Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Moment with Pete Seeger

Many people will be celebrating the life, music, and activism of Pete Seeger. The 94 years that he was on this earth was a blessing to many. I am certainly one of those.

I considered writing about his life, songs, and activism for civil rights, justice, peace, the environment, etc. So I’ll not repeat what others are doing. Rather, I shall share the story of the brief moment I met Pete Seeger.
Eden Seminary

I believe that the year was 1984. I was an older seminary student, having entered EdenTheological Seminary in St. Louis at the age of 39. During my first year I was selected to represent the students of Eden on United Church of Christ Board for World Ministries Council of Theological Students.

The first meeting I attended was at the Board’s headquarters in New York City. Accompanying me was a visitor to Eden, the Rev. Takia Nishizawa, who was junior pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation and Nishinomiya, Japan.

After one of the meetings, Taki and I went for a walk that took us
The Riverside Church
past the cathedral-like Riverside Church, where we noticed lots of people entering. We entered, too.

In the sanctuary we found a gathering of folks who were preparing to travel by bus all night to Washington, D.C., where they were to picket the South African embassy in opposition to apartheid. At the front of the sanctuary, standing at a microphone with banjo in hand, stood Pete Seeger.

Taki and I stayed. There were speakers, prayers, and lots of songs, led by Pete and others. After about 90 minutes, folks began leaving the sanctuary to board the buses for the trip to D.C. With Taki at my side, I walked up to the chancel where Pete Seeger stood talking to the Rev. Dr. William "Bill" Sloane Coffin, Jr., whom I knew.

The Riverside Sanctuary
I introduced myself to Peter, said that I wished that I could go with them to D.C., and said I would be praying for their mission. My moment with Pete Seeger lasted three or four minutes; Still, I have carried them in my heart ever since. For in Pete Seeger I experienced a truly gentle and straightforward human being, truly passionate about his ideals and willing to walk the walk.

That was my moment. Now here is just a bit of Pete’s music:

 Well done, Pete
Rest in Peace, Precious Friend

Here are a of my few recommendations (wishing that I owned all of them):


  1. There are some moments in life that forever stay in one's memories and your moment with Pete Seeger is one of those, Nick. I guess the picketing of the South African embassy helped as now we know that SA have abolished apartheid...well as much as they can anyway. There will always be racists until people realise that beneath our superficial differences we are all one. Pete Seeger and his friends were all enlightened.

    1. The mystic G.I. Gurdjieff wrote a book entitled Meetings with Remarkable Men tat I read long ago. I've met a few famous remarkable men in my life and many on-famous ones. I think I have gained something from each encounter. One this I didn't mention in this essay was the depth of soul that I saw in Pete Seeger's eyes. Truly remarkable!

  2. Beautiful. Truly beautiful experience.

  3. I am so jealous that you got to meet him! He was one of the people I admired most: he never gave up, he never burned out, and he never stopped smiling!


    1. Me, too, Thomas. I so wish I could have spent more time with Pete -- maybe traveling with them to D.C. Still, I treasure the few minutes I did speak with him.

  4. PS- I found a picture of Pete and Toshi I especially liked, and it's up over on my blog. You might have to scroll down a bit to get to it.

    ~Thomas (again)