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May All Beings Be At Ease: On Co-creation, General Assembly 2012 Worship

General Assembly 2012 Event 203

Program Description

Our religious liberalism is grounded in the transformative power of loving relationships, calling us, as individuals and as communities, to seek and serve justice, compassion, and mercy. We ensure the co-creation of this love through shared sympathy and a willingness to be transformed. Join us in this spiritual journey.

Worship leaders in this service are the members of the Accountability Group for Justice General Assembly.

Special music in this service by Namoli Bremet, Andrea Newell, Chris Snyder, and others and the accompanist is Connie Jahrmarkt.

Order of Service

  • Gathering Music
  • Gathering Hymns
  • Call to Worship
  • Opening Reflection
  • Musical Offering
  • Guiding Words and Questions
    • Love
    • Power
  • Musical Offering
  • Guiding Words and Questions
    • Compassion
    • Ambiguity
  • Hymn: "Filled with 'Lovingkindness'"
  • Meditation
  • Musical Meditation
  • Guiding Words and Questions
    • Solidarity
    • Accountability
  • Hymn: "Love Will Guide Us"
  • Responsive Litany: The Gifts of the Questions
    • How can I respect my own story and the stories of others?
    • How do I open myself to hear stories of suffering?
    • How can my involvement guided by listening and learning, compassion and empathy?
    • Where is my spirit growing in this experience? How do I know I am experiencing growth?
  • Time of Shared Silence
  • Musical Offering
  • Words for Going Forth


Gathering Hymns

REV. KELLIE WALKER: I hope you're up to doing some wonderful singing with us this morning. This first song is a fun one, but it also has a message about our longing to live a life of joy and abundance, even when we are unsure of the path. Adonde voy in Spanish means, where am I going? Some of the other words translate in English as I journey on, unsure of the way. I'm like a river that flows into the sea. It dies, but it rises again. I long to be fruitful and live out the life of abundance and joy God has planted in my soul. Let's have the piano go through it once and then we're going to sing it on la So the music gets in our ears. Then Andrea Newall is going to help me line out some lines in Spanish and we're going to focus on the first verse, so we can feel really good about what we're learning.



REV. KELLIE WALKER: Please rise in body and spirit, and we're going to try it on la first, just what I just did. Read, and go.


REV. KELLIE WALKER: She's going to sing a line, and then we'll repeat it.


REV. KELLIE WALKER: Now let's try the words. Ready, one, two, go.


REV. KELLIE WALKER: And we'll have a chance to sing it later on this week to sing it again, so you'll get better and better. Stay rising if you are rising. We're going to do another song that you probably know a little bit better. Jim Scott's Gather the Spirit, long favorite of many of you. So if you haven't risen in body or spirit, you can now. Gather the Spirit.



REV. KELLIE WALKER: Thank you. You may be seated.


Chalice Lighting and Call to Worship

REV. SEAN PARKER DENNISON: Good morning. We gather this morning on the edge of something new, something we haven't tried before. We gather not to serve our own needs, but to serve the common good to witness for justice in Arizona and beyond, to embody compassion, to put power to use for the cause of love. We have gathered, thousands of us knowing that this work will ask for much of us. It may ask us to acknowledge complexities that are confusing and unfamiliar.

It may ask us to engage with vulnerability that is uncomfortable. It may ask us to set aside our habit of thinking we know all we need to know and instead, be aware we have much to learn. In this moment, we pray for the wisdom to see that the opposite of injustice is not justice, but compassion. We are not here to prove the rightness of our cause, but to work in concert with the spirit of love. May we find ample opportunities to bear witness to the beauty of our human family, the dignity of all people, the undeniable reality that we are but one strand in the web of life.

In this holy moment of intention, we draw on the strength of our forebears, the deep taproot of history that sustains. We acknowledge our responsibility to each other, to behave accountably, to turn to one another for help, support, and a larger perspective. We express our longing, that this week be the beginning of a journey toward a life where all beings are filled with loving kindness and the world is at peace. May it be so. May we be the ones that make it so.

Musical Offering: “Libertad


REV. KELLIE WALKER: It's my pleasure to again invite Andrea Newall to come up, and she will be singing Libertad, a powerful song in Spanish. It translates as liberty is more than waking up unchained. It is living in harmony with our neighbors, deciding together, working together, for the freedom of all. She'll do it as a solo today and you all will have an opportunity to sing it during the hymn sing before the [INAUDIBLE] lecture on Saturday. I invite you now to just listen to these beautiful Spanish words and melody.




