Over fifty graduating high school seniors and other 18- and 19-year-olds from Pittsburgh, Denver, Juneau, and other cities across the country danced, sang, and hugged their way through the annual Synergy bridging worship service Friday night at the UUA General Assembly in Portland.
Led by youth and young adults from Oklahoma City to Oakland, the service celebrated the passage of youth to young adulthood honored in UU churches throughout the country. Rhea Brown-Bright, a senior from First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, and bridging senior John Newhall helped lead a litany, “The Welcome Table,” that captivated the GA audience.
Isabella “Izzie” Cass, a bridging youth from First Unitarian Society of Denver, reflected on differences between bridging at the national gathering and local and regional bridging services. “There’s a greater call to action at the national level,” she told me after the 75-minute service. “At GA, they focus big on who we are as a faith. Locally it’s more about personal relationships,” said Cass, one of three Colorado bridging youth.
The bulk of the service focused on the theme “We Are the Revolution.” Young adult leaders Amanda Weatherspoon, Caitlin Cotter, and Kevin Mann delivered a moving, lengthy dual challenge: first, that the incoming young adults engage in ongoing liberation movements; and second, that older adults recognize that youth and young adults “have been showing up.”
“There is power in the call [to revolution],” Weatherspoon concluded.
As the bridgers crossed the stage to shake the hands of UUA Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries Bart Frost and UUA President Peter Morales, family, fellow congregants, and the larger General Assembly body cheered them on. The Rev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, who introduced the bridging ritual, said, “Unitarian Universalists honor this ritual at our denominational gathering because we know that transition is risky, and that growth is difficult and sacred.”
Rhea Brown-Bright, the Oklahoma City youth who serves General Assembly’s Youth Caucus as its junior worship coordinator, said that planning Synergy bridging at GA presents many challenges. “We’re trying to make it personal in a room of thousands. It’s for a broader audience. Bridging nationally asks us to look at the now and the future—and our place in both.”
“We were reminded tonight that each of our small actions come together to create greater change,” Denver’s Izzie Cass said.