General Assembly 2015 Event 373
This year’s Synergy service looks at who is at “the welcome table,” and how our youth and young adults are “Building A New Way.” Please join us as we celebrate these young leaders’ transition into adulthood!
- Amanda Weatherspoon
- John Newhall
- Rhea Brown-Bright
- Star Amerasu
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
Opening Music: "At This Table"
Susan: Let’s thank our wonderful GA Band once again for keeping this room alive with music: bandleader Mark David Buckles on guitar, Tim Gilson on bass, Dustin Hunley on keys, and tonight, Matt Meyer on drums. You rock! I’d like to invite young adults Amanda Weatherspoon, Anne Scott, and Lauren Steele to come to the mics to open up this Synergy service with a song by Unitarian Universalist (UU) composer Dana Decker, a song that invites us to gather at this table, bringing our loving hearts and open minds.
Reading: “The Welcome Table”
Amanda Weatherspoon: What is the welcome table?
John Newhall: Who is the welcome table?
Star Amerasu: Where is the welcome table?
Rhea Brown-Bright: When is the welcome table?
[repeat questions in jumbled whispers]
[from the whispering, the voices emerge again; stronger]
Amanda: WHAT is the welcome table?
Rhea: I am the welcome table.
John: WHO is the welcome table?
Lauren: WE are the welcome table.
Lauren: WHERE is the welcome table?
John: It is HERE
Rhea: WHEN is the welcome table?
Amanda: The welcome table is NOW
[repeat answers; slightly above a whisper; growing energy]
[slightly louder]: [stagger]
All: Who’s not here
Why aren’t they here
Why aren’t I here
Where did I go
Where are they now
Where am I now
[repeat; louder still]
[from the litany emerges this declaration]
[strong, proud, mighty]
Rhea: I am the welcome table!
ALL: WE are the welcome table!
The welcome table is HERE
The welcome table is NOW
WE ARE HERE
WE ARE NOW!
Hymn: "Building A New Way"
John Newhall: Gathered here,
We are reminded of
The importance of Community.
Here, we are many generations,
And many stories.
Each of us
Carries our own light,
Kindled from those experiences.
And in sharing that light,
We ignite each others hearts.
Amanda Weatherspoon: I now invite you into a place of prayer,
A place of presence and knowing
A place within each of us, that holds the flame,
Let us now center ourselves in this moment of prayer and meditation
Spirit of Divine Love and Prophetic Witness,
That which calls us forward, which holds us and protects us,
And which manifests in our bodies and lives.
We gather here in this moment to tap into this presence,
Into that well of existence,
Into that never ending source of love and life.
We come from near and far, from wholeness and brokenness,
With everything that we are and all that we are not to be here with one another,
In the wonder and mystery of our lives,
In the chaos and struggle
And in the midst of a changing world –
WE ARE HERE.
In this moment, we are here,
Let us remain here in a fullness of body and mind,
Receptive to the full power of the spirit, so that we may be transformed.
And so we shall.
May it be so, Asha.
Welcome to Synergy
John Newhall: Welcome, welcome dear friends to the 2015 Synergy service! We are excited to have you here!
Amanda Weatherspoon: So excited to be with you during this special time of transformation and transition.
John: Youth, we’re here to celebrate our friends in their transition. Are their any bridgers in the house? (pause) We’ve been waiting four years for this transition to young adulthood. Congratulations, we’ve made it!
Amanda: We are here for you, we are here with you, we are here together at this welcome table! We are here building a new way....
John: …new opportunities and chances to build the beloved community. Bridging into this moment, into this movement, where you are so very needed.
Amanda: We ask ourselves and one another tonight: What is the welcome table, who is the revolution… we challenge ourselves to fully explore when and where we enter into our moment—our moment of transformation, our moment of movement, our revolution.
John: We’re excited to share this journey with you. Come let us worship together. Please rise in body and or spirit and join as Mark David Buckles leads us in joyous song.
- "All Are Welcome"
- "When Our Heart Is In a Holy Place"
Story: “Who is the Revolution”
Amanda Witherspoon: Revolution—the demand for evolution.
This feeling in our bones
And we’ve felt it before,
When we have come together as one and when we have said “NO MORE”.
Caitlin Cotter: There are many faces and names who came before us and inspired us to act.
Those who did not stand silently by
Those who believed that the world can and must be a better place.
