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General Assembly 2014 Event 357
The Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group invites you to join us at this service where we honor fellowshipped and credentialed religious leaders, remember those who have died, recognize those who have completed active service, and welcome those who have received fellowship or credentialed status in the past year.
The sermon, “Walking with the Other,” was delivered by the Rev. Rebekah A. Montgomery, Affiliate Minister to River Road Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation in Bethesda, MD, since 2007 and Affiliate to AWAKE Ministries of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Annapolis, MD since 2014. Rebekah has a BA in Religious Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, NY and a Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Nova SE University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Rev. Montgomery is an Army Reserve chaplain and was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in July of 2005 for an 18 month tour of duty.
In June of 2009, Rev. Montgomery was named "Military Chaplain of the Year" and received a Distinguished Service award from the Military Chaplains Association.
In 2011, Rebekah was selected for promotion to major after seven years of service. This promotion represents the military's increased trust and confidence in her leadership and pastoral ablity.
Rev. Montgomery contributed to the UU Military Manual, Bless All Who Serve. She and her two children live in Bethesda.
Our Music Director was Anne Watson Born, UU Credentialed Music Leader. Anne is the Director of Music Ministry at First Unitarian Society in Newton, MA. She is also the music director of the Nashoba Valley Chorale, Littleton, MA, and the Interim Music Director of the Harvard pro Musica in Harvard, MA. Anne holds a BA degree in Music from University of the Pacific and a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from New England Conservatory, Boston, MA. She lives in Brookline with her husband, Rick, and two dogs, and visits her daughter in Boulder, CO, as often as possible.
Download the Order of Service (PDF, 8 pages).
ANN WATSON BORN: "How Can We Keep From Singing?" Robert Lowry's tune from 1869, also known as "My Life Flows On." It's familiar to so many, that it's often thought to come out of the aural tradition. The famous third verse is by Doris Plenn, who taught it to her friend Pete Seeger around 1950.
["MY LIFE FLOWS ON IN ENDLESS SONG"]
Now, let's raise the roof with the song "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah," named "Sojourner" in honor of Sojourner Truth, the abolitionist and women's rights activist.
["GLORY, GLORY, HALLELUJA"]
And now for a different alleluia, from the glorious hymn, "For All the Saints," a song that has a long and treasured history with this service.
["FOR ALL THE SAINTS"]
Let's let our wonderful GA band raise the roof with all their stops out, as we sing our final song, the rousing spiritual, "Come and Go With Me."
["COME AND GO WITH ME"]
REV. SARAH LAMMERT: Welcome to the 53rd Service of the Living Tradition.
Welcome to those who are present here in Providence, and to those who are joining us virtually from across our nation and across our globe. Welcome to the families of the ministers we have lost in this last year, that we are honoring tonight, whose contributions to our faith were many and splendid and strong. Welcome to those of you attending General Assembly for the very first time this year, who join us in this ageless living celebration of all that we have been as Unitarian Universalists, and all that is possible for our faith. Welcome to our ministers, religious educators, and musicians, who have achieved various milestones in your professional lives, those of you who are just beginning, those of you in the middle, and those of you winding up long careers, for which we are intensely grateful. Welcome to the many lay leaders present, who share the ministry with these professionals. Welcome to the youth and young adults here present.
You are leaders of today whose commitment inspires us all. Welcome, members of our military, veterans, and their friends and families.
Tonight is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time that one of our military chaplains will preach this service, a night to be noted and celebrated. Welcome to all the other religious professionals present, to our lay delegates, and our presenters. Welcome, one and all, as we gather here united in the mystery that is life and love and connection. As we now begin our calling forth, you are invited to raise a glad noise as our honorees venture onto the stage.
REV. WAYNE ARNASON: I call forth from among you these persons, who have received preliminary fellowship as Unitarian Universalist ministers. Summer Albayati-Krikeche.
Lara K-J Campbell.
Madelyn E. Campbell.
Mary Frances Comer.
Patrice K. Curtis.
Jennifer S. Dant.
Anthony Grant Fisher.
Henry Daniel Gregoire.
David L. Helfer.
Joan Marie Javier-Duval.
Sarah Elizabeth Lenzi.
Emily Ann Hartnett Liefert.
Marcus Hartnett Liefert.
Stephanie L. May.
Aidan Jacob McCormack.
Andrew MacDonald Moeller.
Tisha L. Moore.