Opening Words

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: The Accountability Group for Justice General Assembly has worked since January of 2011 to help fulfill the vision of this unique gathering. We are a 15 member group charged with working to fulfill the vision of this Justice General Assembly, and to ensure the participation, particularly up historically marginalized groups of people within the UUA. It is from these collective experiences that we share this service today.

SUZANNE FAST: When we come together to do anything worth doing, we reach beyond what is familiar and comfortable into that deeper realm where questions take us, where we are open to new knowledge and new ways of being.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: When we come together to do something we have never done before, we bring the lessons of those who have come before us, their victories, and their mistakes. They are that cloud of witnesses present in silent support.

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: So let us ask here, what do we bring, and where are we challenged?

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: We bring the principles that our congregations covenant to affirm and promote together. We bring our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, a precious gem of our Universalist heritage.

SUZANNE FAST: And we are challenged in times when we must face the fact that we need to be part of the collective voice, to sound the note of we rather than I. We bring our belief in the possibility of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: And we are challenged to be audacious and relentless in our pursuit of justice in real time, in the service of real people and real situations. This is not just for some, but for all, and we bring acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

SUZANNE FAST: And we are challenged by our fear of the unknown, for even we who hear the beat of a distant drummer can scorn the prophets in our own lands. We bring our commitment to the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: We are challenged because we see truth as singular, rather than a complex and evolving collection of perspectives and experiences. We bring our belief in the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: And we are challenged to remember that too many voices are hid in fear and in silence. The democratic process requires that all be welcomed to the table. We bring the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: And we are challenged when we treat our nearest neighbors badly without consideration for their basic human needs. We bring respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: And we are challenged when we fail to recognize that we export a culture that consumes at a rate our planet cannot sustain, and that interdependence is about economies as much as ecosystems.

SUZANNE FAST: Our faith is a living tradition, so we today call it to life in service of a world which needs its gifts. May we face these challenges with compassion and grace.

Introduction to The Guiding Words

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: In our culture, words have power, the power to shape reality and to evoke emotion. The power to share our thoughts with one another, the power to understand. Words carry the power to evoke us, awaken us, and embolden us to act. Words also carry the power to degrade, disparage, and denigrate. As people of faith, we are called to attend our words, to speak with thoughtfulness and compassion, to understand the power of our words and to know that they may lead to actions we may not anticipate. To recognize, also, that many of the words that we use in everyday language are ambiguous in their meaning. Words that evoke a range of thoughts and feelings, words that resonate with harmony, or with dissonance.

These abstract words are open to the interpretation of our history and our experience. Our very lives shape the way we define them. This morning, we would like to share with you a particular set of words, words that we believe will be central to your time here in Arizona at Justice General Assembly. Words that deserve reflection and meditation. We offer these words to you as you go forward into this weekend, that they may provide you with a touchstone, with moments of thoughtfulness, or perhaps even a moment of grace. We offer these words to you that they might deepen your understanding of the world and embrace the complexity of the world in which we live.

Guiding Word: Love

IAN JAFFE: In the words of Johnny Cash, love is a burning thing Love is part of what has brought us here today, and it is what keeps us close and unified as we move towards a world of justice for all. Let's take a moment to reflect on those that have taken action so far, such as every individual that has participated in a Standing on the Side of Love event. Remember those that are with us today, as well as those that are not present.

Let's take a moment to dream about what tomorrow may bring. I am thankful to be a part of so many great groups in Denver, and that my community is such a significant part of my life. A Denver Boulder cluster was created to keep the churches in the area connected for justice-oriented work, as well as for building and bridging connections with others. I am thankful for the UUM and for the great work that they're doing now. Let's recognize that we are all in this together. Our future cannot be accomplished by any single act. It takes hundreds and thousands of hands to accomplish what we are capable of.

Sometimes, love hurts, and it is not easy to love. It is our love individually and collectively in our recognition of the challenges and obstacles that we're facing and that others are facing that we're working towards overcoming. So for me, love in UUism comes down to this. Be here for one another. Work with each other, knowing that it is strength that binds us together. Work together to solve problems, to right the world in whatever way that you can. Fight for justice and recognize that we are already making progress. After many days of effort on all of our parts, we will get there. Whether it is a world where we do not look at each other as being different, or perhaps a world where those in need of help from us the most are getting it through the work of our hands, our hearts, and our minds.

