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Touchstones on the Journey

General Assembly 2009 Event 4067

Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee.

Speakers offered sermonettes about the “stepping stones” they walked on their personal paths to their work against oppression. Dr. Leon Burke provided musical selections in between each sermonette. He began the session with “Ripple,” by the Grateful Dead.

In “The Magic of Stones,” Janice Marie Johnson used the message of the story of “Stone Soup” to remind us that commitment to justice is critical to understand what it means to live out our faith. “We are the chefs. May we take the stones and create a rich offering that feeds our souls.”

Dr. Burke sang “Cansada del Camino,” from the Voces del Camino songbook

In “Steppingstones on the Journey,” Michael Salwasser illustrated how some stones have ragged edges. His path to justice featured unsatisfying experiences. Only in hindsight, he said, can he see how stones of the path interlock.

Dr. Burke played “Justicia,” from the Voces del Camino hymnal.

In “Seeking the Brilliance Within,” Dr. Julio Noboa used the metaphor of a geode to show that wholeness is internal and external. For all the identities that constitute each of us, he said, a singular soul is within the layers. When we contact each other, said Noboa, we see only the outside. Only by sustained relationships can we see the soul within, like a geode reveals its brilliance of light inside. We build a beloved community of individuals through realization of our shared values. He called us to engage authentically with each other.

Dr. Burke then played “Air,” from Handel's Water Music.

In “Tumbling,” Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo shared several experiences which smoothed her stones: a rich heritage as a fourth-generation Unitarian Universalist, volunteering in Special Olympics, working on the UUA Accessibility Committee, calls for inclusivity, and coming face to face with how racism is embedded in Unitarian Universalism.

Dr. Burke performed a solo rendition of “Deep River,” a haunting traditional African American spiritual.

In “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” Catie HyungJu Chi shared a childhood moment where she picked up five stones and threw them at a neighbor. She explained her desire had been to emulate biblical David and take down a bully. She contrasted this to Jesus, responding to a woman being stoned. In a test of his will, Jesus challenged those without sin to cast the first stone. Now, she said, she doesn't throw stones anymore, though she has hurled the word “racist.” She closed by reminding us that wholeness means healing.

Dr. Burke then played “Andante Religioso” from The Cathedral, originally written for guitar by Augustine Barrios and transcribed for keyboard by Lito Barrios.

In “Russell,” Rev. Jose Ballester told about a man who took children on an overnight trip, showing them a geode and several fossils. People can be complex as rocks, he told them. Sometimes they look like something else, Ballester said, and the inside can differ from the outside. Stones can find their way downriver in a form as small as a grain of sand. “We never know what the human heart will become,” he concluded, “so never lose hope in its potential.”

An ensemble performed “All Lifted Hearts,” the third movement from the “Sources” cantata by Jay Shelton and Kendyl Gibbons.

In “The Cornerstone,” Helen Boxwill talked about essential building blocks of strength that hold us up. Like our Unitarian Universalist faith, she said, strength holds us up and we build on it to do this difficult work. What grounds us in social justice work is faith. If we can not only be welcoming to the stranger, but incorporate them into the structure, she said, we can create a lasting beloved community.

Dr. Burke closed with Bambalela, a traditional Xhosa song from South Africa, inviting attendees to join in three parts of this song.

The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee plans, coordinates, monitors and assesses, and guides the transformation of the Unitarian Universalist Association into an authentically anti-oppressive institution.

Reported by Toby Haber; edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley.