Liveblogging the Celebration of the UUA Presidential Candidates

8:35 p.m. MDT

Peter Morales has just released a statement on his Web site. Go here to read it.

8:30 p.m. MDT

That’s it. Final result: all uncontested candidates were elected. Peter Morales was elected the next UUA president with 59% of the vote.

8:28 p.m. MDT

The Rev. Tracy Robinson-Harris is leading us in the congregation in a responsive reading. I can feel myself calming down as more than two thousand people read together. Now John Hubert is leading us in the closing song, “For All That Is Our Life.”

Guess this means that neither Peter Morales nor Laurel Hallman will be speaking to us.

8:25 p.m. MDT

Heard around me: “I love this sermon, even though I’m not really listening.”

It’s a great sermon by Carley, but I know I’m too excited thinking of the election results to pay proper attention. But oh, he really is a good preacher. (more…)

Liveblogging Service of the Living Tradition

10:13 p.m. MDT

One of my favorite parts of a worship service is sitting and listening to the postlude after the worship service. I like hearing good music (tonight we’re getting something from Handel’s Water Music), while all the people around me are talking about the service, talking among themselves, talking about their families, heading out of the worship service and back to normal life.

10:11 p.m. MDT

The last of the professional religious leaders being recognized head off the stage. “Give ’em a last round of applause,” says Beth Miller. The congregation erupts in applause.

10:07 p.m. MDT

The recessional hymn is one of my favorites, “For All the Saints,” with music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. (I still say he’s the best writer of hymn tunes of the 20th century.) Another hymn that sounds particularly good when two thousand people sing it.

9:59 p.m. MDT

Mary Harrington’s voice is very soothing. Her voice is creating an almost meditative state in the congregation here — very much in line with part of what she’s saying in her sermon, which is that we all need to take time for quiet and reflection and awareness. (more…)

Standing on the Side of Love, Part 2,874

Dr. Sinkford just got up (we’re at the start of the Friday afternoon plenary) and recognized members of the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church for their strength in the face of last year’s shooting at the Tennessee Valley UU Church. (TVUAA had been recognized in an earlier plenary.)

And he told a story that shows the best of who we are.

The WUUC members drove here from Nashville. On the way, they stopped off at the Reformed Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS — the church in which Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in late May. They dropped off a quilt, made by the members of Westside UUC, that included all of their handprints — a statement of solidarity and compassion from one congregation to another that had faced the same kind of violent attack.

A lovely thing.

Opening worship

9:55 p.m. MDT

After a powerful homily by Angela Herrara, Ysaye Maria Barnwell is bringing to yet a deeper level of contemplation us with her song “We Are.” A few people are singing along quietly, but most of the people around me are simply moving to the music, letting this worship service sink in.

9:37 p.m. MDT

Clifford Duncan, an elder in the Ute nation, just offered a prayer in the Ute language. “In my prayer was my ancestors of yesterday, today, and those that’s yet to come,” he says upon concluding. People behind me are rapt, some leaning forward to hear.

9:24 p.m. MDT

Bill Sinkford is telling how the American Unitarian Association was given charge of the Northern Utes by the Grant administration in 1870. If you’re not watching live video of this, go now and listen to his talk. This is big stuff….

9:14 p.m.

We’re singing a song, and near me a couple of boys, about 7 and 9 years old, are dancing with a woman who might be their mother.

9:11 p.m. MDT

Eric Cherry introduces the “passing of the peace” as something that was done during Bill Sinkford’s trip to Africa, to meet the Unitarian Unviersalist congregations there. And now everyone in the congregation gets up to greet those around them, saying everything from “Peace be with you,” to “Hi, how are you?” to nothing at all. I’m seeing people hug, shake hands, or just talk to each other.

8:55 p.m. MDT

We’re singing the hymn “Spirit of Life” in four different languages: Spanish first, then Hungarian, then Khasi (a language of northeast India). I’m surrounded by people singing a little out of tune, and with a great variety of pronunciations of Spanish, but it’s still a profoundly moving experience.

Now a representative of the Unitarian church in Transylvania is singing “Spirit of Life” in Hungarian — and believe it or not, there are quite a few people singing along. I can hear what seems to be dozens of people singing along. When the representative from the Khasi Hills Unitarians of India sings, not so many people try to sing along.

8:35 p.m.

Lots of people leaving the hall, maybe for a bathroom break. Which is too bad, because Rev. Eric Cherry, director of International Relations at the UUA is introducing Rev. Mark Kiyimba, the leader of the Uganda Unitarian Universalists. Kiyimba is greeted with cheers, whistles, and applause.

Plenary I

8:32 p.m.

I turn to the person next to me. “That was a moving talk,” I say.

She says, “I’m an emotional dishrag.”

8:27 p.m.

Bill Sinkford is thanking all the people with whom he’s worked over the past eight years as the UUA president. “No solo acts,” he says, recognizing UUA staff, lay leaders, and others. He recognizes and thanks his wife and children as well. The audience is particularly quiet and attentive — except when they applaud. “This has been a journey of faith,” he says, referring to his term as president — and the crowd stands up and gives sustained applause, a few people waving to Sinkford.

“Thank you Mr. President,” says Gini Courter, “I think we love you.” I think most of those here in this crowd would agree with statement, after such a moving President’s report.

7:46 p.m.

There are two local reporters sitting a few seats away from me. They are listening intently as Bill Sinkford talks about how the UUA supports same sex marriage. “How many of you are from Iowa?” asks Bill Sinkford, “Raise your hands!” — and then he asks how many of those assemlbed are from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, all the states where same-sex marriage is legal. Bill Sinkford promises that the UUA will fight until same-sex marriage is legal in all states, a remark that is greeted by applause — and both reporters applaud, too. It will be interesting to read the local news coverage of General Assembly.

7:39 p.m. MDT

“Here for his eighth and final report to the General Assembly,” says Gini Courter, “the Rev. William G. Sinkford. Bill Sinkford comes to the microphone, and there’s a standing ovation for him, and in honor of his service.

7:24 p.m. MDT

Gini Courter is announcing that the only item of business for this first plenary session is to adopt rules of procedures. She goes over the various rules and procedures for conducting business. She shows where the pro and con microphones are, the amendment microphone, etc. etc. Boring stuff, but somehow Gini manages to make it entertaining, and actually gets some laughs out of the assembled delegates.

Gini introduces Gordon Martin, the General Assembly parliamentarian, who has been serving in that role for 40 years. He gets a round of aplause, and a few people actually stand up to applaud him. Where else would a parliamentarian get this kind of applause?

The delegates adopt the rule of procedure, and Gini says, “Yes, now celebrate your first vote.” Another laugh, and a few cheers.