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General Assembly (GA) 2013 Event 3031
Speakers: Andrew Coate, Jaimie Dingus
Join with us in a sacred community of all ages to celebrate and affirm “bridging,” the transition from youth to young adulthood. We will hear from diverse voices in this upbeat and inspiring service, open to all attendees, as we embrace our commitment to the future of our faith.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Welcome to the Synergy worship service--
JAIMIE DINGUS: Building a bridge to the future. We are so glad to be here with you today following the inspiring words of Eboo Patel, an internationally recognized advocate for young people. Now, we put that inspiration into practice with our service this evening, which honors our youth who are crossing the bridge, making the transition into young adulthood as leaders in our faith and our world. My name is Jaimie Dingus.
JAIMIE DINGUS: I am the senior worship coordinator for General Assemblies Youth Caucus and one of your Synergy co-leaders tonight.
ANDREW COATE: I'm Andrew Coate, the worship coordinator for General Assemblies Young Adult Caucus, your other Synergy worship leader. Let us begin.
ANDREW COATE: It is sometimes best to begin at the end. In many of our congregations, we end our time together on Sunday mornings by stating our worship has ended. Our service begins. Such is the nature of Synergy worship. This service happens here, happens now. But the synergy that we are here to celebrate is what carries us through onto bigger and better things, things we couldn't accomplish by ourselves even if all of us were working individually as hard as we could.
We are here to celebrate the past, the present, and the future. But more than that, we are here to celebrate what happens when you combine all three and somehow end up with a result that is far more than simply the sum of the parts. The folk singer and activist Si Kahn once said, "The more I study history, the more I seem to find that in every generation there are times just like that time when folks, like you and me, who thought that we were all alone within this honored movement, found a home."
All of us, in some way, have found ourselves here today. Whether we consider Unitarian Universalism our hometown, our long-term residence, or an apartment we're renting before deciding if this is where we want to set down our roots, we are all here in this honored and sacred movement. No two people have the same experience with Unitarian Universalism or with their own congregations. Some who were raised in this faith feel built up, supported, and loved through all of their life decisions, while others fade away a bit in high school or college and maybe come back or maybe they don't.
Some people don't find this faith until they are adults, or until they have children, or until their own children have left home. Some people leave only to be brought back time and again for some unknown reason. This worship service may celebrate one specific transition, that from youth to young adulthood. But we hope all will see who they are reflected in some way on this stage tonight.
We invite you to engage with this time as if you were stepping over that bridge into something unknown. Engage as if your mind were full of the what ifs, the I wonders, while still holding tight to the truths you know are unchanging and real.
JAIMIE DINGUS: We are Unitarian Universalists. That is important. That means something. Let us take that meaning and put it into action. Let us see what this action can look like through every moment of our lives. Let us make covenants that aren't only about using nice words and kind actions but make covenants that embrace dynamic and ever-growing declarations of faith and allow people, including ourselves, to get messy and make mistakes and start over with love and support.
Let us make commitments here and now to seeing our Unitarian Universalist faith as ever transitioning, recognizing that we didn't necessarily leave from point A, and we may never reach point B, and imagining what an infinite number of possibilities can look like. Let us make promises that can be fulfilled but be creative about how we live out that fulfillment, make promises that seem bold, that seem outrageous, but that are nothing but authentic representations of our shared faith. Welcome again to Synergy. Welcome to the present.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Here in this present moment, the energy we feel comes not only from the strength and courage of the young people reaching forward into adulthood but also from the wisdom and the humility of those on the other side reaching back, welcoming these new leaders into our community. The simple refrain we're about to sing asks a question, to which we trust each soul responds, yes. In the name of the beloved community, yes. Please remain seated as we sing.
[MUSIC - "BUILDING BRIDGES"]
OLIVIA SCHOUBOE ELZINGA: We light this chalice as a symbol of our commitments to this sacred community. The stable base of our founding promises holds the flickering and growing light of our action. Our time together and commitments to each other are kindled by the flame that burns inside of each of us. This flame burns brighter when we are brought together in worship. In this time of transition for our bridging youth, let this chalice call us to purposeful growth, supported by our community and our faith.
TANDI ROGERS: I invite you to join me in a moment of centering to help us shift gears in this exciting evening away from the soaring ideas of possibilities to right here and right now, the ritual that is right before us. So get comfortable. Connect yourself to the ground beneath you and take a deep breath.
Synergy-- the interaction of dynamic elements in a system that creates something larger than the sum of its parts. Synergy. Bridging. Inspired at its origin by an actual wooden bridge nestled between two mountain ranges on the Hood Canal of Washington State, a ritual of honoring the movement of youth from their home congregation to the community of young adults, a community of all age adults who are now the stewards and co-creators of our faith.
Bridging. Everyone has a bridge we are about to cross or are in the middle, peering over the railings or crossing with our eyes and mission laser focused on the other side. Or we are stepping off a bridge, our feet on new ground. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.
What is your bridge? Where are you on that bridge? Who built the foundation of your bridge? What brought you to the bridge? And what is on the other side? What do you want so badly that you were willing to leave the familiar to venture out into a mystery?
My siblings in faith, this is why we stick together and keep it real. And here is a secret for all those souls who are bridging today. There will be other bridges after this one.
Life is a journey of taking and crossing bridges, bridge building, bridge bungee jumping, bridge burning, the obstruction and destruction and reconstruction. The crossings never stop. Dear Bridgers, this is why we stick together and keep it real.
