June 29, 2022

Recap: General Assembly 2022

The following recaps were emailed as daily newsletters during General Assembly 2022 (June 22-26).

Day One – Wednesday, June 22

Greetings from Portland!

The 2022 Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly has officially begun! This is the first multi-platform GA and the first opportunity to gather in person since 2020. We can feel the excitement in the air at the Oregon Convention Center. We’ve been looking 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.

There are many ways to connect with Starr King and our alumni this year, including:

  • Starr King Friendship Lunch
  • Starr King President’s Lecture
  • Service of the Living Tradition
  • Starr King Booth & Exhibitor Night
  • Admissions Daily Open Office Hours

For more details about the above events, as well as workshops by our staff, faculty, grads, and students, click here. Now, on to highlights of Day One of GA!

The Starr King booth is up and running!

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.

This year we are proud to showcase our new logo in a variety of ways! We have literature, swag, 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.

Be sure to stop by to visit our Director of Admissions, Matthew Waterman! He’s excited to meet you and hear your Starr King story.

Berry Street Lecture at Ministry Days

The Berry Street Lecture is the longest running ministerial conference in the world. Today marked the 202nd session. The first lecture was held on May 30, 1820 and has been held annually ever since, except one year during WWII.

Attendees were welcomed and scribal remarks were offered by Rev. Kate Walker, 1997 Starr King graduate. Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt (2003 Starr King graduate and former faculty) lit our chalice and offered a prayer. Dr. Elías Ortega (President, Meadville Lombard) was installed as Moderator and introduced the 2022 essayist: Rev. Mykal Slack (Starr King trustee).

This year’s subject was “More Faith, Power, and People: Breaking the Cycles that Separate Us From Unitarian Universalism.” Rev. Slack discussed the current crossroads in our movement and stressed the importance of mindfulness. He told the story of how he came to Unitarian Universalism and the blatant racism, transphobia, and ableism he faced. This led to his thoughts on the future of the faith and how we move forward in the work we do – the possibility of Unitarian Universalism.

Rev. Slack’s lecture embodied truth, authenticity, humor, and love.

Daily Admissions Office Hours

For those of you unable to visit our booth at the Oregon Convention Center, join Director of Admissions Matthew Waterman during their open office hours each day of GA at 9:00 am PT to learn more about attending Starr King. Stop by the Starr King virtual booth on the Whova app to join or register for the Zoom link at www.sksm.edu/openhouseregistration.

Opening Celebration

Each year at General Assembly, UU congregations and organizations from across the country gather to celebrate together at the Opening Celebration. Typically, there is a banner parade in which representatives from a variety of groups and congregations gather to display colorful banners. This year, the Banner Parade was a slideshow in order for virtual attendees to enjoy and participate.

Each year, this colorful event kicks off General Assembly with music and festivity. This high-energy celebration draws us together in one spirit and prepares us for the work ahead.

This year, we were welcomed to Portland by Rev. Bill Sinkford, 1995 Starr King graduate and Senior Minister at First Unitarian Portland.

Day Two – Thursday, June 23

Our second day at General Assembly was packed with events featuring Starr King community members. Keep reading for highlights from morning worship, the Fahs Lecture, and the Service of the Living Tradition.

Morning Worship: Rituals and Other Sustenance for A Traumatized World

Rev. Leslie Takahashi (Starr King adjunct faculty), Rev. Dr. Megan Visser (2009 Starr King graduate & former faculty), and Michael Macias (Current Starr King student) led a lovely morning worship today with beautiful music by Lea Morris. The service was titled “Rituals and Other Sustenance for A Traumatized World.”

The worship leaders led attendees both in-person and online through different practices of ritual grounding, mindfulness, and tension release to promote the process of healing from collective trauma. These practices included breathing exercises, body movements, visual exercises, and meditations. Michael also shared a story that showed the process of transforming pain into something beautiful. The service was a wonderful way to start Day Two of GA!

LREDA Fahs Lecture

Each year at General Assembly, the Sophia Lyon Fahs Lecture presents a speaker on the topic of religious education to lay and professional Unitarian Universalists. This year, Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt (2003 Starr King graduate & former faculty) gave the Fahs Lecture, titled “Earthly Inheritance: Ancestral Wisdom & Today’s Climate Justice.”

