Live your Unitarian Universalist values out loud. Make your year-end gift today!
[By Amy Carol Webb]
GINI COURTER: Thank you. If we're lucky, you'll come back later, right? I now call to order the Second Plenary Session of 50th General Assembly [GA] of the Unitarian Universalist Association [UUA]. Who was here last night? Do you remember hearing about the journey toward wholeness last night?
GINI COURTER: Members of your journey towards wholeness transformation committee will be reporting on Sunday. But this morning, they're here to light our chalice.
SPEAKER 1: We light this chalice for the journey, reminding us of our heart's call to justice, to connection, to love.
SPEAKER 2: We light this chalice for the journey, reminding us of the fire of commitment, the power of accountability, and the costs of complacency.
SPEAKER 3: We light this chalice for the journey, remembering those of us who have traveled far and those of us who are just beginning.
SPEAKER 4: We light this chalice for the journey.
GINI COURTER: And so every year at General Assembly we have somebody who's the GA music coordinator. And you see them in plenary, but you also see them in worship services and behind the scenes, making sure that we don't sing—how can I keep from singing four times at the same GA? We did that once. And we have a new music coordinator this year, who will be this here and in Phoenix. Who's coming to Phoenix with me? OK, so I would like you to please welcome Kellie Walker, the Director of Music Ministries at the Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation in Chandler, Arizona. Our GA music coordinator. Right here. Take it away, girlfriend.
KELLIE WALKER: Thank you, Gini. And good morning. The words to "Wake Now, My Senses' were written by Unitarian Universalist minister Thomas Mickelson, who also wrote the text to the new hymn commissioned for our opening ceremony last night, Together. The tune is a traditional Irish melody, and calls us to wake up to the potential of this beautiful new day. Please rise in body or spirit as we sing together. We'll do the five versus.
GINI COURTER: How many of you remember that that's exactly how it goes at your church? But with fewer friends to share it with. We're awake now. Our music coordinator's really awake now. She deserves an extra welcome of love over there. Our friends on the tech deck, they're awake now. Let's love them up. It's the first plenary morning and it's all good. Trust me.
So here's what we're going to talk about this morning. We have just a few things to do together. I want to thank you for coming. And I want to make sure, how many of you are at your first General Assembly? OK. all right. This is cool. What I want to talk with you about is, we scheduled this plenary for a few reasons.
One of them is so that we can gather together every single day at GA in one strong body, have the opportunity to have community issues raised, if there are any. And we'll be doing that later. And then we have some announcements that it's good for us together to get together for. But the real reason for this plenary is that if I didn't tell you some of the things I need to tell you right now until tomorrow, it would be too late. So we have a short plenary session today so we can talk about how business is done in General Assembly.
Could you pop that slide up on the screen for me? Because our process here is kind of interesting. Let's go ahead and roll to the first item. Some of you've been involved in some kind of a process in your congregation or your district that has allowed us to put together one item that appeared then on the final agenda of the General Assembly, so it would be here in this booklet. That is our starting text for whatever it is we're working with. But then, if you want to amend or learn more, either way, about the process behind, why did somebody think this was good language, what's the real deal with this particular resolution, had you thought of this language, and if so why did you reject it, those kinds of things. Or hey, I think this would just be better if we fixed it in this way. You're going to do that in a mini assembly.
Now I want to refer you to the very inside cover of your final agenda. At the top, on the left, thanks to your GA planning committee and conference services staff, one stop shopping for all the mini assemblies. And with only one exception, they all take place today. Every item that is already in this agenda, therefore, is having action taken on it today. How many of you discussed items on the agenda in your congregation before you came? A good number. So if you came and somebody said, would you go check on this? If it was in the book, that day is today. And here's the mini assembly schedule. OK?
So you can go to a mini assembly and make an amendment. But here's the critical thing—if you don't raise the amendment in the mini assembly today, you can't raise it in this hall on Saturday, Sunday, whatever day it is. You must take any amendment through the mini assembly process. Then, what happens next after the mini assembly, is that the amendments offered at the mini assembly are incorporated. You'll be taking straw votes at the mini assembly. So it's not just good enough to say, somebody get this in and run away. You need to stay for the mini assembly, explain why, what your thinking is, and, more importantly, be there to collaborate with others who might want to do something similar.
The mini assemblies are increasingly collaborative events for folks to work together. So at the mini assembly, they'll take straw votes. The folks running the mini assembly—the moderators of those and the staff—will incorporate those amendments into what happens next. Which is, when you next come back to plenary, on the day that item's being debated and voted, you can then do two kinds of things only to the language. One is to say an amendment was incorporated from the mini that I disagree with and I want it removed.
