A monthly feature electronic magazine of the Ohio-Meadville District
Justice General Assembly, Phoenix, AZ
More than seventy-five Ohio-Meadville members traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, in the sweltering heat of late June, to attend a "new" kind of General Assembly. This "Justice GA" was advertised as something entirely different from anything we'd ever experienced before. And the advertising was right! In this edition of "Up-Close", read what participants from the district (especially those who attended through the OMD's Phoenix Witness Scholarships), experienced and learned.
L-R, front - Wendy Wills, Laurie Albright, Suzan Musick
back - David Petras, Hal Walker, Kristina Spaude, Robbie Houseknecht, Rev. Matt Alspaught
Hal Walker, UU Church of Kent
I am so grateful to have been able to attend the 2012 Justice GA with financial help from the Phoenix Witness Project. My roommate (another Pheonix Witness Scholar) and I had a wonderful time.
For me, one of the highlights was singing the Pat Humphries song, "Keep on Moving Forward" with 1,000's of other UU's. We were on our way to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail for a mass protest and this song was a great unifying force. It's a zipper song, so Lee or I would start a verse and then the hundreds of people around us would join in. On the buses to the protest, we sang the whole way. It was quite moving.
I was also honored to bring a bit of the Ohio Meadville District to GA with my song, Praise Song. I rehearsed with a small choir of about 10 UU Musician's Network members and we got to perform the song two times. The response in the plenary hall was quite favorable and it was a real thrill to sing in that venue.
Michael Greenbaum, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, David Petras
From Jolinda Stephens, DRE, First UU Church of Columbus, OH on the scholarships awarded to four youth from the congregation
I'm so grateful for the contributions that helped four of out youth attend this special GA. From my observations of our youth experiencing GA, I believe that the Phoenix Witness Project has made two important contributions to Unitarian Universalism. First, it has helped shape their perception of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. They have seen a strong, vital faith that is connected to world community, that takes that connection and accountability seriously. Too often our UU youth have a very isolating experience of Unitarian Universalism. Often they are the only UUs in their school; social action by congregations is often invisible to them.
Secondly, they connected more strongly with the ministers in the congregation, one proven key to keeping our youth as they become adults . They were able to spend a whole afternoon with our senior minister. Although he makes time to connect with children and youth, time is in very short supply during the regular church year. They also got to know our new campus chaplain. He serves as an important bridge during those transition years. All in all, PWP has served to support the development of strong young UU leaders. I wish we could see how important experiencing GA is to faith development of young UUs and provide support for every GA. The future of our movement would be much brighter.
Sonrisa Alter at the community gathering
Sonrisa Alter, UU Young Adult, Oberlin College
Justice General Assembly was not perfect by any means. I felt many of the same frustrations (mostly related to bureaucracy and lack of community) as I did at the one other GA I attended, in 2010. But this time around, I could also feel us growing tangibly as a denomination. We have begun to consciously un-learn the blame we were taught to place on undocumented people, and perhaps more importantly, we've started to let go of our need to feel righteous or personally validated for doing this necessary work. At this General Assembly, working with local partners got us out of our heads and into our hearts and spirits.
Before GA, I feared that many attendees might storm into Phoenix with their metaphorical activist guns blazing, ready to "save" the "poor, oppressed immigrants." Instead, nearly everyone I interacted with came in with a different attitude: "I'm here to do whatever our local partners ask of me to support the necessary and sacred work they are already leading and succeeding at."
And as UUA Board Moderater Gini Courter said in the closing ceremony, now that we've had a Justice GA – now that we know we can do this – there's no going back. We have irrevocably changed the way we gather, do business, and witness. If we remember what we learned from this General Assembly, we will never be able to assemble, whether as a denomination or in individual congregations, without deeply considering our affect on the surrounding community.
Justice GA Resources
Need resources from Justice GA? The UUA has created a webpage of resources for those who are returning from Justice GA. You can find it at the UUA GA website. The UUA's GA page also has links to UU World's coverage, photos and videos, and to the video of the workshops and sessions that were livestreamed.