Grace, with a little help from my friends….

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2015 at 10:48 am
grace word cloud

graphic via

I want to tell you a story that isn’t finished yet, but might be in about a month.

It’s a story about grace. It’s a story about finding grace, with some help.

Yesterday, I put a request out to the Facebook world asking “Friends who are musicians, choreographers, artists, or just have a love of music: what songs make you feel a sense of grace?”

The question was born of a homework assignment for my UU Worship class and an upcoming call to worship. In both cases, I was writing for my congregation, and our theme for March is Grace.

“I have to write about grace?” I thought, a wave of displeasure washing over me.

“What the heck is grace?”

“I don’t know what grace is!”

I may have sworn.

This happens to me fairly often; the questioning of a faith term or concept that many take for granted. Growing up in a dogmatically anti-religious household, we simply didn’t use terms like grace in our daily vocabulary, and so when I encounter them, I am often at a loss.

So I went to the dictionary, and found definitions wholly unsatisfying for this Unitarian Universalist:

  • “(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” (Google)
  • “. . . the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin. (Wikipedia)
  • and more from Wikipedia: “Grace in Christianity is the free and unmerited favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his son to die on a cross, thus delivering eternal salvation.

I know. I claim to not know what grace is, then argue with the definitions.

But still. I may not have grown up with this language, but I am pretty sure that my UU congregation doesn’t hold this understanding of grace. At the very least, the notion of grace as “unmerited favor,” “manifested in the salvation of sinners,” and “unmerited mercy” just wasn’t going to fly at First Universalist, or, to be honest, in my own slowly clarifying theology.

Yet the prayer and call to worship still needed to be written, and so as I have on other occasions, I reached out to my community with that question posted on Facebook.

And as sometimes happens, you have the luck to ask a “fertile question.”

My question went viral – at least in my small Facebook friend list, and the responses were overwhelming. By the end of the day, 30 some people had posted song suggestions, and the “Grace, with a little help from my friends” project was born:

I created a Spotify playlist of all of the suggested songs that I could find. You can check out the list here: Grace with a little help from my friends

And from today until I deliver my call to worship on March 29th, I am going to listen to some part of the playlist, everyday, and do some writing on grace, however it is that I understand or experience it through the music and/or the course of the day.

My spiritual direction work has taught me that I need to be familiar with terrain in order to accompany someone else through it. As a seminary student who aspires to ordained ministry, knowing something of the terrain of grace feels important. My hope is that by the end of the month, I’ve traveled a path that brings me closer to grace.

One more thing.

I’d like to invite you to come along:

If you want to join me in this month of reflections on grace, I would love your company! Share your writings, share readings or prayers, share what you like. Know that your company will honor me.