Prelude Clouds by Elizabeth Harley
In this time of continuing insecurity and social upheaval,
When most of us are unable to meet in person,
I invite you into this time of online worship.
For this short space of time,
Let us put our worldly cares aside,
Close our eyes and imagine ourselves
To be in our places of worship,
Surrounded by members of our beloved community,
And be together, if only virtually,
At this one time.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point. I will be lighting my chalice for worship at 11.00 am on Sunday morning) (words by Cliff Reed)
Out of the fires of war
let us kindle the chalice of peace.
Out of the fury of battle
let us create a passion for peace.
Out of the turmoil of conscience
let us weave the calm of peace.
In the one Spirit we share
let us celebrate the vision of a
World made just and free – and
find the strength to build it,
a little at a time.
Spirit of Life and Love,
Be with us as we gather for worship,
Each in their own place.
Help us to feel a sense of community,
Even though we are physically apart.
Help us to care for each other,
In this difficult time,
Keeping in touch however we can,
And helping each other,
However we may.
We hold in our hearts all those
Whose lives have been touched,
In whatever way,
By painful events, in their lives,
And in the wider world,
Of which we are all a part. Amen
Reading Peace by Lao Tse, author of the Tao Te Ching
If there is to be peace in the world
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Alternative Lord’s Prayer
Spirit of Life and Love, here and everywhere,
May we be aware of your presence in our lives.
May our world be blessed.
May our daily needs be met,
And may our shortcomings be forgiven,
As we forgive those of others.
Give us the strength to resist wrong-doing,
The inspiration and guidance to do right,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We are your hands in the world; help us to grow.
May we have compassion for all living beings,
And receive whatever life brings,
With courage and trust.
Reading from Quaker Faith and Practice, by Adam Curle.
Adam Curle was the first professor in the School of Peace Studies, established in 1973 in the University of Bradford.
I have often been asked how we handle the fact that peace-making involves having a relationship, often a close relationship, with people who are committed to violent solutions to their problems. Do we tell them we disapprove of what they are doing or urge them to repent and desist? And if we don’t, how do we square this with our principles? For my part, I reply that I would never presume to criticise people caught up in a situation I do not share with them, for the way in which they are responding to that situation. How could I, for example, preach to the oppressed of Latin America or Southern Africa? Nevertheless, I explain that I do not believe in the use of violence as either effective or moral; my job is to try to help people who can see no alternative to violence to find a substitute…
I am as much concerned with the human condition in general as with specific conflicts, which often represent only the tip of a pyramid of violence and anguish… I am concerned with all the pain and confusion that impede our unfolding and fulfilment. Often, of course, circumstances forced us to focus on extreme examples of unpeacefulness. However, if we were to limit our attention to these, we would be neglecting the soil out of which they grow and would continue to grow until the soil were purified. In this sense, the social worker, the teacher, the wise legislator, or the good neighbour is just as much a peacemaker as the woman or man unravelling some lethal international imbroglio.
Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi
Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Reading: It is easy to cry peace by Cliff Reed
It is easy to cry ‘peace’
when we are not oppressed by tyranny.
It is easy to invoke patience
when our loved ones are not in chains.
It is easy to call for restraint
when our children are free from fear.
It is easy to be even-handed
when your sister is not being raped
and your brother is not being tortured.
It is easy to mouth smooth pieties
when cruelty and injustice are not before your eyes.
It is easy to quibble about legalities
when you have laws that protect you.
It is easy to debate rights and liberties
when terrorists haven’t strewn your streets
with bloody, broken bodies.
It is easy to light candles
when your family isn’t burning,
or to sing sweet songs when hatred
isn’t screaming in your ears.
It is easy to be sure
when we are far away,
safe in our certainties.
Spirit of Love, don’t let us use you
to excuse our failure to relieve those
who suffer torment at human hands,
or to make a difference when we can.
Time of Stillness and Reflection A Buddhist Litany of Peace
As we are together, praying for Peace, let us be truly with each other.
Let us be at peace within ourselves, our bodies and our minds, our emotions and our spirit.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
Let us be aware of the source of being common to us all and to all living things.
Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion, let us open our hearts to receive compassion – for ourselves and for all living beings.
Let us pray that all living beings may realise that they are all brothers and sisters, all nourished from the same source of life.
Let us pray that we ourselves may cease to be the cause of suffering to each other.
Let us pledge ourselves to live in a way which will not deprive other beings of air, water, food, shelter, or the chance to live.
