The following photos, videos, and event summaries were shared in Starr King’s email updates during the 2018 Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly (GA), June 20-24, 2018 in Kansas City, MO. 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.
The 2018 Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly has officially begun! We can already feel the excitement in the air at the Kansas City Convention Center in the heart of downtown Kansas City. 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 and we can reconnect with our community.
This year’s theme, “All Are Called,” is rooted in the idea that we are all prophets, constantly asking how we may faithfully meet the demands of our time. The call to witness and act for justice in our society and in the world is clear. We are here to help you answer your call, whether that is to become a progressive religious leader or just to take a few classes to expand your education.
We have an array of Starr King events this year, including:
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 a sample of the books contained in the Earl Morse Wilbur Rare Book collection. We have on display a copy of The White Hills, the only book Thomas Starr King published in his lifetime. In addition, we are excited to present a Latin translation of the Racovian Catechism, a nontrinitarian statement of faith published in 1609 by the Polish Brethren and rejected by the Protestant and Catholic Church alike. The copy on display is one of the few copies still extant, and represents a work whose influences are still evident in the Unitarian tradition.
The Berry Street Lecture is the longest running ministerial conference in the world. Today marked the 198th session. The first lecture was held on May 30, 1820 and has been held annually ever since, except one year during WWII.
This year’s subject was “Creating Leaders for Beloved Community: The Challenges of Mentorship.” Rev. Kate Walker began with Scribal Remarks and introduced this year’s Moderator, Rev. Julie Taylor. This year’s essayist, Rev. Dr. Meg Riley (Senior Minister at the Church of the Larger Fellowship), along with the two respondents, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt and Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, spoke about their own experiences being mentored and how certain people helped shape them into who they are now.
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.
Friends of Starr King braved an early morning and some gentle rain to attend our annual Friendship Breakfast. This event brings together current students, alumni, board members, and those invested in the work of Starr King. We heard testimony from Dianne Daniels, our current Student Representative to the Board, from President Rosemary Bray McNatt, and from Board Member Alison Miller.
We were also graced with a viewing of a new Starr King-produced video detailing the spiritual journey of Anthony Mtuaswa Johnson, a 2018 Starr King graduate who began his pilgrimage on the south side of Chicago and eventually found a home in Unitarian Universalism. Mtuaswa has been a powerful contributor to the life of Starr King, and we are pleased to be able to share his story as he continues on his path to ministry in UU congregations. To watch this compelling video, click here.
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Dr. Jay Atkinson joined us in the Starr King booth to speak on the history and influence of the 1609 Racovian Catechism we have on display at GA. This represents a sample from the Earl Morse Wilbur Rare Book collection housed at Starr King. Jay will be repeating this presentation on Saturday at 12:45 p.m., and we encourage all those with an interest in Unitarian Universalist history to attend. For a video of this lecture, click here.
SKSM Grad Rev. Amanda Weatherspoon sat on a panel with Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen and Rev. Elizabeth Mount on the subject of civil disobedience. Rev. Weatherspoon began the discussion with grounding the crowd though singing: “We who believe in freedom can not rest, we who believe in freedom can not rest until it comes.”
The panel held a space for the audience to voice their comments, concerns, fears, and questions. As a group, they discussed strategies and tactics that are more effective, although as Rev. Nguyen pointed out, “no action is perfect.” Among the many topics covered in this discussion, all of the panelists attributed their activist grounding to their ancestors, background, and/or family history. They called upon the audience to embody their values under pressure, not only when it is convenient.
The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt presented her annual President’s lecture, “Finding Our Religion: A Guide to Faithful Resistance.” She expressed her own feelings of despair at the behavior of the current administration, and exhorted the attendees to be willing to sit with such despair in order to be better prepared for the work ahead. She reminded us that the current political climate of fear and hatred has been building for a long time, and that we should look to Black communities for evidence of encroaching fascism and intolerance, as they are the first targets. She encouraged us to take real, tangible action: write to your congresspeople, run for office, register people to vote. Many attendees stepped forward to offer suggestions of real, concrete actions and successes they have had in their respective congregations and communities.
SKSM Vice President for Advancement, Jessica Cloud, co-facilitated a workshop with Elizabeth Terry, Jacqueline Brett, Jay Pacitti, and Mark Ewert that explored the ways in which white supremacy culture is infused in our stewardship and fundraising practices as UUs. The groups discussed a number of issues and questions centered around how we can untangle our stewardship from white supremacy in pursuit of racial equity.
The Rev. Sofia Betancourt served on the “Centering Theology: Conversation About Faith, Race, and Liberation” panel, as part of the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change. The panel addressed timely theological questions related to the white, heteronormative, economically privileged underpinnings of the UU faith. The panel challenged us to become more aware of the true depth of who we are as Unitarian Universalists and to allow ourselves to be shaped by the fullness of the experiences in our congregations. Rev. Betancourt and her fellow panelists called us to grapple with how our UU theology serves us and how we are serving it. They also challenged us to create space where all can show up and be welcomed in the fullness of who they are.
During the Torda450 International Worship Service, SKSM’s 2017-2018 Balazs Scholar Lidia-Emese Bodor joined Prof. Rupaia Lamarr, Dr. Rica Lamarr, Paul Niyonizigiye, and Rev. Racz Norbert to discuss personal stories of faith and worship from their respective countries. Emese spoke fondly about her time at Starr King. She called us to remember the 450 year legacy of the Edict of Torda, when congregations and individuals were declared to choose their own religious leaders and beliefs without fear of governmental imprisonment. She encouraged everyone to communicate better and to open our minds and doors for others to teach us.
