Monday, August 30, 2010

"Can't You Sit Still?"

Yesterday, I was too warm at the 9 am service at my hUUge congregation and could not get comfortable. Being in a hurry before leaving home, I had not put my hair up, which was adding to my feeling too warm.

As soon as the service ended, an older woman sitting behind me asked, "Can't you sit still?"

"What?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"Can't you sit still? You were moving all around during the service and flipping your hair. I was so distracted that I couldn't concentrate on the service."

"No, I can't sit still. I always fidget," I said, quite surprised by the rudeness of this woman, a fellow member of my congregation.

"Then I'll be careful not to sit behind you in the future."

WTF? I was quite upset, and so was my spouse when I told him what happened. As Unitarian Universalists, there are certain truths that we have been taught. One is that you cannot change someone else's behavior, only your own. Another is that we are different than each other, but that difference is to be accepted, perhaps even celebrated. A third is that we are an inclusive faith, welcoming the stranger as ourselves.

Her response was one of such entitlement and arrogance -- she was distracted, so I needed to behave differently. I would hope that most people at a worship service, if bugged by a another congregant's movement, would take a few deep breaths and try to ignore the situation. If that doesn't work, simply get up and move to a different seat. At my church, now that we have a lovely, large auditorium, we have plenty of chairs to choose from.

This incident has me thinking more about how much different cultures view the body. Some cultures do put a high value on being quiet and subdued and keeping the body still. In certain cultures, it has long been thought barbaric or sinful to yield to bodily needs. In contrast, I put a high value on physical comfort. When my body has what it needs, I feel alert, happy and ready to engage fully with my surroundings. If it doesn't, my priority is to get comfortable.

Here's to being more accepting of those who participate in worship differently.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

UU Variety Show Now on the Web!

Upper Midwestern Modest: A Pretty Good Revue is finally on the UUA's GA website!

We waited two whole months for this to appear, so General Assembly is a distant memory for some. About 200 people saw this late-night performance that features folks from First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI. We had a lot of fun putting the show together.

Since our performance, Abby and Lauri got married and went on a honeymoon, Amber Nicole stole the show as the mother in the musical Harold and the Purple Crayon, Joe Harris and Melissa Simonson headlined a concert, and we finally had our UMM cast party last Saturday!

I hope you enjoy our pretty-good revue.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Goodbye, UU Musicians Network Conference attendees!

The UU Musicians Network conference ended yesterday morning with 120 of the attendees singing at the 9 am service at FUS of Madison, directed by Dr. Stephen Alltop. The special music was "Little Elegy" by Stephen Paulus -- a piece commissioned by the UUMN. The choir also sang Bach's "Dona Nobis Pacem," Rutter's "Down By the Riverside" and "Deep River" by Andrew Paulsson.

"Deep River" filled me with the holy spirit and connected me with the divine. I wanted to throw my hands in the air, but since I'd already had my hands in the air for the hymn "There Is more Love Somewhere," I thought I'd better not do it again. :-) And, I would have clapped on 2 & 4 all during "Riverside" if I had been 100% sure of avoiding 1 & 3. Anyway, the music was sublime!

It was such a wonderful gift and an honor to host this conference. I encourage all UU congregations who are mid-size and larger to host the UU Musicians Network conference. The 2010 conference had about 240 attendees, so perhaps it would be difficult for a small congregation to host this.

Thanks to FUS Music Director Dan Broner and especially to Assistant Music Director Linda Warren for organizing this conference.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crashing the UU Musicians Network Conference

I'm volunteering a little, but having a ball! For example, I volunteered to drive Dave and Greg, two conference attendees, over to Babcock Hall so they could buy me (and themselves) some real UW-Madison ice cream. Heavenly!

After that, Elizabeth Alexander and some fabulous singers (such as John Hubert and Jason Shelton) sang Elizabeth's "Go Out!" Also heavenly: the Opening Ceremony in downtown Madison, where the new leaf unfolded, the Madison Festival Choir sang gorgeous anthems, and Gini Courter spoke. What a thrill!

We can host this conference because of our new space. We couldn't have done this years ago because we had a small auditorium with a triangular-shaped kitchen. Now we have a 90-second dishwasher that I almost know how to use!

Thanks to Dan Broner and Linda Warren and all members of the UU Musicians Network. You are crucial to our UU religious faith. For me, the times when I've felt most connected to the divine, to God, have been when I'm listening to (and singing) our music.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Upper Midwestern Modest: What a Hoot!

Wow! Everyone had a blast at our late evening performance at GA. This was my first time performing at GA rather than being a presenter of a workshop. Throughout the program, waves of love and positive energy burst from the audience, washing over the cast before returning to the listeners in an endless cycle -- just like the wave pool at Noah's Ark (in the Wisconsin Dells)! It felt soooo good!!