The second possibility is an amendment was proposed at the mini assembly that was not incorporated and I want to make sure that it gets incorporated. Now truthfully, in terms of time, let's say there were 50 amendments offered at the mini assembly. The first 10 that everybody kind of agreed upon were incorporated. That leaves 40 left. How many of those do you think we have time to do in plenary? Of the 40? Guess a small number. Two is about good. Do you begin to see the importance of being at the mini assembly process, working with others, being persuasive? In fact, for many of the items that are in here, study action issues, for example, statements of conscience, the best work on those is not done when you're here. When should you been working on those to have the maximum voice? Mini assemblies. And even before you came through the congregational process of developing those. Make sense? OK.
But you can come and say, get rid of this amendment, or add this amendment, that's it. But sooner or later, somebody who wasn't here this morning will come up to that microphone and they'll say, I don't understand why I can't make this amendment now. And we will be very patient and we will sit back and look knowingly at a neighbor and go, they weren't here. And then you'll go, and they didn't read the rules. that's true, too. And someone will help them. And it might be me, but it might be you.
Finally, we will come together with a version that we agree we want to vote on. That's the final language then, as amended through our mini assembly process and here on the floor that we will either vote up or vote down. Make sense? That process is the same for every single business item.
Now, actions of immediate witness have a slightly different process. It's very similar, though. They don't start in the book. They start by petition. They have to be posted by five o'clock today. If you don't make the posting deadline that says I want to propose this action of immediate witness, you can't do it tomorrow. Make sense? OK. This is why we're meeting today. All of the rules about that, you'll find rule 13 of your book. All the deadlines.
Then you would go get signatures, if this was how you wanted to spend your General Assembly time. It's a choice. And then we would have mini assemblies on those. But first, there's a step in between. The chair of the Commission on Social Witness will be with you on Saturday to say, OK, all these actions of immediate witness, maybe there were four proposed. And all of them meet the criteria. They'll bring us four. Maybe there were 12, and they can only bring six. They'll bring six. And then you, as delegates, will get to decide if that is how you want to spend your time on Sunday.
This is a big portion of the agenda that you control very directly once we get here. I've made an accommodation for some time to do actions of immediate witness. I need to do that. But if you think, you know, the world will not be a better place for our spending time debating this, then you need to actually take control of your time. Does that make sense? OK.
And I want to posit to you that often, as Unitarian Universalists, how we decide how to spend our time is that somebody says, could we talk about this? And we go, why not? Just why the heck not? And the reason why the heck not is that there are all kinds of items that are already in this agenda. And there is a world waiting to be reborn whenever it is we can get done talking about it.
So you need to choose. You need to look and be careful and say, not would I feel like talking about that for half an hour, because it's that kind of thinking that makes us not as strong as we could be. As you vote on those, I want you to look and say, do I think, in good conscience, the world would be a changed and better place if I made all of these people do it? Make sense? This is how we're a community together.
Having said that, there will be some actions of immediate witness that you will know we need to talk about here. Because what we need to say on them is so important, that we're willing to spend the time to make a statement that is only binding until the close of business on Sunday. Make sense? OK. I'm making you smile a lot, aren't I? We're having a good time. Excellent. OK.
Now let me say a couple of other things, real quickly. Procedural microphone in front of me. Some of you come from a school of thought that says that there's a thing called a point of personal privilege, which is where you get to get up and say something because you're a person. That is not what a point of personal privilege is. It's charming, but it's untrue. And so many of you are so darn charming, that sometimes the line here goes to the back of the hall of people who want to be charming in that fashion.
Let me tell you what a point of personal privilege is. A point of personal privilege would be something like, Madam Moderator, we didn't get voting cards in the back of the hall. Madam Moderator, we can't hear the debate because the speakers where we are isn't working. Madam Moderator, I worry that maybe our votes aren't being counted because we're sitting up here under the concession stand on the floor. That's an easy answer. Get off the floor and come closer to the middle of the hall.
All right. So are we OK with what personal privilege is? It's really a privilege to participate as a delegate. Also, if you're ever really confused and you don't know what's going on, and you look at the person next to you and you go, do you know what's going on? And they go, yeah, no. OK? Come up here and say, I'm just confused.
Now there's always a teller at this microphone. Mr. [? Gaynor — would you get up and step into the light here? How long have you been the head teller on the procedural microphone? Six years. OK. What will happen is, you'll come up and you'll want to ask me something. And Jerry [? Gaynor — or [? Denise — [? Rhymes — or [? Greg — [? Boyds —, our tellers on the microphone, will stop you. And they'll say, what's your question? And you'll say, I want to ask Gini. And they'll say, what's your question?
