Search Our Site

Page Navigation

Section Banner

Plenary III, Worship, and Public Witness, General Assembly 2013

Play This Video on Smallscreen

General Assembly 2013 Event 2064

Program Description

Plenary III

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator Gini Courter presided over the plenary sessions in which the business of the Association was conducted.

Worship

In preparation for our witness on the river, we gathered to worship. We witnessed for Earth, our communities and our future generations. This commitment is central to our faith, our theology, and our respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Where Is Our Energy? Witness for Earth, Our Communities, and Our Future

Do you know where your energy comes from when you turn on a light switch in your own home? Our climate is changing because of how we harness and use energy, and we are causing harm to our planet, our communities, our neighbors, and our future. We need to stop the harmful effects of practices like mountaintop removal, hydraulic fracturing, mining, and drilling. They are hurting all of our communities, and most especially, communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and rural towns. We can find new ways forward together. But in order to change how we get our energy, we must first use the energy within all of us to make a change. 

UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, Wendell Berry—author, spiritual environmental justice activist, economic critic, and farmer—Tim DeChristopher, and interfaith and community leaders joined in a witness for our Earth, our communities, and our future. 

We partnered with Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, the 2013 service project and Sunday collection recipient, and other local and regional organizations. 

Reports from UU World

Transcript

On stage: Members of the Kentucky/West Virginia Unitarian Universalist (UU) Ministers Coalition: Dawn Cooley, Elwood Sturtevant, Claudia Ramisch, Peter Connolly, Cynthia Cain, Rose Edington, Mel Hoover

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: We'll be starting our third plenary session in just a few minutes. But since we're going to be hitting the streets later tonight for our public witness, I thought we might sing together a few of the songs in our silver hymnal that are included in the Stewardship of the Earth section. Did you know we had a Stewardship of the Earth section in our hymnal? We're going to start with a hymn that comes to us from the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. It's called "In the Branches of the Forest."

[SINGING - "IN THE BRANCHES OF THE FOREST"]

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Next up is a hymn by the British Unitarian John Andrew Storey.

["O EARTH, YOU ARE SURPASSING FAIR"]

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: We do have time for one more song before we begin our plenary. But I want to take just a moment first to acknowledge the musicians I have up supporting us in our time together tonight. From Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, we have Becky MacDicken on stage with me.

[APPLAUSE]

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: And on keyboards tonight, from Providence, Rhode Island, Eva Kendrick. And joining us later will be Matt Meyer on percussion.

Alicia Carpenter wrote our next hymn. This was commissioned for our silver Singing the Living Tradition hymnal.

["WE CELEBRATE THE WEB OF LIFE"]

Call to Order

GINA COURTER: Good afternoon.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

GINA COURTER: I now call to order the Third Plenary Session of the 52nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: Now it's only the first day. I want to point that out. So if that's the best we can do on the afternoon of the first day, I worry for us by Sunday.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER]

GINA COURTER: Maybe you didn't hear me. I now call to order the Third Plenary Session of the 52nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: And is not good to be together? All right. We have a few things going on before we begin worship. If Patty Cameron is in the house, if we could see her stage right, that would be great. And I'm going to ask the secretary of the association, Tom Loughrey, to come and give us a couple of announcements that will help people get along easier tomorrow-- find their way.

TOM LOUGHREY: OK. So we've had some problems, apparently, finding room 100, because there's no signs that say "room 100." You get down there, and you count down 106, 105, 104, et cetera-- no 100. It is actually called the Conference Theater.

So if you go into the Conference Theater, you will be in room 100. So hopefully that will prevent any more confusion. Some people ended up behind it in some room that nothing was going on.

The other thing I wanted to talk to you is about your ballot stub for our election on Saturday. Remember, that's running from 10:30 til 4 o'clock. If you are in line at 4 o'clock, you will be able to vote. But you must be in line. They'll shut that off at that point, and no more people will be allowed to get in line after that. So you want to do it as early as possible to be truthful.

To do it, you need a ballot stub. And you either have a red ballot stub, or you have an orange ballot stub, which is a replacement. So you should have one of those two if you're a delegate and entitled to vote.

That stub has certain information on it. The red stub is pre-printed with your delegate information on it, for the most part. However, it does need a signature of your minister or an officer of your congregation on it.

