5:10 p.m. MDT

And everyone heads off to the rally for immigrant rights….

5:05 p.m. MDT

There’s another motion to refer this motion back to the Commission on Social Witness. It needs a two-thirds vote. Gini Courter says the motion carries on a visual vote. “By a whisker,” says someone near me.

So the peacemaking SOC goes back to the Commission on Social Witness for additional study….

4:58 p.m. MDT

We’re getting into convoluted parliamentary procedures. Gini Courter says, “Now I’ve even confused our general counsel.” She explains, tries to call for a vote, but now the parliamentarian consults with her. The vote is on calling the question. The delegates vote to call the question. The vote to refeer the question failed to get two-thirds vote. Back to the amendment microphone.

Some people still look confused (I’m one of them). But here we are, back where we were ten minutes ago….

4:53 p.m. MDT

A motion is been made to refer this whole motion back to the Commission on Social Witness. A few groans audible from the delegates. The motion to refer has to get a two-thirds vote….

4:47 p.m. MDT

A delegate speaks at the wrong microphone, asking to table the whole motion. After telling him that we will come back to his motion after the vote on the amendment that’s currently being debated, Gini Courter gets lost — Pro microphone? Con? Amendment? Legal counsel and parliamentarian haven’t been keeping track… the one who remembers is the fellow working to video camera: it’s the Pro microphone.

4:41 p.m. MDT

The Parliamentarian is carefully reading through the handout on the Statement on Conscience. He has the UUA bylaws open on the table in front of him. The UUA’s legal counsel is listening attentively — now he’s also looking through the Statement of Conscience.

Suddenly, several people that were just waiting to speak at the Amendment microphone have walked away. Now there are only three people waiting at the Amendment microphone.

4:35 p.m. MDT

Now there are 13 people waiting to get at the Amendment microphone. Yow!

4:33 p.m. MDT

Question at procedural microphone: What happens if we vote down this SOC?

The question is referred to the Parliamentarian. He says, there is a third choice besides voting up or down — the delegates could refer this SOC back for further study.

4:30 p.m. MDT

It’s fun watching the two reporters from UU World work on this debate: they’re both sitting on the floor, one holding a digital audio recorder while scribbling at her notebook, and one sitting taking photographs while scribbling in his notebook. Next to me, the reporter fromt eh UUA Web site is typing on her laptop — she is a fast touch typist, is recording everything while rarely looking at her keyboard.

4:27 p.m. MDT

4 waiting people at Con microphone. 2 people waiting at Pro microphone.

And now there are seven or eight people waiting at the Amendment microphone, and one speaking.

4:25 p.m. MDT

People clustered around the Amendment microphone.

A question about the intent of the resolution from the Pro microphone. The chair of the Commission on Social Witness answers the question from the Procedural microphone, but his answer is not satisfactory, so there’s another question.

Moderator Gini Courter asks if there is an amendment yet. But the teller at the Amendment microphone shakes her head: not yet.

4:22 p.m. MDT

Moderator Gini Courter reminds delegates that now is the time for amendments. But so far, no one has appeared at the Amendment microphone.

5 at Con microphone, 3 waiting at the Pro microphone.

4:19 p.m. MDT

Now the debate is heating up. The speakers are starting to respond to each other, rather than just making points about the SOC. Looks like the debate is going to go right to the time limit….

4:17 p.m. MDT

Again, there was no one at the Con microphone, and then suddenly three more people appear. Now five people at Pro microphone.

4:16 p.m. MDT

Now no one at Con microphone. No one at Amendment microphone.

Whoops, here comes one more person to the Con microphone. Is it perhaps hard for delegates to step up and speak against this SOC?

So far, the Con speakers have been almost entirely ministers, trying to represent the diversity of the views in their congregations.

4:11 p.m. MDT

Now about 8 people lined up at the Pro microphone, one at the Con microphone.

4:09 p.m. MDT

The debate seems to be taking shape: on the Pro side, we want to support peacemaking; and on the Con side, let’s not shut out the Unitarian Universalists who serve in the military or work in the Pentagon.

