Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Singing hymns

Second in a series about General Assembly 2011 and the UUA Board meeting

Forty-nine fully credentialed off-site delegates from 39 congregations were part of this year’s General Assembly. It was a total thrill to watch their virtual banners in the opening banner parade (Susan Lankford from the UU Church of Berkeley is to the right), see the chart with their votes, hear their voices in the plenary hall. On Sunday, delegates overwhelmingly voted to allow offsite voting and electronic signatures.

I have been part of a “virtual team” that met by phone every week this year, and every other week between September and December of 2010. Including members from the General Assembly Planning Committee, GA Staff, UUA IT department, the UUA Board and the user community, this team has been a joy to work with even though we did not meet face to face until GA. Five more technical support volunteers joined the effort for GA, and brought the same spirit of fun, cooperation, and dedication to the effort.

A similar dynamic was going on with the virtual delegates. The Virtual Plenary Hall included a chat site – old friends were becoming reacquainted during training sessions, and a vibrant community sprang up during the plenary sessions. Said one virtual delegate when GA closed: “I really choked up when it was all over and felt the loss of a neat community.”

Acknowledging the limitations of the electronic world, I often say that nothing can replace the experience of being in a hall with thousands of other Unitarian Universalists, singing “Spirit of Life”, so I was struck by one of the stories from the plenary sessions.

Off-site delegates were encouraged to call into an audio bridge and mute their phones during votes to insure that any time delays in the streaming video would not confound the vote. Hearing some background sounds from one delegate’s line, tech support Laura Randall moved to mute it – then realized what she was hearing.

It was one of our octogenarian delegates, singing the hymn along with the plenary body. She had applied to be an off-site delegate because at 87, she could no longer travel, but really missed being part of GA. This year, she still was.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


First in a series of posts about General Assembly 2011

In providing the position of the UUA Board on its own reduction in size from 23 trustees elected mostly from districts to 11 elected at large, trustee Susan Ritchie said "you can do better than us". I concur. That does not mean I think we have been a bad board, or that we are not qualified to sit at the 25 Beacon table.

The greatest impact of this General Assembly on me personally is the passing of the resolution to downsize the UUA Board. Just re-elected at the June Pacific Central District Assembly, this means I serve a second term of two years, rather than four.

Standing in line at Starbucks in the convention center, a woman about my age asked how the board members felt about the change: “how did it feel to be identified as “less than”, that those of us of a certain age and color were somehow not good enough to serve on the board?”

I ached for her. She had just been passed over in her job for someone younger. This is not what happened in the position taken by the UUA Board.

I am proud of the contributions I have made to the UUA through my board service, and just as determined to have the next two years be even more meaningful. And I am also aware of the privilege that allows me, a 61 year old white woman who is financially independent, to serve this Association. “Be the change you want to see”: I want to willingly step aside to allow other voices as the table. Will they have the life experience, or the knowledge of institutionalism, or the skills I have assembled from leadership positions in corporate power structures? Some will, some won't, but I don’t think that is what matters most. What they will have is a different life experience, and will bring that to bear in all its richness in how we shape our future.

As I walked through the hall after the affirmative vote on downsizing the Board, I ran into several delegates from the district that elected me—each said to me “this is about trust” – trust in the board to follow through on commitments made.

This board does not take that trust lightly. I would like to know what that looks like to you -- a year (or two) from now, what will this board have done that makes you feel really good about the delegates' decision?