WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Grace Notes

By Amanda Udis-Kessler

“So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your sibling has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your sibling, and then come and offer your gift.” 
—Matthew 5:23-24, NRSV (adapted)

I enter the church quietly and slip into a seat in the back. A UU congregation where I was a member, musician, and lay leader for eight years is dissolving; today is the final service. The former music director and his band will be providing music. And while almost no one in the room knows it, they will see an unexpected reconciliation.

From above, a person with light brown skin, wearing jeans and an olive shirt, plays an electric keyboard.

My leaving this congregation in 2019 looked like a simple falling away, but I was (among other things) heartbroken that political differences between the former music director and me had destroyed our friendship and turned our joint music-making sour.

We had had a great run musically, both at church and beyond. Our musical connection was magical. When he played guitar and sang, I could almost always find exactly the right piano accompaniment to enhance the song: providing a subtle, plaintive ache when the song was about yearning; ringing out chords of celebration when those were called for.

I tried to ignore our political differences. But when my friend admitted supporting the Evangelical baker who discriminated against same-sex couples, I thought about my own same-sex marriage and my heart broke. I ended the friendship and then the musical relationship, and finally left the congregation that was still paying him.

When the congregation voted to dissolve, friends invited me to the final service. I did not want to be there as though nothing had happened; as though nothing was broken. But in a moment of humility, I decided it might comfort the grieving congregation to see the two of us play together again. I contacted him and asked what he thought. He invited me to join in on one of our old songs.

Now the service is drawing to an end and the final song is about to start. He invites me up and I sit at the keyboard one last time. We make magic again, seamlessly, as though we had never stopped. Our political differences do not matter. Our disagreements are forgotten. I offer my gift at an altar that turns out to be the corner of a congregational stage jammed with musicians. The last chord rings out, a truth beyond words. And the congregation smiles, cries, and applauds.


Holy Reconciler, help us make peace with each other so that we may offer the gift of our lives at the altar of sacred love and healing.

Editor's note: Amanda received permission from her friend to publish this reflection.