Synergy Worship: The Call Across All Ages, General Assembly 2012
General Assembly 2012 Event 258
The call to social justice echoes across generations, even as our roles and responsibilities change over time and throughout our lives. Join us in worship and celebration as we honor youth crossing the bridge to adulthood and reflect on the challenges and opportunities this call offers us all.
Order of Service
Synergy: The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
- Prelude: Sing-Along
- Opening Words
- Chalice Lighting
- Hymn: "When Our Heart is in a Holy Place"
The Call Across All Ages
- Voices from across the generations share stories about the call of justice.
- Between stories we will sing verses of "Singing For Our Lives."
- Bridging Ritual: Honoring youth crossing the bridge into adulthood.
- Hymn: "Fire of Commitment"
- Closing Words
REV. KELLIE WALKER: Good evening, and welcome to our Synergy Bridging Service. Before the service actually starts, we're going to do some great singing together to get us going. Are you ready?
REV. KELLIE WALKER: "We Give Thanks" can be done as an echo song. So if you don't know it, just sing it back after I sing each phrase. We'll do it twice. Then there'll be a little instrumental break, and then we'll sing it again.
Hymn: "We Give Thanks"
Singing the Journey #1010
SPEAKER 1: Good evening. We have a brief announcement for the Spanish-only speakers in the audience. We do have Spanish interpretation available. Please see them volunteer at the sound booth in the middle of the hall for more information.
SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
SPEAKER 1: Thank you.
REV. KELLIE WALKER: I have always loved the power and joy of this next song, "Every Time I Feel the Spirit." This African-American spiritual was created and then passed down orally by people who had every reason to give up.
Their great humanity lives on in this song. May we all try to live up to the spirit of hope in these words. Please rise in body or spirit as we sing "Every Time I Feel the Spirit."
Hymn: "Every Time I Feel the Spirit"
Singing the Living Tradition #208
REV. KELLIE WALKER: You can stay [INAUDIBLE] if you'd like. The words to Tom Benjamin's "Calypso Alleluia" are easy. Just alleluia, and then after that verse, us it's blessed be with a few little things thrown in.
If you don't know it, just listen to how the word go with the rhythm until you feel comfortable joining in. And we might do it more than once. We'll see. Whether you remain standing or seated, this song calls for some good energy from all of it.
Hymn: "Calypso Alleluia"
Singing the Journey #1036
REV. KELLIE WALKER: I'm going to take a rest. That's really fast.
[MUSIC: "CALYPSO ALLELUIA"]
REV. KELLIE WALKER: Again, alleluia.
[MUSIC: "CALYPSO ALLELUIA"]
ELISSA MCDAVID: Welcome to this Synergy Service.
ELISSA MCDAVID: My name is Elissa McDavid.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: And I'm Jennifer Channin.
ELISSA MCDAVID: Synergy means the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual effect.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: Our Unitarian Universalist movement is greater than the sum of its parts. Who is the quintessential Unitarian Universalist? Is it the protesters marching with their congregation for compassionate laws wearing a "Standing on the Side of Love" t-shirt?
Is it the retiree who was a board member and greeter in their congregation? Is it the parent who teaches religious exploration classes to children on Sunday mornings? Or is it the youths who hold hands in the song circle at a regional youth conference?
Is it the volunteer or employee who devotes their time to working for one of our many nonprofits affiliated with the UUA? Or is it the college student who leads a UU campus ministry group?
ELISSA MCDAVID: The Synergy Service celebrates the different experiences that Unitarian Universalists have during their lifetime of faith. In particular, we recognize the important transition that our youth make into adulthood, a transition that involves not only personal growth for the youth but also their departure from the religious community of youth groups, regional youth conferences, and UU youth summer camps.
It is an invitation to enter more deeply into the religious communities of young adults in congregations, social justice organizations, campus ministry groups, and young adult groups.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: The subtitle of our service is the "Call Across All Ages" because we recognize that the ways that Unitarian Universalists have responded to the social justice issues of their time has varied across generations and across communities. As we face the most urgent social justice issues in the world today, we are strengthened by this multiplicity of experiences and approaches.
ELISSA MCDAVID: The youth who are bridging today face daunting challenges in the world, some that our ancestors could not have imagined such as global warming and the destruction of the world's ecosystems and the challenges of the peaceful world community in an age where communication is instantaneously and available to so many.
