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Service of the Living Tradition, General Assembly 2012 Worship

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General Assembly 2012 Event 355

Report from UU World

Program Description

The Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group invites you to join us at this service where we welcome credentialed religious leaders, remember those who have died, recognize those who have completed active service and honor the shared ministry that calls us all to service in Unitarian Universalism.

The sermon is delivered by the Rev. Karen Tse, an International human rights attorney and former public defender. As part of her graduating thesis at Harvard Divinity School, she founded International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), whose mission is to end torture as an investigative tool and implement due process rights by placing lawyers at an early stage in police stations and courtrooms. IBJ is now active with programs and Justice-makers in 32 countries. She received an honorary doctorate of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2010. Karen lives in Switzerland with her husband and two boys Noah and Nathaniel.

Order of Service

  • Ingathering Music
    • “Wake Now My Senses”
    • “For All The Saints”
    • “How Can I Keep From Singing”
  • Welcome: The Reverend Sarah Lammert
  • Calling Forth Preliminary Fellows: The Reverend Wayne Arnason
  • Calling Forth Credentialed Religious Educators: The Reverend Doctor Linda Olsen Peebles
  • Calling Forth Credentialed Music Leaders: Elizabeth H. Norton
  • Calling Forth Final Fellows: The Reverend Wayne Arnason
  • Calling Forth those Completing Full Time Service: The Rev. Richard S. Gilbert
  • Opening Hymn: “Rank by Rank”
  • Chalice Lighting
  • Introit/Choral Response: "Beloved, Let Us Love One Another"
  • Intro to Remembering Those Who Have Died: Rev. Peter Morales
  • Reading the Names of Those Who Have Died
  • Prayer: Rev. Morales
  • Silence
  • Choral Response: “Peace, My Heart”
  • Reading: The Reverend Karen Tse
  • Hymn: “Spirit of Life/Fuente de Amor”
  • Sermon: "NamMyohoRengeKyo—Trespassing Into Prophetic Imagination*" by The Reverend Karen Tse
  • Reflection: “Wallflower”
  • Offering for the Living Tradition Fund: Rev Sean Parker Dennison
  • Offertory: “Variations on a Russian Folksong”
  • Closing Hymn: “Life Calls Us On”
  • Benediction: Reverend Mitra Rahnema
  • Closing Hymn: “Life Calls Us On”
  • Recessional: “Love One Another”

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.

Ingathering Music

Jason Shelton, Choir and Congregation

“Wake Now My Senses”

Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call;
feel the deep power of being in all;
keep, with the web of creation your vow,
giving, receiving as love shows us how.

Wake, now, my reason, reach out to the new;
join with each pilgrim who quests for the true;
honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry;
voices of suffering fill the wide sky;
take as your neighbor both stranger and friend,
praying and striving their hardship to end.

Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide;
join with all people whose rights are denied;
take not for granted a privileged place;
God’s love embraces the whole human race.

Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
brighten my pathway with radiance here;
mingle my calling with all who will share;
work toward a planet transformed by our care.

“For All The Saints”

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name most holy be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast our rock, their shelter, and their might,
their strength and solace in the well fought fight;
thou, in the darkness deep their one true light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion of the saints divine!
We live in struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
                    
And when the strife is fierce, the conflict long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

“How Can I Keep From Singing”

My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing!

What though the tempest ‘round me roars, I know the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness ‘round me close, songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love prevails in heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing!

When tyrants tremble as they hear the bells of freedom ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near, how can I keep from singing!
To prison cell and dungeon vile our thoughts to them are winging;
when friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing!

Welcome

The Reverend Sarah Lammert

Every year we gather in this special ceremony to honor the accomplishments of our newly credentialed ministers, religious educators and musicians and the final fellowship of ordained clergy, to celebrate the many years of dedicated service of our newly retired credentialed professionals, and to mourn the deaths of our precious colleagues who have died over the past year.

We recognize that the ministries to which these professionals are called come forth from the lay people with whom they serve. Traditions such as this service provide the grounding from which we can imagine new ways of being. At its best, the Service of the Living Tradition is an annual opportunity to reconsider who and what we are to be as Unitarian Universalists. As we celebrate this 51st year since the consolidation, we look forward to being charged newly to live into the great potential of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

This year we extend a special welcome to our local partners and friends who have joined us from the wider Phoenix area.

We are grateful for your presence with us this evening, and we acknowledge the complexities of celebrating this tradition in this time and place in Arizona. We also extend a special welcome to our international guests, and to the family members of our deceased ministers who are being honored this evening.

Ministry is many things. It can be a moment of transcendence created in song or prayer; a meeting of the hearts across the generations; an offered hand in a time of trouble.

Tonight we lift up the ministry of justice, that prophetic call of old which rings new in us today.

As we now begin our calling forth, you are invited to raise a glad noise as our honorees venture onto the stage.