Sarah Keleher Napoline.
Gaye Williams Ortiz.
Patricia K. Palmer.
Gregory S. Pelley.
Karen Margaret Quinlan.
Sarah C. Richards.
Lee Marie Sanchez.
Tandy Wilkins Scheffler.
Kelly L. Spahr.
Eva Morgan Stevens.
Duncan E. Teague.
Abbey S. Tennis.
Gretchen E. Weis.
Margaret L. Weis.
Amy Williams Clark.
TANDY SCHEFFLER: I call forth from among you these persons, who have completed the credentialing process for master's level certification in religious education. Sarah Lewis.
I call forth from among you these persons, who have been certified as credentialed religious educators. Patricia Hall Infante.
Robin M. Pugh.
I call forth from among you these persons, who have completed their careers of full-time service as credentialed religious educators, master's level. Jan Devor.
MARY NEUMANN: I call forth from among you these persons, who have been certified as credentialed music leaders.
Elizabeth Henderson Norton.
And Ellie Rolnick.
REV. WAYNE ARNASON: I call forth from among you these persons, who have received final fellowship as Unitarian Universalist ministers. Margaret Haynes Allen.
Leslie Becknell Marx.
Erik David Carlson.
Jill Ardith Cowie.
Jeanelyse Doran Adams.
Jacqueline Kay Duhart.
Alison Wilbur Eskildsen.
Brian M. Ferguson.
Kathleen C. Fowler.
David M. Horst.
Eric Charles Kaminetzky.
Kathryn E. Kennedy.
Earl W. Koteen.
Jonipher Kupono Kwong.
Julianne C. Lepp.
Julia Russell McKay.
Kent C. McKusick.
Andrew Clive Millard.
Ernest L. Mills, Jr.
Jeremy D. Nickel.
Qiyamah A. Rahman.
Nori J. Rost.
Renee Ruchotzke. Husky
John L. Saxon.
Sarah Movius Schurr.
Christina Maria Sillari.
Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson.
REV. RICHARD S. GILBERT: I call forth from among you those persons were completed their careers of full time service. Jim Anderson.
Helen C. Holly Baylies.
Randolph William Bishop Becker.
Emmy Lou Belcher.
Michelle W. Bentley.
Daniel S. Brosier.
Danielle Assunta Di Bona.
Julia Older Fankuchen.
Sandra D. Fitz-Henry.
Cynthia A. Frado.
Neil W. Gerdes.
Barbara Ann Hamilton-Holway.
Barbro M. Hansson.
Marni P. Harmony.
Mary Chulak Higgins.
Robert L. Hill.
Anne Felton Hines.
Janet B. Johnson.
Carol D. Meyer.
Olav F. Nieuwejaar.
Phyllis B. O'Connell.
Susan Veronica Rak.
Carol Sampson Rudisill.
Marc A. Salkin.
Stephen M. Shick.
Arline Conan Sutherland.
John Paul Ware.
Susan K. Weickum.
Barry Thomas Whittemore.
Valerie T. Wills.
Carol Marie Wolff.
Carole Robinson Yorke.
Sarah Emma Zimmerman.
ROBERT ALEXANDER JENSON: As we gather here in this space, made holy by our presence, let us be tested in our hearts and minds. As one faith, we reach out, with arms outstretched in love. Love reaches out in a small smile or a gentle wave— a love that grips the core of a person's being and it validates their inherent worth and dignity. Love reaches out in areas ravaged by storms and war, where the cries of the hopeless are met with compassion and justice. Love reaches out in our congregations, where a person may freely search for what they find and know it to be true, free from the persecution of intolerance and bigotry.
Love reaches out in our communities, as we give meaning to the opinions of others, regardless if we call these opinions our own. Love reaches out in this nation as, state by state, laws designed to keep same-sex marriages banned, families separated, and children and adults alike alienated by their own identity, are struck down. Love reaches out in our world, when progressive measures are passed in order to bring about more compassionate reform in our immigration process, our ideal hope for a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for each person. And most importantly, loves begins in us.
Let ours be a faith of inclusion, a tradition rich in the solidarity with all, while many stand separately. Where there is no hope, may each of our spirits shine, a chalice in the dark veil of night. May it be known that a vast array of colors from the stained-glass window of the universe, those seen and unseen, can be found in this space. And above all else, may it be known that love, no matter how, where, or why, reaches out. Amen.