So please take the goodness of your youthful incubation, the passion, the intention, that joyful inclusion. Take that with you over your bridge out into the wilderness, the wholeness, of our congregations and beyond. These bridges don't stop. Can I get an amen?
You will cross this bridge and another. You will build another bridge. You will take instruction from a justice engineer and an architect of faith. You will be given tools from an innovative carpenter along the way. You will create blueprints for fantastical bridges you will never build.
You will labor over bridges you will never cross. And if you are lucky, you will get on your knees so another may use your back to cross over to the other side. And while you are on your knees, you will thank your ultimate source for being of use in this moment, in this time, in this conspiracy of goodness and justice and fierce love. Remember Bridgers, remember your people who flung you forth into the world, whose hands and hearts formed you and will continue to form you.
You come from the people of the welcoming congregations. You come from the people of our whole lives. You come from the people of the yellow shirts. You come from the people of covenant. And we pray that you remember.
TANDI ROGERS: We pray that you remember that we are your people. We claim you. We will be waiting for you on the other side of this bridge. And we will welcome. And we will anoint you.
This is what we are together-- the interaction of multiple dynamic elements in a system to produce an effect that is larger than the greater individual effects. Excuse me. This is what we are together, the interaction of multiple dynamic elements in a system to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of our individual effects. This is synergy. Amen.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Woyaya. In the Akan language of Ghana, that words means simply, we are going. And while it is so easy, no matter where we are in life, to get overwhelmed with the going, tonight we celebrate the sacred transitions of our lives. And we remind ourselves and one another that the first word in that phrase is just as important as the last.
We are going together. And wherever it is that we're headed, we will get there together. Would you rise in body or spirit and join us in a sing?
[MUSIC - "WOYAYA"]
SPEAKER 1: Wherever it is we are going, the reality is--
SPEAKER 2: --that we are going.
SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING SPANISH].
SPEAKER 1: And wherever we go, it is critical.
SPEAKER 2: Lifesaving.
SPEAKER 4: Soul-inspiring.
SPEAKER 5: To have beloved communities.
SPEAKER 4: And create beloved communities.
SPEAKER 3: Where we can be who we are.
SPEAKER 4: However we are.
SPEAKER 1: Speaking the language of our hearts--
SPEAKER 2: --and our heritage.
SPEAKER 5: So that more than feeling like we belong--
SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING SPANISH] We know we belong.
SPEAKER 4: By being honored and even sought after.
SPEAKER 1: For our gifts, knowledge, and wisdom.
SPEAKER 5: We desire to walk with our communities.
SPEAKER 1: As they walk with us.
SPEAKER 4: In crossing over from the youth into the young adult communities--
SPEAKER 3: --we find ourselves vulnerable on either edge.
SPEAKER 5: So we place stones before us as we make our way toward building--
SPEAKER 3: Una communidad, a community--
SPEAKER 4: --generated out of love and compassion--
SPEAKER 2: --trust and friendship.
SPEAKER 3: Fe en las posibilidades.
SPEAKER 1: Faith in the possibilities--
SPEAKER 5: --and new discoveries--
SPEAKER 3: --that groom fearlessness out of a holy curiosity.
SPEAKER 1: We are you. And as such,--
SPEAKER 4: --we are your legacy.
SPEAKER 5: You may not know me but think of me--
SPEAKER 3: --and every child you encounter as your legacy.
SPEAKER 1: And when you do,--
SPEAKER 5: --think of how you will work with us toward a just future.
SPEAKER 2: A future we will be proud to pass on to the Bridgers of tomorrow.
SPEAKER 5: We are wise enough to know that the youth we leave behind--
SPEAKER 4: Like me.
SPEAKER 5: --are our legacies.
SPEAKER 1: So as we move forward,--
SPEAKER 4: --we place stones down behind us as well,--
SPEAKER 2: --that they may find their way--
SPEAKER 1: --by knowing there is a solid foundation for them to step on--
SPEAKER 3: --into the young adulthood community of love--
SPEAKER 5: --that awaits them--
SPEAKER 4: --as we build the bridges of the future--
SPEAKER 2: --to our futures.
SPEAKER 1: We are mindful that they will be held together--
SPEAKER 3: --by our passion for each other--
SPEAKER 5: --for the world--
SPEAKER 4: --and this beautiful faith we call Unitarian Universalism--
SPEAKER 2: --that ever asks of us--
SPEAKER 1: --to build the most important bridge of all--
SPEAKER 5: --the one called relationships,--
SPEAKER 2: --kinship--
SPEAKER 3: --familia--
SPEAKER 4: --the one that tells us who we are,--
SPEAKER 1: --by which relations matter.
SPEAKER 5: I am you--
SPEAKER 2: --and invite you to be me--
SPEAKER 3: --and invite you too--
SPEAKER 4: --to build this bridge together.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Tonight, as we share in this ritual of transition, we are making a covenant together. As congregations, as religious leaders, as youth and young adults, as Unitarian Universalists, we commit to guiding and protecting our Bridgers on their journey. And even more than that, we are committing to the future of our faith.
As we form this covenant together, I invite you to speak the words of response that follow each part of the covenant. The first part of our covenant includes all of us gathered here this evening.
ANDREW COATE: We celebrate that Unitarian Universalism is more than the sum of its parts. We see one another through the shared lens of our principles. And together, we covenant to move our faith further together than we can do on our own.
