The first time one attends General Assembly, the worship services dazzle and the vast array of programs impress. In my 10th General Assembly, it’s all about reconnecting with dear friends, past acquaintances, and valued colleagues.
During the Ministry Days programs, I chatted with cherished friends from Meadville Lombard Theological School, some still finishing their course of study. Others, like me, are newly minted ministers facing the challenge of settled positions in new congregations.
Walking through the exhibit hall, I rediscovered fellow curriculum writers at the UU Curriculum and Resource Developers booth and others like my good friend Jennifer who prefers to be called an “extremist” (rather than “fanatical”) vegan and animal rights advocate.
At the Mid-American region meeting, I ran into long-time acquaintances from youth and religious education work who are now serving as district staff for either Heartland (my new district), Central Midwest, or Prairie Star. And I found my two on-site delegates from my new congregation, Judith and Sara, from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland. I am proud that we also have two more delegates participating off-site, back home in Midland.
Then, at the banner parade, I met old pals from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, from my original home congregation, the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, and from other miscellaneous travels over the years in UU circles.
Reconnecting with people makes General Assembly special and reminds me of the critical role churches play creating and fostering relationships. In our modern world, where the focus is so often on individual over community, “me” versus “us,” our religious homes ground us in valuable and often lifelong relationship with others.
Days like this remind me of the origin of the word “religion,” which shares the same root as the word “ligament. Re-ligio means to bind together again and again. For me, reconnecting in meaningful relationship is the key to successful congregational and denominational life.