The following photos, videos, and event summaries were shared in Starr King’s email updates during the 2019 Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly (GA), June 19-23, 2018 in Spokane, WA. To receive the latest news from Starr King, please subscribe to our mailing list (look for the red box on this page) and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Greetings from The Lilac City!
The 2019 Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly has officially begun! We can already feel the excitement in the air at the Spokane Convention Center in downtown Spokane, WA. Each year we look forward to this annual meeting of the UUA where Unitarian Universalists have the opportunity to worship, witness, learn, connect, and participate in the UUA’s democratic process.
This year’s theme is “The Power of We.” In a time of great challenge and heartbreak in our world, what does our faith demand from us? Over the course of GA, we will explore the power, possibility, purpose, struggle and joy of finding the path forward together as Unitarian Universalists.
We have an array of Starr King events this year, including:
- Opening Banner Parade
- Friendship & Graduate Association Breakfast
- Starr King President’s Lecture
- Service of the Living Tradition
- Second Annual Rare Book Lecture with Dr. Jay Atkinson & Rev. Lehel Molnar
- Meet Starr King
- History of Thomas Starr King & the Wilbur Rare Book Collection
The Starr King booth is always a highlight of General Assembly for us. Not only do we get the opportunity to meet with alumni and hear about the wonderful work they are doing, but we also have the chance to talk to many attendees of all ages about the educational opportunities we offer.
One of the highlights of the booth this year is our Graduate Series. Three Starr King grads are presenting three very different career paths and discussing how Starr King helped them in their spiritual journey.
As always, we have literature, a variety of giveaways, and a living room to let you recharge body, spirit, and phone. You can even get a picture taken with our life-sized cutout of Thomas Starr King. Our booth staff is excited to meet you and hear your Starr King story.
Berry Street Lecture at Ministry Days
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
The Berry Street Lecture is the longest running ministerial conference in the world. Today marked the 199th session. The first lecture was held on May 30, 1820 and has been held annually ever since, except one year during WWII.
SKSM Director of Partnerships and Emerging Programs, Rev. Lindi Ramsden, gave the opening prayer. This year’s subject was “Truth, Trauma, and Transformation: Embracing the Cracks and the Gold.” Rev. Leslie Takahashi’s lecture was full of humor, love, authenticity, and direct address about the issues within Unitarian Universalism around race and white supremacy.
“True community saves us, faux community breaks us.” – Rev. Takahashi
SKSM Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist Theologies and Ethics, Rev. Sofia Betancourt delivered the response.
“Control and domination are siblings on the family tree.” – Rev. Betancourt
The SKSM Grad Association met today to revise their bylaws, as well as install new officers:
- Lyn Cox – President
- Nancy Reid McKee – Vice President
- Stephen York – Secretary
- Pam Gehrke – Membership and Program Officer
Tonight kicked off our Grad Series with Becky Leyser. Becky began her relationship with Starr King as a staff member and after 18 years of working for the school, decided to leave her post as Dean of Students and get her Masters of Divinity. She is now doing spiritual direction full time. Full video coming soon!
Each year at General Assembly, UU congregations and organizations from across the country gather to celebrate together at the Banner Parade. This colorful event kicks off General Assembly with music and festivity. Representatives from a variety of groups and congregations gather to display colorful banners, and Starr King is honored to be among them. This high-energy event draws us together in one spirit and prepares us for the work ahead.
This year, Starr King staff, faculty, and students walked together through the celebratory crowd in solidarity with our fellow Unitarian Universalists. As always, it is a blessing to see so many of our graduates’ faces among the crowd, some bearing banners and some cheering us on. We are grateful for the love and support of all the Starr King family that attended this event.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Walkout/Exodus during the General Assembly in Boston, a multi-generational panel explored the question: can our faith’s First Principle (inherent worth and dignity) ever be fully realized without a commitment to the ideals of the proposed Eighth Principle (dismantling white supremacy)? Panelists included Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt (SKSM President), Rev. Sam Teitel, Kimberly Hampton, and Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika.
Dr. Sanyika began the discussion with recounting his experience of the Exodus 50 years ago. Kim Hampton continued with her thoughts on race relations within Unitarian Universalism. Rev. Sam Teitel discussed the work his congregation has been doing on race relations in Memphis, TN. The panelists rounded out the discussion by taking questions from the audience.