If you do not have that, you need to stop by the delegate credentialing station downstairs, where you picked up your delegate card. And they will make sure that that gets signed appropriately and that you'll be able to vote. You'll probably have to leave it. I'll sign it, and then you'll be able to pick it up and vote.

For those of you who have an orange replacement card, you need to make sure that the information about your congregation is on that ballot stub, and that it's been signed appropriately. So make sure that those things happen. Otherwise, you're going to have a problem when you get up to the beginning of the line and they want to look at your ballot card. And we don't want you to have any problems at all in voting. So with that, back to you.

GINA COURTER: Thank you, Tom. So next, there are a lot of areas in the hall that are reserved for very specific purposes. For example, there's an area for Young Adult Caucus. Where is that?

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: And there's an area for Youth Caucus, and that's over there.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS]

GINA COURTER: And there's an area for folks from the Commission on Social Witness and the GA Planning Committee.

AUDIENCE: [FAINT CHEER]

GINA COURTER: They make less noise.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER]

GINA COURTER: There's an area for the UUA staff.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS]

GINA COURTER: And the UUA board.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: And there are a lot of cut-outs for people in scooters.

AUDIENCE: [FAINT CHEERING]

GINA COURTER: There we go. All right. So here's the thing is that not all of those sections are full right now. Part of the reason they're not full is, perhaps, Youth Caucus is meeting, and they're running right up until the last minute. And then they need to be able to come in and know that there are seats.

When you see a mark on the end of a seat-- there are these blue things that say, for example, UUA staff-- that's for the whole row, not for one seat. For the GA Planning Committee, there's an entire row, because they fill an entire row. And so I want to ask you not to sit in seats that are reserved unless you are in the group that they are reserved for.

The seating for folks who need to be able to see the screen for visual accessibility-- don't sit in their seats unless you are one of those folks who needs to sit in those seats. And particularly, don't sit in the Youth Caucus seat and say, I'll get up when a kid comes along. Because they don't come along because you're sitting in their seat. And that's a metaphor for all of Unitarian Universalism, maybe.

[APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: So if we could be really, really good about making sure that seats that are reserved for folks stay reserved, there are enough seats for everybody. OK? Can we all do that?

AUDIENCE: Yes.

GINA COURTER: Thank you, my friends. It makes life just grand when we all do that. Next, when we leave the hall, some of you have reported to the Right Relationship Team and to me that it's really hard for folks who have scooters or who have canes to get out of the hall. They have to wait till the rest of us all leave. Because it's not easy when we're all streaming to the door.

So for our witness tonight, we actually have a process in place, so we're going to make sure. Because the folks who are in scooters need to take elevators down, and other folks will take escalators. We're going to release them separately.

But I also think starting tomorrow morning what we're going to try to do is let the folks in scooters leave the hall first at the ends of plenaries and stuff, OK?

[APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: I can't be at every workshop you are at. But you can try to make that happen wherever you are, OK? Let's just make it easier. OK. Good. I don't think any of us have connecting flights right now. So we don't need to rush like that. It's all good.

How We Will Leave the Hall for the Witness Event

GINA COURTER: And is Patty here? You rock. OK. And so we're going to hear a little bit more about how folks are going to leave the hall when we go to witness from our General Assembly. Accessibilities Coordinator Patty Cameron-- please welcome her.

[APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: You have a script?

PATTY CAMERON: As we leave tonight to proceed to the Public Witness event, we ask everyone to use the various means to get downstairs and out of the building on to Market Street. For folks able to use the escalators, there are banks of escalators right outside these plenary hall. And for folks using scooters and wheelchairs, we have access to a large elevator just down the big blue hall where all the banners are hanging. And it's right across the hall from these plenary doors.

We're going to proceed down that hallway where the banners are hung. Turn right, and then turn left. And you will be greeted there by convention center staff and will ride the beautifully decorated freight elevator to the first floor. Because at least 12 of us can fit in there together.

Once off the elevator, turn right and exit the building just past Starbucks. And we'll join the procession, moving down Market Street to Fifth and on to Belvedere Park. There, there will be an area near the stage-- I understand it's the right of the stage-- for people using scooters and wheelchairs, as well as some accessible seating for those who need to sit. Thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: And then finally, lest anybody jump the gun later on, so to speak, when we leave, we're not all just going to rush for the doors at the same time. We're actually going to have some music. And we will be leaving by sections. And you'll hear more about that when that happens. How does that sound? Good?

