Archive for the ‘art & music’ Category

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Palm Sunday Poem

May 6, 2014

TessTaylor2Tess Taylor has been serving as Poet Laureate at First Church Berkeley since the summer of 2013. She has composed several poems based on the liturgical seasons which are read in worship and shared on the First Church website.

This is the poem that Tess wrote for Palm Sunday 2014, which she read in worship on April 13.

AFTER PALMS

And now the holy week begins
again in parade turned prison march.
In the fickle world abandoning.

The news: this year again
evildoers keep the upper hand,
a fashionable cure-all reveals itself as poison,

the blatherers jockey for position.
Absurd politicians parrot hate.
We find we’ve come too early or too late—

we predictably deny you
or linger on in some mean-spirited spot.
When called, we do not recognize you:

You come: We spend your visit cleaning house.

And still you march towards trial.
And still we stay trapped in empty tombs.
And still we do not reconcile.

And when we look to find you, you
point elsewhere, first  from the unearthly back to earth,
first to death, then baffled, back to life:

Because you are the transformed, transforming sign:
The parade, also the penitent,
the riddle, also the riddler.

Storyteller: you become the parable.
You enfold the death inside the rose
and also hold the rose within  the ash

and now appear as worm, as bone, as flesh
as gaping holes within the winding sheet.
And of these you are none & all:

because again you are the blooming plant—

…………….

Find out more about how First Church Berkeley uses the arts in worship and other aspects of community life…

Photo of Tess by Lisa Beth Anderson

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Gracias a la Vida!

August 6, 2013

Joanne BrownJoanne Brown is a writer, poet, teacher and member of the First Church community. She spends her time in both Oaxaca, Mexico and Berkeley, California. She shares her reflections and poetry on her blog Transitions and Transformations: the beauty and the terror.

Joanne also teaches writing workshops using the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method. She will be starting a new workshop series Write for Your Life” at First Church on September 9, 2013.

She wrote this entry “Gracias a la Vida” in May of 2012.

………………….

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco …

Thank you life, you have given me so much
You gave me two eyes which when I open them
I can distinguish perfectly between black and white …

– Violeta Parra 

Last evening a friend and I went to see a play about the life of the late Chilean singer, songwriter, folklorist, and visual artist Violeta Parra. She’s known as the mother of the New Chilean Song Movement, and she revived the Peña, a community center for arts and political activism. I never knew that La Peña on Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley owes its name and mission to Violeta.

Just before her suicide in 1967 at age 50, Parra wrote the beautiful song Gracias a la Vida  (Thank you life), which has been popularized by Joan Baez (watch Joan sing it!), Mercedes Sosa, Luciano Pavarotti, and many others. It played as we waited for the drama to begin, and my friend said to me, “I don’t always feel grateful for what life has given me, and I wish I did.” Her longing played across my dreams last night …

By dawn I asked myself, Am I grateful for what life has given me?

In my mid-forties, when I was lonely in my marriage, on the brink of leaving it, and desperate to find a spiritual home, the people of First Church Berkeley lifted me up. There was community, new friends, song; a way to see the commonality in all beings, and the truth that we need each other to live. In all of this, I recognized something so much bigger than my one life. First church planted in me the seeds of gratitude!

Surely gratitude for a difficult childhood or divorce doesn’t come easy. But I suppose what I’ve been given has made me who I am at this moment and who I may yet become.  I’ve traveled beyond past miseries with the help of so many friends, and they, like a loving family, live always in my heart (and on Skype!) though I make my life now in Mexico and they are far away. And even with so much distraction, violence, and treachery in the world, I know if I can sing, pray, watch the beauty of a sunrise, a child’s smile, or a hummingbird’s dance, I’m on my way to gracias a la vida!

According to Gratefulness.org, the practice of gratefulness moves people “to live in the light of all we’ve been given.” They say that can be a force for personal change — inspiring compassion and generosity — as well as for world peace.

Heady stuff! May gratitude and peace be with you.

More reflections and poetry from Joanne Brown…

More about First Church Berkeley…

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Places for Grace

December 22, 2011

Throughout the Advent Season, we have been looking for “Places for Grace”—in our lives, in the world and in the stories of the season leading up to the birth of Jesus. Each Sunday we have explored Grace in a variety of ways using personal stories, scripture, music and preaching. Here are some videos from the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Angela Arnold and Matt Reed share ways in which they find grace in their lives as they light the fourth Advent candle.

The First Church Flute Choir plays “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

Phil Porter tells the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary from the Book of Luke.

Patricia de Jong preaches the sermon “Full of Grace”.

First Church Berkeley is a progressive Christian church with two services on Christmas Eve—a Family Service at 5 pm and a Candlelight Service at 10 pm. Both are full of sights, sounds and inspiration.

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I Choose Love

September 13, 2011

Vickie Crebbin, Olivia Beattie and Greg Beattie singing "I Choose Love"On Sunday, September 11, First Church musicians Vickie Crebbin, Greg Beattie and Olivia Beattie sang one of their original compositions “I Choose Love” for the church’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11. They sang in both services, blending beautiful three-part harmonies with these powerful lyrics.

I Choose Love

Sound and fury, drums of war
In the name of a God with a different face
In the midst of hatred and despair
God of us all, give me grace
To choose love, love

May the seeds of love spread like prairie fire
With wild abandon catch a passing breeze
Scatter far, fill the divide
reaching heaven, rooting deep
I choose love, love

When I stumble, when my heart falters
should thoughts of kindness fade
Lead me to still water
Help me find a way to choose love

To choose love, love

© Victoria Crebbin Blythe and Greg Beattie 2008
835 Sibert Court Lafayette, CA 94549
925 284-3250 beatman@sbcglobal.net

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The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

August 27, 2011

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, First Church will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 in a variety of ways.

These events have changed the landscape of our country and the world. We stand with those who still grieve their losses, with those who were shocked and traumatized by these events. We also grieve the loss of life and limb that has occurred in the wars that have been fought since then in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9/11 MemorialAs people of peace, we must lift up the futility of war and the seeking of vengeance. We also stand against the demonization of individuals, groups and countries. Even as we claim our loyalty and love for our country, we also claim our global citizenship. All of us are brothers and sisters, even as we sit across the divide of nationality, religion, or conflict.

One of the outcomes of the events of 9/11 and the ensuing political and social turmoil, is that we have reached out hands of friendship to people of other faiths and are richer for these new connections and new understandings.

On this special Sunday, we will commemorate 9/11 in both worships services, welcoming guests from the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, a mass choir will sing Verdi’s Requiem at 3 pm in the Sanctuary, and in the evening we will take part in an Axis of Friendship event at the Oakland Peace Center.

Read more…