That refused to accept that unfairness and cruelty and apathy must be the way things are,
Kevin Mann: We call their spirit into our presence tonight…
We call the spirit of life and love; justice and hope
Into the midst of our space
Amanda: Our ancestors, our inspirations, those that paved the way for the work that WE do in this movement
Kevin: —THIS movement of Unitarian Universalism…
This movement that calls us forth into action
That calls us out of apathy and silence
That DEMANDS love
That WILL NOT wait for justice
Caitlin: We are grounded in their spirit and in their legacy
We are rooted in their love.
Kevin: Youth—you are bridging tonight;
crossing over from one stage to the next…
Amanda: And You bring your talents, gifts, and power with you;
You bring it into the presence of Unitarian Universalism
Caitlin: You have already brought and will continue to bring POWER to this movement.
You have already and will continue to show up.
You are a testament to the tradition of UUism
Amanda: A tradition of presence and radicalism,
A tradition of showing up...
Kevin: And we have shown up.
We have shown up time and time again;
Amanda: with our POWER
Caitlin: with our LOVE
Kevin: with our STRENGTH
Kevin: Unitarian Universalists have a strong tradition
A tradition of justice making,
and revolution- making
Amanda: We showed up in the Suffragist movement
We showed up for Abolition
We showed up in Selma
We showed up at the March on Washington
We showed up in the beginning struggle for LGTBQ rights
ALL: And we are still here.
Caitlin: We show up now in the struggle for accessibility rights
We show up now in the fight for racial justice
We show up now in the movement for marriage equality
Kevin: We showed up then, we continue to show up now.
Caitlin: We show up with an unwillingness to settle,
to keep quiet, to ignore
We show up in the streets, in the courtrooms, in the classrooms, in the Synagogues, in the Churches, in the Mosques
Kevin: The public sphere, the private sector
The White, the big house, our friend’s house
We show up ready, equipped, willing, stubborn
Amanda: And we don’t back down.
Caitlin: The movements that Unitarian Universalists have shown up for are rarely about Unitarian Universalism specifically...
Amanda: But they are always about “Inherent worth and dignity”
They are surrounded by Justice, Equity and compassion,
They depend on our acceptance of one another
Kevin: and the search for truth and meaning.
Those movements promoted the right of conscience
and the goal of world community.
Caitlin: And every movement depends on the interdependent web of existence of which we are all apart.
Amanda: That’s the key—while we DO show up, we don’t ONLY show up
We’re a part of it;
If we are not, if we cannot be, then our principles mean nothing
Caitlin: Without US, our principles fall apart
They become words that sound good
Kevin: Therefore we cannot only show up, we must transform
Transform ourselves, our hearts and minds,
and transform each other
Amanda: Our faith calls us into action.
Caitlin: We have been many places in Unitarian Universalism,
but there are many places we have not been,
territories left unexplored
Issues we are only just beginning to uncover,
mysteries we are only beginning to unravel
Amanda: And it ain’t easy to address issues we see within our own institution
Speaking truth to power rarely is…
But we do it.
The most important work that we can do is work within ourselves, within our own community.
Kevin: We are not stagnant and still,
Caitlin: We are not exempt from society,
Amanda: We are not somehow separate from history
Caitlin: While Our stories are our own,
We are not separate from each other, we are many experiences and many stories,
We share these stories together because our faith calls us to witness:
Kevin: July 7, 2006, Metro Manilia
Amanda: November 24, 2014, Oakland CA
Caitlin: No one moment, all moments, every moment
Kevin: Called by the International People’s Contingent
Amanda: Called by the many slain from state violence and systematic racism, those who came before me, my ancestors
Caitlin: Called by my parent planet, by my understanding of the deep need for environmental justice
Kevin: Called to the struggle for Third World Justice,
Amanda: Called to the battle for black bodies; for people of color who are treated as objects, as property.
Caitlin: Called to action for the thousands who do not fit into small square boxes of gender and sexuality.
Kevin: Called out of my American Privilege
Amanda: Out of the constant debating and wordsmithing; the constant chatter that holds us back from doing what we need to do—called out of safety and comfort
Caitlin: Called out of apathy and indifference and the hurt caused by an oppressive system.
Amanda: Called out of the confines of our own bodies,
Caitlin: ideas and paradigms;
Kevin: Into action
Amanda: Called into becoming
ALL: Transforming ourselves and one another
Amanda: Using our stories
Caitlin: our identities,
Kevin: our experiences
Caitlin: Using what we know, what we have, who we are
Amanda: And leaving room—making space for growth
Kevin: For understanding, for change.
