Notes from WATERtea:

“The Gifts of 2020: A Celebratory Assessment”

with Mary E. Hunt, Elizabeth Ursic, and Diann L. Neu

Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 2pm ET

The audio recording is available here.

Mary E. Hunt:

WATER will close the first year of WATERteas with a chance to name the gifts of 2020. Odd as it may sound, many good things have occurred. Capturing them allows us to move into 2021 with a fresh slate. Elizabeth Ursic will share music and Diann Neu will lead us in a “Litany of Gift Giving.”

December 1st is World AIDS Day. I invite us to take a moment to reflect on those who have died, to thank those who have cared for the sick and dying, to hail those who have done research for a cure, and those who live with the disease and all of its ramifications. It is eerily reminiscent of our current Covid-19 reality. Let our silence be our commitment to a brighter future.

Remarks on music: Joan Chittister provides a wonderful image about turning to music when we need spiritual, physical, and mental renewal:

“I have a parrot who does not sing. She cries a lot if I leave the room—if anybody leaves the room actually. She screams for whatever she needs—though it’s your responsibility to figure out what that may be …

But when I sing to her, or play music for her, she stands stark still and listens without making a sound. She just perches there. Almost breathless. Almost frozen. It’s totally out of character—and totally understandable—at the same time. It is something that fascinates me. I watched her over and over again and then I got it: I do the same thing myself.

Here, in the music, is all the protection I need from my restless or anxious or empty self. Maybe music is the basic living instinct, I think: common to us all—parrot and person alike. It is the one thing in life that gets into my soul, that cuts it off from everything but the electrical impulses of the universe, that encapsulates me…

The truth is that music is not a melody, it is a place in time. It is somewhere to go where no one else, no noise, no interruptions can intrude. It takes us in and closes us off from all the clamor of the universe.
It gives us balm. It touches our souls. It saves us from the straggle and cacophony of the world. It takes our noisy, crowded lives and quiets us in the orbit of the sublime.
Music is the only sound of heaven we’ve ever been given. Play it often. Play it well. Play it to put yourself back together again after noise and confusion of sound leave you tired and alone and lonely on the floor of life…Indeed, music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words. Happy listening.”

Joan Chittister, from The Monastic Way

Our colleague Elizabeth Ursic, a musician and professor of world religions at Mesa Community College (, offers this beautiful piece for our reflection:

Music by Elizabeth Ursic: “Cello Lullaby”

From “Elizabeth Ursic – Beams: a live online music series” (from 4:33 to 7:40 in the video)


Mary E. Hunt:

We started WATERteas on March 24, 2020 in response to the pandemic and the fact that we were all shut in.

In April, we turned to music and the arts straight away. In May, we brought up the increased sexual and domestic violence that isolation has caused. In June, we focused on anti-racism. In July, we looked at the global state of the pandemic including the situations in Germany, Brasil, etc. In September, we shared our spiritual resources to “Thrive for the Long Haul.” In October, we learned about the possibilities of a New Economic Order from experts around the world. In November, we talked as an international community about the Global Kaleidoscope of the pandemic. And now, in December, we are back to music, counting our blessings during this perilous time.

The trends reflected in our teas include:

  1. The need for both “bread and roses”—serious sustenance, both intellectually and spiritually
  2. Global perspectives and participants from many countries are key
  3. Goals involve keeping well by doing justice work, paying attention to major issues, while also nourishing ourselves and community.

We count this group and experience among the gifts of 2020.


Elizabeth Ursic answers: “How do you see music as helping us deal with the experiences of 2020.”

Elizabeth Ursic:

There’s something about music that puts a kind of signature on certain times of our life. There’s something about finding music that has been important to us in the past coming back to comfort us now. I’ve spoken to a lot of musicians who have not been able to create new work, and yet there are other musicians who have been enormously creative.

Sound can disrupt, and sound can bring us together. I’ve used my own music to bring me a sense of peace, especially when I’m waiting, such as when I’m having a procedure done at the hospital. I play the same song on a loop, so the same piece plays over and over again.

Music leaves signatures of joy. Because music is outside of us but comes inside of us, when we find it difficult to pray or meditate or just be, music can bring us that comfort, peace, and joy we’re looking for.

Elizabeth’s piece “Gaia,” was written for an eco-feminist workshop:

The following song is made of five mini movements of Earth’s history: the song opens with the creation of the Earth, then melody comes to symbolize evolution, rhythm comes in to signify humans, then piano to be an echo to be a reminder of our origins, then merging back into the cosmos. The scenes accompanying the music are all of Sedona, Arizona, captured by her friend Cozy McFee.

Music: “Gaia”


Small group discussion-

What has been meaningful in the unusual and difficult 2020?
What suggestions for themes, dynamics, etc. do you recommend for this group moving forward?


Some of the blessings listed by participants, taken from the chat:

  • The US election
  • Community, neighbor helping neighbor, during a time of isolation
  • Music in many forms
  • Pets, new ones as well as spending time with ones we already had
  • Taking more time outside and enjoying nature, through walking or other ways
  • ZOOM! For its accessibility, increasing the diversity of topics and people, widening up to (more) international participation, multi-dimensionality, getting to know each other and connect, seeing each other’s faces, companionship
  • Forced contemplation
  • WATER flowing; companionship through WATER
  • A grandchild
  • Demonstrations for justice
  • Discovering “real presence” through Zoom

 Some ideas for future teas:

  • Developing the “new normal” which will not be like the old normal
  • International conversation on vaccines with a focus on justice


December Litany of Gift-Giving

By Diann L. Neu

This ribbon represents the gifts that you have given and received. Let it symbolize the gifts many still need.

For those who support “WATER On-Call During the Pandemic,” the gift of gratitude to you. 

For friends who share joys and sorrows, the gift of friendship to you.

For colleagues with whom I network and collaborate, the gift of solidarity to you.

For the people living in conflict, the gift of peace to you.

For those living with cancer or Covid-19, and those who are sick, the gift of healing to you.

For people in despair, the gift of hope to you.

For families divided by differences, the gift of reconciliation to you.

For children of every race and country, the gift of love and justice to you.

For those who are made homeless, the gift of shelter to you.

For those who are hungry, especially children, the gift of food and security to you.

For those who are without paid jobs, the gift of meaningful, remunerated work to you.

For those who are dying this day, the gift of a peaceful passing to you.

For newborns, the gift of life to you.

For those who experience discrimination in any form, the gift of justice to you.

For world leaders, the gift of vision for the global community to you.

For the women who experience violence from war, rape, and religion, the gift of safety to you.

For young girls growing up today, the gift of empowerment to you.

May you give and receive the gifts that you and the world need. Amen. Ashe. Let It Be So.


Thank you to all who joined us over the 2020 Tea Season. Special thanks to Elizabeth Ursic for bringing her music and her ideas to this session.

Have a safe and peaceful New Year. Join us for the next WATER tea on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 2 PM ET with Mary Condren on Brigit.