Calling Forth Preliminary Fellows

The Reverend Wayne Arnason: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have received Preliminary Fellowship as Unitarian Universalist Ministers:

  • Scott Aaseng
  • Anne Beverley Swanson Bancroft
  • Darcy C. Baxter
  • Robert Bruce Beisner
  • Amy Beltaine
  • Laura Bogle
  • Michelle Buhite
  • Seth Carrier
  • Evin Carvill-Ziemer
  • Tamara Casanova Suzuki
  • Catherine Chang
  • Heather L. Christensen
  • Kelli Clement
  • Carole Frances Czujko
  • Charles Dieterich
  • Jennifer Ann Dillinger
  • Susan Margarete Stine Donham
  • Glenn Coleman Farley
  • Barnaby Feder
  • Rebecca H. Froom
  • Ruth Elizabeth Greenwood
  • Gretchen Haley
  • Kali Hayslett
  • Ashley Horan
  • Norm Horofker
  • Catherine Mie Ishida
  • Megan Lloyd Joiner
  • Neal Robert Jones
  • Kate Landis
  • Walter S. LeFlore
  • Anne H. Mason
  • Lisa McDaniel-Hutchings
  • Carmen McDowell
  • James Martin McReynolds
  • David H. Messner
  • Dara Kaufman-LeDonne Olandt
  • James Parrish
  • Duffy Peet
  • Ronnie David Phares
  • Ellen Quaadgras
  • Laura R. Randall
  • Erik Martinez Resly
  • Dennis W. Reynolds
  • Ian Widdifield Riddell
  • Jonathan Rogers
  • Pamela M. Rumancik
  • Nathan Ryan
  • Karon Sandberg
  • Jason Seymour
  • Laura Shennum
  • Lise Adams Sherry
  • Frances Sink
  • Meg Soens
  • Colleen R. Squires
  • Marcia Louise Stanard
  • Cathy Rion Starr
  • Luke David Stevens-Royer
  • Deanna Marie Vandiver
  • Michael Walker
  • Patty Christiena Willis
  • Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe
  • Sharon Wylie
  • Anastassia Zinke

Calling Forth Credentialed Religious Educators

The Reverend Doctor Linda Olsen Peebles: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have completed the credentialing process for Masters level certification in Religious Education:

  • Pam Howell

The Reverend Doctor Linda Olsen Peebles: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have been certified as Credentialed Religious Educators:

  • Katy Carpman
  • Sonja Jensen
  • Diane L. Melvin
  • Leah Purcell
  • Annie Jeannette Scott
  • Eleanor VanDeusen
  • Halcyon Westall

Calling Forth Credentialed Music Leaders

Elizabeth H. Norton: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have been certified as Credentialed Music Leaders:

  • Karen Bauman
  • Dana Decker
  • Linda Jean Niemann
  • Anne Watson Born

Calling Forth Final Fellows

The Reverend Wayne Arnason: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have received Final Fellowship as Unitarian Universalist ministers:

  • Alice F. Anacheka-Nasemann
  • Neal Terence Anderson
  • Stephen Atkinson
  • Anne Barker
  • Christopher T. Bell
  • Linda B. Berez
  • Colin Norris Bossen
  • Lyn Burton
  • Peter D. Connolly
  • Ellen Cooper-Davis
  • Jean Siegfried Darling
  • Philip Douglas
  • Russell Elleven
  • Caroline “Cary” Eustis
  • Allison Ward Farnum
  • Heather Fraser Fawcett
  • Karen Fraser Gitlitz
  • Claudia M. Frost
  • Eliza Cooke Galaher
  • Jude Geiger
  • Sally Jane Hamlin
  • Jennifer Hamlin-Navias
  • Fred L Hammond
  • Patty Hanneman
  • Marshall Hawkins
  • Karen Hering
  • M. Lara Hoke
  • Alex Holt
  • Sara Hayman Huisjen
  • Laura Friedman Imayoshi
  • Chris Holton Jablonski
  • Robert Grant Janis-Dillon
  • Xolani Kacela
  • Linda Pashby Kaufman
  • Amy Z. Kindred
  • Katherine Lawson
  • Kate Lore
  • Beth Marshall
  • Carole Martignacco
  • Gregory William McGonigle
  • Benjamin Walker Meyers
  • Gabriele L. Parks
  • Sarah Person
  • Hannah Hope Petrie
  • Patti A. Pomerantz
  • Amanda Katherine Poppei
  • Cricket Potter
  • Elizabeth A. Putnam
  • Mitra Rahnema
  • Adam Robersmith
  • Jessica Purple Rodela
  • Carol Sampson Rudisill
  • Lisa Anne Sargent
  • Paul S. Sawyer
  • Janet Shortall
  • Lynda Channa Smith
  • Barbara E. Stevens
  • Catherine Stivers
  • Karen I. Tse
  • Tracey L. Wilkinson

Calling Forth those Completing Full Time Service

The Rev. Richard S. Gilbert: I call forth from among you, these persons, who have completed their careers of Full-Time Service to our congregations.

