I have been a member of First Parish for over 25 years. For most of that time I have been involved in choir – the adult choir as well as the short-lived family choir, not to mention a couple of sit-ins as a “ringer” in the bell choir. I have sat on various committees over the years including at least one stint on the music and worship committee and have been involved in multiple music director searches.
It is with these credentials that I stand before you to talk about music here at First Parish.
As with many church congregations, music plays an integral part in our life at First Parish. It is one of the many ways which connect us spiritually during services and other events. However, I believe perhaps it is our Unitarian Universalist humanistic and inclusive traits that make the music program here at First Parish even more wonderful and enriching. Sure, we embrace our share of sacred and classical music – much of our musical tradition is steeped in the rich history of Christian based liturgical compositions. However, we are so much more than that which is represented in those fragile, yellowing pages of ancient hymns penned by historic white European composers. Just take a look at our grey and teal hymnals. Yes, the traditional tunes are still there, though some would argue that the modernizing of text of some well know hymns are akin to blasphemy. However, isn’t it wonderful that our hymnals also include works from some of the many cultures and lands that make up our interdependent web of existence? And it’s not just our hymnals. Through the expert leadership of our music director Caroline Kinney, our brave and mighty First Parish choir frequently takes on the challenge of preparing and performing music from a vast array of genres including Gospel, African, Hebrew, Jazz, Pop and Broadway. Not too long ago I stood near this very spot and sang a jazz inspired ballad from the 1940’s. Does this variety diminish the spiritual experience in our meeting house? No, in fact I argue that it makes the experience that much richer. There is an incredible breadth of beautiful music from all over the world and we at First Parish are always willing to embrace it if it has the potential to connect with us spiritually in worship. I consider it a privilege to be part of this religious community that loves and appreciates music this way. So in closing, I wish you peace, and the hope that music and the spirit of life continue to sing in your heart.