Please rise in body or spirit, and join us in singing "Rank by Rank, Again We Stand."
["RANK BY RANK"]
SPEAKER 1: Please be seated.
REV. CHARLES ANTAL: I wrote these words in Afghanistan. In honor of a small fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, I was privileged to serve at Kandahar Airfield. First to light up the night and to feed the soul's delight. Here the chalice burns bright and burns strong.
Using all our reason, building till the dream is done, here the chalice burns bright and burns strong. Open minds from the start, helping hands, loving heart. Here the chalice burns bright and burns strong. Free from creed, dogma, too. Principles to guide us through. Here the chalice burns bright and burns strong.
["THE SIZE OF YOUR HEART"]
REV. PETER MORALES: Each year we honor those 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 rise in body or spirit and hold the memory of their ministries in our hearts.
Elinor Artman. Richard E. Benner. Suzanne T. Black. Ira Gregg Carter. Albert F. Ciarcia. Phillip R. Giles. Frederick E. Gillis. William H. Houff. Gordon B. McKeeman. Margo R. McKenna. Edgar C. Peara. Charles O. Richardson, Jr. Andrew G. Rosenberger. John David Scheyer. Herbert F. Vetter, Jr. Arthur D. Wilmot. Georgette I. Wonders.
Please be seated. And 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 individuals who mentored us, inspired us, consoled us. Nevermore will we hear their voices, feel their touch, see their smiles, or converse with them. 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 place in this living faith.
["TO MY OLD BROWN EARTH"]
REV. CAROLYN PATIERNO: In the midst of a world marked by tragedy and beauty, there must be those who bear witness against unnecessary destruction and who, with faith, stand and lead in freedom with grace and power. There must be those who speak honestly and who do not avoid seeing what must be seen of sorrow and outrage, or tenderness and wonder. There must be those whose grief troubles the water, while their are voices sing and speak of refreshed worlds. There must be those whose exuberance rises with lovely energy that articulates Earth's joys.
There must be those who are restless for respectful and loving companionship among human beings, whose presence invites people to be themselves without fear. There must be those who gather with the congregation of remembrance and compassion, draw water from old wells and walk the simple path of love for neighbor. And there must be communities of people who seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God, who call on the string of soul force to heal, transform, and bless life. There must be religious witness.
["FIRE OF COMMITMENT"]
REV. REBEKAH A. MONTGOMERY: Good evening.
AUDIENCE: Good evening.
REV. REBEKAH A. MONTGOMERY: I am a military chaplain.
I am a military chaplain proudly serving in the United States Army Reserve component for 11 years now. In 2005, I was deployed as the task force deputy chaplain to Kabul, Afghanistan for an 18 month tour of duty. Over the course of that tour, I traveled to 38 different forward operating bases by massive C-130 airplanes, sleek Chinook helicopters, and lumbering Humvees. As a military chaplain, I am actually a non-combatant, which means that I do not carry a weapon. Further, I am not even permitted to even touch a weapon, even in the event of an emergency or total mission failure. I am assigned a bodyguard— a chaplain assistant— and that brave soldier is responsible for my security, my safety, managing my schedule, my section property, and most importantly, graciously making my coffee for me before I get to the office.
Since I am in non-combatant, I am often the soldier responsible for driving our unit ministry team vehicle, so that my chaplain assistant is able to monitor their perimeter and provide force protection. When traveling through the vast expanses of mountain terrain in Afghanistan, the shortest distance can endure for eight to ten hours if the route is difficult to navigate. On one convoy to provide medical supplies and personnel to an extremely remote area, we drove— strike that— I drove and impossible ten miles an hour for nine hours, Up and down steep, silky roads, across dry riverbeds, and through narrow passages of mud, clay, and dirt.
Once the signal was given, every few hours, we would stop— in a small village, climb out of our dust-encased vehicles, and stretch our legs. Often, the most remarkable thing would happen— I would stop our vehicle, push open my heavy door, step outside, take off my Kevlar helmet, brush the sweaty hair off my brow. The villagers would gather around us and the kids would peek out from behind older children's legs, just watching. After a few minutes, the one or two villagers around us would swell to five or six, and then nine, and then 12.
