10 Reasons to Attend General Assembly
General Assembly housing and early bird registration open March 1st. General Assembly is an expensive proposition. I can only afford it... well, actually, I can't afford it. My professional expenses are usually depleted by the time GA rolls around, and so it's out-of-pocket on a small church minister's budget when I go, which is usually every-other year. There are ways I cut costs -- I drive, when possible (and go less frequently when it's not); I stay at a cheap hotel on the outskirts and commute in to the city. I usually consider registering for only part of GA, but then break down and register for the whole thing anyway. But this year, despite the expense and the fact that I went last year, I'm planning on going again. Here's why you should, too. And, no, the UUA isn't paying me to do this. I really mean it. I have a feeling this year is particularly important, as is next year.
- Celebrate the anniversary! This GA, Unitarian Universalism turns 50. You don't want to miss this big party for our faith.
- Hear the Ware Lecture! The Ware Lecture is the most important lecture of General Assembly, and has featured some really fabulous speakers, including Martin Luther King, Jr. This year we're fortunate to have Karen Armstrong, author of many religious books. There are Ware Lectures that say such important, revelatory things for our faith that they're discussed for years. They're that good.
- Participate in the business of our association! This may not sound exciting, but it actually is, and is really important for us as a faith, as well. We're a democratic faith, but if we don't participate in that democracy then, well... Every year there are "Actions of Immediate Witness" which are voted on, and these AIWs are part of how we respond, as a faith, to those things that are happening in the world. Last year the business of GA focused in several votes on how we respond to the issue of immigration, particularly in Arizona, but also in copycat legislation such as what we're facing here in Michigan. This year that discussion is sure to continue, along with, I predict, AIWs about the emerging democracies around the world and the anti-union legislation being pushed in Wisconsin and other states. Do you think our faith should take stands on these kind of issues? If you do, or if you don't, you should go to GA to get your voice here and be part of the process of democracy.
- Experience UUism on a larger scale! If you've never been to a GA before, it's a really wonderful feeling to go to your first GA. There's a sudden understanding, on a new level, that we're not alone in our little churches (particularly for those of us where the next UU church is over 45 minutes away). You begin to see how UUism does have a larger culture that we're a part of, and how that matters. It goes way beyond reading the UU World, much as that helps. I think the first time I watched the Banner Parade during the opening ceremony, wherein each congregation is invited to have someone march with the congregational banner, well, I think I cried.
- Shop! There are lots of cool vendors there with neat stuff, and, of course, Beacon Press and the UUA Bookstore have all the UU books you've been wanting. But there are also some really wonderful resources for your congregation -- worship, music, religious education, financial, staffing, administration, you name it. If you can't find something you want for yourself or your congregation, well, then, get your favorite blogging minister a new stole--maybe one in rainbow colors.
- Get ready for the Justice GA in 2012! Our GA in 2012 in Arizona will be a special justice-focused GA. Last year there was much debate about whether or not to move the GA out of Arizona, to have a justice-focused GA, or to do business as usual. Justice-GA was the conclusion of that discussion, and this GA there will be a lot going on as we discuss exactly what that will look like and how to prepare for it.
- Attend fabulous programs! I'm excited to see that the "Ground Zero Mosque" imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, will be joining us at GA this year. There are always wonderful authors and theologians and activists to learn from at our GAs.
- Worship! It's a great opportunity to experience some of the breadth and depth of UU worship. And do be sure to attend the Service of the Living Tradition, where we honor ministers and religious educators who died, who are retiring and those who are just emerging.
- Public Witness! There is often an opportunity at General Assembly to not just learn about justice work, but to participate in it among a community of UUs. The public witness opportunity for 2011 isn't announced yet, but I'm sure it will be energizing & important.
- Keep your minister company! We want you there sharing this experience with us, and bringing that experience back to the congregation.