Welcome, once again, to our report as voting delegates for the Church of the Larger Fellowship for this year's "Justice" General Assembly, which is being held in Phoenix, Arizona. We, on the other hand, happen to be in Des Moines, Iowa, parked at the house of some friends so we can use their high-speed Internet connection to stream the live video of the Plenary sessions and exercise our votes on-line, in the first-ever GA to utilize such technology.
Because we are not in Phoenix, we did not attend the CLF in-gathering as is our custom (and, technically, a requirement for voting delegates, at least those arriving in person). Our first event for this year's GA was Plenary #1, which ran from 7:30 to 9:30 MST. That's actually 9:30-11:30 here, and because the session ran over, we were actually on-line to around 11:45, when the on-site attendees proceeded from the hall for the first witness event of the assembly.
The only voting business of Plenary #1 was the approval of the Rules of Procedure which passed handily. This was our first opportunity to use the on-line voting system, and I am happy to report that our votes in favor were properly recorded. I did not see any cards raised for "nay" in the hall, but one soul on the on-line system voted against, which we assumed to be a mistaken keypress.
There were actually several practice sessions for online voting leading up to GA. Unfortunately, the nature of our on-board Internet system, which is satellite-based, precluded us from using the online voting system until we had some alternative Internet access, and our travel schedule did not permit us to have the necessary access until now. So we were quite relieved to find we had no trouble accessing the system, all our credentials worked, and our votes would be properly recorded. We had a brief moment of panic when it appeared that we'd each need to be dialed in on our cell phones along with the Internet access, given that we each have a limited number of cell minutes, but that turned out to be non-essential, and we hung up the phones early on in favor of watching the session stream on our large 32" monitor in the living room.
The rest of Plenary #1 consisted of the usual welcoming speeches, banner procession (including a number of "on line" banners from congregations who have only on-line, and no on-site, delegates), introductions, and briefings. All of these are now available on the UUA web site and so I won't repeat them, other than to say that the Native American speakers were particularly moving to me, especially having just traveled through the part of the country where so much conflict played out.
Given the nature of our remote participation in this GA, we're a bit discombobulated and are scrambling to catch up. With no hard copies of schedules, agendas, programs, and the like, we're having to download it all and try to keep it all straight, on top of the byzantine procedure for accessing the on-line voting system. I have yet to figure out how we, as remote participants, will be able to speak on any business if we so choose. So please bear with us as we get our bearings -- I hope, for example, to update the graphic here on the blog to the 2012 edition before closing (as I am typing, it still shows the graphic from 2010, the last year we attended). And now, if you excuse me, it is very late here... good night.