6 Videos to Help You Prepare for UUA General Assembly 2017

For those of us going to this year’s General Assembly conference, the UUA has compiled a fabulous list of tools to help us prepare.  It includes readings, videos, books and activities.

Below are six videos featured in their list of preparatory tools.   I’m using them to jump start my preparation.   I invite you to do the same.  Videos vary from the full length documentary  13th to a 3 minute clip of comedian Aamer Rahman.

Have a team going to General Assembly?  Check in on your preparatory education and reflection plans.  Besides making sure everyone knows about these tools to prepare for GA,  you might want to plan an opportunity to watch one or more of these videos as a group.

I think I’m going to have a GA prep movie night…  What about you?   ~ Peter

1. Watch 10 Years after Katrina

Watch 10 Years after Katrina: Resilience, Recovery, and Reality  (30 Minutes)

August 29, 2015 marks the tenth year since Hurricane Katrina became a platform for a conservative recovery agenda pushed by then President George W. Bush. This agenda spearheaded the privatization of public places and public services in New Orleans and the storm-damaged communities of the Gulf Coast Region. The inequities and unjust outcomes of this agenda are laid bare in the short film Ten Years after Katrina: “Recovery,” “Resilience” & REALITY produced by the Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable.

2. Watch the Rev. Dr. William Barber at GA 2016

Watch GA 2016 Event 214 – Rev. Dr. William Barber on The Third Reconstruction (1 Hour, 9 Minutes)

Rev. William Barber, II, leader of Moral Mondays, Forward Together and NAACP NC, speaks on his new book The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement (Beacon Press). He calls for a nation-wide moral revival and offers a blueprint for state-wide grassroots organizing.

Order The Third Reconstruction from the UUA Bookstore
Get The Third Reconstruction for Amazon Kindle
UUA Common Read Discussion Guide

3. Watch 13th on Netflix

Watch the documentary 13th on Netflix.  Free month trial available. Directed by Ava DuVernay.  (1 Hour, 40 Minutes)

In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.

4. Watch Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed at 50th anniversary of the Selma Crossing

Watch the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed speaking at conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Selma Crossing. (50 Minutes)

5. Watch TEDx Talk by Jay Smooth

Watch TEDx Talk by Jay Smooth How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race. (12 Minutes)

Jay Smooth is host of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, the Underground Railroad on WBAI 99.5 FM in NY, and is an acclaimed commentator on politics and culture.

6. Watch Hot Chicken Video with Devita Davison

Watch Hot Chicken Video with Devita Davison at the Social Capital Markets Conference 2016. (9 Minutes)

Nashville’s most famous chicken dish began as an act of vengeance by a spurned girlfriend of entrepreneur Thornton Prince in the 1930s. Instead of feeling burned, Prince was inspired and turned Hot Chicken into a thriving business. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is still in business but never grew outside of Nashville–even though his recipe is making money for others all over the world. At SOCAP16, Devita Davison of FoodLab Detroit told the full story of Hot Chicken, to illustrate cultural appropriation in action and the barriers to success that minority entrepreneurs often face.

6. Watch comic Aamer Rahman on Reverse Racism

Learn more about comedian Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet) at aamerrahman.tumblr.com and on Twitter at @aamer_rahman.  (3 Minutes)

Is this your first General Assembly?  If so, this collaborative unofficial  UUA General Assembly Survival Guide is for you!


Tips for attending UUA General Assembly 2017 Edition

This collaborative post and “survival guide” features tips and reminders for attending  the annual General Assembly conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association!  Note this edition has information specific to the UUA’s June 21-25, 2017 General Assembly in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This post was first made by a UU Growth Lab brainstorm in 2011 with my updating annually. Have a tip or resource to add?  Share it in a comment at the end of this post.

Share your tips, share this post with fellow UU’s attending for the first time, and I’ll see you at GA!

UUA General Assembly 2017 logo

Follow the UU World’s Coverage:

The staff of the UU World does an amazing job covering General Assembly.  Their GA blog and social media channels are the go to source for in-depth and breaking General Assembly news.

