Come sing a song with me / What’s a sacred text?

Dear UUCPA folks,

For many of us, singing together is one of the great pleasures of Sunday services. If you’re one of those folks, this Sunday is the day you’ve been waiting for. Thanks to a rising vaccination rate, a dropping infection rate, and my growing comfort with creating outdoor services, the Hybrid Services Task Force agreed today that we will space chairs out 10′ in order to make congregational singing safe. So come prepared to sing on Sunday!

Masks are still necessary. In fact, a chart we saw at Friday’s Hybrid Services Task Force meeting shows a vast difference in a person’s risk of getting COVID from another, depending on which masks they are each wearing, from a typical cloth mask (least protection) to a fit-tested N95 or KN95 (most protection). There is no way to bring the risk down to zero, but wearing an N95/KN95 or a surgical mask lowers it considerably for you and the people around you. Please do all you can to reduce the risk, and weigh carefully what is safe for you and your household.

Now we just have to hope it doesn’t rain on Sunday, because while we might sing “Come walk in rain with me,” our sound equipment prefers to stay dry, so the in-person service will be cancelled if it rains Sunday morning. If in doubt, check the service webpage before leaving home. (The 11 a.m., online service will continue regardless of the weather.)

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I’ve been asked recently what is meant by a sacred text, as in the Sacred Text Reading Groups that meet on Wednesday and Saturday. One of the hallmarks of Unitarian Universalism is that we are skeptical of the customary distinction between the sacred and the ordinary. A reading during the service might come from a text commonly considered sacred, such as the Bible or the Tao te Ching, but it’s just as likely to come from a secular source such as a poem or essay. If we can glean wisdom, insight, hope, comfort, or moral guidance from it, then it is sacred. Merriam-Webster concurs: something is sacred if it is “entitled to reverence and respect” or “highly valued and important.”

Really, it’s what we put into the written words, and what we take from them, that makes them important and compels our respect and reverence. In the Sacred Text groups, I’m often pleasantly surprised by the way a passage that had had me scratching my head when I read it on my own reveals something beautiful and true in the course of our conversation. It’s almost as if the words themselves are just the soil in which something precious grows. So this week’s words come from a serious short story by Alice Munro and a comic novel by Tom Robbins, and I know that something sacred–valued, important, and deserving of reverence and respect–will happen in our hour with them and with each other.

I hope that helps!