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In Global Covenant, General Assembly 2013 Worship

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General Assembly (GA) 2013 Event 4002

Program Description

Leaders of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist (UU) communities from around the world will lead worship this morning, calling on us to remember the interdependent web of faithful international relationships that shape us. We’ll enjoy inspiring voices, stories of promise-keeping, and grow in understanding how we hold each other In Global Covenant.

Report from UU World

Order of Service

  • Prelude: "O, the Beauty in a Life"
  • Welcome: Rev. Eric Cherry and Derek Mitchell
  • Chalice Lighting: Rev. Adel Nagy and Rev. Gary Smith
  • Song: "Székely Áldás"
  • A Story of Promises Kept: Cassius Shirambere with Rev. Jill McAllister
  • Music
  • Homily: Rev. Rebecca Sienes, President, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines
  • Prayer and Meditation: Rev. Petr Samojsky and Rev. Brock Leach
  • Song: "De Colores"
  • Closing Words: Vyda Ng and Bruce Knotts
  • Benediction: Lara Fuchs and Rev. Carol Huston
  • Postlude


Prelude: "O, the Beauty in a Life"

Words: Based on Text by Rev. Toribio Quimada
Music: Traditional Visayan folk tune

SPEAKER 1: Ladies and gentlemen, the GA Band with Shawn McCann at the helm. Now I'd like to invite some singers to join me at the mics. We have from Oakton, Virginia, Sarah Jebian, from McHenry, Illinois Carrie Macdonald, from Midland, Texas Erika Neilson. I'd like to teach you a folk song in the Kirundi language that comes to us from the Reverend Ndagijimana Fulgence of Burundi.

The translated text says, "Have peace, children of God. Have peace, you wonderful people. Have peace, my friends. May God watch over you. God loves us, children of God. God loves us, you wonderful people. God loves us, my friends. May God watch over us. Let's meet again, children of God. Let's meet again, you wonderful people. Let's meet again, my friends. May God watch over us."

We'll sing the first verse through once, so you can hear the melody. And then we'll invite you to join us singing versus one, two, and three following along with the lyrics on the screens.


SPEAKER 1: Would you join us?


SPEAKER 1: Ladies and gentlemen, Yuri Yamamoto on the piano.

YURI YAMAMOTO: Reverend Toribio Quimada was the first Universalist minister in the Philippines. "O, the Beauty in the Life" in Singing the Living Tradition is based on Reverend Quimada's hymn, one of the favorite hymns in the church today. Reverend Quimada wrote [INAUDIBLE] words to a folk tune. As I play, I will think of his life of love, struggle, and joys he brought to his homeland and to the world.



REV. ERIC CHERRY: Good morning. Let us be together in global covenant. We gather for worship as members of many global families, as members of the most universal family, all creation in relationship with the two-legged, the four-legged, with the finned and the flying, with the soil and the air. Faithful stewardship, compassion, and being awake and responsive to our impact on creation is our covenant.

DEREK MITCHELL: As members of the global human family recognizing that what all human beings share is immense and that this far surpasses the beautiful and complex qualities that shape all of our unique communities and each of us as individuals, love art for neighbor, both friend and enemy, is our covenant.

REV. ERIC CHERRY: As members in solidarity with the great family of human rights leaders around the world, champions of women's rights, LGBT rights, workers' rights, children's rights, indeed the rights of all oppressed people and for universal standards of ethics in all human relations as much as for peace in our very time, justice, equity, and compassion in solidarity is our covenant.

DEREK MITCHELL: As members of a global interfaith family, partners in spiritual practice, colleagues in building understanding and reconciliation, brothers and sisters in providing religious leadership that heals the body and soul and teaches followers to attend to the ways of the spirit, a listening ear, an open heart, and willingness to journey towards shared commitments is our covenant.

REV. ERIC CHERRY: And as members of a great global family of Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists, a global faith with beautiful uniquenesses of practice, theology, and structure, a global family whose members claim each other and which claims each and every one of us here this morning, commitment, love, partnership, and mutual support are our covenant.

DEREK MITCHELL: As we worship, we hold these global families and our covenants with them in our minds and in our hearts. Representatives of many of the partners and institutions which attend to these relationships are here with us. But we deeply and spiritually hold the many brothers and sisters who are not here, but worshiping and working in places like India, and Indonesia, South Africa, and Singapore, Bolivia, and Brazil, Tanzania, and Transylvania.

