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General Assembly


The Devil's Advocate
I've asked this before, is anyone going?

This year GA will meet in Dallas/Ft. Worth from June 23rd to June 27th. Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels and most recently Beyond Belief will be giving the Ware lecture. And the senior minister of my church, Rev Rob Hardies of All Souls Unitarian, will be giving the Sunday sermon.

I'm still not sure that I'm going yet, as it will require some juggling, but I think that it would be extremely poetic for us UUs to meet for general assembly in the state that denied us tax-exempt status as a religion last year. :p

Green Gaia

Veteran Member
That would be awesome to meet her! I love her books. But no, that's about the time I'll be moving.... maybe next year.


The Devil's Advocate
I'm going to GA! Yea!!!!!!!
I'm going to be a delegate for my congregation. :)


Veteran Member
wow that is about 4 hours from where I live.....thanks for the heads up. Might be cool..have to see about my schedule.


The Devil's Advocate
robtex said:
wow that is about 4 hours from where I live.....thanks for the heads up. Might be cool..have to see about my schedule.
Duuude!! Come to GA!! Asside from the endless and probably very dull plenary sessions (church business stuff) that are only required of the delegates, it should be a lot of fun!!

Check out the program thus far.

Tell your boss that you need time off to practice your "religion." ;)


The Devil's Advocate
Maize said:
Nope. Never been.
It's still a ways off yet, but I promise that when I get back, I'll tell you all about it. :)

I don't know anyone online who seems more dedicated to UU than you.


Active Member
I will be attending GA this year... in fact, just sent in my registration last week....

We should say HI while we are there!

I specifically asked not to be a delegate... with my recent acceptance to a UU Seminary and my work to get endorsed as a Military Chaplain's Candidate, I'm afraid I would just be too busy to sit in on all the plenary sessions this year.

And with GA being only 5 hours from me this year, how could I miss it.

YoUUrs in Faith and Reason,




The Devil's Advocate
Well, I am off to GA! Plane leaves tomorrow morning, but I've got a ton to do before then. So signing out now.

Davidium, I'll see you there.
Robtex, will I see you there? Stop by the All Souls booth (#432) to find me.
Everybody else, have fun. Don't burn down the place while I'm gone. And see y'all in a week or so. :)



Active Member
Each day that I spent at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, I went to bed in my hotel room thinking that the next day would be a dissappointment. The day I had just lived had been so amazing and inspiring that I could not see how the next day could live up to that standard.... And then it did. Each day was more amazing than the first.

On the first day, events conspired to have me participate in the "Banner Parade"... in other words, to carry the banner of the UU Fellowship of Galveston County in the opening ceremonies. As we were lining up, I wanted to get out of the way, so I found a place in the corner of the entry hall near some doors. Little did I know that happened to be the doors we would enter the arena through. I was 4th in line of over 1000 banner cariers, and the only people before me were the churches from the Ft. Worth area, where the conference was being held. To be up front like that was kinda a metaphor for the rest of the conference.

Seeing over 1000 church banners proceed through the hall was inspiring, and give one a sense of the size of our free-faith. Not as large as others, but large enough to feel you are part of something that can affect change in our world.

The Sermons of the week were incredible, inspiring, and passionate. In one, the new ministers were called to ignite, catch fire, and take up the mantle of our free faith not as a status quo, but to change the world.... or dont become a minister at all. I saw friends cross the stage and receive ministerial fellowship, and thought, "someday I will join them".

My contacts with students and faculty of Meadville Lombard Theological School, and my participation in helping to run their booth was great... I know I have made some great friends.

I went to GA knowing of only one other person working towards U.S. Military Chaplaincy for the UUA, and left knowing six others, all of us realizing we are going to be life-long friends, a support group, and collegues. One of our current UU Chaplains took us under her wings, and kinda had a look in her eyes like she was glad to see reinforcements on the way.

Beyond that, something incredible happend at this GA... One of the UUA leaders whom I spoke with told me that in all his years being a UU, and being UU Leadership Staff, he had never seen what happened at this GA, and he was in awe.

You see, us Military Chaplaincy Candidates, UU Military members, UU Military Chaplains, UU Defense Employees, and UU Military Families came together in a workshop, told our stories about what it is like to e a Military UU, discussed the prejudice that we face within the denomination, and laid down a gauntlet for the UUA to live up to its welcoming beliefs and welcome and support UU's associated with the Military.

One UU Marine told how he was at a conference and it became known he was a Marine. He felt ostracisied, and even had people directly question his faith. He was hurt, angry, and considering leaving our faith when an older gentelman came over to him and said he was sorry. This gentleman told the marine "I'm Gay, and I have always felt welcome as a UU... I find it horrible that you had to come out as a Marine."