AUDIENCE: Let our lives reflect this covenant.
ANDREW COATE: We are committed not only to the future of our faith but also to the present, to the here and now. We are committed to growing our faith not only through the big picture dreams of a few but the individual desires of many that grow together and apart.
We strive to hear the still, small voice as clearly and with as much attention as the voice magnified by privilege, power, or experience.
AUDIENCE: Let our actions show this commitment.
ANDREW COATE: We promise to try. And we promise to try again when we don't succeed. We promise to seek answers to hard questions and uphold our shared values in our interactions.
We promise to build upon the past, look toward the future, but live in the present with all of the multitude of voices we have in this living tradition.
AUDIENCE: Let our dreams grow this promise.
SPEAKER 6: I think those words are worth repeating. Don't you? Would you sing them with me?
SHANNON HARPER: In case you haven't heard, working in youth ministry is the most worthwhile, fulfilling, and uplifting way one could possibly spend their free time.
SHANNON HARPER: Every day we see breakthroughs. Every day we touch lives. We are molding the future. We are role models for young people. We are molding the future. And the perks, don't get me started. Bonuses, lavish accommodations, comped meals, a travel budget, and a seemingly lifetime supply of Nutella and Twizzlers candy.
SHANNON HARPER: People are lined up to have our jobs, because we have fun every day. And when we walk through the church doors on Sunday, we are bombarded with accolades for our good work. I had to start a new inbox just to handle all the positive, encouraging emails I get every week. We are virtual heroes in the eyes of our congregations. Everyone should aspire to work in youth ministry.
SHANNON HARPER: But let's face it. That's not the whole truth, is it? Did I say lavish accommodations? More like sleeping bags on hard floors in nurseries with bad smells. And comped meals? I meant potlucks and taco bars. Bombarded with accolades? The truth is most people in my congregation don't know the half of what I do, because I do it in a tiny room at the very end of our YRE wing where we won't disturb anyone.
There is not a breakthrough every day. In fact, some days are downright mundane. Sometimes we go through droughts where we think we aren't reaching anyone, that no one needs us, no one is listening to us, and we are far from understanding the mystery of adolescence. So why do we do it?
Why do those of us in youth ministry keep coming back? Why do we encourage others to join us? Well, it's not for the bonuses I can tell you. It's for those special moments, moments like this, right here, right now, when it all falls into place.
SHANNON HARPER: When we can see these Bridgers eager and ready to enter the bigger, wider world. To use a nautical analogy, our bridges are like ships. They're forged by parents, peers, mentors, and their life experiences. They're ready to embark on the odyssey of young adulthood. This isn't their maiden voyage. Let's face it. Our youth have been testing the waters of young adulthood for a while now.
But when it comes to being considered youth, this is their last port. And we have the privilege of sending them off and welcoming them in grand fashion. Why do I do this work? I do it because, frankly, I think the world can only be a better place with more people in it who share our values.
SHANNON HARPER: I sometimes see youth in our faith living our principles better than the adults they aspire to be.
SHANNON HARPER: For example, a few years ago in our team class, we had a young woman, we'll call her Christina. And she could be, at times, disruptive. It wasn't malicious. It was just how she processed.
She tended to talk when others were talking, sometimes just to the person next to her, sometimes louder to the whole group, not chatter mind you, just observations. She and her family had been attending our church for years. And the youth who had grown up with were used to her behavior in class.
I had always thought they merely tolerated her. Then one day following a neighboring faith's lesson, led by a fairly new, inexperienced teacher, a couple of the youth expressed frustration to me in private at how the teacher handled Christina's participation style. One of the youth told me, the teacher kept drawing attention to her every time she interrupted.
She got visibly upset with her and told her she was being rude. The other youth offered, you know that's just how Christina is. And we all know how to handle it. The person sitting next to her nods and listens. And if she goes on, we quietly tell her, we're trying to listen to the teacher. And then she quiets down and listens too. If we can understand that, why can't the teachers?
SHANNON HARPER: Why? Well, because unlike most of us adults, who came to this faith as a refuge from some other journey with baggage and bad habits tucked under our arms like cargo, those youth have been actively practicing the inherent worth and dignity of each person and the acceptance of one another and encouragement and spiritual growth in their classroom from the day they came through our doors.
SHANNON HARPER: They make covenants around our principles. And they hold one another accountable to them. And since they were also told taught justice, fairness, and equality in human relations, they expect nothing less from us as adult leaders. These young people weren't just tolerating Christina. They were including her.
This is what happens when we teach our children compassion and respect for one's differences and then empower them to set their own standards of behavior and uphold them. In the greater world, their enthusiasm and passion around fairness and equality translates easily into social justice and multicultural issues. Our young people recognize the inequalities and injustices in our world and in our religion. And they are called to take action to make a difference.
Why am I doing this work? I'm doing this work because these are the fresh voices and unique perspectives that will someday carry our movement, that already influence it. Through youth ministry, I've learned that worship does not have to be given to you. Worship can be an organic experience involving the whole being, encouraging participation and connection with one another. It can be something that can be felt spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I remember the first time a youth in my group tried to explain to me worship at a youth con. Now, for those of you who don't know, a con is short for conference. It's where many youth from different churches, sometimes spanning whole regions, get together for a weekend. During their time together, they participate in small group ministry, attend workshops mostly led by other youth, on anything from spiritual practice to multiculturalism to social and environmental justice to creative expression and games. And they have a lot of crazy fun.