So let's try something. Please take a moment to think about what you're doing and think about what you're not doing. Both of these questions can be hard, and let's rise in body or spirit. Take a moment and smile at your neighbors. And take a moment to look around. Notice how this room is full of people smiling. Each of us may have a different reason to be here. Personally, I want to build connections and work towards a state of greater equality.

I believe that each of us is accountable. Our actions shape the future of the Unitarian Universalist movement. So let's show what we are capable of. And as we gather, let's feel the support and love of the larger community as we move forward together.

Guiding Word: Power

REV. JAMES HOBART: Power is among the most used, the most overused, the most misused words in human language. Power. What kind of power is appropriate for our 2012 Justice General Assembly, gathered in the presence of sanctioned injustice, government-approved oppression, and public humiliation for many people in Arizona and beyond?

We gather here to affirm all people are our companions, not just those who are our kind of people. All are our kin, none are outsiders, strangers, aliens. How do our religious affirmations about our solidarity with all people relate to power? Ralph Waldo Emerson noted the universal thread that runs through the reality of power. He wrote, "all power is of one kind, a sharing of the nature of the world. Power is basic to creation. It is built into all existence, including human being. We do not choose power, we are given power in our creation and in our human being. We do choose how our power will be exercised. We choose for good or for ill, both through our action and our inaction in the world.

Power is neutral. Through our choices, we employ our power to serve good or to serve evil. Our power is always measured and assessed by what it serves. This is Martin Luther King Jr.'s sense when he spoke these words, "I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I am interested in power that is moral, that is right, that is good." Dr. King gives voice to a profound, deeply religious understanding of power. In religious terms, legitimate power is a means, always joined with and measured by the ends it serves. Religiously, power is in relation to an ethical end.

In the dynamic of the human community, there is an inevitable continuity of the means, power, with the ends which the means serve. Love or justice or compassion or peace. We shape and we are shaped by the paths we follow in the pursuit of our goals. Here, Emerson again. "Cause and effect, means and ends, seeds and fruit cannot be severed, for the effect already blooms in the cause. The end pre-exist in the means, the fruit in the seed."

The ends preexist in the means. In exercising our inherent power as faithful religious persons, and as a faithful religious community, we must be aware that our power always shapes the outcome for good or for ill. Authentic power, exercised in the service of justice has two requirements.

First, participation is open and inclusive. The welcome table is not owned by any person or group. All persons are entitled to a place by virtue of our inherent and equal worth and dignity. People and communities who have been excluded from their rightful place, people who have been marginalized and oppressed, have a place of honor at the welcome table. They are full participants in decision making. Their voices, spoken and heard, set the terms and influence the outcome.

Second, careful attention is given by all to the means used and to the ends served. The community serving love and justice is the community in which power is shared. It is exercised with one another, not over one another. We come to Phoenix to blend our voices and to join our lives with those living here who seek justice. We do not come to lead, we come to support as companions. We come to offer the power of our being as religious individuals, and as a religious community in solidarity with the power of those who struggle for justice. In the words of the old union song, there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun, solidarity forever.

Guiding Question

TOMOKO TAKANO: And so we're reminded of our first guiding question. How can I respect my own story and the stories of others?


Guiding Word: Ambiguity

REV. MITRA RAHNEMA: What are you? Are you a man, a woman? Are you a person of color? Are you straight or gay, abled or disabled, citizen, immigrant, settler? Are you legal or illegal? Do you belong here? Where is it documented? On your birth certificate, in your skin, on your wheelchair or your DNA? Does it have the US stamp of approval? Tell me, what are you?

That question, what are you, is the clash of cultures working itself out in the flesh of those of us with identities on the margins. In this process, we can experience and re-experience the pain, sadness, embarrassment, fear, grief, of our deepest selves. We try to respond, wanting to make connection, wanting to know ourselves, but often left feeling fenced in, stripped down, and depleted.

The beauty of migrating identities is lost. Our humaneness is squashed and evolution is halted. In life, we all often encounter these forms that ask, what are you. And we check boxes of gender, and age, race, and so on. Sometimes at the bottom of the list, we are given that option other, with the line to fill in. We might pick other out of desperation to just numb ourselves and move on, or we check it with frustration. Ugh, I'm always other. And there are times when other is that ambiguous place that saves us. I am an other. Hallelujah.

