by Rev. Sara Lewis
This week I’m away from OUUC, attending “GA” (General Assembly) which is in Portland this year. What is that all about? Let’s start with what the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) is. The UUA is an Association of the member congregations, so OUUC is a member congregation of the UUA. It is how we are in covenantal relationship with other UU congregations throughout the United States (there is a separate association of Canadian congregations).
The UUA isn’t an authoritative top-down model of denominational organization. Each UU congregation has congregational polity, meaning that decisions about congregational matters are made at the level of that local congregation. What the UUA does is to pool our resources for congregational sharing and cooperation. This includes having a national voice that can speak for Unitarian Universalism on matters of conscience and faith, which is often done by our UUA president, currently the Rev. Dr Susan Frederick Gray. This Sunday’s worship service will be a UUA service featuring Rev Frederick-Gray. There are also national social justice resources made available, such as the Side with Love campaign.
The other aspect of the UUA that may be less visible to you all as average congregants is the resource sharing which includes professional development for religious professionals. The UUA has committees which oversee the fellowshipping of UU ministers, the credentialing of UU religious educators, and the certification of UU musicians. While a UU congregation is free to hire whoever they wish and call whoever they wish as their minister, these programs serve as a way to endorse that some candidates for this work have completed a course of professional development and are qualified to do this work in a specifically UU context. As part of our commitment to the larger UUA, I serve on the Religious Education Credentialing Committee, a committee of the UUA which credentials religious educators.
Other aspects of the work of the UUA that OUUC benefits from include having regional staff to consult with. We saw our regional staff deliver the sermon at Rev Mary’s installation. And then the UUA also have staff that manage the national youth and young adult programs. When we send youth to Cons, camps, conferences, or to youth caucus at GA all of that is managed through the resources of the UUA.
And then we also have access to curriculum and other resources created by the UUA. The Our Whole Lives program is managed by the UUA and the UCC and we have an OWL staff at the UUA who create and oversee facilitator trainings and updates to the curriculum. There are many other religious education curricula, book discussion guides, and more that are created through the work of the UUA and made available to all UU congregations.
So the UUA does a lot. And the annual General Assembly is basically the annual meeting of the organization (like our congregational annual meeting). At the GA there will be voting for new UUA board members and for members of various committees. There will be a lot of reports made by different committees, commissions, and others engaged in the work of our association. There will be celebrations of those who have met milestones and appreciations and awards for those who have given great service. There will be votes on Actions of Immediate Witness, which are chosen statements that call UU’s to action around justice issues and current events. And there will be workshops and worship and an exhibit hall for learning about UU adjacent groups and even doing some shopping.
Congregations are represented at GA by delegates that vote on behalf of the congregation. Each congregation gets a certain number of delegates based on the size of the congregation, and ministers and religious educators serving congregations also are voting delegates. This year your OUUC delegates are myself, Rev Carol McKinley, and Tiffany Felch. Additionally, we have other OUUC members attending GA, and after we all debrief you’ll hear from us all about our learnings and takeaways.
Congregations also bring banners to GA, which hang in the hall and are displayed during the welcome ceremony. This year OUUC’s sewing ministry has created a new, beautiful, banner for OUUC which I will be carrying to Portland. Thank you, sewing ministry team!
I expect this week at GA will be very full, moving, and thought-provoking!