Monday, June 29, 2009

Moderator Gone Missing

The news: on Saturday (two days ago) the congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association elected our eighth President, the Reverend Peter Morales. Peter is energetic and visionary and courageous; we had a great relationship when we were both UUA Trustees about a decade ago. I am excited to be working with Peter for the next four years. We had a great post-GA board meeting earlier today. Peter's driving home this afternoon, and we're already collecting topics for a conference call next week.

The back story: The election results were announced at a worship service on Saturday evening prior to the Ware Lecture. During the service we acknowledged and thanked both candidates for President -- Rev. Morales and the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman. I was in the hall for worship.

I skip the Ware Lecture at most GAs. I spend Saturday night preparing my Moderator's Report (delivered on Sunday) and try to get a good night's sleep before what is often the most grueling plenary session at GA. The Ware Lecture is streamed, so I can watch it online while I work or see it later. This GA Saturday, I had more writing to do than usual, as I had volunteered to deliver the charge to the congregation during Sunday's closing worship. My GA schedule showed the Ware Lecture as my last GA event of the day. As Bill Sinkford rose to introduce the Ware Lecturer, I grabbed my backpack from the tech deck and returned to my hotel, slipped into blue jeans and went to work.

A few hours later I went down to the lobby of my hotel, and was greeted with "Where have you been?" and "We missed you!" by the first two UUs I saw. "Where did you expect me to be?" The post-election reception didn't get put on my schedule of the 50+ events I need to attend to. By Saturday, I'm lucky to make it to the items that are on the schedule. Note to self: next GA, triple check the Moderator's schedule.

I imagine it was awkward for Planning Committee chair Beth McGregor when she called my name and I didn't come forward ("The von Trapp Family Singers…….the family von Trapp…….") When I realized I'd missed the reception, my first call was to apologize to Beth, who texted back "no sweat"

I didn't think Peter would be concerned about my absence, and I was right. Peter assumed that I had been delayed by something or someone else that required my attention. When we spoke on Sunday morning at the rehearsal for the Closing Worship, we talked about how tired we both were. I admitted my gratitude for anyone who'd point me in the right direction and shove. We had a good laugh together.

I was worried about people I know less well. I endorsed Laurel Hallman; it would be tempting for people to project their assumptions on my absence. In my Moderator's Report at Sunday's plenary I told the delegates what had happened, and apologized for missing the reception. But not everyone goes to plenary. During today's board meeting, someone texted their trustee to ask if it was true that I had stormed out of the celebration because we'd elected Peter. Somehow, I don't think "Nope – she wasn't even there" is the most helpful answer.

Here is the last stanza of my charge to the congregation (at 1:06) during the Closing Worship when we installed Peter as UUA President:
…Help us invite our leaders to make us uncomfortable and discontented,
To challenge our privilege, our cynicism, our arrogance, our complacency,
To trouble our hearts so we will see the gap between the world that is and the paradise that should be
Help us expect much of our leaders, but even more of ourselves.