The greenest General Assembly

The greenest General Assembly is the one you don’t attend. Follow me here.

The reason I don’t go to General Assembly isn’t that I’m “mad at the UUA” (I’m not; just irritated on occasion) or that it is too expensive (though it is expensive) but because I don’t have any business there. If I had business and the means, I’d go. With no contested races, no budgetary authority and no crisis to resolve, I have to think much of the business is invented to have something to do. I wouldn’t be going as a church’s delegate. And I have plenty to do at home, thank you. If I wanted to see my friends — GA is good for that — I can do that with involving thousands of others.

But like a lot of people, I am interested in the workshops and wouldn’t mind a dose of the enthusiasm that comes with GA. (And I was always a little sad to see it end.) So I want a bit of GA without being there, and that has the side effect of being more environmentally sustainable (unless you live in the host city) and much cheaper.

But today the Unitarian Universalists in the Military announced its program at General Assembly with useful details. Wise, that. They’ve already committed resources to putting on the presentation, and with this announcement has a better shot at reaching those who might be vaguely interested in military ministries, whether or not they go to General Assembly.

They could go a step further an pledge to get all their presentation materials on this blog during or shortly after General Assembly. Attendees could grab it then, without worrying that they have to lug more paper. Non-attendees get something of the GA programming. The military ministry leadership doesn’t have to fuss with random requests for information. GA web writers have something to work from in their online coverage. (And presenters should have their handouts ready for the GA web staff to upload. Yes, I mean you.)

Even better? Add photos of the event. Better still? Ask interested people to email the blog manager so they can collect contact of interested persons and then remind them when the content is up. Ask their permission if they’d like to receive updates. (I’m learning PHPList for Day Job; this might be a good solution for such an outfit.)

Every organization with General Assembly programming and a website — and a blog or sympathetic bloggers — ought to do likewise.

Attending bloggers can share the experience by blogging from site. WordPress allows you to blog by email, putting blogging from a mobile phone within the reach of those without laptop. Photos during GA or shortly thereafter would be nice, too. Perhaps I can learn Skype by then and call attendees for interviews — it would be nice to hear General Assembly from the halls and lobbies, too.

And at last, there’s the official coverage. At-home bloggers should follow along and comment, pointing to online media and reportage.

This kind of virtual General Assembly won’t be the same thing, but it would be a better experience — and lead to a more transparent understanding of Association fellowship and business — than we have generally known.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. I blogged from home last year, and intend on doing it again this year. I will go to GA eventually, just not when it is so far away. I need a mid-west venue say Indianapolis, Pittsburg, Detroit, or Chicago. I would say Cleveland but they were just here such a short time ago.

    One of the feelings I got, from bloggers actually blogging from GA last year is that they did not take my experience seriously. I realize that from home one does not get the energy of the room, or the dynamics of people speaking, but I really did feel as if I experienced GA in some level.

  2. Amen, Scott. GA is a huge waste of jet fuel, and it really is only affordable to the upper middle class or those who have sufficient expense accounts.

    I go because I am committed to putting up as much about GA on the Web as possible. I volunteer as a reporter for coverage. The “official” coverage only covers a small part of what goes on (not enough money, not enough staff to cover everything), so I blog on my personal blog as well. And last year when I did a presentation at GA, I made sure the entire text of the presentation was available on my Web site before I made the presentation (I even made the audience hand me written questions during the Q&A so I could put their questions on the Web later).

    For those who live in New England, Ferry Beach Conference Center in Saco, Maine, has a GA-away-from-GA, where they screen all the live coverage available over the Web. I’d like to see that become the norm, sort of like what the Bioneers conference is trying to do by hosting lots of subsidiary sites with audio and visual hook-ups.

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