Advance Preparation

To get the most out of this General Assembly, schedule time to dive into these recommended tools to prepare for GA.  These include readings, videos, books and activities.  Don’t wait until the week before. You’ll want to pace yourself to make the most of these resources.

I’m jump starting my preparation by watching the 6 videos featured in this list. GA prep movie night?

Additional Registrations

Note there are these additional opportunities, but they require advance registration.

Before You Go:

  • Plan your life at General Assembly assuming you will not be able to access wi-fi in the convention center.  Internet access is always and issue. Bring critical information and contact numbers with you. If access is good, enjoy!  But be prepared.
  • Order a Standing on the Side of Love yellow shirt if you want to join fellow UUs wearing them while participating in the 2017 GA service projects (advance registration required) and at the #LoveResists Rejoicing for Sanctuary & Solidarity public witness on Friday, June 23, 2017 at 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Convention centers, especially the main halls, are usually freezing! Bring a layer you can easily take on and off so you’re okay going from outside to hallways to the general session/plenary ice box.
  • Hydrate! Bring a water bottle. If you’re flying, bring an empty one to fill at a water fountain after you go through security.  You can usually buy a reusable bottle in the Exhibit Hall.
  • If you are a delegate, READ related business materials before you come.  You are deciding our future. Everything delegates need to review is  available here.
  • GA is amazing for network and learning.  Bring business or personal cards so that you can give your information to others.
  • Be sure that someone from your congregation is bringing the banner for the banner parade.
  • Download & review the Program Guide ahead of time.
  • The UUA GA Mobile App is fantastic.  If you have a smartphone, make sure to install it.  It will significantly improve your GA experience.  Plan on exploring and testing the app before you arrive. There are a lot of features. You can choose to follow posts by other attendees, share your own posts tagging which event you’re at, and much more.  The week leading up to GA, try opening the app each day. People will already be posting.
  • Plan out what workshops you want to go to.  Have a tentative choice made for all time slots in advance. You’ll need time between schedule blocks to take care of biological needs, talk to people, and change rooms. You won’t have time to pick as you go.
  • Pick a 2nd workshop for each time slot. You may find that when you arrive at your first choice it’s not what you expected and it will be good to know exactly where to go to get to your 2nd choice.
  • Pack comfy shoes.
  • Bring a bag you can carry comfortably with you at all times, like a shoulder bag or light backpack.
  • If you’re asked to carry your congregations banner during the banner parade, figure out how the poles/carrying PVC pipes go together before hand.  Here are banner specs from the UUA (pdf).
  • “Last year I had a binder where on the back cover I had a map of the area in the plastic cover thing, the front with my delegate card and other really important info, and inside my travel info, the program book, the business resolutions, etc.  It really helped me stay organized throughout.  Put in paper to take notes on, bring pens, etc.  I had that with me in my laptop bag and it was great.”
  • Talk to people in your congregation to find out about resources you can scout out and bring home and questions they might have, especially if your congregation has a very limited budget and will be under-represented by delegates. It is even nicer when you reach out to area congregations if your cluster is composed of smaller, less financially able congregations, and see how you can help.
  • If you can’t walk more than a mile easily, you will want to rent a scooter through GA Accessibility Services. If you often use hearing assistive devices in crowded settings, you will want to use GA Accessibility Services. Better to reserve equipment you turn out not to need than arrive & be blocked from participating because no extra equipment is available.
    GA Accessibility Services. 
  • If you have special dietary requirements, scout out the food vendors before departure and plan well ahead. Make reservations at places that will accept them. Pack extra food if you have really specific needs. It isn’t uncommon to have to wait at GA area restaurants for a long time, or to have relatively few places that can accommodate vegans, folk who need to eat gluten-free, or even offer acceptable fast alternatives for diabetics.
  • Plan a check-in breakfast/lunch/dinner with some people you know at some point.  Even if you’re the independent or introverted type, GA is really overwhelming in the sheer mass of people and having a drink with some familiar faces can be really nice
  • If you are the only one you know going to GA, start making connecting with people via the GA app and on Twitter.  For example, on Twitter you might tweet “Looking forward to _____ at this year’s #UUAGA conference.”  Fill in the blank with what you’re excited about.  By including the #UUAGA hashtag we can find your tweet on Twitter.  On the GA App you can share posts with photos.  You might share a photo of yourself and share what you’re looking forward to and what leadership role(s) you have in your congregation.
  • If you really want to hang out with your former minister that you haven’t seen in ten years, email them now and ask them to breakfast.  They will either say “yes” or “I’d love to talk to you for a minute at some point, but my schedule is totally booked.”  If you wait until GA to ask, the answer will almost certainly be the second one.  Ministers are really busy during GA.  I’ve found that breakfast is the meal they are most likely to be free.
  • Prepare your elevator speech about what Unitarian Universalism is and why you are one. Local folks ask questions; be prepared to answer.