I have gotten similar questions over my chosen path and my Military past. I believe there is a UU Military Mission... peacekeeping and intervention to stop genocide. I beleive that we as UU's have abandoned the military, so no wonder it is becoming more and more conservative. The Military needs us, and we need to answer the call. There are families in need, Soldiers who need support, and those who need the healing nature of a free faith. Without it, we are not as welcoming as a denomination as we claim to be.

What came out of that workshop shook the GA, or at least the UUA leadership. I dont think they really realized how Military UU's were being treated. It has become a mission of the leadership to change that culture.

Meadville-Lombard has said they would support the two incoming studnets on path to Military Chaplaincy to develop a program designed to teach UU Churches how to welcome and take care of military members and families. I think we will do it.

During all of this, I had my interview with the Ministerial Creditialing Director of the UUA for my Military Chaplaincy Candidates Endorsement. It was great, and he went beyond the endosement for me, they are going to look at the process of becoming a minister in the UUA to see how it can be "tweaked" to better support Military Chaplains. I am going to help with that, to help those who come after me.

The military just upped its Chaplain recruiting goals for the year from 125 to 500 as well.

I could go on about the Sermons, the workshops, and the atmosphere... but it was incredible. Some of it I can share with you... because for the first time the UUA recorded the major events of GA and put them on the web for people to watch.... I highly recommend the Sunday Morning Service and the Service of the Living Tradition (at least the sermon part of it)... Opening Ceremonies are great as well.

Go here to see the coverage

In fact, if you watch "Banner parade slideshow 1" a picture of me holiding the UUFGC Banner is number 26, I think. It is a Red and Gold banner.

I am on Fire... not just for my Religion (UU) but also for my Theology (Deism). I have alot of catching up to do over the next week, so I ask your indulgence. If anyone is interested how Deism and UU can go together, feel free to email or PM me.... I can talk from my experience

But, on top of all of this, the best thing that occured was the friends, probably life-long friends that I made. My fellow Chaplain Candidate at Meadville Lombard and I will have each others backs for years. A young man with an incredible life story (and denominational connections) was inspiring to me in his story, and in sharing a love for Soldiers that inspires him to persue Chaplaincy. A woman who has gone through much to follow her call to Military Chaplaincy, and not lost her call was amazing. And a wonderful young lady, who has a wonderful soul, received ministerial Fellowship at this GA. But beyond that, I believe I felt her find her Ministerial Calling in the stories and needs of the Military UU's. To see the eyes light up with a calling, to see someone realize that this is what they are meant to do was amazing, and re-affirmed my own call. That, and she is an inspiring woman with a Theology I think the UUA needs more of. And, like all of the others I met, she's just cool! (And married, dont get any ideas you all).

I also met a friend I already had from here at Religious Forums. Lilithu, you are great! Rev. Dr. John Tolley asked me after your conversation with him how I knew you, and told me to encourage you to consider eventual ministry, and attending Meadville-Lombard. He was as impressed with you as I was. You have a kind heart and soul that shows through your eyes as well as your posts.

I could write longer, but this is where I am. I am exhausted. It feels like I lived three weeks in 5 days. In a few days I may be rested enough to translate this into action. I also have some great work to do for my Fellowship, and helping coordinate the ideas of the other 11 members of our fellowship who went to GA. I think this will energize our leadership, and maybe inspire a few others to persue the formal path to ministry.

YoUUrs in Faith,

David Pyle
Just recently returned to Galveston Island, Texas.... from the Mecca of Unitarian Universalism.


The Devil's Advocate
Namaste Davidium!

Hope you've had a chance to recover. I too had a wonderful GA, tho it took its toll on me. I just finished a paper this evening for my liberation theology class that was due Wednesday (I got back to DC at 11pm Tuesday and was exhausted).

Being mostly interested in theology, my experiences were different from yours, as I went to different workshops. But I was just as inspired!! :) Everywhere I went, UUs talked about the need to reclaim our moral values, to articulate a clear but inclusive theology, and how needed our message is in today's world. I got to talk to some of our leading theologians like Paul Rasor and Rebecca Parker, and our president, Bill Sinkford - caught him at an elevator and talked about the direction he is hoping to lead us in. I had the impression that people were fired up to meet our challenges, that our differences are not so important as our commonalities, and came away with lots of ideas and reborn hope for our movement.