Service of the Living Tradition
Thursday, June 20, 2019
The Service of the Living Tradition (SLT) remembers those who have died in the previous year, acknowledges those who are retiring, and celebrates those who have obtained credentialed status or fellowship. This year’s SLT was full of Starr King! Rev. Lindi Ramsden delivered the sermon, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt requested the offering for the Living Tradition Fund, SKSM student Clovice Lewis accompanied the choir on cello, and the chalice lighting was written by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker! Rev. Lindi Ramsden’s sermon, entitled “Is Is Time Now,” spoke about intergenerational solidarity and climate change.
“Hope is not a feeling to have or not have. Hope is a virtue to be cultivated; a religious practice.” – Rev. Lindi Ramsden
This role-based track led by Rev. Lauren Smith (SKSM Grad), Rev. Vail Weller, & Connie Goodbread began by addressing concerns and specific questions that attendees had about stewardship. These included keeping stewardship global and separate from fundraising, how to implement year-round stewardship practices, and concerns of aging congregants making up the majority of donors.
Laying the groundwork for stewardship focused on three aspects: spirituality (including but not limited to your own transformation and the values at the heart of your integrity), leadership as a spiritual practice, and foundational generosity in stewardship. Rev. Smith, Rev. Weller, and Connie Goodbread emphasized the importance of clarity in mission, vision, and passion and to keep in mind that you’re building a legacy organization.
Continuing the discussion from the first session, Rev. Lauren Smith, Rev. Vail Weller, and Connie Goodbread spent the second session addressing questions and concerns from attendees. They shared tips on how to change the culture of their stewardship practices, including asking new members of congregations for donations directly in order to set a new standard. They helped lay out a road map to open up into these conversations about stewardship and not just fundraising.
SKSM Board Chair, Ted Fetter, co-moderated this role-based track revolving around power maps. The purpose of power maps are to help distinguish who can help solve a particular problem. Different groups’ maps will look different depending on resources, contacts, etc. The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee (JTWTC) has begun power mapping the UUA in order to identify how power flows and where power gets stopped or blocked. The goal of this exercise is to propel the transformation toward a wholeness in the UUA and in Unitarian Universalism.
Attendees were given the chance to start power mapping their own organizations as well. They used the second session primarily to answer questions from attendees. The audience then split into two groups – those who attended Thursday and those who did not – to dig deeper into the training from the first session.
Progressive UU minister/scholar/activist James Luther Adams drew on what he learned from his time in Nazi Germany to directly challenge the faith in white supremacy. By drawing inspiration from James Luther Adams and his writings, we can apply that legacy so that we too can oppose white supremacy and creatively support inclusive democracy. Adams advocated a different way of being in deep community. He believed that in this white male dominated world, the responsible and creative healing power of justice and love are the soul of democracy. Panelists included Rev. Dr. William Sinkford (SKSM Grad), Dr. Sharon Welch (Honorary Degree Recipient), Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford, & Dr. Michael Hogue.
The Revs. Nancy Reid-McKee and Kimberly Quinn Johnson, members of the UU Women’s Federation, helped to provide a space at GA where Uu women-identified ministers could gather and discuss what impacts and influences their ministry. In recognition of the culture of continual bias and sexism from a faith tradition established and dominated by male thinking, this workshop discussion provided community and collaboration for women-identified UU ministers.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Led by Rev. Barbara Meyers (SKSM Grad), Rev. Helen McFadyen, & Bill Young, this workshop provided tips on how to prioritize your church or organization’s accessibility needs/projects, approaches to securing funds, and creative ideas for affordable accessibility improvement projects. The speakers emphasized the need for a clear case statement that includes the current circumstances, the need, how it will be managed, an outline of the risks & costs, and what you’re asking for. The lesson: You must first be able to answer any question a funder would want to know prior to asking for funding.
This workshop centered around how to build community between humanists, atheists, Unitarian Universalists, and those of other faith traditions. Starr King grad, Rev. Patrice Curtis, and Leika Lewis-Cornwell shared their experience of realizing those who believe in God sometimes feel unwelcome in humanist work. Humanists and Unitarian Universalists are not used to being in community together and this workshop provided their take on that issue in an intentionally multi-racial, intersectional context. The audience was asked to close their eyes and envision their own spirituality. What does it look like? What image comes to mind? What color is it? What is the texture? Is it big or is it small? They then shared those images with the group.
“Power comes from being vulnerable with each other.” – Rev. Patrice Curtis
When establishing multi-cultural ministry teams, the work does not stop after hiring. This breakdown sometimes leaves white ministers and congregants perplexed as to how things fell apart so quickly. In this workshop, members of different multi-cultural ministry teams discussed their tips on how to make these teams successful. They outlined three steps:
- Sharing power: “The only authentic way forward is to give away your power. If you aren’t ready to give up your power, you may not be ready for multi-racial ministry.” – Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd
- Lining up the team: The congregants, clergy, and staff must own the reactivity asked of people of color
- Taking the time: Having a person of color on your team will not make anti-racism work any easier. Each member of the team must put in the time for relational trust building.
