New this year: Leadership mini-conference, environmental impact fee, proposed changes for Statements of Conscience.
This year’s GA will begin on Wednesday, June 21, and conclude on Sunday, June 25, rather than the customary Thursday through Monday schedule of past GAs. The change is to make GA more compatible with participants’ vacation schedules.
Current and future congregational presidents and those with leadership roles in congregations are invited to participate in a new pre-GA program this year. UU University will be June 20 to 21. Workshop titles include “Marks of Healthy Congregations,” “Let’s Talk Stewardship,” and “Closing the Revolving Door.” The keynote speaker is the Rev. Peter Steinke, who has written nine books including Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems. More than 250 have registered and about 300 are anticipated by the close of registration May 31, said the Rev. Harlan Limpert, the UUA's director of district services and the coordinator of UU University.
The event will not conflict with the start of GA. The cost for UU University is $95 and is in addition to GA fees. Plans are to hold UU University on alternate years preceding GA.
Highlights of GA will be the opening ceremony Wednesday night, Service of the Living Tradition Thursday night, youth-to-adult bridging ceremony Friday night, Ware Lecture Saturday night with poet Mary Oliver, a Sunday morning worship service open to the community, and the closing ceremony on Sunday night. One discussion topic this year will be a youth survey completed this spring. The survey was undertaken to help determine how youth regard their faith community. The UUA plans to use the results of the survey to determine how it might better reach and serve youth. The survey is part of a two-year Consultation on Ministry To and With Youth that concludes in 2007.
This year for the first time delegates are being invited to check a box on the registration form to contribute $6 to offset carbon emissions at General Assembly. Contributions go to CarbonFund.org, a nonprofit organization that will use the money to support renewable energy and reforestation that will offset the carbon generated at GA. This effort is in cooperation with UU Ministry for Earth, a UUA affiliate. UUA Director of General Assembly and Conference Services Jan Sneegas said 22 percent of registrants had checked the box as of May 17.
Delegates to General Assembly will be asked to vote this year on several proposed substantial changes in the way that Study/Action Issues are selected. Up to now, delegates select one new SAI each year then study it for two years before deciding if it will become a Statement of Conscience.
If delegates approve the proposed change, then a new SAI will be picked only every four years. That will allow for two full years of study plus a year to implement any recommendations.
Also this year, plenary sessions may be more lively—and pertinent. UUA Moderator Gini Courter asked congregations this spring to pick topics that have meaning to them and the issues they face. She pledged to organize discussions of those topics and then open them to all GA participants.
Registration for GA closes on June 9 and then reopens at the convention site on June 20. Sneegas said she anticipates around 4,300 participants.
The GA Planning Committee is revising its scholarship process this year. Those applying for scholarships will be required to secure a pledge of financial support from their congregations. The Planning Committee will then match that pledge, up to $250 and in some cases will pay the whole registration fee.
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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.