Also, as a conscientious delegate for my church, I sat through some boring procedures, but I also learned a lot about how the social justice work of our denomination runs at the national level. I was impressed with the discussion and the voting process, and very proud that our Assembly passed six actions of immediate witness, which denounced the use of torture, decried the genocide in Dafur, and defends public airwaves.

I really did want to attend your UUs in the military workshop, to show my support. Unfortunately, dress rehearsal for Sunday service got in the way. It is unconscionable that UUs who serve in our military would be made to feel unwelcome in a denomination that prides itself on tolerance. It's narrow-minded and short-sighted. And I am so glad that you guys got a warm response and an apparent change of heart. We UUs don't always live up to our ideals, but we usually listen to reason when our failures are pointed out. :)

I too am glad to have met you and was very impressed. I knew from your posts that you were well-informed and thoughtful. But I couldn't tell until in person how warm and personable you are. You will make a great chaplain! and I don't say that lightly. It seems all the rage now for UUs to enter the ministry and honestly, I think that some of them have not fully considered what being a minister entails. Because I take the responsibility very seriously, I have been hesitant to consider ministry, even tho everyone at my church thinks that's where I'm headed given my interest in theology. Please tell Rev. Dr. Tolley that if I were considering the ministry, I would want to go to Meadville-Lombard. Not just because of the wonderful conversation that we had but because of the keen insight displayed at Meadville-Lombard's workshop. I have always loved all kinds of art but now have a much better understanding of why it feeds my soul. That's the kind of creative theology that our modern world needs.

Personally, right now, I am trying to decide whether I would really be of service in ministry, or whether I would better serve by being one of those "dilettante scholars" that Rev O'Neil said we don't need any more of. :D (Of course, I would want to create theology that's life-affirming and promotes social action.) Or whether it's time to leave school and do some real work with what I have. I came away from GA inspired but confused, and my minister - the guy who gave the sermon on Sunday - took off for vacation!! I have to wait until mid-August until I can talk to him about it. :help:

Well, off to New York for the Fourth! (Have to admit that despite my confusion, life is pretty good.)


I thought GA was a tremendous experience. In answer to your question to me in the Introduction Forum, I went to GA after joining UU only 2 months earlier, because (1) the only UU congregation I've ever experienced was the one I joined and I wanted to get a picture of the denomination as a whole, and (2) I had the time and opportunity to go.

Tell me about the "dilettante scholars", how they would serve the denomination, and in what way they would function differently than a service in ministry, please?

I'd also be interested in your take on the conversation David Pyle and I were having here:



Active Member
Ok, Panta Rhea is either CSprings or Don, and I dont know which...

I would guess you are Don! :)

Lilithu, yes, it is hard for these forums to portray personality.... I have run into that problem over and over. I'm glad you found me warm and personable! Better than the other way...

And you all see? Lilithu can now attest that I am not some weird religious cyber-stalker! :)

I did not think that Rev. Patrick O'Neil really ment to say that we did not need Theological Scholars in his sermon during the Service of the Living Tradition. I think he meant to say that we did not need such "dilettante scholars" behind the pulpit.... we did not need them as ministers.

His call was not for scholarly essays from the pulpit, but for fire and passion. You know me now, and so you know how that resonates with me. His point was that if you want to debate the fine points of theology, then a university is the place for you, not a parish. If you are a parish minister, then your time needs to be spent in social action, in pastoral care, in presenting sermons that teach less and inspire more.

He said to the newly fellowshiped ministers (and those of us in seminary) that if you do not feel that fire, if you are not that fire, then dont put on the stole.

But remember, we did have one of those "diletante scholars" present a wonderful Ware Lecture.... so I think it is a matter of placement, not that we dont need them.

I am gratified to hear that you would consider Meadville... and maybe come there on your way to a masters in Religious Education, if not ministry....

Oh, and guys and gals, she's the real deal... by the way.

YoUUrs in Faith,

David Pyle
Galveston Island, TX


Yup. Panta Rhea is me - and me is Don. :)

Thanks for filling me in on "diletante scholars". I was just thinking yesterday that it would be nice if we could bring the seminarians and scholars back into the congregations rather than storing them in the "hallowed halls". I certainly agree that we need ministers with fire and passion, but I also believe that those who have developed thinking skills and who have devoted themselves to the study of theology and philosophy are needed and can serve (minister) to the community as well. Of course, I think one who has developed construction skills can also minister.

When I first moved to Wyoming, I started a framing company which I called the "Fitly Framing Company". I liked the name then (although I don't think it was such a good name now) because it was taken from the King James version of Ephesians 4:16 and reminded me that in the building up of the body, every person can find a place where they fit and can function. I'm not so sure that we should value the gifts of some over the gifts of others.


