Monday, June 26, 2006

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.

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