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Sunday Morning Worship

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General Assembly 2010 Event 5002

Transcript

REV. SARAH LAMMERT: This is the day we have been given. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Welcome to this Sunday morning worship service for the 2010 General Assembly in Minneapolis. How many of you are here with just for this morning's service in the local community? Please raise your hand, your voices, your spirits. We are so glad to have you with us to celebrate this morning. May you find here a sense of community and a deep welcome for this special hour together. And how many of you have been here most of this week and have had just perhaps, a little less sleep and done a little more activity than usual? Please raise your hands, and voices, and spirits. Thank you for doing what if took to arrange to be here and participate in this general assembly.

For your enthusiasms and your passions, your ideas and your participation, may you find, in this hour of worship, a renewed sense of our purpose and our unity. And now, may we all still our hearts and awaken our spirits, joining in one body, in praise of all we are given in hope for the healing of our world. And in trust in the power of our common calling. Again, welcome.

RUTH: Good morning!

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

RUTH: The music of UU minister, Lynn Adair Ungar, and words adapted from Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, invite us to come together 'yet again'. As we listen to the opening vocal call which comes from the Nordic roots of our host city, let us honor in our thought and hearts all those known to us and those we seek yet to know. As the embrace of this invitation grows in energy, we invite you to join with our GA Choir, first in unison, and then in a round, as directed by John Hubert and Kellie Walker.

[Soloist with choir—Improvisation on the text]

“Come, Come, Whoever You Are”

Come, come, whoever you are.
Though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, come, come.

[Choir: unison F soloist]

Kulning—A traditional Swedish call

[Choir: add G soloist]

Kulning

[Choir: add Bb soloist]

“Whoever you are”

[Choir: add C soloist]

“Though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times”

[Choir: delete C soloist]

Kulning

[Choir: delete Bb soloist]

Kulning

[Choir: delete G soloist]

“Come”

[Choir: slowly, with echoes]

Come, come whoever you are,
(ever you are) (ever you are)
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
(leaving) (leaving)
Ours is no caravan of despair.
(of despair) (of despair)
Come, yet again come.
(yet again come) (yet again come.)

[Piano interlude]

[Congregation and choir in unison]

Come, come whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, yet again come.

[Congregation and choir in a round, as directed]

Come, come whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, yet again come.

Chalice Lighting

MICHAEL HAN: Good morning. I'm Michael Han and it's been my honor to serve as dean of the youth caucus or HUUPER during this fabulous GA.

KARI KOPNICK: I'm Kari Kopnick. I've just ended a term on the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association, and I'm honored to be Michael's mom.

MICHAEL HAN: We are deeply involved in our faith. I've been on endless conference calls and sat in so many hotel meeting rooms and plenary sessions, and I've had deep, meaningful conversations about what youth ministry is and what it can become.

KARI KOPNICK: I've cooked meals for homeless teens with our youth group and worked hard through long board meetings.

MICHAEL HAN: But the moments that I know I'm a Unitarian Univarsalist—

KARI KOPNICK: The moment when the spirit is the most alive for me is all about the moment of connection.

MICHAEL HAN: It was time for our spring youth conference. We had been in the van for hours. We pulled into the site and gazed in wonder at the beauty of the area. It was breathtaking. A wide, green field was laid out under a clear, blue sky. Beyond the field was the ocean, its crystal waves rivaling even the sky in hue. We youth had a surplus of pent up energy, so we decided to run across the field to the ocean. And so we ran, skipped, and jumped across a sea of green stems to a place where the water met the land. We reached the edge and found no beach, but instead a cliff with the crashing ocean waves some 50 feet below. And we stopped and just stared in wonder and amazement at the scene before us. For none of us expected to see what we were now seeing. The sun was shining, and a cool breeze rolled in off the sea, and I was surrounded by amazing people. In that moment I wasn't thinking about youth ministry. I wasn't worried about this year's plenary agenda. I felt incredibly alive and connected. Connected to the world, connected to myself, connected to my faith, and connected to these wonderful people who were clustered around me, all looking out over a cliff at a youth con.

