GA 08 Day Four (Saturday)
I suprised myself by actually getting up and going to the morning communion worship. I would have liked to have stayed in bed. But this is usually the only time in a year I take communion in a completely Unitarian setting, and that's important to me. The service was pretty traditional, too traditional for me really. I think a lot of non-Christian Unitarians go to this service so it would be good to show them something really radical one year, instead it rather comfirms the idea that the Christian end of the movement is pretty traditional, which it is. But good not to have a sermon I think, good to show that you can have a service without a sermon.
Celebrating our congregations, procedural motions and these motions:
The government should set up a body that deals with all religious bodies equally since Unitarians and Jews have been thrown out of the Churches Main Committee when it was reorganised. Apparently such an advisory body is beeing set up, so not really a motions with much bite.
We believe that same-sex civil partnerships should be able to be carried out in those places of worship that want to peform them. As the law stands religious language is banned from civil partnership ceremonies. Some people made the perfectly legitimate argument that we should not be involved in working for the state in this way. The state should always do the legal bits of all marriages and civil partnerships with an optional religious part for those who want it. I've got no problem with that, it's a much better solution long term, but I think we needed to say this now. It passed, as did all motions, with a clear majority.
One incident during the debate is worth reporting, the youth, who usually go bowling or some such babysitting activity at GA, have begun to get political, which is quite right. There is no voice for youth in our movement right now. We have no youth on the Youth Panel, and they have no right to speak at the Annual Meetings. Well this year they had their own mini-debate in their own time and decided they wanted to speak to and support this motion. They prearranged this with the President, who can allow non-delegates to speak within her own discretion.
At the microphone the other delegates let the youth representative go in front of them, but Celia Midgley, the President, wanted to hear from delegates before she let the youth speak. Fair enough but it was very badly handled I'm afraid. She rather embarrassed this 14 year old girl by asking if she was a delegate or an associate member, after the youth had said she was talking on behalf of the youth. The nervous youth representative didn't reply and then Celia made her sit down and wait until later to speak.
I think this showed the institutional problem of the disempowerment of our youth. Hopefully this will bring about some change in policy and we can regular make a spot for the youth to speak for one minute. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Last motion: Roy Smith, former General Secretary, is given Honorary Membership
Overall I enjoyed GA. The best bits aren't necessarily the formal bits but the conversations over coffee, breakfast or drinks in the bar. There are some really remakable people in our Unitarian community, and it's good to rub shoulders with them. One snatched 20 second conversation is going to stay with me for a long time.
I would like to see a big cut in the time for business meetings. We managed to cut a lot out this year to get a whole day for growth, but we could do more. We could cut down the motions to no more than two or three, and use the rest of the time for training and education and worship.
The facilities were excellent, too good in fact. I'm sure it all comes as a package but to have such good food three times a day seems unnecessary. And all that bottled water is not good for the environment.
Next year I would like to see another whole day devoted to growth but this time have people leading workshops on how we can achieve growth, British Unitarians, and UUs, and evangelicals and experts in church growth and evangelism and mission and the emerging church. Us talking only to ourselves is really not enough!