  • Susan Davison Archer
  • Jay Atkinson
  • Rhett D. Baird
  • Donald Beaudreault
  • Sheldon W. Bennett
  • Alida DeCoster
  • Marie deYoung
  • M Raymond Drennan
  • Alexandra Geer
  • Timothy D. Haley
  • William T. Haney
  • Lillie Mae Henley
  • Walter Jonas
  • Elizabeth A. "Kit" Ketcham
  • Peter E. Lanzillotta
  • William “Bill” Leggett
  • Michael McGee
  • Eric Ness
  • Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar
  • Susann Pangerl
  • Barbara J .Pescan
  • Paul Ratzlaff
  • Kayle Louise Rice
  • Willard Robinson
  • Katie Stein Sather
  • Douglas Sears
  • Grace H. Simons
  • Kathleen "Kate" Tucker
  • Susan Videen
  • Walter F. Wieder
  • Sydney Wilde

The Rev. Mitra Rahnema: And let us call forth…..

Let us call forth the ministry of the universe that shows up for us every day in that great exchange between humanity and earth. The ministry that is pulsing all around asking us to reveal its beauty.

Let us call forth the ministry of that arc of justice, the expanding world of passionate and fierce love that lights us on fire and calls us to take active witness.

Let us call forth the shared ministry of humbling ourselves, of opening our hearts to one another, of vulnerability, that calls us to believe in our own spirit of life.

Let us call forth the ministry of humanness that reminds us over and over that life itself is worthy, resilient and filled with possibility.

The soft breeze, the scent of another, the touch of the sun, a deep breath, the strength of a witness, the solidarity of a stranger, the fresh compassion of cool water, the Synergy of Humanity, all of it is the world's great call. Therefore, let us call upon the ministry that pervades our deepest sorrow and our deepest hope for life itself. In this moment, in this place, in this time, let Unitarian Universalism itself invoke the ministry of the world that is waiting to be called.

Let us join together in song, Rank by Rank.

Opening Hymn: “Rank by Rank”

Rank by rank again we stand,
from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls demand
whence we come and how, and whither.
From their stillness breaking clear,
echoes wake to warn or cheer; 
higher truth from saint and seer
call to us assembled here.

Ours the years' memorial store,
honored days and names we reckon,
days of comrades gone before, 
lives that speak and deeds that beckon.
From the dreaming of the night
to the labors of the day,
shines their everlasting light,
guiding us upon our way.

Never from that summons swerve;
Hark the prophets’ living chorus,
Truth and freedom still to serve
Show the present way before us.
As we hope, so shall we dare—
Hands to labor, hearts to prayer;
Clouds of witness call us on,
That a nobler age may dawn.

Though the path be hard and long,
still we strive in expectation;
join we now their ageless song
one with them in aspiration.
One in name, in honor one,
guard we well the crown they won;
what they dreamed be ours to do,
hope their hopes, and seal them true.

The Rev. Jason Shelton: Please be seated.

Chalice Lighting

Gregory Boyd speaking, Jaimie Dingus lighting the chalice

We light the Chalice as a symbol of our unity, of our common search for truth and meaning, of our wish to stay and struggle for those things that we have chosen to share with love and responsibility.

We also spread these rose petals as a symbol of our spiritual freedom, and in blessing one another, we acknowledge that the truth is God and the only sure means is love, in all cultures and in all creeds.

Encendemos el Cáliz como símbolo de nuestra unidad, de nuestra búsqueda en común de la verdad y el sentido; de nuestro deseo de permanencia y lucha sobre las cosas que hemos elegido compartir con amor y responsabilidad.

Esparcimos estos pétalos de rosas como símbolo de nuestra libertad espiritual, al bendecir los unos a los otros, reconocemos que la verdad es Dios y el único medio seguro es el amor, en todas las culturas, y en todos los credos.

Introit/Choral Response: "Beloved, Let Us Love One Another"

Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is of God.
And everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
They that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.
Beloved, let us love one another,
for God is love.

Intro to Remembering Those Who Have Died

Rev. Peter Morales

Each year we honor whose legacy is the ministry of our faith. As we have for generations, we will read the names of those who died during the last year.

To live is to create a legacy. 

The legacy of these men and women are acts of love and service. Although much of ministry is public, more of it is private and hidden from view. Ministry is countless acts of comfort, nurture, listening, counseling and conversations that are never seen. 

As I call the roll of those ministers who have died, let us hold the memory of their ministries in our hearts.

