The draft Actions of Immediate Witness that delegates will consider in this afternoon’s plenary session are available in today’s CSW Alert! (PDF).
In an exultant worship service Saturday night honoring ordained ministers and other religious professionals at the 2013 UUA General Assembly, the Rev. Vanessa Southern invited Unitarian Universalists and their leaders to dive into change.
She described her fears when a friend gave her scuba diving lessons as a birthday gift one year. Wearing an oxygen tank, mask, snorkel, and flippers, and standing awkwardly at the back of the boat, she said, “I can’t walk, or breathe the way I’d like to, and the world is getting misty, which might be nice and atmospheric except that they are also now telling me to hold on to my mask and regulator and jump—like this—which, as we all know, is crazy.”
“Then I cover my face, like the instructor tells me to, and I jump. And a whole new world opens up, one just below the surface of what I know and trust.”
The American religious landscape is quickly changing, Southern said. People are increasingly rejecting organized religious communities because “they are tired of religion getting in the way rather than paving it.”
But Unitarian Universalism is poised to give these people a home. “We take two truths as our own, and these two give the living the continuity,” she said: “First, a commitment to Love that refuses to honor false and constructed boundaries between us. This is the love that banished hell from religious imagination, and then put us to work banishing it everywhere else.”
The second, she said, “is the Unity we affirm beyond all divisions real or imagined. . . . Ecologically, theologically, politically, economically, this is the reality we seek not to forget: That we are one.”
The evening’s rousing music combined choirs and musicians from All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., including a postlude that turned into a dance party at the front of plenary hall.
Watch the Service of the Living Tradition, or read the prepared script of the event:
In a narrowly won contest, Jim Key of Beaufort, S.C., became the new moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association by a margin of 40 votes.
In Saturday’s election, 945 delegates, or 51.1 percent, cast their votes for Key, according to the official count provided by UUA Secretary Tom Loughrey. Tamara Payne-Alex, of San Jose, Calif., received 905 votes, or 48.9 percent of the vote.
Loughery announced the results Saturday evening. The races for other UUA volunteer positions were all uncontested, and the nominated candidates won, including UUA President Peter Morales, who will serve another four-year term.
Key spoke briefly in plenary after Loughery announced the results. “Thank you so much for your support. I’m humbled of course. I’m honored to serve.”
He also thanked Payne-Alex and her campaign team. “They made me a better candidate. Her collegiality in this whole process will make me a better moderator on your behalf,” Key said.
Speaking afterward with UU World, Key said, “I am on a high. I’m incredibly positive about our potential as a faith movement.”
Following this election, the association has a new moderator, a new financial advisor, Ed Merck, and a smaller, 13-member board. “I aspire to provide a safe space for the newly assembled board to develop a culture of boldness, agility, and taking risks,” Key said.
“I self-identify as a UU evangelist. That’s about spreading the good news of our faith,” said Key, his voice catching with emotion. “I’m very passionate about this.”
Key acknowledged that the vote was extremely close. “Democracy has a dark side,” he said. “People with a good heart and passionate views – their view doesn’t always carry the day.”
He said he planned to seek Payne-Alex’s counsel on how her “lived experience” could inform his role as moderator. Key said they both pledged to one another early in the campaign that they would connect with one another after the election, however it turned out.
Key will lead his first meeting as moderator of the new board of trustee Monday, at the board’s post-GA meeting in Louisville
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