People who have limited or no experience in community with Indigenous people can understand and be present in better ways as collaborators and UUs. This session centered on the stories of the workshops’ leaders: Rev. Dr. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa (SKSM Faculty), Rev. Dr. Clyde Grubbs, Rev. Karen VanFossan, & Rev. Gary McAlpin.
“My earth ministry is directly linked to my indigenous ministry… When I learn about the struggles at Standing Rock, I go with my ancestors. And also to share the stories that reaffirm that we are here, we have no disappeared. You are looking at real Indians. This is what we look like. We hold doctoral degrees, we go to Harvard. We infuse everywhere we go with the knowledge of our ancestors. That is wisdom. We produce knowledge, we are the theologians. It’s those that are in communication with the land, they are the theologians, they are the ministers.” – Rev. Dr. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa
Oppressions in our faith and in the world have been prevalent for years. We are just now starting to address them and lift up the voices of those that have been marginalized. Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, Rev. Chris Long, and other panelists discussed their stories that have cultivated the path to becoming activist, welcoming communities.
Today was our Second Annual Meet Starr King booth event! Members of our staff and faculty spend time in the booth meeting folks and discussing our amazing institution. This has been a highlight of our GA experience and we’re already excited for next year!
2018 Starr King graduate, Anthony Mtuaswa Johnson, spent some time this evening at the booth discussing his road to ministry and the effect Starr King had on his personal and professional growth. The full video is coming soon!
The day started bright and early as graduates, friends, staff, faculty, students, trustees, and donors gathered for breakfast to celebrate the work of Starr King. President Rosemary Bray McNatt affirmed the work of SKSM and our commitment to educating to counter oppressions for over 20 years. We heard from SKSM student, Clovice Lewis, about the importance of Starr King in his life and spiritual growth in the fight to dismantle white supremacy.
The annual breakfast is something we look forward to every year. It’s a chance for us to see our friends from all over the country and catch up over a delicious meal. Together, we raised over $60,000 in pledges and gifts!
Starr King: “Let the Light Flood In”
This week, Starr King School for the Ministry premiered our new student profile video.This year’s video follows the journey of Toben Squires, 3rd year SKSM student, from living in a white supremacy culture of rebel flags to finding and attending SKSM. Toben’s story is one of growth, change, and bringing people together in loving and unexpected ways. Please share in Toben’s story and in the story of a Starr King education.
SKSM student, Amanda Schuber, is this year’s winner of the EqUUal Access Sermon award. In her sermon, titled The Call – Mental Health Advocacy, she talks about her brother who lives with multiple mental health disabilities. She expresses her frustration with the system that fails to provide adequate support, funding, and education. Amanda was honored today at the EqUUal Access Celebration with a framed award. We are so proud of Amanda and look forward to seeing her ministry unfold!
In this first of two sessions, we came together as a faith with the Commission on Institutional Change to discuss this year’s theme: “The Power of We.” How does this theme help to deepen our faith as a source of liberation and transformation for all? This session consisted of breaking up into smaller groups to discuss establishing a common vocabulary, share perspectives on institutional and cultural barriers, and to share our own stories.
SKSM Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist Theologies and Ethics, Rev. Sofia Betancourt, and incoming President of Meadville Lombard, Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte, co-moderated the second session. They introduced three questions on this year’s GA theme: “The Power of We.”
- When is a time that you felt “the power of we” in Unitarian Universalism?
- What is so important in Unitarian Universalism that you would be willing to sacrifice for it?
- What will it take for Unitarian Universalism to fully embody “the power of we”?
The Theme Program & Conversations sessions at GA were a new addition this year and helped bring us together in community to discuss how to full live into our values.
SKSM Research Scholar, Dr. Jay Atkinson, gave a mini-lecture on Christoff Ostorodt’s Unterrichtung von den vornmsten Hauptpuncten from 1604 and it’s relationship to the Polish Brethren. Additionally, 2018-2019 Balázs Scholar, Rev. Lehel Molnár gave a short speech about his work in the Earl Morse Wilbur Rare Book Room. He’s spent the past year working on arranging the collection to make it easier to find books on the shelves.
