Main Content
Opening Ceremony & Worship: Coming Home, #UUAGA 2019
Opening Ceremony & Worship: Coming Home, General Assembly 2019
General Assembly, Online GA

General Assembly 2019 Event #115

Unedited live captions of Opening Ceremony & Worship (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

Program Description

After a year of being apart, the gathered congregation that is General Assembly returns home again. Gather with us, in worshipful and songful space, to acknowledge one another, to share with one another, and to embark anew on our work together. Let us celebrate the power of our coming together.

Speakers

  • Stevie Carmody
  • Mariela Perez-Simons
  • Alex Bates-Lamparella
  • Mr. Barb Greve
  • Elandria Williams

Order of Service

  • Welcome to GA (Co-Moderators)
  • Banner Parade
  • Opening Music: "Sing Our Own Song"
  • Invitation into singing
  • Congregational Song: We Rise
  • Call to Worship
  • Congregational Song: "I Lift Up This Waiting"
  • Call to Order
  • Libations
  • The Empty Chair
  • Recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall
  • Prayer
  • Congregational Song: "Sweet Spirit"
  • Introduction: Chaplains, Right Relationships Team, Accessibility, Safety
  • Closing Words
  • Congregational Song: "We Shall Be Known"

Transcript

This unedited transcript is from live captions created during the event.

>>  Good evening, and welcome.  This is the first time you're hearing the welcome.  You'll hear it a lot tonight.  So the prelude this evening, we're going to do it together.  If everybody can find their seats and i'm going to have this group divided in sections.  This is great, because we already have four different sections, so i'm going to start with the section all the way here on your right side, so my left side.  Right there.  Yeah.  That was great.  Okay.

[Applause] 

Welcome to the stage.

¶ 

>> Hello, everybody! I am Elandria Williams.

>>  And i am Barb Greve.

[applause] 

Together, we are the co moderators of your Unitarian Universalist association.

[cheers and applause]

>>  And I'm Susan Frederick Gray and I'm proud to be the president of your Unitarian Universalist Association.

[cheers and applause] 

>> Let the banner parade begin! 

[applause]

I'm Elandria Williams, half of the co mod team and I'm from the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Born and raised.  Welcome Unitarian Universalists to the 2019 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly In Spokane, Washington!

>> And I'm Barb Greve, the other half of the co moderator ship.  I come to you from Walnut Creek, California, member of the First Parish in Framingham, Massachusetts.  Welcome Unitarian Universalists from near and far, from all across the world, we gather once more as a collective body of faith.

>>  At this time, we'd like to invite you to rise in body or in spirit and join in our opening hymn, we rise.  You might not be familiar with this song, and if that's true, don't panic.  You can still participate by keeping this simple rhythmic pattern.  It repeats quite a bit.  By the end you might have a little bit sticking with you.

[singing "We Rise"]

[applause]

>>  May the fire of this

Chalice we light today

Guide us through these days together

May it warm our hearts

May it guide our actions

May it illuminate our thinking 

And may it remain with each one of us throughout our time together.

>>  The writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs believed that "building community is to the collective as spiritual practice is to the individual." And so, we come to this vast land we know as Washington State this land of ancient forests, this land of majestic mountains we come here as a collective, to build community as a spiritual practice.

As we gather here today, we acknowledge the Spokane Salish and Coeur D'Alene Salish people who are the first inhabitants of this land.  And continue to hunt, gather, pray, sing and live throughout their territories. We are honored to be here!

To this sacred land we come from many lands. Some of us even traveled through the dark night to get here. Why? Because when we are together it feels like home!

[applause]

So, we give thanks for the warmth of community

For the ancestors who paved the way

For the love and the struggles that brought us here.

Come, let us worship together.

Vengan, celebremos juntos y "busca el amor."

[applause]

We'll sing together

Busca el amor

Revisa tu corazón

Para hallar el amor en un rincón.

Pero busca el amor.

Ni placer ni pasión.

El amor lo que hace al otro bien

Busca el amor en ti.

Se multiplica si lo repartís.

Busca el amor en ti.

Sólo él que ama puede ser feliz.

Busca el amor en ti.

Se multiplica si lo repartís.

Busca el amor en ti.

Sólo él que ama puede ser feliz.

Busca el amor en ti, en ti.

Your heart's a chameleon

Ever open to change like any flower.

Spreading out for the sun

Petals bursting with power.

