A worship service closed out General Assembly tonight. The final service is always where we get to see the GA Choir, which has been practicing all week. It sang five numbers, including “Yonder Come Day,” based on a Georgia Sea Islands song. President Bill Sinkford and Moderator Gini Courter invited us in a sermonette to take GA home and transform our congregations by welcoming visitors, engaging in social justice, and working on ways to keep youth and young adults connected to Unitarian Universalism.
This afternoon the vendors in the exhibit hall packed up. GA could have been better for many of them. With only about 3,000 people attending GA (about half the number as at Portland last year) sales were down significantly. Rose Hanig, UUA Bookstore manager, said her sales were about halved. Nancy Warren-Oliver, proprietor at Uni-Uniques, said sales were “way down,” adding, “I don’t know if I’ll recover my costs.”
The upside to low attendance was that people seemed to be uniformly in a good mood. “Everyone’s been very positive,” said Hanig. It certainly has been easier to thread one’s way through the convention corridors this year so maybe people are less stressed.
Jan Sneegas, the UUA’s Director of General Assembly and Conference Services, said GA had been “great,” adding, “Our numbers are down, but I’ve been knocked out by the programming. And people seem to be mellow.” She said there had been no incidents at the security checkpoint. There was another upside to the checkpoint, she noted. The UUA stationed UU “greeters” at the checkpoint all during GA just in case problems arose. “The greeters told me they really enjoyed being greeters and getting to know the security guards as well,” said Sneegas.
Possible reasons for the low turnout this year range from the security issue to the heat and humidity and the economy as well as the fact that people might be saving their money for next year, when the election for UUA president takes place at Salt Lake City.
The worship service closed out with a rousing rendition of Siyahamba, a South African hymn, at the end of which the GA Choir streamed off the stage and through the audience as we all sang and clapped. It was a good end to a good week. And now we all go home so we can do it again next June.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.