While you’re there:

  • Now that you’ve arrived, remember to HYDRATE!  And take time to eat and pace yourself.  GA is a marathon.
  • You don’t have to go to everything.  And that’s ok.  I ended up skipping things last year, including the Ware Lecture, because I needed a breather.  And dinner.  Besides it will be online.
  • You need to eat.  You’ll need to schedule that in.
  • Attend the orientations, from GA for First Timers to your regional/district ones.  They help.
  • Avoid picking up paper – use digital notes whenever possible (they’re tending toward less paper now any way)
  • Say “Hi” to people & don’t be shy to tell them that you’re a first timer.
  • A great way to meet people is to introduce yourself to people when you sit down in a workshop.  You already know you have a common interest.  Say hello and strike up conversation.
  • Whatever you do, go to the Service of the Living Tradition & the Sunday morning service. See program highlights.
  • Having a meal with other UUs from across the country can sometimes be more valuable than going to a workshop.
  • I was told this by my congregation and it really made a difference for me.  During a general session (previously called plenary) , if you aren’t sure what you’re about to vote on, don’t hesitate to ask for a point of clarification from the procedure microphone.  Because if you don’t know what you’re voting on, at least 100 other people there don’t know either.
  • There’s this GA tradition that I don’t fully get – getting as many possible ribbons from booths to hang from the bottom of your nametags.  When you check in, at least last year, you even got some “coupons” to take to certain booths to get certain ribbons.  I just followed the crowd on that one.
  • Wear comfy shoes.
  • GA volunteers are often wearing specific shirts or pinnies that identify them easily. They’re there to help you. GA is really possible because of the kindness and support our volunteers give.
  • If you are in need of emotional or spiritual assistance, if you experience any kind of harassment, talk to any shirted GA volunteer and ask them to help you be connected with either the Right Relations Team or the chaplains.
  • You are an ambassador of Unitarian Universalism!
    Many people in and around the convention center will be meeting their first Unitarian Universalists.   While at General Assembly, bring your best self and make living our values an intentional practice.  Sore feet because you forgot your comfy shoes is not an excuse.  Be kind. Be generous. Smile. Pick up trash. You are not a tourist. You are not a business conventioneer. You are an ambassador of our faith.

Joining the GA Choir

  • If you love to sing, GA Choir is your cup of tea. Rarely do we belong to congregations that can boast so many great voices or musicians.
  • Pre-registration for the 2017 Choir  is required. Onsite choir sign-up only occurs if space is available.

Get on Twitter!

  • GA is a great time to get on Twitter.  You’ll be surrounded by people to give you advice and amazing content to tweet about.  The following video was made before the 2014 GA in Providence. The process and tips all still apply, just know that the GA specific examples are now from that past GA.  It will get you up and running in 20 minutes.  Just make sure you go to GA in the right city – New Orleans!

Play with Video!

  • Going to film video at GA with your smartphone? Checkout my video tips page. Whether you are tweeting or sharing on Facebook or another platform, GA can be a great place to record videos.  If you are at GA with a team, you might take turns filming video updates from GA.

Getting Around

Tourism / Local Information

Have a tip or related resources to share?  Add it in a comment on this post or in response to where I’ve shared this post on Twitter or Facebook.  Thanks! Peter


Add Your UU Climate March Photos to Shared UU Album

Are you marching in the Peoples Climate March this weekend?  Share your photos of UUs in action via this national Unitarian Universalist shared Google Photo Album!

