MUSIC NOTES, by Catherine Massey
The following is an excerpt from my reflections on my 20-year music ministry here, as shared in worship on January 27th:
Recently the Rev. Kathleen McTigue, President of the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, dropped by during choir rehearsal. We pulled out the piece based on her words—“May the Light Around Us Guide Our Footsteps”—and sang it for her. The next day I emailed Sister Ester at Bethel Second Baptist Church to tell her the choir’s selections for the annual Spirituals concert next month. And another day this week I let Beth Norton, Jason Shelton, and Sarah Dan Jones know we are using their music on this special day. These illustrate some of the highlights of my life in this music ministry, and how much I and we have grown since my journey here began 20 years ago.
When the choir sings, they create a special community…
I believe I was called to music as a ministry here. I believe my calling is to promote and support joy, wholeness and action in community through music. When our congregation sings together, we are healthy, empowered and connected through our breath and voices. We are unified through sound, even as we celebrate diversity through the styles and sources of music we choose to sing and hear. When the choir sings, they create a special community which serves our church’s mission with their work. When other musicians in our congregation share their talents with the congregation, we are all enriched, and we learn something about them. The music we make connects us to each other, and to those in the wider community.
If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.
Music can empower us all. I believe that, especially in our culture, we each need to reclaim the joyous right to sing. In Zimbabwe there is a proverb that says “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” There is no thought that anyone “can’t”—all are included in the dance and the song. In our culture we have many damaged people—those told they “can’t sing.” I believe there is real harm in that message. I continue to endeavor to create a safe space here, where everyone has permission to sing, no matter what they think they sound like, or what others might think. It is important.
Music is one of our best tools for not just tolerating diversity, but celebrating it. It is one thing to say we are welcoming of others. It is quite another to sing in their language, whether literally or figuratively…Through songs like “All Lifted Hearts” we embody our Unitarian Universalist ideal of embracing the wisdom in many religions and cultures. This is something we do here intentionally, and it is powerful.
Catherine Massey, Director of Music
UUMN Credentialed Music Leader