All right. Thank you all so much. So I'm going to turn to David Glasgow to give us some music for the transition to worship. Thank you so much for being here. We will go witness our faith. David.

BECKY MACDICKEN: It was a century ago that British poet Folliott Sanford Pierpoint wrote the poem that appears adapted in our hymnal at number 21. The poem speaks of the beauty of the natural world, a world that seemed to Pierpoint to be limitless and eternal, but which we recognize today as precious and fragile. Please rise in body or spirit, and join us in singing.

["FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH"]

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: Please be seated.

Chalice Lighting

REV. DAWN COOLEY: As we light our chalice, we recall these words from Chief Seattle. "The Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth. This we know. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected, like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected."

REV. MEL HOOVER: "Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: In our hymnal at number 362 is a lovely little gem called "Rise Up, O Flame." Music by Praetorius, words from some prolific composer named Anonymous.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER]

REV. DAVID M. GLASGOW: I'll sing it once, and then I invite you to join in.

["RISE UP, O FLAME"]

Call to Worship and to Witness

REV. ROSE EDINGTON: At GA 2012, we learned of the need to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, which gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they "discovered" for their Christian monarchs. The aboriginal peoples and their prior claims to the land were ignored, resulting in racism, colonialism, and loss of native people's rights. There should be no place where the Doctrine of Discovery should continue today.

We, from Kentucky and West Virginia, bear witness to the effects of a legally upheld practice that is as arrogant to our lands and our people as the Doctrine of Discovery. That is the Broad Form Deed that, from the Civil War on, allowed out-of-state land and coal companies to amass thousands of acres of valuable land through the purchase of underground mineral rights while the people still owned the land on the surface. Under the Broad Form Deed, coal companies in the 1940s obtained a court ruling that gave them the right to use the surface in any way convenient and necessary to excavate the minerals and absolve the coal companies from any liabilities for damages on the surface caused by mining.

We, the people, have suffered from this law. It has led to the destruction of family farms and the Appalachian culture, as well as our mountains and streams. It has established precedent for gas companies to do their unconventional drilling, known as deep hydraulic fracking, which further endangers our water supplies.

We fear for our lives, because we fear for the quality of our air, land, and water. The ability to safeguard our mountains and streams has been stolen. But we are organizing to take it back.

AUDIENCE: [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

Litany for Keepers of the Earth

Led by members of the Kentucky/West Virginia UU Ministers Coalition (Revs. Cynthia Cain, Peter Connolly, Rose Edington, Mel Hoover, Claudia Ramisch, Elwood Sturtevant)

REV. PETER CONNOLLY: Please join us in reading aloud together those words in capital letters on the screen.

REV. PETER CONNOLLY AND AUDIENCE: What does it mean to be a keeper of the faith?

REV. PETER CONNOLLY: Those of us from the biblical tradition are familiar with the concept of stewardship, which implies managing and being responsible for the resources of the Earth. We wanted to find a name for ourselves that gets away from any hint of exploitation, something that implies partnership, that calls us to stand on the side of love, and with Gaia, and all of life. We chose to call ourselves Keepers of the Earth, in memory of Larry Gibson, who named himself Keeper of the Mountains.

What does it mean to be a Keeper of the Earth?

REV. PETER CONNOLLY AND AUDIENCE: It means that we acknowledge the truth of our energy policies.

REV. ELWOOD STURTEVANT: A truth in Louisville. Here in Louisville, we have a coal-ash pond and a coal-ash pile located near low-income and minority neighborhoods. Coal-ash contains mercury, arsenic, and benzene, among other toxins. When the wind blows here, it carries the toxic ash into the air, and into people's lungs, and into everything.

Here in Louisville, we have food deserts, places where good-quality, fresh produce is not available. There's land for gardens in these effected neighborhoods, and people there want to be part of the $15,000 farmers program. But because of coal-ash, their produce would be polluted. And fishing here won't nourish people here, either, because the fish are contaminated with mercury from burning coal.

REV. CLAUDIA RAMISCH: A truth on the Kentucky-West Virginia border. Coal slurry is wet coal waste from mining. It is held beneath earthen dams or injected into abandoned underground mines.

