Introduction by Rev Diane Rollert, 29 January, 2017 (Audio Available)
I count myself as someone who was very blessed to have grown up singing songs of resistance. It was a gift that my parents gave me. I was pretty young when they took me to hear Pete Seeger sing for the first time. Even then, I remember tears coming to my eyes as we sang We Shall Overcome. Ever since, this has been a song that has always reassured me that I am not alone in my desire to see peace and justice prevail.
Right now is a pretty dark time. I keep promising myself that I will let go of my disappointment in recent political events in my homeland. I say to myself, you’re in Canada now. But honestly, it’s not just me. The entire church staff is feeling pretty unsettled, and only some of us are from the US. And then, with the new US immigration ban and the protests at airports across the US last night, I cannot begin to describe my horror and my sadness.
As the staff and I checked in with each other this week, we all admitted to finding it hard to get through the day (and that was before the latest news). We’re feeling discouraged and helpless. The scientists who are the keepers of the metaphorical Doomsday Clock tell us that it’s now two and a half minutes before midnight, before the final hour when everything could come to an end because of climate change or nuclear holocaust. When you realize that’s the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953, well, you know that the whole world is feeling anxious.
When times get tough, when people resist, they write and sing songs. Hundreds of songs of protest have been written just in the past month. Go listen to Father John Misty’s song Pure Comedy, or Arcade Fire’s I Give You Power. Last Saturday, during the Women’s March on Washington, a choir of very diverse women met for the first time and marched from place to place, singing the most haunting harmonies of the beautiful song, I Can’t Keep Quiet, by the singer-songwriter MILCK. If you can, check out the song on Youtube. It is stunning. If I had had time today, I would have played it for you.
Someone asked me if we we’re required to sing as if we really believe in the words we’ll sing today. Can we really sing songs about freedom coming or living in peace someday when we’re feeling hopeless? We don’t have to fake it, but I believe that the best way to resist hopelessness is to sing as if we were singing for our lives. Songs cannot release us from the responsibility of action, nor can they fool us into thinking everything will be fine. But songs can empower us to keep moving forward. Just singing, “Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday,” gives me the courage to resist giving up.
In my day and in my parents day, people sang together as they marched for justice. They sang in harmony, they wrote new lyrics to old tunes. These days, we often let the stars sing for us. But today, I’m inviting you to sing songs of resistance and to hear two of stories of resistance. As we do, may our spirits be lifted on wings of hope, no matter how fleeting that may seem.