Recording of our May 9, 2021 online Youth Sunday worship service
Worship manuscript (will be updated as text becomes available):
Good morning and welcome to Birmingham Unitarian Church! I’m Rahk Dearing, a member of BUC’s youth group, GUUSH. Today’s service is the annual Youth Sunday service, planned and led by BUC high schoolers with support from RE Coordinator Nico Van Ostrand, GUUSH advisors Jesse Beal and Bruce Webber, and Co-Directors of Music Ministry, Abha and Steven Dearing. We also have technical support from our Communications Coordinator, Sara Constantakis and Zoom Greeter Mary Jo Ebert.
BUC is a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Even in our virtual format, we are a thriving community with a place for everyone. Social justice is an essential component of our church life. We are a capital “W” Welcoming Congregation and a Green Sanctuary Congregation. Our social justice work this year is focused on environmental action, economic inequality, civic engagement, and racial inequality.
Our worship services are hosted on Zoom every Sunday morning at 10:30 and then later posted on our website and our Facebook page. After the service, we invite you to stay for virtual coffee hour. If you are worshiping with us for the first time today, we extend a special welcome to you.
We have one announcement this morning:
This evening at 7:00 pm, the Humanists of BUC have a very special opportunity for us. They will be welcoming Professor Bruce Pollack-Johnson for a presentation on the proposed 8th UU Principle, of which he is a co-author. Our May newsletter reflections are on the 8th Principle, and now we have a timely opportunity to hear about the principle from one of its co-authors. Please join us this evening. Zoom access info is on the calendar.
Thank you for joining us this morning, or whenever you’re watching this. Although we are not together physically, we are together in spirit, and it is good to be together again.
And now our service will begin.
"May We Be Keepers of Thy Flame" by Richard S. Gilbert
read by Sarah Phillips
Rise up, o flame, by thy light glowing.
Show us beauty, vision, and joy.
—Singing the Living Tradition, Hymn #362
O flaming chalice, symbol of a free faith,
Burn with the holy oil of helpfulness and service.
Spread warmth and light and hope;
Warm hearts grown cold with indifference;
Light dark places with justice; rekindle hope in despair.
May we bring fuel for thy fire of love.
May the oil of loving kindness flow from us to thy leaping flame.
May hands of service shelter thee,
That no winds of hate may extinguish thy brightness.
May thy light and warmth be eternal.
May we be keepers of thy flame.
The mission of Birmingham Unitarian Church is to create a free and welcoming religious community that encourages lives of integrity, learning, service, and joy. The weekly offering serves as an ongoing reminder of this mission. Sharing in this weekly practice of generosity also strengthens the bonds between congregants and our high purpose. So let there be an offering in support of this Beloved Community and our good works. Contributions can be made through our website, Venmo (username @BUCMI), or a check in the mail. However you choose to give, please do so with a heart of gratitude and for each other.
"This Essential work of Justice and Liberation for All" by Rosemary Bray McNatt
read by Nate Schreck
By no means are we [Unitarian Universalists] perfect; we often fail as much as we succeed. Yet even when "we have broken our vows a thousand times," we return to this essential work of justice and liberation for all. We do the work best when we remember what church is and what it is not. Church is not a place to hide. It is not the place to get away from the world. It is not a place where we get to pretend that the lives we live and our particular situations are not terribly complex, often confusing, and sometimes depressing. Church is the place where we stand with one another, look the world in the eye, attempt to see clearly, and gather strength to face what we see with courage, and yes, with joy.
by Abby Schreck
I’m Abby Schreck, I use she/her pronouns
I have never had as much trouble writing anything as I have had writing this. Reflecting back on my time in church feels near impossible because who I am is so completely tied to it. Summing it up into three minutes feels even harder. My earliest memories exist in the basement nursery and the social hall, on the steps below the chancel, in the green door classroom. I wrote one of my college essays about my religious upbringing. My high-school planner has a copy of the principles on the inside cover. Every decision that I make is informed by this faith.
My first ever memory of church was putting on a play of Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha’s life for whatever straggler parents had come to pick up their children early, but mostly just for us. I didn’t even realize it was learning because in the moment it just felt fun. BUC has, from literally the moment I was born, inspired a deep love for church and faith. In part through Sunday School, but also through the examples set, I have learned the importance of religion and religious community. At BUC I have been inspired to write homilies when I was reluctant to. I have had folks willing and wanting to listen about school, or college, or whatever because that's just who they are. I have learned conflict resolution and the power of words. I have learned that my voice is unique, and powerful, and just as important as everybody else's’.