KARI KOPNICK: My church has been growing rapidly. That's actually similar to running to the edge of a cliff and stopping just short every week. Every Sunday morning there are new faces. I can see the questions in their eyes. Do I fit in? Are the people here like me? Our children especially, need a way to know that they belong.

At our church when you turn seven you are invited to light our chalice. The children are introduced to the congregation and may decorate the alter any way these choose. With Legos, dinosaurs, dolls. Last winter it was Amelia's turn to light the chalice. This girl has had an especially tough life story. She's one of the kids that makes me want to stand up and hold my hands in front of her to keep away all of the bad things in life. Amelia wore a white dress, pearly Mary Jane shoes, and lace-trimmed anklets. The minister read her introduction and I stood beside Amelia whispering, OK, now we just look at the minister and smile until she's done talking.

Now Amelia knows that she belongs to our congregation. She not only has her family to love her and take care of her, she has us. This is what makes my heart sing, being a community that helps children find their truth. They go from asking, "Do I belong?" to knowing that they are home.

MICHAEL HAN: We light this chalice for the found moments of connection.

JOHN HUBERT: Unitarian Universalist musician Jeannie Gagne, Dennis Hamilton, and Mark Freundt have joined together to create the song, "I Know I Can," number 1,015 in Singing the Journey. This powerful song speaks to the strength of community and invites us to deepen our relationship with each other. Please rise in body and spirit and join in singing this song of persistence, strength, and hope. I'll sing through the first verse once and then I'll bring you in again on the first verse so you can get the melody. 

[HYMN: I Know I Can]

“I Know I Can”

Though days be dark with storms, and burdens weigh my heart
Though troubles wait at ev'ry turn, I know, I can go on
Though days be dark with storms, and burdens weigh my heart
Though troubles wait at ev'ry turn, I know, I can go on
When sorrow heals my soul and burdens make me strong
Though troubles wait at ev'ry turn, I know, I can go on
My sister in my heart, My brother in my song,
Though troubles wait at ev'ry turn, I know I can go on.
And though the journey is long, the destination is clear
Though troubles wait at ev'ry turn, I know, I can go on
So brothers take my hand, and sisters sing my song,
When hope awaits at ev'ry turn, I know we will go on.

Invitation to Prayer and Prayer

REV. SARAH LAMMERT: We arrived here with many beliefs and one faith. Many ways of expressing that which is worthy of reference, yet as one people. In this spirit and in whatever posture is comfortable for you, please join me now for a time of contemplation and prayer.

Spirit of life, dear God, you who are known by a thousand names; be with us now, though our hearts be wearied with storms, burdened by troubles close at hand and far away. Together we can go on. My sister in my heart, my brother in my song; let us weave together sorrow and joy, braid together the strands of loss, love, and hope so that we become stronger. Let us arise and greet this day with open hearts and minds; running to the edge of all we know, pausing there to behold the blue-green rolling sea. The vibrant air tinged with possibility, the friends who are clustered around.

Let us open wide the door, fling open the windows and shout our welcome to people of all changes and stages, abilities and identities, saying yes! You belong here. All that we are, all that we might become, all that our hearts long for, all that our souls adore; spirit of love come, come, come. Amen. Blessed be. Namaste.

[Musical Response “Sweet Radiant Mystery”]

“Sweet Radiant Mystery”

Words and music by Catherine Dalton, Minnesota composer.

O Sweet Radiant Mystery,
Set us free from that which binds,
Beckoning the soul to fly.
O Sweet Radiant Mystery,
Open our eyes to see beyond
That which hides the soul from light.
O Sweet Radiant Mystery,
Set us free from that which binds,
Beckoning the soul to fly.
O Sweet Radiant Mystery,
Open our eyes to see beyond
That which hides the soul from light.
O Sweet Radiant Mystery
Help us hear the endless song
Of all that is and was and ever shall be

Offering

DEBRA ROGERS: Hello, my name is Debra Rogers. I'm the director of Faith In Action at the First Universalist Church here in Minneapolis. We have the privilege to take you on a quick tour of a unique Minneapolis neighborhood, just a few miles from where you sit today. It's called Hope Community and it offers an innovative model for urban with revitalization and active community involvement.

