Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On to Plenary VI (Sean)

My apologies for the delay in getting this out. I was hoping to post yesterday, but the dog's been having trouble with her ears, and we needed to get her to a vet. Portland's transit system actually allows you to bring your pet, as long as it's in a carrier -- in our view, a real commitment by the transit system to getting people out of their cars. It took all morning, but we were able to get her taken care of. (We've now got drops to put in her ears for the next couple weeks.) I also wanted to see OMSI while we were still here in Portland (well, OK, I really wanted to see the submarine), and I spent the afternoon there.

Continuing my delegate's report from where I left off, on Saturday afternoon after Open Space Convergence concluded, I attended an excellent and also very well attended session entitled The Pentagon Papers Then and Now: UUs Confronting Government Secrecy, moderated by Amy Goodman and with panelists Daniel Ellsberg, Senator Mike Gravel, and Reverend Robert West. Ellsberg and Gravel were both very well-practiced speakers, and I would add also quite humorous -- I really enjoyed their presentation.

That took us into Plenary VI, wherein little business was conducted. We heard several reports in succession, to wit:
  • Report of the UU Women's Federation (which had been deferred from Plenary-V)
  • A moving report on Breakthrough Congregation Davies Memorial
  • Report of the Journey Toward Wholeness committee
  • Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award to Leon E. Spencer
We then had a brief song break, after which Dr. Helen Bishop did a short presentation on the Open Space process. Here she announced that over 1,000 GA attendees participated in the process, a number which I question, as I came up with much different math on the subject, as follows:

Firstly, I counted/extrapolated perhaps 800 people who attended the initial "domain" sessions wherein proposals were made for break-out sessions to be convened. (I suspect the 1,000 number came from counting in the "largest" room -- the only one designated for folks with hearing impairment and the closest room to the Plenary hall -- and extrapolating. I counted in three other rooms, and got an average of 80 attendees.) Now, perhaps, one could say that these 800 or so people "participated," but, considering the only thing we did in those sessions was allow people, individually, to step forward and propose topics, a more sensible number of "participants" is 285 -- the number of people who stepped forward. But, OK, 700 other people at least observed this initial part of the process.

As I shared in my last post, only 175 people were involved in the final "convergence" sessions. That's down from 285 "interested" parties on day one. Which leaves the math in the middle -- hard to figure just from sampling. Here's my own guess: I counted an average of six people in the first (of six) sets of breakout sessions, and an average of only three people in the last set. If you extrapolate these numbers across all 105 sessions that resulted in statements, that would be some 470-480 people participating in breakouts. But wait -- that assumes that, over six slots, no individual attended more than one session. That represents the most generous interpretation of the data. I would guess that no one attended all six -- there were just too many compelling alternatives on the agenda. But at least some people attended more than one. Which means that the true number of participants is somewhere between ~120 (if the average number of sessions per attendee was 4) and ~400 (at an average of 1.2). I would guess the number to be squarely in between those two, based on the number of participants in the end-game.

So Dr. Bishop's number of 1,000 is, IMO, overly optimistic. I would think an overly generous estimate would be 500, which does not represent even 10% of GA attendees.

In any case, the list of 105 statements produced by the break-out sessions had been distributed to GA attendees, and we were told that it would be forwarded to the Board of Trustees along with all the back-up materials. The list of 30 statements that were produced by the Open Space convergence process was then distributed. Attendees were invited to step up to the microphone and spend up to 45 seconds to say which of these statements really excites them.

Many folks got up to express their support for several of the statements. In keeping with the fact that these were recurring themes in both the break-out and convergence processes, there were lots of statements in favor of supporting our youth, the great turning toward Earth community, and anti-racism/anti-oppression/multi-culturalism.

The Youth Caucus strongly endorsed statements number 12 and number 11 from this list.

After time expired for statements of support, there was a recognition of those volunteers whose terms are ending with this GA, and then Plenary was recessed until Sunday morning.

Louise and I stayed on for the youth-led worship service, and then headed off to the annual donor reception. After another exhausting day, we went home before the Ware Lecture started. Which reminds me to mention the length-of-day issue: at several points, including in Plenary, we've heard that the poor attendance at the bridging ceremony was, umm, disrespectful, or at least less than fully supportive of our youth. I can't say I disagree with this, even though we did not stay for the Bridging ceremony (9:00-10:00).

But neither did we stay for the Service of the Living Tradition (8:00-9:30), likewise disrespecting our newest clergy, or the Ware Lecture (9:00-10:00), and the simple reason for our absence from all of these is that days which start at 8:00am for us can not end at 10:30pm. It takes a minimum of half an hour for us to travel to or from the CC, which means once we are there, we're there for the day. And the poor dog is home crossing her legs by the time we get back even as it is (sometime after 8:00pm). I'm guessing this might be an anathema to folks who, after finishing the Bridging Ceremony (or whatever) will be traipsing off to hotel ballrooms to participate in "Evening Entertainment (10:00-Midnight)," but that's our life. So, yes, I want to attend Bridging (and Living Tradition, and the Ware Lecture), but meet me half way: schedule them at a time I can reasonably attend.

Living the life that we do, of course, we'd rather see all of GA run another full day, and the whole schedule be less frenetic. I realize that most attendees are in a different place, and the schedule we have now fits better into their lives. But everything is a trade-off, and this schedule means that at least some GA attendees will come late enough to miss morning activities, some will leave early enough to miss evening activities, and some will take time out of the middle of the day to get some rest. In our case, as delegates we view Plenary as non-negotiable, and that means we need to be on-site by 8:30am. So, I offer my apologies to the youth, and to those newly fellowshipped, and to the esteemed Ware lecturer, for not attending, but I would suggest that it is also the UU thing to do to respect that I, and others, have limitations.

1 comment:

Louise said...

I agree. I'm awfully tired of being chastised for NOT attending a given program such as the Bridging Ceremony. If I recall correctly, the low attendance at that event was mentioned four or five times to the delegates.

While I think it is disrespectful to enter late or leave early in a disruptive way, the choice of any person to attend or not attend an event, given the fact that no-one can attend everything at GA is simply that: a personal choice.

Am I a racist because I didn't attend an anti-racism workshop? No. Am I not supporting youth because I missed a youth event? No.