Photograph of Charlyn Bethell and Guy UrbanThose of us who are fans of the PBS Newshour might have seen a musician featured that made an immediate connection with me.  Her name is Arooj Aftab, and she is Pakistani.  She is a singer, a composer, and a producer, and her inspirations are neo-Sufi idioms; many of the texts she chooses are from Rumi.  Her dream was to study at Berklee School of Music and it came true!  I have trouble actually explaining what it is that makes an artist able to be on the same wavelength with me;  the language of music at times seems separate from words.  That feeling of merging with the ideas, the sounds, the words, all transform me and give meaning to the moment.  Best of all, when listening to this music, I am feeling with the artist, with the sounds and especially feeling ONE with all that is meaningful.  Not unlike a worship service.

One of the reasons we come to a worship service is to be in community with each other, to relish the relationships we have with each other.  We come to challenge ourselves and be transformed.  We expect to be a little different when we leave the service than when the service started.  Hybrid services are a step away from the virtual services we had last year and toward an opening up again, of being together, fully, in our sanctuary.  Hybrid services are a half-way point, and each week is a little different from the last one.  We are taking a leap of faith as we navigate through camera angles and regulating sounds—all with the goal of assuring our congregation that they and we  are not alone.  We are together with each other, as we progress toward something better.  As many of you tell us how to improve our services, we are grateful for your input.  Your critical comments and soulful reaching out is a way of staying engaged.  We are closer because you are doing this.

I remember Reverend Sophia’s words from September.  Let me remind you of those three services:  1) I am finding a “Sabbath” within myself that tells me to rest and create a place to renew.  2) It is a stretch for me to identify what hurts—and while I sincerely love being there for others, I am reminded from this homily that I cannot fully do that until I know my own vulnerability.  3) Asking for help was the theme of her third homily.  This is another challenge to me.  Her homilies are memorable and personal to me.

I am grateful to so many that have made our services wonderful:  Our First Parish choir, people who have stepped up to be a Worship Associate, to Allison and Tom and Ross for their incredible technical expertise.  I am honored to be with working with the creative team of Allison, Guy, Lauren, and Reverend Sophia. 

While we have had imperfections in the actual service, it is crucial that you keep telling us what you need to stay engaged in worship with us.  Remember that we remain close as you do that.

One more thing:  every time we sing together—and listen together— we are not alone.  We are tired from being alone during the pandemic.  We need each other in all the ways that we know how to be there for each other.  Let’s stay the course during our hybrid services and stay connected.

May it be so.

Some things to know about music in October:

At the October 17th service, Alyssa Lawson will be with us to share her music!  Yay!  So good to have her back.

Many many thanks for our choir for being steadfast in answering the call when they are needed just now.  You are all heroes!  Thank you to the voices of our whole choir for singing on the anthem, One Voice.  We hope it will be ready for being part of worship on Oct. 24th.  In advance, we thank Izzy for her help.

Guy will be having double knee surgery on October 19th.  While he is healing in a hospital bed in our dining room, we will have Nick Woebcke playing in his stead on October 24th and Carole Berney on October 31st.  I and we thank you both SO much!

Charlyn Bethell
Music Director | + posts

Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor. As Music Director at First Parish, she joins these two paths of her musical life, conducting the choir, coordinating guest musicians, and performing on oboe.