The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell, senior minister of Portland’s First Unitarian Church, sounded one of the themes of GA in her remarks at the Opening Ceremony:
We are going to have to change the way we live, radically change the way we live. Not a tweaking here and there, not a lightbulb change here or there, not a bicycle ride here or there, but a whole new way of seeing ourselves in relationship to other people and to the earth. We need to be living out of the consciousness of the sacredness of life, not just saying that, but living out of that consciousness. And so today I would suggest that we have a new frontier if we are to salvage this good earth and bequeath a future of any kind for future generations. This new frontier is not more, it is not new and improved, as the ads go. It is not in fact what we will have, but what we will become. It is no longer an economic frontier, but a spiritual one.
Kathleen Norris, the popular author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, spoke at a major presentation sponsored by the GA Planning Committee and the UU Christian Fellowship. Speaking of those who are “spiritual but not religious,” she said:
Often what they do is the all-American thing, and they go shopping, appropriating the traditions and beliefs of other cultures. Anything, it seems, is going to be better than the boring old white-bread religion of their parents, which is usually Christian or Jewish. . . . But it’s also a risky endeavor at a time when Native American names are for sale on the Internet, it becomes difficult but ever more important to try to figure out what is a genuine spiritual journey, a good transition, a necessary transition, and what is simply consumerism. . . . Of course it’s not wise to pass judgment on anyone’s religious journey, but it can help to employ a bullshit detector—or, in polite, more spiritual terms, discernment. . . . I’m always suspicious when people must express their newfound conviction and joy in a newly acquired faith by dismissing and disparaging the old one.
The Rev. Robert Fulghum, a self-described “UU stealth minister” and best-selling author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and the forthcoming What On Earth Have I Done?, summed up his presentation:
This room, and there are 6,000 of us here, are people who meet [former Starr King School for the Ministry president] Josiah Bartlett’s critera for ministry: in the world, eyes and ears and hearts and minds open, trying to be useful. . . . I know you came to see me, but I have come to see you. We come to this place because we need each other, we need to see each other, we need to touch each other, we need to smell each other, we need to hug each other. We need each other. So we come to this place. We come to work, to talk, to sing, to laugh, to dance. We call this a religious community, not because this convention center is holy ground, but because what we do here, what we say here together, and what we are here, makes it a sacred gathering.
- What in God's Name Am I Doing? Watch Robert Fulghum's presentation. (UUA.org)