Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Pastor Cranky’s Report from the UU Pacific Central District’s 2011 Assembly

I was anything but cranky to have a full complement of delegates from our church at the annual meeting of the congregations that make up the Pacific Central District of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  I was there, along with staffers Carole and Eric, lay leaders Ginny and Seya, brand new member Ray, AND… musician and lay leader Erika and her mellow minister husband.

The most moving and striking parts for me were testimonies about immigration as a moral issue.  We heard the testimony of four Californians who went to Phoenix for the Day of Non-Compliance, to opposed the anti-immigration legislation on the day it took effect in July (when locking arms and sitting down in an intersection required pads to protect against 140-degree pavement).  Their stories of the humiliating overnight jail stay were incredible, and the grateful reception by local community activists was moving.

The UUA General Assembly in 2012 will take place in Phoenix.  At last year’s GA delegates debated whether to cancel it and support the tourist boycott of Arizona.  But at the invitation of local activists, we will go to Phoenix and make it a Justice General Assembly–little business as usual, and a lot of learning, connecting, and witnessing to our values.  We will support local allies in Standing on the Side of Love on behalf of immigrant families.  If you are interested our curious about going next year, please see the resources available at this link.

Also, keep alert for an Adult Enrichment course here in the fall, Immigration as a Moral Issue.  Our UU church in Walnut Creek will host a district workshop on the same issue on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011.  At the General Assembly in Charlotte this June I will learn more about next year’s Justice GA.

During another workshop, I heard statistics and stories from a UU immigration lawyer, two ministers, and a college student from South Korea about the perils of crossing the border from Mexico and the struggles of kids who are brought here on tourist visas by their parents and then grow up with expired visas, no social security number, and no security or true home.  The DREAM act is an effort to let them attend college here after growing up here.

Opening night worship was embodied and musical, with a band for accompaniment and lots of PCD clergy involved.   The sermon was given by Rev. Vail Weller, a lifelong UU, age 40 with two kids, reflecting on the heritage and giving her visions for our future.  (Knowing and saying what we are FOR rather than what we are AGAINST in religious matters, and raising our profiles in outreach and welcome and our voices in praise and protest.)

I enjoyed an Afghani dinner out on Friday with Eric and Seya (Fremont is the Afghani capital of the USA).  At Saturday breakfast I sat with a colleague and coach, and went out for a cheap lunch with 2 other UU religious educators (3 men, 1 woman!).  At dinner I sat with Ray and Seya, and the Rev. Sonya Sukalski, a staff member from the UU Legislative Ministry of  California.

The weekend was the 50th anniversary of the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.  We had a morning address by Dr. Mark Morrison Reed, author of Darkening the Doorways: Black Trailblazers and Missed Opportunities in Unitarian Universalism.  He’s another lifelong UU (from Chicago), and now is a minister in Canada.  One great line from his talk:  “It’s easy to protest. We [religious liberals] have always been better at moral outrage than outreach.”

See a 2010 Cambridge Forum lecture about Mark’s book In-Between:  Memoir of an Integration Baby  at this link.  He has a good story about a roadside encounter with a CHP officer.

Our dinner address was by Dr. Bill Schulz, the youngest president of our denomination (1985-93) and former head of Amnesty International. Here is a recent article about the intervention in Libya, from the UU Service Committee website.  Bill is now the president of UUSC.  He grew up as a UU in Pittsburgh.

All of your UUSS delegates were attentive and thoughtful voters at the PCD Annual Business Meeting, which wasn’t too long or inappropriately contentious.  Indeed the meeting conveyed a new sense of common purpose and visionary work for future growth and health.

My October newsletter column talks about the services we have received from the PCD and the support we have provided:  volunteer time, use of our facility, and payment of dues.  It doesn’t feel good that we are one of the churches not currently paying our dues at the requested rate.  (Indeed, nationwide last year the UUA (our denomination) lost over $1 million.  Endowment revenue fell even more.  Most of the program and staff reductions that must happen already have taken place.  Nevertheless, most congregations can count on supportive and responsive services by staff and volunteer committees of the UUA and the district.

The variety of workshop topics was appealing, and I’ll let our other UUSS staff and member delegates add their own words about memorable moments or insights gained at the assembly.

Your comments are welcome too!  Just give it a click and gives us your thoughts.


6 Comments so far
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I attended DA as one of UUSS delegates and as a UU Legislative Ministry volunteer. I spent most of my time at the UULM table talking with folks about climate and water justice and health care. Even though I’ve been very active here at UUSS, this was my first DA. It was wonderful. I saw lots of folks I know and met many more wonderful people. I was touched by the worship service Friday evening and enjoyed Mark’s talk. He was very direct, but right on target. I missed Bill’s talk because I came home a little early so I could attend our Coming of Age service. It was a great experience and I recommend it! Ginny Johnson

Comment by Ginny Johnson

I spent much of my brief time at District Assembly volunteering at the registration table. The other volunteers I met were superb people with interesting stories. To me, this event resembles a UU extended family reunion, seeing people from around the region whom you may only get to see a couple times a year and making new connections.

