Exultant Service of the Living Tradition: Dive!

Vanessa Southern

The Rev. Vanessa Southern preaches at the 2013 Service of the Living Tradition (© Nancy Pierce)

In an exultant worship service Saturday night honoring ordained ministers and other religious professionals at the 2013 UUA General Assembly, the Rev. Vanessa Southern invited Unitarian Universalists and their leaders to dive into change.

She described her fears when a friend gave her scuba diving lessons as a birthday gift one year. Wearing an oxygen tank, mask, snorkel, and flippers, and standing awkwardly at the back of the boat, she said, “I can’t walk, or breathe the way I’d like to, and the world is getting misty, which might be nice and atmospheric except that they are also now telling me to hold on to my mask and regulator and jump—like this—which, as we all know, is crazy.”

“Then I cover my face, like the instructor tells me to, and I jump. And a whole new world opens up, one just below the surface of what I know and trust.”

Service of the Living Tradition

Worship leaders at the 2013 Service of the Living Tradition. (© Nancy Pierce)

The American religious landscape is quickly changing, Southern said. People are increasingly rejecting organized religious communities because “they are tired of religion getting in the way rather than paving it.”

But Unitarian Universalism is poised to give these people a home. “We take two truths as our own, and these two give the living the continuity,” she said: “First, a commitment to Love that refuses to honor false and constructed boundaries between us. This is the love that banished hell from religious imagination, and then put us to work banishing it everywhere else.”

The second, she said, “is the Unity we affirm beyond all divisions real or imagined. . . . Ecologically, theologically, politically, economically, this is the reality we seek not to forget: That we are one.”

The evening’s rousing music combined choirs and musicians from All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., including a postlude that turned into a dance party at the front of plenary hall.

Watch the Service of the Living Tradition, or read the prepared script of the event:

Video streaming by Ustream

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