Listening Through All Our Senses

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Emily McKinney

Intersex Awareness Day

by Laura Parsons

Monday, October 26, is Intersex Awareness Day, an internationally recognized awareness day to highlight human rights issues faced by intersex people and to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted surgeries on intersex children. About 1.7% of humans are intersex, meaning that their chromosomes, or their gonads, or their external genitalia, or their hormone responses, or a combination of these don’t fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. These are biological characteristics, not gender identity.

For many years it has been standard practice to subject intersex babies and young children to irreversible and non-consensual surgeries, with minimal and often grossly inaccurate information given to parents, who very often felt they had no choice but to allow such surgery. However, unless the baby is unable to urinate, which is very rare but which is a life-threatening emergency, there is no need for surgery before the individual is old enough to decide for themself if they want it done. Waiting is the way to avoid irreversible harm.

These surgeries can cause serious lifelong health issues, pain, and trauma, and are considered a human rights issue by the United Nations, comparable to the practice of female genital mutilation. As of now, no state has prohibited cosmetic genital surgery on infants. Only the country of Malta and one state in India have explicitly prohibited genital surgery without the informed consent of the individual. In some countries intersex individuals cannot get a birth certificate and therefore cannot enroll in school.

Another issue for intersex activists in many countries is the right to have a passport or other identification document with a gender choice other than male or female. Other activists want to completely eliminate classifications such as sex, gender, race and religion in official documents. In the United States, the only states that currently have a voluntary opt-in third gender or nonbinary classification available are California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah only with a court order, plus New York City and Washington, DC.

Where Gentle Tides Go Rolling By

Words: Richard Rarina
Music: Traditional Asian melody
Used with Permission
Performed by Eva Riebold

Eva has been so incredibly helpful and kind to pre-record so many beautiful selections from our hymnal. This is one of them, and it’s one I wish we got to hear more often. The melody is just beautiful and has a comforting effect on me. I love this as the prelude this week because the space I’d like us to enter into with my message is one of quiet contemplation as gentle (or not so gentle) tides roll in front of and all around us.

The lyrics are worth reading and sitting with, too. You can find them, along with a neat reflection on this hymn, here:

– Emily, Music Director

Our opening words this morning are “Who You Are Enriches Us All”
By Monica Jacobson-Tennessen.

Welcome! What you bring—who you are—enriches us all.
We say “Welcome” to your joy, your hope, your pride.
We say “Welcome” to your grief, your fear, your anger.
And the parts of you that are not yet ready to be seen and heard—
Welcome to them as well.
For we are people of faith:
Faith in our expansive welcome
Faith in our ability to grow
Faith in the precious gift of our truths
Faith in the promise of trying, learning, changing
Faith in our capacity to know ourselves and each other ever deeply.
Welcome to you who are gay, straight, bi, pan, lesbian, queer, questioning, unable to be contained in any word.
Welcome to you who are trans, cis, genderqueer, nonbinary, intersex, agender, beyond words.
Welcome to you who are human.
Welcome to you who love and are loved.
Welcome to you who are blessed (which is all of you).
May this time together be a blessing.

Waltz in B Minor

Op. 69, No. 2 by Frederic Chopin
Public Domain Work
Performed by Carter Meints

I’m so grateful for the technology that allows us to both see and hear Carter play this week, and grateful for his willingness to share his recordings with us. This waltz is both beautiful and melancholy, with strands of light and dark. I’m suggesting we approach this as an opportunity to really practice some deep listening — I know it’s been a while since I cleared the decks enough to just listen deeply to a piece of instrumental music. I invite you to notice what colors, images, metaphors, etc bubble up for you as you keep your ears firmly on this lovely performance, with perhaps one ear pricked to your internal experience of musical beauty.

You can read more about the work here:,Op._69,_No._2(Chopin)
Interestingly, Chopin hoped this work would be burned upon his death and never performed. I’m glad that didn’t happen!

– Emily, Music Director

Be Still My Soul

Words: Katharina A. Von Schlegel
Music: “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius
Public Domain Work
Performed by Eva Riebold and Emily McKinney

As a musical teenager growing up in a very traditional church setting, I practiced small acts of sedition when and where I could. I was always drawn to the few hymns in our hymnal that spoke more toward grace, gentleness, and Divinity as a caring force in the Universe, and less so to the stirring “try harder to be better” hymns. Thus, when given the chance to play a flute duet with a friend, I chose “Be Still My Soul,” because even then, I was practicing getting a sense of what messages might be healing for the congregation and trying to bring that forth in music, and stillness of soul is always something we could use more of. The kind of listening I’m going to talk about in my message requires cultivating this kind of deep stillness within us. My thanks to Eva for recording the piano part. And, a COVID silver lining is that I can record flute duets with myself these days. I invite you to take a deep breath and contemplate what it might mean for you to have stillness in your soul.

You can read more about the very interesting history of the music behind this hymn here:

– Emily, Music Director

Go Now in Light

Written by Emily McKinney
Performed by Emily McKinney and Persephone Hamburg

Our closing words are “Labyrinth,” by Leslie Takahashi.

Walk the maze
Within your heart: guide your steps into its questioning curves.
This labyrinth is a puzzle leading you deeper into your own truths.
Listen in the twists and turns.
Listen in the openness within all searching.
Listen: a wisdom within you calls to a wisdom beyond you
and in that dialogue lies peace.

Categories: Sermon