Saturday Morning Worship: Who Taught You to Resist? General Assembly 2017

General Assembly 2017 Event 402

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Program Description

We gather together to acknowledge the complexity of our humanness—the beautiful and the disheartening. In the midst of broken covenant there is something that draws us together as to revel in the Mystery. Come; let us worship together through prayer, song, and the pouring of libations.

Order of Service

With Chloe Ockey, Rev. Melanie Morrill-Emsinger, Sarah Green and the General Assembly Singers

Featured Songs: "Wade in the Water," "We Resist"

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


Opening Words

Chloe Ockey: What is it about resistance?

It's empowering. It's ensuring that your voice will be heard. That your opinions will matter.

It's finding common ground with people who, otherwise, you may have never met.

It's taking a broken path, and through pure determination, strength, and unity, sealing the cracks.

Resistance can stem from anything. From a gorgeous artwork to a tragic backstory.

This morning you will listen to a history of disaster, tragedy and sorrow, and learn just how powerful resistance can truly be.

While you’re listening, think of a time resistance played a huge role in your life.

Why was resistance needed in this situation?

And how did your method of resistance affect the overall outcome?

Congregational Singing

"Wade in the Water"

Chalice Lighting

Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger: The elements that give us life and pleasure can also harm us:
Water is life but in a flood water is death;
Earth can ground us but earth can also sink or landslide and swallow lives;
Air gives us breath but air blown in hurricane winds removes roofs;
Fire brings light and warmth but fire is also a destroyer.

My father and mother taught me to resist;

They were union and civil rights activists in New Orleans back in the day.
When I was a child, my parents ran us through fire drills at home,
What we should do, how we should escape, in case of a fire at our house.
Years later, I learned that was because they were receiving bomb threats
From white people opposed to the work they were doing.
My parents wanted their children to be safe, but they wanted justice more.

I light this chalice for all those in whom the passion for justice burns.

Special Music (We Utter Our Cry) & Pouring of the Libations

We Utter Our Cry: Music and lyrics composed by Rich Coffey in 2016.

Tyler Coles: As a community of faith with a rich history and promising future yet known, may this living water be a token of both thanksgiving and hope.

We pour this in honor of our beloved Ancestors, those who stand within the Cloud of Witnesses and guide as long the journey of life.

We pour this water in honor of this Land. That which has sustained us through our journey. May we gently walk upon this holy earth knowing that we travel within a delicate web of being.

And we pour this water in honor of the Spirit of Resistance and Resilience. As we utter our cries, may our souls be kindled with the flame of justice, guiding us towards the promise land.

Move in us, owh Spirit of Life, that we may know that we can make the world a better place by how we love and live.


Sara Green: Writer Gloria anzaldua says “though we tremble before uncertain futures, may we meet illness death and adversity with strength, may we dance in the face of our fears.” There isn't much more that I could say to summarize how I think about resistance. There isn't much more than I could say that could summarize what I've learned about resistance from the City of New Orleans. Although it may seem as if we have gotten over a few big hurdles, the reality is New Orleans will not be here forever. Inevitably are marshes will disappear; levees will probably break again; people will be forced out of their homes once more and possibly for good. There are some in the city who are doing their best to insure their futures by enclosing their wealth at the expense and Poverty of others. They think they will get out alive but I know it will cost them more then they could ever imagine. We will need to be praying for them and loving them through their own transition. But for me and mine, we have a wealth and abundance of wisdom accumulated from the Earth and our ancestors. This wisdom is how we will survive. I have learned how to resist from three places in New Orleans. As a dancer I grew up in New Orleans at the rec centers, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Jesuit High School dancing all through my days. My senior year of high school I was dancing six days a week for a minimum of 4 hours each day. As a dancer and as you progress in your Technique you’re teachers expect you you to trust your body. It's not something that comes easy because we are indoctrinated into society that seeks to separate us from the wisdom that our body holds but that is what we are called to do. We are called to know the difference between pain and uncomfort- between harm and a challenge-between mastery and cheating our way to the end of a phrase. It is my job as a dancer to know when it is time for me to rest. Trusting my body is resistance. And I am grateful for the lessons for the dance lessons and life lessons I received in those New Orleans dance studios.

The second place I'll learn to resist was the second line. this is a tradition that usually occurs at the end of a funeral of someone with some clout in the community. The first line is the family of the deceased. The second line is friends and community. Led by a brass band, people fill the streets with umbrellas, white napkins and fancy footwork. What I learned in those streets and in those moments was that it was okay to feel Joy in the midst of Sorrow. Not only was it okay to feel Joy in the midst of Sorrow, it was active resistance to honor the reality of our mortality—to honor our ancestors—to honor transitions. This is not what they would have us believe. they would want us to be stuck in sadness consuming things that we hoped would make us better outside of ourselves and our community. it would want us to seek all of the external validation possible. Alas we resist. we find meaning in our movements and our noises and in our community. we find resistance in our joy.

The third place where I was taught about resistance was in the water. My dad, a man born and raised in New Orleans, was a swimmer. I was fortunate enough to learn from him many techniques. At my summer camp, we spent hours in the pool each day playing games and soaking up all of the Sun and chlorine. I'm grateful for the opportunities and the memories I have that taught me not to be afraid of the water but that, in fact, we are held in all of it by water. in every significant moment of my life, water has been present. and I have been fortunate enough to have been baptized over and over in pools, in bayous, and rain and lakes. I was taught resistance by the water because I was never alone and felt held. I learned to interact with the water like I interacted with God. Asking questions of it, praising it, arguing with it, learning from it and about it. Resistance looks like knowing where to place one's anger. and where the anger does not belong is in the water. resistance looks like acknowledging all of the human failures that went into what happened on August 29th 2005. The effects of hurricane Katrina was not the water’s fault. The death of thousands in my community was not the fault of the water. I learned not to be angry at the water, but angry at the systems. Because the water was still there—after all was said and done. Still cleansing, still showering, still shifting. The water taught me that I am held in community and deserve to be transformed over and over again.

Closing Hymn

"We Resist"


Sara Green: It is a blessing to be carried through this struggle with the wisdom of those before us, the wisdom existing in our bodies and the wisdom present in the water. It is critical that we hold these gems close to our hearts. May we trust our bodies, experience joy as resistance and allow ourselves to be held by the water. Ashe and Amen.