Unitarian Universalism

Making a Joyful Noise: Bridging at First Parish

by PicturePerfect96
by PicturePerfect96

I fell in love again today.

This morning it was not hot, but it was humid. Every window in the sanctuary was open, but it did not much matter. It was like god had used it last night to bake hot cross buns or kugel or some such. The heat lingered. Made me a tad cranky.

Especially because at this church, the ministers wear long black robes to sartorially express our ministerial presence.   (Not my first choice, but when in Rome….) These robes do not breathe.  So as the minutes ticked past, perhaps I became just the tiniest bit more cranky.

It was hard to stay cranky for long.

Before worship started, there was an abundance of happy chatter. Lotsa movement in the pews. So many people in that space. Lotsa lovelies who hadn’t been there in months or longer, so lotsa catching up, lotsa hellos and hugs, lotsa love.

Today was the Bridging worship service. The high school (or its equivalent) seniors were transitioning: no longer youth, after today’s service they would officially be young adults. It’s called Bridging because it’s such a great metaphor – crossing from one place to another, leaving something behind in order to gain something new. A transition, a rite of passage.

Our purpose here

is to build a bridge.


The purpose of the bridge

is to span the distance

between our present situation

and our vision of a better world.

The beauty of a bridge is that,

once it is in place,

anyone can walk on it.

To choose to build a bridge

is the essential act of love.

(Paul Williams)

garden-bridge36-rBridging at First Parish is not just metaphorical; there is an actual wooden bridge brought in just for this ritual. The whole worship is semi-complicated.  Lots of moving parts. Flowers. Holy water. Singing. Little ones. Medium sized ones. Lots of choreography. Not just a small amount of faith that it will go without a hitch.

When the seniors cross that wooden bridge, on the far side they are greeted by bevy of young adults who grew up in the church. Those lovelies who hadn’t been there in months or longer? Many, so many of them, were young adults who had grown up in the church, who had themselves bridged – perhaps recently, or last year, or a few years ago. Most of them don’t live around here anymore. They don’t come so often. Yet, they returned just for this day. They had shown up to do their part in this powerful ritual, like others before had done for them.

We sang the Circle Song. You know the one, from Joni Mitchell.

Personally, I hadn’t sung it in a long time. I found myself, more than a few years older, singing it from a more wistful perspective. I am older. My kids are older. My eyes started to tear up.

I looked out into the faces of congregants in the pews and saw weepy eyes. Parents of bridging seniors. Parents of no-longer-kids-now-adults who had bridged not so long ago. Parents of kids who will bridge not so far in the future. Parents of kids who have been heartrendingly lost and won’t stand on that far side of the bridge. Beautiful and savage, poignant and weepy messes: all of us.

It was holy.

That joyful noise before the start of worship was the pure and resounding symphony of so many people deeply gladdened to see those returning young adults, inquiring about their lives, loving them up. This faithful body of humanity, a motley, adorable crew to be sure, made a joyful noise and in so doing, lived into the words I uttered as part of worship (written by Rev. Elea Kemler):

We also remind them and ourselves through this ceremony that their connection, their bridge to this community will remain, no matter how far they travel or how many years go by. We hope they will always return home to this congregation who will always be glad to see them. They will always have a home here.

There was no room, not any more, for even the tiniest bit of crank. The honor of being a part of this blessed me. And once again, I found myself falling even more in love with this church, with this congregation, with this people, with this faith movement, with this Unitarian Universalism.


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