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Virtual GA makes General Assembly available from afar

Nine workshops, plus plenary events and worship, will be streamed live.
By Elaine McArdle

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There’s good news for people who want to participate in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly June 24–28, 2015, but aren’t able to travel to Portland, Ore.

This year, anyone—not just delegates—can join in a Virtual GA and watch major parts of the meeting from their homes or wherever they have Internet access. While delegates have had the option to participate from off-site for three years now, this is the first time that non-delegates can register and take part off-site.

For a registration fee of $135, off-site registrants will be able to view live-streaming video of plenary sessions as well as nine workshops that will be held in a particular workshop room at GA. Everyone wishing to participate in Virtual GA must register online.

“We certainly want to try to make GA as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, within the resources available to us,” said Janiece Sneegas, General Assembly and conference services director for the UUA. “It’s an experiment to see if people really do want to sit at their computers to watch GA, and whether there is an attraction for that.” While many people love connecting with others during on-site GA, she noted, “not everyone can do that,” whether due to financial reasons, time constraints, or other limitations.

The workshops include “Talk the Walk: Speaking Justice in the Language of Our Faith,” presented by the UU College of Social Justice; “Class Diversity: Exploring our Past, Building our Theologies,” presented by Harvard Divinity School and the UU Collegium; and seven more.

“Off-site delegates loved being able to participate, and we wanted to do more, so that’s why we’re adding the workshops,” said Larry Stritof, UUA systems and apps development manager, who is leading the team that is setting up the technology for Virtual GA.

During workshops viewed online, registrants can type in questions to presenters. They will also be able to listen to mini-assemblies on the proposed bylaw amendments and the proposed Statement of Conscience on Reproductive Justice, and they will have access to a chat room to build community and share ideas with other off-site registrants.

Off-site delegates will have access to additional services, including the ability to vote online, propose amendments, and speak during GA business sessions and mini-assemblies from wherever they are watching. All delegates, including off-site delegates, are required to submit a certified GA credential from their congregation in order to participate. Since an off-site delegate will count against a congregation’s total number of delegates allowed, off-site participation is not recommended for congregations that can send a full delegation to GA in person.

Off-site delegates must register no later than 8 p.m. EDT on June 19, 2015. Early registration, through April 30, costs $135 for off-site delegates. Late registration (May 1–June 19) is $160.

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