Closing Celebration: A New Chapter: Resist and Rejoice! General Assembly 2017

General Assembly 2017 Event 506 (combined with General Session V)

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Program Description

New Orleans is a storytelling place, now go and bring the story home…

Order of Service

Liturgist: Rev. Kimberley Debus

Our celebration this afternoon will include: the General Assembly Choir led by Mark Vogel, with our New UUA President and Rev. Marisol Caballero, Ms. Terry Cummings, Rev. Paul Beedle, Rev. Daniel Gregoire

With Special Thanks to: all our Guest Musicians, Band Members, and Technical Support Teams who bring worship to life. And much gratitude to the visual artists—including Aly Tharp, Rose Galloglly, Ann- Meredith Wooten (NOLA Radical Arts and Healing Collective) and the Activate Youth who have brought creative spark to our gatherings.

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.

Singing: "Love Will Guide Us"

Processional: "Life Calls Us On"

Chalice Lighting

Andrea Briscoe: May our time here prepare us for the work ahead, as we return to our congregations and communities.

And may the flame of this chalice be a beacon of hope we will carry in our hearts in all of the days ahead.

Declare Election Results for Newly Elected Trustees and Committee Members

Denise Rimes: The following individuals have been elected by this General Assembly to serve on the following boards, commissions, and committees:

Board of Review

  • Rev. Charlie Ortman
  • Karen Hall

Board of Trustees

  • Kathy Burek
  • Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti
  • Christina Rivera
  • Sarah Dan Jones
  • Tanner Linden

Commission on Appraisal

  • Lucas Hergert
  • David Friedman
  • Holley Ulbrich

Commission on Social Witness

  • Rev. Meredith Garmon

General Assembly Planning Committee

  • Oshara Meesha
  • Tuli Patel
  • Chelsea Surfus
  • ​Debra Gray Boyd

Nominating Committee

  • Rev. Michael Walker
  • Rev. Joanne Giannino
  • Jessica Falconer

Rob Eller-Isaacs: Guided by love for this tradition and hope for the future, this General Assembly has duly elected members of the Board of Trustees and committees of the Association. We welcome their gifts, skills, time, sacrifice and voice to be shared in love, trust and dedication in the years to come.

Please join with me as we covenant together to install these leaders to the offices to which we have elected them.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: May our Unitarian Universalist faith and heritage inform your work and deeds as you serve with our leadership, our congregations and our staff. May your efforts and work inspire good will among all.

Newly Elected Leaders: I covenant to affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: As you signify Unitarian Universalism in the wider world, may you serve as an instrument of reconciliation, hope, and welcome.

Newly Elected Leaders: I covenant to affirm and promote a goal of community of peace, justice, and liberty for all.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: May you deal forthrightly and honestly with us, keeping foremost in your heart the health and well being of our movement, speaking your truth without fear of repercussion and encouraging others to do the same.

Newly Elected Leaders: I covenant to affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: In the spirit of hospitality and understanding among people may all who cross your path feel they have been heard and seriously considered

Newly Elected Leaders: I covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all.

General Assembly: We covenant to encourage you and support you as you serve our movement. May our trust carry you through both difficulty and triumph. In gratitude, we thank you for your willingness to serve.

Newly Elected Leaders: With gratitude I acknowledge and accept the trust that you have placed in me.

Installation of New President

Rob Eller-Isaacs: We gather tonight in a spirit of interdependence and dedication to install <name> as the ninth President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. In an election held at this General Assembly, the duly selected delegates of the member congregations of Association, have invited you, <name>, to be our new President. In electing you, we have called you to lead us in a spirit of engagement, collaboration, and prophetic ministry. Mindful of the centuries of tradition that have lead us to this moment and to the great promise that lies ahead, we look to you for leadership during the coming six years. Do you accept the invitation of our member congregations to be our President?

President: I do.

Secretary: In formal recognition of the election of <name> and her acceptance of the obligations of the office, I hereby install you as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations.

Charge to the President

Bill Sinkford: _______(Allison, Susan or Jeanne), it is my privilege to charge you as you assume the mantle of leadership. I did this for your predecessor 8 years ago. The challenges of these days are quite different, however, and so is my charge to you.

This is a time of great opportunity for this community, but the dangers for Unitarian Universalism are real as well. You begin your presidency in a time of both heightened fear and heightened hope.

Even the job you have been campaigning for is changing. New energy and new models of leadership have emerged among us. New partners are pointing the way. New priorities have been clearly set.

You have been chosen to navigate choppy religious waters when many of our charts need to be redrawn.

In good Unitarian fashion, there are three things with which I would charge you.

First, I charge you not let this time of opportunity slip away. There is an openness now in which the need for real and perhaps dramatic change can be named and a new way forward can at least be glimpsed.

Let me be clear. I offer no rosy picture of an easy way forward. There is real anxiety for the future of this faith we love as well.