REV. ERIC CHERRY: Grateful for the strength and richness which we bring to each other's lives and commitments, and thoughtful about the destiny we also share together, we gather for worship together. May we be true to our various covenants with our families. And may we ever respond to the call to heal ruptures in the ties that bind one to all. So may it be.

Chalice Lighting

REV. ADEL NAGY: The reading for this morning's chalice lighting comes from an episode of Babylon 5 entitled No Compromise. "We are one, no matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star."

REV. GARY SMITH: "We are one, no matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear."

REV. ADEL NAGY: "We are one, here gathered together in common cause. We agree to recognize the singular truth and the singular rule--"

REV. GARY SMITH: "--that we must be kind to one another. Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us. And each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future. We are one."

Song: "Székely Áldás"

Words: Traditional Hungarian
Music: Elizabeth H. Norton


SARAH JEBIAN: Our first hymn, a setting of a traditional Hungarian blessing, was written by UUMN member Elizabeth Norton for her choir at First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts on the occasion of their musical pilgrimage to Transylvania in the summer of 2002. I'll sing the first part with the traditional Hungarian text.

Then Carrie will sing the second part, an English translation of the same blessing. Then we'll invite you to join us on whichever part you prefer. And we'll sing the whole piece through twice more.



A Story of Promises Kept


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: Good morning. This is Cassius Shirambere. And I will translate his words into English. "When I became a Unitarian just a few years ago, I was very excited to learn that our congregation was part of a global movement of Unitarian and UU congregations, and that we would be connected to like-minded liberals all over the world.

This in itself held great promise, a chance to work together with others of similar prospectives, a chance to learn how to be effective in bringing needed changes to our own country, a chance to grow as a religious person. Little did I know then what this promise would really be and how it would become a source of life saving support for my family and me."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "Since it was founded eight years ago, I have served as president of the [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE], a congregation of now 60 people in Bujumbura, the capital city. We were gathered and recruited by Ndagijimana Fulgence, who had been in formation to become a Catholic priest. When he discovered that he was truly a Unitarian, he left the Dominican brothers and encouraged many of us to join him in creating a liberal religious community in Bujumbura, not at all an easy thing to do in our overwhelmingly Catholic country.

In addition, Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world with all the attending problems that poverty brings, especially in Africa. The members of this congregation are primarily educated professional people. For example, before I came to live in the USA quite unexpectedly a few months ago, I was the executive director of a human rights organization."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "The first part of this promise of solidarity developed a few years ago when a law was passed in Burundi allowing non-Catholic religious organizations to be legally registered entities, but only if they had land and a building. We had a partner congregation in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And so we asked for their help in this.

Their minister, Jill McAllister, simply said, yes. With the help of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, we began to create a coalition of congregations in North America and Europe who helped us raise $45,000 to buy the land and build a small church, the first Unitarian Church in French speaking East Africa. Last year, we dedicated the building and ordained Fulgence Ndagijimana as our first minister."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "In this building, we were quickly able to increase our work for justice in the community. We already had a microlending program supporting nearly 100 families, including training in literacy and financial accounting. We undertook a program to address the very high levels of domestic violence in the neighborhood of our church, eventually training the more than 30 men in anger management who will now reach out to other men. With this work, we began to share more with our international coalition partners."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "In August last year, we held a meeting of coalition members from emerging UU groups in Rwanda and Burundi, and ministers of several UU congregations in the United States. Together, we made a two year plan for growing and supporting this emerging UUism in French speaking East Africa. Soon after, in November, sponsored by coalition partners, I made my first trip to the USA to join our partner congregation in the dedication of their new building, and to meet with relatives and friends, including some supporters of our human rights work in Burundi."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: [INAUDIBLE] "Soon after my return home, it became clear that I was in danger because of my work. So much so, that I realized I must take my family to safety. With help from coalition partners, family, and friends, we came safely to Portland, Maine in December. And we are now in the long process of rebuilding our life here."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "While much remains unknown about how we will make this tradition, this transition, as in what is possible and will we be able to stay, the support of our UU friends and partners has made such a difference. We know we are not alone. We have received both material and moral support as well as spiritual sustenance. Even as we arrived here, a fire destroyed the central market at home in Bujumbura. And UUs from around the world responded with great generosity."


REV. JILL MCALLISTER: "From the time I became a Unitarian, my life has absolutely changed. The promise of connections and solidarity have turned out to be lifesaving for me and my family. And they continue to have great impact in Burundi through our church and through our growing international coalition. If you have not imagined this, please know that it is true. Unitarianism holds the promise of life changing and lifesaving connections for all of us Thank you.




