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Worship, Witness and WaterFire

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General Assembly 2014 Event 436

More information is available at Unitarian Universalism: Standing on the Side of Love.

Worship: Make Way for Love

Building Beloved Community requires living into the reality that we are each beloved. We need to feel that belovedness! So come take sanctuary, and renew your power to co-create sanctuary in the world, with a heart-centered, music-packed, spirit-filling worship led by the Sanctuary Boston. Nourish your spirit as we collectively prepare to reach out in love through our public witness!

Speakers

  • David Ruffin, M.Div.
  • Mark Buckles
  • Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen
  • Rev. Mykal Slack

Witness and Waterfire

What does love look like—and what does love feel like—when it reaches out?

WaterFire is a downtown Providence riverfront community arts festival whose signature feature is braziers lit on the river.

It is a spiritual, musical, and visual celebration of community. For this year’s public witness event the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has sponsored tonight’s WaterFire festival, with the theme of love.

Come join with the Providence community and reach out in love. Be joyful; sing together; spend time reflecting, meditating, or praying; light a flame for love; and be part of this public art event.

We will have a “Love” tent where we showcase what it means for Unitarian Universalists (UUs) to stand on the side of love and be the “love people.” Let’s share our UU “good news” in community and proclaim, as Dr. Cornel West says, that “justice is what love looks like in public.”

Take risks and be bold. Consider how you can engage with other people in new, loving ways; represent Unitarian Universalism as a religion grounded in love; and embody love in your interactions with yourself, another person, a community, and the world.

Wear your Love shirts! We will process together directly out of worship in the General Session Hall and proceed to the WaterFire riverfront together. 

Together we will embody love reaching out, igniting fires on the river and flames in our hearts—lighting up the sky with love!

Transcript

1st Movement: “YES!”
Gathering in Celebration and Thanksgiving

DAVE RUFFIN: How's everyone doing tonight? Are there some people in the house who are ready to worship? Are you ready to worship like you mean it, tonight?

Where is this voice coming from? I'm not on the stage. I'm very close to the stage, but I'm not quite on the stage.

What's up? I'm Dave. I'm the coordinator of the Sanctuary Boston. I'm so so so so pumped to share this night with you all, this incredible celebration of love reaching out that we're about to have here, in worship, and then, when we actually do reach out and head down to WaterFire for this public witness to love, our need for love and our capacity to love.

But the reason why I'm talking to you right now, before we're really getting going, is because I want to make worship even more fun for you tonight by teaching some of the musical parts that may be a little bit less familiar—just a few—so that when they come, you'll be ready, and you'll just enjoy it. You won't be trying to learn at that point. The first one is a song you all know, "Enter, Rejoice, and Come In," but we do it a little bit different, so check this out. Goes

[SINGING]

Just try that with me. Here we go.

[SINGING]

Then try this. It goes like this.

[SINGING]

Try that.

[SINGING]

One more time.

[SINGING]

You got that. All right. Mykal's going to sing it one more time anyway, so that'll be a piece of cake.

Now, anybody heard of Rare Earth? Put your hands together if you know Rare Earth. All right. We love their song "I Just Want to Celebrate." Here's how it goes.

[SINGING]

Sing that with me.

[SINGING]

One more time.

[SINGING]

And then the last time—the fourth time—we go,

[SINGING]

Try that.

[SINGING]

Let's do that one more time.

[SINGING]

Beautiful. All right. That's down.

Now, Jesus Jones. '80s—that's my era. "Right Here Right Now." Here's how it goes.

[SINGING]

[INAUDIBLE] with me. Here we go.

[SINGING]

Beautiful. One more time.

[SINGING]

And then the fourth one—I want to hear who knows it.

[SINGING]

All right. Let's do that together.

[SINGING]

All right. That should keep you guys in pretty good shape for our gathering music. I think we're about to get going. I hope you enjoy the worship.

[MUSIC—"ALL ARE WELCOME"]

DAVE RUFFIN: I will say one more thing. If you feel like you've got so much worshipful energy that you want to give permission, out there, to other people, to really worship, we would love you to come up on stage and worship with us because we've got some seats up here and these courageous people. So if your heart just said, is he talking to me, the answer is, yes, come on up. Give that gift to these other people. They want to see you worshipping.

They can keep them on. Don't take your name tags off while you're on stage because otherwise [INAUDIBLE].