Reading the Names of Those Who Have Died

The Reverend Peter Morales

  • The Reverend Dorris Dow Alcott
  • The Reverend Wells E. Behee
  • The Reverend Bruce Maxfield Clary
  • The Reverend John Main Coffee, Jr.
  • The Reverend Dr. David Harris Cole
  • The Reverend Dr. Sidney L. Freeman
  • The Reverend David Gilmartin
  • The Reverend Lawrence M. Hamby
  • The Reverend Mary M. Kapper
  • The Reverend Dorothy Wilson "Dot" Kimble
  • The Reverend Dr. Roger Otis Kuhrt
  • The Reverend Dr. Ruppert L. Lovely
  • The Reverend Richard Reno Neff
  • The Reverend James Chandler "Chan" Newton
  • The Reverend Dr. George J.W. Pennington
  • The Reverend Dr. Wayne Shuttee
  • The Reverend Dr. Roger Horace Smith
  • The Reverend Dr. Virginia Vaught Sparling
  • The Reverend John A. "Jack" Taylor
  • The Reverend Robert Atherton "Bob" Thayer
  • The Reverend Donovan E. White

The Rev. Dr. Virginia Jones Newton will light the Memorial Candle.

Prayer

Rev. Morales

Please join me in a spirit of prayer.

Spirit of life and love that lives within us and among us, let us feel your presence.

We mourn the loss of these good ministers. We have lost dear friends. We have lost men and women who mentored us, inspired us, consoled us. Never more will we converse with them, see their smiles, feel their touch.

May we be filled with profound gratitude for their lives. They kept the faith. They stood on the side of love year after year. They worked for justice. They handed on a precious tradition. Their lives continue to inspire us and to give us hope.

May we be worthy heirs of their legacy. The work of love is not done. Their ministries are now our ministries.

We pray for consolation for those closest to these departed. May they feel our compassion. May they find comfort.

Now, in silence, let each of us honor those who have passed and reflect on our on our place in this living faith.

Silence

Choral Response: “Peace, My Heart”

Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment,
and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.

Reading

The Reverend Karen Tse

Martin Luther King, 1963 speech at a political rally in Washington, DC, to raise public awareness of racial issues and support the civil rights bill introduced by the Kennedy administration, excerpt:

But as we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment…This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Vaclav Havel’s address to the U.S. Congress, 21 February 1990, excerpt:

…a legacy of countless dead, an infinite spectrum of human suffering, profound economic decline and, above all, enormous human humiliation. It has brought us horrors that fortunately you have not known….I shall therefore limit myself to a single idea. The specific experience I’m talking about has given me one great certainty: consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around…For this reason, the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect in human meekness and in human responsibility.

Hymn: “Spirit of Life/Fuente de Amor

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Fuente de Amor, ven hacia mí.
Y al corazón, cántale tu compasión.
Sopla al volar, sube en la mar,
Hasta moldear la justicia de la vida.
Arráigame, libérame,
Fuente de Amor, ven a mí, ven a mí.

Sermon: "NamMyohoRengeKyo—Trespassing Into Prophetic Imagination*"

The Reverend Karen Tse

*(I believe that it is possible for us to End torture as an investigative tool in our lifetime, and to do so, we must have both the prophetic imagination as well as the commitment to will this into being. In my experience and that of our defenders and staff, the enactment of this commitment is often perceived as a threat by multiple layers of society. And thus the title “Trespassing into (the enactment ) of Prophetic Imagination.” My hope in this call to action is that we as Unitarian Universalists also Move from Fear to Hope on this issue, and, if required, that you trespass with us into prophetic imagination.)

For more than a century, Unitarians and Universalists have been on the front lines for justice: against abolition, irreplaceable in the effort to promote equality across gender. And now in Arizona we are determined to ensure that our UU presence matters, to be a witness against the systematic oppression of the recent immigration legislation.

Today is a sacred homecoming to me: to be here amongst and before you, Keepers of the Peace and Justice, at Justice GA. This song—"Spirit of Life"—has walked with me and fellow defenders through prisons and through challenging times, [as have] the inspirations of (countless) Unitarian Universalists who have gone before us and are present with us today.  And then there are the words of Unitarian Universalist Wayne Arnason, “Take Courage Friends.” These words  have journeyed with us and have been shared and adopted by International Bridges to Justice defenders worldwide, because [these courageous] defenders working to help the tortured sometimes become the very [victims] of what they are fighting against. (Lawyers go to court, say their client was tortured and at the end of the trial are ordered handcuffed, brought to jail and tortured.) For these and many others fighting for justice, in the midst of tenuous and challenging times, the words of Arnason have inspired hope, given comfort  and solidified commitment among defenders bound together in the mutual faith that their efforts in pursuit of what many see as a hopeless lost cause will not be in vain. So today, it is in the grateful acknowledgement of the power of these Unitarian Universalist words, “Take Courage Friends, the Road is often Long. The path is never clear. The stakes are very high,” that I invoke these powerful words and invite you deeper into this sacred journey with us. So that the refrain, “But deep down, there is another truth… You are not alone,” becomes a journey together into the fulfillment of our prophetic imagination. It is a one that needs our UU voice and support.