These new problems require new approaches, and we place our trust in the younger people of today to have the vision to see solutions that older generations could not. Other challenges such as poverty, economic inequality, and oppression based on race, religion, sexual identity, and ability have been around for a long time but are no less pressing today than there were hundreds of years ago, despite the many advances won by generations of social activist.
None of us faces these challenges alone. Together all of our efforts combine to create something greater than the sum of each individual efforts. This is what it means to be a multigenerational and multicultural community.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: Just as justice work today is strengthened by the work of generations of countless activists, teachers, leaders, and ordinary people who dared to say no when they witnessed oppression, our chalice today will be lit by a light that has passed through the hands of many different people here.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND JENNIFER CHANNIN: While this light travels toward the altar, our choir will sing.
Hymn: "I Know This Rose"
Singing the Living Tradition #396
JAIMIE DINGUS: We light our flaming chalice so that its light might act as a guide as we bear witness to this call across the ages. We come into this circle of light and transformative power to honor those who are on the cusp of a new journey.
We are here together in this hall of love and connection to encourage our Bridgers and to give recognition to the youth who wave goodbye and the young adult who welcomed them with loving arms. Together in this space we shall witnessed the flame of justice that these Bridgers and those who came before them bring into our hurting world. And in this witness, we will all be transformed. Welcome. Let us worship together.
REV. KELLIE WALKER: Please rise in body or spirit to join in singing UU composer Joyce Poley's "When Our Heart is in a Holy Place."
Kellie: Please rise in body or spirit to join me in singing UU composer Joyce Poley’s "When Our Heart is in a Holy Place."
Hymn: "When Our Heart is in a Holy Place"
Singing the Journey #1008
Introduction to “Call Across All Ages”
ELISSA MCDAVID: Our title for this service was carefully chosen to truly express our them. Though with calling our title, "The Call Across All Ages," this came with much responsibility. We know what we must uphold and honor.
Today generations of our faith will speak of their own challenges, triumphants, and experiences with social justice and the changing world around them as they entered young adulthood. This is what justice looks like throughout the ages. This is the "Call Across All Ages."
REV. KELLIE WALKER: The actual title of this next song is really "Singing For Our Lives," even though it was changed to "We are a Gentle, Angry People" in our gray hymnal as all the hymns there are named for their first line. But "Singing For Our Lives" really captures its essence, don't you think? We will all be singing together a different verse between the speakers, but be thinking about what age group you might identify with. You can cheat I guess if you want.
After the speaker of a certain age group, you will be asked or welcome to stand or wave your arm or do something to be part of your age group. Make some kind of welcoming gesture after your peer group is represented by the speaker and while we sing the next verse.
So think about whether or not you best identify with being of the World War II generation, the Baby Boomers, that would be, me the millil—, millil—t ah, you know what I mean— Generation X, or any other age, and be ready to make yourself know. We'll start with all of us singing. Let's see. Let's all rise. Yeah, we'll all start with all of us.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
REV. KELLIE WALKER: Now you can sit back down.
TED FETTER: I entered my young adulthood in the 1960s, a time of social change and political ferment, peace and freedom, the struggle for civil rights, and questions about the war in Vietnam. It was an exciting time to be becoming an adult.
I was a child of privilege, a son raised in prosperity and educated at a private school. From childhood, I knew some of society's ills, and the fact of racial injustice was obvious to me from an early age. It's simply did not square with my own common sense or with the principles I learned in my upbringing in the Episcopal faith.
I listen and learned. I signed petitions and attended workshops. I argued with my parents. As a college student, I left my comfort zone and tutored in inner city Philadelphia and in eastern Pennsylvania, where I was going to school.
But it was a part-time commitment, one or two days a week. Many of these efforts still reflected my privilege. I am humbled to say that one of the speakers at a workshop was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As for the tutoring, the inner city kids might be learning algebra from me, but I was learning from them about their existence and their realities. There's no doubt about which of us with learning more.
I graduated from college in 1969. That July I got my induction notice, report to the draft board for a physical exam. I was only a little surprised that the bus ride for my suburban draft board location to the Philadelphia army induction center was practically a high school reunion for about 10 of us.
