Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

General Assembly Day 3: A Tale of Two GA’s…

I remember my first General Assembly many moons ago.  I was so excited for the opportunity for all the workshops I could ever dream of on every aspect of church life, of theology, and of our ecclesiological history.  I packed each moment full of engaging panel discussions, of plenary sessions, of sermons and worship services.  I took notes, I wrote reflections, and I enjoyed every last minute I could possibly cram into each of these days among my fellow UU’s.

As the years have gone by, my engagement at General Assembly has changed dramatically.  Now, one reason for that is that I have since been to seminary, and have taken whole graduate classes in many of the topics that generate workshops at the General Assembly.  And, the other reason is that as I have attended GA’s and have become embedded among UU Clergy and Lay-leaders, I have discovered that there are actually two General Assemblies.

There is certainly the General Assembly that is described in the schedule and the program guide that I carry around with me.  I still attend many of those events, particularly the plenary sessions and some of the worship services.  One of the amazing aspects of yesterday at General Assembly was to participate in the UU Military Chaplain’s Worship Service, and to be in a room where the Spirit certainly was moving among us.

Yet, there is another General Assembly, found amid all of the quiet conversations in the hallways, the private lunches, and the chance encounters in the hallways.  It is a General Assembly made up of advice given and received, of hands and hearts touched, of paths shared and dreams named.  And, for me… it is the real reason I go to GA.

This particular General Assembly, I have had a bit of an agenda for this second GA… and that is that I am finding all of the colleagues I can find who have been in Assistant or Associate minister roles.  I am having quite lunches with them, and hearing their experiences and their advice and best practices, as I am preparing for moving into my own Assistant Ministry with the Rev. Jan Christian and the UU Church of Ventura, California in August.

The Military Chaplain’s service was in some ways the beginning of that Assistant Ministry for me, as the opening prayer I did was followed by Rev. Jan, as she preached one of the two sermons of that service… centering around her “opening” the experience of her brother’s death in the Vietnam War.  She was followed by the Rev. Bill Sinkford, who preached on his experience of his son serving in a war he was protesting against.

Each GA, I feel myself called deeper into the experience of this second GA, and have to find it in me to commit to the necessity of the first GA.  I have to move away from those quiet conversations to fulfill my role as a delegate of our association.  I need to end my lunches on time in order to make the workshops and trainings that will be useful to me in my continuing ministerial development…

But it is difficult…  Because I when I think back on each GA it is not the vote on Ethical Eating that I will remember… but the conversations with the CLF on military ministry, or the trading of resources while sitting in the floor with computers with a fellow chaplain, or the colleague who had not had a chance to cry pulling me aside for a moment of pastoral togetherness…

For me, that’s the real GA…

Yours in faith,

Rev. David

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