Ambiguity is a saving grace. Ambiguity is that vast space between two clasped hands, it is the sound of silence, it is that breathtaking glance from another. It is anger that surfaces our love, it is a deep belly laugh in the midst of great pain. At time, ambiguity can be anxiety provoking an unpredictable, making us want to clarify rules. Yet, it can also encourage us to be more than what is documented in the laws or the bylaws.

Ambiguity knows that in welcoming the stranger, we ourselves become the stranger by crossing the borders of our consciousness. Ambiguity gives us permission to imagine new beings within and outside the walls of our bodies, our communities, our states, are countries. It is becoming the other and responding with a hallelujah.

Our Unitarian Universalist faith insists that we do not limit the infinity of grace. Therefore, our job is to cultivate possibility in response to isolation and suffering. The feeling of chaos inherent in possibility makes us uneasy constantly, but when we do it, we are creating a new story to explain the world and our participation in it. We are making an evolutionary step forward, one that allows for a future in which our children themselves can be creatively ambiguous in heart, body, and mind.

Sometimes on those forms that we fill out, they ask what is your religion, and we are given a list. At that bottom of the list is the nebulous other with a space to fill in. That is the space where we can write in Unitarian Universalist because what are we? We are religiously other. So therefore, let us be and embrace another ambiguous other together, and respond with hallelujah.

SUZANNE FAST: There was a time when I had trouble connecting compassion w working for a more just society. Compassion seemed too soft, too malleable to be a strong foundation for justice. My actions were guided more often by anger than by compassion. It was righteous anger. I cherished it, I fed it, it fed me.

Part of my problem was that my understanding of compassion was so limited. You see, I had it confused with feeling sorry for someone. It was a long time ago when I discovered compassion as an antidote to anger. I was in graduate school studying international economic development, eager to fix things. The custodial staff at my university were starting to organize a union. They were looking for allies.

As a graduate student, I did not feel very powerful. University would not listen to a bunch of graduate students, but the custodial workers knew our power better than we did. They asked us to work with the undergraduate students, the people whose parents paid the tuition bills, those people had power. I started spending more time with the people who were working together on this. Students, faculty, staff, families. Having supper, playing catch, singing, going fishing, talking. And when I sat side by side with someone whose experience was different from mine and I paid attention, my ways of understanding got a little bigger.

Being together with someone in the struggle, that's what compassion means. Seriously, as a linguist. Learning to be with someone in their struggles tore away at those barriers between myself and others and gave me the courage to share my own struggles with others, to find the holy alive in the world.

For me, it was a leap of faith to embrace suffering, really embrace it. Paying attention to my own experience of suffering and the suffering of other people. Not wallowing in icky feelings, but just allowing myself to experience this part of life for what it is. Being in the struggle with others, learning to love their reality like my own, practicing compassion changes how I understand the world. And it changes me in the process. Not always the most comfortable feeling, but enlivening.

Our tradition has a saying. It might be relatively new, but it's important. Nurture your spirit, help heal the world. I believe we're at our best when we remove that full stop that separates the two phrases, when we pay attention to how these actions are deeply intertwined. Our work for justice changes us. Our spiritual journeys give us the strength to change the world. Intentionally cultivating compassion is one way to make it so. And so it is with a joyful heart that I commend to you compassion as a suitable building block for the foundations of justice.

Guiding Question

LAURA GILMORE: Let us recall our second guiding question. How is my involvement being guided by listening and learning, compassion and empathy?

Hymn: “Filled with Loving Kindness”

REV. KELLIE WALKER: We will stay seated as we sing Filled with Loving Kindness, Ian Riddell and Mark Hayes's setting of a traditional Buddhist meditation.



Metta sutra

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness, and who knows the path of peace.

MICHAEL HAN: Let them be straightforward and gentle in speech, humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied. Unburdened duties and frugal in their ways, peaceful and calm and wise and skillful. Not proud and demanding in nature. Let them not to the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: Wishing in gladness and safety, may all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be, whether they are weak or strong, omitting not, the great and the mighty, medium, short, or small, the seen and unseen, those living near and far away, those born and to be born, may all beings be at ease.

MICHAEL HAN: Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill will wish harm upon another.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: Even as a mother protects her child with her life, her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.