This particular journey began for me in 1994 when I walked into a prison in Cambodia and met a 12-year-old boy who had been tortured and denied access to counsel. I looked into his eyes and realised that, though I had written hundreds of letters for political prisoners, I would never have written a letter for him.  He was not a 12-year-old boy who had ‘done’ something important for anybody; he was not a political prisoner; he was a 12 year old boy who had stolen a bicycle. What I also realised at that point was that it wasn’t only Cambodia, but that this type of abuse was widespread in developing countries. Everyday in countries throughout the world people are detained, tortured and denied access to counsel. Most of the victims are ordinary poor people too poor to hire a lawyer to guarantee their rights. This abuse, I realized, is 100 percent preventable because the majority of the countries had passed laws to protect citizen rights, but lacked the international support and resources for implementation. Because of this, in the year 2000 I founded IBJ and began to organize and support networks of defenders worldwide to support this task of ending torture and implementing due process rights.

Since that time of beginning, IBJ has witnessed the heroic actions and determination of many defenders who have come together. Yet, despite their heroic action, many do it with almost no support. In many ways, they are like the Samaritans of Jesus’ time. Remember in those days, Samaritans were regarded to be “the least of all humanity.” Yet, it was the Samaritan, and not the priest or the respected Levite, who stopped to help the bloodied traveler who had been left for dead by the robber. Many of the IBJ defenders today are doubly outcast, for they are the ones taking care of the least of our brothers and sisters, those who may be accused of crimes or accused of being common criminals. Because they are not taking care of the more glamorous human rights cases, they unfortunately do not possess the status of being viewed as traditional human rights heroes. It is internationally very difficult for them to receive support, but they continue in this struggle.

NamMyohoRengeKyo—Trespassing into Prophetic Imagination

When I first worked in Cambodia in early 1994, there were fewer than ten lawyers in the country who had survived the Khmer Rouge period. I remember walking into a prison and meeting a woman and asking why she was there. “Because my husband committed a crime ten years ago and they could not find him,” she said. It was a system where there was literally no rule of law. My task was first to train and work with a group of Cambodians who would become the first public defenders in the country.  With literally thousands of men, women and children in jail who had suffered and were continuing to suffer the abuses of a defunct legal system, their job was literally to create a revolution in the hearts and minds of not only their fellow countrymen and women, but also in themselves.  They had to imagine a completely different system where people were not routinely brought in and tortured.  They had to imagine a different system where people had a basic right to defense.  They had to imagine a different system where bribes and corruption were not routine.  And they had to imagine and believe that in a system that did not acknowledge an active role for them, they could create one within it.  I must tell you that this was not an easy task.  Under threat, many told us that we would never make it.  Yet now, years later, there is a system where the accused have the right to a lawyer and actually often get one. There are police officers who have decided to stop torturing, there are defenders defending and there are court and prison officials who no longer turn a blind eye to the practices of torture once widely and commonly accepted.  This happened because in this one small area, the Cambodians were able to see and transport themselves beyond the vision of their torturous past. It happened because police who tortured were able to imagine themselves as something beyond what their role had been. It happened because defenders were able to imagine themselves in a system that previously did not have a place for them, and it happened because judges and prosecutors were willing to look beyond their past and present roles and see a different one for themselves in the future.  Their tenacity in having the strength and the vision to not only be tied to their past, or their present circumstances, but also to see themselves and their realities as projected into the future, created a victory that has impacted the lives of thousands and thousands of Cambodians.  IBJ has opened six Defender Resource Centers in Cambodia, and just last month IBJ signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Cambodia Ministry of Justice to provide early access to counsel to every man, woman and child in their country.

In the actions of those courageous defenders who are creating the legal system lives the wisdom of the Great Gull who commanded Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “Begin to Press Power Into Your New Wings.  Find Out Who You Are, See Who You Are Becoming.”  We must never be limited by the experiences of our past, or by our limited visions of who we are in the present.  Instead, let our vision for ourselves encompass our dreams and what we hope to create for the future.  Let it be who we are becoming.

How, though, do we become? A Vietnamese Buddhist monk was asked, “What can we do to save the world?” He paused, and many people thought he would give a long complicated treatise. But after some consideration, he gave a very simple answer, “To save the world, we must first allow ourselves to hear the cries of the world.” This I believe, for I see also, in the midst of so much overwhelming sadness and pain, we often become numb. I know that hearing the cries of the world is not always easy, and so the blessing that I learned at Rissho Kosei-kai and I offer our defenders trespassing into prophetic imagination-NamuMyohoRengeKyo—I offer to you also.

And I also thank you today for being on this journey with us. In many ways, my warrior self has aided me in my pursuit of this vision of ending torture as an investigative tool. I am a lawyer by training and was a public defender before going to divinity school and becoming a UU minister. This lawyer part of me is practical, pragmatic, strategic. And while I work in the world of prisoners, people sometimes comment that my attitude and approach is intensely that of one who takes no prisoners. This part of me wants to win and to conquer the problem. And while this will also be a part of me, what I know today, is that the success of our movement depends not only on our warrior selves, but also the characteristics of the Shambala warrior, who understands that we must bring compassion and interconnectedness to the very corridors of power.  In the words of Tibetan monk Chogyam Trungpa,“Vision and practicality can be joined together in nowness.” Too often people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching the earth, touching the ground. I learned to touch the ground in my human rights work many years ago, and, since then, spirituality, which had not previously been a part of my work or approach, became the basis of what I do.

Unexpectedly, when I was working as a human rights lawyer in Cambodia almost 20 years ago, I encountered the most profound advice I had yet received regarding my human rights work from a most unlikely source: my spiritual guides. I went to my Buddhist meditation teacher, and I remember standing on the roof and talking to him. “I don't know what to do,” I said. His words were simple:

“Remember that whatever you focus on will grow.” I also sought advice from Sister Rose, an Indian nun from Mother Teresa's order. She ran the Missionaries of Charity orphanage where I volunteered in my spare time. I asked her a similar question, “What should I do?” After a moment of thought, her answer, too, was simple: “You must seek to find the Christ in each person, or you must seek to find the Buddha in each person. Then you must work with that Christ or Buddha.” Like my meditation teacher, she believed in the power of transformative love.

While we do this work, we do it not only for the world, but we do it for the transformation of ourselves. In Fruitful Darkness, Joan Halifax said, “Gandhi was asked by his friend if his objectives in serving the poor were purely humanitarian. Gandhi replied, “Not at all. I am here to serve no one else but myself, to find my own self-realization through the service of these village folk.” India’s liberation is Gandhi’s. Ultimately the transformation of others is our transformation.

I remember a time in Vietnam about 10 years ago meeting a man who did a remarkable thing. He built safehouses for children who were formerly street children and who would go to the airport to pickpocket people.  It was amazing the camaraderie these kids had in helping one another.  I was inspired, so I asked him, “How did you start this?  What inspired you?  How did it begin? What effect has it had?”  And he said, "You know, a number of years ago I was a heroin addict and I was coming in and out of jail and I just said to myself well, you know, this is my life.  But one day I observed a policeman pick up a young boy for stealing some eggs and beat him, and I knew he was going to jail.  And I knew this was happening everywhere. I turned to my friends and said, ‘You know, I don’t think this is right. Maybe it’s ok that we go to jail, but these kids shouldn't be.’ I was a heroin addict at the same time, but there was something I thought we could do. So I took off my hat, passed it around and said, ‘Let’s do something.’  We chose Sundays as the day where the children could actually be children, when they didn’t have to work/pickpocket.  We brought them to the zoo to get haircuts and play for the day.  We built up support and created a safehouse.” What I thought was interesting was he said: "I started this because I wanted to help children, but in the process I myself was transformed.”  I think it's a powerful testament that when we do things to transform a situation, we ourselves see a transformation within. I see today that there is an urgent opportunity for us as Unitarian Universalists to transform not only the world, and ourselves, but also to be a movement whose voice is increasingly relevant.

Out of the 113 developing countries that torture, 93 of these countries have passed laws that say you have the right to a lawyer and you have the right not to be tortured. This is an incredible window of opportunity to come together as a global community and put an end to torture as an investigative tool. We often think of torture as political torture or reserved for just the worst. But in fact 95% of torture today is not for political prisoners; it is for people who are in broken down legal systems. And, unfortunately, torture is the cheapest form of investigation. It’s cheaper than having a legal system, and it is cheaper than having a lawyer. Torture is what happens most of the time to everyday poor people in developing countries who cannot afford a lawyer.  But because of the laws, investigative torture today is 100% preventable. I believe that if we so decide and commit, it is possible for us to come together as a world community and put an end to torture as an investigative tool in our lifetime.

As Unitarian Universalists, we have covenanted to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, to promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all, with respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  These are the words of prophetic women and men that challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.  But we also must remember the words of James Luther Adams, “Beautiful attitudes! But attitudes alone do not make or change history. The road to hell is paved with good attitudes. They require institutional embodiment.”  So I wonder, where are we going, both as individuals and as a community of faith? Where are we taking our story now?  Where are we in the enactment of our real commitment to our ideals and values?  “How can we best rise to the occasion of reaching our highest hope reflected in the responses to a Fullfilling the Promise Survey to “become a visible and influential force for good in the world,” in the cocreation of this history?

Victor Frankel once said that it was not for us to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” but for us to be prepared to answer the question when life came to us and asked us the question, “What meaning have you given to me?” The history of Unitarian Universalism has shown us to be cocreators of history, not passive observers. Whether we as Universal Unitarians respond or choose not to respond to this call has consequences not only for the world—the tortured and abused of the world—and the history we are currently cocreating in our world, but also for us both individually as Unitarians Universalists and as a community of UU’s who have covenanted to play an active our role in this world. Can we make the end of investigative torture a part of our UU legacy?

