I registered for the UUA's outstanding triennial Large Congregation Conference (in Louisville, Kentucky March 13-16). I've been to the Large Congregation Conference twice before and loved it both times! Great networking and learning, outstanding workshops, challenging issues to discuss, and (of course) inspiring worship services and wonderful music. One comment on the online evalution for the 2005 LCC states "Absolutely fabulous!" -- that must be mine.
Because it is geared especially to those of us at congregations of 550 or more members, the LCC gives us the chance to delve deeply in our growth areas. Just one of several issues we have at FUS of Madison is how to connect better with the many, many visitors we get -- especially when we can only be sure that someone is a first-time visitor if they wear a special nametag given out by a greeter in our congested lobby. Ideally, friendly members would meet and talk with those without a nametag, too, with the understanding that the nametag-less are not necessarily visitors, but could be. I'm beginning to wonder if we could offer adult RE classes on how to connect with and get to know each other in a meaningful way after a worship service. Class members could practice on each other (because most people in the class would be strangers at first). It's great when those who have been members for fifteen years finally meet for the first time, but it shouldn't have to take a decade or more to make the connection.
About the great networking at the Large Congregation Conference: It's enriching to have conversations with folks who have an understanding of "hUUgeness." At General Assembly, it is always clear that the majority of our churches, societies, congregation and fellowships have 100 members or less, so anything I say about my experience could sound boastful. Even "I sing in one of our adult choirs" draws envy. And, yes, I've been known to blunder: when a UU told me that her whole congregation goes on retreat together each autumn, I asked her which of her ministers attends the retreat. Whoops.
There's a myth about the Large Congregation Conference -- that it is only for ministers and paid church staff. This is Absolutely False! The LCC is for lay leaders, too. At our largest congregations, I believe this includes all committed members with a role in the congregation, not merely the Board of Trustees or other elected leaders. Besides, most positions in churches have two-year terms, whereas the LCC is on a three-year cycle. Best to go whenever you have the desire and ability.
What prevents more people from attending? Time, money and energy (the usual suspects). The registration fee, room and most meals add up to under $500, but all have to travel to Louisville this year. I can afford it, but am a privileged, middle-class member. Back when I was a young adult, I could not afford to attend any conference, not even the GA held in Milwaukee in the early 1990's. Still regret missing that....
Anyway, I highly recommend the LCC.
Today is Hug a Lay Leader Day,