Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda
news of our historic UU church in Ruthven (Kingsville), Ontario

Essential

April 26th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #16 ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Words: Joseph Bracket, 18th cent.
Music: American Shaker tune
(Tune SIMPLE GIFTS)

Tune Simple Gifts interpreted by Rod Smith

’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free,
’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
’till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Reflection for All Ages – Thank U Frontlines – Chris Mann inspired by Alanis Morissette

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

This week we keep the people of Nova Scotia in mind, as people across Canada struggle to make sense of the deadliest shooting in Canadian history. We also remember that, similarly to the École Polytechnique massacre, gender-based violence seems to be a factor.

Flags have been flown at half-mast this week, and they will be again on Tuesday, in recognition of Workers’ Memorial Day, which commemorates workers who have been killed on the job. While worker safety has always been important, given the events of the last week, and of the last couple of months, we are given a stronger call to remember every worker who faces hazard in performing their duties.

Meditation Hymn #352 Find a Stillness

~)-| Words: Carl G. Seaburg, 1922-1998, based on a Unitarian Transylvanian text,
© 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Transylvanian hymn tune,
~)-| harmony by Larry Phillips, 1948- , © 1992 Unitarian Universalist Association
(Tune SIGISMUND)

Interpreted by the First Unitarian Church of Chicago

1 Find a stillness, hold a stillness, let the stillness carry me.
Find the silence, hold the silence, let the silence carry me.
In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,
I will find true harmony.

2 Seek the essence, hold the essence, let the essence carry me.
Let me flower, help me flower, watch me flower, carry me.
In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,
I will find true harmony.

Offering

Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

Beware of e-mails that ask you for money online. Neither the minister nor the treasurer, nor anyone from the church will ask you to send money to an account by e-mail. And we will never ask you to send us your credit card number or your e-mail credentials (like username or password).

Any “urgent” appeal to you for money on behalf of the church should be seen as suspicious.

Reading – “Circle of Friends” in Sum by David Eagleman

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist who also writes speculative fiction. In his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, he explores forty hypothetical scenarios, as thought experiments set in speculative afterlives. These often expose deeper truths about our current lives.

This link has an excerpt with his first four stories – our Reading “Circle of Friends” is the third story on this page.

Video Reading – You Clap for Me Now – The Guardian (2:11 minutes)

This is an homage to essential workers that are also immigrants in the United Kingdom.

Sermon – Essential – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read:

[PDF for Download here]

In this prime time for home streaming of movies, shows, and music, it has been interesting to see the how pop culture has adapted to the realities of the pandemic. In early March, it only took a few days for singer Lady Gaga’s latest music video Stupid Love, to be parodied into the song Stupid Cough, about coping with the latest aspects of our lives. I’ll add that both of these videos were remarkably fun to watch.

The American singer, Chris Mann, made an entire cottage industry out of parodying pop music songs and adapting them to reflect our emerging culture in the wake of this year’s pandemic.

Many of these parodies are intended to bring a measure of humour during this difficult time. One of his parodies, however, is more of an homage… a reinterpretation of Canadian singer Alanis Morissette’s classic Thank U. Alanis Morissette’s original song is an act of thanksgiving to the many people and places that have made her life what it is. Chris Mann’s Thank U Frontline kept the thanksgiving theme and adapted the song for this time, seeking to recognize as many workers as he could think of.

The question of who is an essential worker is a tricky one. When the government of Ontario first came up with a list of essential workers who were allowed to work outside the home, the list went on for 74 items… and many of those items included several sub-categories. A lot of people were considered essential.

This wasn’t without some controversy. It was noted that some types of work catered only to some very special interests, rather than fundamental infrastructure for our society to function.

At the same time, one might note that several roles were not in that list. This is partly because some of these are not remunerated, such as stay-at-home parents, but at a deeper level, it is also because the question of what is essential, hinges on who it is essential to.

The Ontario essential workers list has since been revised. Some kinds of work, such as construction on certain projects has been deemed less urgent, when balanced against the priority of reducing the spread of disease. But the question lingers about what it is that we need for us to go about our lives, to live, to survive, to thrive. Each of these is a slightly different question. Each is important.

When Chris Mann parodied Alanis Morissette, he went over a large span of occupations – and roles. From the very evident healthcare workers, to the store clerks, truck drivers, sanitation workers, teachers, stay-at-home parents. Some of these have historically been less glamourized, and yet we are more deeply aware of how vital these all are for communities.

When Chris Mann names appreciating all that we take for granted, he specifies what that is – everything.

