conscience, then such a statement is unlikely to result in any meaningful action by the movement as a whole. I strongly agree with this latter argument and voted accordingly.

The vote on whether or not to amend the motion to change the bylaws to reflect the lower threshold was extremely close -- so much so that the moderator asked for a re-show of voting cards. In the end in failed by a small margin, leaving the assembly to continue debate on the original motion. (As a sidebar I will note that perhaps a number higher than 10% but lower than 25% would have been a better compromise. No such motion was made. If the 25% hurdle proves insurmountable as things move forward, some future assembly can always take up the matter of lowering it as appropriate.)

Again, passionate arguments were advanced on both sides. My own, necessarily abbreviated summary is that the con camp felt that there are many pressing issues of social justice upon which we, as a movement, should be taking stands, and that reducing the number of such stands below at least one per year, and/or extending the time frame from proposal to "implementation" of such stands beyond the current two years was unacceptable. The pro camp generally felt that the process by which we currently take such stands is inherently hurried and thus flawed to the extent that congregations hardly have time to wrap their arms around the issues, and, once adopted, the pressure to "move on" to the next stand precludes the possibility of meaningful internalization and subsequent action on stands already adopted. The pro camp also felt that the existing Action of Immediate Witness process, which will continue, remains available for important stands that are urgent, time sensitive, and do not necessitate as great a level of congregational involvement.

While I am a relative newcomer to the faith, it has been apparent to me for some time that the current process does not seem to result in fruitful, meaningful change within the denomination or even in the individuals who are so passionate about the issues in the first place. That is to say, people who are already passionate about an issue of social justice remain so, and people who were not already passionate do not become energized by a mere written position paper being somehow formally adopted by the association. Sure, there are certain specific times when designated representatives of the denomination, for example, President Sinkford, have been able to cite these positions at opportune times when circumstances called for a well-documented and agreed-upon stance. But, really, is that all we want from our Statements of Conscience? Are we not, as brothers and sisters in solidarity, called upon to internalize, actualize, and apologize these values in our own lives?

I voted my conscience -- that we need to own these issues at the congregational level and that, if we can not even do that, we have no business formalizing them as statements of conscience of the entire denomination. Apparently, a majority of the delegates felt the same way, as the motion to amend the bylaws passed by a clear (but by no means unanimous) margin. Moving forward, we will have a new process for adopting statements of conscience, and I hope it will prove to be more spiritual and holistic for the entire community. I also hope that CLF will accept the challenge to find a way to integrate this process into our own diverse and widespread congregation and to be a full and active participant in the new, congregation-centered process.

In other news, we also attended the annual donor appreciation reception this evening, as both Friends of the UUA and members of the Legacy Society. Much wine was poured -- make appropriate allowance as you read the foregoing. Perhaps it won't make sense to me in the morning either.

More catch up....(Sean)

A few additional minutes here for another couple of observations.

Several references have been made here thus far to some incidents at or around the Fort Worth GA concerning youth of color. A brief statement from President Sinkford and Moderator Courter was read at all in-gatherings asking all to be mindful, and the special commission that was assembled after Fort Worth to investigate the matter spent a few minutes at plenary introducing themselves and, again, urging mindfulness. The actual findings of the commission and the facts around the incident, however, were touched upon only in the most superficial way.

The mystery around the incidents was nagging at me and last night I finally made time (perhaps at the expense of posting here) to get on the UUA web site and read the commission's final report -- all 25 pages. It is an interesting read that is quite thought-provoking, and I encourage you to make the time yourself. I had to poke around to find it... here is the link (pdf).

In the same vein and following up on Louise's comments about other GA attendees in our own restaurant, we found out today at plenary that last night, at another restaurant, a UU youth with a service dog was having dinner when another group entered the restaurant, was seated, and complained loudly to the manager about the presence of the dog and asked for it to be removed. The manager, to his credit, refused, as it was a legitimate service dog on duty. The group apparently continued to discuss the dog situation among themselves loudly for the remainder of the meal. When the youth got up to leave, she observed that this group was wearing GA badges. As this aspect of the story was related, one could hear a collective gasp from the gathered delegates, and the feelings of anger and sadness in the room were palpable.

Catching up...(Sean)

Well, here it is the middle of the penultimate day of GA, and I am finally getting around to my first post here. I did toy briefly with the idea of transcribing my thoughts from the last three days as separate posts and back-dating them as appropriate, but that would mean some folks would miss them, since the tendency is to read back only to the last post one's already seen. Also, it would fail to properly capture my state of mind and the fact that I've been too busy to post here in all that time (I'm not sure how Louise manages to do it...).