Caitlin: We do this with the strength of those that came before us; those who made it possible for us to be here, to speak our truth, to use our power.
Amanda: And we honor those that have come before us; those prophetic voices of dissent, of love, of revolution and liberation — we honor those voices.
But those voices only matter when we honor those that are coming with us now, in the present.
Caitlin: Those voices of newness, excitement and wonder. Those voices of freshness and inspiration that will keep us all moving forward.
Kevin: Our journey into this stage of adulthood is much like the formative journey from childhood to adolescence;
the transitions will be endless
there will be more questions than answers
Amanda: nobody knows it all
Kevin: none of us have figured it all out
Caitlin: but we try
it will be awkward
Amanda: and awesome
Kevin: and hard
there will be roadblocks and conflicts and confusion and complications
there always are
and that’s okay
Amanda: Revolutions are not made from the outside in,
they are made on the inside…
that flame that once sparked cannot be tamed,
that light that won’t dim
that spark of knowing, of feeling, of being
Caitlin: Being called,
being called into yourself and out of yourself
Kevin: Revolution is not only an idea or a theory,
Although ideas are important;
Revolution is a calling,
A call to action, to resistance, to movement, to evolution.
Amanda: Revolution is a driving force
a momentum, a vehicle for change
Revolution is love
Love of self, love of one another, love of the earth.
It is a transition
A transition that happens in our own hearts and lives that begins to transform the world around us.
Caitlin: This ritual is symbolic of that very transition
But it is more than symbolism, it’s an affirmation
Amanda: An affirmation that you are right and wonderful and with us
And that we are with you
That together, we are building a new way
Kevin: That the path to liberation is not a solitary path,
That a journey consists of many steps
Steps that we must take on our own
And and at the same time, with each other.
Kevin: And there is POWER in this
Amanda: There is POWER in you
Caitlin: There is POWER in the call
All: We are all a flame,
But together, we are a FIRE
Amanda: A fire that burns so brightly that it can’t be ignored
Kevin: Or explained away
Caitlin: Or covered up
Kevin: A fire that DEMANDS attention, a fire that cannot be extinguished
Caitlin: A brightness that shines light on the hidden systems of oppression and injustice
in our lives, in our communities and institutions
Amanda: A mass that cannot be tamed or silenced
All: Together—we are a fierce force of nature
Together—we overcome the fears implanted in us from birth
the fear of difference, of separateness
Together—we welcome one another to the welcome table
Together—we create the welcome table
Together—we are the welcome table.
Caitlin: Revolution is loud, in your face,
fun, spontaneous, planned,
Amanda: But for it to be anything,
it has to begin in each of us, in our hearts and minds in our home and communities
(Music for Talkin’ Bout’ A Revolution starts playing quietly)
Kevin: When it erupts in the wider world, that’s never the beginning,
(and hopefully not the end)
All: Because Revolution, like our paths, like our callings
… with a whisper...
Susan: Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman wrote “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” in 1988, and the song has been sung by many singers and bands all over the world ever since. Lauren Steele and the GA Band keep the spirit of the revolution alive, here, now.
Star Amerasu: "Talkin’ ‘bout a Revolution"
The Bridging Ritual
Rev. Annie: It is time to honor the ongoing revolutionary transition from UU youth to UU young adult with a physical ritual. It is time to step forward, whether the call to move into adulthood feels like a whisper or sounds like a scream. Unitarian Universalists honor this ritual at our denominational gathering because we know that transition is risky, that growth is difficult and sacred. We ask each bridging youth to come to the pulpit and say your name and the congregation you are from so we can bear witness to your journey. We Unitarian Universalists of many ages celebrate what you have already offered and what you are currently bringing to our great welcome table. We are here to support you in living even more fully into our revolutionary faith. Let us begin the bridging ritual.
(Youth say name and congregation then receive bridging gifts from one of the young adult)
Charge: “We are the Revolution”
Rev. Deanna Vandiver: Welcome to this side of the bridge, beloveds.
Let’s take a moment, as a collective, to take a deep breath in and let it out
And now I invite you to repeat after me:
We are the
We are the revolution
Feel those words vibrate in your body
Let those words slide into your bloodstream and soak into the marrow of your bones
Each word matters.
A revolutionary pronoun, if ever there was one.
You are not the revolution
I am not the revolution
They are not the revolution
Oh, but beloveds
We—we are the revolution
There is a deeply ingrained American mythos of the rugged individual hero.
That myth is explicitly counter-revolutionary. It plays an important role in maintaining the status quo of a dominant oppressive culture.
