In my head I’ve been at General Assembly for almost a week. It started last Tuesday when my church’s delegation (from Bedford, MA) had a lunch meeting to scan the GA program. Our first priority was to find a common hole in our schedules that we could fill with a meal or drink together, but the conversation quickly shifted to the same two topics I’ll bet all the other GA-bound folks are talking about: the UUA presidential election and UU University.

This is the first year I’ve been a delegate and I’ve never paid much attention to the plenaries before, so I expect to be fascinated in a process-geek sort of way. (The policy of this blog — which I support — prohibits any electioneering. So even as I cover the process, I intend to leave you guessing about how I’ll vote.)

Our delegation is split, but we had the kind of conversation you’d hope UUs would have. Everyone seemed to appreciate the arguments of both sides, and no one pinned unrealistic hopes on one candidate or suggested that the other’s supporters need therapy. Several of us had changed our minds in the last few months, some more than once. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us change again before the vote.

For the non-delegate, the big difference in this year’s GA is that UU University is now part of the regular program. In previous years you had to arrive early and spring for another couple nights at a hotel.

I never did, but I’ve talked to people who are very enthusiastic about UUU. Its six tracks are each nine hours long — five on Thursday afternoon and four on Friday morning. Done right, a UUU track has a chance to go deeper and be more transformative than the typical 75-minute GA workshop. I’m told that people came out of previous UUUs wishing that the experience could be made available to everybody who comes to GA. This year it is.

But there’s a price: Nothing is programmed to compete with UUU, so the amount of workshop-hopping you can do is considerably diminished. The 2007 schedule (I misplaced my 2008 program) had 12 event periods. This year’s non-UUU programming is down to seven periods.

If you don’t know much about UUU — none of my fellow Bedfordites seemed to — you feel the loss as soon as you pick up your program. But the gain won’t be apparent until UUU starts on Thursday. In the meantime, we’re all just trying to keep a leash on our characteristic UU skepticism.

So as GA goes on, I’ll have my ears open for hints of the overall mood: Are people missing the 12-period smorgasbord of past GAs? Or are they enjoying the more focused opportunities that UUU offers? Or both?

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doug muder

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