It’s called Jazz Vespers: Where Jazz Meets the Spirit.
They’ve been holding it at the beautiful St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church every Sunday since 1992. 25 Years.
My daughter, Alexis and I attended it for the first time in November when I came to visit. This Sunday, her husband and his mother joined us.
It was as sublimely soothing and enriching as I remembered it.
Last time, it was just after the US election. There was talk of the new president and the need to stand, strong of back, soft of front. To not harden our hearts but to engage in conversation, to seek to understand, not judge.
This Sunday, the talk is of ‘labels’. These are not the designer labels on our clothes. Or the one’s that speak to our greatness. These are the words, the names we carry because others have stuck them to us, or because we call ourselves those things we would not say about another, but deign to call ourselves.
I listen to the Reverend Dan Chambers speak and think of all the labels I have known, carried, called myself.
Beyond daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, cousin…
What are the labels?
I name them quietly in my head.
Most do not fit anymore. Most, are not one’s I want to repeat, or need to own, or feel connected to. They are labels that limited me. That held me in place, or as Rev. Chambers called it, helped to simplify the complex so others felt less afraid, unsure, insecure, threatened. Or so that I could feel justified in my fear, insecurity, angst. And in my justification of the labels I applied to myself, rationalize why I didn’t have to do anything different that might dislodge the label someone had applied or which I held against myself.
Labels serve no one.
They only give us something to hang onto when the world around us feels confusing. When times are shifting. When we do not understand another and cannot, or will not, take the time to see into them or ourselves, through eyes of compassion.
Labels are our way of judging without having to name what we are doing. As if, through the applying of the label, we are excused of our misbehaviour.
He’s gay. She’s a feminist. They’re immigrants. She’s a druggie, addict, lazy, unfortunate. He’s a bully. Stupid. Red neck. Indian.
It’s not that we are saying they are bad or less than. We’re just using the words that describe where someone else is at. We didn’t make the names. But if they fit, why shouldn’t we use them? We’re not judging, we’re simplifying life.
And without really thinking about what we’re doing, we engage in the process of judging people less than, other than, unworthy of, their right to claim the magnificence of their human condition. The same human condition that each of us shares.
I participated in Jazz Vespers yesterday.
It was a moving experience that carried me into spirit, like a river flowing endlessly to the sea, connecting me to my humanity flowing in this journey called life. A life that is so much richer when I let go of the labels that limit the full expression and experience of life.