Remembering Pete Seeger, Boomers in the pews, and more

Remembering Pete Seeger

For the Rev. Dan Harper, who serves as a minister of religious education, “Pete Seeger’s greatest strength was his ability to sing for children and young people.”

When he sang, he taught about big concepts like justice and human rights and racism and social inequality—he taught all these big concepts in a way that a six year old could understand them. His infectious songs and style of singing ensured that the children and young people who heard him sing would remember the lessons he taught for a long, long time. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 29)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar points to Seeger’s whole-hearted living.

He was extraordinary, but here’s what strikes me. Anybody who really wanted to could do what he did. . . . What was so incredible about Pete Seeger was not any singular gift or talent. What we celebrate, what we remember, was not a man who could do things no other person could, but rather a man who spent his whole very long life walking with a whole heart toward what he believed in. (Quest for Meaning, January 29)

The Rev. Dan Schatz, whose musical mentors were “the children of Pete,” had the privilege of working with Seeger.

Pete was a Unitarian Universalist, and I’m sure he is one of the reasons I went into the UU ministry. It wasn’t anything he ever said to me—instead it was the lessons I learned listening to those records and singing his songs. I learned to care about ordinary people, to value freedom and justice, to work for what is right no matter how daunting it seems, to bring people together, to listen and value the voices of others. (The Song and the Sigh, January 28)

For the Rev. Kit Ketcham, Seeger’s songs gave voice to her changing theology as a young adult.

Pete changed my life. His songs were meaningful without being religious, at least according to my Baptist upbringing, and when I found him, I was looking (mostly subconsciously) for meaning, not doctrine. . . .

His songs were about basics:  love of natural things, love of humankind, respect for creation, healing of wounds, peace across the earth, and, most of all, how singing together can create this vision of one world. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, January 28)

The Rev. Peter Boullata points to Seeger as an important vocational influence.

For me, his was the voice that activated something in my soul, something that longed to connect with others in solidarity and community in the struggles for freedom. That called me deeper into a life of activism. And that helped me find my voice. (Held in the Light, January 28)

Seeger’s were the first songs the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford heard as a child, and they carried her through difficult times in adulthood.

I was a grown-up, a mother of 4, and still Rev. Pete provided pastoral care to me. . . . Ultimately, I believed that Love was lord of heaven and earth. No matter what happened, no matter disease, no matter death, no matter the Big Muddy, no matter the hate that swirls around us … ultimately, there is a Greater Hope. (Boots and Blessings, January 29)

Not just Boomers in the pews

Seeger’s death prompted a social media discussion among UUs about “generational mourning,” and the hashtag #NotJustBoomersInPews.

Though she will include remembrances of Seeger in this Sunday’s service in her congregation, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum challenges our assumptions.

What I think we should be careful of, however, is assuming that everybody likes Pete Seeger, that everybody knows who he was and why he’s important to us politically and culturally, and that everybody is mourning his death. (Rev. Cyn, January 30)

For the Rev. Tom Schade, the generational “civil war” about Seeger’s importance reflects UU shame about the failures of progressive activism.

Some of us are adoring Pete Seeger this weekend; some are impatient, and even revulsed, by the nostalgia for the 60’s, folk music and all that foolishness. . . .

The best way to honor Pete Seeger is not by a sentimental tributes, but by a clear-eyed look to the history of the radical, reform and religiously liberal movements of last 50 years. Once in a while, we make history, but most of the time, history makes us. (The Lively Tradition, January 30)

Shawna Foster reminds us that for many in our congregations, Boomers are not parents who spark rebellion, but rather cool, fun-to-be-with grandparents—and even great-grandparents.

I think it surprises people to learn that they could be (and some are) great-grandparents, tearing up over Seeger and wondering what the kids running around now really know what it means to be Waist Deep in the Big Muddy. I didn’t—until I spent some time with my rad, rad, rad, grandparents.  People are living longer, and I think my generation should be—and is—taking advantage of it. (Vessel, January 30)

Be horrified

Andrew Mackay reminds us that the horrors of the Syrian civil war have not gone away.

It makes sense to become acclimated, to see this as just more torture, more murder, more war. But that is an injustice to those that suffer and die. Be horrified, be disgusted. It’s how things get changed. (Unspoken Politics, January 28)

The Rev. Meredith Garman, as part of a series on “the Eco-Spiritual Challenge,” paints a sobering picture of a radically changed planet.

Environmental writer Bill McKibben argues that the planet we knew, that our great-grandparents and their great-grandparents knew, is gone. Old Earth was great, but it is gone. Yes, the old Earth had occasional disasters, too. It’s the pace of them now that is the fact of life on our new planet. (The Liberal Pulpit, January 29)

Entrusted with the work of love

The Rev. Dr. Michael Tino and the Rev. Meg Riley shared the pulpit at the ordination of the Rev. Lara Campbell.  Their sermons focused on the words of Olympia Brown, who wrote, “Do not demand immediate results but rejoice that we are worthy to be entrusted with this great message.”

Tino’s sermon focused on the work of religious community during a time of increased reliance on social media.

Our modern-day hyper-connectivity requires of us the same bold rethinking of church that the isolation of the Plains inspired in the Iowa Sisterhood.  And interestingly, I think that the answers to both problems are similar.

Just as the Iowa sisterhood responded to their physical isolation by creating space for the depth of connection, we can respond to the shallowness of modern connection by creating communities in which people come to know real relationship. (UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester, January 27)

Riley called the congregation to imagine the possibilities of “a Spiritual Union . . . [and] spiritual collective bargaining.”

I love Unitarian Universalism, and I love the way that our congregations are self-determining and unique, but I believe in those old songs that I was raised on, about how “The Union makes us strong.” I take to heart those words in our hymnal from Dr. Martin Luther King, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” And I say, when do we realize that we are that garment, instead of behaving as if our purpose on the planet is to pull apart the threads?

What might we do if we embodied a place of spiritual union with one another? (Quest for Meaning, January 26)

The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford urges us to “love the hell out of the world.”

The hell is all around, and we work, in great passionate swoops and in slow, plodding routines, to put that extravagant love into action and remove all the bits of it from the world. Misery, ill health, disease, viciousness of greed in the face of want, voices that shout hate or whisper meanness, soul-eating addiction, humiliation, despair, injustice that curls up nastily, poisoning the spirit of giver and receiver . . . we do not flee.

Bone-chillingly afraid we may be, but we step forward. We are the only form love will take and the work is ours to do. (Boots and Blessings, January 27)

Tim Atkins, responding to Riley’s sermon and Crawford’s blog post, celebrates UU prophetic leaders, but also reminds us that UUism needs faithful followers, living discipleship in their daily lives.

How are we teaching what it means to be a faithful follower? We want to teach our children (and adults) to be leaders, but when leadership also means the first follower—how do we teach essential discipleship? (Tim Atkins, January 27)

Believing what we must

Adrian Hilliard takes on the myths that UUs don’t believe anything, or that we can believe whatever we want.

Being a Unitarian Universalist is a tough job. We have to figure out what we must believe, many of us by learning from what others believe and sifting out the things that don’t evoke in our spirits a sense of the Divine, while retaining those things that do.. (UUXMNR, January 25)

“Buddhagan,” appreciates Hilliard’s comment that “Unitarian Universalists believe what we must.”

Sometimes I think for a millisecond of trying to be a Jehovah’s Witness again. But I can’t. I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge. I cannot unlearn what I’ve learn. I believe what I must. If my current beliefs have flaws, then I will change them. (Buddhagan, January 27)