UUA General Assembly from a Strategic Implementation Perspective
Christopher Burtt, Board Member, on Strategic Implementation Committee (SIC)
For this month’s SIC report, I have written up my impression of GA from a strategic point of view.
The theme of GA, reaching out in love, resonated with our mission to be radically inclusive. Themes included not only bringing more people into UU, but also how to be in community with people outside of UU. I attended one workshop on Evangelism, where each ministry’s focus was on creating spaces and activities to be in community, whether or not those people wound up becoming UU. The workshop discussed success with growing beyond worship to offer classes, homeless meals/shelters, centers for social justice, movies, games, and music. All events were targeted to anyone who was interested in that topic, and in most cases led to a natural growth of the congregation. For example, one church served meals to those in need, drawing volunteers from all over the community. The volunteers who were drawn to do social good noticed that it was a UU church drawing them in, and learned what it means to be UU.
In addition to being radically inclusive of outsiders, I heard some great examples of being radically inclusive within the congregation. On a workshop in Adventures in Worship, one minister looked around his congregation and realized there was over 3,000 years of human experience among them. He began coaching them to give sermons, and now 75% of the congregation has done so.
Combining both of these versions of radical inclusion, we could learn to share what being UU means to us outside of our congregation. Not in a pushy way, but in a way that invites those who are interested to learn more. One example from a social media workshop was a UU congregant who received a thank you note from her friend for introducing her to Unitarian Universalism, except they hadn’t spoken for 10 years! They had stayed in touch on Facebook, and the friend noticed some UU activity on her page, decided to check out her local UU congregation, and loved it (of course!).
What if we as a congregation committed to telling our own stories more often? Who would we inadvertently reach to draw the circle wider? We should take turns posting what it means to us to be UU on Facebook and other social media sites, as well as posting social justice events, auction items and other events.
I also got to feed my spirit with great worship services. And I attended some workshops that helped to illuminate why I love our services at UCS. Worship is the opportunity to have a change of heart, the opportunity to experience something for the first time. Good worship brings outsiders in, and takes worshippers outside of their environment. This fits in well with our strategic goal of experiencing more diversity in feeding our spirits.
There were also many opportunities to heal the world. There were actions of witness for the underground railroad in Uganda to help LGBT people get to safety, stopping deportations, and preventing gun violence. We should see more resources available to us to address these issues. We also voted on a congregational study/action issue and chose addressing escalating inequality. This issue will be studied for the next four years, resulting in concrete actions our congregations can take to make real changes. Selecting both of these was fascinating, an opportunity to participate in democracy in all of its glorious messiness. We all have a big opportunity to participate by attending the Climate March on Sept 21 in New York City.
It was great to see so many from the Unitarian Church in Summit at GA, as well as meeting UU’s from all over the world. It was so inspiring to see the hundreds of banners and know that Unitarian Universalism is present in many places. But I am greedy, and I want more! I want more people to know about Unitarian Universalism, whether they are a part of it or not. Even if they just want to come with us for a social justice rally or attend a game night. I believe that in living our mission we can invite a wide community to stand with us.