Bridging the Entire CERSI Community

Jared Hammond in a top hat

Jared Hammond

This week we offer this post by guest blogger, Jared Hammond. This is the homily he offered during the CER Summer Institute (CERSI) Bridging Ceremony this month. He is a member of the young adult panel for CERSI.

In March of 2018, Randy Rieches, Director of Collections Husbandry and Science at the San Diego Zoo announced the death of Sudan, the last remaining male Northern White Rhino. With this announcement and the knowledge that the two remain Northern White Rhinos Najin and Fatu, are a mother and daughter, he said something poignant. “As devastating as this may seem, there’s still hope.” They’re still trying to save the Northern White Rhino to this day and over the past three years there have been some signs of that hope that Randy Rieches spoke of.

In March of 2020, the world ground to a halt. Almost everything that was supposed to happen for nearly fifteen months simply didn’t. Millions of people died and many more will live with the effects of the often deadly virus for the near future, perhaps the rest of their lives. And in July of that year, the CERSI community did something incredible. Moved an entire, week long, experience onto the internet in a few short months. This was not quite an extinction level event, but this beloved community needed to be the hope in the wake of devastating circumstances.

And then this year, more devastating news. There are no Youth ready to bridge here at Summer Institute this year. It reminds us that Unitarian Universalism, like many mainstream religious organizations is diminishing in the world. The youth feel disengaged and the young adults don’t stay. This is not an extinction level event and it’s not a global pandemic, devastating as this may seem. But there’s still hope.

I don’t know what the future holds for this beloved community. I can’t promise you it’s going to be anything like what you remember it being before and I can’t promise you that it’s going to be easy. Just as there are no youth here tonight prepared to bridge into young adulthood, you might not be ready for the bridge into what comes next. But there’s still hope.

There are youth here. And young adults. And adults. Children. We’re all here. None of us solely the future or the past. All of us in the present. We are all bridging tonight. Into a world where there are 8 principles of Unitarian Universalism and we live them all in our daily lives. A world where the wisdom of experience is respected as highly as the wisdom of age. A world where the traditions and rituals of our elders and ancestors that continue to serve all of us, can be embraced and carried far into the future. And the one’s that do not serve all of us, can be honored and reformed.

I invite you to turn on your cameras and look upon our beloved community. Changed by our experiences of this week, of the past two years of virtual interaction, of the many long years that we have been fighting so hard to survive and thrive. Congratulations to all of us. May we live into what we have accomplished.