It is time for us to value a different story as a people of faith. I invite us all to begin to cultivate the mythos of We: a creative courageous collective. WE are called to the revolution. Our faith calls US.
It is the power of collectivity that gives life to the revolution. Lean into relationship. Organize with like-hearted (not necessarily like-minded) souls. Devote time to each other and to anyone you think of as other. The deeper our connections, the more powerful our collective welcome table.
We aren’t just dreaming about joining the revolution.
Today is the day we decolonize our souls, reclaim our humanity, value the miracle of life on earth. Tomorrow too, yes, and hopefully yesterday. But most especially, today.
Tag—friends, we are it.
Our time is now.
We are the
We have an essential clarity as a collective people of faith, that the “arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice” —and that the revolution bends in this faithful direction.
There a few definites in this faith without certainty. You may want to treasure that particular definite article—the.
We are the revolution.
Revolution: a radical and pervasive change in society and our social structure…Revolution—the demand for evolution.
50 years ago, people marched across a bridge in Alabama to bring about a radical and pervasive change in society and in our social structure.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists (Thank you Living Legacy Project!) joined thousands of people from around the world in crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge, commemorating not only the sacrifice that was made there on Bloody Sunday 50 years ago, but also celebrating the courage and commitment of everyone who was a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone, not just the martyrs and headliners. .
While driving through the back roads that connect Birmingham to Selma, AL, with a sister organizer from New Orleans, on our way to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, we experienced a moment of epiphany and gratitude for the work of the ancestors. We realized that what we were so casually doing—a white woman and a black woman, riding in a car together to a march—could have been fatal—had in fact gotten people killed only fifty years ago.
Every bridge we cross together brings us closer to what is possible. Every welcome table we create transforms our lives and this world. We are the revolution.
50 years after Bloody Sunday, the Voting Rights Act that people gave their lives for has been gutted by the US Supreme Court. Frontline communities are struggling to survive the already devastating impacts of climate change. State sanctioned violence pervades this country, primarily against people of color—especially black people. Nakita and I may ride together safely in the car on the way to Selma, but we are still safer from the threat of state violence if I am driving while white than if she was driving while black.
We, as a people of faith, we are answering the on-going call to revolution.
We are committed to work together to radically and pervasively change society and the social structures that oppress the beloved community and destroy our living planet.
I offer gratitude to the wisdom of the prophet Micah when I ask what does your faith require of you but to do justly and to love mercy, and to journey humbly with that which you hold holy? Revolutionary.
Friends, the movement builds.
It builds within our lives, our relationships, our creative resistance, our faithful commitment to be the revolution—to make the radical and pervasive changes within our own world views, our own hearts and minds, our own families, our own congregations, our own institutions, our own social, economic, and political systems.
We are the revolution.
I charge you, as a collective of faithful beings, to remember to hold on to one another.
Beloveds, do not despair.
Do not despair.
You are not alone.
We are all in this together for the long haul. We create the welcome table for each other.
Trust that there is love beyond measure holding you. Lean into love.
Celebrate religiously. Joy is essential for the revolution.
Lift each other up. Call each other in—instead of out.
Grieve what must be grieved.
Take time to grieve together that which must be mourned.
Sharon Welch tells us, there is critical moral strength found in "the courage and humor of a community that continues to learn, to love, to acknowledge our capacity for harm—and from that acknowledgement, to find together the balm for the journey, presence and witness to the struggles and joys of life."
May you be blessed with this moral courage. May you be blessed with a holy curiosity, a wide compassion, a deep integrity, and a sustaining sense of humor.
Keep the faith, friends. Stay together, turn toward one another. Keep moving as a collective.
Every bridge we cross brings us closer to what is possible. Every welcome table we create transforms our lives and this world. We are the revolution.
You are not the revolution.
I am not the revolution
They are not the revolution
Oh, but beloveds, We are called.
And we are the revolution.
Closing Song: "Right here, Right now"
John Newhall: As we change, growing and evolving,
we are present in our community;
present to lift each other up,
and to support the flames within us all.
We are the revolution that needs community.
We need everyone’s experience;
and everyone’s strengths.
We need everyone’s voice;
and everyone’s presence.
We need everyone’s sorrow,
and everyone’s pain.
so we can grow;
and so we can love more unconditionally.
Through the love of each other,
the love of community,
and the love of ourselves,
We are the revolution.
By building new opportunities for change,
and for progression,
WE are the revolution.
We ARE the revolution.
We are the REVOLUTION.