Interdependent Web: Experiencing General Assembly

Interdependent Web: Experiencing General Assembly

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism


Experiencing General Assembly

The Rev. Jake Morrill shares the highlights, for him, of this year’s General Assembly in Columbus.

Now, in the year 2016, spending a week at a denominational assembly could seem as thrilling as a week spent discussing the best ways to make toast. But this morning, I sang along with several thousand people who spend the other 51 weeks of the year trying to love the hell out of this world. And I heard Nancy McDonald Ladd preach a sermon that brought me to my feet more than once. At the end, I looked at Tom Schade next to me and we both burst out laughing, amazed at what we’d heard. And I might have said, “Damn,” which may not be the most delicate way to respond to a sermon. But I'm heading home happy. (Facebook, June 26)

The Rev. David Pyle gives us a glimpse of how exhausting General Assembly is for staff and presenters.

I am utterly exhausted . . . in part because of three weeks of military duty immediately prior to GA, but also because of my giving the response to the Berry Street Essay, and all of the wonderful colleagues who have shared their feelings and reactions to it in the days afterward. I was honored to help speak a prophetic truth, and deeply touched by the depth of feeling shared.

And it was exhausting. I am so grateful to the colleagues who noticed my own emotional state and put their own GA experience on hold to walk with me. (Facebook, June 25)

The Rev. Erika Hewitt experienced the Holy, right in the middle of a crowded convention center hallway, among a group of colleagues grieving together.

When I saw a clutch of somber colleagues in the hallway of the convention center, I knew what I was witnessing: a spontaneous circle of mourners trying to process news of a colleague's sudden death.

The circle opened to include me, and the six of us instinctively wrapped our arms around each others’ waists. First we shared information; one of us began to cry. As we huddled closer, we bowed our faces and listened to one another breathe. People streamed around us; none of us noticed. (Facebook, June 25)

Betrayals of trust

The Rev. Amy Shaw responds to this year’s Berry Street Lecture, which dealt with issues of clergy sexual misconduct.

If you have been abused by a clergy person from any faith you have the right to be made whole. You have the right to be believed. You have the right to justice. You have the right to shine a light on the truth of what was done to you and you do not have to lie or hide so that your abuser can maintain the illusion that they didn't do a thing.

If you are the clergy person, you have the right to work for restoration of trust, but you will never have the guarantee of trust. You have the right to attempt redemption, but you are not guaranteed success. You have the right to the recognition of your worth and dignity as a human being, but not necessarily as a minister.

And you do not have the right to hide what you have done behind the black robed skirts and business suits of your colleagues under the guise of collegial covenant. (Chalice Fire, June 28)

In a post that may be difficult for many to read, the Rev. Catharine Clarenbach names the nameless fears of sexual assault.

Of course, I blamed myself for years and years. For the flashbacks. For the recurring sense of terror. For being a “cold fish.” For my “poor judgment.” For giving into his grooming. For even thinking of calling what happened, sexual assault. . . .

But I know what he did. I know. I remember and I hate you for it. I do not forgive you. I look through the hands that covered my face for so long. I know what you did. (The Way of the River, June 24)

Words matter

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum addresses the ableist language at the heart of “Standing on the Side of Love.”

The point is that we often think, even if it is ableist, “Standing on the Side of Love” is a done deal and it would be too hard to change it. I'd like to offer a different possibility. I think we need to change this, and it’s possible to change this. The important part of the “Standing on the Side of Love” isn’t the “Standing,” it's that we’re acting “on the Side of Love.” (Rev. Cyn, June 29)

For Tina Porter, the problem with “standing on the side of love” goes beyond its ableist metaphor to the limits it places on love.

Words matter.

So let us not sit or stand or even lay down in the street on the side of love. Let love envelop all we encounter. Let’s be the body we dream about.

And to all who are hurting, and all who were brave, and all who felt diminished or left out of the conversation or were talked over or just weary of the process . . . I offer this: I see you. I hear you. I love you. We are in this together, and we will love our way into and out of a bunch of different things. And you are not only the embodiment of love, but of courage, of wisdom, of that ever-bending arc. (Ugly Pies, June 28)

Speaking up, speaking out

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein responds to a comment about the terrorist attacks in Turkey.

I never want my preaching to become a predictable “Rev. Vicki’s Response To The Latest Violence In The World,” but the fact is that terrorist attacks are part of our new shared global reality, and I feel that pastors must help our people build more spiritual muscle to confront that fact. If the church does not teach how faithful people respond to this reality, false prophets like Donald Trump will teach them how. . . . Clergy must actively translate, interpret our faith anew to people who are being passionately inveighed outside of the church walls to let fear and paranoia inform our choices as Americans. They are being taught elsewhere that Wisdom is the offspring of suspicion, not love. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, June 29)

When her child was heartbroken about the horrors of slavery, Colleen Thoele didn’t have the strength to tell him that it’s not over. After returning from General Assembly, she writes her children a letter about the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

My beautiful and beloved children it is NOT over. Human beings of color are still fighting for freedom and justice. They are still to this day resisting the chains that our white ancestors shackled them with. They are still dying from a system of oppression that never went away but instead slipped underground hoping that good white people would not notice.

And I have to tell you, my children, that they must not fight alone. We must join that fight. We must stop pretending that we have nothing helpful to say or do. It is beyond time that your mama stands up. If I ever had a job to do, it is this. And I am ashamed that it took me this long to see with such clarity that if I am not shouting my allegiance than I am allowing the oppression of our fellow human beings. (The Family Pants, June 28)