The Devil's Advocate
Namaste David and Don (and whoever else is reading),

Hope you both had a great Fourth! I celebrated Independence Day in my usual way, in New York City's lower East Side, surrounded by foreigners. :) Every year at my friend's 4th-of-July-vegetarian-barbeque there are more guests of other nationalities than Americans. It has always served to make me both more humble and more proud of my country at the same time, which I think is very good. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I can never come to New York without thinking of 9/11, and looking to the skyline where the twin towers used to be is always very painful.

PantaRhea said:
Tell me about the "dilettante scholars", how they would serve the denomination, and in what way they would function differently than a service in ministry, please?
Well I was joking about the "dilettante" part, or at least I was hoping that would not be true of me. (There is always the fear in the back of my mind that it is.) Basically, I am considering becoming a professional theologian - someone who's job is to listen to people's needs and think of new ways to talk about God or the Transcendant in ways that will help people to live better, richer lives, as opposed to theologies that oppress people and subvert this life in favor of the afterlife. I feel there is a real need for liberal theologians at the moment. They would, of course, function differently than ministers in that their primary "audience" would be ministers and other theologians across the denomination, rather than the members of a local parish. And they wouldn't do the other things that a minister does, like pastoral care.

PantaRhea said:
I'd also be interested in your take on the conversation David Pyle and I were having here:
As another lay-leader within UU, I find no problem with the clergy/lay distinction. It is functionally descriptive. We UUs reject a hierarchy between males and females but we do not refuse to acknowledge that there is a difference between the two genders - a functional reason for keeping the distinction. They are different and complimentary. The clergy have been trained to perform the role that they perform. Despite our egalitarianism, we UUs also acknowledge the value of education and training and recognize those who have it. (Obviously, ordained clergy are not the only ones who "minister;" that is shared by the entire congregation.)

I do occasionally (or more than occasionally) get annoyed with the clergy/laity hierarchy that remains at my church. I understand that there are certain "privileges" that the clergy should have as a matter of practicality, to better enable them to do their jobs. So I have no problem with them cutting in line at lunch after service for example, because I know that they have meetings to get to and people to talk to. But I do get riled when the class that I'm teaching gets bumped from a room at the church that I reserved months in advance because the minister decides that he needs it. Functionally speaking, he can hold his meeting just as well in the less nice room. That to me, is an unnecessary assertion of hierarchy, and he hears about it from me. :mad:

Yes, words/labels do have power. But I think that we liberals tend to get too caught up in rejecting words without directly addressing the behaviors and assumptions that underly the negative things associated with those words. In doing so, we attack the symptom and not the source of the disease. I have no problem with the words "clergy" and "laity." Just as I feel no need to spell "women" with a "y." (Or to throw out words like "God" and "religion" just because some people abuse those terms.) But I do take issue with the hierarchical attitudes that many of us continue to bring to these words.

btw, I don't think that the joke was aimed at denigrating the lay-leaders. In my view, it was the minister who looked like a doofus for acting in a hierarchical manner and "dictating from the top down" so that he could go on vacation, instead of working in collaboration with his congregation. He got what he deserved. Honestly, I think that your reaction to the joke was colored by your personal concerns about this matter.

On another note, Don, it sounds like you were clergy of another denomination before coming to UU. May I ask what brought you to UU? How did you find us? Also, would love to discuss process and liberation theologies with you some time! :) (in a different thread).

Davidium said:
I did not think that Rev. Patrick O'Neil really ment to say that we did not need Theological Scholars in his sermon during the Service of the Living Tradition. I think he meant to say that we did not need such "dilettante scholars" behind the pulpit.... we did not need them as ministers. <...> But remember, we did have one of those "diletante scholars" present a wonderful Ware Lecture.... so I think it is a matter of placement, not that we dont need them.
I thought his sermon was great (if a little long and rambly at times) and was not at all offended by his reference to "dilettante scholars and idle poets." In fact, I was surprised by the number of people who were surprised by his message, since I agree with him and you completely. There has to be more fire at the pulpit - a sermon is not a college lecture. While I had attended a UU fellowship for several years, it was not until I moved to DC and All Souls and heard Rob Hardies preach that I really believed that UU was a religious tradition that I could and wanted to call myself a member of, as opposed to a collection of over-educated liberals who liked to meet for coffee and discussion on Sundays. I totally agree that a minister (any minister, not just UUs) should be on fire, should burn with passion; otherwise, they're in the wrong profession and hurting their own movement.

