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Episode Fourteen of the "A Religion for Our Time" video series gives a behind-the-scenes look at the joint Association Sunday service planned by seven Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations in South Central Pennsylvania.
Thanks to more than two hundred volunteers, the November 2010 joint service included an orchestra, an intergenerational dance troupe, a robust choir, and a sermon by Unitarian Universalist Association President Rev. Peter Morales. Worshipping together builds community among the congregations and gives participants a sense of the broader UU movement.
“Many of our members have never been UU’s anywhere else,” explains Rev. Judy Welles, co-minister of the UUs of the Cumberland Valley congregation. “So to come into a much larger context…where they see, ‘oh we’re really part of something much bigger,’ is very healthy.”
PETER MORALES When the seven UU congregations in South Central Pennsylvania say they love what happens when they work together, they really mean it. Their annual combined worship service is nothing short of extraordinary. As you're about to see, this is an example of congregational cooperation that goes straight to the soul of our movement.
DAVID GLASGOW: Would you sing with us, please? There is more love somewhere.
KATE BORTNER: Let us sing spiritual songs and clap our hands and dance dances to the living rhythms of the earth and sky. There is so much to experience, to learn, to hope.
STEPHAN PAPA: Unitarian Universalist congregations here of Central Pennsylvania have organized a service now for the third year. This time, it was hosted here in York, Pennsylvania.
SPEAKER 1: The six other congregations in the joint worship service were the UU Church in Gettysburg, the UU Church of Lancaster, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, the UU Fellowship of Centre County and State College, the First UU Church of Berks County in Reading and the UUs of the Cumberland Valley in Boiling Springs.
RICHARD SPECK: People are learning they're not alone, so they're not isolated.
JUDY WELLES: I see this in particular in my congregation, and it's only 14 years old-- many of our members have never been UUs anywhere else. To come into a much larger context like this where they see, oh, we're really part of something much bigger, is very healthy for them.
MARK HAYES: The nearest neighboring UU congregations are around two hours away from us. Coming together in a large group like this really makes a difference.
KATE BORTNER: When we join together, the odds toward goodness begin to multiply.
SPEAKER 1: There was plenty to multiply with 650 people from the seven congregations at the service.
MARK HAYES: I really liked all of the service, but I think probably my favorite part is the congregational singing.
Just joining voices with hundreds of Unitarian Universalists just sends shivers through me.
MAGGIE KRUGER: I definitely liked President Morales' sermon. The music was nice, but I think his sermon really had-- he had something to say.
PETER MORALES: We are capable of doing amazing things. I've seen it over and over again. When we unleash the power of our love, and the power of our creativity, when we commit ourselves to acting together, we are something to behold.
SPEAKER 1: All this music, with an orchestra and a choir of nearly 90 members, the dance troupe of young and old, the stories readings and prayers and hymns, as well as the giant chili cook off after the service-- that took more than the usual amount of planning and coordinating.
MARIAN RUBACH: We had over 200 volunteers from all of the congregations working together, which I think is phenomenal.
RICHARD SPECK: That's a challenge, to be able to pull together that many people from that many different congregations to work cooperatively and collectively-- but the joy is, they pulled it off. With enough energy and determination, the Unitarian Universalists can work well together to worship together and to celebrate together.
BOB RENJILIAN: The more that we feel empowered by how we're nurtured, that's when we will be engaged as our world needs us to be.
KATE BORTNER: Come, come whoever you are-- let us worship together.