Music Notes: UU Musicians Network

by Eric Lane Barnes, Interim Director of Music

Shortly after I began as Interim Director of Music at East Shore, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Musicians’ Network (UUMN). Each year the UUMN presents a week-long conference; this year it was in Portland from August 1st through 5th.

In May, I enrolled in a 3-year program through the UUMN that offers official certification to UU music directors. This year the 18 candidates in this certification program met on August 1st to get a head start on classes and seminars. It was a very full week of classes, workshops, congregational singing, choral reading sessions, conducting seminars, and at least one UU church service every day. It was fantastic meeting so many hundreds of like-minded UU music directors, each with their own church and story. And it was fantastic to see Aisha being one of three panel members presenting the ‘Collaborative Leadership’ event. So many people said to me, ‘East Shore? You work with Aisha?’ They said this in the same tone of voice some would say, ‘You work with Cher?’ So yes: Aisha is East Shore’s Cher.

I appreciated many things about this conference, but the biggest benefit was how it acted as a UU crash course, giving me a chance to really dig into the seven principles, and learn a lot of basics about the history and foundations of the faith. The more I learn, the more excited I am to embrace what being a Unitarian means.

Some of you are familiar with my earlier history in a Pentecostal church structure. Leaving that church set me on a path of life-long spiritual seeking, where ‘staying in the question’ became more important than obtaining an iron-clad answer. I wrote a post on Facebook after a service of remembrance during the conference. Here’s a snippet of that post:

“… there are ritual ways humans have of coming together to celebrate and grieve that go deeper than theology and beyond any specific doctrine or dogma. I feel this is largely what the UU faith taps into: the deep need to connect, to go beyond mere ideas of ‘God must be this’ or even ‘God must be.’ I’m surprised how much I am enjoying conducting a church choir and playing hymns again. Surprised, and grateful. And in ways, broken open.”

I wrote another post on Facebook after several more days of the workshop. Here is a bit of that post:

“Growing up in the 60s I had a child-like, naive sense that we as a species and we as a country were working toward the greater good of all. We were working (or so I was taught) toward a future where every voice would be heard and honored, there would be better stewardship of the planet, ethics would be at the heart of every national and public decision, and corporations would work hard at making sure everyone got equal pay for equal work. As I got older and more aware of how things are done I became more cynical, learning just how easily so many politicians, organizations and public figures could be corrupted. And that the obscenely wealthy will do literally anything to make sure they become obscenely wealthier. I felt a great sense of sorrow – nostalgia, even – for this bright, shining future I was taught we were creating… Being part of this system of faith, and seeing how diligently people are working to make this world a better place for everyone has begun to restore my faith in humanity. Perhaps the future I’d believed just might, after all, happen.

The UUA is far from being a perfect organization. But there seems to be a true willingness to learn from failure and fear, and to pick up and go even further the next time. Only by knowing that we don’t know everything (or, many times, anything at all) can we step into a place of being ready and able to learn, grow and work.

We all have a lot of work to do. It can be done.”

I am looking forward to all the new, wonderful, beautiful, musical things we can achieve together at East Shore. And – on a related note – The East Shore Mighty Choir starts rehearsals Thursday evening September 6! 7:30 in the sanctuary: all are welcome!

With love and appreciation,

Eric Lane Barnes