4:06 p.m. MDT

The Statement on Conscience (SOC) we’re considering is on peacemaking. The chair of the Commission of Social Witness points out that it would be consistent if we kept the debate peaceful and nonviolent — the delegates laugh at this.

The Youth Caucus come to the Pro microphone to speak in favor of this SOC.

Now a minister at the Con microphone — “I want to reflect the lack of consensus in my own congregation and in our movement on this SOC.”

There two people lined up at the Pro microphone, and one at the Con microphone.

3:59 p.m. MDT

The tellers are handing out a chunk of paper: five sheets of blue paper printed on both sides. Wait, I have to read this in three minutes?

3:56 p.m. MDT

It’s time for a vote on statement of conscience. “Get your delegate cards ready,” says moderator Gini Courter. I can feel the tension and energy level of the Plenary session rising.

3:35 p.m. MDT

Terry Sweetser introduces the segment where we memorialize dedicated Unitarian Universalists who have died in the past year. When Jackie Mgazu’s picture flashes on the screen, I get all teary-eyed — she was one of the great lay leaders in Ballou Channing District, and gave me such good advice more than once.

3:30 p.m. MDT

Yes, people are up and dancing to the song “Has Anybody Seen the Choir” — and I mean half a dozen people are really dancing. The whole hall is clapping along, people are up and out of their seats, moving to this folk-blues song by Emma’s Revolution.

3:24 p.m. MDT

Pat Humphries and Sandy O are leading us in their recent song “Peace Salaam Shalom.” What a fabulous song — an easy part for the audience to sing, led by Sandy O, while Pat Humphries sings a harmony part over that. “It’s an honor to songwriters to hear their songs become tools in the way you [UUs] use them.”

Now they’re singing “Swimming to the Other Side,” which I think should be the next UU anthem. Yeah, I’m a fan of theirs, so maybe I’ll rush the stage and see if they’ll sign my laptop.

3:14 p.m. MDT

One of the speakers says Pat Humphries and Sandy O are going to be singing later on. My mind had wandered, but that got my attention. “Pat Humphries!” I said. She’s the songwriter who wrote “Never Turning Back,” and “Swimming to the Other Side,” two songs that our church’s choir sings, songs that exemplify Unitarian Universalist social and spiritual values for me. “Pat Humphries is going to be singing here!?”

Chris grins at me, and says, “GA is full of pleasant surprises.”

3:13 p.m. MDT

DRUUMM, the organization for UU people of color, presents a silk robe to Bill Sinkford, to honor his support for DRUUMM. He tries it on. Whistles of appreciation from the delegates — he looks really sharp in this robe, which was brought here from India by a UU with Indian roots.

3:08 p.m. MDT

“Adversity breeds creativity,” says Lyn Conley while presenting the UUA budget. “When someone gives you a challenging opportunity, just say yes.” She says she has actually enjoyed her time creating UUA budgets.

3:01 p.m. MDT

“Take a deep breath,” says the Rev. Jim Sherbloom. He’s the chair of the UUA Investment Committee. “I find it always works better when talking about large sums of money to breathe deeply.”

He talks about “this new investment environment” that we’re now in. I’m paying close attention. He’s talking about trying to do social responsible investing, while getting a return above the rate of inflation, while trying to avoid major volatility. “Our portfolio is down just 22%, which is far less than many diversified portfolios,” Sherbloom says. That sounds like really good performance theses days.

“Greed and fear is not an investment strategy,” he concludes. People laugh, and applaud.

2:54 p.m. MDT

Chris Walton, editor of UU World magazine just sat down next to me here in the front row of the Plenary hall. Chris is posting regular news updates at the General Assembly page of UU World magazine. Chris says there will be an update to this page in an hour or so, including the Financial Advisor’s report.

2:45 p.m. MDT

I just took another walk around the plenary hall. People are pretty well settled in now, and very attentive (I even saw someone taking notes as the UUA Financial Advisor gives his report). I also noticed something: although the delegates are still mostly white, there seems to be a growing number of non-white General Assembly delegates compared to, say, ten years ago.

