our callingFrom the President
Come set the Association's agenda
General Assembly is almost upon us. Last year's GA was our biggest ever, as more than 7,500 Unitarian Universalists from nearly 700 congregations met in Boston. This year, we're expecting about 5,000 UUs to be with us in Long Beach, California, from June 24 to 28, and I'm hoping that you are planning to be among them.
Our liberal religious movement is strong and vibrant, with wonderful congregations doing important work, ministering to their communities in vital ways. The state of our Association has never been stronger. But we will become stronger still if we can do a better job of drawing on the energy and the wisdom of our congregations to focus the work of the Association over the next several years. At this GA, I want us to make real our congregational polity at the national level.
Congregational polity is part of the very bedrock of Unitarian Universalism. It dates back more than 350 years to the Cambridge Platform of 1648, which the Puritans of early Massachusetts Bay drew up to organize their churches. The model they set up has been followed and adapted by our congregations ever since.
And the Cambridge Platform talked as much about relationships between congregations as it did about the autonomy of individual congregations. As one of our eminent UU historians, Conrad Wright, has pointed out, “The 'autonomy' of the local church was carefully protected. Yet it is not a proper understanding of congregationalism to leave it at that. Congregationalism meant, not the autonomy of the particular church, but the communion of autonomous churches—a significantly different thing.”
I hope that Unitarian Universalism can grow past the notion that congregational independence needs to mean congregational isolation. I want us to use General Assembly this year for real communion among our congregations, through thoughtful dialogue among our elected congregational leaders. I want those leaders to be present, so that they can be involved in the discernment and the decisions that will shape our course as a denomination over the next four to five years. Although some Unitarian Universalists react to the Association as an outside authority structure, in actuality the UUA is merely the coming together of our congregations. The place where that coming together happens most tangibly is at GA.
And we have important business to accomplish. I want to use this GA to set priorities for our Association, and our elected congregational leaders need to be present for that work. That is why, at my request, the Board of Trustees has designated the funds to cover the cost of registration for all congregational presidents or presidents-elect. I urge you to take us up on that offer. (See www.uua.org/ga/congpres.html for details.)
Long Beach will be the first General Assembly for which we have designed programming especially for congregational presidents. Interim Moderator Gini Courter and I will host a reception for presidents and presidents-elect on Thursday, following the District In-Gatherings. Then on Saturday, Gini and I will convene a gathering that will last most of the afternoon, at which these elected congregational leaders will help to shape the Association's priorities.
This is not the first time I have written about this initiative here, but the presence of our elected congregational leaders at GA this year is of such importance for our work going forward that I have chosen to devote this column to it as well. My hope is that you will join us, and also that you will bring the wishes, concerns, and dreams of your congregations with you. It is in coming together that we make real the covenant that binds us. Please join me in Long Beach from June 24 to 28.