This extraordinary and unexpected new chance to move toward the Beloved community can be squandered by a failure of will, or by an insistence on holding to habits of heart and mind that point to our past rather than our future.

I charge you, first and most, not to let this time of opportunity slip away.

Second, call us to become the religious people that we want to be. Do not tempt us to settle for what we have achieved thus far. Do not tell us that we are a white faith…we have never been and there is no hopeful vision for our future in which we will be.

And do not repeat to us predictions of decline. We have already heard that narrative. We look to you for inspiration and commitment to a perhaps naïve belief that love may in the end be stronger than either hate or fear. Call us to a belief in the Good News our tradition can offer and that our communities can sustain.

Call us to become the religious people that we want to be.

Third, and finally, (Allison, Susan, Jeanne), I charge you to minister to us. You are the UUA President and Chief Executive Officer. And you will be expected to function as manager of a complex institution with significant resources and abundant accountabilities.

Those things are all true. But this is a community of faith, and we want our elected leaders, all of our leaders, whether ordained or not, to lead in faith. We want you to be a minister, not just a manager.

Be a pastor to this large and yearning flock. Speak out of your own faithfulness, not only about what you believe but about what you hope. Invite us not to follow you but to journey with you toward that vision of the Beloved Community.

So I charge you: Don’t let the opportunity of this time slip away. Call us to be the religious people that we want to be. Minister to us and with us.

I charge you. And we bless you and thank you for the gift of your leadership.

Laying on of Hands

Sofia Betancourt: In our tradition the authority of leaders - of ministers, lay leaders, and presidents - is granted by the people. The call to serve may originate within a person, or within whatever holy conversation has grounded her conviction, but in our polity that call must be recognized, and can only be ratified, by the congregation. Ours is an embodied faith, through which the sacred finds voice in our own communication, and moves in the world through our actions.

The practice of laying on of hands, in ordinations, in installations, in circles of healing and blessing, reminds us of the sources and context of our power. Leaders do not serve alone, and ours is always a partnered ministry.

NEWPRESIDENT, I invite you to come forward and sit/kneel/stand before us here.

NEWPRESIDENT, we would not simply install you in your office, but bless you on this journey. We invite you to be still, to close your eyes and be held in trust by our physical presence, the literal touch of our hands.

You are companioned most closely now, and will be in the days to come, by your family.

I ask ________, _________ , ___________ to join us now, to gather here and lightly lay their hands upon you.

We hold in our hearts others whom you love, not able to be with you tonight, yet present in spirit:

___________, ____________, ___________,

and still others, present in beloved memory:

___________, ____________, ___________.

Breathe deeply. Remember who you are. Remember where you come from, where you live, where your heart is most at home.

You are companioned in this call by a long line of worthy predecessors. I ask Bill Sinkford and Leon Spencer to join you now, and to lay a hand upon you. I invoke the spirit of Peter Morales, and the gifts he has offered us.

You are companioned by strong leaders of our Association, called to serve and elected by our people, just as you have been. You will be partnered by comrades who will challenge and support you, who will draw your strength forward and look to you to draw out what is best in them. I ask Denise Rhimes to join you now, and members of the UUA Board of Trustees (if they are on the stage; if not, I will ask them to rise in body or spirits at their seats on the floor). I invoke the spirit of Jim Key, and his fearless leadership.

NEWPRESIDENT, you are companioned also by your beloved colleagues in shared ministry.

I ask religious professionals here on the stage to join you. (to those on stage: Friends, as you gather now, make concentric circles around NEWPRESIDENT, placing your hands on the person in front of you. ) I ask ministers, religious educators, seminarians, musicians, and administrators in the congregation to rise in body or spirit.

Most importantly, you are companioned in this work by our people: countless lay leaders who serve their congregations and our movement. There is no one else, no ecclesiastical body, no bishop, who can recognize and authorize this naming. The very hands and hearts that embody our faith beyond this place, in every congregation large and small, in worship, in peace making and justice seeking, in institutional commitment, in the day to day celebration of life – the very hands that hold our faith are laid upon you now. I ask those on stage to come forward and lay your hands on NEWPRESIDENT. I ask all in the congregation to rise in body and spirit. NEWPRESIDENT, it is from their trust and their vision that your authority derives. You are called specifically, by this people, called out and chosen to lead and to listen, to lean on them, on us, for wisdom, clarity and courage.

Friends, join hands in body or spirit. With the help of [ushers? GA volunteers? UUA staff? random folks in the front rows?], you in the wider congregation will be joined with us up here.

Quartet begins to sing “There is a Love” Sofia invites everyone to join in as they move.

Sofia: We are gathered here in one strong body,

gathered in the mystery of the hour,

gathered in the need of prayer, imploring Spirit to draw near.

Please open your hearts with me, in a spirit of meditation, a spirit of prayer.