One of the positive aspects of being late with this, and I know this is cheating just a bit, is that Louise has already done a fine job of describing many of the events thus far. I can simply say that I agree with all that she has written here. I can also clarify that, no, she is not a wimp... last night's gulf coast presentation did, indeed, run over by a huge margin and I, too, considered it disrespectful to the assembled delegates, in much the same way that I also considered many of the delegates disrespectful on Thursday when they left the room in droves before the end of the agenda and its alloted time. Two wrongs don't make a right, and I expect that one of us will take up the issue of last night's overrun with Ginny in the same way that Louise did regarding Thursday.

I myself could have stayed later, to hear the rest of the presentation and whatever announcements might have been made before adjournment. However, I also left at 9:20 to accompany Louise home. As many of our readers here know, we live full time in our motor coach, and it is parked across the Mississippi in East Saint Louis, Illinois, necessitating a brief ride on MetroLink, the local light rail system here, and a short walk to and from the stations on both ends. I thought it would be nice to ride and walk home together.

As long as I have mentioned the motor coach, I will also tell you that what occupied my time most of Thursday morning was an emergency repair thereto. I won't bore you with the details, which will be available over on our personal travelogue site, but suffice it to say that I made it to the America's Center just in time for the CLF worship service, where Louise greeted me at the door by handing me a program.

Thursday was also the first plenary session with a business agenda, where we discussed and voted on the lone Study Action Issue, and also took a straw poll to assist the CSW on the Actions of Immediate Witness. While this is my third time at GA, having hovered in the background in Boston in 2003 (as an unregistered spouse of a registered delegate), and participated as a registered attendee in Fort Worth last year, this is my first GA as a delegate, and it brought forth some mixed feelings. They had to do with how I was to vote.

Let me say here that I have a good deal of experience with deliberative bodies and also with volunteer organizations. Voting in conference is not foreign to me. However my gut feeling is that in such a conference of delegates, the delegates are intended to bring with them the sense of the smaller body which those delegates are to be representing. I'm sure that many congregational delegates come here already briefed on their congregations' wishes with respect to the many issues that come before the assembly. I felt that I had little to no idea how the CLF, as a whole, would vote on these issues. Perhaps there is some mechanism within the CLF for becoming so informed that I am, as yet, unaware of. In the end, I gave myself permission to simply vote my own conscience on the issues at hand. If any readers of this blog have a different suggestion, please feel free to comment on this post.
Our choir director, Mimi Bornstein.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Exhausting (Louise)

Today was a very long day, and I didn't even make it to evening worship or the entertainment. Other people seem to have much more stamina than I do. I like to think that is because I put more energy into each moment so I need to sleep more to recharge my batteries. But maybe that's just wishful thinking and I am really just a wimp.

The morning plenary held one gem and one long, intriguing discussion. The gem was learning that Starr King Seminary now offers a two-year Master's degree for lay leadership. Something to seriously consider for the future. The big discussion, which did not finish and will be continued on Sunday, was the crafting of our Statement of Conscience about Global Warming. Clearly, many UUs feel very passionate about the subject, and watching them debate the topic and struggle with the plenary process was a fascinating delight.

I then worked my final hour in the CLF booth, which passed very quickly. Choir rehearsal followed that, then two "elective" sessions. I chose to hear Meg Barnard sing and tell stories, which made me alternatively laugh and cry. A Good Thing. For the second session, Sean and I both heard Michael Dowd passionately speak about Evolution and religion. I feel strongly that his work will be the "aha!" breakthrough that builds true bridges between the religious left and right. His website is The Great Story.

We dashed off for a quick dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant downtown. Very traditional, with white tablecloths, mahogany panelling and waiters in tuxedos. I was embarrassed when a large group of UU convention-goers came in and immediately started complaining loudly about the menu prices. I suspect they tipped badly, too.

Evening plenary held some very good things. I was moved by the UUSC presentation, by how together we can do such good work that none alone could accomplish. How wonderful to be part of this greater whole! And when Jerry and Denny Davidoff receivedthe Distinguished Service Award, I was reminded that we do, indeed, stand upon the shoulders of giants. The "UUs and Gulf Coast" presentation, which ended the program was disrespectfully long. Given that it was a carefully scripted piece with around ten performers reading (well and movingly) from a printed document, its length should have been well known beforehand, within 5 minutes or so. Going 40 minutes over is inexcusable. Yes, it is an important subject, but so are most others on the agenda. We use a backward ticking clock and a loud bell to end discussion by delegates and yet allow some presenters to increase the length of the session by over 25%? Unfair and un-UU.