We had all received our bachelor's degrees. Now we had outgrown our draft deferments. We went through the induction process. We were given the attorney general's list of subversive organization, and the sergeant running the process assured us we would not be excused from the draft just by saying we belong even if we really did.
We took the intelligence test. And again, we were told that we couldn't possibly fail even if we deliberately gave wrong answers. We were college graduates, and the Army already knew we were smart enough.
Then came the physical exam. In groups of a few dozen, we marched from one test to another, from one embarrassing thing to the next. I had long since been separated from my high school friends on the morning bus. Now I was among strangers. We were quiet. We did what we were told.
At the end was the part that most of the college grads we're waiting for, the chance to meet with a physician and show him—yes, they were all men—our letters or records that we hoped would give us a medical deferment, trick knees, shoulders the popped out, whatever ailments the book that could grant you a way to avoid Vietnam.
Now I had a pretty good medical excuse. A bicycle accident at the age of 10 had seriously injured my skull, never completely healed. And, yes, the physician looked at the letter and the x-ray I brought along, and he quickly signed the form that exempted me.
Now I knew that I could have served in the military, maybe not in actual combat, but I could have done lots of other jobs. Nevertheless, the Army gave me a 1Y deferment. When I handed the form to the sergeant, I learned a lesson about justice.
It was the end of a long summer day, and the three or four staff who handled the paperwork we're relaxing as they received all the forms from the young men who had their physicals that day. The one who got my papers glanced at them and said, here's another college boy who gets out of it. Here's another who doesn't have to go.
I looked around. Most of the college boys had gone already. The ones who were left were black. They were poor. They were not from the same social class I grew up in.
I went downstairs to board the bus that would take me back to the suburbs. I felt real shame because I knew the system was rotten. And I knew I had benefited. That rotten system assured me my life.
For too many others, that same system gave a different set of boys the very real chance that their lives would end. From that encounter, I recognized more fully my privileged status. I was determined to do some good with it. My commitment grew to antiwar efforts, and I was much more active in promoting peace.
I found a career in the judiciary. And I am proud of many programs I helped to develop that expanded access to the courts for all persons, that improve the way the courts treated the poor and racial minorities and non-English speakers, and that develops new ways to challenge the power of the system.
And I continued to volunteer in education, in racial justice, in Unitarian Universalism. My commitment to justice has never been stronger. And I will not rest. If you identify as being part of my generation or maybe older, please rise in body and spirit while everyone sings the next verse.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
REV. JACQUELINE DUHART: Tender, naive, radical, right, or wrong describes mind mindset in 1972. My drive to succeed and change the world was shaped by the Vietnam War, affirmative action initiatives, and Watergate.
In 1972, I was 17-years old, enrolled in a military high school, and my father was a soldier in Vietnam. My homies were teens whose fathers were also Army soldiers. And all of us were young, gifted, and proud.
Our dad served as ground troops. And like soldiers fighting wars today, our father served multiple deployments in Vietnam. In my last year of high school, I led a small and influential band of rebel rousers.
We clung to each other for affirmation and hope. We place our faith in the soulful teach and brother Marvin Gaye as told in his song "What's Going On." Through song Marvin preached our stories about "Inner City Blues," growing our hair long, picket signs, the environment, corruption, Vietnam, and spiritual healing. Brother Marvin was also searching for fairness and justice. And his music reassured us that we young adults we're not alone.
Affirmative action policies further anointed my sense of fairness and justice. These policies pave the way for my four years of education at Baylor University and opened the door for my first living-wage job. Affirmative action initiatives were meant to pressure institutions into compliance with the nondiscrimination mandate of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
They were intended to make things more fair, compensate for past discrimination, and to address ongoing discrimination. Well-intended, these policies did nothing for the ongoing oppressive attitudes and systems that shackled black students from sunrise to sunset.
I was one of 15 black students who comprised the first wave of affirmative action recruits who graced the hallowed halls of Baylor University. In a covert hostile religious environment, how did we managed to study and address the multifaceted oppressions at the hands of those who invited us.
Every meal we huddled together to share our story. We worship together at the local Baptist church. And because sororities and fraternities were not open to black students on campus, we pledged off campus at the historic college Paul Quinn. And in spite of Baylor University, we formed a social service club on campus.
