The music we have in the UU Schenectady community is incredible ….

Good Morning.  My name is Jeff Brinck, and my wife Andrea Richards and I have been coming here for about 3 years now.  Different people connect with communities in different ways and for different reasons.  Today I’d like to share a bit with you about how and why Andrea and I have connected with this community.

When I was a kid I could never figure out why someone would want to take a couple hours out of a precious weekend to sit and listen to someone talk, and, on the surface at least, that is exactly what church was to me.  What I didn’t realize is that I was getting so much out of the whole experience – the connection wasn’t necessarily JUST about the sitting and listening, it was also about the small rituals, the people, sights, sounds and smells that came along with the sitting and listening.  Sort of like the well-worn statement that “it’s the journey not the destination”.  So, despite of the excruciating boredom of sitting and listening, as I look back on it, I have pleasant, vivid memories of the seemingly little things – the ride to and from church on the cold leather back seat of the car in the winter.  The beautiful stained glass and the haunting artwork in the cavernous stone sanctuary.  The simple conversations, cool handshakes, warm smiles of elderly members of the Parish.  The smell of hamburgers on the grill and the sound of the Mets game on the radio in my grandparents’ backyard after Mass in the summer.

It took me a while to figure out that although I did have to “sit through church” and listen to what I thought as a young teenager was a long pointless drone of a sermon (nothing like Margret’s of course), I was part of a community and had comfortable rituals that I could depend upon and look back on as part of what was a pretty darn good, safe and comfortable way to spend part of my young life.

Fast forward to now.  I credit Andrea, my wife of 17 years, for encouraging us to start coming to UUS of Schenectady after we moved here from Portland Maine.  For various reasons, mostly having to do with too many hobbies and “other things” to do, going to church was not a regular ritual for me anymore.   And frankly, not only is Maine a place rich in natural beauty – the entire community we lived in was quite progressive and open-minded.  When we moved, we left that behind and did not find that here, so we sought out a comfortable place to meet like-minded people.  As I look around the Great Hall right now, I am glad to say we’ve found those small rituals, those sights, sounds, this place, and you, those people.

One of the connections that Andrea and I made immediately upon coming to the UUS was with the wonderful music in this community.  Andrea and I share a strong bond over the music we enjoy.  Our tastes have evolved from our 20 something years when we enjoyed bands like the Talking Heads and Santana, and danced the country waltz to Brooks and Dunn, to our much more refined and civilized range of musical preference today – Leonard Cohen, Meat Loaf, Eminem, Sarah Chang and, of course, the soundtrack for the Fiddler on the Roof.  If our I-Tunes Playlist diversity isn’t a testament to our UU values, then what is?

Folks, the music we have in the UUS of Schenectady community is incredible.  Under the leadership of Gary Griffiths, we frequently have the top musicians from the area as part of our services, interspersed with young performers, some of which, despite being young, ARE some of the top musicians from our area.  The choice of musicians mesh with the message of each service. Sometimes in obvious ways – think of the Klesmer music around the Jewish holidays – but virtually always in more subtle ways – listen closely to Margret’s sermons and prayers and you’ll hear reference to lyrics of the hymns we sing that day.  I encourage each of you to consider the value that music brings to our services and our community, and that it will take purposeful choices of our current and future leaders and members to keep music as a cornerstone to our unique and exceptional UUS of Schenectady community.

In closing, I enjoy the music in this community during the services.  And I also enjoy the community via the chorus -much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of my fellow tenors.  I’ve also chosen to join the Music Committee.  Participation in these ways bolsters the connection between me and my wife and kids, and between me and my love for music.  And it bolsters the connection between me and you, the people of this community.  Mazel tov.