Friday, June 22, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Louise)

I am envious of Sean's willingness to carry his laptop to the convention center and "live blog." I scolded him for checking his email during plenary tonight, but it turns out he really can multi-task and took copious notes of the procedings.

Okay, Thursday's standout GA moment for me:

Watching the two Breakthrough Congregation videos at morning plenary. The vitality of these churches was contagious and they received thunderous applause. There was some discussion on another blog about what a lukewarm reception the crowd gave to the introduction of two new affiliate congregations at an earlier plenary. During one of the breakthrough videos, they listed as a proud accomplishment that they had spun off two new churches recently, and the crowd cheered. So rest assured that there is appreciation of that type of growth.

Paul Rogat Loeb's lecture on Peacemaking. He spoke about how incredibly hard it is to do the good work of justice and offered advice on avoiding burnout. His story-telling is young, hip, funny and thought-provoking. I was inspired to sign up to help with a Peacemaking and Technology Work Group. They plan to create a website, and I will volunteer to be the editor.

Robert Fulgham's talk, "What in God's Name am I Doing?" I laughed, I cried, I sat on the floor. It's nice to spend an hour just feeling good, warm, simple things about being in the world. His story-telling is down-home, funny, head-nodding "yup, that's right." Even Robert cried as he thanked us for the honor of speaking to us.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to hear two such different, yet inspiring, authors speak. Good to feel connected to a movement that includes big names, big ideas.

Two other outstanding moments, but not as positive:

On the light rail train back to walk the dog at lunch, a man sat down next to me and asked how my day was. When I ride transit, I arm myself with my 1000-yard stare and "I'm not interested in conversation" body language. I nodded vaguely in response. "Better than my day, I bet," he continued. I turned slightly toward him and said, "I'm having a pretty good day, thank you." He replied, "I was just laid off. Just now." The sincerity in his voice finally broke through my barriers and I looked him in the face and said I was sorry. He told me he had worked making bumpers for Freightliner trucks for 14 years and they closed the plant today. He looked and sounded the part of tough blue-collar manufacturing guy, except for the pain in his eyes. He looked right at me as he told me he had hoped to get 20 full years before retiring from this job, but now he only had 60 days of severance pay. Stunned with sympathy, I could only say, "Wow, how hard. I'm so sorry. You must be shocked." And then, he got off the train at the very next stop. "Good luck!" I called after him. I wanted to run with him to ask more questions, to offer more...something. Hope? A job? I don't know.

Tonight at plenary, the agenda included only two items: the candidate's forum/election and the UUA Board of Trustees report. The plenary was sparsely attended. The slate of candidates were all brought forward by the Nominating Committee and consisted of one candidate per open slot. Pretty obvious that they would all be elected. They each gave their 1.5 minute introduction and were easily voted in. I think this easy and predictable procedure lulled the assembly into a sleepy state. When the Board then gave their report, including what I consider to be the bombshell of major changes to Independent Affiliate status, there was polite applause. Each of the four At Large Trustees spoke for about 2 minutes, then Gini adjourned the session.

Did anyone else notice? I've read the Board's Annual Report and the two paragraphs on IAs were just as short as the verbal report, slipped under the radar, and yet significant.

I don't necessarily disagree with the Board's position that "...our congregations are not served by Independent Affiliates operating in isolation or being an alternative for congregational life." It just seems to me that if we are severing ties with groups that we have had long and meaningful relationships with that we owe both them and ourselves more time to discuss, reflect and absorb this. As far as I can tell, there isn't even a workshop on the topic. We can talk for hours about how a song offended someone so much that we formed a task force to investigate, but our divorce from Faithful Fools, Project Hope and District Presidents’ Association warrants not a moment more than a cursory and vague report. I disagree with the process here. Am I missing something?


Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells) said...

Both the process and the theory -- a flawed application of congregational polity -- is behind the independent affiliate change. There's even a tactical failure, since I bet many people who are interested in Association affairs are even more invested in an new really independent organization.

The Lively Tradition and I have covered this story over the last few weeks. A scan at will fins the posts.

jeb said...

I agree with you. This is not very democratic. More time should be spent discussing this. The Independent Affiliates perform an important function for those of us in congregations that cannot or will not meet our needs. Many people who have interests or faith traditions that are disregarded by their congregations can get help and support from the Indepenndent Affiliates. I didn't even know what an Independent Affiliate was until GA but I used their services to help me with my work in my congragation and to pursue my spiritual path. There are two groups that surprise me in being rejected. The UU Christians--Unitarians and Universalists alike started out as Christian. Now the UUA is sending the message (I hope unintentionally) that there is no place for Christians in Unitarian Universalism. I'm sure other faith traditions are being sent the same message.

The other group that surprises me is a Universalist Convention. If a group of Universalists want to support themselves and their history in a certain area, what's the problem. I'm sure when Unitarians and Universalists merged they didn't expect their organizations to be discontinued. That may have nixed the deal. So why is it OK now to do this with very little discussion, publicity and more important than publicity--understandable explanation.

One last thing--It seems like Social Justice should be an important part of UU'ism and most of the work on Social Justice is being done by Independennt Affiliates. We better cut the part about the inherent worth and dignity, add for old white people only and cut the interdependent web part out also. Also, forget about prophetic voices--they also are not welcome.

A lot of people are upset about this and a lot more are being sent a subliminal message that they are not welcome and that their needs do not matter. I may just quit being a UU because of this. If you know where I can go please let me know.