ALICIA STEELE: Good morning, my name is Alicia Steele. I'm from the Unity Leadership Institute Program. I had a chance to meet and work with some of you this week as dozens of UUs here from in town, from GA, volunteered to work at Hope Community.

DEBRA ROGERS: On Friday, we gardened and did some painting. It was great to experience first-hand the incredible energy and positive atmosphere that defines Hope Community.

JUSTIN SCHROEDER: Hello, I'm Justin Schroeder, the lead minister at First Universalist Church here in Minneapolis. It has been a longstanding tradition at General Assembly to have the offering go to a significant, noteworthy organization in the community. In a few minutes we'll be taking this years collection for Hope Community. To give you a better idea of why this unique organization is worth your generous support you should first know that Hope Community is, and always has been, about the people.

TIA: My name's Tia, I am a member of SPEAC, Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens, a leadership group of young adults working with Hope Community. The community exists today because our founder saw opportunity where others had simply given up.

PATRICK BAYLE: Hello, my name is Patrick Bayle. I'm a case manager for Cabrini Partnership. The neighborhood was a place to leave, not a place to invest. A place where notorious drug dealing and violence was the norm rather than the exception. Founded in 1977, Hope Community began as a hospitality house and shelter for homeless women and children.

TIA: When the crack cocaine epidemic claimed the blocks surrounding them, landlords abandoned their buildings and families hid their children inside. In response to the devastation Hope changed its mission to neighborhood revitalization. Step by step, house by house they immersed themselves in the neighborhood and its people.

PATRICK BAYLE: Over a period of 10 years, on what has become known as the Hope block, they took down fences, built playgrounds and patios and gardens. They renovated affordable homes for families.

DEBRA ROGERS: But from the beginning the work has always been much larger than just decent housing or cleaning up a rundown neighborhood. The real work has always been to create opportunity and possibility for hundreds of children, youths, adults, and families. And the hard work has paid off.

TIA: I'm going to use the analogy of a before and after photo of an unfinished home to tell you my personal story. In the first photo you see land that is bare. In the second photo you are able to see the foundation and the beginning of a frame. As time goes on you are able to see how the home is being built. In my case, the picture of early construction began with the feeling of powerlessness. The city telling my community they were moving the pedophiles into the house on the corner. Telling my community they were cutting the after school programs. As a single parent I felt powerlessness in protecting my children.

PATRICK BAYLE: Take a moment to reflect on your darkest moment of brokenness. Try to remember the hopelessness and despair. Now take a moment to ask yourself how you survived that moment and arrived here today. Who helped you? Who touched you in a knowing, compassionate, and kind manner? Who let you have your brokenness without judgment or condemnation? Who just offered you a helping hand and an encouraging word? Who taught you how to rise above that brokenness and thrive with it? Who taught you how to use your brokenness to help others who were struggling and broken?

TIA: It's beautiful how opportunities present themselves. Because after becoming tired of being angry and tired of just talking about it the door shut and the window opened. Through the many exercises Hope Community showed me I learned the difference between using positive power. Using my voice as an outlet to anger compared to being powerless, submissive, and angry. I understood the strategy that caused the problem. I understand the strategies that create the solution. This group continues to show me how to be a participant in my community's decisions instead of allowing the decisions to just be made.

PATRICK BAYLE: Six years ago I was broken. Hope Community helped to heal my brokenness by allowing me to be broken. By showing me that it isn't how you get broken in life, but how you begin to heal that brokenness into a stronger, whole person. Hope community provided me with kindness, dignity, and hope.

TIA: So before this group a year and a half ago my photo was just the land in which it was there. But today I feel that the foundation has been laid and there is a presence of a strong structure. And week by week the process is constantly building.

ALICIA STEELE: Today, on a daily basis at the Children's Village Center, the hub of the community—youth are eager to be the change they want. They are learners, leaders, and visionaries.

PATRICK BAYLE: Immigrants arrive early for morning classes in English and writing.

DEBRA ROGERS: Parents and community volunteers encourage children to read and write stories about themselves.