At this point, it should become clear to you that their job is to find out what your question is. Because you might just ask a question that the three of them, as folks who've been doing this for a long time, and who've heard questions answered, can answer for you. Or they might say, you came late, we answered that question 15 minutes ago. It's a good question, somebody else had it, here's the answer.
So you're going to cooperate with them, right? And let them help you? It's good to be able to recognize a genuine offer of help up here, OK? But sometimes there's a question that they either won't know the answer or they know that I love answering it. And then we'll have a different conversation. And sometimes, you're here to make a motion that would be valid from the procedural microphone. And they'll tell you. But if they tell you it's not, you don't know better than they do. Make sense? All right.
If you want help with any of these kinds of things, there are two gentlemen who are here who are helpful. They look good in plenary first, OK? This is our parliamentarian [? Gordon — [? Martin —. Our legal counsel, Tom [? Being —. If you need to know how to get something done in plenary and you're not sure, guess who you could ask? They love answering questions, am I right? Love answering questions. I mean love answering questions. So ask them, OK? And if they tell you something, guess what? Don't ask me if they're right, because they're right. That's why they're here looking so good, helping us get our business done. Are we good? Do we know what we're going to do the next few days together, then? Lots of business. All right.
Here's part of our business. Part of the business of representing your congregation here, part of the business of representing at all here, we here at General Assembly, year after year, are a roving experiment in attempting to answer the question, can we build a beloved community together? What we try to do here is model the best of how we can be together.
Now, in your congregation at home, you know everybody there and you've known them for a long time. And so when you say something that is not the best thing you could have said at the time, they put that in the context of all the other times you've been appropriate. And all the times that you were cool about what you were saying, and they go, OK, let me a search for an answer as to why this person said something that was demeaning, perhaps. Or racist, perhaps. Or sexist or heterosexist. They put into context our speech.
My congregation loves me for who I am, because they know me for who I am. How many of you know the 20 people sitting immediately around you right now? UUA Board of Trustees. I knew that would drive them out. But the rest of you—Say hello to your UUA board over here. The rest of us gathered here as a community of beloved strangers. OK?
And so how we will be together is not as easy. This isn't your congregational setting. This is a congregation that only exists so briefly each year that we have to give extra effort to get our relationships correct. To help us in that endeavor is a group called the right relationship team. And they say they have some business with you this morning. Garner Takahashi-Morris and the right relationship team. Give them a warm welcome. They're helping us here.
SPEAKER 5: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
SPEAKER 5: Thank you Gini, that was beautiful. And I appreciate the backup. How're we doing this morning? Sounds good to me. The right relationship team would like to raise up that cultural contextualization is a complex dance. Reverend Rob Eller-Isaacs' Litany for Atonement, which was used in yesterday's worship, was inspired by the Jewish traditions around Yom Kippur. Many members of this congregation were surprised and hurt not to hear that heritage acknowledged.
Simultaneously, after deep thought, the speaker felt that to call the reading Jewish would have been more disrespectful, since it was adapted twice from the original text. For all the work we have done, we are still learning—thank goodness—and few things, if any, are clear cut. So whatever you do this day, do it with love.
Yesterday was busy and exciting, as today will be. And it's easy to get wrapped up in the buzz and snap unthinkingly at each other. So as you start this day, smile at those 20 people around you that you don't know. And everybody else. As I was rushing down the hall yesterday, a woman I'd never seen before gave me a huge grin and asked me to pass it on. So I pass it on to you. Be well, keep talking to each other about issues as they arise, and go with compassion and an open heart. Thank you for listening.
GINI COURTER: One of the things that your General Assembly Planning Committee works very hard on—among the many other things—how's this meeting gone so far, yeah? Wonderful opening, fabulous work. But we work on accessibilities together. And one of the things that the planning committee has found is that there are things that helps you to hear earlier on. And so I'm going to invite Patty Cameron to come have a conversation with you. Please listen. Thank you.
PATTY CAMERON: Thanks, Gini. Good morning, everyone. My name is Patty Cameron, and I coordinate the accessibility services here at General Assembly. I'd like to take a few moments to share with you the accessibility services being provided here at this General Assembly. First off, I want to talk to you, though, about what I call scooter etiquette. And what that means is how we navigate together through General Assembly. Whether you happen to walk, use a scooter, or use a wheelchair, we are all part of this one faith community, gathered here together at General Assembly. And when we move from one activity or workshop, we need to look not just over our shoulder, but beneath our shoulder, and make sure that we are scanning our entire surroundings. Because if I'm using a scooter or wheelchair, I am likely below your line of vision. But to be sure, I am not invisible.