The thing is, out there in some of these areas, Afghans had never seen a female soldier before. And they'd never, especially, seen a female soldier driving a Humvee. The reception I received a handful of times is sort of like landing on strange planet, where you think you're average and ordinary, and everyone perceives you as a purple dinosaur with green spots and yellow feathers. Then, in a hot minute, the Afghans' world view would completely shatter when the interpreter explained to the amassing crowd before us that I am actually an officer and a chaplain— or, as one interpreter insisted, a female mullah, or a religious leader in Islam.
So I have to admit that me standing here at General Assembly for our Service of the Living Tradition is a bit like climbing out of that Humvee in Afghanistan.
I never thought that, in all of my years, I would have had the honor and privilege to stand before you this day. As a lifelong UU, formed in the womb of River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, raised in an interracial family with an ardent peace activist grandmother— who knew? Who knew a deep calling for military chaplaincy would catch fire in my belly? When I commissioned into the Army in 2003, the Reverend Cynthia Kane, who will introduce the offertory today, had blazed the trail before me for currently serving chaplains by almost two years. My UU military chaplain colleagues and I are a small but proud tribe of service members under the fierce protection and wise, generous leadership of our endorser, the Reverend Sarah Lammert.
And this is off script, but she is our true star.
Our theme for General Assembly, "Love Reaches Out," calls us to deeper relationships that extend beyond ourselves, our comfortable surroundings, both internal and external. In that spirit, we speak to move to walking with the other. Well, let me name it now— I am the other. I am the other within UU, the other that you, my dear colleagues, my community, that you are called to reach out to. Our UU military chaplain colleagues and I are all the other, within our formations as well. We are a spiritual and religious minority amongst colleagues and a chaplain culture that leans heavily towards conservative and evangelical. And yet, we persist. We thrive and we serve equally and with tremendous dedication to all of our service members and their families, regardless of faith tradition, sexuality, income, gender identity, race, or ethnicity.
We embody the mystical chant by Rumi in our hymnal that calls for an open heart and welcoming arms.
But I tell you today that our legacy of military chaplaincy is not a recent story. We trace our roots back to George Washington, who declared that the role of chaplains was to protect, and foster religious freedom, and that no faith shall be decreed by government. Some of the very first chaplains in the Continental Army were Unitarian and Universalist, to include our own pioneer minister and founder of the Universalist faith, the Reverend John Murray.
So to you, congregants, lay leaders, and all of my wonderful colleagues, both civilian and military alike, and those walking the stage this day, I bring you a word of encouragement, lessons learned from my years of service, and a blessing for your journey.
First, a word of encouragement for the newly fellowship ministers of our faith. You are the emerging beacons of our movement, calling for love to reach out into the world. Let me take your hand in mine, look into your eyes, and tell you that you are already enough. All your years of school, all your years of preparation, finding and honing your ministerial presence, all of your doubts, your joys, affirmations, and struggles to get to this time and this place— it is enough. Be encouraged this day, for the blessings of the universe and all that is sacred are within you.
As W. E. B. Du Bois asserts, "The prayer of our souls is a petition for persistence; not for the one good deed or a single thought, but for the deed on deed and the thought on thought, until day calling unto day shall make a life worth living." Deep inside your spirit is a river of wisdom, tapping into our collective unconscious as religious professionals, and to that end, you are not alone. May your ministry be a blessing.
So as a soldier, one pillar of my existence is physical training. Or, as we call it, PT. We train our bodies while steeling our resolve to do the hard physical work required of us down range or on missions. For me, PT is my sacred place, where I go to refresh my mind, my body, my spirit. I go within to reemerge, purged of the sludge of whatever may be weighing on my heart that day. You may go on long pastoral walks, taking in the fresh air and the beauty of all of creation. We do, too. We just call them ruck marches, and happen to carry 20 to 50 pounds of rucksacks in the process.
Once, to the delight and amusement of my soldiers, I rucked with my then toddler daughter Genevieve, in a pink hiking baby backpack, for a leisurely ten miles over the hills of Maryland. A rucksack carries everything you need for your journey, and I offer you now three lessons learned from my military chaplaincy for your rucksack, and the rucksack of our beloved denomination and wider movement in the world.
The first tool for your pack is that symbols matter. Symbols have power. They remind us who is present. They remind us of our history. They speak to where we are heading, sending forth intention into the world. I am a symbol. My military chaplain colleagues sitting here in the front are a symbol. Our presence signals to this gathered great community that we belong, where once we may have been previously overlooked at best, and the most challenging of times, openly not welcome in our midst.
