“Last Night / Auld Lang Syne”

Photo Credit: Roven Images via Unsplash

Tonight people around the world will sing “Auld Lang Syne,” a 1788 poem by Robert Burns. It’s a song that invites memories of good times with friends–not just in the past year, but throughout our lives. A literal translation of the Scots phrase is “old long since,” meaning “days gone by.”   Burns’ version comes from a long oral tradition, dating back as least as far as 1588. His lyrics of this drinking song spread across Scotland through its inclusion in the Scottish New Year celebration of Hogmanay.  Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians helped popularize the song in North America, and for decades it’s been played in Time’s Square after the ball drops.

I’ve put together a video for Noel Stookey’s adapation of the song, which he and George Emlen arranged as “Last Night / Auld Lang Syne.”  About it he says,

For the past 4 years or so on New Year’s Eve in Blue Hill, a large group of townsfolk gather in the Congregational Church to bid farewell to the old year with poetry and song.  My good friend (and former musical director of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, group Revels), George Emlen and I felt that a counter melody to “Auld Lang Syne” would make a nice musical statement as well as a metaphoric intertwining of the old year/new year.  The search for its perfect lyric is probably not over yet – but on my holiday CD Somethin’ Special, I wanted to at least get the concept out among folks to sing.

Tonight in Blue Hill, Noel and George will again be leading the townsfolk in their “Last Night / Auld Lang Syne” and celebrating old friends and new friends with their song.  With this video I wish you a happy new year filled with joy, peace, and the warmth of friends.

“There’s Still My Joy”

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Since we lost our daughter in 2013, the holidays have been difficult to navigate.   Though I may like the tunes, songs like”Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Home for the Holidays” will always ring hollow.   Last year when Noel Stookey released his album Somethin’ Special, I was drawn to this beautiful song by Melissa Manchester about finding peace and joy in spite of loss.  Putting together this slide show to accompany Noel’s interpretation was healing for me, and I hope that if you’re grieving a loss–whether that be the loss of a loved one or of health or of your most treasured dream–you will find the space and freedom in this song to find and claim a reason for joy.

For the Love of It All

For the love of God's Creaiton

Photo credit: Sarah Ogletree

I found this image through the Facebook page of Interfaith Power and Light, a national faith-based environmental group.  It’s one of many prepared by Sarah Ogletree  and offered in a media toolkit for faith communities through website of strikewithus.org (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1_Oflxq9qzHGhqLdTKlaMdMBLC_t_ULCu).  She has designed graphics to include many objects of love:  farms, farmers, deserts, mountains, neighbors, children, families, oceans, youth, pollinators, rivers, “this world,” “those not yet born,” islands, and communities.  If we love any or all of these creatures, these living beings, we have a reason to do what we can to help them live and flourish. Continue reading

Can I Get a Get a Witness?: Cesar Chavez and Peter, Paul, and Mary

Cesar Chavez

Can I Get a Witness?-Chavez

During Lent I’m participating in a study of  Can I Get  a Witness?:  Thirteen Peacemakers, Community-Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice, created through the Project on Lived Theology  at the University of Virginia and edited by Shea Tuttle, Charles Marsh, and Daniel Rhodes.   Released last week, the book presents the stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture.

These stories of social activists, such as Howard Thurman, Dorothy Day, and William Stringfellow, shed light on the spiritual motivation for their work for justice.  The first chapter is about Cesar Chavez, the organizer of “the first farm-worker union in a struggle for justice that took on the industry of agribusiness.”  Daniel Rhodes writes,  “Chavez always understood the movement to be about more than wages or contracts; it was a spiritual campaign.  For him, the work of the union was woven inextricably in a fabric of religious significance.  Jesus was with them, and in their struggle and sacrifices they were a part of his kingdom, his people.  It was nearly sacramental–eucharistic.”

Chavez’s story, as well as the others in Can I Get a Witness?, in of particular interest to me because I’m collaborating on a book with and about Noel Paul Stookey–the “Paul” of Peter, Paul, and Mary, a singer-songwriter and activist whose faith and social justice commitment have be integrated both in his work with the trio and in his career as a solo artist.   I share stories of Chavez’s connection with the trio.

