New role for lay leaders at GA
The 2004 General Assembly, to be held in Long Beach, California, promises to be a first in many ways. It will be the first to which congregational presidents are specially invited to take part in the Association's decision-making processes. It will be the first to use the Sunday morning service as a means of outreach to the local community. And it will be the first to offer people the chance to meet in organized small covenant-groups.
The gathering will be June 24 to 28 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The city of Long Beach is located about 25 miles south of Los Angeles.
The GA Planning Committee has planned programs on immigration, creating a progressive pro-family agenda, responsible consumption, and electing accountable politicians. Notable speakers this year will include Tom Hayden, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, author Wendy Kaminer, and Amy Goodman, producer of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! feature. Singer, author, and activist Holly Near will present the Ware Lecture.
There will be several changes at this year's GA. The UUA is making a focused effort to bring congregational presidents to GA by reimbursing their registration fees up to $250. UUA President William G. Sinkford will meet with the presidents on Saturday, inviting them to help set priorities for the Association. Another change happens Sunday morning. The Service of the Living Tradition, honoring ministers, is moving to Friday night. The Sunday morning service will be a more traditional one to which the Long Beach community will be invited.
GA is expected to be more affordable this year. The Association has booked blocks of hotel rooms ranging from $79 to $146. People coming to GA are encouraged to book rooms through the UUA Web site, www.uua.org/ga. The Association will be penalized if not all of the rooms it has booked are used. The number of those who attend GA will likely be less than the record 7,500 who showed up last year in Boston. Planners expect around 5,000 this year.
The small group ministry program that has taken root in many congregations will also be part of this GA. The first 750 people who apply will become part of eight-person covenant groups that will meet four times during GA to give participants a taste of how such groups can transform congregations.
Each year GA attendees are invited to contribute to a local service project. This year the Planning Committee is asking delegates to help create a start-up fund for a homeless shelter complex in Long Beach. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach is working on this project with two groups, the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization and the Community Action Network.
This will be the fourth GA held in California. Others were in Palm Springs, 1988; Claremont, 1976; and San Francisco, 1964. Nearby attractions at this GA include the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, beaches and bike paths, and the Long Beach harbor.“GA is an incredible experience,” says Jan Sneegas, the UUA's General Assembly manager. “It's an opportunity to be part of a vibrant movement and network and learn with others in a city of great beauty.”