Spirit of Life and love, moving in all things –

in rich bayous and rolling rivers,

through red rock desert and deciduous forests, running silent under ice,

among the stars and between the stars, and atoms,

and part and parcel of them -

Spirit that sounds in the voices of birds, the voice of thunder,

the laughing voices of children and the tireless wisdom of ancestors,

Spirit of life and love, moving in all things and in each of us,

gracious God of a thousand names,

be with us now.

For the gift of wise and willing leaders, lay and ordained, we are grateful.

For this historic beginning of our first elected woman as President of the UUA, we are humbled and proud.

May NEWPRESIDENT lead us with courage and humility,

fully certain of the authority we bestow upon her here,

fully certain of the authority of her own heart,

and of her call to do this work, this ministry, this sacred servant-leadership.

May she invoke often the spirit of those who have journeyed this way before,

and those whose leadership was never recognized,

all the saints who from their labors rest,

and may she heed with open heart and open mind

the various, variegated voices of our living faith,

now harmonious, now and then discordant: the rich music of our people.

May she heed especially the voices of the voiceless, and of the young, who are not only our future, but our present.

Above all, may she listen every day

to the constant whisper underneath the clatter of responsibility:

the voice of her own God.

May NEWPRESIDENT speak plainly, tenderly and boldly to the wider world

the saving message of Unitarian Universalism, our principles, its purpose.

May her conscience resist the compromise of conformity, convention,

and an excess of caution.

May we, who are her partners in this work offer NEWPRESIDENT

our deep trust and the pledge of our support.

She has taken up a joyful but sometimes lonely office,

and we would offer the best ministry we know.

May our Association thrive through NEWPRESIDENT’s tenure,

our movement grow deeper, stronger, broader in spirit.

Our calling, one by one and as a gathered people, is to grow our souls and serve the world.

Together with NEWPRESIDENT, hand to hand, and heart to heart,

May each of us answer with gladness and gratitude.

Amen and amen.

Paul: These last few days, we have created a temporary home for our hard, loving, joyful work, for learning to resist hate and harm, for rejoicing together. We have found a deeper understanding of what it means to be home as Unitarian Universalists in this time and in this place.

Daniel: Home … is complicated.

Terry: Home is a place we share; the home you claim is never just yours.

Mari: Home is every place, and every place is someone’s home, and often the stranger isn’t who you think it is.

Daniel: Home is where the heart is, and a part of us will always stay here in this enchanted city.

Paul: Home is culture and resilience, it’s the food, the people, the music that spills out onto the streets.

Mari: Home is opportunity and struggle and both have been found here.

Terry: Home is a place we each experience differently.

Daniel: Home is supposed to be safe, welcoming, nurturing, grounding, rejuvenating, but it isn’t always.

Mari: Home is the stories of overcoming so much.

Paul: Home is the witness and the will of a people always striving and overcoming.

Terry: Home is the promise to support each other and the commitment to be our best selves.

Daniel: Home is a place to begin again in love.

Mari: Home is complicated.

Paul: Home is the place our heart wants to return to when there is no place else we can be.

Terry: Home is a refuge, a place to recharge our spirits, our bodies, and our courage.

Daniel: Home is abundant love and radical hospitality.

Terry: We found all of these things here and so much more.

Paul: There is No Place quite like New Orleans.

Mari: There is no home like Unitarian Universalism.

ALL: Welcome Home.

Choral Response: Amen Chorus from “Total Praise”

Closing Litany

Paul, Daniel, Terry, Mari

What Did We Find Here?


UUA President: Beloved Unitarian Universalists!

Choir (singing): “We have spent time together…

UUA President: We have spent this time together on a journey, finding our way together, sharing our stories in this beautiful city and this sacred space that we have, for the last few days called home.

Choir (singing): “And these holy moments…”

UUA President: In these holy moments we have become more courageous, confident in our call to resist and rejoice.

Choir (singing): “…give us strength…”

UUA President: We have become stronger, resisting the urge to go back to the way things were….

Choir (singing): “give us strength go down the winding road…”

UUA President: The winding road is illuminated by love…

Choir (singing): “until we meet again.”

UUA President: We know the way – however hard the road, we know our faith is big enough and strong enough to be home wherever we are…

Choir (singing): “And our prayer for you / is a peace that’s true / until we meet again”

UUA President: We will meet again - whether we’re back home, or gathered together next year Kansas City. We know the way… our hearts and souls will lead us to ease on down the road. See you next year!


Moderator: I now call for the official adjournment of the Assembly. Is there a motion from the Board?

Rob Eller-Isaacs: Moved: That this General Assembly is now adjourned.

Moderator: All those in favor of adjournment please so signify by raising your voting cards. (Pause for response.) All those opposed. (pause for response.)

What say our online delegates?

The motion to adjourn is carried. I declare that the 2017 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association now stands finally adjourned. Have a wonderful summer and I’ll look forward to seeing you in Kansas City next June.

Postlude and Recessional: “Ease On Down”