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: All are welcome.

[SINGING]

[APPLAUSE]

SPEAKER 1: Come as you are. All are welcome.

[MUSIC—"COME COME WHOEVER YOU ARE"]

DAVE RUFFIN: All right. All right. All right.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC—"ENTER, REJOICE, AND COME IN"]

MYKAL SLACK: Join me.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

[APPLAUSE]

SPEAKER 3: Yes, yes, yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: Oh, yeah.

[MUSIC—"FOR ALL THAT IS OUR LIFE"]

[MUSIC—"I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE"]

[MUSIC—"RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW"]

[MUSIC—"I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE"]

[MUSIC—"FOR ALL THAT IS OUR LIFE"]

[APPLAUSE]

Opening Words

DAVE RUFFIN: So help me out. Help me out because I wasn't quite sure. Is there anyone who's grateful to be here tonight?

[CHEERING]

Come on, now. Don't be shy. Is there anyone in the house that's grateful to be here tonight?

[CHEERING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Are you grateful for your lives? Yes?

[CHEERING]

DAVE RUFFIN: For everyone in your life? Say yes if so.

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: For everyone in this room?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: All right. Let's help each other feel that. Turn to your neighbor, right now, and just say simply to them, say, yes. Just turn to your neighbor and say, yes.

[SIDE CONVERSATION]

DAVE RUFFIN: Beautiful. Beautiful. All right. Now turn to another neighbor, and say, yes, to them. Just say, yes.

[SIDE CONVERSATION]

DAVE RUFFIN: We could be doing this all night. Yes to all that is our life. Let's say, yes, together. Yes!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: Let's do it again. Say, yes.

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To finding sanctuary right here, right now, say, yes.

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To Sanctuary Boston?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To Sanctuary Providence?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To creating sanctuary wherever we go!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: In times of joy!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: In the places of brokenness.

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: With faith!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: In love!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: In love!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To love!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: To love!

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: Say that with me. Yes to love!

AUDIENCE: Yes to love!

DAVE RUFFIN: All right. I think we're ready to go then. Put your hands together for love.

MYKAL SLACK: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Hold on a second.

DAVE RUFFIN: What? What? What?

MYKAL SLACK: Hold on a second. That's all well and good, but you know, there's actually something more. That's a good start. Don't get me wrong. That's a good start.

DAVE RUFFIN: What could be more?

MYKAL SLACK: But there is actually more love.

DAVE RUFFIN: All right.

MYKAL SLACK: More love. More love reshaping our relationships. More love building up our communities. More love building up our world. More love, as we seek justice both within ourselves and outside of ourselves. Amen?

AUDIENCE: Amen.

MYKAL SLACK: Do you all feel that possibility in here tonight?

AUDIENCE: Yeah!

[MUSIC—"THERE IS MORE LOVE SOMEWHERE"]

2nd Movement: Letting Love Reach In

MYKAL SLACK: OK. Let's try that again. Do you all feel that possibility in here tonight?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

MYKAL SLACK: All right. Well, sing this with me.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Yeah. So that song took shape in the hearts and voices of African Americans, as they made way out of nowhere. They knew the extremity of our world's brokenness, yet still sung of love.

And now we're lifting our voices tonight. And we're still living in a crazy, broken world. But we can always make way for more love, even where there seems to be no way. Amen?

AUDIENCE: Amen!

DAVE RUFFIN: As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to work for a more peaceful and just-filled world. And tonight is our public witness.

AUDIENCE: Yes!

DAVE RUFFIN: But tonight—check it out. Tonight we're getting to the heart of that calling because we're witnessing to love itself—healing, transforming, bridge building, justice seeking love, reaching out because, quite simply, more love is what the world needs.

SPEAKER 2: Yes. Yes. And because it's what we need. We are wrapped up in the world's brokenness. We, in this room, need love's healing power. We need sanctuary.

DAVE RUFFIN: Yes. And so here we are. When two or three gather together in our need—or say, maybe 5,000—and open ourselves to the presence of love in this room, well, then our witness has already begun. So will you really pray these words with me, as we open our hearts to the possibility of more love?

[SINGING]

MYKAL SLACK: When I first encountered this Sanctuary Boston community, I didn't really know what to do with it. So here I was—black, queer, trans-identified person of faith. And I stepped into this community. And like so many other communities of faith, I wasn't sure if I could trust it.