I ask today that we make this part of our UU legacy. That we stand for the Samaritans of today. That we protect those who are the most vulnerable in society.

You may be asking at this time, “But what can I really do?”

The first thing is that, like here, your presence matters. This was brought home to me in a recent experience with my son. A few months ago I had the idea for him to come to Cambodia with me. So I said, “Noah, do you want to come with me to Cambodia in a few weeks and help mommy protect the prisoners who don’t have anyone to stand up for them?” He responded, “Yeah, but what I can do?” I wasn’t sure, but told him to come anyway and then we’ll see how. He accompanied me to prisons, courts and orphanages. During our first meeting with the Minister of Justice, it wasn’t long before my son began engaging lightly with him and his two secretaries. Quite quickly into the conversation, they agreed that we should work together to get all the youth out of prison. By the end of the meeting, they agreed, for the first time in the 18 years that I have worked in Cambodia, to sign a MOU with an NGO to work together to provide for comprehensive legal aid throughout the country. In my heart, while I could not put my finger on it, I knew that this outcome had something to do with my son. What I was keenly aware of was that, while he had not actually done anything specific, his presence mattered. In this sense, I know that all of our presence matters, as we bring prophetic witness to the situation.

There are so many unexpected blessings we find on our journey as we allow ourselves to walk into the darkness in order to find the light. So yes, your presence matters. And also, take action. Form a covenant group around this issue to see what can be done. There are many things you can do. Have your church become a Communities of Conscience body that partners to shelter a specific defender or pilot defender office in Asia or Africa. Decide to put together a declaration of intent, form a committee to lead on this issue, fund a JusticeMaker. Most importantly though, be alive to this adventure in life. And let the words and blessings surround you.

Let me end with the person who has inspired both me and my son. That is a small boy named Vishna. He always reminds me that there is always something that we can give even when we think we have nothing to give. Vishna was only 4 when I met him, but he had an incredible sense of himself and his own heroic journey. He was born in the prisons of Cambodia; however, because of this the guards absolutely loved him because he was a small baby when he was born. He was allowed to slip in and out of the bars. He wanted to visit all 156 prisoners in Kandal. Even though he rarely made it to all the prisoners, I'd lift him up and he'd see them through the iron thing that was cut out, and put his fingers through. For many of the prisoners he was their greatest joy and happiness, and they looked forward to his visits. I always had a sense that he was a courageous example of the truth that maybe we can’t do everything, but we can do something. He was born in prison without material comfort and without much power, but he had a sense of his own heroic journey. He did what he could, and in doing so embodied the words of Edward Hale, "I am one, I cannot do everything. But I can do something. I'll do the one thing I can do.”

Please do the one thing you can do.

Join us on this journey.

May we Trespass together into Prophetic Imagination.

NamMyohoRengeKyo*

*Nam myoho renge kyo. I learned at Rissho Kosei-kai that this means to take refuge in the teachings of the sutra of the lotus flower of the wonderful dharma, and to make a pledge to live in the universal truths to the fullest. In the gentle presence of Rev. Keiichi Akagawa, Ms. Idei and Mr. Mikawa., I felt that I was taking refuge. Mr. Mikawa who introduced me to this chant, and later wrote to me: “This is a major prayer for us, and this living in the universal truths means that realizing one’s enlightenment requires one to help others’ enlightenment, so you need the other for your own liberation. This prayer word always reminds us of the otherness and a realization of enlightenment always has to be intersubjective.’’ At IBJ, this is the blessing we want to surround our defenders with as they trespass into prophetic imagination.

Reflection: “Wallflower”

6x6—from wall to wall
Shutters on the windows, no light at all
Damp on the floor you got damp in the bed
They're trying to get you crazy—get you out of your head

They feed you scraps and they feed you lies
To lower your defenses, no compromise
Nothing you can do, the day can be long
You mind is working overtime, you body's not too strong

Hold on, hold on…

They put you in a box so you can't get heard
Let your spirit stay unbroken, may you not be deterred
Hold on, you have gambled with your own life
And you face the night alone
While the builders of the cages
They sleep with bullets, bars and stone
They do not see your road to freedom
That you build with flesh and bone

They take you out—the light burns your eyes
To the talking room—it's not surprise
Loaded questions from clean white coats
Their eyes are all as hidden as their Hippocratic Oath
They tell you—how to behave, behave as their guest
You want to resist them, you do your best
They take you to your limits, they take you beyond
For all that they are doing there's no way to respond

Hold on, hold on
They put you in a box so you can't get heard
Let your spirit stay unbroken, may you not be deterred

Hold on, you have gambled with your own life
And you face the night alone
While the builders of the cages
They sleep with bullets, bars and stone
They do not see your road to freedom
That you build with flesh and bone

Though you may disappear, you're not forgotten here
And I will say to you, I will do what I can do
Though you may disappear, you're not forgotten here
And I will say to you, I will do what I can do
I will do what I can do…repeated

Offering for the Living Tradition Fund

Rev Sean Parker Dennison

I have never felt as humbled and honored as I do right now, standing here in front of you having heard such genuine, heartfelt stories about how ministry can and does change the world—often one precious life at a time.