In October 2000, about 306 million gallons of slurry came out of the old mine openings near Inez, Kentucky, down two tributaries of the Tug River-- that runs between Kentucky and West Virginia-- and into the Big Sandy that flows into the Ohio River. The Coldwater Fork in Kentucky went from a clear 10-foot-wide stream to a 100-yard-wide expanse of thick slurry that reached 5 to 7 feet deep in some places. This polluting spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez, and according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, one of the worst environmental disasters in the Southeast United States.

Unfortunately, it was topped by the 2008 spill from the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee. These dangerous spills are totally avoidable, but there are still 285 active slurry ponds in 11 states. Where is the national outrage? Is it acceptable that poorer areas of the nation are less important than the waters off Alaska?

REV. MEL HOOVER: An Appalachian truth. About 2,500 tons of explosives are detonated each week as our mountains are blasted for coal. And that's the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb a week. The insides of our mountains are burned in the US for energy, and are shipped to India and China for their energy needs. And the coal companies tell us they are contributing to national security by saving us from the perils of depending on Mideast oil.

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: A cautionary truth. Half of our nation's energy needs are provided by coal. Converting to natural gas makes the immediate air cleaner but at the expense of fracking. In New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee--

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN AND AUDIENCE: We all use energy. We are all complicit in energy issues. We deplore that our daily comfort is tied to the exploitation of Gaia.

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: With global climate change and the warming of our Earth, we are more and more aware of the untapped power of our sun to provide solar energy.

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN AND AUDIENCE: We keepers will work for the use of diverse and creative approaches to sustainable energy sources. We will seek the truth about energy needs and resources, speak the truths we find, and as keepers of the Earth, use the truth to empower our actions on behalf of Gaia. We are all keepers of the Earth, wherever we live.

Introduction of Wendell Berry

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: Wendell Berry.

[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: Because we all know-- or think we know-- Wendell Berry, if asked, we Unitarian Universalists might say that Wendell Berry is a Kentuckian, a Kentucky farmer, a poet, and a writer. He's in the UU hymnal, we'd say. Find me a Unitarian Universalist Church that has not included Wendell Berry's words in their worship.

But he is not merely a producer of words for our inspiration and edification. How many know that Wendell is a son-in-law whose wife, Tanya's, mother, and her mother's mother were decades-long members of the Unitarian Universalist congregation that I've served the past 14 years in Lexington until her mother died in her 90s? I was honored to read Tanya's mother, Dee Amyx's favorite poem of Wendell's at her graveside and to share a bountiful meal in the small country church where Tanya, and Wendell, and their family still worship.

This tiny slice of Berry life confirmed to me that Tanya and Wendell really live by these words we love to read. I would like to mention that Wendell is here tonight and that also with him is his wife, daughter of Dee Amyx, Tanya Berry, and his daughter, Mary Berry. And also, we are honored to have with us Christy Brown. And they are here with us tonight, as well.

[APPLAUSE]

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: Thank you for being here. When I called-- I knew I was calling Tanya on a Sunday to inquire about the possibility of his joining us here. I could hear in the background-- it was right after church-- the clatter of plates, and the laughter and conversation of Sunday supper.

I have a card that says, people who tell the truth, with a sketch of Wendell Berry on the front. The thing is, he doesn't just tell the truth. That's not so hard. He endeavors to live by the truth. That sets a high bar for the rest of us, and that's good.

Two years ago, Wendell and several other Kentucky citizens spent four days-- and I think three nights-- camping out in our governor's office here in Kentucky in the State House. They did this to protest mountaintop removal mining.

[APPLAUSE]

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: You will hear him talk about this experience in his upcoming interview with Bill Moyers. Not long before that, he withdrew his personal papers from the University of Kentucky when they renamed their basketball players' dormitory the Wildcat Coal-- C-O-A-L-- Lodge.

[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

REV. CYNTHIA CAIN: I think most of us here in Kentucky admire Wendell Berry, because he is not only a gifted and prolific writer, as well as a prophetic and courageous voice in a spiritual wilderness, but because he unfailingly speaks and lives his truth. I think the latest addition of Edible Louisville said it well. "Wendell Berry believes the good life includes sustainable agriculture, healthy, rural communities, connection to place, the pleasures of good food, husbandry, good work, local economics, the miracle of life, fidelity, frugality, and the interconnectedness of life."