What I have also learned though many years of church work is that obligation is not a bad word. Religion and faith are so powerful because they create such a deep sense of obligation to our community. Obligation that is not spurred by reluctance but rather a deeply rooted sense of our duty to each other. Our obligation to each other and ourselves runs deep as UUs. Few things, at least in my life, inspire such a deep sense of obligation like faith.
So I’d like to say thank you to all of you. All of you who have inspired me and shown me what commitment to a community looks like. Commitment that is wholehearted and unabashed. Commitment to a building, to a faith that courses through it, to the people who make it up even when we’re not actually there. Being at BUC is more than being in a building. Being in BUC is inhabiting a spirit and drive that is fueled by no more than a need to do right by one another.
Next year I am going to the Residential College at University of Michigan to study Social Theory and Practice. If you’re wondering what that is, in truth, so am I a little bit. The best way I have to describe it is the history of social movements and the practice of making the world more just. I must say, I do very few things without having a clear roadmap. I love rules and directions far more than figuring things out along the way. But, what I plan to study does not have a roadmap or required outcome. What I’ve noticed is that big choices in my life like college and religion, I allow myself time to figure out along the way. I don’t know what I’m going to do after college and in truth, I’m ok with that. I see this next phase in my life like the fourth principle, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I’ll figure it out as I go, knowing I have a community of people who have taught me as much as they can, a community that will be here when I need them, a community that has instilled in me an obligation to do good.
Bruce Webber, youth advisor
Jesse Beal, youth advisor
Nico Van Ostrand, Religious Education Coordinator
It is time now for the Bridging ceremony--a ritual that signifies the crossing into a deeper connection with this church community. Two GUUSH advisors, Jesse Beal and Bruce Webber, alongside RE Coordinator Nico Van Ostrand are presenting this ceremony, but do so as representatives of many other adults who’ve had the honor of journeying with our Bridging seniors for a time as they navigate belief, community, and values. Just a few BUC adults who’ve been touched by these Bridging seniors’ wisdom include: parents, RE teachers, GUUSH advisor Dave Sabbagh, BUC staff past and present, Rev. Mandy, and the entire RE Council: Michelle Chapman, Monika Mangrulkar, Doug Boddy, LuAnne Holder, Nate Schreck, Mary Masson, Andrea Zellner, Kyle Sim, and Sylvia Whitmer.
Aidan Chapman-Anderson, Bradley Corteville, Mitchell Kort, Abby Schreck...
You have been part of Birmingham Unitarian Church since the very first time you encountered our community. You have grown beyond what you were when we first met you, and we are all proud of your journey and your becoming. Today, we gather to honor your Bridging from youth to young adulthood, and into a deeper relationship with the Unitarian Universalist community.
This is a challenging time to enter adulthood, and you’ve probably figured out by now that no adult really has all the answers. Our expectation of you, though, is not that you go out and save the world for us. Our expectation, young adults, is that you go out and be in the world, so that we may learn from and lean on each other, and find our way towards the answers together.
You will at some point in the next few weeks receive a gift in the mail--a book called “Becoming.” This book is full of readings and inspiration and we--your fellow BUC congregants--hope it will guide you wherever you go. And while we wish we could keep you forever, it is an honor to witness you moving through the whole wide world out there, and no matter how far you go, you will always have a home here in Unitarian Universalism, and at Birmingham Unitarian Church.
As we complete this Bridging ceremony, I invite everyone to nod your head or give some other visible affirmation in response, when prompted.
Abby, Mitchell, Bradley, Aidan--will you join us in wonder, excitement, and hope as Unitarian Universalists figuring out a messy and beautiful world together?
BUC congregants of all ages--will you welcome these young adults into the deep responsibility and covenant of Unitarian Universalism, and the love that this community has to offer?
Then welcome Abby, Mitchell, Bradley, and Aidan, exactly as you are, in all that you are, to this BUC community.
I close now with a blessing from UU minister Erik Walker Wikstrom:
“If you are who you were, we have failed
If you are who you were,
And if the person next to you is who they were,
If none of us has changed
Since the day we came in here--
We have failed.
The purpose of this community--
Of any church, temple, zendo, mosque--
Is to help its people grow.
We do this through encounters with the unknown--in ourselves,
In one another,
In “The Other”--whoever that might be for us,
However hard that might be--
Because these encounters have many gifts to offer.
So may you go forth from here this morning
Not who you were,
But who you are and who you could be.
So may we all.”