Led by Katie Campbell
While attending a Big Sky Unitarian Universalist (BSUU) Service, like this, I heard an announcement; for members interested in attending General Assembly. I spoke with our President about my interest and was later told to register. I registered myself and read that I did not need to register my daughter because her age group was free. So, I forwarded my registration to our book-keeper and received word it had been payed.
All while planning to attend the General Assembly other events and people in my life were shaping the future to come. I tried coaxing my daughter to attend knowing, “What we may think we won’t like can form positive impressions that last a lifetime”. Second, I was seeking a job to supplement the income I receive running a private yoga studio. Third, I was relying on a carpool for transportation that later became unavailable, to make matters worse, I was told my registration was cancelled.
I felt lost, however, I took matters into my own hands. I wrote to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), stating I intended to attend despite the fact BSUU funds were no longer available to me. I continued with my intention (goal) to attend GA. My father loaned me his economical, reliable Prius, I packed a cooler and thankfully a friend welcomed me to stay.
Meanwhile, on the road to Portland I left a message with HR (Human Resources) about the position for which I had applied. I wanted to focus on the Assembly and keep in contact with anyone offering a job through the summer, especially in a position where I have skills, knew I could help and could be available to my Yoga Training (Touch) clients the other half of the year.
After one night of car camping and two days of driving from Helena, I arrived and traveled towards the city center, stopped in at a shop for a green drink and received directions to the Convention Center where General Assembly was being held. I parked on the street and once inside was given directions to Registration.
I hoped for the best as I checked with Registration, as expected, Registration did not have me on file and I was sent to Special Circumstances; I explained my circumstances and from there I was directed to the Corporate Office set up On Sight. I quickly received a registration pass for the five day event. I felt grateful; thanks to UU Corporate for being so helpful and being prepared, for what seemed to me like, everything!
The Convention Center in Portland is certainly a sight to behold and the excitement I felt there was matched by the programming. I attended the Opening Ceremony led by the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly President which included the Banner Parade Wednesday evening. I chose from a plethora of topics and attended morning and afternoon workshops Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Grateful for the experience, I drove home Sunday after Morning Service.
Before attending Unitarian Universalist General Assembly I felt like an individual tree needing a voice. Now, I feel like I am part of a forest; where if any tree falls, it will be heard. I can stand up or sit down, speak out or hold within experiences and stories that lead the way towards greater truth and justice!
Topics ranged from Environmental Justice to Criminal Justice and Black Lives to Rape, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights (LGBT), computers and web sites, families, religious education and more. There were workshops on Social Justice, Inclusion, Compassion and meetings with agendas to vote on topics and for people. The final service Sunday was a favorite; Ministers shared their personal stories with morals full of universal appeal. It caught my attention that no matter how degraded the path to righteousness we all have a voice and that learning the hard way is better than not learning at all!
People convened and reconvened for morning and afternoon workshops. Youth groups played games and gathered to dance and families became trees while crafting art projects. I was in the right place at the right time to sing Amazing Grace led by President Obama when constituents gathered near big screens observing him speak out for black lives during a funeral of a murdered minister from another religion. I also met a woman, director of her UU congregation’s “Children’s RE” program with a passion for yoga. We spoke for hours near a naturally lighted sitting area near a balcony with a view of the city scape and garden of foliage. As we walked through the Convention Center, we entered the “Meditation Room” available for Assembly guests. I silently prayed “Om Namah Shivia” (I honor the dance of energy; creation). My go to mantra of choice!
During the opening ceremonies a milieu of banners were displayed in the banner parade and I missed seeing ours with its mountains and stars. The programs I chose to attend the next day, included A New Way to Radical Inclusivity, Empathy and Connection through Compassionate Communication and Finding Our Way Back to Right Relationships. Each time I thought of myself I was humbled and thankful to be included in a more righteous, inclusive, community oriented, process.
The Inclusivity program included AIMS certification program for congregations to state their inclusivity measures and discussed RE programming for special needs students.
Having read the book Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenburg PhD. And having attended Compassionate Communication workshops at Mountain Desert District Regional Assembly in Cheyenne WY I went to the workshop created by the now deceased author which emphasized taking the time to pause or W.A.I.T. (Why am I talking) with an emphasis on labeling feelings and needs. The educator told us a story about her friend; a doctor. As the story goes; a newborn, ironically, must have a life threatening surgery to save her life. Therefore, an irate father continuously yells at the staff. The family practitioner took some time away, thought of her feelings and needs and then asked, “Are you feeling scared and need reassurance?” calming the father instantly after hours of resisting.
I’d like us to take this time to think of a scenario in our own lives; what is it you feel and need, ask the other person if they want __________ and need ____ and notice the beneficial effects.
I also attended the program Finding Our Way Back to Right Relationships where a panel discussed examples for understanding, with improvements to include the marginalized. For example the use of Gender neutral bathrooms during the assembly; which I used once so as not to have to wait in line; leaving the scent of rose spray as I exited. But don’t worry the spray is hypoallergenic!
The diversity of topics amazed me. Information was shared about socialized banks; something similar to health cooperatives for the medical industry, only for the banking industry. Then, I chose to hear about the spirituality of loving kindness from a discussion group including Jewish philosophies, Buddhist perspectives and more. Rounding out the evening and balancing my socialist inclinations I attended a workshop more capitalistic in nature about marketing Unitarian Universalism; inclusive of the many ways of using our congregation’s abilities to provide experiences for people drawing near and seeking to find.
The General Assembly included the Unitarian Universalist Principles in many ways. Three of those Principles stood out for me. The first that was apparent to me was the:
- Inherent Worth and Dignity of All
Furthermore many people chose,
- The Right to Speak and Use A Democratic Process
- Respect for an Interconnected Web of Existence
So after GA, what is it I feel passionately about? First and foremost Environmental Justice, there is something about being in the Pacific Northwest and in particular Portland where recycle, refurbish, reuse and driving economically are topics at the forefront [by the way, I took the “L” (public transportation) to and from my place of stay]. Environmental Justice, for me, gives rise to Economic, Criminal and Political Justice. Specifically, living where open lands include – clean water, air, crops (food) and recreation for a happy, healthy, wealthy and wise community where people are self-reliant yet available to help one another!
Saturday, the last day of sessions I attended workshops with this broader sense of justice including Tribal Environmental Justice for clean water, Criminal Justice for Health Care not incarceration and lastly I chose to attend a topic titled “Climate Change and Emergency Services”. It reminded me to follow up with professional know how for environmental justice because living where fires can decimate communities and contribute to illness’, like asthma; I was reminded of the importance of immediate response times. Having worked in Fire and Aviation I learned hiring personnel for jobs who have the capacity, skills and training for work And where incarcerated crews work together to get a job done, gives time and energy to the bigger picture leading to political justice with correct decisions and choices for the issues at hand encompassing truth and justice for the health and welfare of the greater good!
There were also programs for Food Justice. Although, I did not attend those specific workshops under the banner, so to speak, of Environmental Justice and Ahimsa, Sanskrit for Non-Harming; my own personal understanding and wisdom is to eat Vegan, without animal product. Eating Vegan is the “A” “#1” thing a person can do for the environment because animal flatulence (literally) is the largest producer of greenhouse gases harmful to the environment at large. And, for the health and welfare of the individual eating Veg; for our own personal environment, our bodies, fresh from the Earth food, counteracts the harmful effects of a westernized diet which can cause cancer, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, eating organic, gives rise to farming jobs waging peace for animals and people world-wide; feeding the farm machine, not the war machine; making peace possible – it is the way!
- Katie A. Campbell