To be love that's reaching someone else.

Seek out the love in you

And find the joy that comes to those who care.

Seek out the love in you.

It only grows whenever it is shared.

Seek out the love in you

And find the joy that comes to those who care.

Seek out the love in you.

It only grows whenever it is shared.

Seek out the love in you, in you.

[applause]

>> I now call to order the fifty eighth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist association. 

[cheers and applause] 

>>  As we gather here at this General Assembly, we do so with the awareness of all that is happening in the world around us and here within our own faith tradition.  Each one of us has different sources of strength and inspiration.  For many of us, one of these sources is our ancestors, those who have come before us who have navigated troubled waters and whose dreams, actions, wisdom, and strength we build upon.  Each year some of our great contemporaries make the great transition to join the ancestors, and this year is no different.  It is customary that when the board meets together physically as opposed to virtually, we leave an open chair at the board table.  This chair honors the spirits that have left proceedings in the past and leaves space for observers to join us when appropriate.  It is an important and sacred custom.

>>  In the spirit of remember and go honoring ancestors, in some African American cultures before libations, libations are poured to honor their lives, their courage, and to remember the lessons they taught us.  As we pour libations this evening, way do so to remember people of our faith and in our communities, along with those in your life who have had great medical.  We will begin by calling out the names from here we will all say Ashe. Can everyone say Ashe with me? Repeat after me Ashe. Ashe.

Today is also Juneteenth.  

[cheers and applause]

And so we cannot start libations out honoring all of those who fought against being enslaved, then and now, because there are just as many people in cages now, more so than they were when slavery ended.  On this anniversary of Stonewall, we also want to start the libations with some of our transgender ancestors who without them, barb and i would not be able to be on this stage.

[applause]

And so I'm going to say a name and you're going to say Ashe.  Okay?

>>  Martha P. Johnson 

Sylvia Rivera 

Reverend Erin Melby

We want to also acknowledge the ten black trans women and four trans Latina trans women who were killed in 2019, including Zoe Spears this week.  We pour libations for Dorothy Emerson.  

Raymond Menker. 

Clark Olson.

And Dick Jackie.  

Now please say a name and during this process we will all say Ashe until all the water has been poured.  Ashe.  We also want to recognize those still here and those yet to come.  

We know that we are joined by elders both of our faith and those we are in community with. If you consider yourself an elder please raise your hand or make some noise.  Let's all say thank you for what they have and are giving us.  Repeat after me: thank you and we love you! Thank you and we love you!

Now for those of us yelders or if you haven't reached yelder status those of us that are in in the middle and providing care, balance and support to both the elders and the younger there raise your hand or make some noise. Let us all say thank you for what they have and are giving us. Thank you and love you.

>>  Now for those who are younger and not just young at heart.  The youth that are leading the way in so many ways and helping the rest of us take notice.  If you are a youth please either raise or hand or make some noise.  

Let us all say thank you for what they have and are giving us.thank you and love you.

Now for those that have yet to come.  Some are almost here about to be born and others we don't even know about.  Let's offer a moment of silence sending them love.

[moment of silence]

Thanks.

>>  Would you join me now in the spirit of prayer and meditation?  

Grounding of the universe

Within us, among us, around us

Receive our prayer:

Grateful are we to have arrived

Grateful to the river of life that carried us here

Grateful to be present with one another.

Gracious spirit, what journeys we have been on

Since this congregation last gathered 

Not just a year older

But with new spiritual resources:

A quiet hope building, perhaps, through moments of solidarity;

An aching grief amidst another hard loss;

A clarity emerging from trying experiences;

Or, a renewed commitment to be in relationship.

Help us to recognize these wisdoms, this knowing, this becoming 

To recognize with conviction that which has grown within us.

Help us to hold tenderly the places our hearts have grown hard

Alive to the possibility of healing.

Divine spirit, may we perceive and embrace the journeys of others

Those right beside us, or those streaming in from around the globe.

Help us to see their particularities that make up a love universal.

As we call one another home to ourselves

Through our action and through our caring

May we commit anew to the calls of this world

And the work that may usher in a now time

That is suffused with more love, and more justice

And your presence.

Waking each moment to engage you, oh spirit

We sit together in a moment of silence. 

[silence] 

Amen, and blessed be.

>>  For this next hymn, I'll invite you to rise in body or in spirit whenever you feel compelled to do so. 