PATRICK BAYLE: Residents cook and eat together to celebrate accomplishments.

TIA: In community spaces our people act as citizens and leaders shaping their own future.

ALICIA STEELE: Yes, Hope's work has always been about building and sustaining strong communities.

PATRICK BAYLE: And although new and renovated buildings make a huge difference—

TIA: The lifeblood of the mission is its people. Working and nurturing leaders, young and old, creating opportunities for lifelong learning.

JUSTIN SCHROEDER: Now if your mind has drifted in the last few minutes or you're thinking about the plane you have to catch or the to-do list on Monday or Tuesday, come back to this moment. Come back to this moment because this moment matters. Now is our chance to do our part for Hope Community. A community that moves its members from a brokenness to possibility, from despair to empowerment. As you heard Patrick say earlier, Hope Community's neighborhood used to be a place to leave, not to invest. Well, many of us are leaving today or tomorrow. We are leaving this community. It's not before we invest. Not before we invest in Patrick, in Tia, and in the thousands of other people that Hope Community serves. This is our chance to help create and sustain the promising future of Hope Community and their inspiring model for rejuvenating and breathing new life into the ruins of our inner cities. In community, with faith, all things are possible, and it is time for us to do our part.

If you were going to give $20, I invite you to give $40. If you were going to give $50, I invite you have to give $100. If you were going to write a check make that out to Hope Community. Add a zero or two, or stop by Hope community's booth in the exhibit hall afterwards and make a gift, a donation in person. Can you hear the possibilities? Can you feel that spirit of hope stirring in a once broken neighborhood? Can you hear? Can you hear, and will you give?

[CHOIR: "Can You Hear"]

“Can You Hear”

Can you hear my cries
Can you see my eyes
I am calling out to you
Mmm-
Can you hear my cries
Can you see my eyes
I am calling out to you
Mmm-
Calling in the distance, softly
Could it be the sound of my heart?
Here I am before you, reaching
Could it be I’m slipping away
Can you hear my cries
Can you see my eyes
I am calling out to you
Mmm-
Suddenly I see I’m falling
Trying to find a way off the ground.
Will I see the future in me
As I see it slipping away
Can you hear my cries
Can you see my eyes
I am calling out to you
Calling out, calling out, can you
Hear (I know you can hear)
My cries,(I know you can hear)
Can you see (I know you can see)
My eyes (I know you can see)
I am calling out to(you)
Hear my cries
Can you see my eyes
Can you feel my cries
Can you feel my eyes
Tell me can you hear (me)
Yes you can hear
Yes you can hear me
Tell me can you see my eyes
Can you hear
Can you hear
Can you hear me
Can you hear me calling out to you?
Can you hear (I know you can hear)
My cries (I know you can hear)
Can you see ( I know you can see)
My eyes (I know you can see)
I am calling out to you
Calling out, calling out.
Can you hear (I know you can hear)
My cries (I know you can hear)
Can you see(I know you can see)
My eyes (I know you can see)
I am calling out to you
Can you hear, can you hear, can you hear me calling?

Sermon: “Our Greatest Challenge”

REV. PETER MORALES: What a gift this music has been. Thank you so much. In the first few weeks of my parish ministry internship I stumbled upon a practice that was destined to shape my ministry, and even my view of religion. My internship was in Davis, California. Davis is a small city about an hour and a half east of the San Francisco Bay Area. I thought it would be a good idea to stand outside in the sidewalk between the parking lot and the sanctuary and introduce myself on Sunday morning as people came up to worship—sounds innocent enough. Now this standing out in front of the church was an act of courage on my part. While it may be hard for you to imagine this now, on a Myers-Briggs I actually hover between introvert and extrovert. And getting up and greeting a couple of hundred visitors was not something that came all that naturally.

And I found that after a few weeks the practice changed me. The first time I noticed that was when I preached my first sermon as an intern. I was, of course, scared to death. And yet, I found that after greeting people on their way in I felt like I was continuing a conversation when I preached. I was continuing a conversation with people I already knew. I'd spoken with them. We had touched one another. The simple act of standing outside and shaking hands and greeting people made me realize how hungry these sophisticated, highly educated people were for human relationship. What began as a simple social practice slowly became a spiritual practice because when I went out of my way to greet people it changed me. But that was only the beginning.