This club was our social legitimacy. It gave 15 young, gifted, proud, black-skinned students a framework from which we could play, create, educate, and showcase our cultures, our heritage, our gifts, our talents, and our treasures. Today I ask myself was it fair and just for Baylor University with no preparation on behalf of the institution to invite to bring 15 vulnerable black students on campus.
My education about fairness and justice was further fired by the conspiracy and wiretapping and scandals and burglaries and lying and the courtroom drama brought to us by Watergate. My young adult self was angered and entertained and transformed by this real-time soap opera.
How could it be that a commander-in-chief of the United States would lie to those who he had swore before God and country to protect? What does one do when the Supreme earthly model of all that is supposedly good and just about your world is up to no good?
In 1972, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were courageous and fearless young adult reporters. They helped me answer the question of what to do and how to be when evil lurks about. Their journalistic behaviors said, take risks, dare to confront, and tell the stories.
Their risky, confrontative storytelling had the goal to make a positive impact. And their impact contributed to President Richard Nixon resigning from office, only to be pardoned of all wrong doing by President Ford. Fair? Just? I don't know.
I am no longer considered a young adult. And this is not fair.
Middle age I am, and I still grapple with what is fair and just. Today what is different? I am 58-years young, and now I have a social justice mindset. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am a product of yesterday, today, and my dreams for our collective future.
In 1972, I did not know what I did not know. Today I have wisdom born from living my life with the goal to every day to have a positive impact. In 1972, I was tender, naive, radical, and things were either right or wrong.
As I stand before you in this moment, I am tender, naive, radical, and I am conscious about how to use these states of being in service of creating a world where all of God's children will thrive and know happiness. Some things are still right. And some are wrong. But everything is complicated.
In 1972, it was all about me. And today, it is still all about me, but you and you and you.
As a young adult, I was not able to connect that the abuse of power that contributed to Vietnam was the same abuse of power that brought us Watergate and in 1976 a gasoline shortage and an unemployment rate that reached 8%.
Today my justice-making ministry is my lifestyle, not a line on an application or a resume. It is who I am. And it informs how I live every day in the world.
I suspect that one day one of you who identifies today as a young adult will transition to middle age, and a young adult will ask you, hey, what's going on? What's different today? And you will be slightly annoyed and respond, I am different. I have changed. and I am still becoming. The world has changed, and the world is still becoming. And I believe that I and the world need each other for ongoing transformation toward justice.
And if you identify with the my generation, please rise in body or spirit while everyone sings the next verse.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
REV. AARON MCEMRYS: It's 1988. I'm a high school junior in rural Wisconsin, not a bad place to be a kid in a Tom Sawyer kind of way. But the older I get the more jagged and threadbare everything seems.
My town is almost entirely white, and I'm beginning to understand why that is. The Berlin Wall hasn't yet fallen. And our government is selling weapons to Iran and crack on the streets of Los Angeles to fund death squads in Nicaragua.
And I feel cynical. And I feel helpless. And then comes the assignment, write an essay about a political party. Uhh. I mean there are only two I think, and they're both full of old white guys with bad hair.
You could make a really thick coffee table book called congressional hairstyles. But I am a diligent student, and I look up political parties in the Yellow Pages. And here I'm dating myself. There were pages, and they were yellow.
And there it is Democrat, yep. Republican, yep. Socialists, hmmm. And so soon I find myself in a small dingy office in the big city, Milwaukee. And the walls are coated with the residue of 1,000 cigarettes. Books and yellowing newspapers from days gone by rise to the ceiling in great tottering piles. And a very old man greets me with a firm handshake. It was a grownup handshake. Name's Frank.
And just like that, this brief interview unfolds into one of my lives' first great awakenings. It turns out that very old man had been mayor of the city of Milwaukee, a socialist until 1960. And I'd never heard anything about it. Teacher did not cover the socialist mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in class.
And at that time, Milwaukee was and is in Frank's time and in mind's one of the most racially segregated cities in America. And Frank told me how he used to walk block by block through those deliberately forgotten neighborhoods. And he didn't go there to tell people what he was going to do for them or what he was going to do to them. Instead Frank Zeidler asked people about their lives, about how they could be better.
And you what they wanted these people? They wanted running water. They want streetlights. In a big city, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whole neighborhoods were dark.
