Service of the Living Tradition

In Rochester, NY, on June 28, the Unitarian Universalist Association's Service of the Living Tradition was held in the Empire Ballroom of the Riverside Convention Center. The annual service honors those entering the professional ministry, those receiving final ministerial fellowship, those retiring from active ministerial service, and those ministers who have died during the past year.

Processing in to the traditional hymn, "Rank by Rank, Again We Stand," the chalice was lit by members of the family of Rev Dr. Josiah Bartlett, who died during the past year. Certificates were given to ministers receiving preliminary and final fellowship, as well as those completing active service in ministry. An offering was taken to support the Living Tradition Fund, which provides aid to ministers in need and their families. Music was provided by the Singers of the Living Tradition, a group of ministers, students in theological school and their families; by Normand LeMieux, organist of the First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY, and by musicians from the Eastman School of Music.

The sermon, "Truth Telling" (PDF, 7 pages), was delivered by Rev. Dr. Barbara W. Merritt, minister of the First Unitarian Church (Second Parish) of Worcester, MA. In the sermon, Merritt said, "We search for what is holy, for what is true, sustaining, and real." "All of us," said Merritt, "need guidance and help from those who see clearly...the detours, the paths...We are invited to focus on the truth of our religious movement."

Merritt talked about the lies that are often told by individuals in describing Unitarian Universalism. She named those lies:

  • What Unitarian Universalist Fellowships have to offer is not all that important.
  • The only thing that matters is money and material gain.
  • Unitarian Universalists do their spiritual work alone.

Responding to her own naming of these lies, Merritt said, "Our religious path gives people life. The Unitarian Universalist Sunday School was the one place where I was respected and affirmed. This is no small accomplishment."

She expressed admiration for the gifts of diversity that are available if we take hold of the opportunities at hand: "The biblical cities were ones of wonder and abundance and diversity. We are called to embody this spirit of diversity...where scientists...and foolish people are all welcome...Everyone is a child of God, yet we still have challenges before us...Can a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat receive equal respect for their integrity?

We also need to know who is not welcome: Those who are terrorists, [who] hate diversity, [who] think their way is the only way, who try to silence others. "Our religious communities," said Merritt, "must be a place of sanctuary and healing. Friendships can transcend theology—how we are with one another is the truth that will save us."

Reported by Debbie Weiner.

John Buehrens, speaking.

Rev. John Buehrens.

Barbara Merritt, speaking.

Rev. Dr. Barbara W. Merritt.

Singing the Living Tradition choir.

Singing the Living Tradition choir.