The Polity Intensive class has been meeting each day this week to learn about the mechanics of governance by observing Unitarian Universalist polity in action. They have attended plenary sessions, business mini-assemblies, and worship services. They have met daily as a class to process their observations, learn the history of congregational polity in contrast to other polity paradigms, and locate UU polity in its theological and cultural contexts.
Special guests throughout the week have included David Pettee (Ministerial Credentialing Officer for the UUA), Rosemary Bray McNatt (SKSM President), Christina Rivera (Former UUA Board of Trustees Member), Aisha Hauser (Director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, WA), Jesse King (Ministerial Fellow Committee Chair), and more!
Richard Blanco was this year’s Ware Lecturer. The Ware Lecture was founded in 1922 to bring visionary speakers to share their insights and give attendees a challenge at GA. Mr. Blanco is the youngest and first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve as the inaugural poet in the United States, or P.I.P. as he likes to call it.
Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, he spoke about his cultural identity and what it meant to him to be an American.
“Each one of our stories from every walk of life is part of ‘we, the people.’ Everyone’s narrative ought to count, be part of that ‘we.’ As our motto tells us, ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ – out of the one, something. Something we’re still working towards right here in this room in some ways.” – Richard Blanco
Arliss Ungar, Chair of the Balázs Scholar Committee, led two back-to-back mini-lectures about the history and biography of our namesake Thomas Starr King, as well as a history of the Wilbur Rare Book Collection housed at SKSM.
Thomas Starr King is said to be responsible for keeping California in the Union during the Civil War. He traveled up and down the state advocating for the rights of African Americans. He was also an early religious advocate for what we now call “multi-culturalism.”
The Rev. Earl Morse Wilbur guided SKSM for its first 27 years (1904-1931). He was unhappy with the material available to teach the origins and development of Unitarian history and made it his life’s work to gather and write the history himself. He traveled across Europe in search of books that would later become the Earl Morse Wilbur Rare Book Collection.
Arliss is also an honorary degree recipient for her work in writing With Vision and Courage: Starr King School for the Ministry The History of its First Hundred Years 1904-2004.
Dr. Robin DiAngelo (2019 Honorary Degree Recipient and author of White Fragility) led a discussion on white people ending complicity, arrogance, and micro-aggressions in order to hold themselves more accountable. She shared with the audience her experiences with repairing her own racism in the past and ways in which other white people can practice more accountability. These included giving money to organizations that work to dismantle white supremacy, hiring people of color as coaches, and more.
Dr. DiAngelo received and Honorary Doctorate at Commencement this year. Click here to watch her speech from Commencement dinner.
The Church of the Larger Fellowship’s annual GA worship service featured Rev. Mandy Goheen (SKSM Grad) & Rev. Meg Riley (Honorary Degree Recipient) among others. This worship service centered the voices, life experiences, and needs of its over 1,000 incarcerated members.
Rev. Sofia Betancourt (SKSM Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist Theologies and Ethics), Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte (Incoming Meadville Lombard President), and Rev. Leslie Takahashi used this workshop time to reflect on the liberatory potential of Unitarian Universalist theologies. They discussed how the findings of the Commission on Institutional Change could inform our commitment to theological perspectives that resist white supremacy culture. They expressed our need to reclaim theological foundations in order to do the work of liberation for all and the need to develop rituals that will sustain us in times of uncertainty.
Authors of the book Upcycle Your Congregation, Rev. Sarah Lammert (SKSM Graduate), Rev. Vanessa Southern, Julica Hermann de la Fuente, and Elizabeth Norton, used this session to discuss ways for congregations to be innovative within confines such as budget, capacity, and other systems. They shared tips on how to use what others discard to enhance and build up congregations.
In this small group session, Barb Greve (SKSM Graduate & Co-Moderator for the UUA GA 2019) joined Elandria Williams (Co-Moderator), Carey McDonald (Executive Vice President of the UUA), and UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray for an open discussion on how our governance can help embody our faith values. Through building a relational governance, these leaders spoke candidly about the transition and how this cultivates sustainability for our faith.
Rev. Lindi Ramsden rounded off our Graduate Series with an intimate discussion about ministry in an era of climate crisis. Attendees discussed in what ways ministers can assist congregants in taking on climate change. Having up-to-date and accurate information was at the forefront of the conversation. Using this information, congregations can work together on tangible ways to make a difference.
Friends, faculty, and staff of Starr King gathered to celebrate 115 years of Starr King School for the Ministry. Over hors d’oeuvres, champagne, and sparkling grape juice, we reflected on this week and our favorite parts of GA. We heard from Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt and Board of Trustees Chair, Ted Fetter, about how proud they are to serve SKSM and lead us in our mission of educating to counter oppressions.