So Frank Zeidler turned on the light. And Frank listens to me too. And also for the first time I know what it feels like to have someone's complete attention. It's powerful thing to be heard. And later he puts his hand on my shoulder and says, Aaron, you can make a difference. But just remember it's not about statistics or policies or issues.
In the end he tells me, it's always about people, people who love and suffer and dream just like you do. Don't ever forget that he says. Real power comes from where deep suffering meets deep hope and deep love. That's how you change the world.
And so I write my essay. And I hand it in with genuine pride only to have my teacher hand it back to me the very next day. He's wearing a Declaration of Independence tie. And I think I know what's coming.
I can't accept this, Aaron. Just do it over, Democrats or Republicans. Democrats or Republicans. And I look at him and his silly tie, and I feel Frank Zeidler's hand on my shoulder. Nope.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. I pushed the paper back across the desk and say, this is my essay. And he sighs. My teacher sighs, and he writes the letter F in red at the top of the page. And it is the very best grade I've ever gotten.
Sisters and brothers, you know what was happening to me right then when I pushed that paper back? I didn't realize it until I sat down to write this sermon. Sisters and brothers, in that moment I was bridging. I was bridging.
And that very Sunday I'm back in Milwaukee again protesting death squads in the rain. And I have felt Frank Zeidler's hand on my shoulder so many times since then. I've gone on to spend much of my life helping workers form unions.
And I feel his hands as I drink orange soda in a hundred trailer parks listening to the dreams of people that no one has ever listened to before, in the way hotel maids hold their heads up invisible no more, and in the way whole communities of mothers and fathers and grandfathers and neighbors and children form brave and giddy chains to stuff envelopes, make solidarity ribbons, or soup for those who walk the line.
And I see what happens when the circle of life gets bigger, when people realize that union is what happens when we start living like the sisters and brothers we are born to be.
And let me tell you, moments like these may not make the news, but they do happen all the time, all over America, and they cannot be done by any power or any principality anywhere ever. I feel Frank Zeidler's hand every time I reach out to bridge the space between us, every time I tell somebody that they, you are somebody. Just like Frank told me.
When problems seem too big, whose hand is on your shoulder? When you're afraid you can't make a difference, who reminds you that you can? My friends whose life is ready to change for ever if only they are seen and heard by you.
Nobody can break what we build between us. That's what the haters don't want to know that in the end love wins every time.
And I want to end with Frank Zeidler's words, real power comes from where deep suffering meet deep hope, meets deep love. That's how you change the world. And so thank you Frank Zeidler, and thank you to all you Frank Zeidlers out there tonight.
And if you are one of my generation, I invite you stand with me now in body or spirit as we sing.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
REV. REBECCA FROOM: In April 2000, I got on a train to Washington, D.C. I was with a friend. We were both 18-years old about to graduate from high school. And we were on our way to our first protest to protest the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, two institutions with enormous impacts on global economic system world community.
We traveled on this train to our nation's capital angered by the inequality of these practices, upset by our complicity in these practices, ready to march and to holler for change. The call to action of my early young adulthood was the call to end injustices.
Through large-scale protests in the streets of Seattle and Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, people were shouting out for an end to economic policies that created global inequality and environmental degradation.
Protests in Fort Benning, Georgia, were calling for the US Government to shut down the School of the Americas where military leaders had been trained for decades in the arts of war.
Community organizers were fighting to shut down the prison industrial complex and put a stop to racist laws that resulted in a disproportionate number of people of color being incarcerated.
So the rallying cry to the work of justice that I first heard was yelling out the word no, stop, no more. And the thing about yelling is you get tired. You lose your voice, and you just don't have the energy to keep fighting against the monstrosities of the world that as you turn 19 and 20 and 21 and 22 just keep on coming, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the militarization of borders, mountaintop removal and oil spills, anti-immigrant legislation, and economic recession. When there is so much injustice to end, where do we begin and how do we keep going?
During my young adulthood, I've begun to learn that just as important as ending injustice is the work of building healthy, life-affirming communities of justice, of love, of the peace.
I first learned about many of these issues of injustice from my peers, many of whom are still here today from young religious Unitarian Universalists or YRUU. In fact the young woman that I traveled to our very first protest with was a friend I had met at a youth conference.
