Why Doesn’t She Just Leave? A Look at Power and Control

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Stella Harrison

Content note: Descriptions of emotional, financial, and physical domestic abuse. Descriptions of child abuse.

Prelude No. 2

from Six Little Preludes, by J.S. Bach
Public Domain Work
Performed by Eva Riebold

Sometimes, as I work with the Sunday Services team, Michelle, Eva, and all our other dedicated musicians to prepare for upcoming services, we agree that we need music to underscore the message and offer more ways to explore the same ideas. Other Sundays, we need the music to act as a buffer or cushion to surround the service and simply help us to come together and experience community. As our Prelude to this upcoming service about the power dynamics of domestic violence, I thought it was important to balance some of the more raw and topic-heavy music later in the service with something more neutral, yet contemplative, to help us get centered in this space and ready to receive what Stella has to offer us. I was just about to email Eva to ask if she had anything like that when she emailed me with the sound file for this lovely Bach Prelude. Sometimes, you are blessed to work with other staff members who are just THAT good. We’re grateful to Eva for bringing us into our online space with beautiful music this week.

– Emily, Music Director

Our opening words this morning are “Hoping, Trusting for So Many Things,” by Katie Kandarian-Morris.

Here we have come into this sacred space–
quieter now with our readiness.
Hushed voices, hoping, trusting for so many things:
For connection, for communion;
For inspiration, for information;
For healing, for wholeness;
For words, for music;
For celebration and consolation.
Here we have come into this space bringing all of who we are;
Let us be willing….however we are changed.

Our chalice lighting words are “Let There Be Light,” by Andrew Pakula.

Let there be light
The light of joy, the light of happiness, and the light of contentment
May it illuminate our paths and fill our lives with peace
And let there be dark
For it is from our dark places that we are brought forward
Tried and tested
And impelled toward growth
It is in these places that we realize compassion and learn to love
And there was day and there was night.
And there was joy and there was sorrow.
And it was good.

When All the Peoples on This Earth

Words: Anonymous Music: Betty Jo Angebranndt
Used with Permission
Performed by Eva Riebold, Marilyn Day, Paul Phariss, and Emily McKinney

I always enjoy getting to learn a hymn in our hymnal that was previously unfamiliar to me, and one silver lining of moving to these virtual services with all their copyright restrictions on music is that it’s forcing me to look more deeply through our hymnal to find music to support our messages each week. I hadn’t ever heard this hymn before, and while it’s written as a Kwanza hymn, the first two verses speak plainly to the kind of compassionate world we are trying to build and what it might be like if no one was ever devalued by the abuse of another. That would truly make us worthy of our legacy as a human race. Special thanks to Eva for accompanying and to Paul and Marilyn for always being game to record their parts in isolation.

– Emily, Music Director


written and performed by Emily McKinney
Content note: Domestic violence, emotional abuse

This is a lullaby, but it’s maybe more chilling than comforting. I wrote this song when I was in the midst of trying to leave my abusive first marriage. If you just heard the song without that context, you might not pick up on the backstory, and that was intentional. This song reflects a period of time when I was deeply embroiled in the complicated psychological and power dynamics that are part of any abusive relationship. The gentle nature of the music and the somewhat vague lyrics reflect my fervent desire at that time to tread lightly as I walked out the door. This song is a desperate plea – I wanted my ex to see how tired and broken this thing we had really was and just agree with me that it was time to put it all to bed. He…did not share that perspective. I felt like I needed his blessing to leave, even as the situation became increasingly unsafe for me to stay there. I wanted to shake hands and say, “It’s sure been something. Maybe I’ll see you around,” not to be extracted by a worried older brother in the middle of the night. I knew I had to go and still could not muster the courage to leave. For days stretching into weeks, I would sit at my piano with headphones on and play this, quietly humming the melody to myself, with only me knowing what the lyrics to the song were, in a way trying to soothe myself with the lullaby, not being ready to act yet. It’s not easy to write that, but it’s important to me to share with this beloved community that while staying is hard and costly, leaving is often more scary and more hard and maybe more costly. I was in the greatest physical danger the night I actually left. I’m willing to share this vulnerable little song in the hopes it fosters greater compassion among us, and that you will go forward from this service more willing to keep an eye out for folks who may be in so deep they can’t leave without help. Support them, empower them, and hold them in compassion and understanding rather than judgement.

– Emily, Music Director

Love Her Before You Judge Her

written especially for First UU Church of Springfield by Amanda Udis-Kessler
performed by Emily McKinney
Content note: Domestic violence, emotional abuse

It never ceases to amaze me what generosity and talent is shared among our larger faith community if you will just ask. A few weeks ago, I took to the message boards on the Association for Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries (an association our congregation generously supports me being a part of) to ask for a little help arriving at appropriate music to support a service about domestic violence that was also free of copyright restriction to allow us to use it in a digital service. I suspected the pickings would be slim but thought maybe someone could point me toward something in our sources with fresh eyes and make it work well enough for our purposes. I never expected the fabulous UU composer, Amanda Udis-Kessler, to reach out directly to me and offer to custom-write a song just for this service and allow us to use it free of any restrictions, but that’s exactly what she did. If you recognize her name, it’s because she’s published in our hymnals and the choir has sung many of her works over the years. What a gift to have music written exactly with this service and message in mind! And truly, this song is a homily unto itself. We discussed together to arrive at the appropriate tone and musical style to contrast with the other music in the service and Amanda felt it was important to allude to the structural systems of power that keep people trapped in abusive situations, too.

While this song does use she/her pronouns for the survivor and he/him pronouns for the abuser, it’s important to acknowledge that domestic abuse of all kinds, and intimate partner violence of all kinds, can and does happen in all sorts of domestic arrangements and in every kind of intimate partnership. May we expand our awareness of one another so broadly that we cannot help but see one another clearly, and may we expand our compassion toward one another so deeply that we cannot help but act to protect and empower each other.

– Emily, Music Director

Categories: Sermon