Drawing upon her recently published book, Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal: Black Women, Labor, and Environmental Ethics, Rev. Sofía discussed the interconnectedness between ancestral wisdom and climate justice. Using Rev. Dr. Melanie Harris’ seven steps of ecowomanistm analysis, she shared her own ecoautobiography and how it shaped her and her relationship with the Earth. She discussed the history of the Panamá Canal – the labor, environmental impact, unrecognized contributions of woman and BIPOC, and more.

Rev. Sofía encouraged attendees to consider their own ecoautobiography and how the Earth has played a role in their family and ancestry. In her book, she coined the word “ecocreolization,” which is “the process of self-definition and meaning making that arises in response to interrelated violence centered on race, class, gender, and the environment. She stressed the importance of how identity and the Earth are linked. As always, Rev. Sofía’s words were thought provoking and full of honesty.

Service of the Living Tradition

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 honored those from the previous two years as well. Pastor Jacqueline Duhart (Starr King Director of Spiritual Services & 2008 graduate) gave the sermon titled, “Radicals Rise Up – NOW Is a Moment.”

In her sermon, Pastor Jacqueline talked about her grandmother and great aunts. She spoke about how she was nervous to accept the invitation to give the SLT sermon, but her ancestors appeared to her in a dream and made the decision for her. None of them had access to such a platform – she is here as an embodiment of their dreaming. She posed the question: whose dreams are you making real?

She shared with us family stories of collaboration that led to individual and collective growth. These instances, she said, were forms of church. She asked: “who or what is church?” Pastor Jacqueline’s sermon was funny, heartfelt, and authentic. We’re proud to have her as an alumni and staff at Starr King!

Day Three – Friday, June 24

Our third day of GA included the Starr King Friendship Lunch, the President’s Lecture, and Exhibitor Night. Read on for details!

Starr King Friendship Lunch

The return of in-person General Assembly meant the return of the Starr King Friendship meal! This year, we opted for lunch instead of breakfast. Attendees were welcomed by Charles Clark, our new Vice President of Advancement, who emceed the event. Isaac Castro (current Starr King student) and Mira Mickiewicz (2018 Starr King graduate) lit our chalice and provided a beautiful and timely blessing.

President Rosemary Bray McNatt shared an update on the school, including our recent rebrand, our upcoming move to our new home in downtown Oakland, and a quick summary of the past two years.

Attendees were then treated to a special video premiere featuring current Starr King student Li Kynvi. Click here to watch the full video. We also heard a testimonial from Michael Macias, a student in our Master of Divinity program. It was so wonderful to be together again, catch up, and share a meal.

Starr King President’s Lecture: “Holding Fast: Living Through Collective Trauma”

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt (President, Starr King School for the Ministry) and Rev. Julie Taylor (Sr. Director of Contextual Ministry, Meadville Lombard) have worked in trauma and disaster ministry for over 20 years. Together they led the 2022 President’s Lecture, titled “Holding Fast: Living Through Collective Trauma.”

They spent time describing the differences between a crisis, a disaster, and a catastrophe in regard to scale. For example, a catastrophe is overwhelming in scale and scope. The typical systems that would aid recovery are overwhelmed or destroyed. Therefore, catastrophes require extensive assistance from outside sources. Due to the global scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was nobody to call for help.

They also described the three qualities that contribute to the resilience of congregations and communities:

  1. Caring attachments to others
  2. Mastery – learning and understanding accurate information about the critical event
  3. Meaning making – having a way for people to make sense of an event so that they can process it

The lecture ended with questions from the audience and the sharing of resources for particular events and trauma responses.

Exhibitor Night

This evening was Exhibitor Night in the General Assembly Exhibit Hall! Staff and faculty of Starr King spent some time together in our booth talking to friends old and new. We even had a visit from Dr. Elías Ortega, President of Meadville Lombard.

Days Four & Five – Saturday, June 25 & Sunday, June 26

Our fourth day at GA included more programs by our amazing graduates and the Ware Lecture featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi!

Co-Conspirators, Not Just Allies

Meet Li Kynvi, a current Starr King student working toward a Master of Divinity. Li will be graduating next year and pursuing congregational ministry. At our lunch on Friday, we premiered a special video featuring Li. Watch as we follow their story of answering the call to ministry and what led them to Starr King.

Click here to watch the extended version.

Click here to watch the short version.