And church is also where I began to learn how we can build communities where we can support one another in the work for justice over the long haul. In YRUU and later campus ministry spaces, we cultivated a space for worship and small group sharing as well as protest.
And beyond the walls of church and beyond the walls of college, I've run into some of my fellow UU young adults at environmental conferences, community organizing meetings, and potlucks at communities co-ops. We recognize one another by our chalice tattoos and our shared repertoire of songs and chants.
And we talk. We talk about how the principles of our faith that we were so lucky to grow up with how those principles have guided us in our work to fight injustice and in our work to envision and act for a world of justice and compassion and love. See, our world does need us to stand up and say that injustice must end. It must stop. And our world also needs us to listen to one another, to form relationships, and builds networks of solidarity.
So my prayer this evening for all of us is that we can create communities in which our call to end injustice is only part of our larger call to build that world we dream about.
If you identify as being part of my generation, please rise in body or spirits while everyone sings this next verse to our song.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
MACKENZIE KONG-SIVERT: First, I would like to thank the organizers for asking me to speak and taking me seriously as having my own thoughts and opinions. I often hear adults talk about how young people should be in charge of the world not because of some substantial moral thesis they might have, but rather because young people are innocent or pure or hold hands with people or whatever it is you think we do.
They seem to think that young people are just naive, uncorrupted by reality, and would be adorable in a leadership role, and not that they have anything profound or thoroughly considered to say. They seem to think that it is cute that young people think they can help whatever cause they have decided to follow.
I would like to say that I really would like to be recognized as having some substantial point to make and that I am sure the rest of my generation feels the same way.
I would rather the old generations not treat this as if I do not know what I'm doing and do not treat me as if I am a small child stumbling about playing dress up in her parents' clothing. Again, thank you for not acting like this and taking me seriously enough to have me get a reflection.
This is what I love about Unitarian Universalism. People my age in another religion might spend their religious education class time being taught what is right and what is wrong and learning about some story from a text. But I spend my Sundays debating the ethics of torture and discussing what the appropriate level of censorship is.
How many other coming-of-age rituals involve writing a manifesto.
Promoting justice and equality is very important to us, so we want to be taken seriously. Every generation seems to have a cause or perhaps two, but due to faster and more advanced forms of communication, my generation has many. There are many injustices around the world, and we now have access to most if not all of them through our technological advances.
With each generation, the world becomes more connected. And we cannot only appreciate the interconnected web of natural life but the interconnected global web of the global culture. I can support the solutions to local problems such as SB1070. But I can also join some cause from a remote, war-torn, rights-deprived, heavily censored corner of the world. Because in that remote, war-torn, rights-deprived, heavily censored corner, there is a reporter not hired by a news station or some international organization built for the promotion of rights but a civilian who has a cellphone with a camera with which they can photograph the suffering and the injustice and the bloodshed so that this corrupt government cannot continue with impunity.
There is little privacy anymore. This civilian from the remote, war-torn, rights-deprived, heavily censored corner can show the entire world what is happening so we won't be in the dark or at least there is more light than there otherwise would.
In fifth grade, I did an activity with my class in which we imagined that some invading alien species forced us to give up half the rights in the Bill of Rights. Some people in the class voted to discard the right to peaceful assembly, et cetera, because according to them all the protesting was done already, and the world is just now.
I disagree. When you solve one problem, you realize there is another one. And even old problems do not get completely solved. There is still gender inequality in the workplace, for example, and there is a lot of racism.
People think these problems are solved. But there is still a lot of work to do. Now that we have this technology to increase awareness of the problems that need fixing, we must not ignore these issues. The world is unjust and unequal, and we cannot pretend that it is not. Therefore, we must try to do what we can to help. There is no longer a valid excuse.
If you identify as being part of my generation or younger, please rise in body or in spirit while everyone sings the next verse.
[MUSIC: "SINGING FOR OUR LIVES"]
Introduction to Bridging Ceremony
JENNIFER CHANNIN: And now the part many of you have been waiting for. The bridging ceremony is a ritual that Unitarian Universalists have been practicing for many years to mark the transition that our youth make into legal adulthood. But it is more than just a recognition of their individual growth and maturity.
A bridge is a path that connects different places. And in our bridging ceremony tonight, it connects different communities. The communities that the youth here have come from include their congregations, their religious education programs, their youth groups, their districts youth conferences and leadership committees, their UU summer camps and conference center, and the community of youth caucus here at General Assembly in Phoenix and at GAs past in Charlotte, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City.
