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GA 2011 diary - day 1
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I'm in Charlotte, NC, for the General Assembly, the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I hear this year's attendance is somewhere around 4000+ people, representing 1000+ congregations, fellowships, societies, and what-have-you. The attendees from my home church, First UU Nashville, include:

  • eight delegates (one who is also here as a district president, one who will be volunteering for the Office of Church Staff Finances)

  • a volunteer usher

  • a member of the conference planning committee, who is also one of the alternate delegates

  • three staff members and our intern/sabbatical minister

  • an exhibitor (for the ISHA Foundation)

  • the drummer for the GA band

  • There are several other folks here because (1) their partners are among the above, (2) they wanted to sing in the choir, (3) they wanted to hear Karin Armstrong, (4) some of the workshops and/or networking opportunities seemed worthwhile, and/or so on. I'm here because I'm co-chair of FUUN's Denominational Affairs committee; so far, I've collected some materials for updating our bulletin board and spent some time talking with the office manager of the Partner Church Council, since that's something my committee will become more involved with in the not-distant future (the parish minister at FUUN spent her sabbatical visiting UUs in India, Transylvania, England, and elsewhere; it's documented in a blog and the PCC had hard copies of her travelogue at their booth).

    I was a delegate at the 2003 GA in Boston, where Chris Walton claimed I "somehow managed to do everything and write about it!" That's not in the cards this time, thanks to work deadlines (at least my vocation is portable! and, for the record, one of the difficulties I've encountered in recruiting delegates is the fact that even when people have the financial means to attend GA, many of them aren't able or willing to use up a week's worth of vacation on religious business meetings). But I'll try to report on some of what I do manage to get to (if only to improve the odds of me remembering it six weeks from now).

    Today's highlights - liturgical:
  • the banner parade (first 30 minutes or so of the opening celebration). A cluster of NC congregations led the march into the hall, and congregations from Arizona (where GA 2012 will take place) bookended the other end of the procession; in between, the banners I glimpsed included those of congregations from Alaska and the Philippines, a vegetarian restaurant in Urbana, IL, UUs for Polyamory Awareness, among hundreds of others. The Campus UUs wore mortarboards, and there was a roar of approval across the aisle in reaction to the Standing on the Side of Love banner. Phil Lund has some photos of the parade up on his TwitPic account.

  • I am one of a very few UUs who is less than fond of the hymn "Spirit of Life." (It's a visceral thing -- I get why it matters to so many people, but it just doesn't work for me.) And yet, it was so moving to hear it tonight, as sung by the people around me.

  • A hymn I am fond of is "As Tranquil Streams." It was sung at the merger of Unitarians and Universalists 50 years ago, and we sang it tonight.

  • I remember when "Fire of Commitment" was a brand-new hymn (written by the then-minister of FUUN and its music director). It was so cool to stand in that hall and hear it sung as a hymn clearly familiar to UUs all over the country.

  • Coolest freebie from the exhibit hall: the pencils at the UUWorld booth. They're made from recycled denim.

    Temptations: dichroic chalice earrings; serving utensils with dichroic glass handles; tank tops with "Peace" written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English; origami earrings; books on NVC; notecards

    What I did buy: a pewter chalice pendant small enough to wear on an ankle chain. $5 from the Church of the Larger Fellowship

    An item for the "someday" list: CLF Letter Writing Ministry

    Today's highlights - touristical:

  • the fountain and the quote-decorated pillars along a side of the public library

  • Meals out (Tuesday and Wednesday):

  • tangerine beef with steamed brown rice from Soho Bistro -- so-so. The meat tasted more of breading than beef.

  • vegetarian omelet at Tic Toc Diner. With good coffee:

    From UUA GA 2011 (and exploring Charlotte)

  • sushi at Enso. To be honest, I hadn't intended to stop there, but it was 10:30 pm and I thought I'd just walked four blocks in the wrong direction, so I figured it was time to cut my losses and get dinner now. It's in an arcade catering to the hip and trendy and loud, but my waiter was nice to me anyway, and the avocado-peanut and yellowtail-scallion rolls hit the spot. Since it stays open until at least midnight, I may well go back some other night when I don't get around to dinner early enough.

  • While I was snapping photos of some of the banners (now on display around the convention center), a woman near me commented that it would be ideal if someone were to use a video camera to pan from one end of the rail to the other, the better to convey how many banners there were in that one area (albeit just a fraction of the total number). I thought that was a brilliant idea (my first take didn't turn out so well, so I may well try again later, but it's too good a suggestion not to share).

    And, while looking at the banners just outside the exhibit hall, I could hear a group singing hymns one story up. That was also very cool.

    From UUA GA 2011 (and exploring Charlotte)

    From UUA GA 2011 (and exploring Charlotte)

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