Shaped By Our Stories

Published by AV Coordinator on

The Path Through Personal Stories to Shared Values and Collective Action – Rev. Michelle Scott-Huffman

The opening words are Come together in praise and thanksgiving, by Mary J Harrington.

We come together today in praise and thanksgiving
for the gift of life itself.
Someone gave birth to us and some of us have given birth.
All of us have been mothered in our time,
All of us have mothered.
Let our time today be one of recognition–
That we arrive from so many places,
Joy and delight,
Wistfulness and longing and worry,
Unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams,
Loss and sorrow, loss and emptiness,
loss and regret.
All that life is made of, mothers are made of too.
Today we sing the songs of so many,
Mothers who are single parents, foster parents,
mothers who relinquished their young
out of necessity,
Mothers who found their heart in adoption,
Mothers who left their children in a thousand ways,
Mothers who rejoice and mothers who mourn.
We sing the songs of the grandmother, the auntie, the classroom teacher, the Sunday School teacher, the babysitter, the neighbor with endless cookies and time.
There is a kind of love we cannot live without.
It is never too late, no matter our age or situation.
We sing a song of gratitude for all the moments
of being known, being cherished, being found.

Bright Morning Stars
Words: Anonymous
Music: American Folk Song, arr. James A. Lucas
Performed by Marilyn Day and Emily McKinney

The very first Mother’s day that I was at First UU, I got to sing this as part of the choir and remember loving it right away. The simple American folk harmonies felt like my own Appalachian roots were calling me home and it is a treat to return to it again as a duet with Marilyn.

In terms of origins/source/theology, this hymn is about as tricky to pin down as UUs themselves. As Rev. Kimberly Debus describes it here this hymn leads to “the inevitable rabbit hole of learning more about the origins of the song and its original lyrics and tune. Surely I could get there and enlighten us all.

There is no “there” there.

Origins are sketchy – maybe Appalachian, someone hinted at Native American, someone else wondered about the Shakers, still another pinned it back to Ireland. And lyrics are sketchier still – seems some versions have been lengthily written to talk more about Jesus as the bright morning star, other versions more grounded in work and toil. And of course, there’s a debate on whether it’s “bright morning star’s a-rising” or “bright morning stars are rising…”

So, no matter its origins, I enjoy the metaphorical language within it about our mothers sowing seeds of gladness and wonder how many mother figures, nurturers, teachers, wise friends, grandparents — whoever has filled that role for us — how many seeds of gladness they have all collectively sown into our lives. I imagine several of these dear people in my own life as I sing this and realize that each of us lives in the garden of our lives, so often sown with what we needed by those who nurtured us. I see the “seeds of gladness” abloom all around me because of each time I was parented by caring people in my life. I hope that this song allows you a similar moment of reflection: What seeds of gladness has someone planted and tended for you that are in full bloom today?

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

Simple Faith
Words and Music by David Tamulevich
Performed by Karla Gilmore, Rebecca Holt, and Eva Riebold
Used With Permission

It’s been about a year since we have heard this absolutely lovely (virtual) trio from Karla, Rebecca, and Eva and I am so excited to revisit it. It brings me back to a time when we could all sing together in the sanctuary and the dedicated church musicians of Into Our Years worked so hard to put together a lovely arrangement of this with several of the children at First UU. How we miss those days and appreciate the beauty of those experiences even more so now. This recording also brings me back to learning how to do basic audio editing last spring to allow things like trios to still exist in a virtual worship world. If I recall correctly, this was the first trio I ever edited together. Hearing it again causes me to pause and look back with so much gratitude for the last 15 months and all the ways this beautiful, beloved community has pulled together to keep taking care of each other with messages, songs, and service as we have navigated these challenging times together.

This song is such a clear and lovely encapsulation of what it means to be a UU for many of us and I am grateful Karla was able to secure permissions for use from the composer and bring this gem to our awareness. I especially appreciate that we get to hear it performed by three mothers in our congregation, and three people who have also mothered, nurtured, supported, and poured into me and so many others at First UU. Karla, Rebecca, and Eva have each done so much to grow my understanding of our simple faith and I am grateful. The quote from Connie Goodbread that our DRE, AJ Fox is fond of sharing with us sums it all up for me nicely: “Faith development is all we do. Everything we teach is Unitarian Universalism. The congregation is the curriculum.”

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

Tell Me a Story
Words and Music: Nancy Shimmel
Used with Permission
Performed by the First UU Virtual Choir

If this little song sounds familiar, it is because we also heard it last week. Much to my surprise, I heard from more than one person in the congregation that they wanted a chance to hear it again soon as we continued our services exploring the theme of Story. I was happy to share it again based on that feedback. Several of you have shared that it warmed your hearts to revisit your own experiences of either being a child seeking the comfort of stories, or being the storyteller to comfort a child. I personally love that even for adults, this song names why we might need stories – we’re too tired to (play, work, think, carry on) but it’s not yet time to (sleep, rest, reset) and various stories help us settle, get grounded, revive our imaginations, and we find ourselves “taken away” to the frame of mind we need at that moment. Stories are magical like that. I look forward to continuing to explore our stories together this month. Thank you again, choir, for lending your voices to this lovely bit of musical magic.

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

For All That Is Our Life
Music: Patrick L. Rickey
Words: Bruce Findlow
Performed by Jess Huetteman
Used with Permission

I’m so grateful our congregation decided to invest in the Soul Matters worship resources. This hymn is one that was suggested for this month’s theme of Story and I wouldn’t have even known about it to consider it in that context without that suggestion. I wasn’t very familiar with it, but I like it. Our lives are a story, made up of so many interwoven pieces, both incredible and mundane, torturous and delightful, and living together in a faith community like First UU can help us learn to how to gather up all those pieces of our stories and feel gratitude for all that is our life. I appreciate that this hymn seems to give me permission to hold and contemplate the high-minded stuff (life, birth, death, purpose, what’s the meaning of a human life?) and the everyday (work, remember to keep breathing, and what do you want for dinner??) and hold all these elements of our stories as meaningful and worthy of attention and thanksgiving.

As usual, Rev. Kimberly Debus has a great reflection on this hymn that you can enjoy here:

PS: The lyrics are a little tricky to hear in the recording that UUA gave us permission to share, so the lyrics will be posted to the chatbox on Sunday morning.

– Emily McKinney, Music Director

The closing words are a quote from Neil Gaiman.

Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

And I (Rev. Michelle) would add, and then tell the story so that you might inspire and empower others to do the same, but in the way that only they can.