SHANNON HARPER: As one would expect when you gather 200 open-minded, free-thinking teenagers in a church for a weekend. But they also worship together. And that is where magic happens. Way back when, that youth couldn't actually put into words why con worships spoke to her more than any worships that she had attended at her own church. And she finally gave up trying.
But her facial expressions and body language said it all. It was something I obviously needed to experience to understand. And even then, I thought I probably wouldn't get it. Being an adult, I'd probably be relegated to the periphery to watch, just like so many adults services I had sat through that seemed to only speak to those over the age of 30, where I'd seen our youths eyes glaze over and their interest wane, because their presence wasn't recognized.
I thought, why would they think to include me in their worship? And then, I finally attended my first con. And when they announced there was actually a workshop to plan the evening's worship and anyone who signed up could help, I was incredulous. You mean they're going to take a group of people who have never worked together before and they're going to plan a worship service in an hour?
SHANNON HARPER: I signed up just to see it unfold. It takes adult committees months just to decide on a list of sermon topics.
SHANNON HARPER: And weeks to work up an order of service. But under the experienced guidance of the youth worship leader, in one hour, I watched them brainstorm ideas, listening to everyone's voice, assemble the worship components, and divvy up tasks. Using the enthusiasm and talents each person brought, they made sure everyone had a part, even me.
That night, as I joined hands to enter the darkened sanctuary we raised our voices in song together, I realized that I had not just been invited to observe this event. I was expected to be an active part of it. My age was irrelevant. They're ages were irrelevant.
In our sacred circle for the first time, I experienced true communion in worship. We did not listen to someone present a sermon. We became the sermon.
SHANNON HARPER: We each shared. We each listened. This is what happens when we give youth the tools of our faith and then let go of our own conventions, allowing them the space to create a sacred experience that speaks to them. This is how Unitarian Universalism will stay relevant to our future generations. So yes, working in youth ministry is one of the most worthwhile, fulfilling, and uplifting ways I can think of to spend my free time.
SHANNON HARPER: But not because I alone am molding the future or have the delusion that I am somehow the difference between the success or failure of the youth I come in contact with. I know that I am just one of many shipbuilders. And I know their journey has only just begun.
As a religious professional and leader in my congregation, I recognize the breadth of knowledge and experience that sits here before us. These young people are privileged to have been brought up in our faith. They are poised. And they are ready to change the world for the better.
But if we do not claim them as ours, if we do not make space for them among us and incorporate them into our communities, we will lose this precious commodity. These ships--
SHANNON HARPER: These ships that we have so lovingly crafted will find more inviting harbors. And so for the future of liberal faith and a better tomorrow, I call adults and leaders among us to join me not just in welcoming these young people into the ranks of adulthood and membership in our congregations, but also inviting them to share in the navigation of Unitarian Universalism, so that together we can set sail into the uncharted waters of possibility that lie before us.
ANDREW COATE: That was amazing. Thank you. And I now invite those religious leaders, in whatever way that means to you, to join in the second part of our covenant tonight. Our religious leaders, those who call Unitarian Universalism not only their religion but their vocation, have often the most and the least power in our congregations.
We ask you now to covenant to work with the children, the youth, the young adults in your congregation to make the present of our faith as spectacular as the future that we dream of.
ANDREW COATE: We ask you to commit to working with those often not heard in our congregations, or those only heard once a year during a special service, or those who may feel that they have never been heard. We ask you to commit to sharing their dreams as others have shared your dream to bring you to where you are today.
ANDREW COATE: In as much as you can, we ask you to promise to not give up when an email goes unanswered, when a floated idea sinks without support, or when one voice stalls a process for far longer than necessary. We ask you to promise to help see ideas through and give full explanations when things won't work. We ask that you promised to move with us in the presence of our faith toward the future of our faith and love us through each of the many pit stops on the way.
AUDIENCE: Let our dreams remember this promise.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Friends, I am more grateful than words can express to welcome back to the stage our musical guests for tonight, Cobalt & the Hired Guns.
"Of Summer" is a song about remembering the summer in the dead of winter. And it's about the same way that we feel every time we play for you youths after we've been away from you for so long. So it's really good to be back. Thanks.
[MUSIC - COBALT & THE HIRED GUNS, "OF SUMMER"]
SPEAKER 8: Thank you so much. Thank you for that palm tree.
ERICK DITMARS: I was a tubby toddler. It's the truth. And it's not like I can blame genetics, because the root cause of my tubby toddler nature was my love of candy. It actually became so prolific in my household that my parents had to limit both me and my brother's sugar intake.
Early on, we were given rations of candy that we were allowed to eat at our leisure. I, being the addict that I was, would gobble it up the second I could get my pudgy fingers on it, while my brother, being more miserly, would save his. Now, this led to what I think is a perfectly reasonable thought process.
I don't have candy. Candy makes me happy. My brother does have candy. I should probably take his.
ERICK DITMARS: And so I did. And this promptly led to my mother putting me in the ultimate form of child purgatory, time out. Now, this system of doing right, or the omnipotent being known as mother would put me in time out, defined my morality throughout my early childhood.
As I became older and more able to understand the underlying principles of Unitarian Universalism, however, one thing naturally stuck out-- secular morality. Under this type of moral development, we are not anchored to this omnipotent mom. She either doesn't have the power to put me in time out or she loves me too much to put me in time out. Either way, I could have as much candy as I wanted with no consequences. So you can see why this was kind of a big deal.