I am so grateful, and we are honored and blessed by his presence here with us tonight. Wendell.

[APPLAUSE]

Wendell Berry Speaks

WENDELL BERRY: I know that when you all invited a local boy to speak, you knew you weren't going to have to buy a plane ticket.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER]

WENDELL BERRY: But it was kind of you to ask me, and I thank you. Like probably everybody here, I'm concerned about mountaintop removal and climate change. But when we delay our concern until dangers have become sensational, we're late. Whether or not we are too late is a question that should not interest us. Even if we are too late, we still must accept responsibility and try to make things better.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: In fact, mountaintop removal and climate change are not the sort of simple problems that can be solved by what we call problem-solving. They are summary evils, gathered up from innumerable causes in the bad economy that we all depend upon and serve. It is not as though we have not been warned. The advice against waste, extravagance, selfishness, hubris, falsehood, and willful ignorance is old.

But people of religion have entrusted questions about economy-- about how we live-- to economists and industrialists. Environmentalists seem to think that problems caused by technology can be solved or controlled by more technology, or alternative technology. People of both kinds seem to think that big problems have big solutions. Both are mistaken.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: 50 years ago, Harry Caudill published Night Comes to the Cumberlands, causing a flurry of public attention and a spate of a federal interest in solving the problem of poverty in the Appalachian coal fields. But that book described the fundamental problem, which was and is the industrial plunder of the land and the people. And that problem, already long ignored by 1963, has continued to be ignored-- officially and conventionally-- for 50 more years.

As Harry knew, and the politicians have not known, improving the health and economy of a region is not a one-issue project. It is not a one-solution problem. The long-term or permanent damage inflicted upon all life by the extraction, transportation, and use of fossil fuels is the most urgent public issue of our time. And of course it must be addressed politically.

But responsibility for the better economy-- the better life-- belongs to us individually and to our communities. The necessary changes cannot be made on the terms prescribed to us by the industrial economy and its so-called free market. They can be made only on the terms imposed upon us by the nature and the limits of local ecosystems.

If we're serious about these big problems, we have got to see that the solutions begin and end with ourselves. Thus, we put an end to our habit of oversimplification. If we want to stop the impoverishment of land and people, we, ourselves, must be prepared to become poorer.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: If we're to continue to respect ourselves as human beings, we have got to do all we can to slow and then stop the fossil-fuel economy.

AUDIENCE: Amen. [APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: But we must do this fully realizing that our success, if it happens, will change our world and our lives more radically than we can now imagine. Without that realization, we cannot hope to succeed. To succeed, we will have to give up the mechanical ways of thought that have dominated the world increasingly for the last 200 years. And we must begin now to make that change in ourselves. For the necessary political changes will be made only in response to changed people.

We must understand that fossil-fuel energy must be replaced not just by clean energy, but also by less energy.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

WENDELL BERRY: The unlimited use of any energy would be as destructive as unlimited economic growth or any other unlimited force. If we had a limitless supply of free non-polluting energy, we would use the world up even faster than we're using it up now. If we're not in favor of limiting the use of energy, starting with our own use of it, we're not serious. If we're not in favor of rationing energy, starting with the fossil fuels, we're not serious.

If we have the money and we're not willing to pay $2 to keep the polluting industries from getting $1, we're not serious.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

WENDELL BERRY: If, on the contrary, we become determined to keep the industries of poison, explosion, and fire from determining our lives and the world's fate, then we will steadfastly reduce our dependence on them and our payments of money to them. We will cease to invest our health, our lives, and our money in them. Then, finally, we will be serious enough, our effort complex and practical enough. By so improving our lives, we will improve the possibility of life.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

Introduction of Tim DeChristopher by Mel Hoover

REV. MEL HOOVER: Thank you. Thank you, Wendell. I have faith that when we UUs truly understand an issue and we actually move beyond our denial and defensiveness, that we find new ways to join our individual talents, and wisdom, and passion into a collective force. And then we create the kind of change that reshapes the future for those yet to come.

