Thresholds of Increasing Complexity

Published by Michelle Scott-Huffman on

July 5, 2020

In the field of education, there has emerged a relatively new discipline called “Big History.” The aim of the Big History Project is to link different areas of knowledge into one unified story that provides us with a deeper awareness of our past and thus (hopefully) better prepares us to shape our future in a positive way. A popular concept in Big History is “Thresholds of Increasing Complexity” which sorts the events of millions of years of human history into time periods marked by particular “threshold moments.” Some would say that our country, and possibly humanity at large is approaching a threshold moment. What will we do to engage that threshold and to ensure that history remembers it as a moment in which we crossed over?

Rev Michelle, Minister

Special Music

The Water is Wide
public domain English Folk Song
arranged and performed by Emily McKinney

I have loved this song ever since I first heard it as a middle school choir member. The song took on new meaning and importance for me when I was asked to give a series of in-service presentations for other healthcare workers and departments about what hospice is and what we do. Being a music therapist, I wanted to use music to set the tone and do the work of explaining our role. This song speaks so beautifully to themes of preparing to cross what feels like an impassible threshold: “The water (of life) is wide. I cannot (I am afraid to!) cross over. And neither have I the wings to fly (Seriously, how am I supposed to make this journey?) Give me a boat (but support me) that can carry two (and support the loved ones on this journey with me) and both shall row, my love and I (and we’ll figure out how to cross over whatever it is, together.)

What seemingly impassible thresholds confront you today? Can this beloved community be your boat and carry you and your loved ones? Can you “be the boat” and carry someone else? In the true spirit of UU-ism, I hope your questions bring you both answers and more questions.

  • Emily, Music Director

May Nothing Evil Cross This Door
words by Louis Untermeyer
music by Robert N. Quaile
used with permission
performed by the Virtual First UU Choir

As we begin our shared exploration of the theme of Thresholds this month, I don’t think we can get a more literal picture of a threshold than crossing through a doorway. While it’s convenient that the first hymn in our hymnal literally mentions crossing a door, the lyrics of this hymn are really what touched my heart and made me want to offer this as the first instance of our new Virtual First UU Choir. These words are equally true, whether we are gathered inside our lovely new church doors, or gathered separately in our own homes. The specter of COVID-19 comes to my mind as we offer our prayer/intention/hope that nothing evil crosses your door, that your UU faith may bolster you to withstand all the storms of life, and that you may find your own home to be a peaceful shrine, no matter what doorways and thresholds we are called to cross in the coming months. I’ve included the lyrics here to read ahead of time because this will play under the prelude slideshow Sunday, and I want to share these words with you:

May nothing evil cross this door, and may ill fortune never pry about these windows. May the roar and rain go by.
By faith made strong, the rafters will withstand the battering of the storm. This hearth, though all the world grow chill, will keep you warm.
Peace shall walk softly through these rooms, touching our lips with holy wine, till every casual corner blooms into a shrine.

  • Emily, Music Director

Deep River
African-American Spiritual
public domain work
performed by Eva Riebold

I hope by now, we have all had a chance to see the final Sunday service from GA this year. I was so struck by the performance of “Deep River” by the singer and the cellist and I realized how much this particular piece speaks to our theme of Thresholds. There is a lovely write-up on the important history of this piece here.

I hope you enjoy sitting with this beautiful piano performance by Eva, and consider the ways we have many thresholds to cross together as we work for justice in this world.

  • Emily, Music Director

Another World is Possible
used with permission from the Justice Choir Songbook
performed by First UU Choir Trio: Paul Phariss, Marilyn Day, and Emily McKinney

This is another selection from one of my favorite resources these days, the Justice Choir Songbook. I’ve shared before that the purpose of this songbook is to bring singing back to our protest marches. The music in this book is inspiring and powerful and sounds maybe a little different than typical Anglo-Saxon-style choir fare.

You may recognize this piece from when the choir and congregation sang it together back in February, which feels like a lifetime ago to me. The text is simple: “It doesn’t have to be like this. Today, another world is possible!” The text is simple, but what it calls us to do is not. This world, with all its brokenness, doesn’t have to be like this. We can create the beloved community we envision and long for. It will require us to cross many thresholds along the way. May we press onward through those thresholds with a belief that another world is possible.

PS: Thank you, First UU, for investing in a music program laptop that allows us to create the illusion of multiple singers all together in one time and place.

  • Emily, Music Director
Categories: Sermon