But then again, it is late and maybe I'm just a wimp.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thursday (Louise)

Today we got to sleep in a little, because the first event did not start until 11:15. That was choir rehearsal, which flew by in a heartbeat. Our director told us that she had dreamed us all year, preparing for GA. At one point in the winter she could hear us, in her head, singing a particularly wonderful harmonic piece. When we sang it today, she flashed back to that memory and it moved her to tears. At that same moment, while we were singing, I choked up with tears and had to just mouth the words for a few measures. How strange and wonderful that we both cried then. Music is a direct conduit to my soul.

After choir, the annual Church of the Larger Fellowship worship service took place in the same room. The musicians for the service started to warm up, and I was waiting for Sean anyway, so I stayed. Other volunteers were starting to put brochures on the chairs, so I helped. That led to handing out programs as people wandered in, and it felt like a blessing to say, "Welcome!" to each one. It felt just like being back in Palo Alto at my old church. It felt like MY church, where I am comfortable and part of the infrastructure. "The singing? Oh, the musicians are practising. Come in and listen and the service will start soon. This is CLF; you'll love it! We have wonderful sermons and terrific music. Don't miss it!" And it was all those things. We sang 5-6 songs, heard the premiere of two parts of a new cantata, nodded and "amened" to Revs. Jane and Rosemary. Jane hugged me, remembering me. Oh, that felt so good, so welcoming. As Jane said last year, wasn't it Just Like Church? Oooooooh, yeah.

After a quickie annual CLF congregational meeting (other churches would be so jealous if they knew our annual meeting takes 10 minutes), it was off to plenary. Once again, my feelings were mixed. The "In Memoriam" tribute to UUs who have died this year and remembered the UUA in their wills is always so moving to me. And a video about the UU Fellowship of the Eastern Slope, a Breakthrough Congregation, was inspiring and uplifting. But as the last hour of plenary approached and at least half the delegates left, I felt angry and betrayed. Being a delegate is a commitment. All those who spoke passionately about their topics in the last hour were cheated out of the full attention of the gathering. I think that is disrespectful! I talked to the moderator, Ginny, about it, and truly felt heard by her. That helped. But it still stung, a little. Sigh. Time to work on forgiveness? But what about justice?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A short (approx. 1 minute) video of the Opening Ceremony Banner Parade. Click here or on the photo to watch the video.
Sean working the CLF booth.

Back in the swing of things (Louise)

It is great to be back at another GA. Today was the first choir rehearsal, always a big thrill for me. The conductor this year is Mimi Bornstein, who is fun and enthusiastic as well as talented. We are a big choir this year, and we sound good already.

After rehearsal, Sean and I both worked the CLF booth. Working three hours in the booth is part of our responsibilites as delegates, although it appears that most delegates blow it off. Too bad for them; it is a fun way to be of service and meet many fine folks. We met Patty and Beth in the booth, and caught up on the year's events with Iris.

I took some time away from the booth to register as a delegate, and on my way across the exhibit hall ran into several old friends from Palo Alto, including Bryce and Fran, Pam and Di, Cilla, and Ken and Anne. Many hugs and lots of catching up to do!

At 5pm we went to the CLF in-gathering, a nice opportunity to put some more faces and names together. The food was great, especially the yummy hummus selection. Everyone won a door prize, and spirits were bubbly.

Opening Ceremony was an odd combination of rousing, moving, and boring. Without a doubt, the chalice lighting was the longest I have ever witnessed in 16 years of UU-dom. It went on, and on, and on. Sheesh. Each of the first 4-5 speakers spoke too slowly and deliberately, and the first hymn ("Shall We Gather At the River?") was sung like a dirge. The Banner Parade was great, though, as always. This year I tried to photograph every banner from places where we had visited on our RV travels, and finally stopped when I realized the ratio was over 50%! Wow, we've been around. I was proud of that accomplishment, and moved that UU churches are in so many wonderful cities and towns.

First Plenary was imbedded in the service. Our Moderator, Ginny, is so good that she makes business a pleasure. She's organized, witty, and tuned into the Mystery of Community Through Governance. We welcomed four new UU congregations and that made me proud, again.

By the end, it was late, and we were ready to hop on the Metro back to the RV park across the mighty Mississippi.