Our core UU belief that revelation is not sealed has called us throughout the decades to seek the truth, to speak the truth, and act from truth. Today, one of those truth-seekers and truth-speakers, one who knows wild and wonderful West Virginia, and has roots in Appalachian culture, and one who is acting to make a difference-- Tim DeChristopher.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

REV. MEL HOOVER: Tim and I share the same belief that the civil rights issue for these times is environmental justice. Environmental justice cuts across all our isms and calls on us to join together and turn the world around. Or we will all pay the same tragic price of planet devastation. So at this time, I'd like to reach out my hand to welcome Tim DeChristopher do speak his truth.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

Tim DeChristopher Speaks

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: Thank you. In 2008, I took a stand against what I saw was the injustice of the fossil-fuel industry by taking an act of civil disobedience against oil drilling in Utah. And I took that action--

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: I took that action with a deep sense of passion about taking a stand against the injustices of the fossil-fuel industry and what they reap, not only upon the land but upon our communities and our democracy. But I took it without much of a plan. And so as soon as I was released by the police that day, my first call was to a member of our environmental ministry at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City. And I said, I just did this thing, and I think I need some help.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: And that's exactly what he provided. He started mobilizing people. He started spreading the word. And the entire Unitarian community there in Utah really took a stand with me. And they held me throughout that process.

They amplified my voice. They amplified the impact of my action. They held me through the rough parts of that. They made sure that the lasting impact of my action was not just the direct impacts on that BLM auction, but that it had a bigger role in the climate movement, that people knew about it, that people were inspired by it. And it was the fact that I was held by that Unitarian community that allowed me to make that difference.

And not only did they hold me to amplify my voice, they held me in my hardships throughout that process. They also held me accountable when I wasn't living up to my potential, whenever I wasn't living up to the values and the principles that I was standing for. They challenged me. They forced me to bring out the best in myself as I went through that process, which is exactly what was demanded.

And when I look at the challenges that we face with climate change and the struggles against the fossil-fuel industry, we know that those will be serious challenges, that we will have to make serious sacrifices in that struggle. And I look to that with confidence, knowing that this is a community of faith that can hold people in those struggles, that can hold people in their hardships, that can hold people up in their triumphs, that can hold people accountable, and that we can push one another and challenge one another even as we hold on to one another.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: So you can imagine my surprise when I had a conversation earlier today with a group of aspiring UU ministers, who are either pursuing the ministry, or in divinity school, or like myself, about to enter divinity school.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: And all of them felt very strongly about the need for the UUA to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: They also felt that if they made too many waves on that issue, and if they pushed too hard for divestment, that they would not be ordained in this church. And for the record, I don't believe them. I don't think they were right.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: But it broke my heart to hear it, nonetheless. Because I know that this is a community of faith that can hold one another. Even if we're bringing up inconvenient truths within our midst, we still hold on to one another. Even if we're challenging one another to push our boundaries, to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we still hold on to one another, even as we push, and pull, and drag each other towards that shared vision that we have of a healthy and just world.

Let us be that community of faith that holds on to one another through this struggle. And as we move out into the public square tonight, let us send a message to the people of Louisville, the people of Kentucky, and of Appalachia, and the people of front-line communities that are impacted by the injustice of fossil fuels everywhere that we'll hold on to them as well, that we will be a leading force in the fight against fossil fuels, in the fight for a healthy and just world, and that if people choose to stand up and speak truth to that power, to that industry, that we will hold on to them and amplify their voice.

AUDIENCE: That's right. [APPLAUSE]

TIM DECHRISTOPHER: If people choose to take that risk of standing up to such a dominant industry, that we will hold on to them, as well. We will hold onto them in their hardships, and we will bring them in to a more powerful movement. Let us send that message tonight, that this is a community that holds on to one another. Thank you.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

Closing Words

REV. ELWOOD STURTEVANT: When the Kentucky and West Virginia ministers began to dream about a Louisville General Assembly, we promised our neighbors that this GA would help make a difference in their lives. We'll begin to fulfill that promise by taking our light of justice out into the world and by making a visible embodied commitment to stand on the side of love, and for clean energy, and healthy communities. Tim Darst leads one of our local partners. And I know he lives his commitment to care for creation and to create energy for change.

TIM DARST: Interfaith Power & Light has worked tirelessly to make a difference for the poor and vulnerable that have been hit first and hardest by dirty energy. But we need your help. Stand with us.

