UU Congregation of Athens and Sheshequin is one of those congregations that hadn’t sent a delegate to General Assembly for several years, so when the opportunity arose to send “virtual” delegates, it was a great way for us to make our voices heard. 2017 was our 3rd “virtual” GA, and we participated not only with our 2 lay delegates Ally Freyre and Linda Rossi and 1 ministerial delegate Rev. Darcey Laine, but Wyoming Valley UU’s delegate Becca Boerger traveled to be with us for the whole weekend.
Our Multi-Congregation GA began on Wednesday Night with an Opening Celebration (Solstice Bonfire and Potluck) at the Big Flats UU Fellowship, then we gathered in the sanctuary for Thursday morning general session over coffee and fruit salad to be part of the action. In a community where not all homes have high speed internet, the church provided a critical hub of accessibility. It was helpful to be together to share to give each other technical support, and to share the ups and downs of GA with one another. The Virtual Assembly remained available to members and friends in the sanctuary all weekend, and ended up with a live-stream of GA worship for the whole congregation.
Congregations and clusters around the region might consider similar set ups for the 2018 General Assembly. If you have questions about this idea please reach out to your primary contact or Beth Casebolt, our communications specialist, at [email protected].
Two rivers flow along the Southern Tier of New York—the Chemung through Big Flats and the Susquehanna the Susquehanna through Binghamton–and converge just south of the border in Athens, Pennsylvania before flowing south to Towanda. Another convergence occurred when the UU Congregation of Binghamton played host to a joint leadership training and board retreat for the three smaller congregations: The UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin, the Big Flats UU Fellowship, and the Towanda UU Fellowship.
The three congregations share a minister, the Rev. Darcey Laine. (Rev. Darcey is the called half-time minister of UUCAS, the consulting quarter-time minister of Towanda and is a contract minister for Big Flats, preaching once a month and providing pastoral care.) Rev. Darcey and the board presidents of the three congregations met via Zoom conference call with their shared CER Primary Contact, the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, to plan the day.
The morning program—which was open to all three congregations’ leaders–focused on hospitality and growth, starting with the video What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable, which served as a case-study for ensuing conversation. After lunch (which was organized by Binghamton member and out-going SLD president Jeff Donahue), the boards met separately to set goals for the upcoming year, which they then shared with one another at the end of the day. They also planned a January check-in web meeting with one another to share their progress toward their goals.
The day was a lovely example of interdependence in our UU movement!