3091 Bridging Ceremony: "Feeding the Soul"
Sponsor: General Assembly Planning Committee
Reported for UUA.org by Allan Stern; by Allan Stern; edited by Margy Levine Young
The General Assembly 2006 Bridging Ceremony was held on Friday evening, June 23rd, in the main arena at the America's Center in St. Louis. The ceremony welcomes Unitarian Universalist youth into the world of young adults. Matt Meyer, UU young adult, opened with a solo on the drums, along with Jennifer Hazel, Young Adult Observer to the UUA Board, doing the vocals leading the Bridging Chant. The young adults said, "Hey ya, welcome, welcome, welcome," the youth responded, "Glad to be here, glad to be here," and everyone else intoned "The stronger the root, the taller the tree."
GA Moderator Gini Courter gave the welcome and opening words. UUA President Rev. Bill Sinkford continued the opening of the ceremony by lighting the chalice and giving the Gathering Prayer.
Marissa Gutierrez, Youth Ministry Associate in the UUA Youth Office, presented the Youth Advisor of the Year Award to Toniann Read of the UU Metro Atlanta North Congregation. India McNight, Youth Caucus Youth Chaplain, then gave a Reflection. She told of how she was encouraged when starting college in Iowa. She stumbled on connectUU.com and found many mentors, as well as other youth with many of the same concerns.
The assembly then sang the moving ballad "Blue Boat Home" by Peter Mayer, played and sung by Erik Kesting (Bridging Program Director and Young Adult and Campus Ministry Assistant), Matt Meyer, and Jennifer Hazel.
Petra Aldritch from the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry gave another Reflection. She talked about defining the age ranges for YRUU groups. What should the upper age range be? The character of young adult groups changes as older members stay on; their needs and interests are different. Therefore, older young adults should respectfully step back even when they want to stay on.
Aldritch continued, "We graduate 3,000 people from our youth programs every year, but only 1,000 stay in the denomination. Think about that. When I went away to college, I visited the local UU churches but the people didn't know how to talk to me; they kept saying I would make a wonderful UU leader some day; but I had been a UU longer than most of them! And I already was a leader in my youth groups. In my case, I was saved when the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry hired me; but the UUA can't hire everybody!
"The culture in our congregations is by and large unwelcoming to the people who are raised in them," continued Aldritch. "This is particularly true for young people of color who are even less likely to feel at home than their white peers. Tonight, we bridge to find new challenges and new opportunities… a relevant welcome and challenging faith for people of all experiences."
Joseph Santos-Lyons, Campus Ministry and Field Education Director in the UUA Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, then presented the Donna DiSciullo Award for Young Adult and Campus Ministry to Justin M. Schroeder. This award was established in 1995 to recognize the importance of ministry to young adults and to honor people who have contributed to its advancement. Schroeder, who is now entering the seminary, thanked the many ministers and youth advisors who had mentored him through his journey.
Then came the high point of the evening. After an introduction by Michael Tino, UUA Director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, this year's bridging youths took their place at the microphone, introduced themselves, and were then welcomed by the older youth and adults, to loud applause from those present.
Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in Morristown, NJ, then gave the Charge to the Bridgers. She said, in part:
"Do not forget that Unitarian Universalism is a heritage that has served you well, you are not starting out in a vacuum; embrace it as you go forth. Remember the hymn:
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair,
Come yet again, come.
"You will be all of these things; you will be a wanderer, trying things out—lifestyles, careers, identities, and partners... Then I implore you, become a worshipper.
"‘Lover of leaving' is something that happens to us in our young adult years.....Leaving is not always quitting, sometimes it's about answering the question "Who you are" with more certainty. Part of learning to know yourself is to learn to forgive yourself—this is no easy task.
"Seek these kinds of loving communities out. You will need them as you grow in your search. Find communities that are accepting and forgiving but also challenge you to ask the right questions.
"Ours is not a caravan of despair. This is an exciting time for you. You are ready."
Mary Manchester from the Young Adult Network Steering Committee then gave the closing words and benediction.
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