You'll notice in each workshop and in this plenary hall there are chairs removed so that someone using a wheelchair or scooter can sit beside you, can be with you, can be part of this beloved community. Please do not move the chairs into these spaces. Do not rearrange the furniture in workshops.
Accessibility services also provides seat covers—they're just t-shirts—and you'll find them scattered across this plenary hall and throughout this convention center. The seat covers are to reserve that seat for someone who's traveling with a person who is using a scooter or wheelchair. Or perhaps someone who has a vision or hearing issue and would like to be closer to speakers or to the captioning on the screen. This allows people to be with their friends and to make this General Assembly successful to them.
We also have listening and hearing devices. And that also provides the maximum opportunity for people to hear what's going on. This convention center has its physical challenges. The elevators—two are large, one is very small. We invite people who are using scooters and wheelchairs to use those elevators, along with people with health issues. But we ask that if you are able to use stairs or escalators, that you find those means of getting up and down, in order to save the elevator space.
Entering and exiting rooms can be a congested time when we're all scrambling to get to our destinations. Please allow people using scooters and wheelchairs to exit ahead of you, remembering to look around you at all times. Scooters are equipped with horns, but they are certainly not loud. So we must rely on expanding our field of vision. We are part of one faith family, and if we are considerate of each other as we worship and learn this week, and we enjoy each other's company, we'll leave even more fulfilled than we ever expected. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Patty. I call now upon the secretary of the association, Tom Loughrey to provide us with this morning's announcements and critical information. Tom.
TOM LOUGHREY: Critical. Well, the first piece of critical information is a reminder to the business mini assembly staff—you know who you are—to gather in front of plenary hall. I'm presuming in front of plenary hall means here. Right up here immediately after plenary this morning—immediately after—near the amendment mike. Amendment mike. Over here. Or up here. Meet up here near Gini. So that's to the mini assembly staff, who will be working hard today.
I've been asked also remind you that it's hot outside, but it's a wet heat. But it's not so wet that you don't need to stay hydrated. Apparently, we've already had incidents with people just not getting enough to drink. So do that. There's water all over in many of the rooms. Most of the rooms.
Badge ribbons. There appears to be a breaking point, I've been told. It appears to be somewhere around six ribbons, with two to possibly three metal pins attached to it. Will rip that sucker right off. And you can get it replaced, you can get your delegate badge replaced, but it takes to process. And you have to go up and fill out some paperwork, and then you have to wait for me to come around to sign it. So if you want to avoid that, remember the breaking point on ribbons.
If you have announcements, you can leave them in the GA office, directly across from the delegate registration area. And they'll be read each day. Or you can also find me over in the board section during most plenary sessions. Today at 12:15, there will be a candidate's forum. We 're going to be installing people this weekend in positions and committees of the association. And you'll have an opportunity today at 12:15—there's nothing opposing it—where you can meet all of the candidates and hear very briefly from them about who they are and what position they will be filling for us. And Madam Moderator, that is it.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Tom. So you might have surmised by now that if you have that kind of institutional GA wide announcement to be made, you would go to the board section, find Tom Loughrey, secretary of the association, and he would help you with that, yes? All good. Amy Carol Webb said she's stay and she said we'd get to sing with her this time. Please welcome the Reverend Amy Carol Webb.
AMY CAROL WEBB: This is the same song that we opened with. Now that you've seen it, we expect to hear your voice. Oh, first. I am the reverend of the church of no wrong notes. The most beautiful sound of the world to me is congregational singing. So say it with me, there are no wrong notes.
AUDIENCE: There are no wrong notes.
AMY CAROL WEBB: There are no wrong notes.
AMY CAROL WEBB: There are, occasionally, notes that belong in different songs. But sing them anyway, they'll find their way to the right song.
GINI COURTER: So go tenderly with each other into this fine day, remembering that we are on holy ground. There be no further business to come before us, and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, and remembering to let folks in the scooters and cut outs leave early, I declare that this plenary session shall stand in recess until Friday, June 24 8:30 a.m. See you tomorrow.
Plenary II is General Assembly 2011 event number 2002.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Monday, February 27, 2012.
Sidebar Content, Page Navigation
More Ways to Search
Donate to Support This Program and the Ongoing Work of the UUA
Read or subscribe to this RSS feed for the latest updates.
Read or subscribe to UUA.org Updates for the latest additions to our site.
Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.