I have never felt so moved as I do by the words of the song we just heard:

Though you may disappear, you’re not forgotten here
And I will say to you, I will do what I can do.

I have never felt so determined to do my best at what I am about to do next: ask you to give money, and to give generously.

It may not be obvious at first how giving to The Living Tradition Fund is doing the work of justice. After all, JUSTICE is why we are here, in Arizona, at Justice GA.  The Living Tradition Fund is a fund that helps ministers, retired ministers, and the partners and spouses of UU ministers that have died.  And that may not seem like enough to qualify as justice-making to some.

But I am here to tell you that the offering we are about to take will change the world, one life at a time.

I know this because I have seen it in the lives of colleagues and friends and because I myself have received grants from the fund to help offset the very large student loan debt that financed my education, and through that education, my ministry. 

You may wonder how that qualifies as life-changing or justice-making.  I’ll tell you.  Without student loans, I would never have been able to go to college, let alone to seminary.  Why? Because when my family found out I was transgender, they disowned me, withdrawing all emotional, practical, and financial support.  I was a single parent, and student loans were what enabled me to finish my education and follow the call that had become so clear.  In a very real way, the gifts I have received from you—via the Living Tradition Fund—changed my life, helping me fulfill my calling to minister, and to do so in a way that drew on the deepest truths of who I am as a transgender man.

But that is not all I know.  I know of many other lives changed by grants from the Living Tradition Fund. I have heard the story of a retired colleague who spent his life serving our congregations without receiving any pension benefits. Because of your gifts to the Living Tradition Fund—he received grants to help him pay for the things he needed to live: food, utilities, and most importantly, prescriptions that saved his life and then allowed him to continue to live with dignity.  I know the story of a colleague with a terminal illness who will not die alone, but with a dear friend by her side because of a grant from the Living Tradition fund.  And I have heard the stories of other colleagues who, when faced with sudden devastating family crises, made it through because of your gifts—administered through the Living Tradition Fund.

And so I am humbled and honored and determined to ask you to give, right now, to a Fund that makes a real difference—a life-changing difference—in the lives of ministers who serve or have served our congregations.  I urge you to give as generously as you can—more generously than you planned to give—to enable the Living Tradition Fund to help as many as it can—to help remind our ministers that they are not forgotten, because together, right now—we will do what we can do.

If you are writing a check, please make it out to The Living Tradition Fund.  If you forgot your wallet, want to make an ongoing monthly gift, or want to give your gift in the future, please fill out the pledge card in your order of service…

We now gratefully receive our offering.

Offertory: “Variations on a Russian Folksong”

Instrumental, String Quartet playing: Connie Jahrmarkt, violin; Bryan LoBrutto, violin; Susan Morris, viola; Terry Sims, cello

Closing Hymn: “Life Calls Us On”

1. Here in reverence now we gather
For the blessings we have known,
With a pledge to one another
That we journey not alone.

Joy and sorrow make us wise,
Kin to all that lives and dies;
Love calls us on.

2. Words and deeds of those before us
Waken here to keep us strong;
Blend our voices in the chorus
Of creation's living song.

Courage bids us lift our eyes
Upward to the shining skies;
Hope calls us on.

3. Loyal guides in love and duty
Lead us with a trusted light;
Blest are they whose inward beauty
Shows the path of truth a right.

Honor is their earthly prize;
By their work we realize,
Faith calls us on.

Benediction

Reverend Mitra Rahnema

Love is strengthened when we educate ourselves for witness. Hope sustains us as we prepare to witness. Faith transcends our reflection to embolden our witness. Life demands that we engage the call of the world’s ministry.
 
May we love the lonely; cultivate hope for the isolated; use our faith to center those on the margins. The world’s ministry is waiting for the arch of Unitarian Universalism to touch ground outside the borders of our hearts and outside the borders of this room. …. We have been called.
 
Let us leave the comfort of these walls and join with our partners for fellowship, food, inspiration, and celebration just five blocks away. As we leave I trust you will be gentle with each other, knowing that we all move differently and that our prophetic call is stronger, together. Let us go now and enliven the ministry of all as life call us on.

Closing Hymn: “Life Calls Us On”

4. We have shared a radiant hour
When the truth has made us free,
And the spirit's gracious power
Dreamed of good that yet shall be.

Bright the path before us lies
Joyful pilgrims now we rise;
Life calls us on. (repeated)

Recessional: “Love One Another

Love one another,
Serve one another,
Honor one another,
As equals, hand in hand.

Love one another,
Serve one another,
Honor one another—
That’s how we understand.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, May 16, 2013.

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