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Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland

His father was a Harvard-trained professor of musicology and his mother, who trained at the Paris Conservatory of Music, was a classical violinist. But he never cared for classical music, which may explain why he began to play the ukulele at the age of 13. He also learned to play the guitar. In 1936, when he was seventeen, he fell in love with a five-string banjo. He heard it at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in western North Carolina near Asheville. Perhaps the banjo chose him, since a person once said that he actually looked like a banjo. He would later say, "I lost my heart to the old-fashioned five-string banjo played mountain style."

At the time, the banjo was thought of as a "white" instrument, the province of poor Appalachian farmers, but the truth was that the banjo went back to the early days of slavery in America. The African-influenced banjo had a body made out of a gourd and a wooden stick for the neck.

In the fall, this novice banjo player began attending Harvard, his father's alma mater, but dropped out two years later when he failed an exam. He decided to explore America with his banjo in hand. He began learning folk songs as he traveled across the country hitchhiking and hopping freight trains. By 1940, he had traveled with his five-string banjo through forty-eight states. That year in New York City he met Woody Guthrie at a concert hosted by the John Steinbeck Committee to benefit farm workers. Guthrie became the young man's most important teacher. The lessons were not just about music, they were also about social justice.

While he loved to sing, his vocal range was limited. C minor was too high for him. His solution was to have a longer neck installed on his banjo. The first one added two frets, later his custom banjos would have three additional frets. This made the songs he wrote fit his voice, and they in turn, made it easy for people to sing along. You have probably sung some of his songs. One came from lines in a famous Soviet novel written by Mikhail Sholokhov and published in the 1930s. The lines in English were "Where are the flowers? The girls have plucked them./ Where are the girls? They're all married./ Where are the men? They're all in the army." Pete Seeger rephrased the lines and added two more: "Long time passing" and "When will we ever learn?" You know the song as Where Have All the Flowers Gone? It is a wonderful example of the ways in which Pete Seeger made both beautiful music and beautiful justice for more than 50 years.

Its why in the 1960s he hand-lettered the following words on the head of his banjo, "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender."

Philip J. Newell

The word kosmos in ancient Greek means "a harmony of parts." In the classical world, everything in the universe was viewed as moving in relation to everything else. This ancient understanding of the cosmos is being born afresh today in radically new ways. We are realizing that the whole of reality is one. In nearly every dimension of life—whether economic or religious, scientific or political—there is a growing awareness of earth's essential interrelatedness. This new-ancient way of seeing is radically challenging us to see ourselves as connected with everything else that exists. And it means that any true vision of reality must also be a cosmology, a way of relating the parts to the whole, of seeing our distinct journeys in relation to the one journey of the universe.

Carl Jung speaks of "moon-like consciousness," a way of seeing in which we more readily perceive oneness than differentiation. When I walk under the light of the moon, I am at times almost speechless with wonder. Under the moonlight, life's edges are not so sharply defined. The boundaries are less distinct. In the daylight, in contrast, I have much more to say because I am seeing everything more analytically. The parts are easily distinguished from the whole. Moon-like consciousness is ours in dream life and meditative practice as well, as it is in some of our earliest memories of childhood when we glimpsed the "Golden World," as Robert Johnson calls it, the world of unitary vision rather than separation.

Ancient harmony is deep in the matter of the universe, the essential interwovenness of all things. Everything, whether the expanding light of distant galaxies or humanity's inner light of mind and consciousness, carries within itself the life of the universe's shared beginning. Recognizing the brokenness of our harmony, whether as individuals and families or as nations and species, our disharmony, is essential to finding the way forward. Confronting our brokenness, individually and together, is integral to the hope for healing. How can we be part of a new harmony? What is the cost, both per-onal and collective, of releasing life's essential oneness in radically new and transformative ways?

We live at a costly moment. The question is, what type of cost will it be? Will it be the cost of transformation in which we reshape our lives and relationships, both collectively and individually? Or will it be the cost of further and further fragmentation in which we take ourselves and earth's species toward destruction?

Source: A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul, Jossey-Bass, 2011

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First Parish Covenant

We, the members of First Parish of Chelmsford, covenant together to sustain and strengthen our beloved community by:
Honoring and celebrating the Spirit of Life
Nurturing all souls in our search for truth and the sacred
Caring and being present to one another in our joys and sorrows
Bearing witness through service to justice and peace
And being good stewards of our congregation, our heritage, our Unitarian Universalist Principles, and our earth.


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First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824