General Assembly 2017 Event 202
Captions were created during the live event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.
With morning breaking on the delta, we celebrate the web of life and greet the day with story and song and surprise!
Order of Service
Liturgist: the Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof
With Rev. Nathan A. Ryan, Steven Ballesteros, Rev. Julia Hamilton, Rev. Barbara Jarrell, Leslie Taylor-Grover, Seynabou, Leon Burke and Guest Musicians
Featured Songs: "This Little Light of Mine," "Woyaya"
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
"This Little Light of Mine"
Call to Worship
Rev. Nathan Ryan & Leslie Taylor-Grover: Good morning. Welcome to the start of our first full day of GA 2017 here in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s perfect that General Assembly is here at the foot of the Mississippi because both Louisiana and Unitarian Universalism embody the transformative power of resist and rejoice.
Resist and rejoice! Opposition… doing the opposite… reminds me of a Seinfeldepisode in which George Costanza says, “every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.”
Just then a waitress comes to take his order and George asks for his usual, tuna on toast, coleslaw, and a cup of coffee, but quickly changes his mind. “Wait a minute,” he says, “I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast! Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted... and a cup of tea.” Although Jerry argues that salmon is the opposite of tuna, since salmon swims against the current and tuna swims with it, George’s new lunch choice marks a bold, life changing step.
A moment later George sees a woman at the lunch counter across the room. His friends encourage him to go talk to her, but he argues that she’s out of his league. “Well here's your chance to try the opposite,” Jerry argues, “Instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to them.”
“Yes, I will do the opposite,” George responds. He approaches her and says, “Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice that you were looking in my direction.”
“Oh, yes, I was,” she replies, “you just ordered the same lunch as me.”
George takes a deep breath and continues with the opposite of his usual approach, “My name is George. I’m unemployed and live with my parents.”
“I’m Victoria. Hi,” she responds, and, before he knows it they’re dating and Victoria’s uncle helps George land a job with the New York Yankees. “This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child,” he says, “and it's all happening because I'm completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I've ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion… this is my religion!”
When it comes to accepting the status quo of injustice, doing the opposite is our religion too!
My name is Leslie. I am a member of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, and I am pleased to welcome you today.
My name is Nathan. I’m one of the ministers in Baton Rouge and I am humbled to welcome you to the state my family has called home for generations.
Resist and rejoice! This past summer when we saw massive protests against longstanding police violence in Baton Rouge, when we saw police attack unarmed peaceful protestors, when we saw three officers killed on a Sunday morning less than a mile from our church, we resisted the dangerously oversimplified dichotomies of police lives versus black lives. Instead we rejoiced in the work of unpacking this country’s systemic history of favoring white safety and wealth over all else. When 146,000 homes flooded, and people showed up in ways that transcended traditional racial and cultural barriers, we resisted the simple story of post racialism. Instead we rejoiced in the work of recovery-- explicitly and systemically.
Resist and Rejoice! Resist and Rejoice is our call to worship wherever we’re from, by resisting any system that puts one culture at the top and rejoicing in the beauty and challenges of all cultures and subcultures; by resisting economic systems that punish the underpaid and rejoicing when we earn a fair living wage; by resisting the American systems that were built to favor people who look like me at the expense of black folks and the further perpetuations that disenfranchise and abuse black and brown communities and rejoicing when our faith tries to shed light on these injustices; by resisting attempts to discredit black people simply asking for the recognition that their lives matter and rejoicing in the oncoming parade of justice by acknowledging that black lives matter; by resisting religious ideologies that teach you are depraved and should hide your true self and rejoicing that we all are made in God’s image; by resisting transphobia, and rejoicing in the expression of one’s identity; by opposing homophobia and rejoicing in a world where it is safe to love whomever you love; by resisting misogyny and rejoicing in the work that creates a world where women may fully manifest who they are meant to be; by resisting anti-immigration policies and rejoicing in rich cultural diversity; and by resisting a chemical industry that produces most of its pollutants right here in cancer alley, the 85 mile stretch along the Mississippi river from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, by resisting the nation’s chemical industry literally built on former plantation land that continues the legacy of placing profits and production over safety and health, and rejoicing in the ways that the people of Louisiana, for generations, breathing in the nation’s smog have found ways to resist the injustice.
Resist and rejoice! For you have come to a great place to do this work. You have come to learn to manifest your faith in the heart of what it means to be Unitarian Universalist. This is our religion. To do the opposite! To resist and rejoice!
