Common Ground II
There was a sense during Common Ground: Coming of Age that the whole week was one worship service, one long liturgical process. Even (especially) our business sessions were begun, refreshed, and ended by song, by holding hands and hugging, by affirming again and again that we remembered we were one, even when we seemed most fragmented. This report on the formal worship services at Common Ground: Coming of Age is interspersed with personal comments from delegates.
The opening service began with a procession across the campus into the "choir style" pews in the Bowdoin chapel. Each delegation stood and lit a candle from the central chalice, and introduced themselves.
"A delegate stood and announced that a close friend of his, who was to be a delegate to Common Ground, had died recently. We all felt that tragedy and shared it with him in silence."
In honouring Kate Tague, and sharing her loss with her brother Mike, we began our assembly aware of the fragility and the preciousness of all that we are.
The Congregation of Abraxas, a Unitarian Universalist order of clergy and lay people concerned with worship as a spiritual discipline, shared two services with the Assembly. Abraxas was in retreat during our Assembly, and invited delegates to come to their regular Compline ("end of-day") service, and their Eucharist at noon the next day. Both services were well-attended and deeply moving. Although the Bowdoin chapel was not the best place to preach, it was a wonderful place to sing, and the chants and rounds in the two services were magnificent.
Abraxas members reported that these services were the highlight of their retreat. Many delegates expressed gratitude that they had been willing to share their worship with us. Midweek during the Assembly, the LRY Board of Directors presented its "Last Board Meeting" as a worship event. "The LRY Service meant the most to me. It started off as a zany (I guess normal) LRY Board meeting. It slowly got more serious as all members shared what LRY had meant to them. It showed what I call 'the true spirit of LRY.' As youth we are silly sometimes, but when it gets down to it, we're willing to do anything for what we believe in. We appreciate what LRY has done, but we can let go if we're assured the spirit will live on."
The "Last Board Meeting" included a reading of the "Last Will and Testament of LRY" by our "oldest living youth," Rev. Gordon McKeeman of the Akron, Ohio Unitarian Universalist church, and also the presentation of a Birth Certificate for the "yet-to-be-named" youth organization to come. Both are reproduced here as Appendices B and C.
The Young family, Cappy, Nancy, and Michael (all delegates) presented an evening service on Peace late in the week. Together we experienced the despair of a nuclear countdown to destruction, and our own power in reversing that ticking clock. "The service on peace made us realize that our concerns for the success of our new youth organization were, and are, very small when compared to the magnitude of an issue as great as that of peace ... It also served to strengthen within us an awareness of the importance of the success of Y.R.U.U., for it is through such organizations that we can have the greatest impact on issues such as peace."
Concluding the week was a moving service of dedication for the new youth organization led by the Rev. Gordon McKeeman. Gordon and a small army of delegates stayed up much of the night preparing a puzzle of cardboard boxes depicting all the elements that had gone into the creation of Y.R.U.U. As the assembled delegates sang once again all the songs we had come to love during our week together, individuals came forward and began rearranging the boxes in a new design, one which formed the initials "Y.R.U.U." in a chalice shape.
We then formally dedicated the new child in our midst, as we would any other new child, with a flower and water and a covenant of dedication:
A COVENANT WITH YOUNG RELIGIOUS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS
WE WELCOME THIS CHILD INTO THE HISTORY OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM; AND WE PROMISE AND ENGAGE THAT WE WILL GIVE HER OUR GUARDIAN LOVE AND CARE. WE COVENANT WITH YOU THAT, SO FAR AS IN US LIES, WE WILL STRIVE TO WALK WITH YOU IN THE BONDS OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP. WE WILL STRIVE TO AID YOU IN ALL YOUR ENDEAVOURS TOWARD A HIGHER LIFE. WE WILL STRIVE TO AID YOU IN RESISTING TEMPTATIONS. WE WILL STRIVE, IN SORROW, TO COMFORT YOU WITH THAT COMFORT WHEREWITH WE OURSELVES ARE COMFORTED AND, WHATEVER MAY COME TO YOU, WHETHER MISFORTUNE, AFFLICTION, OR EVIL, IN THE SPIRIT OF OUR FAITH WHICH TELLS US THAT "LOVE NEVER FAILETH," WE PROMISE NEVER TO CLOSE OUR HEARTS AGAINST YOU. MAY GOD SEAL OUR COVENANT AND KEEP US STEADFAST, IMMOVABLE AND ABOUNDING IN THE WORKS OF JUSTICE, MERCY, AND HOPE.
Streamers and tears and more singing and a benediction brought our youth assembly to a close.
In addition to the major worship services, shorter morning matins were offered. The Rev. Deane Starr gave a moving account of the meaning of religious experience in his life. The Pacific Central District delegation led a service based on the song that they had composed and shared at last year's Common Ground. Wayne Arnason led a twenty minute meditation in the warm morning sunshine.
All during the week we were reminded that all our lives can be worship, that the "real work" we are doing in all of our comings and goings remains the same.
Translated from the original text document to HTML by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994. The document was on lryer.org. I have placed the document on this site as I've been notified that lryer.org appears to be down.