One of the most beloved songs we sing as Unitarian Universalists is the song Sprit of Life by Carolyn McDade. In it, the singers beckon the arrival of a spirit that touches the soul and builds in us something of use to the world. As with so many of the most powerful images and experiences, the image of a spirit working in our lives is not new. In fact, the word “spirit” comes from the Latin root spiritus which means “breath.” And some of the oldest translations of some of the most ancient texts from across our globe, long before Latin was even a glimmer in a linguist’s eye, see a first breath as the beginning of all creation. The first breath is the beginning of something new.
On Thursday evening at 7 pm, something new will take place here at church. A community of voices, gathering to bring joy and transformative worship experiences to their fellow community members will convene for the first time. What I have lovingly dubbed our “pick-up” choir will work together to prepare music to share this coming Sunday. If you can take part in this, wonderful! If you are more of a supporter from the pews, also wonderful!
I wrote last week about the importance of raising our voices together when we are called on to do so. And that is why one of the important spiritual gifts of witnessing or taking part in a choir is the experience of raising our voices more regularly in ways that enrich the lives of those witnessing the experience. Of course we raise our voices in a chorus for justice, but we also raise our voices for the subtle, tender tones of connection to one another. And out of this experience can arise deeper, stronger connections between one other, of course. But connections also start to grow between how we seek justice in the wider world and how we understand our relationship to each other.
If you plan to come and sing on Thursday, I ask that before you even look at a rhythm or think about a pitch, consider what it is you are doing. Consider that you are uniting in an ancient rite, converting your breath into a new creation, an act that calls upon the forces at work in our bodies and those forces at work in the universe to work together. And Sunday morning, I ask that before you bend an ear to listen to this creation, consider what it is that you are doing. Consider that you are receiving a precious, once-in-a-lifetime gift from your friends—a gift that they spent hours weaving, shaping, and balancing just for you.
A blessing is only a blessing when it is shared. What we will share together are the twin blessings of offering a gift and receiving a gift. And with all my soul I hope for each one of us that in the giving and in the receiving we will experience the blessing of being present at the beginning of something extraordinary, something extravagantly gracious, but most of all, something breathlessly and exquisitely new.
And may it ever be so.