First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County

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Reflections from General Assembly: I Need You To Survive

August 28, 2016
Rev. Sandra Fees

This morning’s service is a collaborative reflection on the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists, General Assembly, which took place in Columbus, Ohio, in late June. Individuals leading the service this morning include our delegates and attendees at General Assembly with the exception of the Bors family who could not be here today. Fifteen of us, including four youth, traveled to Columbus. Four members - Frank Bors, Shelley Kauffman, Schuyler Osgood and Sage Olnick – as well as as minister were delegates who voted on decisions about resolutions and business matters. Three of our delegates received scholarships from our Keith Orts Fund to attend.

The official theme of General Assembly was interfaith relationships. However, it was social justice that took center stage. The lyrics “I need you to survive” became our rallying cry and a refrain that informed our hearts and minds and spirits. Our interconnectedness – our need for one another - was cause for celebration. But there were also too many reminders that more work is needed to demonstrate our care and ability to honor each other.

As we gathered, it was all too clear that our world and even our faith fall short of being One body. General Assembly began just shy of two weeks after the shootings in Orlando. Public discourse was at a fevered pitch of hate and vitriol, filled with harmful words causing tremendous pain. Just a few weeks before the start of GA another young black man was killed in Columbus in a string of young black people being killed at the hands of police. Henry Green was killed by plainclothes police officers.

We Unitarian Universalists came together from across the nation and from other countries with these events as a backdrop. We grieved and reflected on these events even as we celebrated. There was our joy at being in the company of 3,780 Unitarian Universalists and the joy of worshiping and learning together and joining in acts of witness.

So too there were times of profound disappointment and grief when we found we did not agree or could not listen to each other – when it seemed we were not one Body at all. Impassioned, grieving, and hopeful, we were poised to stand together and to strive to meet every need. It proved to be a holy and messy and hopeful calling and commitment.

Here in this sanctuary this morning, we can’t recreate the 180 person choir from GA or the feeling of thousands of Unitarian Universalists gathered in worship or the experience of hundreds of Unitarian Universalists marching and protesting together. We can’t fully recreate the difficult and painful conversations we had as a religious community. But we can bring home to you some of what that experience entailed, some of what we learned, some of what we felt, some of what we were inspired and challenged by.

This includes everything from worship services and racial justice work to financial investments and interfaith relationships to business resolutions and UUs internationally to learning about the three candidates running to be our next UUA president, all of whom are women ensuring that our next president will be our first woman president.

In all these ways and so many more, we demonstrated our aspiration to being One body united in our diverse and we demonstrated our commitment to continuing to work toward justice. As we gather this morning in reflection on who our faith calls us to be and what our faith calls us to do, let us remember that we humans need each other. We are important to each other. We need each other to survive.

Resource: UU World Magazine