REV. REBECCA SIENES: It is a great privilege to speak before you this reputable audience of our faith. I am thankful to the leaders of the coalition of UU international organizations for this glorious invitation, and especially to Reverend Eric Cherry, Director of the UUA's International Office.

In 1954, the late Reverend Toribio Quimada requested the Universalist Church in America to send missionaries to the Philippines to plant the seeds of the faith. The USA responded, and I quote, "that though they didn't have missionaries, they would lend any assistance they could," end quote.

With the help of the USA, Reverend Quimada incorporated the Universalist Church of the Philippines in 1955. The seed of a free faith was planted in the land that is predominantly Roman Catholic and Trinitarian Protestantism. Right there, Reverend Quimada preached universal salvation, hell is hatred to your neighbor, heaven is love to them.

He preached that it is beyond human conception to prove that Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Scientifically, it is illogical, unfounded, and against human nature, and many more. My family moved to the Makati City for my father to complete his college studies.

I was in school, too. He purchased a big typewriter and a duplicating machine for the Church. My fond times were spent typing and binding hymn books and other religious education materials.

All of this was made possible through the Universalist Church in America and the Universalist Service Committee. In 1972, the Church became a member of the International Association for religious freedom. I worked as field coordinator for IARF Negros projects that concluded women's literacy, livelihood projects, and high school scholarships.

In his book, Maglipay Universalist, Reverend Muir said, and I quote, "instrumental to the Church future was the IARF support it received for high school scholarship. Some of this youth went on to become divinity school students" end quote.

In 1984, Reverend Quimada was the recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Award for Distinguished Service. In her tribute, Lucie Meijer, IARF staff, said, and I quote, "I had the privilege to go around the island of Negros with him, crossing rivers, rice fields, and mountains, admiringly his sweet energy love people, and total dedication to the communities he served.

The tensions on the island became most tangible when Reverend Quimada was murdered in his house on Negros island in May 1988. His high hopes for a church center on the coast were never realized. But the denomination lives on and continues in his footsteps," end quote.

In April 24, 1988, the UUA Board of Trustees welcomes into membership the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines Incorporated. Unfortunately, Reverend Quimada's assassination in 23 May, 1988, had unknowingly made me and my former husband, Reverend Perfecto Sienes, come to represent the Church in June 1988 General Assembly in Palm Springs, California.

Well, UUP's membership to the UUA was brought to the floor for a final vote. I saw an equally long line of delegates standing behind the [? opposed ?] [? mic. ?] I had mixed feelings, fears of the death of the faith if turned down, courage to stand up for my father's people. in hope for a solid future of the faith.

At the end, though seriously contested, the message of hope prevailed. A hope for a firm faith partnership, from Beacon Street in Boston to the Philippines. The UUA harped the Church portrays a piece of real property with the building on it in the Makati City.

This becomes the national seat of the Church, the realization of Reverend Quimada's dream. Several students took theology course studies at Silliman University Divinity School. Chapel lots were purchased, and chapel buildings were constructed, though a few are still meeting in members' houses. And religious education materials were produced.

In times of disasters, UUA institutions and individuals around the world quickly responded, like the Nataban tragedy and Typhoon Pablo. 6 of our 30 congregations have established partner churches in the USA, and one more will shortly. Reverend Gallardo, from Bicutan, was ordained last April at our annual convention. She is the first ordained lesbian Philippine minister perhaps in Asia, or in the non-Western world.


REV. REBECCA SIENES: We are engaged in social justice activities such as Gay Pride March in Manila, Women's Rally, calling individuals and institutions to end violence against women and children, and the passage of the reproductive health bill. Through the philanthropy of the late Reverend Polly Guild in the form of microfinance, we have livelihood projects for UU households and UU and non-UU women entrepreneurs.

Through the partner church program, we have almost 300 students in elementary and high school and one college. We have water projects in Nagbinlod, and very recently in Ulay. I have been representing the UUCP to the ecumenical, inter-faith, and several society organizations as well as to the local government units.

Above all of these things, the Church get on an enormous social justice project by responding to the call of the city government of Dumaguete. This call was issued to the business sector to provide safe housing to university students. The UUCP responded by planning so build a two-floor ladies dormitory. We are doing fine in our efforts to raise funds.

This dormitory is very important. First, it provides safe and quality housing to students coming to Dumaguete to study, and gives self-sustaining income for the Church to face strongly its healthy future. I would like to invite all to come to the international booth in the exhibit hall for more information about it.

