Thursday, October 5th, I began my first experience working at the denominational level, as a part of the UUA’s nominating committee. Eight of us, gathering at the UUA’s national headquarters in Boston, spent an intense two and a half days evaluating applications, clarifying needs, working on job descriptions, and working through the national bylaws. It was a rewarding and educational experience, one that gave me a new understanding of Unitarian Universalism as a whole.

How did I get here? In 2015, I really wanted to go to General Assembly, and I began looking at ways I could possibly be useful enough to perhaps garner some financial assistance from the UUA. I filled out their volunteer application, looked at the different committees, wrote some essays, included my references, and promptly forgot about it altogether as the realization of traveling with a one year old hit me. It was bad timing.

However, what I didn’t know then is that volunteer applications remain in review for two years, and that I would be contacted in November of 2016 to see if I was still interested. I was informed that my years of being the youth advisor were what led the nominating committee to choose me as a unique voice with local leadership experience.

Purpose, time commitment, and specific needs vary from committee to committee, but there are some very intentional UUA efforts to recruit all types of diversity. As a white bisexual female, I am far from a minority. At 38, I am younger than many, and that plus my income class and location helps fulfill a an underrepresented voice. The smallest percentage of volunteers are persons of color who come from the Midwest and southern areas of the country. It is part of the nominating committee’s job, in a leadership development capacity, to reach out in various ways to those populations. It is the UUA’s goal that cost should not interfere with service, which I think we need spread – volunteering to serve on a committee or even the Board of Trustees does not require disposable income. They do require time; as a member of the nominating committee, I am part of a three day fall session every year for my three year term, and am also required to work at General Assembly every year. As my committee finalizes the job descriptions for each service capacity, I will be able to share more specifics; links and details will be available for me to share online.

My “homework” after the fall session includes things that are challenging, as well as things that utilize my established strengths. I took minutes during the entire session, which is something I learned to do well during the latter part of planning for the Guatemala service trip with the youth. Prior to that experience it was most definitely a weakness. My writing skills have also proved useful in writing committee specific job descriptions. Challenges include having phone conversations with individuals who I am encouraging to reapply who have not been chosen for the limited positions available this year. No one likes delivering bad news, but I don’t even like talking on the phone. But I see this as inspiration to get better at it.

Ultimately, I had the opportunity to bond with seven other extraordinary individuals, all from different backgrounds, who bring different strengths to the discussion table. After spending a fall session with them, I am inspired. I am surrounded by clergy, seminarians, DREs, and laypeople, all with a devotion to Unitarian Universalism. I am part of a shared journey, one that for me began with, and still includes, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast.  – Jessica Falconer