Two years later when I was called to Jefferson Unitarian Church in the Denver suburbs I decided to renew my practice of greeting people at the door. I wanted to get to know the names and faces of the members as soon as I could. I had another big surprise in store. After a couple of months I came to realize that in addition to the members and families there were a lot of new faces showing up every single week. And as I made time to get to know these visitors I realized that they were coming out of a deep hunger, a longing that is simultaneously social, emotional, and spiritual. And when I started paying closer attention I realized that these visitors were actually coming in droves. I then learned that my congregation was typical. That thousands of people were coming to us every single week seeking spiritual community. Why are these people coming?

Many are families with children, but many are also older. Some are single, some are BGLT people—because at least in my congregation and across our country we've made it a point to let them know that they are welcome. But what all of these visitors—of whatever little demographic niche—have in common was that they were disconnected. Disconnected from other people, disconnected from themselves, disconnected from that which transcends and unites us all. Most of these newcomers appear like societies winners. The majority that I'd met were well educated, most had good careers, and yet there was something missing in their lives. Something that would bring them to a strange church on a Sunday morning.

What is just as interesting is what this hoard of seekers is not looking for. They are not, by and large, looking for answers. Oh some are, but not very many. Most have formed opinions on the great theological and metaphysical questions. And certainly, in this day of the internet many have taken things like the quiz on Beliefnet, and lots of those who came to visit my former church had already read or listened to my sermons on our website. So what were they seeking? Relationship, connection, a sense of belonging, community, depth, and a chance to get involved. They want all of this, and yet the central, spiritual longing is for connection, for religious community. The people to whom we must minister in the 21st century are the most disconnected people who have ever lived on earth.

What's supreme irony? We who have smart phones and instant messages and tweets and e-mail and voice mail and zillions of friends on Facebook are, by objective measure, the most emotionally isolated human beings who have ever lived on this planet. We exchange more messages than ever, but at the price of true intimacy and real community.

25 years ago a major study was done of interpersonal relationships and it was published in the American Sociological  Review, which is the leading academic journal in sociology. Five years ago that study was replicated and repeated in order to measure the changes that had occurred in 20 years and a generation. The results were so stunning that they made the New York Times and the Washington Post. One of the key questions in the study asks participants, how many people they know with whom they feel that they can confide personal information? This is a measure again, of intimacy, of how many people a person knows well enough to share personal information. Respondents could give an answer that went from 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 or more—a whole range of responses were possible.

In 1985, the answer given most often, the modal answer for you statisticians out there—the answer given most often was three. Three. About a quarter of the people answered three. In 2004, the answer given most often was zero. Was zero. It gets worse. The number of people who said they had no one with whom they could confide personal information went from 10%—and that's awful enough. 10% in 1985 to 25% in 2004. This is a stunning, stunning change in the space of a generation. And the number of people who answered one was almost as high. So just under half of all Americans either know no one or only one person with whom they can share personal information. And if the answer is one the person is almost always a life partner. So what this means is that almost half of Americans—half—only half have a single, close relationship outside of the household. Imagine that. Imagine that.

Now, you and I experience transcendence by loving and by being loved. You and I are profoundly, essentially relational creatures. We are hardwired to need one another. The people who are coming to our congregations every Sunday for the first time—and there are thousands and thousands every week—long to experience a loving connection to a religious community. You and I need love like we need food, water, and air. And we are the loneliest, the least loved, the most alienated people who have ever live on earth. If our movement—our beloved movement is to be relevant to the spiritual hunger of our time we must respond to this deep, human longing for relationship. So how are we doing at responding to this need to feeding the spiritually hungry, and housing the religiously homeless? The truth is we could do better, and we must.

Sometimes we get too focused on our friends, and people who are already members, and forget to be warmly hospitable to visitors. And by the way, if you are from this area and are not a UU today I urge you to attend one of the wonderful UU congregations in the Twin Cities.

