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Bridging Ceremony, General Assembly 2005

Bridging Ceremony video starts at 3:19:39.

General Assembly 2005 Event 3109

"Celebrating the transition from youth to young adulthood and the power of our liberal religious voice to change the world."

The 2005 bridging ceremony was held on Saturday evening, June 25th, in the main arena at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Matt Meyer opened with a solo on the drums. He was followed by Darrick Jackson who gave the opening words and lit the chalice.

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Rev. Bill Sinkford then welcomed everybody:

Welcome to the Bridging Ceremony. We began this tradition in 1995 and it has become one of the most popular events at General Assembly. The Bridging Ceremony is an opportunity to witness a transition, a passage from youth to young adulthood. Witnessing life transitions has been central to the lives of religious communities...well, since there have been religious communities. And there are roles for all of us to play in this ceremony.

The lead, of course, is played by the bridgers. Some of their hearts are filled with excitement as they look forward to what lies ahead. For some, there is a bit of anxiety as they move into an unknown future. All know that they are leaving their years as youth behind. For some this is a glad time, for others there may be some sorrow. Probably more than a few are feeling all of these things at the same time.

As a sign of blessing and of thanks, each bridging youth receives a gift from the youth community. Blessing and giving thanks have also always been religious acts.

Across the stage, the young adult community waits. That community has two symbolic roles. First, to show the youth that they need not continue their journey alone. But their presence is also a sign that there is a welcoming community of young adults waiting to receive the bridging youth. There is a destination.

And what of the rest of us? The young people and young adults and adults who will not walk, but will only witness. Our role is to solemnize this ritual with our presence, and to bear witness, to testify, that our Unitarian Universalist community wants to be church for these young people. We, we adults, have not done that well enough in the past. But we are learning and our commitment to the youth and young adult communities is an article of faith with us.

And why do we do this General Assembly? The passage from youth to young adulthood most often includes a move away from home, and home church. To college, or the military. To a year of service or an internship or a job. Doing this at General Assembly, where all of the congregations gather, communicates, we hope, to the bridgers that they can always find a welcoming religious home, wherever their path leads.

Both of my children bridged in this ceremony. To the parents here, be prepared for some misting of the eyes. This was a two Kleenex event for me...both times.

All of us gathered here bring our hope and our commitment to this ceremony. May this ceremony be a blessing to us all.

Siri Larsen, YRUU Steering Committee Member, gave the Youth Voice remarks. Here is part of what she said:

I feel like everywhere I go, I see people shielding their eyes, turning away from what they don't wish to know. Many have forgotten that we all live as part of an interdependent web of life. Very often, youth aren't looked to as the ones currently doing the good work to be done. We are often referred to as "the future" and that we should be learning from our elders what to do when they're gone or when they're done if the progress WE'RE making right now isn't as important. It seems to me that those kind of ideas come from comparisons to the past and expectations about what we are or will be, rather than from a curiosity to find out is true now.

The future I want to be a part of comes from all people of all ages letting go of expectations and comparisons and being full of ambition and curiosity to seek the new and unknown.

Bridgers, I wish for you a wonderful and meaningful experience as you become an integral part of the young adult community. I hope you stay a cherished and indescribably important part of the youth community. I encourage you to step away from the known and take a step toward the unknown. Go forth in your ventures with your eyes wide open and your hearts full of wonder.

Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward gave the Young Adult Voice response. She talked about how capable youth leadership really can be, and how it should not be taken for granted.

Groups should not let themselves by compartmentalized but should instead be seen as central to our faith movement. Adults do play a critical and necessary role in developing youth leadership.

She added, "I have witnessed how compartmentalization can damage our movement. Our congregation should be dependent upon the intergenerational process...we are ALL lifelong teachers and learners."

"To the adults in the audience: I wish for you that you can have young people in your lives to mentor/partner you, as well as vice versa."

Joseph Santos-Lyons then introduced the film, "A Living Faith" by Benjamin Ernst and Sukho Sanghera. It focused on youth empowerment, showing a visit of many youth to a protest at the School of Americas in Georgia.

Then the high point of the evening took place. One by one, bridging youths took their place at the microphone, introduced themselves, and were then welcomed by the older youth and adults, to loud applause from those present.

UUA Moderator Gini Courter then gave a charge to the Bridgers, and ended with the chant "Keep the Faith," joined by the crowd.

Reported by Allan Stern; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.