Stand on the side of love with us. March with us. Amplify our voice. We need to be heard. We need to be seen.

Help us speak for the voiceless. We need you to make this happen. We will never have this opportunity again. You will not have this opportunity again.

In the face of today's ozone alert because of the unhealthy air pollution, we need you now. Please, come with us. March with us. Be a part of the solution.

Let us march together for justice. Let us march together to build a new way. Let us march together for love, and let us march together as one.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]

Invitation to the Witness

REV. ELWOOD STURTEVANT: Please, now join hands with those beside you, and let us read the words you'll see together.

REV. ELWOOD STURTEVANT AND AUDIENCE: We extinguish the chalice but not the light of justice burning within ourselves. As we join hands with each other, we symbolically join hands with those who have come before us and those who will come after us. We are part of the long procession of those who stand on the side of love for all people, for our planet, for today, and for our future. And now, as we depart to meet our local partners who are working to relieve Gaia's agony, now we join hands and voices to stand on the side of love and build a new way. Amen.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

REV. ELWOOD STURTEVANT: Our leader, Gina Courter, will give us our marching orders.

GINA COURTER: Thank you, Elwood. OK. There's a map in your book. Don't use it. The police changed the parade route eight minutes ago.

We are so good on this, though. Here's what we're going to do. Folks who are in scooters are have mobility challenges, I want you to head to the door right now over here. And the rest of us are going to stay in our seats while that happens. Yes? And you're going to be met by Patty Cameron over there, who's going to let you out.

Our district presidents are wearing purple shirts with lovely chalices like this on the front. They are all along the parade route. So they've just adjusted themselves to get us to where we need to go. Does that make sense?

And in a minute, Matt Meyer is going to start to sing with us. And what we're going to do is we're going to release you section by section, the folks who will be leaving in a minute. Isn't this a beautiful parade? I'm all over this.

AUDIENCE: [APPLAUSE]

GINA COURTER: This, my friends, is how we roll. Let's go to witness. OK. So what we'll be doing is at the far side of the hall-- here's what we need to do. As each section is released, you're going to come up to the front and go out this way. Or come to the aisle down the middle. Does that makes sense?

The folks in the first section, come up into this space. The folks in the back section, come to the middle aisle. We're going to go down and hit those doors. And the reason we want to do this a little bit slowly is we know that there's a planned bottleneck near the bistro.

So you've been to wedding receptions where they did table by table-- those good same-sex wedding receptions.

AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER AND CHEERS]

GINA COURTER: So you know how this works. And I have two members of the planning committee-- Deborah Boyd and Greg Boyd-- who are down at the end. And they're going to start releasing people. So if you're in the first section, you just wait. Hey, Deborah and Greg, can you give me a yell out down there?

Yeah, there we go. So the folks down there, you will watch for them. They're in purple shirts, long-sleeved GA planning committee-- you don't leave till they get to you, your section, and move you. Does that make sense?

But I want to sing while we do this, don't you?

AUDIENCE: Yeah. [CHEERS]

GINA COURTER: Hey, Matt Meyer, what do you have for us?

MATT MEYER: "Come and Go With Me" to that land comes to us out of the African-American spiritual tradition. For those who are transported to foreign lands against their will, singing this song of a promised land of justice, and freedom, and equity was a powerful narrative, whether it was a promised land in this life or in the beyond.

Today, as Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that the promised land isn't necessarily a destination for us. But it is a journey that we take in covenant together. We also believe that our hope for the promised land must include the actual physical land of which we are a part and which is in our care.

I'm going to sing just part of the song through so you can feel the different feel that we're going to do today. Instead of the standard 12/8 you know, we're going to do it in a straight 4/4. So keep that in mind. I'll sing a little bit of it through, and then you'll join me together. Here we go.

Let me hear you sing like you sing in the shower. Here we go.

["COME AND GO WITH ME"]

Public Witness Event

Where is Our Energy? Witness for Earth, Our Communities, and Our Future

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, August 22, 2013.

Sidebar Content, Page Navigation

 

Multimedia

Play This Video on Smallscreen
Public Witness: Energy for Change: Interfaith Action for Clean Energy and Healthy Communities

More Multimedia

Updated and Popular

Recently Updated

For Newcomers

Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.

Page Navigation