(Delivered at UUSF on June 10, 2018. Listen to the audio here.)
I haven't always felt welcome in religious communities. I was apprehensive when I first stepped into a UU church. But one of the first hymns I heard was ♫Wake, Now, My Senses and hear the earth call.♫ Much more so than reading the 7 principles or 6 sources or going to a new UU orientation, being a part of a congregation singing that song helped me understand what this community was about. There's reason, and recognition of privilege, and nature, and God, and humanity all mingled together, and when we joined our voices, I felt like I was a part of something bigger. Singing that song made me feel welcome.
So much of how I relate to this community and to this faith is through music -- even through jokes about music. I remember last year, Vanessa said that Unitarians are bad at singing because we're always reading the next verse to see if we agree with it. And when I heard that, I chuckled. And I thought to myself, "Oh good, I'm not the only one who does that!"
And I did always do that in the past because I was uncomfortable with the God language in some hymns. Even pretty innocuous stuff like "praise" and "divine" and "soul" felt jarring to me at first. ♫What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul.♫ I had to learn that this isn't just a community where we sing our own beliefs. We sing with each other, knowing that every person here has their own journey. So I changed. Instead of reading ahead to see whether a song is about my beliefs, I sing to be a part of this congregation and to support the people here.
I changed. And we are changing. Now we have the teal hymnals, and I was excited when we got them. They add new possibilities -- chances to learn things that are more complex. ♫We are our grandmothers' prayers, and we are our grandfathers' dreamings, we are the breath of our ancestors, we are the spirit of God.♫ Adding new songs and growing and changing is something we need to keep doing. Singing Wake, Now, My Senses made me feel welcome, and songs about God helped me learn to better respect people with different values and beliefs, but these songs aren't for everyone.
If we want to make more people feel welcome in this space, and if we want to support justice and diversity inside this congregation as well as in the rest of the world, then we need to continue our work of growing and changing. Thinking about the voices we don't hear as well as the songs we don't sing. And then, maybe we'll see someone new and invite them to ♫Come sing a song with us, that we might know your mind♫