Accountability, Justice, and Wholeness: UU Theologies of Liberation

Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt (2003 Starr King graduate & former faculty) and Dr. Elías Ortega (President, Meadville Lombard) led the Accountability, Justice, and Wholeness: UU Theologies of Liberation workshop on Saturday afternoon. The program began with an overview of soul retrieval, ethics vs theology, and the speakers’ current liberation work.

Attendees were then broken into small groups and invited to discuss their understanding of accountability and how it relates to their community. Representatives from each group then shared highlights from their discussions. Topics included connections between yourself, your ancestors, and your children; different levels of accountability; and more.

The Power of Climate Justice

Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford (1995 Starr King graduate), Khanh Pham, Eddy Morales, and Jaimes Valdez led this session focused on community organizing for climate justice. They each took time to share about the programs they’ve been involved in that have addressed the impact of climate change. These included but were not limited to grants to aid those affected by climate destruction, mobilizing members of the community, and working with traditional environmental groups. The discussion included the power of organizing and community, as well as the intersectionality of reproductive justice, wage disparities, immigration justice, and racism.

Attendees had the chance to ask questions and request specific advice for their own climate justice programs and work.

Ware Lecture

Each year the UUA President and the General Assembly Planning Committee invite a distinguished guest to give the Ware Lecture. Previous speakers include Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Jr., Mary Oliver, and more.

This year, we were lucky to have Dr. Ibram X. Kendi join us in Portland! Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, and the author of five straight #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Rather than a lecture, this year’s Ware Lecture was a conversation between Dr. Kendi and UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray. They discussed the relationship between racist systems and racist ideologies. Dr. Kendi explained that racist ideas are becoming increasingly sophisticated and the need to prepare for fighting them.

When asked about the role of the church and people of faith in the antiracism movement, Dr. Kendi described the difference between producers vs consumers of racist ideas. While moral suasion won’t work on producers of racist ideas, consumers can be reached. He explained that the church can help with those behavior changes.

The conversation also touched on power dynamics and the three levels of power:

  1. Power to make policy
  2. Power managers that execute the policies
  3. Power to resist those who create and enforce policies

“Every single person has the power to resist,” Dr. Kendi explained.

GA registrants can watch the Ware Lecture recording on-demand once it’s posted in the coming days. We encourage you to do so if you missed this lively, inspiring, and humorous conversation!

Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism

Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford (1995 Starr King graduate) was presented with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism at the final General Session of GA 2022. Words of praise, appreciation, and stories of Bill’s good work were shared by Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt (President, Starr King School for the Ministry), Kay Montgomery, and Bill Young.

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt read the full citation and presented the award to Rev. Sinkford:

“Our movement’s gratitude to The Rev. William Sinkford is broad and deep. His love for our faith and its practices, his commitment to justice and service, and his enduring spiritual courage exemplifies for all of us what it really means to be a religious leader. It brings me great joy to honor you for all you have done for Unitarian Universalism, Bill, and to thank you for your distinguished service to our faith.”

We Do Not Consent: Rejecting Legal Challenges to Abortion

We are proud to report that during our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland this week, two of our Starr King graduates, Rev. Dr. Isabel Call and Rev. C. Nancy Reid-McKee, introduced an Act of Immediate Witness (AIW) that is both timely and includes specific actions that we can take now in our fight for reproductive justice!

Entitled “We Do Not Consent: Rejecting Legal Challenges to Abortion” this AIW asks us, after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, to revitalize the commitment we (UUs) made to reproductive justice in our 2015 Statement of Conscience.

We are called to affirm to unequivocally support every person’s right

  • To maintain personal bodily autonomy
  • To have children
  • To not have children
  • To parent children in safe and sustainable communities

The vote was 99.7% to affirm and .3% opposed!

View the wording of the Action of Immediate Witness here.

That’s All for General Assembly 2022!

Thank you so much for your interest in following Starr King at General Assembly. That’s all for this year’s coverage. See you at next year’s GA in Pittsburgh, PA!

If you attended GA either in-person or online, remember that recordings will be available in the coming days. We encourage you to check out the following programs led by Starr King community members:

  • Co-Creating Community Ministry in Your Congregation
  • NeuroEthics: Evidence-Based Practices for Anti-Oppression
  • The Next Normal in Ministry
  • Social Witness at GA 2022
  • Speaking Justice in the Language of Our Faith
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