I too am on fire since coming to All Souls and seeing the potential of what UU could be, and I could probably even ignite a pulpit once in a while (despite my being a dilletante scholar). Having been up in front of the congregation occasionally, people tell me that I touch and motivate them. They keep asking when I am going to seminary. But there is something else that a minister has to be good at that Rev O'Neil did not address (because it wasn't the point of his sermon). Ministers need to be able to provide pastoral care - to provide comfort and guidance to those most in pain - to be able to face a person in need one-on-one and be there for them - to never recoil, at least in front of their parishioners, at the messiness of life. As someone who has served in the military and is working to be a military chaplain, I know that you understand this. Honestly, I don't think that a lot of young UUs who are jumping into seminary because they're pumped up have fully considered this far less glamourous part of ministry. This is the part that I don't think that I could do. And I respect the ministry far too much to go in knowing that I can't do all that is required of me.

Davidium said:
I am gratified to hear that you would consider Meadville... and maybe come there on your way to a masters in Religious Education, if not ministry....
No, not a masters in Religious Education. What I am considering, if I can justify pursuing yet another degree, is a PhD in theology, so that I can teach and write at a university or seminary from a UU perspective. One of UU's greatest challenges as we try to regain our social relevance and become once again a prophetic voice in America is how we can articulate a coherent theology that is still inclusive. We've been pretty good at tolerance (despite your experience with anti-military UUs) but not so good at conviction, good at asserting individuality but not at finding commonality. Those of us who have fully explored our own belief systems thrive in UU. But a lot of others come to us because they've rejected the system in which they grew up, and once there's been enough time for the wounds to heal, they find us lacking in "substance" and leave. At least, that has been my experience in talking to many current and former UUs. We have much breadth and little depth. I want to help us find our common theology that upholds our individual theologies and beliefs and supports our social justice work. Given my familiarity with many religious traditions, and a sympathy for the Humanist UUs who feel they are being crowded out, I think I have something useful to offer in this arena. On the other hand, if I can find a way to do this without going back to school yet again, that would be ideal. :p



Active Member
Ah, Lilithu, I get it now...

Yes, you go work on the PHD in Theology... and I would love to suggest a program for you to look at. For one, it is an incredible program, and two, I can "hook you up" with a few UU Churches in the area who would take care of you!


I dont think the program at Rice requires a Masters degree before entering it, but you may want to check that. I think you can go right from the Bachelors into the 5year PhD. program.

At one time, I too was considering becoming a "Dilettante Scholar", but finally woke up to the call to ministry within me, and decided to persue the Masters of Divinity instead. The Rice program was the one I was looking at.

I know that many of the UU friendly and UU dedicated Seminaries have taken to bringing in non-minister professors of Theology to teach Theology. Food for thought. You could end up teaching theology to future ministers.

In the Berry St. Lecture, which was the final event of this years UUMA "Professional Days" (the ministers conference before GA...) Rev. Burton Carley hit on some of the same themes... I wish it was available... I need to find a video copy of it. In his essay, he talked about how one of the major failings of our faith is that there is no way for young UU's (such as you and I) to really grow deeper in their faith without going to Seminary. You are right... if you do not feel the call to ministry, that down and dirty one on one ministry, then the M. Div is not for you.

We need to help create a way for those on fire for the faith but not for ministry can still deepen their faith and understanding, and find a way to serve.

I feel that call to that one on one ministry. I think you saw that such is my call, not the finer points of theology, (though I think I do that pretty well too :) ). I just feel a need to be that "chaplain" there when things go bad, and to my fiancee's chagrin I feel the need to do that on the battlefield. She's an ex-soldier as well (we met in the Army) so she understands, but that is not the same thing as liking it.

I will say that the thing that scares me more than anything, and which I know I will volunteer for at some point to compensate for that, is family notification of a death or an injury to a service member. I can face bullets, but I am afraid of the 4 year old girl that I have to tell that daddy is not coming home. But that is the call, and you face it. Rev. ONeill also said that "you do not go into Ministry for what you can earn, but rather for what you can spend.... of yourself."

Can you tell those two sermons spoke to me?

Don, I also wanted to bring up one more point.

Our Churches are congregational in polity. What that means is that, no matter what any minister might think or act like, it is the lay-leaders that are in charge of the church, not the minister. The Board of Directors (trustees in some churches) makes the decisions, and the minister is answerable to them. Just as I am to my board, as a church administrator. And the board is answerable to the congregation that elected them.

Ministers provide executive leadership, but the legislative power (and control of the executive) lies in the hands of the congregation and the board elected by them. And if you dont think that is a real distinction, just go talk to one of the many ministers that have been fired by boards over the years.