Spiritual leaders sound off on song

Editor’s note: Every Friday a question is printed at the end of this column inviting a response. If you are a religious leader on Kaua‘i, please send in your thoughts or suggestions for future topics. Next week’s subject is on wonder. The suggested topic at the end of the column is for the following week. The column will take a brief hiatus and resume the following week.

Rev. Rita MeKila Herring

Universal Brotherhood


Song … by its very nature almost impossible to describe in just mere words. You hear it in the lilt of all communication, whether it be between people or within all aspects of nature. The birds, winds, whales and the waves all expressing their unique songs without giving it a second thought.

Today, let’s stop for a moment and give it a thought. What is your song like? Is it soothing and nurturing? Is it gentle and kind? If you were suddenly listening to yourself as if for the first time, what would your experience of hearing yourself be? Look deeper than the words. Feel the energy behind your expressing. How do you express yourself in your everyday encounters? What is your unique song like?

Hopefully you’ll discover that you’re pleased with your expression of your part in the collective song of our Creator. If not, how wonderful for you — you now have the opportunity and the awareness to make a change. Everyone is doing the best that they can. Let’s make an effort to be conscious of the song that we’re singing — Not just for the benefit of those around us, but for ourselves as well.

The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Koloa

“Music is one of the important arts. It has a great effect upon human spirit …” said Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith.

“Whatever is in the heart of man, melody moves and awakens. If a heart full of good feelings and a pure voice are joined together, a great effect is produced … but if bad thoughts are in the heart, such as hatred, it will increase and multiply. For instance, the music used in war awakens the desire for bloodshed. The meaning is that melody causes whatever feeling is in the heart to increase.

“Some feelings occur accidentally and some have a foundation. For example, some people are naturally kind, but they may be accidentally upset by a wave of anger. But if they hear music, the true nature will reassert itself. Music really awakens the real, natural nature, the initial essence. …

“But the principal effect is caused by the word, and when words are united to beautiful melody, the most exquisite harmony is produced.”

— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, words to an individual believer, quoted in Bahá’í Writings on Music, 9-10.

“Music is an important means to the education and development of humanity, but the only true way is through the teachings of God. Music is like this glass, which is preferably pure and polished. It is precisely like this pure chalice before us, and the teachings of God, the utterances of God, are like the water. When the glass or chalice is absolutely pure and clear, and the water is perfectly fresh and limpid, then it will confer life.”

— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Table Talk, ‘Akka, July 1909, quoted in Herald of the South, Jan. 13, 1933, 2-3.

Wendy Winegar

North Shore Christian Science

I would love to see a Bible with all the songs notated in their original tunes. From Genesis to Revelation there are songs for all occasions: songs of triumph, praise, victory, dedication, “talk story;” songs in the middle of trouble, gratitude, prophecy; work songs, love songs, grace, joy, healing. Those guys were always singing, reaffirming their connection to God.

My daughter Laurie and I picked up the same habit. For fun we’d add a little twist singing with German or French, Swedish or Russian accents. Laurie was in the Christian Science Sunday school, where I also taught, so we had a full repertoire of hymns in common. We knew that music could have a healing effect, like when Saul’s servants went out to get David to play his harp for Saul and “the evil spirit” left and Saul was refreshed (I Samuel). So we often turned to hymns and their healing messages when in need.

Laurie liked “Shepherd show me how to go o’er the hillside steep” by Mary Baker Eddy. That was our hiking hymn. On one of our outings, Laurie had just scrawled in the register at the top of a 12,900-foot peak, “Laurie, only 6 years old,” when a Sierra storm suddenly showed up. We had to get out of there fast. Taking the same trail back would take too long and put us in the middle of it, so we chose the quickest way, straight down a steep, glacial moraine.

We started to sing. One of the lines goes like this: “I will listen for Thy voice, lest my footsteps stray; I will follow and rejoice, all the rugged way.” With Laurie riding piggyback we sang in perfect 4-4 time, split into eighth notes so at the end of the each bar I did a big heel dig to set up for a knee-deep slide through the tumbling gravel, holding the note the length of the slide.

We were counting on God’s presence being with us, and it was. A place to plant my next step would appear in time to the music. The song kept up our joy.

We descended for over an hour as the mountain got colder and colder, the sky darker, and snow whipped our faces and bare legs. All fear was dispelled, endurance enhanced, and we felt the love of the Christ with us all the way. We found our way to the warmth of our sleeping bags just before nightfall, loved and protected, just like those guys in the Bible.

Next week’s question:

• Will you speak to us on accountability?

• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to pwoolway@kauaipubco.com

• Deadline each week is Tuesday, by 5 p.m.


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