Choir members raise their hands during the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 General Assembly. (©Nancy Pierce)
The Justice GA closed Sunday night with a rousing final worship. After five days of learning about immigration issues and after Saturday night’s massive candlelight vigil at the Tent City jail, GA participants gathered one last time before heading home to continue justice work there.
The service opened with the group emma’s revolution inviting the congregation to sing with them a song they wrote the night before. It was called “Shut Down Tent City. No More Sheriff Joe.”
The service featured the GA choir which had been practicing all week. One piece was “Grow a Heart,” with words by the Rev. Wendy Williams. It was arranged by the Rev. Keith Arnold, minister of music at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo. Arnold has been choir director for this GA.
The Rev. Fred Small, senior minister at First Parish, Cambridge, Mass., led the hall in learning and singing a song from the South Carolina Sea Islands, called Tree of Life. The theme: “Ain’t you got a right to the tree of life?”
A series of speakers gave homilies on various words, including humility, love, and power.
B Loewe, with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told the gathering, “What a time we’ve had together. This week we have lived that truism that those that set out to change the world will surely be changed themselves. We (here in Arizona) have found new recruits and old friends for the movement. And you have very well found some new recruits for Unitarian Universalism.”
He asked people to turn to someone next to them and hold their wrists, feeling their pulse. One person was to say “You are the one we’ve been waiting for,” followed by the second person answering “I will not fail you.”
UUA President Peter Morales spoke to the assembled delegates for the last time this year. “He described an image from Saturday night’s candlelight vigil. “I wish you all could have seen what it looked like from that flatbed truck to look out on an endless field of small lights. I was so deeply moved.”
GA was so powerful this year, he said, because “We acted out of our core spiritual convictions and out of the power of love and we brought our best selves. And we did it with partners who are not Unitarian Universalists. They got us out of ourselves in a way that was powerful and essential.” He closed with this thought, to resounding applause—“I can’t wait to see what we do next. Amen.”
Small led the congregation in a song, “Marching Into the Light,” that was sung by Unitarian Universalists on the night of July 29, 2010, as they waited outside the Maricopa County Jail for a number of other UUs who had been arrested that day and were to be released. “We could only bear witness and pray and sing,” he said. The song was written by Latin American songwriter Andres Useche after the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigrant law.
Another song at Sunday’s closing service was the haunting Spanish hymn “Ven Espiritu de Amor,” from the UU Spanish-language hymnbook Las Voces del Camino.
The Rev. Paul Langston-Daley gave the benediction, sending the congregation on its way with the words, “May you recall the works we have done here and know that it was good.”
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.