Now, as I grew older, I struggled with this for a long time-- how intrinsically good deeds could exist in a society that constantly promotes greed. Now, I understood the arguments of those that subscribed to divine morality. And they critique people like us, saying that there's nothing actually holding us to the beliefs that we espouse. And with bare-bones, secular, intrinsic morality, they're pretty much correct.
However, the people that think that, as some Great Awakening preachers would put it, without a vengeful God dangling us above the hellfire like spiders, we'll become amoral creatures is largely unfounded. As I look around the room today, I see people who work with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on the human right to water. I see people who fight poverty. I see people who stood with me last year in Arizona fighting against SB1070.
ERICK DITMARS: Yeah. Give yourself a round of applause. Yeah. Now, would amoral people do that? No. The real problem with secular morality is that there's no support system for when we mess up.
Now, as I said before, we live in a society where it would be so easy to just turn off that pesky moral compass and live and gorge on candy. You know what? And every once in a while, it happens. Big whoop. We mess up. I know I do. I know I do a lot.
It's that very human trait of messing up that led to the development of the covenant. It's a set of promises that you not only make to the people around you, but you make to yourself. With the covenant, we're able to recognize our mistakes and learn from them.
However, that's not the only thing the covenants do. With the Unitarian Universalism being such a diverse group, covenants serve as a foundation we're able to build up and accomplish the great works that our faith asks us to do. Now, with all this talk about what brings us together as religious liberals, the real question becomes, what are the things that are worth putting our attention towards?
As we saw last year, UUs as a whole can become an amazing power for good if we can just band together. The youth exemplifies--
ERICK DITMARS: The youth exemplifies this principle with our fun times business meetings in the youth caucus, where we discuss actions presented during this year's GA. And when it comes time for plenary, we act as a kind of youth special interest group and become one of the most powerful voting bodies in all of Unitarian Universalism.
ERICK DITMARS: Even though we make up such a small percentage of Unitarian Universalists. That's the power of cohesiveness and unity. That's the power of synergy. So as we move forward into 2013 and onward, I have a vision for all of you. I see Unitarian Universalism that isn't a faith that we have to spend 30 minutes explaining to people that we meet.
ERICK DITMARS: But as one that's a household name, known for our commitment to continued social justice and change. I see Unitarian Universalism not as a place where like-minded people, as so many people of us see it, but instead as a religion, demonstrating that equality and acceptance within churches is not a formula for chaos but, instead, allows our churches to flourish.
ERICK DITMARS: And lastly, I see Unitarian Universalism more united than it ever has been, joined not just by our name but by our shared beliefs in doing good for the sake of doing good, all operating under the guide of a covenant that reminds us of our shared humanity.
ERICK DITMARS: And to my fellow youth leaders, the job of changing this faith falls into our hands. Like it or not, we're the future. And we must rise to the occasion. And it's not going to be easy, not by any means.
But if you believe in the potential of this faith like I do and the sheer amount of good we can accomplish, then I urge you to join with me at making this a truly life-changing and world-changing GA.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Thank you for that. As youth, we are ready to be active, fearless leaders in our beloved communities. We with our modern visions and our effervescent spirituality are now, not in the future, but now a necessary resource for congregations. We commit to teaching others as much as we learn and by sharing our knowledge with others, empowering everyone in our faith family.
We will be bold within our small youth community and even bolder with the guidance and love from the young adult community.
JAIMIE DINGUS: As young adults, we commit to actively participating in our shared faith. We recognize that we are at a crossroads in our Unitarian Universalist faith. We have the power and the vision to shape where our movement goes from here. We are also uniquely responsible for guiding the Bridgers on their journey into our community. We will be respectful and forgiving, as we learn how to be in community together.
JAIMIE DINGUS: As young Unitarian Universalists, we are poised to realize the future of our faith, while contributing to the present. We long to create a faith that bends the arc of the moral universe toward justice and welcomes all people to join. We will work together as youth and young adults within the greater community to promote our faith into the future.
TOMLINSON FORT: "The Bridging Song" was written by Jennifer Hazel for the GA Bridging Ceremony in 2002, which, I believe, may have been the year I bridged. It was either 2002 or 2003. And it's beautiful in its simplicity. This is a short melodic line sung on oo and then a simple, repeated three-word phrase, take my hand. Please join us.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: We'll swap in other words as we repeat the song through the ceremony. I'll call them out. And they'll be displayed on the monitors so we can all continue to share in the singing. Let's learn the song once. And then we will have the ceremony explained before we sing it together. The song goes like this.
[MUSIC - JENNIFER HAZEL, "THE BRIDGING SONG"]
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Andrew, would you like to explain the ceremony for us?
ANDREW COATE: The bridging ceremony is the Unitarian Universalist ritual which marks the transition that our youth make into young adulthood. But it is more than just a recognition of 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 have come from include their congregations, their religious education programs, their youth groups, their district youth conferences and leadership committees, UU summer camps and conference centers, and the community of the youth caucus here at General Assembly in Louisville, and at GAs past in Phoenix, Charlotte, and Minneapolis. As they travel across this bridge, they have the opportunity to be welcomed into new communities, communities within their congregation, congregations in cities and towns that they move to, campus ministry groups, young adult groups, communities such as the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and the Young Adult Caucus community.
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 crossings, with our hands held out to catch them if they stumble, and with our 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.
