By Rick Docksai
Thanks to the Internet, our CVUU community still thrives even while we’re physically apart. And next month, we will join the greater community of UUs nationwide in virtual space for the Unitarian Universalists Association’s (UUA’s) annual General Assembly. This event—called GA, for short—will run from June 24-28 and will be five days of workshops, discussions, and voting on issues that impact every UU congregation. This year, it will take place entirely online. Anyone who registers will be able to view these proceedings in real-time. And some GA events won’t even require registration; anybody can see them, for free!
In past years, GA has typically taken place in a predetermined location and consisted of delegates from registered UU congregations across the country. UUs who weren’t delegates—and delegates who couldn’t make the proceedings in-person—could attend online, if they registered and paid the registration fee. That fee was $250 last year.
This time, for everyone’s safety, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)’s Board of Trustees decided that GA will be online-only. It also knocked down the registration fee to $150, which makes this GA more affordable and more accessible than any in recent memory.
Worship Services, Open to All
Each day of GA will include a worship service, and some will be open to the public, no registration required. This is consistent with a Board of Trustees statement, related to its decision to make the 2020 GA entirely virtual, in which the Board said it wants to “scale and enhance our technology” for virtual communications to “a wider, ideally more global audience.”
The general public will be able to watch live-streaming of each of these:
Service of the Living Tradition. This service commemorates bygone religious leaders, honors living ones, and welcomes new leaders who are just beginning their ministries.
Synergy Bridging Worship. This will be a multigenerational worship service filled with ceremonial rites of passage and contemporary music performances.
Sunday Morning Worship. This one is “the largest annual gathering of UUs in worship,” according to the UUA.
There’s More if You Register
For the full GA experience, you’ll want to register (the registration page is on UUA’s website). Registration will get you entry to all the workshops, business sessions, and hearings. You’ll even be able to comment or ask questions—just not vote; that’s what we delegates are here for!
A resolution about where and how UUs invest their money—and the human rights implications of said investments—is on this year’s agenda. The resolution, “Embodying Human Rights in Our Investment Decisions,” states that UUs should hold businesses accountable for upholding human rights and environmental justice.
At the heart of the issue is the UU Common Endowment Fund (UUCEF), a core UUA investment asset managed by the UUA’s Board of Trustees and advised by a Socially Responsible Investment Committee. The resolution calls on the UUCEF to avoid buying securities in companies that “complicit” in violations of human rights or international law and to divest any holdings it already has in such companies.
Congregations and individual UUs are to do the same, the resolution adds. And it calls for enhanced, continuous communications between the Socially Responsible Investment Committee and UU social justice groups, congregations, and individual UU activists about what socially responsible investment means and which businesses do or do not embody it.
This resolution, if enacted, could jumpstart meaningful conversations about human rights and environmental justice across the nationwide UU community. UUs from the highest church offices down to individual churchgoers will have the opportunity to debate the ethics of our spending and investment decisions and determine how we can all use our money for the greater good.
This resolution is a big-ticket item. But there will be other items of business getting attention, including:
- the UUA budget for this fiscal year and next (each fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30).
- Board of Trustees elections—The Board has 11 adult members and two high-school-age “youth members,” and one-third of the adults and one of the youth members are up for election every GA.
- Any other action issues or proposals that congregations or groups of congregations may put forward.
Other Feature Events
As a registrant, you’ll have access to presentations by nine guest speakers. Indigenous peoples, their spiritual roots, and their struggles are the theme this year. In one forum, Jean Mendoza, co-adaptor of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People; and Natalie Martinez, who wrote an educator’s guide for Mendoza’s book; will reflect on the stories that European Americans tell of indigenous peoples and how those stories impact readers and listeners. There also will be forums with:
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Historian, California State University professor emeritus in Ethnic Studies, and author ofAn Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.
- Dina Gilio-Whitaker. An environmental justice consultant, lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University-San Marcos, and author of As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock.
- Howard Bryant. ESPN senior writer, NPR correspondent, and author Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field.
- Robyn Henderson-Espinoza. A transqueer activist, scholar, and theologian who writes extensively about political liberation and social change for marginalized communities. Named one of 10 Faith Leaders by the Center for American Progress.
- John Buehrens. Former UUA president and the author of Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice.
Your registration will also get you access to more than 48 workshops on topics ranging from racial justice and LGBTQ+ activism to Earth-centered spirituality and environmental stewardship. Here are a few of them:
Tricks to Inspire: A Magic Ministry Workshop (The Magic of Meaning, Inc.). Participants will learn ways to integrate magic into worship service, and some “magic tricks” that they can show their congregations.
Spirituality: A Narragansett Perspective. Lorén Spears, executive director of Tomaquag Museum, will showcase the Narragansett tribe’s spiritual traditions, culture, music, its historical ordeal of being conquered and colonized, as well as its present-day path of healing.
Decolonization and Earth Justice. This workshop will assess the environmental degradation that is settler colonialism’s legacy, and the “life giving practices” for sustainability that we can all learn from indigenous communities.
Building Communities to Counter White Nationalism/White Power. The rise of white nationalism, white nationalists’ tactics, and how to counter them will be this workshop’s focus.
Raising the Future, Beyond Rainbows (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries). A panel of parents and teens will talk about the challenges that LQBTQ+ families face.
A GA for Everyone
“In our midst, may there always be room for one more.” We’ve said these words in every CVUU worship service. And in virtual space, there is always room for one more. This year’s GA, with its live-streamed services and dramatically reduced registration fees, will be the most accessible and open GA ever. There will be room for all to be participants in the national UU conversation. For our nationwide association’s present and future, we all encourage you to join us.
To meet our team of CVUU delegates, click here: https://youtu.be/iM13qHThgCY
Rick Docksai is a freelance writer, a technical editor for the U.S. Navy, and a
member of CVUU’s Communications Committee.