In the 1960s Chavez and his co-leader in the United Farm Workers (UFW) organized a national boycott of grapes to draw attention to the exploitation of farm workers by mega-farm corporations.  Sympathetic to the cause, the trio was invited to perform in a Carnegie Hall concert to  support the UFW.   Noel and Peter write,  “Milton Glaser, the internationally acclaimed graphic designer who  . . . created all of the graphics for our record albums, stationery, and many other projects, asked his colleague, Paul Davis,  . . . to create the now famous image of a young Hispanic boy that was featured in the poster for the concert”  [1].  You can view the poster “Viva Chavez, viva la causa, viva la huelga” on the website of the Library of Congress.

Later, Chavez was among the people who invited Peter, Paul, and Mary to join in Survival Sunday, a 1978 concert in the Hollywood Bowl to protest the start up of a power plant in Northern California, built next to the San Andreas earthquake fault.

In 1997 the trio’s manager Martha Hertzberg called on them to  join in efforts  in Watsonville, CA, to organize strawberry workers, whose health was being affected by pesticides, who were having to work in fields that lacked potable water and toilet facilities, and who were greatly underpaid.  She partnered with Arturo Rodriguez, Chavez’s son-in-law, to organize a benefit concert and a trip to the strawberry fields of Watsonville to increase public awareness of the situation [2]. They sang Woody Guthrie’s song Deportee” about migrant workers [3].

Peter and Noel wrote, “Seldom had an audience touched us so deeply.  In some heart-to-heart exchanges with the United Farm Workers’ leaders, we found out what you cannot know from the printed page or from secondhand descriptions:  Theirs was a struggle for survival under  the constant shadow of illness, hunger, and possible death due to horrific working conditions, virtually no health services, and miserably low pay.”    They noted that efforts to improve conditions for the workers were “largely successful”:  “It was the legacy of Cesar Chavez, who changed the consciousness of American about some of our most forgotten and cruelly exploited workers.  Woody Guthrie spoke of these workers in the lyrics of Pastures of Plenty’:  ‘Pull beets from your ground, cut grapes from your vine, to set on your table that bright, sparkling wine.’  In Watsonville, we had come full circle from the ’60s to the ’90s.  The struggle for fairness and justice for the poor was, is, and, alas, will continue to be ongoing”  [4]

 

 

[1] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.

[2] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.

[2]  This version from the PBS Lifelines special includes Tom Paxton.

[4] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.

 

 

Songs for My UM Sisters & Brothers

GC  #2

UMC General Conference      Photo by Deborah Austin

I’ve put together some songs for my UM sisters and brothers who are in pain, shock, grief, anger, and dismay after General Conference.  I’ve seen links you’ve posted to help you deal with the complex emotional impact of what we have witnessed this week.  Then I’ve posted some of my own.  These are not one-size-fits-all songs, but I hope that you’ll find something here to that suits the place where you find yourself.

These three posted by friends give a sample of the emotional roller coaster that progressives and centrists have been on this week.

Kathy Mattea’s Mercy Now , written by Mary Gauthier,  announces that  the church  could use “a little mercy now.”

Let off some steam by singing Jigsaw’s  Sky High  to General Conference:  Our love had wings to fly  / We could have touched the sky / You’ve blown it all sky high/

Hear the comfort from Norm Lewis singing Stephen Sondheim’s  No One Is Alone:  Someone is on your side / No one is alone.

So those are the links from some of you, and these are the ones sounding through my head:

Let It Fall by Over the Rhine:

When you’re down so low 
You feel the imprint of the ground
On skin
Look around 
Breathe in

Find comfort in Carrie Newcomer’s Sanctuary

Will you be my refuge
My haven in the storm,
Will you keep the embers warm
When my fire’s all but gone

And find courage in her You Can Do This Hard Thing.

Here are two songs that remind us of the struggle to honor the presence and the gifts of LGBTQIA people in our society and in our church.   I know that many of you have been immersed in Holly Near’s  Singing for Our Lives . (You won’t want to miss the PBS American Masters tonight celebrating Near’s life and work.)    You may not know Thea Hopkins’ Jesus on the Wire,  which she dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard.

When you’re feeling introspective, try Susan Werner’s Did Trouble Me , and when you’re angry, try her (Why Is Your) Heaven So Small?

I find in Noel Paul Stookey’s One and Many encouragement for an expansive vision of God’s love, one that we need at this time.

We live in the same house, on different floors
I got my window. and you got yours
We’ve each got a door that leads to the hall
But the rooms are so cozy and the door is so small

One FLAME; many candles
One SKY; many stars
One SEA; many rivers 
One LOVE…so many hearts

Be it so.

Please share songs that you are listening to.