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show and especially to the cast, some of whom endured hardship to get to Minneapolis. Soprano Melissa Simonson missed the FUS Madison chartered bus because of a power outage, but found a ride with Lauri Schwarz & Abby Swetz Wednesday morning. Amber Nicole Dilger was the last of us to arrive. Driving up Thursday morning, her car broke down! Thank goodness she made it to GA in time to hear Peter Mayer's concert Thursday evening. Both women are sopranos in the Meeting House Chorus at our church.

Special thanks to youth cast members Robin Delaquess, Noah Huber and Willy Bernstein, all members of the 2009-2010 Saturday Coming of Age class. As we know, youth are our present (not just our future), so it would be weird not to have any in our Revue. It was quite an honor to be in their presence, not just at the performance, but at rehearsal. All three helped refine our skits and program order.

Below is a list of the main cast members. Several more FUS folks sang "Uma Familia" with us at the end of the show, including former Meeting House Chorus member Joel Gilbertson-White, who recently graduated from Starr King.

Abby Swetz, duet of "Amazing Grace" and, like, poetry reading, you know?
Amber Nicole Dilger, soprano soloist
Dan Broner, pianist & conductor of "Uma Familia"
Eva Wright, pianist extraordinaire
Joe Harris, guitar
Lauri Schwarz, duet of "Amazing Grace" and the voice of the UU Translator
Lynn & Richard Scoby, writers of the Mustard commercial
Melissa Simonson, singer-songwriter
Nick Schweitzer, writer & lead character of the Guy Gris skit
Noah Huber, electric guitar
Robin Delaquess, accordion & fast-talking youth
Samuel Bates, Guy Gris announcer and Emcee support
Vicky Jones, actor in Guy Gris and coach
Willy Bernstein, the voice of the UU Translator 2.0

I was the Emcee, writer of the UU Translator & the News from UUUSaFe, and producer.

Thanks to the GA Planning Committee, for believing in our performance application.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Upper Midwestern Modest: A Pretty-good Revue"

at General Assembly June 25th in Minneapolis

I'm having a great time preparing to be one of the choices for late evening entertainment at GA in Minneapolis, Friday June 25th at 9:30 pm in room 208 A-D of the Convention Center. Not just me, of course; we've got a cast of seventeen or so -- 25 for one choral piece. The cast includes our music director Dan Broner, lots of singers and actors, two guitarists, a pianist and an accordion player. I've gathered quite a mix of ages, from teenagers to much older (ahem).

Upper Midwestern Modest is a variety show in the style of a long-running Minnesota radio show, with lots of music, a few skits and a commerical or two -- commercials for products every UU needs. I hope lots of people come because the show is going to be great! Well, pretty good.

I thought of doing a show like this a number of years ago because I wanted more of an outlet for celebratory UU humor and to showcase some of the musicians at my huuge congregation. Knowing that in 2010 we'd be in Minneapolis (a mere five hours from Madison), I focused my energy on getting a spot on the schedule. I applied way back in mid-November. My friend, actor & singer Vicky Jones, helped with the title and the description.

So, if you'll be at GA and somewhat awake late Friday evening, come to room 208!
Elizabeth (emcee)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So Many Worship Services, So Little Time!

Now that experienced minister Rev. Crestwell is at the UU Church of Annapolis, that congregation is second on my list to visit, right after the 11:30 am service in Tulsa, described in "The Gospel of Inclusion." When my spouse read the UU World article aloud to me, we both were excited. "Let's visit Tulsa!" I exclaimed. Sam suggested we go for Christmas. We cannot do that because family is coming here to visit us, but I've got to find the time to go and bask in the joy and praise of Universalism.

An article at the UUA’s website states “Diversity of Ministry Initiative Settles Two New Ministers.” The Rev. John Crestwell is one of the “new ministers” referred to here. As many of us know, Rev. Crestwell was at Davies Memorial UU Church for a number of years. In fact, he is a featured speaker on a DVD called “Listening to Experience” that came out in last April. This DVD features twelve ministers whose congregations have done very well, including Peter Morales, Laurel Hallman and Rob Hardies.

Hearing podcasts of ministers' sermons doesn't do it for me; I don't get a whole lot out of it. No, I want the Entire worship experience, from anticipating being there, finding a parking spot and being greeted at the door all the way through to leaving the grounds. The whole enchilada is the worship service to me. Between working at one church and being a member of another, I already have to juggle and find myself going to 9 am at one & 11 am at the other. This makes it difficult to leave town! Argh. Maybe I will settle for podcasts and reading sermons.