Holding Space for Healing

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Rev Michelle Scott-Huffman

A pastoral message responding to the election and moving forward.

Our opening words this morning are “This Place is Sanctuary,” by Kathleen McTigue

You who are broken-hearted,
who woke today with the winds of despair
whistling through your mind,
come in.

You who are brave but wounded,
limping through life and hurting with every step, come in.

You who are fearful, who live with shadows
hovering over your shoulders,
come in.

This place is sanctuary, and it is for you.

You who are filled with happiness,
whose abundance overflows,
come in.

You who walk through your world
with lightness and grace,
who awoke this morning with strength and hope,
you who have everything to give,
come in.

This place is your calling, a riverbank to channel
the sweet waters of your life,

the place where you are called by the world’s need.
Here we offer in love.

Here we receive in gratitude.
Here we make a circle from the great gifts
of breath, attention and purpose.

Come in.

In Autumn

By Wilson G. Smith
Public Domain Work
Performed by Eva Riebold

I don’t think this community can say often enough how wonderful Eva is, and how much we appreciate her work as church accompanist. I went hunting for seasonally-appropriate public domain piano music a while back and sent Eva some things that I found. She turned around and recorded this lovely selection and sent it right back for us to use for a service whenever we needed. She notes that this selection sounds like falling leaves to her.

One way I find myself getting centered during all this upheaval is to get outside and spend some time with the trees and leaves. I imagine many folks who find their truths in earth-centered traditions may find this to be true, as well. We know from neuroscience research that even a short exposure to natural surroundings changes the chemical makeup in the brain and lowers stress levels and improves our ability to focus and connect with one another.

I believe we are looking forward to having some more recent pictures of what our members and friends see outside this autumn during our prelude slideshow this week, so it seems like a perfect time to offer a musical selection that also grounds us in this time and season.

You can learn more about the composer, Wilson G. Smith, here.

Whispering Hope

Words and Music by Septimus Winner
(Pseudonym Alice Hawthorne)
Public Domain Work
Performed by Marilyn Day, Eva Riebold, and Emily McKinney

As I write this paragraph early on Thursday morning, the results of the 2020 election are still up in the air. Regardless of who or what anyone wanted for the outcome, there is uncertainty, fear, and tension hanging thick in the air right now. Regardless of any outcomes, we are going to have hard work ahead of us to care for one another and our nation. For that reason, your church musicians wish to offer you a song about hope this coming Sunday. We could all use some hope to sustain us in the midst of all this upheaval.

I was truly surprised to learn more about the history of this song. I had no idea that “Alice Hawthorne” was a pseudonym for a very famous composer from the mid-1800s, Septimus Winner. He wrote many folk songs that we would at least recognize the melody to today, but this was far and away one of his most successful songs, which he wrote greatly surprised and amused him. He intended it to be a little toss-off song that honored his mother, but this song quickly took root in hymnals and song books all across the country.

I did not link to any articles or websites that give more background on the composer, however, because I’ve just this morning learned that he also wrote songs with racial slurs for Black and Indigenous folks in their titles, which are all listed in any article on him I found. Google at your own risk.

Here in the Silence

Words: Niki and Gordon Davis
Music: F. F. Fleming
Used with Permission
Performed by the Virtual First UU Choir

The in-person choir has sung this one in the sanctuary several times and it always seemed to have such a soothing, centering, calming effect on everyone in the room. The music is beautiful, for one thing, (and our musicians handled it with so much sensitivity when we could all follow dynamic and timing cues together), but the lyrics of this strike me as being very significant:

“Here in the silence, may our hearts be open. Open to feeling human pain and sorrow. Open to healing, mending the tomorrow, moved by this silence here.”

This short, simple song spells out a recipe for healing – we need open hearts that are willing to work through our shared pain, whatever it may be, and open hearts that are willing to do the hard work of “mending the tomorrow.” It suggests that we may find this open-hearted willingness within the shared silent, sacred spaces we create together. May we find ourselves sheltered in shared silent spaces this coming Sunday that allow us to be open to pain and open to healing.

Right Here

Written and Performed by Sam Turton
Used with Permission

From the composer: “I consider ‘Right Here’ a ‘gift song’—I was washing dishes just before going to a friend’s wedding, thinking I wished I’d written her a song when I heard the whole song in my mind and essentially wrote it down—no edits!… This song is already being sung around the world, mostly at conferences and gatherings of healers and health practitioners. People just attach to the heart in it… I’m honored that I am a channel for these kinds of gifts.”

I came across this song about three weeks ago in the course of my studies for my music director certification program and it was an absolute “gut-punch” for me, but in a good way. It stopped me in my tracks and connected me to that inner well of trust, connection, and hope in a way that few musical selections have been able to do for me this year. (The music shared at UUA General Assembly had a similar effect on me.)

I knew immediately that I wanted to find a way to share this with our congregation, and since this is one UUA had given permission to stream in worship, it was just a matter of choosing the right time. I propose that as we wind our way through an uncertain, tumultuous political process (and pandemic, environmental disaster, etc) that regardless of outcomes, we are going to have hard work ahead of us, and we’ll need to lean on each other as a safe refuge in that work. The song says, “Together we can lift our eyes to all we love and hold dear, ’cause all we need is right here.” May we find this community to be a safe and welcoming refuge for us to do our healing together, that we may then go and bring that healing to our hurting world. May we find all we need – right here.

Our closing words are By Julie Fanselow:

Spirit of life, in this time of uncertainty, let us rest and get ready to lean all the way into the promise of a United States that values and cares for everyone. For the sake of all our loved ones who are gone, those who are here, and those yet to be born, we can’t stop now. We won’t stop now.

Categories: Sermon