“Across the distance, the light from within me shines, sending love to all
Across the distance, your light is fuel that warms me
and helps to keep my own light burning
Together, we keep the flame of community burning bright”
(Chalice lighting offered by Laura Thompson)
I remember walking down the street on a very hot day in Dallas, TX during a General Assembly, not able to forget a sermon I had heard given by the Rev. Burton Carley. He had asked the gathered community of ministers if we would, if we could respond to an “altar call,” be willing to come forward and get on our knees to re-commit fully to our ministry. I think some of my colleagues couldn’t imagine this, it was outside the tradition they were familiar or comfortable with, and I know that UU’s do not often sink to their knees in prayer or as part of a ritual. But in that moment, suddenly, I felt as though someone had hit me in the chest. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and felt that if Rev. Carley had actually wanted us to come forward to the altar, I would absolutely have to surrender and go. I was overcome by emotions, perhaps by the spirit, and the power and magnitude of what this calling means. This was my most profound experience at a UU General Assembly and I wonder if you too, have experienced moments inspiration, challenge, connection with our faith in the presence of UU’s from across the country. I imagine some of you have attended UU General Assemblies in past years, traveling to a city, walking the streets inspired by seeing other UU’s in their tee shirts, their name tags or chalice necklaces displayed. You may have participated in street protests or actions, raised your member voting card after a debate, or witnessed worship services on a large scale. My experience is that GA can be overwhelming and intense at times, running from a workshop to a worship service to another event. It has felt intimidating to me, especially during my early years as a new minister. And I have been brought to tears during many worship services, Berry Street essays or during the times of remembrance for those who have died.
I have felt frustration as we have encountered issues of racism or ableism as a GA community, and worried that we as a collective body might not have the courage to go far enough to enact change and inspire healing. I have felt though that for the most part, most of us were doing our best to live up to and into our principles, especially when we found ourselves in that varied and diverse group of so many UU’s. It has required patience and understanding, courage to speak up, speak the truth or to enact the practice of deep listening. It has been intense! I have mixed feelings about GA this year as all of the events and worship services and workshops will be virtual, being on a computer screen for hours at a time, not having the face to face interactions and not being together in person to sing and listen and worship together. But just as we have been doing throughout our year together, relying on zoom and the virtual world to keep us connected to each other, I imagine that the hardworking folks coordinating GA this year are committed to ensuring that the events are as inclusive and accessible as possible. This time has required a different set of skills, patience and we have all had to adapt in one way or another. And there have been some people who have not had access to our services, just as there will be folks who will not be able to participate in GA. We strive to be accessible and inclusive but it is an ongoing challenge. Let us move into these summer days being open to the growing warmth and finding ways to take care of ourselves, to sit and relish in the breezes, the buzzing bees and singing birds, the beautiful light, and hopefully, we will be able to see each other in person soon. With gratitude for your patience and resilience!
Blessings, Rev. Telos