General Assembly: Painful Reminders and the Work Ahead

As joyous as this week can be, General Assembly also reminds us of our failures and mistakes, and of the enormous challenges still lying ahead for us as a denomination.  Many program sessions this week have spoken of declining church attendance and the urgency for our congregations to be more relevant in peoples’ lives and in our society.  One speaker after another reminds us that church cannot simply be about the Sunday morning service, but must be the about the way we live every day.

Today, thousands of Unitarian Universalists and others marched in downtown Charlotte to call people to act against proposed actions before the North Carolina legislature discriminating against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, their families and friends.  The rally featured dynamic speakers and members of the broader faith community in impassioned appeal to act for justice.  The gathering reminded me that I must remain diligent in the ongoing struggle of people seeking rights I take for granted, and equal treatment in the eyes of our society.

In the evening, the annual Synergy worship service honoring the passage of our youth into adulthood featured many speakers addressing our history of ministry with youth.  Betty Jeanne Reuters-Ward spoke of growing up in Young Religious Unitarian Universalism (YRUU), and the hurt felt by many when the program was dismantled a few years ago.  As a long-time advisor and advocate for youth, her words brought back that pain for me, as well.  And even though I know bear the full portfolio of ministerial responsibilities, Betty’s words reminded me of the roots of my calling and moved me to once again reach out to our youth and, hopefully, help to heal the wounds caused by our reorganization efforts and our chronic inattention to the spiritual growth of our children and youth.

And, throughout the week, conversations with my colleagues from seminary have reminded me of the enormous challenges facing Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Faculty departures, the sale of our historic campus, and other administrative actions have left many of us feeling estranged from our alma mater and concerned for the future of ministerial education in our denomination.

I love the singing, the hugs, the warmth and caring of dear friends.  But, General Assembly also reminds us that we still have much work to do.  One speaker today discussed the notion that “god” is a verb.  Our spiritual beliefs are not some static bunch of words, or ritualized acts we repeat without further thought or commitment.  Being a Unitarian Universalist is a full-time vocation and every day provides us a variety of opportunities to live our principles, to walk the path to justice, and to reach out to others in compassion.  Every new dawn presents a fresh day for action, for healing, and for love. 

How will you live your faith today?