GA: how much, how long, how far?

Thanks to everyone who explained why they’re not going to General Assembly (you may still leave your reasons there) — now I have a related question.

What would it take for you to go?

  • how much could you, would you. might you spend to attend?
  • how many people in your household, if anyone, apart from yourself would be willing, wanting to go?
  • how long do you thing General Assembly should be?
  • how far would you be willing to travel?

GA, because it so rarely has any real business to conduct, has to rely on other draws. Some people mention the workshops, but after a couple of years you’ve seen just about everything you’re interested in (in my opinion). Ditto the exhibit hall. Also, I don’t get the appeal of big name, big dollar speakers (but that’s another issue).

Good and different worship, a sense of belonging, and access to a critical mass of other Unitarian Universalists seems to be the real reasons. Does this sound off base? And if so, shouldn’t GA be radically revamped? And what does that say about the “meeting of congregations” dogma?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The only conferences I’ve been to in the past decade are ones in which either I was paid to attend for work or ones in which I greatly benefited from a sense of community and felt like it was a great boon to my professional/personal life. So the community feeling is the biggest draw for me for which I’m willing to pay 1-2K total (including food, room, conference fees) and travel maybe 500 miles from Southern California.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot on this one. SOMEDAY I really am hoping to get to a GA. I’m told that the energy is amazing and hey, I could match some faces with all the folks who’ve shared so much wisdom in the grand www.

    Obviously, there’s a wacky mobile involved when you’re trying to balance providing a wide range of programming, promoting the long-term health of the organization, and being financially accessible to all who would like to attend.

    That said, what would it take to get ME there–
    Well, the easiest way for it to happen would be for GA to take place near family, so we could realistically combine vacation and GA. (Yes, I know that the locals always put together a packet of family-friendly attractions and whatnot. But everyone I know who goes comes home with the whole family exhausted and sick of each other.)

    Something else that keeps coming back to me–hey, let’s have GA somewhere with A LOT of UUs and give those home-towners a serious discount if they’re willing to provide home hospitality. (Ok, so this limits us hugely, but some of the best experiences I’ve had as a Unitarian Universalist have been discussions w/ the folks opening their homes to me and the folks I’ve had in my home.)

    Spouse, highly unlikely to attend. As my children get older, I can see them wanting to be a part of the program, assuming it’s not ‘just babysitting’–whether or not I can afford it is a completely different question.

    I spent some time this morning looking at other organizations (both faith-based and hobbyist) and was struck by the fact that their conferences all seem to be shorter, less expensive, and with REALLY inexpensive programming for children. Sure, I’m harping on that, but if we want to pull in a younger generation of adults, we need to welcome the whole family.

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