As they travel across this bridge, they have the opportunity to be welcomed into new communities, communities within their congregations, communities in cities and towns that they move to, campus ministry groups, young adult group, communities such as the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and the communities that form around social justice activism.
ELISSA MCDAVID: But a bridge is not only there to get you from one place to another. A bridge is also there to keep you safe from whatever is below, the river or ravine or highway. Today we not only recognize that our youth are crossing into new experiences and communities, we also affirm our commitment to guide them across safely.
With our support and our welcome, with the wisdom we have gained from our own crossing, with our hands held out to catch them if they stumble, and with words of encouragement to strengthen them when they falter, we are all the beams and supports, the cables and the stones that make up this bridge.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: As our bridging youth walk through the symbolic bridge created by members of the Young Adult Caucus, let us all show them our love and support by singing the traditional bridging song together. And please hold your applause until all the youth have bridged.
Hymn: "Bridging Song"
CHINA RAE NEWMAN: I'm China Rae Newman from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix.
CELESTE ALLEN: I'm Celeste Allen from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix.
BRITTANY GOETZ-SMITH: I'm Brittany Goetz-Smith from the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnesota.
INGO VAN DER HEIDEN: I'm Ingo van der Heiden, Congregation of Northwest Tucson.
CARREL MORGAN: I'm Carrel [INAUDIBLE] Morgan from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami.
EVELYN RIPSOM: I'm Evelyn Ripsom from the First Unitarian Society of Wilmington, Delaware.
NICK HOFFMAN: I'm Nick Hoffman from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of New [INAUDIBLE].
OLIVIA PATRICK: I'm Olivia Patrick of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
ELLEN LUCY: I'm Ellen Lucy [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia.
CORY: I'm Cory [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri.
JAMES KUTZ: I'm James Kutz from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri.
NIKKI ROTH: I'm Nikki Roth, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton.
ALICIA: Hi. I'm Alicia, and I'm from the UU Church of Phoenix.
ALEX SANDBERG: I'm Alex Sandberg of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.
MARKA: I'm Marka [INAUDIBLE] and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Neighborhood Church in Pasadena, California.
SPEAKER: I'm [INAUDIBLE] and I'm from Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, California.
IAN BEND: Hi. My name is Ian Bend, and I am also from the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church of Pasadena.
RACHEL WOOD: I'm Rachel Wood from the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church of Pasadena, California.
ARIEL WOOD: I am Ariel Wood, and I am also from the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church of Pasadena, California.
BEN HILLMAN: I'm Ben Hillman, and I'm also from Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, Pasadena.
EMMA: I'm Emma [INAUDIBLE] I'm from the East Shore Unitarian Church of Bellevue, Washington.
NICHOLAS TOOMEY: I'm Nicholas Toomey I'm from East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church of Bellevue, Washington. Hi, mom.
MARY E. CLARK: I'm Mary E. Clark from the Church of the Larger Fellowship in Los Angeles, California.
IAN GRAY: I'm Ian Gray of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas.
ZACK TAYLOR: Hi, I'm Zack Taylor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.
CHRISTINA: Hi, I'm Christina [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Diego.
MITCHELL DAVIS: Hi. I'm Mitchell Davis from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, California.
LEIGH FRIEDMAN: I'm Leigh Friedman from East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington.
LUKA: Luka [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Society of New Haven.
AVI: I'm Avi [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clearwater.
DORA HUNTINGTON: My name is Dora Huntington, and I'm from the Birmingham Unitarian Church, Michigan.
SCOTT: Hi. I'm Scott [INAUDIBLE] and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis.
EMMA WATSON: I'm Emma Wilson, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames.
IMANI : Hi. My name is Imani [INAUDIBLE] and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Joilet.
ALEX: Hi. I'm Alex [INAUDIBLE], I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix.
SARAH: Hi. I'm Sarah [INAUDIBLE] and I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia.
SPEAKER: Hi, I'm [INAUDIBLE]. I'm a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.
BILLY RIVERA: My name is Billy Rivera. I'm from the First Universalist Church of Denver.
LINDA: Hi. I'm Linda [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Church of Northeast Connecticut.