As a community-based minister who brings our shared UU faith into the world, our non-parish based ministry is lifted up and acknowledged for the soul work we do with UUs and non-UUs alike. Symbols matter. In May of 2012, Tammy Smith was promoted by the Army to the rank of Brigadier General. Good soldiers with significant leadership potential are promoted all the time, but this made historical news because she is the first openly serving gay general officer.
And her spouse, Tracey Hepner, pinned the stars on Brigadier General Smith's shoulders for the promotion ceremony, also marking the first time a gay spouse has done so.
And which denomination— which denomination put forth a chaplain who could gladly unite their hearts in marriage? Ours did.
Ours did, because I presided over Tracey and General Smith's wedding.
Just as many of my colleagues have done so, and will continue to do so in the future, and that is something that you can be proud of.
Part of recognizing symbols, our important firsts, is also linked to how we bring our history into sharp focus in our presence. We look to the UU Church of South Carolina in Charleston, where our enslaved forebears dug the clay and the earth and the mud to make the bricks of the sanctuary walls. In September of last year, the community gathered to install a memorial made from those very same bricks, shaped by hands of people wrongly enslaved, whose sweat and blood created that space. The monument proudly displays the West African symbol from Ghana, the sankofa, a powerful bird that means looking back in order to move forward. Choose your symbols with care, and lift up that which ennobles your spirit.
The second tool for our ruck is the enduring knowledge that soldiers, and many people, focus more on relationships than theology. We, as Unitarian Universalists, carry within us a legacy of caring, and a dedication to compassionate presence, as we hold our kin against our breast, and we call them friend. Relationships trump theology.
This message hit home for me one day when I walked into the headquarters operation center in Kabul, Afghanistan. A master sergeant of deep faith came to me and he said, chaplain, I'm going on a mission tomorrow, and I may not come back. I know you. I trust you. I want you to do my memorial service. It was a moment that has stuck with me until this day, because in all honesty, I can tell you that I may have spoken just a few words to him. Nothing more than pleasantries— "how's your day," "how's your family," type check-ins. But that simple kindness touched his heart, I came to find out later, when I gave him a hug, very much alive and well, blessing him for his journey home at the end of a very long tour.
A post from social media reminds us, your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and heal the hurting.
Relationships depend on one also thing that's very important, and that is showing up— being there wherever, it is there to be. As a lay leader of the UU Church of Delaware County once reflected wisely, UUs and our Standing on the Side of Love campaign— we embody the very difference between wishing someone good luck on their upcoming move and showing up to help pack. In March of 2014, the UU world reported that our Michigan UU ministers married over 200 same-sex couples, presiding over 2/3 of the ceremonies that day, for this slim window of time that it was legal.
The Reverend Gail Geisenhainer performed a valiant ten ceremonies in just three hours. We show up and we make an impact. We stand in the gap and we provide a crucial presence, with the soul force of the divine within us, changing lives and bringing hope for a better day to many.
The third tool for your ruck is that diversity is important. We have a long history of dedication towards equality and justice under the banner of valuing diversity in our tradition. Diversity in all shapes and forms, recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of each and every person in our communities. I could cite dozens of laudable stories that exemplify our dedication to empowering diversity in our congregations and fomenting social justice.
One such ongoing effort comes from the southwest, where immigration reform and activism is a part of the fabric of that land. Last year Arizona UUs mobilized to stop deportations, forming a statewide legislative ministry called UU Justice Arizona Network.
UUs and activists from immigration reform groups, in just one day, shut down deportation court proceedings preventing 70 people from being deported, keeping families together as a faith community grounded in love and justice.
Diversity means reaching out and standing on the side of love. But I also call upon you this today to be somewhat uncomfortable. There's a critical side of diversity that we often overlook. It is natural to build coalitions and relationships with people of like minds and spirits. We gravitate towards our tribes, seeking our reflection in another's eyes. What is challenging is seeking the other. Building partnerships and relationships with organizations and people that may not align exactly with our values.
Now, I'm not asking you to go to dark places and overlook radical injustices or flat-out evil. I'm calling for intentional relationships with those who may be along the entire spectrum of diversity. Pastor Rick Warren, author of the wildly bestselling book Purpose Driven Life, and senior minister at the mega church Saddleback Church, does just this. In his AIDS ministry with the Saddleback Church in Africa, and other majorly funded social movements and social service projects, Rick Warren states flatly that his church will work with anyone— any organization, any group, any religious community dedicated to the effort of serving people. He proclaims that, as we work together, we build relationships and we connect hand to hand. In connecting hand to hand, working together, we get to know each other's stories, embracing each other's humanity, and learning from one another. We connect heart to heart. It is only then, when there's a connection hand to hand and heart to heart, that we can engage the ways that we are different. And it is only then we can connect mind to mind.
