The UUA sponsored WaterFire Providence, a public art festival, as an opportunity to reach out in love, June 28. (© 2009 Liz West (CC BY 2.0))
Tens of thousands of people joined in with Unitarians Universalists at the dramatic WaterFire event on Saturday night in downtown Providence, R.I., the public witness event at this year’s General Assembly.
As night fell, Unitarian Universalists in their bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts were easy to spot in the enormous crowds lining the riverbanks, as torch bearers on boats lit a series of 80 giant braziers in the middle of the city’s three rivers. As the flames reached high, music that expressed the GA theme, Love Reaches Out, filled the night air.
Immediately after the worship event in the Rhode Island Convention Center, in which the Sanctuary Boston led 4,600 UUs in an hour of upbeat singing and community-building centered on the theme of love, UUA President Peter Morales and Moderator Jim Key led the group on a three-block walk to the riverside. As UUs scattered along the bridges and riversides, the braziers were lit and songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “By the Rivers of Babylon” filled the air.
The Unitarian Universalist Association was the sole sponsor of WaterFire on Saturday night. As one of the most impressive expressions of public art in the U.S., WaterFire—a visual, spiritual and musical celebration of community—was chosen as a dramatic and moving way to share Unitarian Universalism with a wider audience.
With WaterFire providing a dramatic backdrop, two UUs, Bill Latimer and Scott Weaver of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tenn., were married by their minister, the Rev. Gail S. Seavey. As the couple held hands and the fires lit the air behind them, Seavey performed the ceremony, ending with, “And here’s the part we can’t do in Tennessee: Bill and Scott, by the power of the State of Rhode Island, before your family friends and whoever is here to support you, we pronounce you husbands for life!”
A small crowd of UUs and non-UUs surrounding the couple burst into cheers and applause.
“It seemed fitting to get married here, during GA’s ‘Love Reaches Out’ theme,” Latimer said, after giving Weaver a long kiss.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.