But denominationally, after a generation of very slow growth we are actually very slowly losing members now. And in the northeast where we have our roots in America we are in steady decline. And the number of children in our religious education programs has actually declined in the last decade. It drives me crazy and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because it's like watching hundreds of thousands of people slowly starve to death when our storehouses are full.

[APPLAUSE]

And it drives me crazy because it does not have to be this way. We know how to create congregations that are vital and healthy, welcoming and growing. You've seen some of them in these wonderful breakthrough congregation videos. Many of you've heard me say that I believe that we can be the religion for our time. That's not merely a slogan, it's an empirical truth.

We know how to create thriving congregations. I've seen dozens and dozens with my own eyes and they fill me with hope for our future. And before I go any further I need to say a word about membership and growth. Because growth of course is not our goal. Our movement in our congregations don't exist in order to grow, and yet our membership numbers are, I believe, the best single measure of whether we are meeting the needs of our members and the people in our communities. I'm concerned about numbers because they tell us that at this time of unprecedented need we need to do better at fulfilling our religious mission. The great challenge facing Unitarian Universalists today is whether we will become the vital, religious movement that we are called to be or whether we will steadily decline into irrelevance.

The choice is whether we allow our history and our tradition to become a prison or whether we can use it as an inspiration that guides us as we embrace new possibilities in this new century. The challenges that face us are both individual and organizational. And the individual and the institutional are of course, intertwined—they shape one another. At the personal level we have some work to do. We must begin by opening our hearts. When we open our hearts we feel the isolation and suffering that is around us. When we open our hearts we become vulnerable. When we open our hearts we engage one another, and form relationships that are loving, lasting, and strong.

Next we must pay attention. This goes hand in hand with opening our hearts. When we pay attention—really pay attention, close attention right where we are we see possibilities all around us. Possibilities for new relationships, possibilities for taking action. The third spiritual challenge is to let go. Spiritual progress has always been about letting go of attachments, about getting beyond our comfort zones. Scriptures of all faith traditions are filled with stories of people who let their attachments hold them back, and others whose lives are transformed when they let go of the past and follow a new way. What do we need to let go of in order to move into the future?

When we open our hearts, when we pay attention, when we free ourselves from what hold us back new worlds open before us. And then finally, we have to commit ourselves. When we commit ourselves we move together. Commitment unleashes power and harnesses our energies. Our spiritual work then, is to open our hearts, to pay attention, to let go, to imagine new possibilities, and to commit ourselves to action.

And meanwhile, we have some institutional work to do. Our institutional work parallels the spiritual work. For religion is ultimately about our connections. Literally, religion is what binds us together. Our religious challenge is a challenge that we must face then together. And just as we must open our hearts individually to people, so we have to do it is a movement. That means making room for people who are not just like us.

We have much work to do to welcome people who are racially, culturally, economically different. And that means moving beyond elitism, beyond a religious culture inherited from small town New England. There are dozens of ways to do this, beginning with how we treat the thousands of guests we get every Sunday. But opening our hearts, really opening our hearts, affects everything from how we engage one another in small groups to how we train our ministry. And just as we pay attention as individuals, our congregations must be aware of the context in which they do ministry.

One of the things I've seen repeatedly among our most exciting congregations and our finest parish ministers is they know where they are. Ministry in Washington D.C. is different from ministry in Olympia, Washington. Phoenix is different from Bangor, Maine. And the UUA has to serve congregations differently in Florida than it does here in Minnesota. And as a movement we have to learn how to let go too. And this part is really, really hard. What possessions and habits no longer serve the needs of the present? We have got to reevaluate our programs, our music, our furniture, our buildings, the way we organize ourselves at headquarters, and—well, the list goes on and on.

I had a conversation last year with a famous expert on organizational change—Harvard professor has written a shelf full of books. And in that conversation he made a comment that has haunted me for a year. He observed that when an organization fails it is almost never its problems that kill it. What kills it is its past success. What kills it is its past success. And what he meant was that problems tend to be technical and solvable, but that people have a tendency to hold onto the past, to old ways of doing things even when they're no longer relevant because the past has become part of their identity. And this holding onto the past kills the organization. What are we hanging onto that no longer serves us?