Comfort me, comfort me

Comfort me, oh my soul.

Comfort me, comfort me

Comfort me, oh my soul. 

Sing with me, sing with me…

Sing with me, oh my soul.

Sing with me, sing with me

Sing with me, oh my soul

Speak for me, speak for me

Speak for me, oh my soul

Speak for me, speak for me

Speak for me, oh my soul

Dance with me, dance with me

Dance with me, oh my soul

Dance with me, dance with me

Dance with me, oh my soul

Comfort me, comfort me

Comfort me, oh my soul

Comfort me, comfort me

Comfort me, oh my soul 

>>  It is my great pleasure to welcome to

The stage the UUA General Assembly the co chairs of the GA Planning Committee, the committee that makes this events happen.  Ila Kleon and Debra Boyd.

>>  Good evening.  Welcome to General Assembly 2019 in beautiful Spokane, Washington.

[applause] 

I am Debra Gray Boyd.

>>  And I am Ila Kleon.

>> And we are the chairs of the General Assembly planning committee.

>>  You do the rest. 

>>  Here together with the General Assembly Conference Services staff, the Unitarian Universalist administration, and your Board of Trustees.  And hundreds of other volunteers have been planning and blessed to bring this gathering to life with you.

[applause]

>>  This year's committee is comprised of the two of us, Tuley Patel and Jen Greyson.  Chelsea Surface, Jolanda Walter, Cecelia Hayes, and Deb Greene.

[applause] 

In addition, none of this would be possible without our leads on the ground here in Spokane.  Your local area coordinator, Stephanie Sampson and her Assistant, Nancy Avery.

[applause] 

The committee is also blessed to work with the Reverend Marta Valentin as we strive to create an inclusive multicultural, multi ethnic assembly.  We hope that your time here is nourishing, challenging, educational and fulfilling.  We'll be wearing stylish, attractive blue shirts, and could always be found in the front of the general session hall.  Enjoy your stay.

[applause] 

>>  We now welcome to the stage the UUA General Assembly youth deans, Kari Gottfried and Andreas Rivera Young, the young adult co facilitators, Cassie Withey Rila and Sean Page, and the THRIVE young adult representative, Ayanna Kafi Stringer.

[applause]

>> I'm Kari, your senior youth dean, and I'd like to take our shared 300 word limit to introduce you to our dedicated and passionate youth staff who have volunteered their time and energy to be here today. They're currently in the youth seating over there and can be identified by their bandanas and chalice patches.

>> I'm Andreas, your junior youth dean, and if you'd like to learn more about us than can be shared in 300 words, please seek us out in rooms 206ab and 206cd. 

[applause]

>> I'm Cassie, the senior co facilitator of YA@GA, and I came all the way from Aotearoa, New Zealand to share with you in these few words that you can identify young adult staff at GA by their blue bandanas and commitment to resisting the status quo.

>> I'm Sean, the junior co facilitator of YA@GA, and if you, too, want to resist the status quo come find us in room 202abc.

>> I'm Ayanna, the thrive young adult representative, and I'd love to tell you more about how we need to support young people of color at GA, so come talk to me once I'm off the mainstage. 

[applause]

>> We're almost out of time, but let us say this: in 1961, when the Unitarian and Universalist denominations merged, the youth and young adults were already far ahead, and they've continued to be to this day. 

[applause]

>> Youth and young adults that are here today, please rise as you are willing and able, in body and spirit, and repeat this: 

>> we are here.

>> we are here.

>> we have always been here.

>> we have always been here.

>> and we're not going anywhere.

>> and we're not going anywhere.

[applause]

>>  300 words or less.  

We welcome our 2019 GA chaplains. The chaplains are available during GA and will often be in the chaplain office in the Parkside room at the Doubletree Hotel.

>> Greetings beloved Unitarian Universalists far and wide! I am Rev. Neal Alexander, your chaplain co lead for the General Assembly chaplains. It is my honor to present to you our team of GA chaplains: 

Rev. Kate Landis and co lead from home in Maryland this year, so i just wanted to invite you to give Reverend Katie a shout out so she can hear our love in Maryland.  

