Imagine Inspired Leadership

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Rev Michelle

Our Opening words today are “There is Room Here for You” by Mary Edes

If God is your strength and companion
and prayer the means of centering your thoughts,
There is room for you here.

If the teachings of the Buddha give you
clarity and calm in the midst of human striving,
There is room for you here

If Gaia’s seasonal rhythms lead you best
through the myriad steps of Life’s great dance.
There is room for you here.

If the still mysterious capacity and power of the Mind,
stirs your imagination and quickens your pulse,
There is room for you here.

Rest now, beside that spring, wherever it is for you
And let your attention go to the small places inside
or out in the great wide world—
places or people in need of healing
or for which your heart is filled with thanksgiving,
And in that spirit, let us be here together now.

Come and Go with Me
African American Spiritual
Arranged by Kenny Smith
Used with Permission
Performed by Eva Riebold

I am writing these descriptions on January 7th, following the deeply troubling events in our nations Capitol on January 6th. I’m so grateful for Eva’s willingness to share beautiful music with us, and for belonging to a faith tradition that knows how to reach for music to steady us and comfort us in troubling times. I do believe in my heart of hearts that we, collectively, are all headed somewhere better, together. That belief is sustaining me right now and music like this is a touchstone to keep me connected to that sustaining belief.
Here’s a great write up on this selection from our hymnal by UU minister Kimberly Debus:

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

Let Me Be The Change
Written and Performed by Mark and Emily McKinney

Content note about my description: police violence

I decided that I wanted to share this song that Mark and I wrote together because of the title of Rev. Michelle’s message and our belief that inspired leadership begins with inspired leaders who examine their own flaws and lead by changing what they can control, not raging about what they cannot control. Little did I know how much more relevant this song would feel following the attack on our Capitol buildings this week. We wrote this song to express how we felt following the police murder of Michael Brown and how we wanted to force the world to change to become a safe, just, place for everyone. Mark and I don’t have that power to make others choose a life of anti-racism work, or to dismantle the structures of white supremacy someone else upholds, but we CAN change ourselves by reading, learning about our own role in white supremacy culture, VOTING, supporting voting access movements, and so much more. There is change that we can make in the world but it begins much closer to home than we often imagine. Maybe this song will help us to imagine each one of us as an inspired leader for our times, in our own spheres of influence.

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

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

I have seen over and over again through the troubling events and crises of the last year, and the last week, how a return to creative practices is grounding and healing for so many in this congregation. On January 6th, as I was angry, and sad, and scared, and glued to my newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter, a little note from Rev. Michelle came across my screen reminding all of us to take a break from that and tend to our own souls with whatever spiritual practices center us. I found some refuge Wednesday night in playing piano music and finishing the second season of The Mandalorian, which is a truly fabulous and imaginative work of fiction, in a world where we also hope to see justice and truth prevail. (No spoilers!)

In other words, the arts, the creative imaginings of composers and story tellers and actors and artists where what pulled me out of a mental and emotional downward spiral on Wednesday night. So maybe this isn’t the direction Rev. Michelle plans to go with her message on Sunday, but I’d like to posit the idea that maybe our artists and musicians are also inspired leaders who can lead us away from destruction and chaos and into the better worlds they imagine. I hope the voices of our beloved choir members offer you some solace and rest on our journey toward a more just world.

Here’s what I could find about the composer of the piece:
“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 McKinney, Music Director

I’m on my Way
Words and Music: Trad. African-American Folk Music
Arr. by Mary Allen Walden, used with permission
Performed by Paul Phariss, Rebecca Holt, and Emily McKinney

Here’s a great line about this hymn from Rev. Kimberly Debus: “As a song for our times, this certainly is one. We’re taking up the call to resistance, and asking those around us to come with us, to resist oppression and be free. And for people with marginalized identities, it is a matter of life and death.”

I hope we are on our way. I believe we are on our way. This week, some angry Americans tried again to “say no,” but we persist. We’re going anyhow.

Here’s the link the rest of Rev. Debus’s excellent thoughts on using this work with sensitivity in our congregation:

For the record, I share in her uncomfortable questions, and we made the choice to omit the binary gender verses in this recording because we know that the gender binary does not include all the beloved people in our interdependent web of existence.

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

Our closing words are by Lauralyn Bellamy.

If here you have found freedom, take it with you into the world.
If you have found comfort, go and share it with others.
If you have dreamed dreams, help one another, that they may come true!
If you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.
Go in peace.