Really, all workers that make our life what it is, are often – in some way – unrecognized at different points in our lives… people who do things that we don’t know how to do, or we don’t want to do, or didn’t even know needed to be done.

In his short story “Circle of Friends”, speculative writer David Eagleman observes that the people we know, who already offer so much in our lives, are still a tiny fraction of the folks who make our life what we know it to be.

My friends, over the past couple months, you will have heard a word come up increasingly often and increasingly broadly – heroes. It is being applied to an exponentially growing category of people – and rightly so. There are millions of people who are risking their lives every day. Some went into their work knowing the risks; some knew it was risky, but it is know even riskier; some never thought it would involve potentially lethal risk; and some just need to get the work done, no matter what, because they have a duty – duty to themselves, duty to their family, or duty their communities.

I’m not worried about over-using the word heroes. I know that, if anything, I’m underusing it, overlooking people whom I don’t know, and might never be aware of how they are part of my life.

As the National Worker’s Day of Mourning draws near this Tuesday, April 28, I am reminded that the people who are making a living, in my local community and my global community, are always giving of themselves, sometimes at great, clear and present risk, and other times with unexpected dangers, or at the expense of other parts of their lives.

With some of the things we’re doing without these days, we are also getting a grasp for another dimension to this question of what is essential in our lives – another one of the revelations of this special time.

As we see our spending habits shift, we are also getting clarity on those things that we really really need, as opposed to those that we thought we wanted… but upon consideration, probably don’t make the impact in our lives that we have made them out to do.

Travel for commuting has decreased noticeably over the past several weeks, and with that, air pollution. Some of it has been out of necessity, and will return over the next year. Some, it is now clear, may simply be unnecessary, and many things could be done differently to carry out our daily business, with a smaller impact on our environment.

The David Eagleman’s story “Circle of Friends”, which I offered as a reading, is a thought experiment in awareness about the people who we don’t often think of, and what would happen if we suddenly found ourselves in a reality where the only people in our lives were the people we actually remember, leading us to eventually miss the vital contributions of people we have never met.

This year, we are taking part in a somewhat similar, real-life experiment. Professor Paul Monks, from the University of Leicester declares that “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest scale experiment ever seen” in relation to observing our suddenly-reduced impact on the environment. This experiment, I might add, also includes considering those things we can do with less, as well as the people who we cannot do without.

There are services that are not on the Ontario government’s list, which we are still missing. Things like grooming services that cater to our sense of dignity, and which are nonetheless not considered a matter of life and death. Even medical supports that are important to our own sense of well-being are sometimes taking the backseat to the more pressing question of the pandemic. And yet, these have an essential quality, that is sometimes difficult to express.

My friends, there are intangible things that we are becoming more aware of – our sense of freedom, our tactile sense of community, our sense of security in livelihood, or even in our expectations of daily routine. These are things that are both secondary to public health, and yet essential to our long-term sense of self and community.

What does this mean? I am not going to give you a final pronouncement on what is categorically essential and what is not. If we were to draw up a list, we will likely disagree on some specific items.

My friends, the deeper revelation, is on the clearer truth that is being exposed to us – that many of the things that we’ve brought ourselves to rely on, may not be nearly as essential as we’ve made ourselves to think, while others we rarely think of are far more essential than we may have imagined, and that we are much more essential to each other than we might realize.

For all of you, and all the people in our lives, we are thankful.
So may it be.
Amen

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

Closing Hymn – #67 We Sing Now Together

~)-| Words: Edwin T. Buehrer, 1894-1969, alt © Unitarian Universalist Association
Music: Adrian Valerius’s Netherlandtsch Gedenckclanck, 1626,
arr. by Edward Kremser, 1838-1914
(Tune KREMSER)

Interpretation of Kremser Tune by organpipe8

1 We sing now together our song of thanksgiving,
rejoicing in goods which the ages have wrought,
for life that enfolds us, and helps and heals and holds us,
and leads beyond the goals which our forebears once sought.

2 We sing of the freedoms which martyrs and heroes
have won by their labor, their sorrow, their pain;
the oppressed befriending, our ampler hopes defending,
their death becomes a triumph, they died not in vain.

3 We sing of the prophets, the teachers, the dreamers,
designers, creators, and workers, and seers;
our own lives expanding, our gratitude commanding,
their deeds have made immortal their days and their years.

4 We sing of community now in the making
in every far continent, region, and land;
with those of all races, all times and names and places,
we pledge ourselves in covenant firmly to stand.


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