GA 2007: Service of the Living Tradition

Later still. I was blogging like a fiend during GA, only to drag afterwards. I thought I would promote this one entry — the most read and originally published June 21 to the top for reconsideration.

Later. Another fragment came through: the end of the Clarke Wells liturgical element — people were always confusing me for him, to my credit — and saw Clyde Grubbs light the chalice as Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley’s surviving spouse, which made me very sad. I think I’ll leave it there. (Memorial page at the legacy site)

Blogging because the feed is congested during Beth Miller’s extended explanation distinguishing worship and a graduation. But for the life of me, by her logic, I would be hard pressed to call an ordination, baptism, marriage, confirmation or induction of new members worship. And the explanation sucked the life out of the service — that is, until the feed dried up. Perhaps lot of people are watching. It freed up for a couple of stanzas of Rank by Rank, and then down again. I’ll give it a few minutes before giving up.

In happier news, I saw Ned Wight and Barbara Wells ten Hove in the ministers’ choir beforehand and a bunch of pixilated faces, perhaps of others I know. PeaceBang, were you wearing a black or dark blue tunic-cut shirt with a three-quarters length sleeve?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Doesnt this take us to the fun UU thing of semantics?
    But yes: ordination, baptism, marriage, confirmation or induction of new members are all part of worship.

  2. Worship, yes, I think so. Lawrence Stookey at Wesley Seminary in DC has written on some of those things as worship. Especially baptism and communion, I think. Roger

  3. I really enjoyed the SLT, thought Beth did a fine job of handling the inevitable issue of cheering for favorite candidates, approved of the folks being recognized by group (though I would have liked a bit more ritual for the deceased colleagues), and was appreciative of the difficulties B & B H-H described in writing the sermon.

    I’m not sure Bill realized how quickly his dream of a snaky-type critter plus inflamed boil on his rear end would become an image floating around the GA-osphere. It was nearly irresistible as a subject for ridicule.

    The cheering for individuals at such a gathering is not just a matter of worship. I am well aware, from personal experience and from listening to counselees, how hurtful it is to hear wild shrieks of cheering and thunderous applause for one popular graduate/candidate/etc., and then not to hear much at all for one’s own achievement. It becomes a popularity event, and that’s not appropriate.

  4. I agree about the cheering and screeching, and not just for worship. Hearing it in the Plenary videos — especially from the youth — made me think (without snark or irony)

    “What kind of mind-control cult do we have here?”

    There’s an intensity and zeal to it that makes me very nervous.

  5. For an illuminating historical look at the zealotry of LRY/YRUU/the Youth Caucus, see the chapter on UUs in “Knocking at Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture” by Mark Oppenheimer. Be sure to read the book’s conclusion, too.

  6. I tried to view the Service of the Living Tradition in RealPlayer on OSX and then on Real Player on Windows. It worked with Media Player on Windows and I saw it all the way through. I wish that the offer of the hand of fellowship had been public. Saying that it was done before the ceremony seems like a secret initiation into a fraternity or other covert ritual. Overall, it was the most unsatisfying and anticlimatic service of the living tradition I have seen. It is also not unhealthy to give time limits to speakers. . .

  7. I thought the same thing about the secret hand. I would gladly have dispensed with “the walk” if the people getting fellowship could have been greeted in public en bloc.

    Would have made for easier camera-work too, I’m guessing, though I’ve not yet seen the video. Like Larry, I’ve had better luck with Real Player, but on Linux of course.

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