General Assembly 2000 Event 385
When the first Bridging Ceremony as a General Assembly event was held in 1995 in Spokane, WA, it was tucked away in a small meeting room attended by less a hundred people. Today, the Bridging Ceremony has become one of the highlights of our General Assembly, with an uncontended time slot of its own, held in the main auditorium and attended by more than a thousand Unitarian Universalists (UUs). This change reflects the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) continuing commitment to and support for the youths and young adults in our movement.
The 20-member choir and musicians were assembled only two days ago by choir director Jen Hazel. She did so by simply "asking for volunteers." With only a few rehearsals, the choir delighted us with a welcoming chant from Ghana entitled "Fanga," accompanied by the sonorous voices of African drums.
The chalice was lit by Jesse Jaeger, an intern in the Office of Young Adult/Campus Ministry. Opening words were read by Phoebe Hanshew, a member of the Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN) Steering Committee while Melanie Griffin, a member of the Bridging Ceremony Planning Committee, welcomed the youths to the ceremony.
The choir performed "We Are the Music Makers" before joining the youths and young adults seated in the center section of the auditorium. Many of them would also be participating in the bridging ceremony itself.
Speaker Mandy Jacobson shared her experience as she herself has crossed over the significant line between youth and young adult a few years ago. She was terrified by leaving Young Religious Unitarian Universalism (YRUU) and becoming a young adult, Jacobson said. As a YRUU, she had been told that young adults were disorganized, needy, pathetic, geeky, and icky—until she met one.
Rev. Kent Matthies, himself a young adult, reminded us that the young adults of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations had merged a decade before the 1961 official mergers of the two faiths. He shared stories of his friendship with Kutzo, a young South African adult and human rights advocate who has influenced him. Matthies pointed out the significant young adults have made not only in our own faiths, but in our society.
The Bridging Voices of Melanie Griffin, Phoebe Hanshew, Jesse Jaeger, Marc Loustau, and Jessie Washington drifted down the stage with a dream-like quality as they took turns sharing affirmations of who they are and who they dream of becoming. Statements mostly began with "I am…", or "In my dream, I am…" A few of the statements, however, were semi-serious with a humorous touch, like, "In my dream, I am naked."
Jen Hazel composed the Bridging Chant. She organized everyone into one of three groups and taught each group a different chant, and then had us all chant together with interlocking melodies that could challenge J.S. Bach's counterpoint composition.
- Young Adults: "Heya, welcome, welcome, welcome."
- Youths: "Glad to be here."
- Other UUs: "The stronger the roots, the taller the tree."
In a litany of responsive readings, the UUA leaders present at the ceremony and all UU congregational representatives gave their thanks and appreciation as well as pledged their support for the youths as they move into young adulthood.
A total of twenty-nine youths, each accompanied by a young adult, were bridged across the symbolic line by walking across the stage in pairs. The youth announced their names while the young adult gave them a copy of UU Backpacking: A Faith for the Road. This book is designed to keep them connected to their faith through individualized projects. As the young people bridged across, "There's More Love Somewhere" seemed to arise from the floor of the stage as a few, then more people, joined in humming the tune until it turned into a full chorus.
Rev. Donna DiSciullo, director of the Office of Young Adult Campus Ministry, read the following prayer:
O Love that will not let us go
we gather in this community
to honor our young people
those who have touched our lives and our congregations
with their creativity, their boundless energy
with their love.
We gather, filled with hope and confidence,
for they are our future, as well as, our present.
As they venture out into a larger world
May they carry with them
their faith in the power of love to change the world
the realization that what they do matters greatly
that the way we connect with each other is through acts of love and justice
may they love the world and bless it with their lives.
For those on the far side of the Bridge
who have known the uncertainty of change
who have experienced the grace of community
who have felt the love and reaped the gifts
may you remember…and reach out.
May all present here, the combined leadership of our Association, keep our
pledges made this holy night. As our Bridgers look to us for wisdom,
guidance and direction, let us honor them with acts of commitment and
courage, compassion and continuity.
Oh Love that will not let us go
Let us not disappoint…
Our young, ourselves, our movement.
To honor those youths in our congregations who were not able to attend this bridging ceremony, Rev. DiSciullo asked that those who wish to honor their youths write their names on ribbons that were provided and to pin them up on a large banner of the flaming chalice before they left the ceremony. Many more youths were honored this way in absentia.
Kevin McCulloch, in his closing words, told us that when he was eighteen, he had dreamed of a liberal religious faith to sustain him, and he has found it here in the midst of those present.
Sixth Annual Bridging Ceremony
Prelude: Bridging Choir
Chalice Lighting: Jesse Jaeger
Opening Words: Phoebe Hanshew
Welcome: Melanie Griffin
Interlude: "We Are the Music Makers" text by Arthur O'Schaughnessy (1844-1880), music by Kenneth Mahy
First Speaker: Mandy Jacobson
Second Speaker: Reverend Kent Matthies
Bridging Voices: Performed by Melanie Griffin, Phoebe Hanshew, Jesse Jaeger, Marc Loustau, Jessie Washington
UUA Leaders: We stand here together to honor the transition from youth to young adulthood and to celebrate the contribution of "Bridgers" to our Association. As leaders, we commit ourselves to the support of these vibrant Unitarian Universalists.
Congregational Leaders: We join you as representatives of our congregations. We nurtured these individuals as they grew from childhood into young adulthood. We have welcomed them as they discovered Unitarian Universalism, and we have benefited from their presence in our churches.
UUA Leaders: These young adults are woven into the fabric of our faith; they challenge us and they move us forward. Still, we know that without a bridge into the young adult movement, we risk losing them.
Congregational Leaders: Too often youth leave our congregations, depriving us and themselves of many gifts. Today we voice our commitment to building a stronger community fabric, to building a bridge, and we ask that you build with us. What do you pledge to our young adults?
UUA Leaders: We pledge to include and involve bridging youth and young adults in our vision for the future.
Congregational Leaders: We pledge to greet young adults with warmth after our services, to notice and welcome them.
UUA Leaders: We pledge to expand young adult ministries on campuses and within congregations, to create resources and structures that support this ministry.
Congregational Leaders: We pledge to make space in congregational life for young adults, and to encourage the creation of sacred space where young adults can be in fellowship.
All: As you stand on the bridge between youth and adulthood, know that we cherish the energy you bring to every facet of Unitarian Universalism. We have pledged today in the spirit of our intergenerational community, which is enriched by your presence. We greet you with open arms as you cross this bridge, and pledge to be there again at future crossings.
Introduction to Bridging Ritual: Mandy Jacobson
The Bridging Ritual: (Please hold your applause until the end. Thank you.)
In the Spirit of Prayer: Reverend Donna DiSciullo
Bringing the Heart and Mind to Bridgers Not Present
Closing Words: Kevin McCulloch
Extinguishing the Chalice
Reported by Kok Heong McNaughton and John Melski.