Rev. Julia Hamilton & Steven Ballestros: This is the first time so many Unitarian Universalists have been able to come together since all that has followed the national election. So let us light our chalice, the symbol of our faith, the symbol of our unity and our solidarity, of our openness and our inclusion, of our community and our individual uniqueness. May this small flame be our offering of hope to those who are cold and alone, and a light to those in darkness. May it be a flame that ignites just in our world, and a beacon of hope to those in need. And may it be at least a spark of truth wherever truth has been last, and cast a healthy shadow of doubt wherever it’s been found.
Message in Story – A Very Important Rooster
Read by Rev. Barbara Jarrell & Julia Hamilton & Steven Ballestros
Steven: As Rev. Hamilton said a moment ago, much has changed since we were all last together and there are many challenges before us, within our nation, and within our world, and some within our own denomination. Yet even amidst our imperfections, anxieties, and uncertainties, we must now, more than ever, let our lights shine and make our voices heard as, together, we resist and rejoice.
Rev. Julia:Consider this parable of A Very Important Rooster.
Rev. Barbara: Once upon a time there was a rooster, a very, very proud rooster! And do you know why he was proud? He was very, very proud because he had a very, very important job. In fact, he had the most important job in the whole world! It was his job to get up every morning and wake up the Sun. Every morning, since as long ago as he could remember, he got up while it was still dark and began shouting just as loud as he could. And do you know what he shouted?
Steven:Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle-do!
Rev. Julia:And the rooster kept on shouting until he saw the Sun slowly start to open its giant eye. It was just a gleaming sliver at first, but before long the Sun was wide awake and started slowly making its way across the sky. So the rooster was very, very proud. For he knew that if it weren’t for his crowing, there would be no sunlight to grow the grass to feed the cows the farmer depends on for milk and cheese. And if it weren’t for milk and cheese the farmer would go hungry and wouldn’t have the strength to come and scatter grain for the rooster and all the other barnyard animals to eat. That’s why he was so very, very proud of himself and why, even though the Sun was already wide awake, he sometimes strutted around the farm crowing just for fun…
Steven: Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle-do!
Rev. Barbara:In fact, on one particularly bright sunny day, the rooster saw the cows eating the sweet grass, the farmer making cheese, and all the other farm animals enjoying their delicious grain, and he felt so very, very proud, that he started crowing and couldn’t stop…
Steven: Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle-do!
Rev. Julia: He crowed and he crowed until, without noticing it, his cock-a-doodle-do grew softer and softer until he completely lost his voice.
Steven: Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do. Cock-a-doodle…
Rev. Barbara: Yes, the proud rooster had crowed so long and so loud that he developed laryngitis. And just as he found himself without a voice, the Sun started going down and he began worrying about what would happen if his voice didn’t return before morning. How would the grass grow? How would the cows eat? How would the farmer get his milk and cheese? Who would feed the barnyard animals?
So he decided to give his voice a rest and not make another sound until morning and to hope it would return. But he was so worried about not being able to wake up the Sun that he didn’t get much sleep. And when morning came, he went out into the barnyard and climb atop his usual fencepost, opened his beak and tried to crow, but he still couldn’t make a sound. He tried as hard as he could but nothing happened. He thought about all the terrible things that would happen without the sunrise. He worried about the grass, the cows, the farmer, and all his other farmyard friends.
Rev. Julia: But then, all of the sudden, just like every other morning, the Sun began to open its giant eye. It was just a gleaming sliver at first, but before long the Sun was wide awake and started slowly making its way across the sky.
At first the rooster was very, very happy to see the Sun, but, after a short while, wondered if maybe it isn’t all his crowing that makes the sunrise after all. The thought made him very, very sad, because he realized he wasn’t that important after all.
Rev. Barbara: But even though the Sun had risen, it did seem that there was something different about this day than any other. He saw the grass, but no cows, and no farmer, and none of the other barnyard animals. And he thought to himself, if the cows don’t wake up and eat the grass, and the farmer doesn’t wake up and milk the cows and feed grain to all the other barnyard animals, everyone in the whole wide world will starve to death!
Rev. Julia: So the rooster climbed back up on the fencepost and started crowing louder than he ever had before in his entire life!
Steven:Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle-do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle do! Cock-a-doodle-do!
Rev. Barbara: And before long, he saw the cows come out to eat the grass, and the farmer come to milk the cows, and to feed the grain to all the other animals.
Rev. Julia: And the rooster was very, very proud because he knew he had a very, very important job.
Rev. Jarrell:Nelson Mandela once said, “Fools multiply when the wise are silent,” not unlike Dr. King, who said, “A time comes when silence is a betrayal.” Today circumstances call upon us to raise our voices, to give the world a wakeup call, to let our light shine. This morning, we will not extinguish the light of our chalice, but shall let it burn and shine as we go forward on this day, throughout this week, and whenever we must lift our voices to resist and rejoice.