Thursday, April 16, 2009

GA 09: Day One

Evening. I'm back here in the computer room in Chester, after coming out of the bar, offering a few relfections after the first day of the Unitarian General Assembly Annual Meetings 2009.

After a number of a travel hiccups I managed to get here in time for the start of the Minister's Pre-Conference. Nothing much to say about that.

Went to the John Relly Beard lecture with someone talking about ministry and trade unions. Then I was in with the youth group helping them plan their worship for tomorrow.

I went to the Ministerial Pension Fund AGM, nothing much interesting to say about that, but thought I ought to go because, well, it is kind of important to me now.

Opening Celebrations - seem to have become less and less celebratory over the last few years. It has become another service like the Anniversary Service, when I would really like it to be something a bit different.

Then UniPride (the GLBT Unitarian group) - where Andy Pakula, the Minister of Newingoton Green and Islington Unitarians spoke about his congregation's stand of not performing different-sex marriages until the same rights are available to same-sex couples to get married. It was an interesting meeting.

Two random thoughts:

1. These Meetings are not at all newcomer friendly. If I were here as the sole congregational delegate for the first time, and didn't know anyone here, I'd be completely confused and not have any idea what's going on. This is an issue we really need to deal with.

2. It strikes me that our problem is our we're the size of a movement, and yet we have all the baggage of an institution. We could be ten times the size we are with this number of committees and organisations (a functional institution). Or we could be the size we are (a few thousand) and with loose, dynamic, leadership and organisation (a functional movement). In some ways we have the worst of both worlds.



Blogger Rich said...

I am here for the very first time as a sole congregational delegate*, and I have been made to feel very welcome. The newcomers' reception was a great idea, and the red star on my badge means many people are saying hello to me and asking what I think so far. I already know twice as many Unitarians as I knew when I woke up yesterday.

You're right that there's much that could be improved here but I came here dreading that side of things and my experience has been much more positive than I had expected.

* although, of course, I'm lucky to have about 5 of my congregation here in other capacities.

6:48 am  
Anonymous NUFer said...

You write:-
"It strikes me that our problem is our we're the size of a movement, and yet we have all the baggage of an institution."
More the pretensions of an institution, I feel. The recent EC vote of only 50% of the eligible electorate is a good indication that for a good many Unitarians the GA matters little.

5:37 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"It strikes me that our problem is our we're the size of a movement, and yet we have all the baggage of an institution."

I guess they don't call Unitarian*Universalism, aka U*Uism, The U*U Movement for nothing. . . ;-)


"In some ways we have the worst of both worlds."

Hark! Do I hear an echo of famous ex-Unitarian Samuel Taylor Coleridge? :-)

"Unitarianism is the worst of Atheism joined to the worst of Calvinism, like two asses tied tail to tail."

7:47 pm  
Anonymous jef jones said...

I think GAs are a missed opportunity . They seem designed to produce argument rather than dialogue and listening, and don't feel very congruent with our values and faith. I know they are our decision-making forum and differences are healthy but even so...My grandmother used to tell me off for 'having opinions' and GAs seem designed to get people to have opinions. I don't have easy answers but somehow we need to integrate 'business' and 'worship' and find a way to place a deep respect for each person's shining sacred worth at the centre of
how we assemble and debate. I don't believe in hierarchies but I suspect that listening is probably a little more holy than talking!

6:19 pm  
Anonymous Mel P said...

On Friday I was talking to a 'newcomer' and discovered they'd never actually found where coffee was being served. Oh dear.

I'm just reading your posts backwards, interesting to read as always. I haven't been to GA for a few years, and can't honestly say that returning in 2009 will have been the highlight of my Unitarian year.

Amen re the worship... needs a bit more energy and risk taking. I mean, when projecting hymn words is considered a bit dodgy and the new hymn we chose was branded too difficult and too happy clappy, where is there to go?! Back to the nineteenth century I guess.

7:57 pm  

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