Meditating on General Assembly 2014

2014-06-27 21.20.20I’m getting back into the swing of blogging, and I’m working on posts that focus on particular subjects brought up at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. But I thought I’d say something first about this year’s General Assembly as a whole.

First, I go to General Assembly to meet friends and to network a bit; I’m not a delegate and not on any UUA committee. I don’t have any formal role, and this is true of about a half of the people who show up. But despite my best effort, the official work of General Assembly usually gets in the  way of my emotions. So, I prepare myself to come back home tired, frustrated and even angry. It’s not that I want to have a bad time, but forewarned is forearmed.

Something was different about General Assembly 2014, and I’m not quite sure what or why. Admittedly, I have a partial view of the thing.  I only registered for two days, and so did not attend many workshops. And I didn’t attend Ministry Days so, my experience was shorter and some others. There’s nothing like getting older to provide some prospective. But some of the people I spoke to on-site experienced the same thing.

The General Assembly felt calm. True, I bookended my days with morning and evening prayer at First Universalist Church, Providence, and it was centering. I will write about this later, but I don’t think that’s why GA felt calm. Perhaps because there was no big protest action, either at our host city or internal to General Assembly. Perhaps it was because there was enough food at different price points, the lack of which has been a problem as past General Assemblies. And there was no election.

I didn’t see people crying in the hallways. I didn’t hear edgy tones of voice. I didn’t see young people running in the hallways. (Indeed, they were pros.)

So, I’m looking for feedback. If you were at General Assembly, is this your sense?


By Scott Wells

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


  1. How interesting to see that your observation, Scott, has been echoed in all of the facebook postings and so forth that I have run across. Further, I happened to chat briefly with a national UUA staffer at a social event on July 4 and she reported that same impression, both for her personally and others who she knows. No one quite seems to know why. There is speculation about having put the Board/President conflicts behind us, with a smaller Board now and a new Moderator; that has to help. I notice that, at least so far, there has not been a lot of hand-wringing about the substantial budgetary short fall and attempts to fix blame. Perhaps the various constituencies of the pre-offended (and I include the Christians and the “new logo grumps”–myself among them–in that) are more forward-focused, more willing to see our common interests in an increasingly austere environment? I don’t know, I speculate, but would be happy to hear more about it. It’s certainly encouraging.

  2. There wasn’t a peep I heard about the logo/design theme. (And there was an upside: everything looks fresh.) Not a peep about Starr King. And all I heard about the budget deficit was an airy joke.

  3. Sorry I missed connecting with you at GA. Through my peculiar lens (survivor activist about UU clergy sexual misconduct) GA was somewhat less awful. Perhaps that’s parallel with your experience of calmer? Overall I picked up on more humility from senior UUA management — Jim Key in particular. That said, many of the non-management presentations in the Dunk Arena that seemed not yet to have caught this spirit. There’s still a lot of that “we’re so good at inclusion” blah blah. That’s been anything but my experience and upset me deeply with its fairly steady drumbeat. So … you must not have seen me in the hallways — but then again I’ve perfected the art of escaping disturbing UU events undetected.

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