The UU Commit2Respond climate justice campaign which includes (UU Ministry for Earth, UUA, UUSC and other UU climate organizations and programs) is inviting people to share their photos from this weekends climate march and related activities via this shared Google Photo album:


To share photos, click URL above and join the album, then use the Google Photos app to share photos during the march via your smartphone!

If you can’t find the album in the Google Photo smartphone app, click “Albums” and then “Shared”.  If it’s not there, chances are you haven’t joined the album yet.  Join it via URL above and then it should show up.

If you don’t manage to share your pix during the march,  make sure to share them when you get home.

In addition to sharing via this album, if you are on Twitter, make sure to tweet your top photos! If you tag the tweet or photo with @UUPLANET  I’ll see it and will retweet your photo.


On the “Historical and Future Trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism”

Videos of the Spring 2017 Minns Lectures on “Historical and Future Trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism” are now available.

Lecture 1:   Friday, March 31
Presented by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Affiliated Member, Meadville-Lombard Theological School. The Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, Executive Director and Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM) acted as respondent. Lecture held at First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St., Boston, MA

Lecture 2: Saturday, April 1
Presented by the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry. DiDi Delgado, writer, activist, organizer, and freelance journalist, acted as respondent. Lecture held First Parish in Cambridge, 3 Church St., Cambridge, MA

Attend the Inaugural UU TALKS event April 28th at UUA Headquarters

UUs speaking at TEDx Walden Pond

Friends,  the first ever UU Talks event is being held in Boston at UUA Headquarters on Friday, April 28th.

Get your tickets here!  The UUA chapel is not very large so we expect it to sell out.

UU Talks events are modeled after the popular TED Talk format, but in this case feature talks inspired by Unitarian Universalist values.

Tickets fund the media production and distribution online.  When you attend, you are making it possible for Unitarian Universalists (and friends) to share their ideas, stories, values and convictions with a wider online audience.

Congregations interested in hosting a UU Talks event should contact project founder and director, Twinkle Marie Manning, via her UU Talks website. 

Twinkle Marie Manning

A lot of people have been trying to contact me to get involved. Though I have been promoting the project, I am just a project advisor and consultant.  This is Twinkle’s project and she should receive all inquiries.

Speakers in the featured image at the top of this page are Unitarian Universalists offering talks at the TEDx Walden event which inspired this project.

Want to learn more about the project?  Twinkle and I joined the VUU to discuss UU Talks, the model, and how congregations can get involved.  You may also learn more via the UU Talks website and Facebook Page.

Welcome to the Leading Congregations blog and video series!

Welcome to the new Leading Congregations website, video series, and blog with me, Peter Bowden.

To help leaders keep pace with our rapidly changing world, I’m going digital! That’s right, I’m bringing my education work with congregations online via this new blog, video series, and on-demand courses.


What To Expect

I’ll be talking congregational growth strategies,  changing culture and technology,  trends in religion and spirituality, and more.   Today much of my work and research is focused on how faith communities across religious traditions are integrating digital culture and congregational life.  That’s the hot topic people want me to speak on most, but I’ll be sharing a wide range of content.

I work with leaders across faith traditions and a growing range of congregations, ministries, and entrepreneurial projects.  The content I share will reflect this and I hope will be of value to my growing multi-faith audience of religious leaders.

Who Am I

I’m Peter Bowden.  For years I’ve been training clergy, staff, and volunteers on a wide range of issues related to congregational life and ministry.  Since 2002 I’ve worked as an independent parish consultant and educator.  Read more.

What about you?  I would love to know more about you,  your interest in congregations, and your questions.

You may tell me more about yourself in a comment below. You can also connect with Leading Congregations on Facebook or Twitter and tag @LeadingCong in a post or tweet.

If you want to submit a question, use the Question Box.

Get New Content

The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to subscribe via email. I’ll make titles clear so you can immediately determine if you want to read, share or skip. You may also follow Leading Congregations on Facebook and Twitter.