The 2017-2018 Student Body President, Ariel Aaronson-Eves, presented with Rev. Sara Green and Julie Mettenburg on Holistic Management: Healing Systems, Spirits, and Society. This participatory workshop served as an introduction to holistic management as a decision making framework and discussed knowledge of ecosystems processes and the kinds of tools that can be used to help manage land. The audience simulated creating a plan for holistic management in a congregational setting.
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. The Rev. Sofia Betancourt delivered this year’s SLT sermon entitled, “The Missing Remnant” where she addressed the ongoing association-wide work to dismantle white supremacy. She called us to honestly address the ways that we are and are not living into the fullness of our UU values and spoke of the challenges and blessings that truly, honestly engaging in this work can afford. She inquired, “What will you risk for this grace?”
The day started bright and early as recent and long-term SKSM graduates gathered for breakfast to network and celebrate the work of Starr King.
President Bray McNatt affirmed the work of SKSM graduates and spoke of how desperately the world needs progressive religious leaders who are grounded in counter oppressive theology and praxis. In addition, current 3rd year student Toben Squires spoke of his path to ministry and study at Starr King. Toben is this year’s winner of the Dana McLean Greeley Sermon Award for his sermon entitled “Piercing the Sound of Silence: Prophetic Witness in the 21st Century.”
We were also joined by two very special guests, Paul and Dominica Kimball, the son and daughter-in-law of the late Starr King President, Robert Kimball.
SKSM’s Assistant Professor of Unitarian Universalist Theologies and Ethics, Rev. Sofia Betancourt, and SKSM Graduates Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom and Rev. Kathleen McTigue held a workshop alongside UUA Board of Trustees member Manish Mishra-Marzetti titled “Called to the Intersections of Justice.” They each reflected on racial justice and equity and what that fight really looks like, including but not limited to experiential work and learning. Together, they were all involved in the writing of the coming year’s common read, Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and the Environment. The session ended with a Q&A session with the audience.
President Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt and Vice President of Advancement Jessica Cloud attended a meeting for the Wake Now Our Vision Collaborative Campaign today. The six major institutions of Unitarian Universalism have been offered a matching gift through planned giving. For more information, visit wakenowourvision.org.
Starr King faculty, staff, and past and present students got together in the booth for a time of fellowship and outreach. We chatted with prospective students, swapped stories, and essentially recreated the Starr King feel here in Kansas City. The official name of this event was “Meet Starr King” but we have unofficially declared the booth space “Starr King Central!” It was a wonderful chance to catch up with faces we don’t always get a chance to see and imitate our home away from home.
The Rev. Dr. Meg Richardson conducted our yearly polity class which covered issues of UU government. This class offers a unique look into the structure and function of the UUA and our congregations. Dr. Richardson teaches this class at GA so that students can attend general sessions and see polity in action.
The Church of the Larger Fellowship Worship began with singing “River” as a group, followed by a welcome from Senior Minister Rev. Meg Riley. Director of Prison Ministries and SKSM grad Mandy Goheen lit the chalice and shared a heartbreaking letter from an incarcerated member of CLF that truly demonstrated the importance of CLF and Unitarian Universalism in the prison system. The rest of the worship service consisted of many testimonies, including one by Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt. Rev. Bray McNatt told the story of how she found Unitarian Universalism after rejecting the church at a young age. She described how she found faith, family, community, and her calling in Unitarian Universalism.
Our very own Assistant Professor of Ethics and Society, Megan Dowdell, led a workshop on building support groups for people with chronic illnesses and/or pain within congregations. She discussed the sometimes blurred lines between mental and physical health and the difficulties of being inclusive without the group becoming too broad. The audience simulated their own support groups while Megan helped facilitate.
We are blessed that SKSM Board Trustee, the Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore, serves on the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change. Rev. Fenimore participated in a discussion on the process of truth and reconciliation within Unitarian Universalism. The Commission urged the reduction of inadequate responses when information is so readily available. They advised the audience to be uncomfortable but not afraid to begin; to acknowledge our role in the system and practice humility and forgiveness. Our Commission on Institutional Change is leading the movement in a process to determine what truth and reconciliation means for us as Unitarian Universalists today.
SKSM Board Trustee Rev. Alison Miller participated in a discussion on Jewish rituals in Unitarian Universalist churches. She recommended the audience pay attention to the liturgical year when planning services and rituals. She makes it a practice to not overlap Jewish rituals with traditional Christian rituals unless they fall on the same day. Additionally, she pointed out that different people tend to choose different holidays to delve into. Not all who attend Jewish rituals identify as Jewish, and vice versa.
Brittany Packnett 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. Ms. Packnett is an educator, activist, writer, and national leader in social justice. She is the Vice President of National Community Alliances for Teach for America where she leads a team engaging with communities and children of color. She is co-founder of Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform to end police violence. She was also a member of the Ferguson Commission and served on President Obama’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing. Her powerful remarks at the Ware Lecture focused on the “spirit of expectancy.” As she challenged us with love, “We are called to make the world better… Your power is waiting on you to pick it up, inform it with love and expectancy, and work.”
Starr King Gala
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Starr King staff, faculty, students, and friends wrapped up our GA events in style at our annual Gala. We celebrated the successes of our past year. We also turned out en masse on the dance floor. It was a joy to celebrate with everyone and the food and music were fantastic. We look forward to doing it again next year in Spokane, Washington! Make plans to join us!