The Pacific Southwest District of the Pacific Region of the UUA held a District Assembly in Long Beach, April 26-28. Our DRE, Kathleen Hogue, our ministerial intern, Robin Stillwater, congregation president, Jacki Weber Kikanza Nuri-Robins, Abby Arnold, Cassie Winters, Sue Stoyanoff, Aubrey Sassoon, Audrey Lyness and I, Dorothy Steinicke, attended from our church.
District Assembly is a great opportunity for UUs to meet other UUs, to discuss how other churches are approaching their challenges, to learn new things and to get inspired. Going to the national General Assembly (being held this year in Spokane, Washington June 19-23) is fantastic but traveling across the country and spending several days out of town is unrealistic for many of us. But a jaunt to Long Beach was not difficult at all.
When asked to reflect on the experience Robin stated: “The highlight for me was the keynote speaker, Donald Milton, III. He suggested some truly new and innovative ways to do worship and music. He had me laughing and in tears, and I used what he taught me the very next day on Sunday where we incorporated a responsive reading that included music. Honestly, it was worth going just for his address. However, I also connected with DREs, UUA staff, and other ministers that I can now call on if I am ever in need of support, resources or advice. In Millennial speak, 10/10 would recommend DA (or GA in a few weeks….)!”
Kikanza was part of a group that presented a fabulous workshop on the Leadership Experience.
In addition to attending the outstanding keynote presentation on “upcycling” church music, I attended a workshop on the use of ritual in worship and one on the changing reality of religious education.
In the ritual workshop, we performed a ritual and then analyzed its components. We learned that ritual is especially valuable to access feelings and understandings in non-linear ways through the use of participation, movement, reflection and repetition. The presenters pointed out that ritual is an especially valuable practice in intergenerational worship. I gained some ideas that may be useful in my role as worship associate.
In the workshop on religious education we learned that we are not the only UU church or even church that has experienced a dramatic decline in attendance. An idea that has worked in some churches is to have a ‘family worship’, a shorter (20 minute) worship service that is presented before the traditional service. This is a service where all are welcome but that is designed for parents and children to attend together. It involves music, ritual and stories. When it is over those participating might then go attend the regular service/RE classes or call it a day for church.
The presenter also encouraged churches to reach out in support of parents, to perhaps host a monthly ‘parent’s lounge’ with special presentations on issues facing parents with childcare provided.
At the end of the workshop the presenter made a seemingly offhand comment that may have had the biggest effect on me. She said that we need to be ‘religiously conscious’ of all that we do in our church communities, especially in our intergenerational activities. She gave an example that church communities often do things like preparing meals for people but don’t tie in why it is a practice that we are doing with our church community. It so happened that I was coordinating Lunches for Bunches the very next day. One of the wonderful things about Lunches for Bunches is how intergenerational it is, how we are all able to contribute. But, if you have ever participated, you know that L4B can also be rather chaotic. I didn’t immediately see how we could incorporate a religious reflection. We made the lunches. Lots of people helped. It was, as always, quite chaotic. People came and went as they were available. But there were seven of us, people of several generations who worked consistently through the process. As we were finishing and people were walking away I called them back and said that we needed to bless the lunches. There were some raised eyebrows. They were all people who had participated before and this hasn’t been part of the process. I felt self-conscious. But we all held hands and surrounded the lunches and blessed them with our hopes that they would provide sustenance and pleasure to those who received them and said that we sent not only the food but our hopes that those who receive them will be safe and well and will be able to move toward the goals they hold in their hearts. I didn’t check in with my fellow participants, but I found that it made the whole process more meaningful to me.
Attendees enjoyed gathering at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, 5450 E. Atherton St., www.uuclb.org.