Friday, June 27, 2008

UUA GA---The BIG Youth Service, and BIG Ideas!

There is a big huge important tradition here at GA. It's the youth to young adult bridging. The ritual originated in the PNWD, I'm told, with people who are right here in my congregation now. It's a big deal, and this year was combined with a youth worship, and given a good time slot and clearly; a budget and staff support!

I got there late, because half way to the convention center I realized I'd left my name badge in the hotel. There is no entry to UUA GA stuff, except on Sunday, without one. It's been a big deal in the past--white people let in without theirs and people of color kept out. Older people let in without one and younger people denied. And we have the whole homeland security problems since this is in a US port and you must have a government issued photo id to get in, as well as the badge. What a big barrel of issues, there!

The service was nice, varied, interesting. Nick Allen is a fine young man with a passion for youth leadership and empowerment and talked about how we must support youth in each of our congregations and in the greater movement. Elandria Williams told her story of becoming a UU in 4th grade because she was totally uncomfortable with her church's idea that everyone (Hindu, Buddhist and presbyterian) was going to hell, and how this faith has been a home for her. The hymns were good, readings nice, the activity about Multi-Generational worship right on track with what I want.

But, there was one musician, I won't name him because I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but his message just didn't resonate with me. He was all about feeling the pain of the oppressed people, and he looked very pained. But it was uncomfortable for me as a white person. I just want people to sing about their own experience, and write about it, and speak from it. I didn't like him singing about his "brother" like we have any real idea what it's really like to be a person of color.

But the other professional group the service featured was mind blowing and phenomenal. They are called "The Good Asian Drivers", just two of them, and between the spoken word and the singing, it was fantastic. I'm thinking it's better for opening minds and hearts than a hundred workshops. Melissa Li's myspace here (Kit Yan, other member, has a little too much language and adult content for an RE Blog!)

And then, while Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford was giving the "charge" to the bridging young adults; something kind of wiggled itself into place for me.

I think what we need to do in our congregtions is not be welcoming or tolerant or accepting. That is still an "us and them" way to be. "We" welcome "you". If you feel welcome you are still on the outside coming in. That's good, and I want that to be true, but I think what we need to be is Expecting Congregations.

"Come IN, we're expecting you!"

Michelle Richards, author of "Come into the Circle" talked about how when she visited a church for the first time and there were child sized hangars in the coat closet, she knew that this church expected children to be there. This church expected HER children to be there.

For that to happen in our congregations: we should have gender neutral restrooms because we expect people with gender identity transitions in process at church. We should have complete accessibility for wheelchairs and scooters as we expect people who use those to come to church. We should have no hymns or readings or things around us that really belong to a culture that is not ours that we have appropriated, because we expect people of all cultures to come to church. We should have DRUMM and DRUMM YaYA and LUUNA, APIC information out on our tables because we expect people of color and people of latino/a culture to come to church. And we should have child and youth and young adult friendly worship services because we expect people of all ALL ages to come to church. And small quiet TOYS for the service because we expect children. And of course we should have large print hymnals and bulletins because we expect elders and people with sight impairment to come to church.

Wouldn't you like to feel, when you walk into someplace new, like they're expecting you--"of COURSE you're welcome, we were waiting here, just for YOU!"

Forget welcoming congregations. I want to be an expecting congregation!

May it be SO!

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