There is an old Unitarian Universalist joke which suggests that we UU’s don’t sing hymns well because we’re always reading ahead to see if we agree with the words. Luckily at BuxMont, the first part of that joke falls flat because the congregation clearly enjoys singing our songs and hymns. I hope that the latter part is also not as true for most of us as well. It helps to sing from the heart and spirit, and to save the critical reasoning for before or after the music.
Singing connects us with the spirit of the song, and through that connection to the spirit of the people who created the song, and who sing it from their own belief. Singing in community is one way we connect with each other while we each follow our own spiritual pathways. The diversity of our pathways is reflected in the diversity of our songs. “O Brother Sun” (Pagan), “Precious Lord” (Christian), “Come, Come Whoever You Are” (Sufi Muslim),” Let It Be a Dance”(Humanist), “Shalom Havayreem” (Jewish), “Be Ye Lamps Unto Yourselves” (Buddhist) and “Standing on the Side of Love” (Unitarian Universalist) all reflect this wonderful diversity. By singing songs from each other’s pathways, we gain a deeper understanding of each other.
There are definitely times for the critical reasoning part of us to reflect on this music. As we plan a service we seek to weave our songs into the fabric of the larger service. We consciously think of how the cultural and spiritual aspects of a song are part of that tapestry. For some services we draw from a wide range of musical sources, for others we focus more on one or two traditions. And as each of us reflects on a service we have experienced, thinking about the songs that touched us, and perhaps those that troubled us, allow us to engage with both our emotional and our rational selves. Talking with each other about our differing experiences of the music can help us know one another better.
Music is by its very essence in the moment – it is sound dancing through time. As we create music, we too are swept into the ever changing now, dancing from beat to beat, note to note, and word to word. Our brains need to be engaged, but we must also engage our breath, our spirit, our heart, our community and our voice to sing through the eternal now of the song.
When we make music together in community, we strengthen and celebrate the many facets of our Fellowship. Join in the song!