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Synergy: A Multigenerational Celebration of Bridging and Collaboration, General Assembly 2008

General Assembly 2008 Event 3073

Erik Kesting played an ethereal adaptation of “For the Beauty of the Earth” on the keyboard to open the festivities. Rev. Alice Miller and Nancy DiGiovanni offered inspired words, lighting the chalice “to honor all crossings of the spirit.” Every one of us has a role in the crossing, they said.

All those gathered in the hall joined to sing “The Fire of Commitment,” which was written by Rev. Jason Shelton in 2002. It speaks of such a time as this evening, “When our hunger and our passion/Meet to call us on our way.”

Youth speaker Nick Allen is a former member of the YRUU steering committee, on the President's Youth Ministry working group, youth chair of his district Youth/Adult Committee, and member of the Unity Church in St. Paul . Dismayed by how little has changed in youth ministry, he fears “multigenerational” ministry is merely a watered-down one. “Seeking youth input and fostering youth leadership are not merely noble goals: they are the essence of sustainable growth” in this faith, he reasoned. He concluded, “The wisdom of generations is before us here and now. Look around you. Imagine how we can grow together.”

Guest artist J.G.Boccella performed a musical interlude including: “Change,” “Unbroken Chain,” “Open Letter,” and “Today.” The audience clapped and echoed their resonance with his messages.

Young Adult speaker Eleandria Williams demonstrated that oratory is one of her many gifts. She serves on the DRUMM Steering Committee, as a Groundwork trainer, and on the Thomas Jefferson District Board. She is grateful that her church gave youth the power to be people with values. Citing “This is the church that I wanted to be in and a faith that honored and valued me” she joined Campus Ministry in college and became active in C*UUYAN. Ms. Williams observed that UUs can become “the status quo liberal left saying that we stand for justice while not really being down in the trenches with the folk” and urged us to choose “the path to collective liberation and radical change.” In conclusion, she urged her fellow youth to stand for themselves. “Always remember that in this time of great turbulence and hope that righteousness will prevail.”

Youth representative Garner Takahashi Morris asked participants what it would look like if all ages played an active role in worship. They were invited to describe these images on slips of colored paper which would be woven into a “tapestry of multigenerational worship” in the youth space. All were invited to come view the result of this interactive experience.

Musical guests The Good Asian Drivers explained their mission is to increase visibility for queer young people of color. In “Here's to You,” singer/songwriter Melissa Li saluted women who ask for respect. “Queer Nation” featured Kit Yan's spoken word set against an urgent guitar background played by Li. The piece simultaneously celebrated queer freedom, but a cautioned against infighting and falling in the same traps of mainstream culture. “Weapon of Choice” was a tribute to the Melissa Li's guitar, which gives her a voice in society.

The hymn “We Are a Gentle Angry People” led by Rev. Darrick Jackson and Dani Everton, provided a solemn contrast to the Asian Drivers' performance. This hymn was written by Holly Near after the murder of Harvey Milk and has become an anthem of the gay rights movement.

Adult speaker Denise Hall is adult advisor of Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries Youth and Young Adults of Color (DRUMM YaYa), and serves on the GA Planning Committee. Her work addresses sustainable communities for people of color. Hall invoked a spiritual from the African American tradition, “I feel like going on/ though there may be trials/Yes, they may come on every hand.” Hall wished the best for the youth: peace, love and grace.

In a moving and beautiful ritual, the bridging youth crossed the stage one at a time, as the high school youth intoned “Take my hand...fill my heart... move my soul” from “The Bridging Song,” composed by Jennifer Hazel. These young people, who represented all the corners of the country, paused center stage, and introduced themselves to the hall. Then they were welcomed enthusiastically by their peers with hugs and hollers. As a gift, the youth received carved soapstone boxes. The candles in each box are meant to be a portable chalice.

The charge to bridgers was delivered by Rev. Dr. William Sinkford. He lamented his difficult task of “telling the youth what to do,” an activity he has usually found unpopular with UUs. He invited them, instead, to dream with him – of a multigenerational faith that serves as a spiritual home to youth and young adults, where color and disability are not barriers, where people are not only welcomed but get what they need. “It will be no simple task to make these dreams come true,” he concluded, “but the health, the vitality, the survival of the faith depends on it.” He then offered prayers that one day, one of these bridgers might be called to leadership, serve in his job, and deliver a charge to a group of youth, as he did today.

The song “Building a New Way ” was led by Sarah Dan Jones. Closing words by Rev. Robert Mabry Doss were recited by Rev. Allison Miller:

For all who see God, may God go with you.
For all who embrace life, may life return your affection.
For all who see a right path, may a way be found
And the courage to take it,
Step by step.

The postlude “For Our Daughters” was performed by the Good Asian Drivers.

Reported by Toby Haber; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.

Eleandria Williams, speaking at a microphone.

Eleandria Williams

A guitarist, playing and singing into a microphone in front of a colorful light show.
Youth, cheering, clapping, and holding their arms out to celebrate their friends.