[cheers and applause] 

It is my honor to present to you our team of GA chaplains: 

Rev. Kate Landis

Rev. Rebekah Savage

Rev. Michelle Walsh

These generous souls will be available in Parkside room of the Doubletree Hotel. Our GA chaplains are available for pastoral and spiritual support for the duration of General Assembly. You can contact our team by calling 617 948 4244, 24 hours a day. The number is conveniently located in the program.  All GA chaplains will be wearing a chaplain stole to be recognizable during program hours. We are here to support and serve your spiritual needs.  We will also be offering morning spiritual practice in the meditation room of the convention center from 7 7:30am.

So come by and say hi, ask for a blessing or lay your burden down. We are honored to journey with you while at ga.

[applause]

 >> Please welcome the co chairs of your 2019 right relationship team, Yadenee Hailu and Shari Halliday Quan.

>>  It's an honor to be serving as your co chairs.  I'm Vadanee Hailu.

>>  And i'm the Reverend Shari Halliday Quan.  We're looking forward to being engaged in co creating community that reflects our highest values.  Joining us on the team this year rev. Carol Cissel, Rochelle Fortier, Leslie Freeman, Rev. Rachael Hayes, Rev. Ken Jones, Jim Lewis, Miguel Rivera Young, Julian Sharp, and Aj Van Tine. if you need us or you think that you might need us and are thinking about coming to talk to us, you can find us in the Evergreen room in the Doubletree Hotel.  You can speak to someone in one of these classy blue vests or you can call or text at (617)948 4334.  And as kneel said, we are in the program book and on the app.

>>  Maybe you're wondering how the right relationship team fits into that constellation of groups! We're here to support you in working through issues that develop within the General Assembly community. Covenanted community.  So when covenant and action offer and invite us into an opportunity of transformation and growth, our support teams support takes many forms, holding space for your experience, acting as thought partners, accompany and go facilitating conversation that transform relationships.  If you are not sure if what's on your mind and hearts is for us, come to us and find out.  As Unitarian Universalists, we strive to create community that honors the ways the divine shows up in each of us. And we are going to repair and root out the ways oh mess, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, disability erasure, and the many other ways our society fails to honor the divine in each and all. This work will create deep discomfort and uncertainty, particularly for those of us who move in the world with privileged identities. This work can be triggering.  Breathe.  You need not journey in path alone.  We invite you to spend these days together letting go of being flawless or certain. Join us in finding new ways to be curious, open, courageous and humble with one another.

[applause] 

>> Alease welcome the co chairs of the GA Planning Committee and patty have done a great job over the years in making GA more about more accessible to more and more people each year.

[applause]

>>  It's my pleasure to be with you again to coordinate accessibility services for General Assembly.  Our services are available to anyone registered at GA and our goal is to provide assistance that allows everyone to participate fully in GA.  It is our collective role to practice radical hospitality in order to build a beloved community.  A community that includes everyone.  Those who use mobility equipment, listening devices, interpreters have chemical sensitivities, assist animals object need special seating to accommodate provision or hearing, it is our collective responsibility to welcome all.  While you're here at GA, please pay particular attention as we pass along halls, navigate the public witness event, and attend workshops together.  An important tip.  Scooters do not have brakes.  So please don't stop suddenly to chat, because the person who may be behind you using a scooter can't stop suddenly.  As contention centers go, Spokane is a campus with multiple buildings with varying levels of accessibility.  Its elevators can't begin to accommodate all who need one.  Please reserve the elevators for people with mobility or health needs.  Be with one another this week in ways that allow you to practice radical hospitality, that enrich your spirit, open your heart a little or a lot and broaden your experiences as you take in all those around you, whether they walk or ride.  We are all part of this General Assembly, one beloved community, a bright, wonderful community of people of all abilities.  Be with each other in love.  Thank you.

[applause]

>> Please welcome the co chairs of your 2019 safety team.  And the co chairs of your 2019 safety team India Harris and Chris Crass.

[applause]

>> This a room full of beautiful people who want justice?  Is this a room full of people who are on fire to end white supremacy?  Is this a room full of people who want to support our congregations and our communities to get free?  The primary purpose of the safety team is to help this GA be a power and feel productive as possible, to advance our justice efforts and our hearts and our souls and our faith and in our country.  That sound good?  My name is Chris Crass.

>>  and i'm India Harris.

>>  This week we are working to co create a liberated space where we practice our values, where we create safety through living into our commitments, our covenants, and try to get free together.

