OGDEN -- Unitarian Universalist Church members throughout Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming converged on Ogden last weekend for the 2010 Mountain Desert District Conference.
More than 150 members spent three days sharing their faith through guest speakers, workshops, music, prayer and worship services.
"We're really blessed to have you all here," the Rev. Teresa Novak, of the Ogden church, said to the crowd during the opening ceremony Oct. 15. "We needed you to come."
Workshops and other events took place primarily at the Ogden Marriott Hotel, but a special worship service on Sunday was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden at the corner of 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.
A first-night welcoming dinner included words from District President Jim Turner, followed by a ceremonial lighting of the chalice by the Rev. Nancy Bowen.
"We are called to practice loving," Bowen said as she lit the ceremonial flame. "To celebrate the freedom that Unitarian Universalism offers us."
After the lighting, a traditional parade of 10 district flags -- with names like Boulder, Pagosah, Columbine, Billings, Pocatello and Grand Juntion emblazoned in colorful lettering -- marched through the ballroom.
Friday's keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, from Boston, explained "adaptive leadership" to conference attendees.
"Leadership hasn't necessarily changed, our world has changed," she said. "Our world requires a different leadership these days because of the way in which it changes so quickly around us."
Cooley addressed new and unique challenges that are presented in contemporary society and what Unitarians can do to overcome them and be leaders in their religious, social and personal lives.
"I think adaptive leadership is absolutely crucial," she said. "We're people that have been very technically skillful, and it's dawning on us that we simply can't control a lot of these things, so we need to figure out how to move into that next phase."
In addition to adults who attended, more than 50 high school-age kids from each state in the district made the journey to Ogden to participate.
Eighteen-year-old Henry Jones made the 10-hour bus trip from Colorado Springs for the weekend and said it was definitely worth it.
"It's pretty cool at cons (conferences) because we all have to get to know each other and get along," he said. "And it's definitely a diverse crowd that comes together and talks about something with purpose."
The teenagers attended age-specific workshops and had the opportunity to hang out in a coffeehouse-style atmosphere set up in one of the smaller meeting spaces Saturday night.
Conference workshops for adults on Saturday offered a wide array of topics such as atheism and the Unitarian Church, an interfaith panel discussion on global warming, instruction on how to establish and operate LGBT safe places, mindful eating, a panel discussion of members who had left other faiths to join the Unitarian Universalist congregation, and activities the organization is engaged in at its United Nations Office in New York City.
"Just one of the things we've been working on is ratifying a convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women," workshop leader Holly Sarkissian said. "We feel that with this administration, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being supportive, we have a better opportunity than in the past to further the cause."
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Novak and other conference officials led a singing march from the Marriott to the Ogden Municipal Building demonstrating in response to recent statements by other religious officials regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"This is not a march in opposition of the LDS faith," Novak said. "But we will send out a strong message of love, acceptance and hope."
Following the march, attendees returned to the Marriott and enjoyed dinner, a short intergenerational worship service, and jazz music late into the evening.
The three-day conference ended fittingly on Sunday, as members from across the district convened at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden to sing, pray and worship one more time before heading back to homes near and far.