I was recently in a meeting at UUSS where this was brought up: “What do our PCD and UUA dues go toward?” In fact, these respective organizations are like our regional and national clearinghouses for information, ideas, and connections. Without centralized bodies, our congregations would be isolated. The PCD, UUA, and the District/General Assemblies they offer provide a forum to connect with UU’s outside of our own congregation; to exchange ideas, music, literature, and crafts; and to deliberate and vote on policy at the annual meetings. I think it’s important to our denomination to look outward. We spend quite a lot of time looking inward; while this is wonderful for us as individuals, we must look beyond our campus and involve ourselves in the larger whole if we wish to even consider making those vaunted changes in our world. [And there’s my P.S.A. for the month.]

My personal highlight was the opening celebration on Friday night. I was pleased to be able to take the UUSS banner with me, and to represent UUSS along with Eric in the banner parade. The varied, innovative banners from our congregations are a joy to see. By the way, District Assembly draws representatives from as far away as Honolulu!

Comment by Seya

Another aspect of DA to note: The children’s program was really remarkable. Truly. I have left my children at home in past years because I feared they might be bored or clingy during DA. This year I brought them–and now I know what they’ve been missing! My five and nine year old children had an AMAZING UU-centered time, because of the care, imagination, and planning on the part of so many people. My children are already talking about what they’re going to do next year at DA! How awesome is that?! I’m so impressed with and grateful for the program coordinators and youth staff. Thank you!
Rev. Sarah Moldenhauer-Salazar

Comment by Rev. Sarah Moldenhauer-Salazar

It was great to see so many other folks from UUSS there. Until you’ve been to one, or General Assembly, it’s hard to describe how affirming and energizing these gatherings are. There is a special energy that happens when hundreds or thousands of enthusiastic and committed UU’s get together.

I volunteered to facilitate a focus group for church administrators to give feedback on ministry and authority to our UUA’s Commission on Appraisal. Of the seven participants, only one had a UU background. All felt they had learned a lot about Unitarian Universalism. They commented on how much thought they saw our ministers give to their work in each congregation and how seriously they take their roles. The administrators learned about UUA listservs where they could exchange ideas to better support their congregants. Very inspiring.

On Saturday I went to a Writing the Rites workshop which offered much helpful material to bring back to our worship leaders in developing their opening reflections for the chalice lighting.

Along with Seya I staffed the registration table and talked with people from all over northern California – some of whom I knew, and many not.

Saturday afternoon a seminar on the historical Jesus held my attention. The two very good presenters focused on Jesus as an admirable human, exploring what scholars most agree upon and what is most questioned about his life. During the discussion time, the emphasis for the UU’s was relating to Jesus as a radical community organizer, and focusing on using his example in accepting love for one another. The people in the room held an open minded, peaceful dialogue.

One evening, the minister in Monterey, Greg Ward, was due to speak about being arrested with other UU’s in Phoenix while demonstrating for immigrants. His family’s apartment had just had a bad fire so colleagues, who had also been arrested, told the shared story of what it’s like inside Sheriff Arapaio’s tough jail with purposeful indignities.

On Sunday, Jeremy Nickel was ordained and installed as the minister for the Mission Peak UU Congregation. It was a great celebration with balloons, a powerful sermon on living our UU principles in joy, and blessings for a long and fruitful ministry for Jeremy.

The weekend was fabulous and inspiring, but it is so nice to be back in Sacramento and not breathing hotel air and be done with hotel food.

My hope is that next year we can get even more folks to attend DA, and especially General Assembly 2012, which will be held in Phoenix, with a focus on immigration justice.

Comment by Carole Czujko

Seconding Sarah’s comment. My daughter (age 4) was in child care Friday night and then on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and did not want to leave. I swung by during a break around 3:30 and she looked at me suspiciously and said, “Are you just here for a visit?”–she had her swimsuit on for a much-anticipated trip to the pool and clearly did not want me to take her away and spoil the fun. We could really enjoy ourselves knowing that she was doing the same.

Comment by Amy Zucker Morgenstern

I enjoyed the camaderie shared with other delegates, particularly those of the UUSS. I was energized by the group discussion concerning the issues of theism and atheism within our society. I look forward to attending other such assemblies in the future.

{The discussion to which Ray is referring was a workshop by the Rev. Chris Schriner about his newest book, Bridging the God Gap. … Read more about it at the link.–Pastor Cranky}

Comment by Ray Reynolds

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