Banner parade. (© 2013 Nancy Pierce/UUA)
The 52nd annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association got off to a rolicking start Wednesday night in Louisville, Kentucky, with the help of Kentucky’s poet laureate, a collection of down home musicians playing instruments that included a banjo and an accordion, and an introduction to “covenant,” the theme for this year’s meeting.
The opening ceremony began, as always, with a parade of banners of all the congregations present. Amy Taylor, president of the Heartland District of the UUA, which includes Louisville, welcomed delegates. Presidents of two other districts, Prairie Star and Central Midwest, gave welcomes as well. These three districts have voted to become the Midwest Region, and GA delegates will vote on bylaw changes acknowledging that vote this week, as part of the UUA’s move toward regionalization.
The Rev. Cynthia Cain, minister of the UU Church in Lexington, Ky., introduced Frank X. Walker, Kentucky’s poet laureate, who recited three poems, “Kentucke,” “Nyctophobia,” and “Kentucky Fried.” The latter, a celebration of Kentucky cooking and culture, begins “Who really believes that the best fried chicken came from an old white man . . .?”
This year’s GA theme is “From Promise to Commitment,” a reference to the covenants UUs have with each other and that congregations have with the UUA.
There are a number of workshops and other events in the week ahead on the theme of covenant. Wednesday night, the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, the UUA’s director of Congregational Life, told GA participants, “At this GA we’re asking you to think deeply about the promises you make as a Unitarian Universalist . . . to each other . . ., to your fellow congregants . . ., to the people in this room. . . . How do we show up for each other?”
Covenant, she said, “is about the promises we make and how we show up with them. At this GA we ask you to go deep into this cycle, to promise to open yourselves to one another and to show up for this conversation about who we are as liberal religious people in this time.”
This is Gini Courter’s last GA as moderator, a post she has held for ten plus years. A successor will be elected Saturday. There was no reference to that Wednesday night as she welcomed delegates. That will come later in the week.
She will have plenty to do this week. Because last year’s Justice GA had few business sessions so that delegates could focus on immigration issues, there is more business to do this year. Delegates will begin to tackle that Thursday.
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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.