The Financial Advisor is still talking. The financial news from the UUA is, as you’d expect, sobering. And yes, I am noticing people getting a little restless as they listen. It’s no fun listening to financial news these days.

2:33 p.m. MDT

Kay Montgomery thanks the Rev. Tracy Robinson-Harris, who is leaving the UUA after many years of service there. The delegates applaud, but the entire staff of the UUA rises to give her a standing ovation.

2:31 p.m. MDT

Kay Montgomery, Executive Vice President of the UUA, is talking about the survey on youth ministry. In case you missed the results, you can see them at the following Web page:

2:22 p.m. MDT

There are some 20 members of First UU Church of San Diego are on stage to receive the Eugene Picket Award for “outstanding contribution to the growth of Unitarian Universalism.” Imagine getting 20 people from your church to travel a thousand miles to show up at GA to receive such an award!

2:13 p.m. MDT

Yasutaka Watanabe, the chairperson of Rissho Kosei-ki, a liberal religious movement in Japan, is addressing us in Japanese. Subtitles are supposed to be showing up on the big screens on either side of the stage with subtitles translating what he’s saying. But the subtitles disappear halfway through his remarks. Rats! I wanted to know what he’s saying. Still, everyone is listening with respectful attention.

2:05 p.m. MDT

Eric Cherry introduces Unitarian Universalist representatives from around the world. He mentions the sixth principle of the UUA, the one about world community. It’s amazing to look up on the stage, and see Unitarian * Universalists from the Czech Republic, Canada, Hong Kong, Uganda, India, Burundi, and Transylvania. For me, it’s especially moving to see the representatives from the African Unitarian Universalists; I’ve been following the story of the emerging African congregations for the past four years. And there in front of me is Mark Kiyamba, who founded Unitarian Universalism in Uganda — he founded both a congregation and a school for AIDS orphans. Talk about living out your UU values.

2:01 p.m. MDT

They’re showing a video on one of the breakthrough congregations, which is fascinating, but I have a hard time sitting still, so I got up and walked around. At the back of the hall, I found a mom sitting on the ground next to her ten-month-old son. “Where’s his delegate card?” I say. She laughs. “He’s just attending this year, he’s not voting.” I like the fact that it’s OK to bring babies into Plenary sessions.

1:49 p.m. MDT

I see off to the side: Eric Cherry, Director of International Relations at the UUA is gathering together the international representatives here at GA, including Unitarian Universalists from Africa, India, and other countries.

1:46 p.m. MDT

“Cheese?” says the person sitting next to me.

For a minute, I just sit there. “What?” I say.

She’s holding out sticks of cheese, and laughing. “Cheese!” she says. “You want some cheese?”

It takes snacks to get through Plenary sessions.

1:45 p.m. MDT

A delegate is telling everyone to call their U. S. Representative to advocate for HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a bill limiting global climate change. And you can call your rep even if you’re not here at GA. Call 202-224-3121, and ask to speak to your rep.

1:39 p.m. MDT

Gini welcomes Bill Sinkford, who is greeted by cheers. He says that when he recognized members of the Tennessee Valley UU Church last night out of respect for the shooting there last July. But he forgot to recognize the members of the Westside UU church in Knoxville who are here at GA. So he asks them to stand up, and they are greeted with lots of applause….

1:32 p.m. MDT

Bam! goes the gavel, as Moderator Gini Courter calls the third session of Plenary to order. People cheer: “Wooo!”

About the Author
dan harper


  1. drharper

    Hey, Lizard Eater! Good to hear from you! And I appreciate hearing from those of you are reading this blog.

  2. Renee

    Thanks so much for blogging this — I couldn’t make it to Salt Lake City, but am trying to follow and to be engaged with what is going on.

  3. Jess

    Hey Dan — the subtitles on the Japanese speaker I think were his entire speech, but they ran through them as fast as they could rather than pacing them to his actual speech. I know I missed a bunch in the middle because they were scrolling too fast, which was a shame.


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