As our bridging youth walk through the symbolic bridge created by young adult Unitarian Universalists, let us all show them our love and support by singing the traditional "Bridging Song" together.
JAIMIE DINGUS: I'm Jaimie Dingus, thank you, from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia.
DAVID WILLIFORD: I'm David Williford. I'm from USG, Unitarian Society of Germantown in Pennsylvania.
KATRINA O'CONNOR: Hi. I'm Katrina O'Connor. And I am from Bradford Community Church of Unitarian Universalists in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
MIRANDA GARRETT: My name is Miranda Garrett. And I'm from the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, Delaware.
JAKE MIZELL: I'm Jake Mizell. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark, Delaware.
RIHANNA JOHNSON-LEVY: Hi. My name is Rihanna Johnson-Levy. And I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist congregation of Ann Arbor.
[? CLAUDIA VICTROFF: ?] I'm Claudia [? Victroff. ?] And I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
ANDRIANNA FOLLENSBEE: I'm Andrianna Follensbee. And I am from Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine, Wisconsin.
WILLIAM COOK: Hey, y'all. I'm William Cook from Northwest Community Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, Texas.
[? SEAN EVERARD PEARSON MCBRIDE: ?] My name is [? Sean ?] [? Everard ?] [? Pearson ?] [? McBride. ?] I'm from Northern Hills Fellowship in Cincinnati, Ohio.
[? DEVON WHITE: ?] I'm [? Devon ?] White. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, Oregon.
[? KALEA PAYNE-ALEX: ?] I'm [? Kalea ?] [? Payne-Alex ?] from the First Unitarian Church in San Jose, California.
KIMBERLY KING: I'm Kimberly King from the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, California.
[? SERENA BLITZ: ?] Hi. I'm Serena [? Blitz ?] from the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, California.
[? KAITLIN DAY: ?] Hi. I'm [? Kaitlin ?] Day. And I'm from the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, California.
NIKKI SANTIAGO: Hi. I'm Nikki Santiago. And I'm from Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, California.
[? MARGARET SEA: ?] Hi. I'm Margaret [? Sea. ?] I'm from Deerfield, Illinois. And I go to North Shore Unitarian Church.
PAUL: My name is Paul. And I'm from Louisville, Kentucky's Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
[? CHRIS KAFEEN: ?] Hi. I'm [? Chris ?] [? Kafeen ?] from First Parish in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
ALEXANDRA SHORT: Hi. I'm Alexandra Short from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia.
CHLOE BERRY: Hi. I'm Chloe Berry. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Waynesboro, Virginia.
AUDREY SMITH: Hi. I'm Audrey Smith. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of West Lafayette, Indiana.
ROCHELLE PERRY: I'm Rochelle Perry from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City, Missouri.
GAVIN NORTH: Hey. I'm Gavin North. I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette, Indiana.
DANIEL MORRISON: Hello. My name is Daniel Morrison. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tuscon.
MARY GRAYSON BATTS: I'm Mary Grayson Batts from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
ELISE DESOMER: My name is Elise DeSomer. And I'm from the First Unitarian Church of South Bend, Indiana.
SHANNON RICHARDS: I'm Shannon Richards. I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart and the First Unitarian Church of South Bend from Indiana.
[? CHRISTOPHER WALCOMBE: ?] Hi. I'm Christopher [? Walcombe. ?] And I'm from Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland.
[? KATIE ALLDRIDGE: ?] I'm Katie [? Alldridge. ?] And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn in Swampscott, Massachusetts.
ANNA CAMPBELL: Hi. I'm Anna Campbell. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn in Swampscott, Massachusetts.
[? MEGAN GRIFFIN-WYNN: ?] Hi. I'm [? Megan ?] [? Griffin-Wynn. ?] And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn in Swampscott, Massachusetts.
[? ELIZA BEGOJIAN: ?] My name is Eliza [? Begojian ?]. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
KATRINA WALKER: Hi. I'm Katrina Walker. And I'm from the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church of Rocky River, Ohio.
[? SARAH KING: ?] Hi. I'm Sarah King from the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor.
RENNIE COTNER: Hi. My name is Rennie Cotner. And I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
ALEXANDRA TODD: Hi My name is Alexandra Todd. And I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
KEITH TAVARES: Hi. I'm Keith Tavares from Eliot Unitarian Universalist Chapel in St. Louis, Missouri.
[? RACHEL MILLIS: ?] My name is [? Rachel ?] [? Millis ?] from Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania.
PHILLIP WILLIAMSON: My name is Phillip Williamson. And I'm from Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado.
[? NATALIE HOLTHOUSE: ?] Hi. My name is Natalie [? Holthouse. ?] And I'm from Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado.
[? CLEMENS GRIFA: ?] Hi. My name is [? Clemens Grifa. ?] And I'm from Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado.
CARSON LLOYD: I'm Carson Lloyd from First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
OLIVIA HAMILTON: Hi. My name is Olivia Hamilton. And I'm from First Parish Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
ANNA CAMPBELL: Hi. I'm Anna Campbell. And I'm from First Parish Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
[? ASHA ROARD: ?] My name is [? Asha ?] [? Roard. ?] I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona.
ZACH COOPER: I'm Zach Cooper from the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Illinois.
ALYSSA MCDAVID: I'm Alyssa McDavid. And I'm from the beautiful Saltwater Unitarian Universalist Church in Des Moines, Washington.
CATHERINE ALLEN: Hello, everyone. I'm Catherine Allen from Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota.
