A time of potential, Morales says
The UUA is at a critical juncture, “a time filled with both potential and threats,” UUA President Peter Morales told the General Assembly Saturday afternoon. Morales, elected a year ago, gave his first President’s Report, an annual event at GA.
He noted that, after years of very slight growth, the UUA membership was now shrinking slightly and that the Association is also having to cope with declining revenues because of the national economy. The UUA budget shrank by about $4 million this past year resulting in staff layoffs and program reductions.
He said the challenges in the past year for UUA staff have been “enormous,” including adjusting to a new administration and adjusting to budget cuts which have resulted in cuts to both programming and staffing levels. He noted the UUA’s Washington office has been reduced in size, although not eliminated.
He said that increasingly, the UUA’s social justice work, including the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, will be centered in the congregations and less will be done from the Washington office. He said the administration is working very hard “to build a culture of collaboration with and among our congregations. We see again and again that when congregations work together in clusters and other groups they unleash amazing energy.”
He added, “Part of our effort with Standing on the Side of Love is to equip our congregations to be effective where they are. We’re putting more effort into working with you and your congregations all across the country.
He noted that the Association’s diversity of ministry initiative settled three ministers of color in the past year, the Revs. Alma Crawford, John Crestwell, and Lila Cuervo.
He called the UUA’s credentialing process for prospective ministers “cumbersome and expensive” and said he hopes to move more resources into mentoring and educational programs for these people rather than “setting barriers” for them at the other end if they don’t measure up.
He ticked off new resources created in the past year: a new Spanish-language hymnal, a meditation manual for the military, several new curricula including Building the World We Dream About, and a manual on accessibility. He noted that Beacon Press is now the publisher for the writings of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Morales received enthusiastic applause when he shared that the UUA had shifted its retirement funds from Fidelity to TIAA-CREF because the former firm refused to refrain from investing in funds that contribute to genocide in Africa. “We’re walking our talk by supporting an investment company that is responsible.”
He said the UUA is working on a closer relationship with the UU Service Committee and anticipates that this may provide more service opportunities especially for young people.
He closed on an optimistic––and emotional––note. “Our challenges as a movement are great. And the opportunities for us are fabulous. When we do Unitarian Universalism well people flock to us. It feeds something fundamental in the human spirit. We can do this. We can transform this faith. I am excited about the things we are going to do together.”
He choked up as he expressed a “word of gratitude” to the assemblage, for allowing him to serve as president. “Few people get the opportunity I have to serve the movement in this way. Thank you for letting me be your president.”