SARA NICHOLS: Hi. I'm Sara Nichols, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.
MARIAH HELLER: Hi. I'm Mariah Heller, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, New Jersey.
ABBY KIRBY: My name is Abby Kirby, and I am from the University Unitarian Universalist Society in Orlando, Florida.
ZACK FOLEY: I'm Zack Foley, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Massachusetts.
DYLAN YOUNG: I'm Dylan Young, and I'm also from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Massachusetts.
PHIL SMITH: I'm Phil Smith, and I'm also also from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Massachusetts.
HENRY LUKA: My name is Henry Luka, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Canaan Valley.
SOPHIE KOSTAS: Hi. I'm Sophie Kostas from the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Prescott, Arizona.
EVAN: I'm Evan [INAUDIBLE] from the UU Church of Greater Lansing, Michigan.
ALEXANDRA MACK: My name is Alexandra Mack, and I'm from the first Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, California.
ELISSA MCDAVID: As we say goodbye to our Bridgers, I invite all the youth that are present today to stand up and join me in addressing them. This is call and response. Please follow along on the screen. Today as a community we say goodbye, but not for long.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND CONGREGATION: We honor you.
ELISSA MCDAVID: As youth as part of our generation and as part of our faith, we see you leave our beloved community. And though we are sadden to see you go, we are with you.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND CONGREGATION: We are a community.
ELISSA MCDAVID: As you walk the path into young adulthood, remember our community as we remember each of you.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND CONGREGATION: We carry the flame.
ELISSA MCDAVID: Thank you for your leadership, your energy, your passion, your inner chalice.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND CONGREGATION: We honor you.
ELISSA MCDAVID: Everyone please stand if you're able and repeat the congregational litany on the screen.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND CONGREGATION: As a faith, we promise to care for you, provide space for you, and welcome you as you go into the new chapter of your life.
ELISSA MCDAVID: You may be seated.
Charge to Bridging Youth
MICHAEL HAN: I remember when I graduated high school I bridged four times, once at my home congregation, once at the congregation I grew up at, and once at my district youth con. But even after those beautiful ceremonies, I didn't really feel I had bridged until I bridged here at General Assembly.
It was only once I had across this plenary stage that I truly felt like a young adult. There's just something about standing here feeling the power of this place. This can be a profoundly joyful moment, a time for celebration of the youth community, a time for reflection on what it means to grow up, a time for excitement for what the years ahead hold.
But for many, this is also a time of mourning, a time to say goodbye to friends and community, a time for apprehension that there will never again be such a beloved spiritual home as the one you may have found now.
It is important in this time of transition that we hold both the celebrations and the mourning because there is much that you will leave on the youth side. But there is much waiting for you on the young adult end of the bridge. You are entering a wonderful, loving community. And we are so glad that you're here.
In all this, it is also crucial what you carry with you. Each Bridger carries something different. What is it that you choose to bring with you? What gifts do you bring?
Remember too that in this time and place you have a profound responsibility. You who have been youth and are now young adults are not only the future of this association, but you are the vital present, the lifeblood, the courageous voice that calls us to remain true to our Seven Principles.
Here more than anywhere else your presence is so very needed. Historically in our association, it has been the youth and the young adults who lead us to change.
This year we gather in Phoenix for something we have never done before, for something that has the power to change who we are as an association for the better if we let it. We need you for this. We need your energy, your wisdom, your vision, and your faith.
So this is my charge to you. Live your values boldly. Witness for what is good and right. Be on the side of love. Go out into the world and find yourself, but know that this community will always be here. Blessed be and Amen.
REV. KELLIE WALKER: I invite you to rise in body and spirit as we sing a closing hymn, "The Fire of Commitment."
[MUSIC: "THE FIRE OF COMMITMENT"]
Hymn: "Fire of Commitment"
ELISSA MCDAVID: Leave with courage to cross the bridges that come your way rooted in the courage displayed by those who have come before.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: Leave trusting the strength of love within growing from the love that flows through all ages.
ELISSA MCDAVID: Go now, learning from those who have made a life of justice work.
JENNIFER CHANNIN: Go now, trusting in the power of our love to guide us to new promises and new horizons.
ELISSA MCDAVID AND JENNIFER CHANNIN: May it be so for many generations to come.