MICHAEL HAN: Radiating kindness over the entire world, spreading upwards to the skies and downward to the depths, outwards and unbounded, freed from hate and ill will.

REV. PAUL LANGSTON-DALEY: Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down, free from drowsiness, from hate and ill will, one should sustain this recollection. This is to be the sublime abiding. By not holding fixed views, the pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, being freed from all sense desires, is not born again into this world.


Guiding Word: Solidarity

REV. WENDY VON ZIRPOLO: Come to Arizona. Now we need your solidarity. Boycott Arizona. We need your solidarity. Two calls fuel from hearts and souls of good people needing like-minded people of faith to live that faith boldly. Each call, seeming simple, but arriving with as much complexity as passion. Responses also at odds. You have my solidarity. I will carry my passport, too, offered some, not understanding how their words wounded and took place in an arc of history full of such wounds.

My solidarity is what the boycott offered others, not understanding how their words wounded, feeling like an abandonment and a turning away. Solidarity, a compelling word. For allies, the word stirs in our hearts and comes off our tongues easily. Yes, we will stand with you. We will sit with you, we will walk, and we will roll with you. We believe in you, we want to help. Yes, you have our solidarity.

The moment of offering solidarity is perhaps one of the most comfortable moments that we experience in this justice-seeking faith. Yet delivering solidarity can be one of the least comfortable. Solidarity is not about where we place ourselves, it's about what we are willing to do once we get there. Solidarity doesn't simply ask, will you come over here and be with us? It comes with more complex questions. It asks, will you come over here and be with us and with our pain? Can you be with our pain and hear that you play a role in creating it?

Can you move past that knowledge and hear what we need you to do? And pledge help, even when we don't yet know what help will be. And when the time comes, will you stay with us, with the pain and the privilege bought with that pain? Listen to what we need you to do and assess whether or not you can deliver. Really assess. Honestly and realistically assess because please don't offer what you don't have to give. We have enough to carry without adding your own angst to our load. And if you can be with us, can you follow? Truly? Can you let go of your own needs to lead and your own majority culture-grown solutions and follow?

And then, solidarity asks two things more. Will you stay with us even if it means giving up pieces of your own privilege? Will you go away from us, take our message and use your power? Are you willing and able to use the system that gives you a voice and gives you power at the expense of our own? Solidarity, a compelling word.

Guiding Word: Witness

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: Perhaps you have also seen this happen in Unitarian Universalist gatherings such as this one. A speaker, generally a person of color, makes a particularly powerful point and then asks, can I get a witness? And then we, the intended respondents, sit stunned as deer in headlights. Inevitably, someone peeps, uh, oh. And then someone else half-raises a hand, and then someone late and way too loud will shout, a-amen?

And there we sit, shaken out of our individual reveries, confused and a little annoyed at this demand for some unscripted communal response. We're not that kind of church, someone might mutter. Well, the good news is I'm not going to ask if I can get a witness because we all know that is why we are here. To serve in love and to do more good together than we would have done if we had pulled about 600,000 out of the Arizona economy by honoring the boycott that was in place when we decided to go to General Assembly in 2010.

To be accountable on this scale is no small task. As we gather here, we are called to witness out of our own experience and also with compassion, which means passion to literally allow ourselves to identify with each other and at the same time to enter into deep and transformational dialogue. And we must be accountable in our witness, taking time to remember what we know about how to do so not out of our own agenda, rather out of the agenda of those who we wish to support.

We witness to the disease of injustice even if we do not have the cure. We are called to witness to the struggles of those who have been historically marginalized. We witness even though we will make mistakes, we'll stumble, and we witness with respect, leaving our own judgments and challenging the preconceived notions that we may have, which may or may not reflect the realities of those who need us to recognize the power and the privilege we bring to the table to support their cause. We chose this path of accountable witness with certainty, even though the path before us was uncertain. And we travel it as our religious ancestors have traveled it. Now we herald them and yet, in their own times, people question their paths. As theologian Katherine Keller puts it, faith is not settled belief but living process. It is the very edge and opening of life and process. To live is to move with trust into the next moment, into the unpredictable.

Committed activists came together to help plan this Justice General Assembly more than 18 months ago when no one knew what that could or might mean. We know we will be asked to give up some of our own comfort and even our safety, one said. Sometimes you do that when you are asked to make justice. At that first meeting of this Accountability Group for Justice General Assembly, people set aside their concerns as people differently abled, as people of color and Latinos and Latinos, as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people, as white allies, as youth, as young adults, they set them aside in service of the need to testify for the human and civil rights for the entire human family.

