Opening Celebration: A Rainbow Welcome
After a fanfare by the Eastman Trombone Choir, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, the following presenters offered "A Rainbow Welcome" by Rev. Woods: Linda Friedman, Jim Barlow, Christine Sevilla, Bola Owodunin, Cara Cavelli, Beth Sanders, Kelly Asbrooth-Jackson, and Rev. Gretchen Woods.
Welcome! Welcome to the 1998 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). We have come together from many places and many spaces to join in this common experience which will be particular for each of us, yet shared by all of us. We're glad you are here! Welcome.
Throughout this year, it has often been asked, "What do we mean: Fulfilling the Promise—the promise of what?" Together, at this General Assembly, through creative interchange, we shall begin to decide exactly that question: What is the promise we have inherited from our rich Unitarian Universalist (UU) heritage that we carry as the present movers in this religious movement? What is the promise we are called to co-create for the future? How does our history speak to us today? What can we learn about how we relate in congregations? What can we say to one another from our spiritual searches and our theological discoveries?
This year, we focus particularly on the promise we recognize in each individual who has come to know that UUism is her or his spiritual home. So, tonight, together, as we begin this process, we call upon the awareness and energies of many sources in a joyous and meditative spirit:
First Voice: We call upon the awareness that we are of this earth: that earth and spirit are one. We could not live without our Mother Earth, upon and through whom we live and move and have our being. We are one embodiment of life that is totally dependent on our ancestors and on this Gaia life process of which we are a part. As we call this awareness to each of us, may we recognize the spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions that celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature that create religion: religare—that which ties our lives together.
Second Voice: We call upon the awareness of the East, of spring time, of mornings, of childhood, of new beginnings, of our brothers and sisters who move through air, of intellect and understanding, which is constantly growing through the discoveries of science and of many other ways of knowing. As we call this awareness to each of us, may we recognize and accept its blessing as well. May we honor Humanist teachings that counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
Third Voice: We call upon the awareness of the South, of summer, of the full light of mid-day that illuminates the shadows of our inner knowing, of adolescence, of our four-legged brothers and sisters, of passion, of power, of creativity in all its forms, of sexuality and sensuality expressed with healthy responsibility. As we call this awareness to each of us, may we recognize and accept the blessings that come as well. May we honor Jewish and Christian teachings, which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Fourth Voice: We call upon the awareness of the West, of autumn, of moving into darkness to find greater enlightenment, of adulthood that owns and accepts its responsibility, of brothers and sisters of water and the womb, of deeper connection with our emotions and the healing powers of life's process, so that we may both bring and receive that wholeness which is the basis of holiness. As we call this awareness to each of us, may we recognize and accept the blessings that come as well. May we honor the wisdom from the world's religions, which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.
Fifth Voice: We call upon the awareness of the North, of winter, of the turning of the day and the year, of the tree and rock peoples, of wise elders who provide leadership and vision from their experience, of purity which owns all that we are rather than attempting to cut off that which we don't appreciate, of honesty, of integrity. As we call this awareness to each of us, may we recognize and accept the blessings that come as well. May we honor words and deeds of prophetic women and men that challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.
Sixth Voice: We call upon the awareness that comes from within/beyond, the direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and upload life. Each of us will experience it in his or her own way, and that way will be the gift that we bring to all life: the individual expressing acceptance of the grace offered by living fully and freely.
Seventh Voice (to the tune of Amazing Grace):
What grace is this that moves in me
And makes my spirit glow?
As powerful as the endless sea,
and delicate as the foam.
It leads my mind to question awe
And test what comes my way.
Still in my heart there burns a joy
That welcomes each new day.
It gives me ties to all of life
And love for all I see.
It helps me feel a part of all,
And still uniquely me.
What grace is this that moves in us
And makes our spirits glow?
As powerful as the endless sea
And delicate as the foam.
Narrator: In this very part of this continent, Susan B. Anthony told us: "Failure is impossible!" That can only be true if we fulfill the promise of our Unitarian Universalist heritage as individuals, as congregations, in relation to other faiths, and in fully intentional covenant with one another: through recognition of our rich history of speaking truth to power with love, through living in all the creative tension of congregational life now, through continuing our strong tradition of spiritual reflection and theological polylogue. Grateful for the religious pluralism that enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. With this General Assembly, we begin a process of doing this as respectfully and intentionally as possible, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
So Be it! Blessed Be!
Welcome! Welcome. Let our assembly begin!