I say this with the full knowledge that Rick Warren has recently made many painful public statements about marriage equality and against equal access to abortion, two social justice issues that are of vital importance to our community. The tool for our ruck, though, is to honor diversity as a part of building the beloved community, building the beloved community where differences still persist, and yet everyone has a seat at the table.
From my foxhole, I see this deep calling towards building the beloved community manifesting in our movement in many ways. One way— perhaps you have heard of AWAKE Ministries out of the UU Church in Annapolis, Maryland.
Under the leadership and vision of the Reverend John Crestwell, and with the blessings of the AWAKE singers, we gather to worship. And through prayer, music, life coaching, and reflection, we empower people to live bold and compassionate lives. What is unique about this ministry, perhaps, is that all are welcome, UUs and all people alike. Under the banner of seeking to connect that which is holy within, seeking to connect with the divine, and that which refreshes you. The vision is for people of all faith traditions to come together, challenging us to build bridges and to worship in a way that honors what is common— our humanity— through the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
I ask you to consider how you can bring this spirit into your faith walk and into your community. Three tools for your rucksack— symbols matter, valuing relationships over theology, and diversity is important. At GA last year, we sang "People Get Ready," and united, we declared that the train is coming. Today we will sing "Love is My Religion."
So people, let's get ready. And together, let's declare that love is our religion. Pick up your ruck, scan the horizon, we are all on this journey together, living this one wild and precious life. Pack your rucksack carefully, with only that which sustains you and brings more light and healing to this bruised and hurting world. You are precious. You are precious.
One life joined with just one life forms a connection that together weaves an interdependent web of all of existence. I charge you to go out into the world. Live our shared UU values with a restless thirst for justice, and a radical love, a boundless love, that courageously radiates our open hearts and our welcoming doors. Our day has come. Our day has come, and let's get on board.
I close with a blessing for you. May the god of your understanding guide your feet along this rocky path. And may the kindness of the beloved community lighten your burdens and bring healing. May the power of the universe and all of creation course through your veins, knowing that you are a child of all that is holy. May the blood of the fallen be deep in the caves of your heart, to seek justice and to act mercifully. May peace prevail over all the nations, and may it begin with us. Amen, and blessed be.
Choir; Erika Nielsen, Soloist
["LOVE IS MY RELIGION"]
REV. DAVID G. PYLE: It is my honor to introduce my friend and colleague, chaplain, lieutenant commander, the Reverend Cynthia Kane, all the way from Hawaii.
REV. CYNTHIA G. KANE: Aloha, Providence. I wish I could be with you there. The reality is, though, you're with me, here. A central Talmudic precept suggests that if you save one person's life, it's as if you've saved the entire world. You, my fellow Unitarian Universalists, saved my life and my world. In 1996, I was supposed to enter into the Navy the day after I graduated divinity school. Instead, I was diagnosed with a rare, bizarre form of cancer, that had a 10% chance of survival the first year, and diminishing prospects thereafter. While I focused on beating those odds, the Living Tradition Fund provided for my basic needs. Because of the generosity of people such as yourselves, I am here today, 18 years later, cancer free, addressing you with a heart full of joy and gratitude, knowing that our efforts in faith branch out endlessly, reaching people and places and situations that we could never even imagine.
Consider this— at my first naval assignment in Washington, DC, I had a supervisory chaplain who is hardcore, old school, and Southern Baptist. He'd never even heard of Unitarian Universalism. Our initial months together might easily have been filmed as a sitcom. Yet, we had this tremendous respect for one another, and he fervently maintained one's First Amendment rights to religious freedom. A few years later, when this chaplain transferred to Great Lakes Training Command, he enlisted two Meadville Lombard students, one of them being David Pyle, to offer Unitarian Universalist services to Navy recruits. Through the past 10 years, nearly 430,000 recruits have been exposed to Unitarian Universalism, and a few thousand of those recruits have found comfort in our faith as they made their way through the arduous process of basic training.
