General Assembly 2002 Event 3066
The 8th Annual General Assembly Bridging Ceremony took place in the main hall in the Center Congres convention center. The bridging ceremony celebrates the transition of Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth moving into young adulthood. Forty-five Unitarian Universalists, all about eighteen years old, were recognized at the bridging ceremony this year [see sidebar]. Close to 2000 people were in attendance at this ceremony, including families, participants, youth, and many others.
After a prelude by a choir of young adults, Michael Tino, Director of the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), opening the ceremony with brief words. Diane Olson, moderator of the UUA, brought her greetings. Looking out over the approximately four hundred youth and perhaps four hundred young adults present, Ms. Olson said, "It makes my heart burst with pride and joy to see you all here," adding, "I look forward to the day when there are two thousand of you, because you are our future and we are determined to keep you with us."
Following Ms. Olson, Rev. William Sinkford offered an extended meditation (PDF). He introduced the prayer by saying that religious communities exist in part to help us mark important transitions in our lives, from birth on. In the prayer, he mentioned the grief and joy that parents of bridging youth might experience, saying "For parents, there are personal memories of joy, pride, and loss...that child we remember will live with us only in memory." He also addressed the youth in his prayer, telling them that "We bequeath to you a world still in need of restoration." But he offered hope as well, telling the youth "You can do better than we have. You can see the world through your own new eyes."
Mr. Sinkford recalled his own days in a Unitarian Universalist youth group: "We found a real intimacy in our youth group," he said. "But we wondered why we hadn't been asked to serve on any committees... We wanted to be invited in, invited in by the older members, with real generosity of the spirit," but he felt that that had not happened for him.
"I extend to you that invitation: Come in, be with us. Try things. Succeed and fail. We certainly have. Change us. Your task is simply to bring yourselves, bring your hopes, your dreams, your needs. Our task, though perhaps hard for us, is also simple. It is to welcome you, to exercise the discipline of a radical hospitality," said Mr. Sinkford. He said that his mother once said to him, when he was about the age of the bridging youth, "that she still had it in her to make a difference. She said she could learn from me, she said we could work together."
Mr. Sinkford concluded the prayer by making a promise to the bridging youth: "As you cross this bridge into young adulthood you need not be afraid... We will be there to welcome you on the other side." Mr. Sinkford's prayer was marked by a rising sense of emotion, from a quiet beginning to a strong and passionate ending.
Jennifer Tsoi spoke for the youth. "Be patient—we are young and all we have is our hopes," she said. "We need a home [and] a deliberate effort to nurture our growth." Speaking for the young adults, Jesse Jaeger told the youth, "You are not our leaders of the future, you are our leaders right now," pointing out how youth have been involved in leadership at all levels of Unitarian Universalism. Mr. Jaeger mentioned the UUA's Mind the Gap program, which asks local congregations to help raise money to fund various programs supporting youth and young adults.
Mr. Jaeger will become the new Youth Programs Director at the UUA in July, replacing Jen Devine. Near the end of the ceremony, Ann Lapidus, a youth from the Steering Committee of the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, spoke briefly in recognition of the work of Jen Devine, the outgoing Youth Programs Director. Ms. Devine will be entering the Starr King School for the Ministry in the fall.
Joseph Lyons and Benjamin Ernst next introduced an excerpt from a video that they said "addresses some of the questions that we [young adults] face." In the video, a young adult says campus ministry is a safe place where young adults can explore their spiritual growth. The video is available to congregations through the UUA's Young Adult Office.
KT Michaels and Rev. Hank Pierce then began the bridging ritual. Ms. Michaels said, "This ritual, this religious rite of passage, could not happen without two essential elements: the personal preparation of each young Unitarian Universalist, and the affirmation of the adults community." Ms. Michaels described how the bridging youth had prepared for the ceremony in two workshops at General Assembly. Mr. Pierce spoke of the affirmation of "those Unitarian Universalists who have bridged before," whether formally or informally, and asked those who grew up as Unitarian Universalists to stand. Perhaps one hundred people stood.
During the ritual, each bridging youth walked across the stage accompanied by a young adult. The youth stopped at the microphone in the center of the stage, and spoke her or his name to those gathered. Ms. Michaels and Mr. Pierce greeted the youth at the far end of the stage, where the bridging youth and accompanying young adults assembled until all had walked across.
One of the bridging youth was Danielle Sinkford, daughter of Mr. Sinkford. In a poignant moment, father and daughter clasped hands for a moment as Ms. Sinkford walked across the stage.
When the last bridging youth had symbolically crossed over from youth to young adulthood, all present joined in singing a simple three part song. The young adults sang, "Welcome, welcome, welcome." The youth sang, "Glad to be here, glad to be here." The others in the community sang, "The stronger the root, the taller the tree."
In his closing words, Mr. Tino said we must all "hold our congregations and our association to the highest ideals of Unitarian Universalism. Pay attention not only to who is here but also who is not, and work tirelessly to make our ministry available to all."
This was the list available at press time. There may have been last minute changes or corrections.
Reported by Dan Harper.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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