>>  I offer you the words of community organizer, author, and civil rights activist Fanny Lou Hammer.  You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, god is not going to put it in your lap.  This week we come together from many walks of life.  We represent a beautiful mosaic of many cultures, faith practices, and traditions.  While we have a variety of political understandings around safety and justice, we are all here to uphold the values and promises of Unitarian Universalism.  On this journey, we realize these differences may at times spark debate or create misunderstandings.  We are working to build a world in which safety is a community priority.  Safety and community care that is transform prosperity determined by those most affected.  Along with right relations, the safety team is here to support debate and conflict that is generative.  We've asked the eight of teal to engage in compassionate deescalation that upholds the dignity of all and reminds us of our inner connectedness.  As i said last year, we are not here to argue or debate your experiences, but to listen and, in turn, we ask that you offer your neighbor a listening pair of ears and a bit of kindness.  General Assembly has been a source of excitement and joy and happiness for many Unitarian Universalists, and at the same time it has been filled with many challenges and pain for others.  We are here to support and care for the entire assembled community so that GA can be a positive, thought provoking, heart, spirit, and love filled experience.

>>  So the way the safety team works is that our primary role is to deescalate, interact, and try to minimize conflict between police, security guards, or potential folks that could to disrupt the General Assembly, whether that's through street harassment or verbal harassment of people perceived as trans, queer, people of color, people who try to come in and disrupt a public witness or other ways.  So we are trying to help support the deescalation of folks trying to interfere with our ability to do our work so that we can do powerful program work, powerful worship, and try to minimize the ways that outside forces that want to suppress freedom could get in the way for all of us.

[applause] 

So the safety team folks, as you can see in these beautiful, beautiful orange vests up here with these fabulous folks, if you were to experience things that are interfering with our safety, with our security guards, with the police, with outside provocation, come talk to somebody with an orange vest and we'll do our best to try to minimize that.  Again, won't to practice our values so we can get free.

>>  Thank you.

[applause]

>>  And last, but not least, we're not going to invite them up to the stage.  This also wouldn't happen without the UUA board of trustees.  So we'll ask them in the front section here, they'll be wearing this fabulous hat.  Say thank you to them when you have a moment and ask them all your questions.

>>  The hard ones, y'all.  The hard ones.

>>  So we want to say one thing before we sit down.  We're in a time when rising, and I've lived here for a long, long time.  They never went away.  It also means Spokane can be that place, too.  It's not in the south.  And so really take care for each other.  Love each other.  But take care.  Watch out for your people.  There may be more people of color walking around in this assembly than you might see on the streets of Spokane.  There may be people that are trans and gender queer and non binary that need to be protected from foolishness.  Watch out for each other and try your best to not cause the harm and assume that they might be one of us and not an outsider.  Thank you.

[applause]

>>  Friends, hear these words as we close our opening ceremony and embark on your collective time total.  Come, come with me on this backyard path of shattered mirrors and sidewalk cracks.  Move, move with me and listen to the sounds of the wandering birds and the things the wind found.  Lay.  Lay with me in a passage of dreamt things.  I will place my heart in your palm and try, try to breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe with me.  Melt away the malarkey with silence and cure the angry thoughts with i just don't know.  Scream.  Scream with me.  Tell the air and the dirt and the weeds what is dry, what is broken, what is hurt, and what you need.  Hold on.  Hold on with me to memories and tales of the trees, of climbing limbs and freedom in the little things.  Stay, stay with me in the fleeting, beating of hearts.  Don't get too close, but don't go too far.  Trust.  Trust with me, friends.  Though it's complicated and winds take the road signs, we will blaze our own trail, get lost, and found together.

>>  Please rise in body or in spirit and join in our closing home, we shall be known.  This song may have already been imprinted upon you deeply, or you might be hearing it for the first time, and wherever you are in your relationship with this piece, I invite you to receive it with openness.  It is a thread that is woven through our time together.  

We shall be known

We shall be known by the company we keep

By the ones who circle round to tend these fires

We shall be known by the ones who sow and reap

The seeds of change alive from deep within the earth 

It is time now

It is time now that we thrive

It is time we lead ourselves into the well

It is time now, and what a time to be alive

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

We shall be known by the company we keep

By the ones who circle round to tend these fires 

We shall be known by the ones who sow and reap

The seeds of change alive from deep within the earth 

It is time now

It is time now that we thrive

It is time we lead ourselves into the well

It is time now, and what a time to be alive

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

In this great turning we shall learn to lead in love

[applause] 

[event concludes]

For more information contact web@uua.org.

Like, Share, Print, or Bookmark