Thursday, June 21, 2007

Process Junkie (Louise)

Today was the first day of programming at GA: workshops, breakout sessions, etc. Plenary in the morning until 10:00am then an unbroken series of scheduled events that initially seemed to me to be...totally uninteresting stuff.

By noon, I was tired to the bone. I had a good night's sleep last night, my regular coffee and breakfast this morning, and an easy walk to transit and then to the convention center. What was dragging me down?

I gave myself permission to come back home and take a nap. But before that happened, we wanted to see what sessions would be offered through Open Space. At 10:30am, we had met in large domains to propose session topics. Not wanting to facilitate a breakout session, I watched from a distance. Most of the topics proposed seemed, um, same-old, same-old. I guess I was skeptical of the whole Open Space thing.

By 1:30, the proposed topics were supposed to be posted in a central location so that attendees could choose their next session at 2:45. We couldn't find any schedule, so we sought out the Open Space office. Inside, it was a bit chaotic. This being the very first Open Space GA, steep learning curves were being climbed. The technical gurus in charge of getting the schedule posted on electronic boards around the convention center were clearly having trouble. We were not the first random attendees to walk in and ask what was going on. Each question stopped the work in process. They clearly needed help managing the tide.

The help we offered was simple: we sat at the doorway and answered the question of when and where the Open Space schedule would be posted. We did that for 45 minutes, and it was the most energizing part of GA so far. To Be of Use. It felt great. So easy, and yet no one else had thought to do it.

Then we attended a traditional workshop given by the Nominating Committee and the Committee on Committees about how to submit an application to serve on a UUA board/committee/task force. The prospect of giving my time in that way is exciting.

It reminded me of what I enjoyed most about traditional congregational life. I loved being a facilitator, a leader, following the process of other people making the church into what they needed it to be. I'm really not all that invested in the results of a vote or a workshop, I just want to help make other people feel like they OWN it. What I love about plenary is how the discussions and voting and process can make us come together and often be our best selves. I'm probably the only person who is disappointed that plenary time this year was cut 40%. Maybe I'm really not a UU, but an RR (Robert's Rules-ist).

What I have loved about the previous 3 GA's I've attended have been plenaries and choir. I'm realizing now that they are quite related. Choir rehearsals are work toward the goal of creating worship that enhances everyone's journey. Do I enjoy it? Yes, immensely. But I also enjoy the work of plenary with the goal of creating a plan to move the denomination toward its goals. The goals themselves? I'm not too picky, as long as they aren't directly in conflict with my beliefs.

This gives me hope that later, as Open Space reconverges back into the most important conversations, that I will become more interested in the process. It also gave me hope when we did an hour of CLF exhibitor booth duty (a requirement for CLF delegates) and I was once again energized by the sense of being of use. I guess I came here to work and the work is what gives GA meaning for me.

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