I would like to express my deep thanks to the UUA, UU Funding Program, New York State Convention of Universalist, UUMN Federation, UUPCC, ICUU, CUC, ICUUW, UUMA, and UUSMR. Through you, UUSM is growing and full of life in the Philippines. From Negros Island, we are now in Manila.


REV. REBECCA SIENES: The message of universal salvation, a loving God, give them not hell, but hope and encourage, were the messages in 1955, even today. The message of caring about the environment because this is our home, welcoming the LGBTs and working for women's empowerment, commitment to the tenets of democracy, justice, and peace are the very messages needed in my country.

With a population of 97.7 million according to the Commission on Population, and that growing numbers of Born-again Christians mounted their spiritual mechanisms very strongly, the fight of almost 3,000 UUs is indeed an uphill climb. There are thousands, if not millions, of non-practicing Catholics, and questioning Christians, the fertile grounds for UUism. We need reinforcements. We need you. We are one in this fight for life.

It has been 25 years of partnership with the UUA or 58 years since 1955. I feel that if this time to chart our spiritual mechanism for the global communities to know and understand our empowering faith.


REV. REBECCA SIENES: We are committed to living our UU principles and purposes. We need to mount very strongly our spiritual direction, so that humanity won't fall to the hands of the hell, fire forces. We need this religious freedom in the east. May east and west, south and north, work together in global covenant for the creation of Heaven on Earth. Blessed be.


Prayer and Meditation

REV.BROCK LEACH: We come together as individuals brimming with gifts and perspectives, experiences and passions, each of us unique and beautiful.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: We come together because it is only in the company of others that we can understand and tell our story and come to fully understand it.

REV.BROCK LEACH: We come together to explore our life's calling amidst a community that nurtures our search for meaning.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: We come together to join our heads, our hearts, and our hands in a shared commitment to build a more justice existence for all the people and beings of the Earth.

REV.BROCK LEACH: But our strength comes in covenant. It comes in promises made to one another and promises kept.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: Good morning, [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] I'm Reverend Petr Samojsky of the Unitarian Church of Prague in the Czech Republic.

REV.BROCK LEACH: And I'm Reverend Brock Leach of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: This morning we come together to consider what it means to be part of Unitarian and Universalist covenant that reaches around the planet, a covenant of faith symbolized by the flaming chalice.

REV.BROCK LEACH: Ours is a covenant forged in the trials of people separated by geography, nationality, and culture, but drawn together by a common calling of the spirit, drawn together to counter oppression, drawn together from time to time to stand up courageously in the face of evil.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: The Unitarian Church of Prague was founded by Reverend Doctor Norbert Fabian Capek a Czechoslovakian and a Unitarian minister who, with his wife Maja, who actually became the first Czech Unitarian minister, founded my church in 1922. Reverend Capek is known to a Unitarian Universalist around the world as the creator of the Flower Communion, a ritual he devised to symbolize what it means to bring all of our individual gifts and beauty together in service of one another. The Flower Communion represents what it means to make promises to one another.

REV.BROCK LEACH: The Unitarian Service Committee, the predecessor of today's UUSC, began when Reverend Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha left their two small children in the care of church members and ventured to Prague in the spring of 1938 to help Jewish refugees escape the approaching Nazis. In that trip and three others that followed, they helped over 2,000 men, women, and children escape persecution and probable death for a new life. And they gave birth to an organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people all around the world escape oppression and build new lives for themselves.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: The Capek's brought religious freedom to Czechoslovakia and established a church that brought light to one of the country's darkest hours. It survived the war to become a beacon of liberal religion in what has become one of Europe's most vibrant democracies. Yet for his commitment to the ideal of religious freedom, Reverend Capek lost this life in the concentration camp in Dachau. His was a promise made and promise kept.

REV.BROCK LEACH: The Sharps answered the call of the American Unitarian Association to go to a Prague to see what might be done. They went with a little money, but no idea what they might find. They had their offices ransacked. They evaded the Gestapo.

And they ended up dedicating their lives to standing up for those whose very humanity was denied. They went because they were called to literally embody our Unitarian faith. Theirs was a promise made and a promise kept.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: Although they are contemporaries, as far as we know, the Capeks and the Sharps never actually met. Yet they were bound in covenant to serve Unitarian faith and the vision of community that spanned around the globe.

REV.BROCK LEACH: The flaming chalice that has come to symbolize our faith also has its roots in Prague. Originally commissioned by the Unitarian Service Committee, the flaming chalice was designed by Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist and political cartoonist who courageously opposed the Nazis. He, in turn, was inspired by a flaming chalice used by the followers of Jan Hus, a 15th century religious reformer in Prague who was martyred for his beliefs.