DAVE RUFFIN: That's right.

MYKAL SLACK: You see, I wanted to know that there was a way in, for me. I wanted to know that I could fully show up as my whole self, pull back all of the layers of me, and be vulnerable.

[APPLAUSE]

MYKAL SLACK: I wanted to know that there was more love. And you know what? I didn't even just want it. In that particular moment, I really needed it.

DAVE RUFFIN: Yes.

MYKAL SLACK: I needed it in ways that I didn't even have words to express. It was October 2012, and I was gearing up for my ordination in Metropolitan Community Churches, a culmination of eight really long years of study and life lessons. And my father—my dad—had died less than nine months before.

I missed him terribly as I stepped into that space. And I wasn't sure how I could experience this milestone without him. You see, my father and I, were not very connected to each other for most of my adult life. He didn't know what to do with me. And I had no idea how to be my full self around him.

And it wasn't until the last two years of his life that we started to see each other. And we enjoyed each other so much. And I loved him so much. And he was able to tell me how much he loved me. And suddenly, he was gone.

And that was incredibly difficult. And I couldn't see the ministry that I had prepared so hard for. I couldn't see in front of me. And I couldn't see the life that I had hoped so much for because my father had finally found the son he had always hoped for, and I had found the father I had always longed for. And suddenly, that was over.

So, you know, I walked in with all kinds of sadness and expected to walk out with not much more than that. Something really marvelous happened. The arms of a community showed up and wrapped themselves around me. The music of a community showed up and laid the tune of possibility inside of me. And the love of a community showed up and said to me and all that I was carrying when I walked in the door, you can sit down. Settle in. Now, we're going to love on you. And we're going to heal you right up. And so what I walked in with, I didn't have to leave the door with. Amen?

AUDIENCE: Amen! The hopefulness that I had lost, I was able to reclaim. And this is at the heart of what is the best about all of our communities.

DAVE RUFFIN: Mhm.

MYKAL SLACK: This is who we can be to each other. In my brokenness, I was bound up in love, and found, in that moment, that I was enough.

[SINGING]

MYKAL SLACK: Can you sing that with me?

[SINGING]

MYKAL SLACK: Yeah. That's how that goes. That's how we do that.

[APPLAUSE]

"Whole"

SPEAKER 3: Please take the hand of the person next to you. And as you're holding their hand, listen to these words from the Reverend Erika Hewitt. "The hand in yours belongs to a person whose heart is sometimes tender, whose skin is sometimes thin, whose eyes sometimes fill with tears, whose laughter is a beautiful sound. The hand that you hold belongs to a person who is seeking wholeness and knows that you are doing the same."

Prayer

MYKAL SLACK: Let's pray together. Spirit of life, source of love, awakened heart, we are so so very grateful for this gift of love, so very grateful that we can feel that love in this moment, and that that love, reaching in, can go out. Thank you.

But in our loving, we have also lost. We've lost. Bind up our hearts in love.

SPEAKER 4: Spirit of life, as we struggle with our health, with the illnesses of loved ones with addiction, we pray that we feel held by the love surrounding us. We pray for healing.

SPEAKER 5: God, who is love, we've hurt each other, and we have been hurt. Open our hearts. Open our hearts anew to each other. Free us to forgive.

SPEAKER 6: Holy one, we often live in this world as if we are separate. Give us new vision to live out our unity. Make us whole.

MYKAL SLACK: In our brokenness.

3rd Movement: Being the Love that Reaches Out

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Will you sing with me?

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: When I feel like I'm hiding.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: When I feel like I'm tiring.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Let's do that one more time. When I feel like I'm hiding.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Ask each other.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Peter.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Here we go.

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: Tell your neighbor.

[SINGING]

[APPLAUSE]

SPEAKER 7: Thank you. Thank you for this wholeness. Reach out. Offer a hand, again, to a neighbor. Put a palm on a shoulder.

Spirit of life, God, who is love, we have our wholeness, and you also hold our doubts. Are we capable of the kind of love that we sing about? Are we the right people to transform this world? Is this the right religion?

And what about when we lose? Beloved God, what about when we lose on a legislative issue or a stewardship campaign? What about when a salary is cut? What about when we cannot do the job?

We lay our doubts at the Altar of Community. In our brokenness, love binds us up. In our brokenness, we find we are enough.

