Songs in Turbulent Times

The prophet, Miriam, Aaron's sister, took her tambourine with all the women/ playing tambourines and dancing! / Miriam sang for them. (Exodus15: 20-21)

The songs we sing say a lot about who we are and what we believe. The words and the music when stemming from deep inside our spirits are powerful expressions of emotions, faith and hope. I remember songs that still bring floods of memories, like my father singing along with Vera Lynn a WWII song: 'I'll be seeing you.'

Miriam led the women in song after the trauma of the flight from slavery and the overcoming of tremendous adversity. In turbulent times, Martin Luther King would call Mahalia Jackson and have her sing on the phone 'Precious Lord take my hand.' A people would chant the simple and powerful spiritual: 'We shall overcome some day!' 

As we hear gospel at SouthWest Sunday there will be the echo of the familiar and new rhythms as Norm Rennie leads us in the dance of faith and hope. We should come ready to join in the rhythm and beat of life, to sing a faith that both sustains and derails our lives. 

Last Sunday in New York State the United Church of Christ congregation sang the hymns of my childhood. I knew them all and sang the harmony I learned from Grandmother and Mother. Afterwards I reflected that while it was lovely there were no new words or music expressing the needs and concerns of the world we live in today. Familiar is not enough. We need the revolution justice songs and hymns that stir us to transformed and transforming lives. Faith must lead us to sing beside the Red Sea, in movements seeking justice and equality for all and in places where hunger of body prevents the listening to other needs or concerns. 

I long for the inclusion in worship of a myriad of musical styles, from the inherited hymns and spirituals of childhood to those born in more recent human struggles where faith seeks to understand where God is found in our lives and world today. 

I long for music/hymns/songs that shake the soul and force a conversion to health in our bodies, minds and world! 

An ancient text by Mechtild of Magdeburg set to music in Voices United #534 says:

'I cannot dance O Love, unless you lead me on/ I cannot leap in gladness unless you lift me up/ Love is the music round us, we glide as birds in air/ entwining soul and body, your wings hold us with care!'

May the beat of life, love and faith resonate in our lives and lead us with Miriam into newness and joy! 

Rev. David

PS. The music and mediums change: we are in an internet age that gives us opportunities and challenges. A new website and newsletter format is a work in progress from what we were to what we are becoming. God give us all patience and support for those leading us through these transitions! (Thank-you Jean-François and our office coordinator Amy).