What are the contrasts in this years GA from the previous 10 I’ve attended? My top 10:
1. Less people! I don’t have exact numbers, but the feel and rumor is we peaked at around 5,000+ UU’s the last several years at Boston MA and Long Beach CA. This year I’ve heard 3,000, with only 2,000 registered as of June 1st. There are less young adults and youth as well. Probably 50% less I would guess.
2. More People of Color. With 23 seminarians of color in the UU Ministerial Fellowship process, a host of DRUUMM leadership and a growing number of young people of color thanks to the leadership development conferences (this year was for youth, last year was young adults), I get the sense that the proportion of POC here is higher. Numerically our numbers are fewer, but I’ll report more after the DRUUMM Membership Meeting Sunday at 6pm.
3. Funky Plenary Hall. We’re meeting in something of a huge fishbowl with a small court floor, feels a bit like a basketball arena. Only one huge video screen. The UUA staff sit in section 209, stage right high rises. There are many unfilled seats, makes the meetings feel a bit more empty than past years.
4. Friends who are Ministers. I find it so fascinating how many people I know from childhood who are now ministers or ohsoveryclose. People I met in the PNWD, Eliot Summer Camp, Portland Oregon, college, YRUU Con Con, and of course Harvard classmates. It is special, intimate and wow, small world. Heard that old friend Rev. Rebeckah Savage (formerly Beldon) is now a UU chaplain for the military based in Afghanistan!
5. UU professionals engaged in Campus Ministry. It seems each year there is a new class of 6 to 8 seminarians, DRE’s, ministers or dedicated lay leaders who emerge and take UU Campus Ministry extremely seriously. This is so exciting. The critical mass is double what it was when the YACM office hosted a YACM Professionals meeting in Kansas City 2003 (before the Mid Size Church Conference). Several dozen are here and it is very heartening to meet and connect with these folks. Keith Kron once told me that the reason the GBLTQ work is so strong and institutionalized is because of the religious professionals who associate and advocate for this work. We need to do the same (as do People of Color!).
6. Role of Internet. Not only are the UU Bloggers meeting (and growing), but the YACM Office and related YACM groups such as FUUSE.com and Church of the Younger Fellowship are on the cutting edge of creating spiritual liberal religious community through the web-based medium. Probably 90% of YACM resources are available on the web (as well as print) and one of our strongest growth areas are usership of internet resources (in my opinion).
7. Will GA become every other year? I need to ask someone up higher if there is really a dialogue going on about this. I hear from many constituents about the need for stronger local networks and how the resources and time could be invested in such relationship building if GA was every other year. I know that would be true for me as a UUA staff member.
8. Free wireless. Oh yes, several hotels offer free wireless internet!
9. Low Youth Drama. I can’t remember the last year when a crisis related to the youth caucus wasn’t reported by Saturday. Yeay for excellent youth leadership!
10. Me stay far away. I’ve never been quite this far from GA, a 15 minute drive. But this is Texas, lots of space, parking and roads. Ugh and it is the hottest and muggiest (for me) since Cleveland 2001.