This evening, we prepare our hearts to witness, to the power of our Unitarian Universalist faith—faith that nothing can cast us out of that great circle of love. Amen?

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

SPEAKER 7: Faith that the miracles of life, the resilience of community will always humble and amaze us. Amen?

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

SPEAKER 7: Faith that no matter the brokenness, grace and courage are ours. Amen?

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

SPEAKER 7: We make way for love that reaches in, and we make way for love that reaches out. We are a sanctuary without walls. We are a living sanctuary for love. May it be so, and let the people say, amen.

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

"There is More Love Right Here"

[MUSIC—"THERE IS MORE LOVE"]

DAVE RUFFIN: When we say, yes, to all that is our life—

[SINGING]

MYKAL SLACK: When, in our brokenness, we find sanctuary—

[SINGING]

SPEAKER 8: When, with our divine light, we create sanctuary—

[SINGING]

DAVE RUFFIN: In sanctuary, we free our love to reach out, creating more love.

SPEAKER 4: For personal work.

SPEAKER 5: For communal work.

SPEAKER 6: For justice work.

MYKAL SLACK: And when justice makes way for more peace—

SPEAKER 8: And more peace makes way for more hope—

SPEAKER 2: And more hope makes way for more joy—

SPEAKER 3: And more joy makes way for more love—

GROUP: Then there is more love right here.

DAVE RUFFIN: All right. Hallelujah. Let's sing about it.

[SINGING]

[APPLAUSE]

SPEAKER 9: Well, we've shown up tonight as we are, grateful and joyful, hurting and in need. And there is more love right here.

DAVE RUFFIN: That's right.

SPEAKER 9: And that's what the world out there needs, too—our courage to show up as we are, open to love. It will still be hard, but love will hold us together. And that's all we really need.

DAVE RUFFIN: Mark Buckles, ladies and gentlemen.

[MUSIC—"HOLD US TOGETHER"]

[SIDE CONVERSATION]

DAVE RUFFIN: Look around. Look. Look around.

We are not alone. We are held together. In love, we are a living sanctuary.

We are a sanctuary. Will you say that with me?

AUDIENCE: We are sanctuary.

DAVE RUFFIN: We're a living witness for our faith, a living witness for love's power to heal wounds, to bridge divides, and to transform our world. And this witness is on the move.

Whatever we may face, we're holy, we're loved, we're never alone, and we're living the first day of the rest of our lives. So let's reach out. Reach out.

[SINGING]

[APPLAUSE]

MYKAL SLACK: May love keep us, bless us, hold us, and help us create sanctuary wherever we may go.

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

MYKAL SLACK: Amen.

DAVE RUFFIN: Amen.

MYKAL SLACK: [INAUDIBLE]

AUDIENCE: Amen!

MYKAL SLACK: And blessed be.

"Hold Us Together"

MATT MEYER: It's time for us to begin our movement towards the river, to WaterFire, to celebrate, together, to the power of love, to change our own lives, to change the world around us. We're going to begin with Oriana McKanan, who's going to take that flame down to the water where she'll eventually light the fires on the river.

She'll be joined by Peter Morales and Jim Key. And then we're going to invite all of our siblings in spirit, in wheelchairs or scooters, to join those three at the front of the procession. And together, they will lead us to the river.

DAVE RUFFIN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MATT MEYER: And then your ushers will dismiss you, one row at a time, to join them in that walk, and that stroll, and that movement down to WaterFire.

MYKAL SLACK: Amen.

DAVE RUFFIN: But we want every sacred soul in this place to be held in love, to be held in song until they leave these doors. So we're going to keep on singing if that's OK. Is that all right with you all?

[APPLAUSE]

So keep your eyes on your ushers. They've got the luminaria to help you out. And let's sing each other out, all the way down to the celebration at the WaterFire. Take it away, Mark.

Exit Music

[MUSIC—"HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU"]

[APPLAUSE]

DAVE RUFFIN: Man, oh man. Man. Still feeling the love out there? All right. This song's going to help us make sure about that.

[MUSIC—"SAN FRANCISCO"]

MARK BUCKLES: Rachel Kelly on violin.

[APPLAUSE]

DAVE RUFFIN: Rachel Kelly!

MYKAL SLACK: All right. Sorry.

[MUSIC—"HAPPY"]

For more information contact web@uua.org.

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Last updated on Monday, August 18, 2014.

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