Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unitarian Universalism blog rebranding

Well, it seems a lot has happened since the last time I wrote in here.

I've decided that from this point on, this will be a blog on all things Unitarian Universalism (though I suppose as broad a theme as that is, it's still limiting in some ways--perhaps it would be better to refer to this as a "liberal religion blog"; not quite as catchy though).  With that in mind I suppose I should sort of reintroduce myself.

I'm Derrick.  I'm 27 years old.  I am from Miami, FL and I am an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami (UUCM); our minister is the lovely Rev. Wendy Pantoja.  I go to Florida International University and I'm majoring in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in Philosophy.  I am currently co-chairing (and essentially reinstating and reinvigorating) my congregation's Denominational Affairs committee and have also served on the Social Justice Committee as co-chair as well as the Membership Committee and Worship Committee all of which I continue to serve.  I was part of the Search Committee that called Rev. Wendy and I have also attended the last two UUA General Assemblies as a delegate, am on the steering committee of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida (UULMF), and have been active in trying to lead our congregation's Young Adult group to grow and flourish.

I guess the reason I'm doing this is because Unitarian Universalism has really emerged as one of the best avenues for my creativity and passion in my life and I think it's good to have a place to let things spill out of my head for others to read and discuss.  Here are just a few of the things I'm very excited to be working on within the realm of Unitarian Universalism:

Denominational
-Florida District/Southern Region Young Adult networking and growth initiatives (conference? committee? blog network?)
-Responding to the UUAGA's call to Reproductive Justice within UUCM
-Congregations and Beyond (getting services posted online, Campus Ministry, eventually getting a camera that can livestream worship services)
-Campaign Finance Reform coalition/group
-UULMF (facilitating individual and congregational membership, working on Amendments 6 and 8)

UU Miami
-7/22 -- Children's RE presentation with my mom on our trip to Italy for our congregation's "Oh the Places We'll Go" summer series of lay-led classes on vacations people have taken)
-8/5 -- Seventh Principle service
-8/17 -- Soulful Sundown (meeting with Rev. Wendy Wednesday)
-9/2 -- Economic Justice service (might be about Ninian Smart's "Dimensions of the Sacred" instead)
-9/30 -- Opportunity Fair
-Small Group Ministry (Cultivating Creativity group?)
-Adult RE (Our UU Story, Building Your Own Theology, Poetry workshops?)

I've also begun to experience what many refer to as the call to ministry as of late.  I've coordinated five Sunday services in the last year and as you can see, I've got two more coming up plus a Soulful Sundown.  I almost feel like I should be referred to as "worship chaplain" of UUCM at this point.  I can't help it, though; it's what I love to do.  In addition to this, I firmly believe that one of the main reasons I was put here (as in the universe) was to help people--be it by talking to them or merely by listening to them.  I considered majoring in Psychology because of this but it seems like it's leading me to UU ministry now.  Seminary is expensive but I've talked to Rev. Wendy and she expressed willingness to let me shadow her to learn more about what being a minister looks and feels like.

(and just so this entry has something more substantive than an introduction to me, after the cut you'll find my Justice General Assembly wrap-up!)

Justice General Assembly (June 20th-24th, 2012 in Phoenix, AZ)


Overall Impressions: 


So, for this year’s Justice GA, I made a covenant with myself.  Last year’s GA was incredibly transformative and life-changing for me, as many of you know, but I also felt like I could have done more networking and connecting with fellow UUs on a more personal level.  So this year I decided that no matter what I had planned, I would not interrupt any of the quality personal time I spent with fellow UU brothers, sisters, and cousins in order to attend any workshops, worship services, or other events.  And I’m sure glad I did because there is no doubt in my mind that I accomplished more on the balconies, in the breezeways, in the food court, and even down the street at Steve’s Grill than I did in any workshop or Plenary session.


Of course I did attend many workshops, events, and worship services that were incredibly stimulating in their own way. As much as I appreciated the social justice focus and action orientation of this GA, I did miss having the wider selection of workshops and events that I had when I attended last year's GA. But the most exciting part of Justice GA for me personally was networking with Young Adults and making grand plans for the future of our movement and our faith. Not only that but just connecting and sharing ideas and feelings with fellow UU brothers, sisters, and cousins was the greatest thrill I experienced this summer in Phoenix.


The work that was done denominationally was also very inspiring. Seeing all the community partners making the rounds and truly being a big part of the event was wonderful. It's always exciting for me being part of our democratic governance as a Political Science/International Relations major; I was pretty bummed that Exploring Class Barriers wasn't chosen for the next Congregational Study/Action Issue (CS/AI) but I accept the call to Reproductive Justice made by the General Assembly and look forward to UU Miami and UU Legislative Ministry of Florida helping to fight Amendment 6 outlawing public funding for abortions. It was also a privilege to be part of the overwhelming repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by the Assembly.


The only witness event I attended was the rally at Tent City which was incredible. Thousands of UUs and community partners descended on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City Jail where detainees that can no longer be squeezed into Maricopa County's jail are taken to be kept in outdoor tents in 100+ degree heat (it can reach over 130 degrees inside the tents!) and are also made to wear humiliating pink underwear and pink flip-flops. Our protest, if nothing else, was able to shut down Tent City at least for the day. One of the most powerful moments was the reading of the names of all those who had died in Tent City. Truly heartbreaking.


Sunday morning worship was the perfect end to a perfect GA (although there was still Plenary after that). The music and the energy was incredibly inspiring and Rev. John Crestwell gave a spectacular sermon. It left many buzzing that UUs had finally gone Southern Baptist--in fact a former Southern Baptist friend of mine said the service took him back to his Southern Baptist roots. Definitely made up for missing Synergy and the Service of the Living Tradition.


Highlights:
-Tent City protest
-Conversations and Connections
-Sunday morning worship


Workshops (Grades):
-Foundations of Young Adult Justice Work (A-)
-Getting Unstuck: New Directions In Catalytic Leadership (B+)
-Economic Justice and "Occupy Wall Street" (C-)
-The UU Path From Thoreau to Occupy (C)
-Congregational-Based Community Organizing: Raising Our Prophetic Voice (B-)
GPA: 2.67 (B-/C+ [borderline])
Summary: Missed a few I wanted to go to and regretted going to a few. Very grateful that mp3s of almost all workshops are posted. Looking forward to a 2013 GA in Louisville chock full of wonderful programming.

Conclusion: ONWARD TO LOUISVILLE!

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