Gini Courter delivered her last moderator’s report Sunday afternoon, an impassioned plea to the delegates to be the visionaries for the Association.
“You hold the power of this Association in your hearts and hands,” said Courter, in her 10th moderator’s report to the General Assembly. “You are the power in Unitarian Universalism. And when you forget, things get broken.”
Courter spoke to delegates about three topics: growth, inclusion, and accountability.
She expressed concern that growth initiatives are not adequately funded and that past initiatives have come and gone without measurable data to show whether they were successful. “The small amount of money we spend on growth is trivial to what we spent 18 years ago,” she said. “I believe that when you quit funding growth, you might stop growing.”
Courter said “the kind of non-growth we’ve had for the past six years” is not acceptable.
She cautioned against delegates electing leaders to set the vision for the association. “Vision comes from the people. Without a vision, people perish,” she said. The long-term vision of Unitarian Universalism should be set by the people, she said, “And we have not been doing it lately.”
“You cannot elect a personality and have them tell us what to do. That’s not congregational polity.”
Courter told the UUs in plenary hall that they should be setting vision in discernment with the UUA Board, which has been out meeting individuals, congregations, and districts, about the newly crafted Ends, or goals, of the association. She urged people who had not read those Ends, finalized at the pre-GA board meeting, to read them.
Elected officials of the association, Courter said, implement vision in the short term. Congregations and individuals are charged with setting the long-term vision of the association, she said.
For the first time in 52 years, Courter said, the board has turned its focus on holding the administration accountable for measuring what is working and what is not. “The board is responsible under the bylaws to make sure the resources of the association are spent in the direction of that vision. . . . The board is asking the kids of questions I see congregational boards ask all the time.”
“Your UUA board is finally doing its job after long silence,” Courter said. “I need the GA to wake up, too. Without a vision the people perish.”
She expressed concern that the association is not directing adequate resources to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multicultural training. “If we’re going to be the people of promise, we better remember what we promised.”
Courter said the moderator role has been a bigger honor than she could have imagined. She asked delegates to afford her successor, Jim Key, love and trust. And she asked they extend that love and trust to UUA president Peter Morales, too. At the same time, she asked delegates to demand accountability. “I need you to demand more,” she said. “You don’t demand enough.”
In conclusion, Gini said, “If we are to fulfill our promise, if we are to be the religion for our time and for all time, you will have to learn to love in a way you have not yet learned. You will have to vision in a way you have grown unaccustomed to, and you will have to preach and demand accountability in a way that is uncomfortable. But if you can do all those things, my friends, in addition to what you do today, there is no power between the atom and the stars that will slow us down. Go well and go loved.”
The delegates rose, responding to Courter’s 10th and final report with a standing ovation.
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Michelle Bates Deakin, a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Massachusetts, was a UU World contributing editor from 2006 to 2011 and a UU World senior editor from 2011 to 2014. She is the author of Social Action Heroes: Unitarian Universalists Who Are Changing the World (Skinner House, 2011) and Gay Marriage, Real Life: 10 Stories of Love and Family (Skinner House, 2006).