General Assembly 2000 Event 302
Presenter: Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Nashville, TN
Saturday morning's worship service opened with more than 2,500 UUs in the plenary hall of the Nashville convention center as they learned a chant entitled, "A Chorus of Spirit," which was written and conducted by Jason Shelton:
Many and great are voices we raise
Our chorus of spirits now begun
And in the joining of hands and the hearts here we find
Our many voices are one
The chalice was lit by Emily Green and the youth of the First UU Church of Nashville, with words from a poem written after the 1998 General Assembly in Rochester, NY, by one of the church's youth, Leslie Dower:
We are like tiny islands far out at sea
Independent networks that function alone
Miles of bottomless water separate us: who will build the bridge?
It will take a while to find the bottom so we can set the foundation
If we all work together we can find a way to do it
We would be a stronger unit together than if we were in little pieces
Uni means one, unified, Unitarian, Universalist.
It's our destiny. Let's fulfill the promise.
The reading, "Primary Wonder," was by Denise Levertov. A musical interlude followed. Entitled "Holy Now," it was composed and performed by Unitarian-Universalist Church of Norwich member Peter Mayer, and offered a reflection on the holy in the every day:
"When I was in Sunday School
We would learn about the time
Moses split the seas in two
And I remember feeling sad…
That miracles don't happen still
But…everything's a miracle
…I am walking with a reverent air
Because everything is holy now
…See another new morning comes
Say it's not a sacrament…
This morning outside I stood
A little redwing bird sang…
Made me want to bow my head
…I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then…
Everything is holy now…
I am walking with a reverent air,
because everything is holy now…"
Sermon: "Another Music City Miracle"
By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn
"We have been waiting a long time to welcome you to Nashville," said Rev. Mary Katherine Morn. "I have looked on the street and imagined what you would look like…to see the whole sea of you and to feel the power, the presence of you among us. You are not the first sea of religious folks to gather in Nashville this summer…
"There was quite a large sea a few weeks ago when Billy Graham came through," said Morn. Our football stadium was almost full for four nights with people who were anxious to taste this feeling of hope. Banners and billboards all over proclaimed it: 'another music city miracle.' I asked several people in my congregation what that meant…." said Morn. "Most people remembered that Sabbath afternoon in the winter of 2000. It was," she said, "the playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills.
"I never imagined that I would offer a play by play in a sermon, let alone one with all of you," said Morn. "But you are here in Nashville, and you need to know what the music city miracle was. That's what they called it, and others called it the immaculate reception.
"OK, so it's not that unusual for people to confuse sports and salvation. Billy Graham's crusade was in the stadium too, there was a big play right at the end with seconds left, and thousands of people found things they were hoping for…thousands went home with something they considered miraculous.
I went to the Billy Graham crusade with a few of my members. …A few things moved me," Morn said. "Forty thousand people lifting their voice in song is powerful stuff…But if I could recognize the miraculous in a Billy Graham crusade," she said, "and in a football game, there was no chance that I would miss it here with you."
Tennessee, she said, is a state that needs miracles right now. There is a deep budget crisis. And, she observed, "Our state has begun killing people again…a severely mentally ill man was killed by lethal injection…and there is one more miracle I'm hoping for. In Nashville our schools are facing a terrible crisis in the education system. Our children in Nashville are in need of a miracle right about now. All that you are doing for economic justice gives me hope. I invite you to visit the Empty Shelves exhibit at General Assembly (GA), and contribute a book to the children who need your miracle.
"Maybe these aren't very dramatic miracles.. not ones likely to grab headlines in the local paper. And as in every story, we (UUs) will get it a little bit wrong…our small acts of mercy will not quite quench our hope for peace…we will ourselves confuse football and salvation, or at least salvation and getting ahead in the game. We will practice kindness, do justice, and at times, forget to walk humbly.
"And at times, grace and good sense will lead us on…sometimes the quiet mystery will return to our awareness…sometimes miracles will happen…and even then, we will not always realize the promise. We just won't. But that's one of the beautiful things about our liberal path…the miracle doesn't depend on the last three seconds of the game…the promise doesn't even demand fulfillment. Our work together these last years has never been called 'the promise fulfilled.' What the promise demands is our faithfulness…that we see it, that we long for it.
"I'm betting it's not just me. I'm betting that you came to GA hoping for a miracle too…Look around this holy space we have created together…this holy 'now'…do you see the possibility, the promise…It's the possibility of connection, it's the promise of love. Look. It's right there. Right now, in these faces around you. Another music city miracle."
The service concluded with the singing of the hymn, "We Would Be One," and a benediction called "Alive Together," which affirmed these thoughts:
Speaking of marvels
I am alive together with you
When I might have been alive
With anyone under the sun…
Reported by Debbie Weiner.