We need to remind ourselves that our heroes and heroines were always people who knew how to let go, who saw new possibilities, and who were bold. The best way for us to honor the past is to be like them. To push for change, to forge a vision of a new future, and yes, to make trouble.

[APPLAUSE]

I'm going to regret having said that. What a time to be alive as a Unitarian Universalist. The possibilities before us are breathtaking. In a world where sectarianism and tribalism and xenophobia marginalize and kill, we bring a message of the inherent worth and dignity of everyone. We honor wisdom from all traditions. We bring a life-giving message of acceptance and interdependence. In a world of lonely people looking for real community we offer religious homes where we can grow together, worship together, and serve together. Where we can save our lives and help save the world.

I opened with a little story about how pushing myself—and I did need some pushing—to reach out and engage with people changed my ministry. That simple act of reaching out exposed me to the hopes, the pain, the spiritual longing, the need for loving connection that was all around me. Love reaches out. Reaching out is what love is. Reaching out is what love is.

The challenge before us is huge. The stakes are enormous. We live in a time in which the hunger for love is palpable. We live in a time where fear, ignorance, hatred, and tribalism kill people every day. Today let us accept the challenge to be the religion for our time. Together we can do this. I have seen it. I have felt it. When together we open our hearts, when together we pay attention to all the surrounds us, and when together we let go of what no longer serves us then together, hand in hand, mano y mano we will create the religious movement we have always dreamed of becoming. Together we can do this. Let's get busy, I can wait. So may it be. Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

RUTH: So, let's get busy by singing together. Our closing music is full of joy, purpose, and energy. You are a big part of this, and we invite you to join with us. Ben Allaway, the composer of "From This House" is here to help lead us in our singing. As he makes his way to the stage let's practice a few things together first. Please repeat after me. From this house,

AUDIENCE: From this house,

RUTH To the world,

AUDIENCE: To the world,

RUTH: We will go,

AUDIENCE: We will go

RUTH: Hand in hand.

AUDIENCE: Hand in hand.

RUTH: Now let's practice singing that. The choir will sing all of your part first, and then we'll ask you to do it with us.

[From this House]

RUTH: Would you stand in body and spirit. Here we go.

[From this House]

RUTH: Wonderful. Now sometimes we'll ask you just to imitate us like this.

[From this House]

RUTH: Terrific. Don't be surprised of the choir and soloists add in a few extra parts as the music builds. Have courage and enjoy your singing as we go from this house to the world.

[CHOIR: From this House]

“From this House”

From this house
To the world
We will go
Hand in hand.
From this house
To the world
We will go
Hand in hand.
From this house
To the world
We will go
Hand in hand. (solos: Sing harmony)
From this house
To the world : (solos: Sing harmony)
We will go
Hand in hand. (solos: All together now)
From this house (Sing harmony)
To the world (We will go)
We will go (We will go)
Hand in hand. (We’re reaching out now)
From this house (Look around)
To the world (Find your neighbor)
We will go (Share the peace)
Hand in hand. (Sing back what I sing...)
The way of peace,
The way of peace,
The way of freedom,
The way of freedom,
The way of hope
The way of hope
The way of peace,
The way of peace,
The way of freedom,
The way of freedom,
The way of hope
The way of hope
From this house (Sing harmony)
To the world (Sing harmony)
We will go
Hand in hand. (Sing together now)
From this house (To the world)
To the world (We will go)
We will go (Hand in hand)
Hand in hand. (We’re reaching out now)
From this house (Look around you)
To the world (Find your neighbor)
We will go (Share the peace)
Hand in hand. (We’re reaching out now)
From this house (Share your strength now)
To the world (Help your neighbor)
We will go (Together)
Hand in hand. (Hand in hand)

Benediction

REV. PETER MORLAES: Before we go hand in hand please take the hand of the person at your side for our closing words. And let this physical touching reminds us all the connections we have. Let us go now in a spirit of gratitude, of love, and of determination with a confidence that together—together we indeed can be the religion for our time. Go in peace. Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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