GA Sunday worship includes call for engagement with visitors
General Assembly participants who hadn’t worn themselves out with a full round of workshops and other events since arriving Wednesday, were treated Sunday morning to a worship service that had everything––rousing music, a call to action, and an opportunity to help others.
The General Assembly choir, which has been in rehearsal since GA started, made its first appearance. Its first number featured a soloist, Ruth Mackenzie, from Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, doing “kulning,” described as a “Nordic herding call.” Mackenzie first heard it when visiting Finland and Sweden, and was happy to learn it when asked by GA Choir Director Ruth Palmer, Unity Church-Unitarian’s director of music ministries.
The theme of the service, led by the Rev. Sarah Lammert and UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales, might be described as “connection” or “belonging.” Michael Han, dean of the youth caucus HUUPER, and his mother, Kari Kopnick, a religious educator, told stories about people finding connections in a youth group and through the Sunday worship service.
A collection was taken for the Hope Community, a neighborhood near downtown Minneapolis which is coming back from near-death, but now is thriving. Many GA participants helped paint and garden at Hope on Friday and Saturday. Five people, including Deb Rogers, director of faith in action at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, and several other local people who are involved with Hope Community spoke, about its value.
Rev. Morales presented the sermon, speaking, about helping people who come to our congregations on Sunday morning feel welcomed and connected. He said that he found that many of the visitors who showed up at his own church, Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado, were looking for connections that were lacking in their lives.
“The people to whom we must minister in the 21st century are the most disconnected people who have ever lived. What supreme irony. We who have smart phones, we who have instant messaging, tweets, email, voicemail, and zillions of `friends’ on Facebook are, by objective measure, the most emotionally isolated human beings who have ever lived on earth.”
He urged congregational leaders to be open to these visitors. “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.”
When he noted that membership numbers are slightly declining for UU congregations and then said, “It breaks my heart because it is like watching hundreds of thousands of people slowly starve to death while our storehouses are full” those in attendance agreed with him with a hearty round of applause.
It does not have to be this way, he said. “We know how to create thriving, healthy, engaging, growing congregations. I have seen dozens with my own eyes. They fill me with hope for our future.”