MEGAN BAKER: My name is Megan Baker from the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
HEATHER BRITT: Hi. I'm Heather Britt from the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church from Troy, Michigan.
OWEN SMITH: Hello. My name is Owen Smith. I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.
MARCUS ADAMS: My name is Marcus Adams. And I'm from the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Warrington, Pennsylvania.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Sing with us. Move my soul, together.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: One more time. Move my soul.
MOLLY HOUSH GORDON: Hey, Bridgers. Welcome to young adulthood.
MOLLY HOUSH GORDON: I'm about 2/3 of the way through it myself, according to UUA classifications. And it's a wild and wonderful journey, one in which we cross so many bridges. And as we cross the bridges of life, the people who have the most to teach us along the way are not always who we might expect.
John, the reclusive next-door neighbor of my childhood, refused to pump his own gas, kept a silent, watchful eye over the neighborhood, and alternated sitting on his patio and in his dimly lit living room, chain smoking day after day. He only left the house once a week to get groceries. You could imagine him as the type to scare off the neighborhood kids. Get off my lawn. Rumble.
You would be dead wrong. Instead, he was a dear family friend who taught his redheaded neighbor children everything they know about planting, growing, building, and rebuilding. Our parents took us next door often to visit with John. And the adults would sit and chat, while my brother and I roamed about his property-- a carefully landscaped jungle of magnolia and honeysuckle, ripe for hours of exploring and dreaming and mud pie making.
I don't think John intended to be a mentor to a couple of curious neighbor kids. Though he had a heart of gold, he did like to consider himself a curmudgeon with an acid wit and little patience for people. But by some miracle, along with invading his gardens, I know without a doubt that my family weaseled our way into his heart. And we loved him too.
In turn, he opened his yard to us and with it many worlds of learning and imagination. Under his tutelage, I planted my first rose bush, harvested home-grown carrots, and fixed my own squeaky bicycle with an ancient can of oil from his garage. He helped my dad supervise the building of soapbox cars and school projects.
And when my brother and I acted out nonsensical stories in the driveway, he encouraged our imaginations as our audience and critic and adoring fan. John was a reclusive atheist and not a Unitarian Universalist. Though, of course, one can certainly be both. But he helped my spirit grow.
He taught me how to coax life and beauty into the world using just a seed and some dirt. He showed me how to grease a squeaky wheel and encouraged me to think for myself and to imagine. He tasked me with building something that matters. And he gave me practice spending time with a golden-hearted curmudgeon, all useful skills for a minister.
And indeed, as this particular neighbor child grew, I found my imagination fixed on questions of religion, meaning in our lives. Eventually my dreaming culminated in a call to the ministry. And I entered that adventure as eagerly as that honeysuckle-filled backyard.
Over the years, I found many more mentors on my journey-- a minister who named the ministry as a viable path for my life, a young adult adviser who invited me into leadership, a college religion professor who gave me a whole new view of the universe, and ministry mentors who trained and challenged me and invited me into the institutions of our faith. I wish for so many such mentors for our Bridgers. But lately, I've also been thinking about the simple lessons of my neighbor John, who taught me how to plant and grow, build and rebuild.
And I've begun to suspect that these are the skills that will matter most to the future of our faith. In a time of conspicuous consumption and environmental decline, we need people who can coax life and beauty to grow in unlikely places. In a time when people and things are seen as disposable, we need people who are willing to repair bicycles, and relationships, and broken spirits.
In this age of crumbling institution and shaky ground, we need builders who are clear-eyed and open-hearted, creative and flexible. As a faith, we find ourselves in a changing landscape, where more people than ever claim spirituality while rejecting religious institution, making our message of open-mindedness less and less unique and our institutional structures less and less relevant.
This new landscape could be scary for a Unitarian Universalist and those who love our UU churches. But it is also exciting. There is a whole new world of possibility before us if we will build those bridges to our future.
So this evening, I wanted to tell you about someone who inspired me to imagine and to build, because that is what I am here to ask of all of you, our Bridgers and all of us who will lead and transform our faith. Instead of simply inviting you into our institution as it is, tonight, I ask our Bridgers for their help re-imagining what our faith can be and become in our world.
So this is my charge to you, our bridging youth. Find a place that needs more life and beauty and explore that place with clear eyes and open hearts. Then, build something there that matters and use a creative and flexible spirit to keep on rebuilding. We will keep rebuilding, because the ground beneath us is not as steady as it once was, if it ever was.
Our rapidly changing world demands imagination, collaboration, and experimentation. Our faith if it is to mean something calls each of us to dream a vision of healing for our world and then to draw plans and see what we can build together over and over again. What will be the structures that grow our spirits and heal our world in the days to come?
Will they be congregations in person and online? Will they be housing co-ops and community gardens, coffee shops and service missions? Will they be creations that are already in your hearts that I can't even imagine to name? A world of possibility and adventure awaits our faith just across the bridge.
It is ours to discover and dream and co-create. It is ours to heal the world. So let's get to work.
JAIMIE DINGUS: And now, will all present please join us for the final part of our shared covenantal liturgy, responding with the words displayed on the screens before you as we embrace the future of our faith seen in the eyes of our bridging youth, now young adults. Together we covenant to bring our whole selves to continuing the flame that is Unitarian Universalism. We commit to active engagement within our communities.
