Today I dropped my daughter off at the UU Kids Camp for the first time. She had a good day; they took a field trip to the science museum. She's in the camp for three days, and it's field trips each day. I confess to a little disappointment around this. I've been so longing for her to have a UU camp experience. (See this article from a UU World blog on more about UU kids camps.) It seems like this great opportunity at General Assembly to have a camp that's integrated around UU principles and heritage and to tie it to our values. What is in fact the case is they contract the kids camp job out to a local child care provider to run. I suppose this is not the primary goal of GA, to provide UU experiences for children, but it's a wasted opportunity, if you ask me. All the same, I hope to continue doing this bringing my daughter to GA and putting her in the camp, hoping that I'll have additional opportunities to expose her to the larger world of UUism beyond the local congregation. She went with me to the Banner Parade last night and will walk the exhibit hall later in the week. We watched a bit of the Service of the Living Tradition together tonight. So those pieces of UUism will still sink in, perhaps. And if it doesn't, well, at least the kids camp was fun, eh?
After dropping the girl off at camp, it was a workshops day all day today. In the past, the days have been a mixture of plenary and workshops. This year plenaries are all stacked into the weekend, with the workshops packed into Thursday and Friday. I see the logic in this model, but I'm not enjoying it. It makes for a long day if the two aren't mixed.
One workshop I went to today was the first part of a two-part series by Galen Guengerich on "Church of the New Millennium: Formula for Failure." I'll probably miss part two, because it's in the same slot as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Guengerich structured his remarks around an imagined future in which his daughter's grandchild is writing a thesis about why Unitarian Universalism failed and disappeared. He suggests that she would write that it's because we were "spiritual but not religious."
I'm reminded of when I was asked while interviewing for my current ministry whether I was "spiritual or religious." "Religious," was my response. I love the institution of Unitarian Universalism. That's what's so wonderful about being at General Assembly -- it's an embodied representation of this great thing that is Unitarian Universalism that I love. I love the moment the gavel is pounded during the opening plenary and the General Assembly is declared to be in session. I love the swirling frenzied excitement of the banner parade. I love running into colleagues between sessions and catching up or exchanging hugs. I love shopping around the exhibit hall. I love my mind and heart being stretched in program and worship. Heck, I even love discussions about our bylaws.
Guengerich expanded on what he meant by religious and spiritual, but you need to go hear it for yourself when it's available, as I'm sure it will be.
Today concluded with the Service of the Living Tradition, in which ministers and religious educators are honored for their service. Ministers who have passed are listed in the "roll call," and ministers receive preliminary and final fellowship, and are acknowledged when they retire. Similar milestones for religious educators are marked. I needed to go back to the hotel so I could be around my little one for one evening, since my next two are booked, and I needed to hear how kids camp went, so I opted to watch the service on line. It was clear from the service itself and from the comments of my colleagues on Facebook as well that this was the best service in years. The feed went in and out a bit (probably the hotel connection), but the sermon was awesomely good. Everybody seems to love that this year instead of admonishing people not to cheer and clap, this year it was encouraged. Every bit of the service was just right on. If you want to know what a Service of the Living Tradition is and what it means, watch this one. I can't remember a better one, including those in which I got preliminary and final fellowship (one of which was pretty darn good, one of which was awful, and I won't say which here on the blog). This was it. Seriously. This was religion.