Renewal When the Path is Hard

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What are those things that support renewal even in a hostile environment? In a normal year, it might be sufficient just to spade the soil. This year’s rocky conditions call for the dynamite Rev. Michelle handed us in last week’s message – “This is our time.” Board President Colleen Appel will outline the specifics of revival and renewal at First UU.

Our opening words this morning are “Community Means Strength,” by Starhawk

We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength
that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.

Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.

On the Swing

by Alexander Gretchaninoff
Public Domain Work
Performed by Eva Riebold

When Colleen and I both attended the September service planning meeting and she talked about the message she wanted to write, we talked about how hard finding a sense of renewal has been for many of us these days. I thought about how so many of us have been renewing some of the things that lifted our spirits in childhood or just simpler times of our lives. Before March of this year, I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a walk with my husband and both dogs, or that I saw neighborhood children playing outside with their families on such a regular basis. Maybe renewing right where we are requires us to use whatever’s available, and maybe that’s a literal turn on the swing set, or just a musical one this morning. As you listen to this piece, you can almost hear the sensation of pumping your legs to swing higher and higher. You can read more about the composer here:

Our thanks to Eva for performing it so beautifully.

– Emily, Music Director

Bicycle Ride

by Alexander Gretchaninoff
Public Domain Work
Performed by Eva Riebold

This, like the previous song, is another of my favorite little piano pieces by Alexander Grethaninoff. This composition so effectively captures the early, effortful bike rides of early childhood. When I listen, I can almost hear the sounds of little legs pumping and I think if you’ll listen for it, you can even hear sections that sound like climbing uphill, then coasting down.
May this simple musical journey this morning help you to find and renew that place within you that was once delighted by simple things like sunshine, fresh air, motion, and exploration.

– Emily, Music Director

Creative Spirit

Words and Music by Grace Lewis-McLaren
Used with Permission
Performed by the First UU Virtual Choir

The choir has performed this simple, beautiful piece in our sanctuary once, and as I learned more about Colleen’s message, it came floating back to my mind for this service. It’s a heartfelt, hopeful entreaty to whatever it is out there that fuels your creative spirit. We are all tired. We are all maybe more on edge than we want to be. We’d all like to be released from stress and be open to a wellspring of renewal and meaning that can allow us to rise to our creative potential during these dark days. We’ll need a creative spirit to work together and solve the challenges facing our world right now. My hope for all of us is that we do indeed find a renewal of that spirit within us.

Here’s what I could find about the composer:
“Grace Lewis-McLaren is a graduate of Eastman School of Music and of Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has served in a music leadership capacity for many different UU churches.” (From

– Emily, Music Director

Meditation on Loving Kindness

Words and Music by Emily McKinney
Performed by the First UU Virtual Choir

I’m always so happy when one of my short little compositions seems to resonate with our community – no pun intended – so I was happy to hear people say they wanted to hear this one again soon. Then, Colleen mentioned that this would be a great selection to support the message she plans to give this week. I’m so happy to see it find its own form of Renewal by appearing in a new service again so soon. I once again offer you my wishes that you be safe, healthy, and happy, and that you live with ease.

– Emily, Music Director

Our closing words are “Blessed by Our Connections,” by Susan Karlson.

We leave blessed by our connections to one another, to the spirit of life.
Walk lightly that you see the life that is below your feet.
Spread your arms as if you had wings and could dance through the air.
Feel the joy of the breath in your lungs and the fire in your heart.
Live to love and be a blessing on this earth.

Categories: Sermon