REV. PETR SAMOJSKY: The graceful stemmed goblet rises to uphold the promise of freedom, the quest for truth, and the highest ideals of our faith. It graces the altar in the Prague Unitarian Church just as it raises our chancel today. We can be assured that its flame is always burning somewhere around the globe.

And everywhere its light shines, it nurtures our spirits, and sustains us in the struggle for justice. It is a symbol of promises made and promises kept. It is a symbol of our strength in covenant.

REV.BROCK LEACH: Please join us in a moment of prayer and grateful meditation. Spirit of life and love, whose light shines forth from chalices of every shape and material and hue, in dots of luminescence seen all over the globe, remind us that while the light originates deep inside our seeker souls it is in covenant that it becomes a conflagration of the spirit, a light powerful enough to pierce the darkest corners of the heart. May this chalice we share burn ever brighter through the promises we make to one another and the promises we keep.





Song: "De Colores"

Words: David Arkin and Rev. Lilia Cuervo
Music: Traditional Spanish folk
arr. by Betty A. Wylder

ERIKA NEILSON: My friends, [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE], as we prepare to conclude our time together, I invite you to join me in singing a hymn that appears both in our silver Singing the Living Tradition Hymnal and in the purple Spanish hymnal, [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] that our association published in 2009. We'll open with stanza one from the [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] version to celebrate the origin of this traditional Spanish language folk song. We'll then sing the English translation of that verse as it appears in Singing the Living Tradition.

On the third repeat, we'll take Reverend Lilia Cuervo's Spanish translation of David Arkin's added stanza about peoples of many colors who express their amity and freedom together. And we'll conclude with an English translation of the traditional second stanza of the Spanish language song that ends with the Universalist hope that people of all colors will soon be equal, taking their place in the sun. Would you now rise body or spirit, and join us in singing "De Colores."


Closing Words

BRUCE KNOTTS: The world is coming to us through migration, work, study, and marriage. It's not just people who are migrating all over the planet, but our ideas of free, tolerant, and compassionate faith that's committed to a safe and dignified life for every person are on the move as well.

We live our faith by insuring the justice and equality we want for ourselves are available to everyone, everywhere. Through the internet, personal contact, and in other ways, our liberal, free faith is taking root or has long ago taken root in the far flung corners of the Earth. This wonderful process happens without imposition or proselytizing.

VYDA NG: Through living our faith, we work for a world without poverty, illiteracy, needless death, or homelessness. We are strengthened in coming together, joining with others, blending our efforts with those of Unitarian Universalist congregations in the next town or the next country. Together we are more than we could ever be alone.

One congregation, one UU, is a miracle. As a global community of Unitarians and Universalists, we can help create a wonderland, a world blanketed with love, and justice, understanding, and hope. May it be so.

Benediction: Lara Fuchs and Rev. Carol Huston

REV. CAROL HUSTON: We will close our service this morning with music. During the music, some of you will set forth to offer service to this city, to this nation, to our world. Some of you will set forth to learn new ideas or find inspiration for yourself or your congregation. Some will remain here to take part in the business of our faith.

LARA FUCHS: When we all leave this General Assembly to travel to cities and towns and villages near or far, in the days and months to come we will carry with us a piece of what makes this whole here together in our global family. We will remain one voice, one body, one faith through the covenant that me make one with another in word, or in action.

REV. CAROL HUSTON: Let us share in covenant together. We will be awake and responsive to our place in creation. Please say with me, this is our covenant.

ALL: This is our covenant.

LARA FUCHS: We will love our neighbors, whether they are friends or enemies.

ALL: This is our covenant.

REV. CAROL HUSTON: We will live in solidarity as champions of justice, equity, and compassion.

ALL: This is our covenant.

LARA FUCHS: We will have a listening ear, and open heart, and willingness to journey towards commitments.

ALL: This is our covenant.

REV. CAROL HUSTON: We will live together with commitment, love, partnership, and mutual support.

ALL: This is our covenant.

LARA FUCHS: We will hold in our hearts our brothers and sisters sharing in our universal family of faith in distant places of our world.

ALL: This is our covenant.

REV. CAROL HUSTON: And in a moment of silence, please make the personal promises that are also part of the covenant we share.

ALL: This is our covenant.

LARA FUCHS: With the help of all that is holy, may we find the will and the strength to keep our covenant.







BOTH: May it be so.