Iconic Singer of Equality-Pete Seeger Dies at 94-Revs. Chava and Judy Reflect

I cried when Pete Seeger died this past weekend, I thought he might live forever, and I think he will. I am happy to present Rev. Chava’s reflections here and echo them. Pete Seeger’s simple melodious strumming and singing moved my soul as a teen and young adult living through the Civil Rights Era and  Human Rights era. I applauded him for his courage-to be blacklisted and still sing. I still remember his song parodying the fear of “a red under the bed” and his description of suburbia as “houses made of ticky tacky-and they all looked just the same”. As a city kid I thought exactly that when I visited the suburbs. Pete Seeger sang about equality and individuality not blanket conformity. His music was a fuel to give me the courage to be different as I was and would be in so many ways. But most of all, like Chava, I remembering singing Pete Singer songs, many of which were old favorite folk songs, in a small circle with my beloved Pastor, Rev. David Ver Nooy and my group of friends.  I’ll admit that I wanted to sound more like Joan Baez than Pete Seeger, but his songs were the basis for all other folk singing for us. It is not one of his famous songs, but I remember this Quaker ballad as it is associated with the spirituality of Rev. Dave and Pete Seeger for me ” It’s a gift to be simple, it’s a gift to be free, it’s a gift to come down where we ought to be… and by turning, turning we come back home….” Pastor David lived in Beacon, New York in his last several years. He loved attending Pete Seeger’s concerts in the area and the ship Clearwater.  Pastor Dave went home to our loving God a year ago December, now that Pete Seeger is there too, I can hear them jamming-Pete on the banjo or guitar and David on the trumpet,or maybe they are just singing together in that heavenly chorus that I hear singing all the time in my head-the songs of the community of saints that live on in our hearts forever.

The Sunday Morning Show featured highlights of Pete Seeger’s life. The commentator said that Pete Seeger was deeply upset when Bob Dylan started playing the electric guitar, not because it was Rock music and the dawning of an age that would end the folk song revival era, but because the musician stood on a stage blaring music out way above the people. Pete Seeger was a prophet of equality-he wanted everyone to sing together, on the same level, standing side by side and even locked arm in arm, as we did and still do in our churches when we are singing We Shall Overcome, since there is much to be overcome. Pete Seeger did not preside over he sang with. Chava, wouldn’t you agree that that is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the women’s priest movement? That the renewal of the Church is symbolized by the circle where we all link arms and sing together with no rock star towering above us-pastor and priest, man and woman, young and old, documented or not documented, and all colors of the rainbow- united in equality and freedom together?  

We are so blessed,Chava, to be shaped by Pete Seeger, his music and that beautiful era in time. We shall indeed carry it on! The Sunday Morning Commentator said “Pete Seeger carried that music a long way, now the music will carry him”.


Rev. Judy Lee, ARCWP

Rev Chava Redonnet’s Reflections on Pete Seeger 

Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, February 2, 2014
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

The world lost one of its great troubadours this week. Pete Seeger died, at
the age of 94. I’ve been trying to imagine what the world would have been
like without him and his music, without “We Shall Overcome” and “Turn,
Turn, Turn.”  – and what my own life would have been like without him.

As a small child, I gleefully learned the words to “Be Kind to Your
Parents” – “so treat them with patience, and kind understanding, in spite
of the foolish things they do…”  and then to “Where Have All the Flowers
Gone?”  My best friends and I used to walk to the store together, singing
“If I Had a Hammer” at the top of our lungs. In the ‘70’s I watched a TV
special about the sloop “Clearwater,” the boat that Pete Seeger sailed up
and down the Hudson River, holding concerts and calling attention to the
filthy water and the need to clean it up. And it worked! It was a great
example of how one person with a good idea and some energy can get things
moving and change the world for good.

When the crisis at Corpus Christi happened in 1998, we sang “We Shall
Overcome” together, lots of times. I sent Pete a letter, telling him how
important music had been to us during that time, and thanking him for his
songs. Some time later I got a postcard back from him with a simple
message. It said, “Chava, thank YOU!” I’ll bet thousands of people had
notes like that from him, because he was always about including all the
voices and encouraging people to participate. He said, “Participation –
that’s what’s going to save the human race.”

All his life, he got people to sing. You couldn’t go to a Pete Seeger
concert without having a chance to sing along. In fact, he perfected the
art of “singing a song twice at the same time,” shouting out the lines just
before everybody sang them together. He was all about getting people to use
their voices. None of that “are you good enough to sing” stuff – just SING!

When I was a chaplain resident at Strong, one morning we all crowded around
the computer to watch Pete, aged 89 or 90, singing “This Land is Your Land”
at President Obama’s first inauguration. It was wonderful – seeing someone
who had worked so many, many years for justice, singing with hope and joy
with hundreds of thousands of people. He kept singing even though his voice
was shot, and it was always wonderful to hear him.

Thanks, Pete, for living your life the way you did! The best memorial I can
think of is that each of us use our own voices – for justice, for peace,
for cooperation and for joy. (Find a recording of Pete singing “Wimoweh” if
you want to hear what utter joy sounds like!). Use our own voices, and
encourage each other, and keep an eye out for anybody whose voice is being
silenced. Participate! Encourage each other. Share. And sing!

Blessings and love to all,

Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy

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