Friday, June 16, 2017

Jean and Jim Strathdee, Conference Musicians

Sharing Their Story:
Jean and Jim Strathdee,
Conference Musicians 

We have been asked to write an article to share some experiences where our lives and ministry have intersected with issues of Earth care, First Nation tribes, and water.
An early “formative” story. We both grew up in different towns on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, a dramatically beautiful, high desert region. One thing that connects all the towns in this valley is the Los Angeles Aqueduct (completed in 1913). Through subterfuge, the City of LA took the water rights of the Owens Valley farmers and built a long “snake” (aqueduct) across the foothills of the Sierra, capturing the “run off” water and diverting the river water to quench the thirst of the growing San Fernando Valley, a suburb of LA. The economy of the Owens Valley was ruined. We grew up listening to the stories of families losing their fruit ranches ~ their trees, their crops. The city of LA hired a private militia to keep the farmers away from the construction. There was blood shed and people died. Jim went to school with Western Shoshone Paiute students who shared their life stories.
Our ministry. We were both raised in the church, with parents who stood for the marginalized ~ who cared about the earth. Our talents in music were welcomed by our faith communities. We found each other 45 years ago and have shared our passion for justice as we have written and sung, encouraging others to walk in beauty with each other and our Earth. In 1995, we, along with our son, Michael, created their Celebration for the Healing of the Earth ~ a multi-media project, built upon parts of the Christian mass, enhanced by the wisdom of many faiths, especially the Native American and Australian Aboriginal people. A favorite piece in this work is the “Sanctus” in which a choir of wolves and a choir of humans sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy” into the night.
Our work in 2016-17
Climate Vigil for United Methodist General Conference, Portland, OR. At this Global meeting of United Methodists, indigenous people from many continents shared their stories of how changing climate, and its social and political consequences are endangering their very survival. We created call and response chanting to weave into their testimonies. Elders of the Mindanao from the Philippines were powerful in their witness.
noDAPL rally in Auburn, CA. We did not join the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, but supported their amazing effort locally at an interfaith rally where we led more call and response singing. This rally included a blessing of the people who were on their way to North Dakota.

The chorus of Jim’s song ~
They drew a line in the sand,
said, here we make our stand.
You may come no further
to poison our water,
desecrate our land.
Here we stand together!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Here we stand together,
We stand and pray together! 

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