Our Christian roots remind us that we are accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses. So let us be accountable to those witnesses. To those who have invited us here, and to those who will come afterwards who, though yet unseen, in whose name we work to heal our one and precious world. May we be the ones to make it so.

Guiding Question

SARAH SURFACE: And so we may pause and consider our final guiding question. When is my spirit growing in this experience? How do I know I'm experiencing growth?

Hymn:“Love Will Guide Us”

REV. KELLIE WALKER: There are a couple of lovely extra verses to Love Will Guide Us which are not found in the hymnal Singing the Living Tradition. I invite you now to rise in body or spirit as we think Sally Rogers's song with all the verses.



REV. KELLIE WALKER: Please be seated.

Responsive litany: The Gifts of the Questions

SUZANNE FAST: So as we gather for this Justice General Assembly, let us bring our questions. Let us bring the best answers we have, and as we journey together, let us test the wings of new answers that we find along the way. We invite you to join with us in a response of litany. Your words are on the screen, and Mitra will guide you through your parts. Let's try that first one now.

REV. MITRA RAHNEMA: We open our hearts to the questions.

MICHAEL HAN: How can I respect my story and the stories of others?

SPEAKER 1: How do I seek to know a more embracing love? What kind of listener am I? How do I listen to that I don't hear?

MICHAEL HAN: If I am uncomfortable, what is that telling me about myself? About my expectations?

SPEAKER 1: When things are not being done the way I would do them, what is that experience like for me?

SUZANNE FAST: How do I accept the power I have and how do I consciously choose to use that power to bring others to the table?

REV. MITRA RAHNEMA: We open our minds to the questions.

SPEAKER 1: How is my involvement being guided by listening and learning, compassion and empathy?

SUZANNE FAST: What unconscious assumptions of mine am I becoming aware of?

MICHAEL HAN: How am I learning to walk in places of ambiguity and unknowing?

SUZANNE FAST: How does the light of compassion guide me through uncharted places?

REV. MITRA RAHNEMA: We open our spirits to the questions.

SPEAKER 1: When is my spirit growing in this experience? How do I know I am experiencing growth?

MICHAEL HAN: Am I my advocating based on my needs, or my partner's?

SUZANNE FAST: How am I being tested by the need to be in solidarity?

SPEAKER 1: What is it like for me to let my partner set the agenda, and for me to be the witness?

SUZANNE FAST: These are not only or the perfect questions. Still, they are a gift. Let us say them together once more.

REV. MITRA RAHNEMA: How can I respect my own story and the stories of others? How is my involvement being guiding by listening and learning, compassion and empathy? When is my spirit growing in this experience? How do I know I am experiencing growth?

SPEAKER 1: In our openness, we will receive gifts.

SUZANNE FAST: May we be the ones to make it so.

Shared Silence

REV PATRICIA JIMENEZ: Breathe. Each of us gains knowledge and wisdom in many different ways. Through the mind and reason, through the heart and feelings, through the body and instincts. In the silence that follows, I invite each one of you to find that place or places of knowing and wisdom. Those places that call you to your highest self, your best self. Savor it, feel it, notice it. Remember, it is there whenever you need it. Take a moment now. Be present right now, to yourself. Remember who you are.

Musical Offering: "I Will Get Along"

REV. KELLIE WALKER: I am honored to introduce you to singer songwriter Namoli Brennet. She has performed concerts at my home congregation, and I am always incredibly moved by her music. She sent me this song, "I Will Get Along" shortly after my husband died this past March, and it was like it was written just for me. As we move through this week at GA, it is my hope that we always keep in mind that we don't know what hidden sorrows and struggles each of us carry with us. This is a reminder to be gentle with each other and with ourselves, and to find a way in every day to be at ease, or in Namoli's words, to get along well enough.



Words for Going Forth

REV. LESLIE TAKAHASHI MORRIS: So let us go forward in love with compassion. Knowing our power, let us go forward in solidarity, embracing ambiguity, and preparing for accountable witness. Let us go forward. In the spirit of the 20th century German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote, "be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." So in this spirit of inquiry and openness, knowing we come to serve and to learn, let us enter into the work of building a more just, a more compassionate world.