A typical day at General Assembly is packed full, with worship, workshops, deep conversations, and many opportunities to sink as deep as you want into almost every aspect of religious life.
Today started with worship. UUA President, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, spoke about our Unitarian Universalist symbol, the flaming chalice, and challenged us to think not only of the flame, but of the fragile cup that holds it. Without the cup, there is no flame. Likewise, without community, without a place we are supported, how can we shine? “It’s easy to light a fire that says ‘All are welcome,’ but it’s so much harder to build a place where everyone feels they are home,” she said. This really struck me. As we broke off into our various workshops and smaller events, this stuck with me.
But it wasn’t just this idea of home. She also told a story from Jewish folklore about a diamond with a crack, and how the people of the town who cherished the diamond learn that its true beauty lies in precisely the fact that it is not perfect. A second theme for me of GA this year has been this theme of embracing our brokenness and imperfection.
My first workshop was on Stewardship: the tending of our congregation and faith as a precious resource that we must protect and nurture with our material, financial, support. I was expecting an hour and a half on fundraising, but instead we spent most of our time talking about trust. How do we build congregations where we can truly, safely, trust each other? It was powerful to reflect on.
In the afternoon I attended a session on De-Colonization and the struggles of indigenous peoples. As we arena Fellowship on Wampanoag land, and given the current struggles of the Wampanoag for justice, this spoke deeply to me. How could we, as a Fellowship on the Upper Cape, be an agent for liberation and justice for the original inhabitants of this land we live on? Is this something we feel called to do?
After this session I attended what is, for me, a highlight of GA: the UU Christian Fellowship Communion. We UUs embrace a wide variety of theologies, and at GA there are always opportunities to focus in and go deep in whatever theology you share or are curious about. There are panels focused on Humanism, Buddhist meditation rooms, a Jewish Shabbat on Friday evening, a Neo-Pagan/Earth-Centered celebration of the Summer Solstice, and a Christian communion that draws from our own UU roots in liberal Protestantism. I’m always struck by the large number who attend the annual Communion, a reminder that Christianity is still a strong presence in our UU faith (though many non-Christian UUs attend Communion as well). This year I was asked to help lead the service, and I held the cup of grape juice, made eye contact with each person who came forward to drink, and said to each, “Remember: you are loved.” That is another important theme of GA: we are each loved, and therefore called to love each other.
The theme of GA this year is “The Power of We,” and I felt this in many ways today. My own experience today barely scratches the surface of all that was going on, but everywhere I experienced this call to “we,” not just “me.” Sometimes, as a liberal tradition that celebrates individual freedom of thought and belief, we can forget the power of the whole, the collective, “we.” These days are dangerous times; too dangerous, in fact, to go alone. We need each other. We need to be a chalice that holds the flame of each other’s spirits, that cultivates trust and generosity; we need to be a faith that works to dismantle oppression, liberate the oppressed, and give a message of love. We need to go beyond just saying “all are welcome” and be a Fellowship where people say, “I am home.”
That is at least a small part of what I learned today.
How can our Fellowship do this? How can we be a community of deep trust? How can you individually and we as a congregation partner with the Wampanoag? Do we want to?
How do you connect to the sacred (the depth-dimension of life)?
Do you believe that you are loved?