Since my first military assignment 13 years ago, I have served in a variety of chaplaincies with just as varied chaplains, and just as varied ministries. From an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Northwest, to the joint detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; from the Coast Guard in sector northern New England, to the Marines here in Hawaii. And why I'm not with you physically at General Assembly this year is because I'm amidst an exercise with five Pacific nation's navies.
Throughout this time, there's no way to determine how many people have felt touched by Unitarian Universalism's openheartedness and inclusiveness, or how many people, in turn, have shared our precepts. All I do know is that ministry spreads. Caring spreads. Love spreads. In rhizomatic fashion, that ministry, that caring, that love branch out endlessly, often just below the surface, where we cannot see or predict their reach.
The Living Tradition Fund did more than save my life. It save the gift of spirit I so wanted to share, so ardently and for so long, before I received that seemingly fatal diagnosis. Thank you. With each individual that you support, I pray that you know world of spirit is about to unfold.
REV. DAVID G. PYLE: This is but one story of a ministry that you gave the support that ministry needed to transform the world. Because you supported Chaplain Kane in her time of need, there are now thousands of young sailors across the world who think of themselves as Unitarian Universalists.
Now, imagine that story multiplied by all of the ministers and other religious professionals who have been supported by the Service of the Living Tradition Fund. From student loans to emergency funds, you empower ministries around the world through the gift you make tonight. Let's empower all of those ministries. Whatever you are planning to give, I invite you to double it. If you're feeling really adventurous, I would invite you to instead add a 0 or two at the end of what you are planning to give.
But whatever you are planning to give this evening, ask yourself this question— if you could see the impact of all of the ministries that the Service of the Living Tradition Fund sets forth into the world, would you give more? If the answer to that question is yes, then I ask you to do so tonight. The offering to support the transforming ministries that Unitarian Universalist religious professionals empower around the world will now be given and received.
["IN TIMES LIKE THESE"]
ANN WATSON BORN:Please rise in body or in spirit, and join us in our closing hymn, "Life Calls Us On."
["LIFE CALLS US ON"]
REV. CARLTON ELLIOTT SMITH: Love calls us on. Hope calls us on. Faith calls us on. Let's pause for a few moments in quiet gratitude for all those who showed up history with prophetic words, acts of justice, and dreams of compassion. A few more moments for those in our own lives, who showed up with an encouraging word, an outreached hand, a nourishing meal, a forgiving heart, a loving touch. And lastly, for these transitions in our lives, for the opportunity to be of service, represented by those in ordained ministry, and indeed by each and everyone here.
Now grateful for all that our ears have heard, and all that our hearts have felt, let us leave, inspired and ready to show up for each other, and another, and another, again, and again, and again. For all that is our life, we sing our thanks and praise, for all life is a gift, which we are called to use, to build the common good, and make our own days glad. Go in peace now, assured that love surrounds you everywhere you may go.
The annual Service of the Living Tradition recognizes ministers who have been granted preliminary fellowship, achieved final fellowship or completed full-time service; religious educators who have achieved or are retiring from credentialed religious educator, master or credentialed level status; and credentialed music leaders. We also remember and honor those professional religious leaders who have died between May 15, 2013, and May 15, 2014.
The offering received today supports the Living Tradition Fund, which provides scholarships, debt reduction grants, and financial assistance in times of need to seminarians, ministers, religious professionals, other congregational staff, and retired ministers and their loved ones.
The preacher for our service is the Reverend Rebekah A. Montgomery, Chaplain (MAJ), United States Army Reserve. Rev. Montgomery has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY, and a Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Nova SE University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Rev. Montgomery was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, in July of 2005 for an 18-month tour of duty. In 2009, she received an award from the Military Chaplains Association for exemplary service and was named the “Military Chaplain of the Year.” Rev. Montgomery contributed to the UU anthology for military personnel, Bless All Who Serve. She serves as Affiliate Minister at River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, MD, as well as AWAKE Ministries at UU Church of Annapolis, MD. She and her two children live in Bethesda, MD.
The service is prepared under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Association Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group.
Officiants for the service include:
Representing the families of professional religious leaders who have died during the past year is Randy McKeeman, surviving son of the Reverend Doctor Gordon Butler “Bucky” McKeeman.
Our Chalice Lighters are Makoto, Sulhee, and Yuna Antal.
Welcoming the Honorees onto the platform:
Music for the Service:
The Singers of the Living Tradition Choir is composed of Unitarian Universalist professional religious leaders and members of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network.
For more information contact
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
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