We will promote healthy spiritual growth inside ourselves and our congregations. We will foster a community that welcomes all people, recognizing that each person has value and gifts to share. As UUs, we will nurture curiosity and constantly search for the answers to life's big questions.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Together we renew our commitment to serving the wider community. We will be the religion that promotes justice and fairness for all people. Both in our communities and in the world, we will embrace people of all identities. In our quest for greater wholeness, we will intentionally protect the Earth, which is our home. We will shine our beacon of peace, liberty, and justice into the world.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Together we will make real the collective dream we have for our beloved community. We will charge our leaders with inspiring and promoting new leaders. We will create opportunities for collaboration between faith traditions.
Ours is not a perfect dream. And so as we go about the work to build the beloved community, we will make forgiveness and understanding our spiritual practice. And through these actions, we will build a bridge to the future.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Let us enter now into a prayerful time--
SPEAKER 3: --with the ultimate source--
SPEAKER 1: --called by many names--
SPEAKER 3: --felt in many sighs--
SPEAKER 1: --embraced in sacred moments like these.
SPEAKER 5: Precious and loving spirit, may we be determined to praise thee each time we gaze into each other's faces in blessing with love and admiration, respect and jubilation.
SPEAKER 2: May we sing soothing melodies that would have us hear cutting through the deafening roar of our doubts and fears, which threatens daily to wash out your sweet soul-surviving harmonies.
SPEAKER 4: Creator and maker of all that is and is not, teach us to create succulent symphonies from all our vibrant melodies.
SPEAKER 1: May our similarities build a strong base note, while our differences pepper and spice with staccatos,--
SPEAKER 2: --vibratos,--
SPEAKER 3: --ostinatos,--
SPEAKER 4: --legatos,--
SPEAKER 2: --and obbligatos.
SPEAKER 1: In adoration and gratitude for the multitude and multiplicity--
SPEAKER 5: --as well as the simplicity, as you reveal your repertoire through our actions and non-actions, toward ourselves, and one another.
SPEAKER 3: Mother, Father, God, as your children, we have played with your instruments to our young hearts' content, creating the soundtracks of our lives.
SPEAKER 2: As adults, we continue to build on our great symphonies, note by note, weaving through time and space--
SPEAKER 1: --secure--
SPEAKER 3: --in the abundance of your love, knowing that the greatest coda in life is the seemingly unwarranted smile, hug, or apology--
SPEAKER 5: --that ultimately serves to reconnect us to you--
SPEAKER 1: --and each other, always each other.
SPEAKER 2: From this place of gratitude, we offer our thanks this day for the opportunity to play and learn as we build the beloved and vocal community.
SPEAKER 4: A community where we--
SPEAKER 3: --as Unitarian Universalists, strong in our faith--
SPEAKER 5: --and passionate about our lives--
SPEAKER 2: --and all life--
SPEAKER 1: --are called upon to harbor one another, no matter what.
ALL SPEAKERS: May we all and always rise to the occasion.
SPEAKER 3: Amen.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: At our opening celebration-- was that really only 48 hours ago? We sang a song of commitment, a symbol of our covenant together as members of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. It was a powerful moment to hear the many voices of our faith community united in that covenant.
But tonight, our community has grown. These young people have crossed a bridge, literally moving forward into a new age of responsibility, of empowerment, and of covenant with all of us. The covenant we sing of tonight is made stronger, richer, more real because of these brave souls and their involvement with us. May we all be open to the new prophetic voice that they bring to our collective mark in the world. Friends of all ages, at all stages of life, please rise in body or spirit, and join us in celebrating anew, "The Fire of Commitment."
[MUSIC - "THE FIRE OF COMMITMENT"]
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Please be seated.
ANDREW COATE: Hundreds of our congregations sing the children out of the sanctuary each Sunday, offering them blessings on their journeys, short and long. Leave tonight with some of that excitement, not knowing quite what comes next.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Go now in peace.
JAIMIE DINGUS: What transpired here tonight is now part of who you were. This worship service has become incorporated into your own life's narrative. No two people will incorporate it the same way. But it is there. It is part of you.
ANDREW COATE: Live in that beautiful space of transition, always moving, and learning, and growing, and changing, and being, simply being who you are. Embrace the uncertain as if it is full of hope. And hold onto the familiar to keep your whole self grounded.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: May the love of God surround you.
JAIMIE DINGUS: Be lifted up by those near and far. Be lifted up by your Unitarian Universalist ancestors, who began paving this road so our first few steps were just a little easier. Be lifted up by those in your faith community now, who want nothing but your own authentic you.
Be lifted up by the future of our amazing faith, not the future in this room, but the future that isn't even thought of yet. Be lifted up by that great unknown many call God.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Everywhere, everywhere.
ANDREW COATE: Go around the world. Or go back to your own living room. Go and make promises. Go and make mistakes. Go and be.
REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: You may go.
JAIMIE DINGUS & ANDREW COATE: Amen. Go in peace.
TOMLINSON FORT: So we'd like to play one more song for you tonight. And it's about this community here and about the best of friends that you rely on when you feel like you lose everything. I wrote this song about the best friend I made that I met at UU cons when I was 14 years old, that I started this band with, that I bridged with at GA. And he and I are still really close. But it's told in a metaphor. It's about Romeo and Mercutio if you read Shakespeare or go see plays. This song's called, "Rome." We're Cobalt & the Hired Guns. Thanks a whole lot.
[MUSIC - COBALT & THE HIRED GUNS, "ROME"]
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Last updated on Friday, March 28, 2014.
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