Unitarian Universalists were out in great numbers in Minneapolis, Minnesota in late June to meet, learn and celebrate being UU at the Annual General Assembly. It is where action issues of import to UUs are discussed, voted on in the several plenary sessions; workshops on many subjects of importance to congregations and leaders are presented; and long standing traditions are carried out. Of note: the opening banner parade of congregations begins the festivities.

Randy and I arrived in the city on Friday the 25th two days after the actual opening. We were a bit shell shocked because of the giant storm that passed through the Minneapolis area as we were negotiating the last few miles of freeway that would lead to our hotel. Quarter-size hail, winds, and blowing rain pummeled Randy as he dashed from the car to the hotel lobby. Then we parked in the underground bunker of a garage and went up the hotel elevator to our room. Sweet, never got wet or pummeled. We ordered a pizza as we frequently do on our first night, tired from driving and were pleasantly surprised that it had "veggie sausage" on it.

Okay so we weren't actually registered for the GA -- but we had arrived and meant to get in, as we had a few years ago when we vacationed in Boston the same year the General Assembly was there.

Our judgment of the sophistication and forward thinking of a city centers on the availability of vegetarian food, independent bookstores, music scene, and diversity of political ideas. Not only would we check out the GA but Minneapolis, We weren't disappointed as we saw Minneapolis' 30th Annual Gay pride parade, sampled the best of their food offerings, visited the anarchist bookstore and met Peter Mayer, UU musician.

We had no problem walking into the vendor's room in Boston, but this year we had to wait until Sunday, when the vending area, as well as the Sunday service is open to the public. There were some 3400 people at service to sing with the choir, participate in the ritual and hear the newly elected UUA president Rev. Peter Morales speak. Here are a couple of quotes from Morales that I wrote in my little notebook: We must explore "letting go of past successes; pay attention to and let go of what no longer serves us" and "reach out in love," because "that is what love does." (More Morales quotes.)

Where could I begin? I guess that was up to me. I am really about living up to our ideals of plurality and like Rev. Shirley Ranck says in her Statement of Feminist Thealogy, "It is our faith's greatest ideal and challenge." We have been seeking racial diversity and religious and cultural diversity for a long time, but sometimes we don't do so well in living up to the challenges of recognizing that "everyone is hungry for love and connection" and "that love reaches out" with enthusiastic welcome.

Walking through the vending area gives one an idea of where so many UUs are working: GLBT, Christian, feminist, polyamorous booths: every earth mother and father bumper sticker, button or tee shirt; jewelry, books galore, massage therapists, the UUSC, petitions to sign, Buddhist UUs and witches and wiccans to commune with. I bought our grandson a colorful stuffed dragon and me, a autographed CD by Peter Mayer -- one of my favorite recently discovered (by me) singer-songwriters whose performance I had missed on Wednesday night. He wrote the words for "Blue Boat Home" in the new UU hymnal supplement. But the song that I listened to at least a hundred times when I discovered it on YouTube was "(Everything is) Holy Now." It seems that love might think that.

As we were leaving the vending area for our hotel to pack our belongings to go, we went past our minister's booth a final time. He was working to raise money to cover his trip with various wares including: mugs and ALUUC tees, a poster of famous UU's that you could actually put your own photo on, Mike Haynes' wonderful handmade native American flutes and Bonnie Ettinger's melodic piano CD's. Both Mike and Bonnie are members of our Springfield congregation. As we passed, "The Old Rugged Cross" played as only Bonnie could play it. We observed as a middle-aged woman wandered up to Rev. Martin's booth and said, "That is the kind of stuff I became a UU to get away from." Martin -- ever patient and reaching out in love -- said quietly, "It's in the (UU) hymnal." Didn't know that; it should be because we are UU, "standing on the side of love."