This Sunday we begin a three-part series entitled “The Gospel According to Dolly.” We will focus on the ways in which her life and songs speak to the suffering, joy, and longing for home that we all experience.
Dolly Parton grew up in the Great Smokies of Tennessee knowing that she could make music. The granddaughter of a preacher, she grew up singing church music and hearing stories from the Bible.
She was the fourth of 12 children and her parents struggled to make ends meet. One year, Dolly’s mother fashioned her a jacket to wear to school out of old corduroy rags of various colors. While she sewed the rags together, her mother told Dolly the Biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. “I know now,” says Dolly, “that she told me the story so I wouldn’t be ashamed of my coat.”
But other children at school sneered at Dolly’s outfit, inflicting on her a hurt that stayed for years. “I kept saying, ‘Mama made me this coat. It’s like the coat of many colors in the Bible.’ They kept saying, ‘That’s just a bunch o’ old rags sewed together.’ “
She wrote a song about the whole incident called The Coat of Many Colors. I first heard this song when I was a child and I’ve never quite been able to separate the song from the story found in Genesis about Joseph and his coat of many colors. Her song reminds me of the enduring power of shame and the even more enduring strength of love and the value of turning even our most traumatic experiences into a story. Or in Dolly’s case, a song.
During our series, we will hear several Dolly Parton songs in worship including Light of a Clear Blue Morning, I Will Always Love You, and Travelin’ Thru.
What’s your favorite Dolly Parton song?
-Written by Rev. Amy Miracle
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