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Opening Celebration and Plenary I, General Assembly 2002
General Assembly 2002 Event 1023
Canadian Culture Flavors General Assembly Opening Celebration
(Québec, CA—June 20, 2002) Shortly after 7:00 p.m. in the plenary hall of the ultra-modern Centre des Congrès overlooking the old city of Québec, the lights dimmed. Rev. Kathleen McTigue, senior minister of the Unitarian Society of New Haven (Hamden, CT) stepped to the podium to begin the Opening Celebration of the 41st General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). McTigue called for a moment of reflection and silence as attendees reflected in silence on the events of the past year, including a response to the tragedies of September 11. Joyce Gilbert, past president of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians' Network and a member of the Rochester, NY, Unitarian Church, led the delegates in a rousing rendition of "The Little Light of Mine" to end the period of silence and reflection. Leon Burke, choir director of Eliot Unitarian Chapel, Kirkwood, MO, provided accompaniment.
After a responsive reading, the congregation sang "Enter, Rejoice and Come In," and the chalice was lit by an intergenerational group of Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from across North America: Julia and Sam Teitel (Marblehead, MA), Tom, Ticie, and Alden Rhodes (Knoxville, TN), Jennifer Forecki (Milwaukee, WI), Tamara and Kalaya Payne-Alex (San Jose, CA). A reading, "To Weave the Threads of Our Lives" ("Tisser les fils de nos vies") followed, along with a First Nation greeting that acknowledged our presence on the sacred land of the Huron-Wendat Nation. Raymond Gros Louis offered the greeting, translated by Gilles Kovac, and then called the four directions and smudged the participants with burning sage and a feather, as participants stood over a sacred bear skin.
Kathryn McIntyre, Trustee from the St. Lawrence District, talked about the history of General Assemblies in Canada. McIntyre then introduced Canadian musician Tess LeBlanc and her band, who offered several selections of music from across Canada, including Acadian tunes and clog dance pieces as representatives from the congregations brought in their colorful banners.
Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the Association, offered a story for all ages adapted from the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss. Shingebiss, a duck, confronts the spirit of nature and manages to prevail, with respect for the interdependence of the environment in which he exists.
Following the story and a musical interlude, six individuals shared their perspectives on the theme of transformation. Moderator Diane Olson introduced Taquiena Boston, Lucia Santini Field, and Manish Mishra. Boston, Director-designate of the UUA Identity-Based Ministries staff group, talked about her upbringing in a biracial family and the aspirations of her mother for her children. Lucia Santini Field, a member of the Socially Responsible Investment Committee, reflected on the ways UU values have brought about change in the management policies of large companies. Manish Mishra, a seminarian, talked about his diverse background as a Hindu, a gay man, a young adult, a seminarian, and an Asian-American, and gave thanks for the way in which Unitarian Universalism affirms all of who he is.
Sinkford returned to the stage to introduce his daughter, Danielle, Rev. John Gibbons, minister of the Bedford (MA) UU congregation, and Ms. Darihun Khriam. Ms. Sinkford, who graduated from high school in June and will attend American University studying international relations, discussed her visit to India to experience the work of the Holdeen India Program. Gibbons, a leader of the Partner Church Council, discussed the life-changing interaction he and the members of his congregation have had with the Unitarians of Transylvania. Ms. Kriam, the first female church visitor from the Unitarian Churches of the Khasi Hills in India, is concluding a nine-month period as a staff member of the UUA in the Office of International Relations. She talked about the differences between life in a remote Indian village and life in metropolitan Boston.
Following the singing of "Amazing Grace," a song about transformation, led by Tess LeBlanc and her musicians, Diane Olson took the stage and gaveled the 41st General Assembly to order. The Rules of Procedure were unanimously adopted, and several other procedural items were covered. Then seven new congregations were welcomed into membership in the Association: Sedona UU Fellowship, Sedona, AZ; Namaqua UU Congregation, Loveland, CO; the UU Fellowship of Salina, KS; All Souls Community Church, Grand Rapids, MI; UU Congregation of the Swannanoa Valley of Black Mountain, Black Mountain, NC; the UU Church of the Hill Country, Kerrville, TX; and the All Souls UU Community, Lacey, WA.
Following closing words offered by Don McKinnon, Trustee of the Prairie Star/Western Canada District, and a closing hymn, "Love Will Guide Us," Olson declared the General Assembly to be in recess until Friday, June 21 at 8:30 a.m.
Reported by Deborah Weiner; edited by Lisa Presley.