With humility, with awareness of the uniqueness of life, and with compassion for the suffering around us, let us pray for the establishment of peace in our hearts and peace on earth.
May it be so, Amen
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address On Praying and Working for Peace
Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for World Peace. One of my deepest convictions is that war is never the answer, and I try to witness for peace through my work for the Unitarian Peace Fellowship. This morning I am going to share some thoughts with you on the issues of war and peace, militarism and pacifism, and to explain what they mean to me, a Unitarian woman born in 1960. It is necessarily a personal view, forgive me if you do not share it.
To start with a little personal background: both my parents were children during World War II, and my Dad did two years’ National Service. Even though they were only in their early teens when the war ended, it made a fundamental impression on them, which they have passed down to me.
Like most children I completely accepted my parents’ points of view, which were reinforced by the endless war films which were shown on Saturday afternoons during the sixties and seventies. War was seen as glorious and heroic and patriotic and good old Britain won the day. The grimmer realities of war were carefully not revealed.
Until, in 1978, the BBC made a serial of Vera Brittain’s book Testament of Youth. After I had read the book, I realised that my views on war and peace had been changed forever, and that I had a profound duty to think through the issues and to try and work out where I stood. I am still struggling.
People’s view of war changes over time. When World War I ended, the official view, according to Reg Grant, author of Armistice 1918, “was that it had been a tragic experience, but one also steeped with heroism and a sense of noble duty fulfilled … This view did not exclude a recognition of the horrors suffered by the men at the front, but saw the suffering as justified by a high purpose.” Vera Brittain also speaks of “this glamour, this magic, this incomparable keying up of the spirit in a time of mortal conflict”.
There is nothing like a common cause to pull people together, and to bring out the best in them. Look at the saturation bombing during World War II. Its purpose, according to Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris was “to scourge the Third Reich from end to end. We are bombing Germany city by city and ever more terribly in order to make it impossible for her to go on with the war. That is our object, and we shall pursue it relentlessly.” Germany had similar ideas about Britain.
And did it work? Of course not. Everyone was united in adversity and became even more determined to hang on and beat the enemy. Morale was high, in spite of rationing and propaganda. The government-controlled media made sure that their messages would stiffen people’s resolve to endure. The situation is much the same in the Middle East and other theatres of war today.
In times of peace, the views of the majority can be very different. For example in the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a wave of anti-war feeling, and the “Great War” came to be seen as a senseless waste of human life, rather than heroic sacrifice. In 1933, the Oxford Union voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal that “this House will not fight for King and Country.” This caused a great stir, because Oxford students were an elite in Britain, and were the sort of people who would be expected to form the officer class in time of war. Which of course, six years later, they did.
I think that what I’m trying to say is that, like Cliff Reed, it’s easy to preach peace in time of peace and war in time of war. What is harder is to decide once and for all to repudiate war, and to stick to it, no matter what. Is there ever a ‘just war’? I honestly don’t know. For most people, World War Two is the sticking point when thinking of an answer – because Nazism was undoubtedly an evil which needed to be stopped. And yet, although the cause was just, I believe that the means used, like the saturation bombing I mentioned earlier, were not.
If we reject the concept of war altogether, the alternative is pacifism. In the 1930s an Anglican minister named Canon Dick Sheppard founded the Peace Pledge Union. Tens of thousands of people joined it, pledging never again to wage war. In her autobiography Testament of Experience, Vera Brittain reports a discussion with her husband George Catlin on the issue of pacifism.
Catlin wrote: “I will not stop to inquire whether pacifism as an absolute principle is sound. In measurable time you will not convert to it the majority of this great nation and therefore (whatever one’s private view) it will not, as a public fact, avert war.”
Brittain argued that “the same argument applied to all forms of revolutionary teaching, costly and often dangerous to its interpreters, which visualised life in terms of a society still to come. The fallible Apostles could never have hoped to convert the great Roman Empire to Christ’s doctrines ‘in measurable time’. But surely few would now say that the early Christian Church should have abandoned its task as too difficult, even though neither the lands once ruled by Rome nor the rest of humanity were converted even yet?”
She went on to join the Peace Pledge Union, and bore witness for peace for the rest of her life, often at considerable personal cost.
And yet. And yet. To fight or to take a pacifist line is one of the deepest and starkest choices of personal conscience. Is pacifism a cause worth fighting for? What a paradox. I speak as one who has a fairly volatile temperament at times, and one who is not a naturally pacific person. I admire Vera Brittain enormously, and the Quakers too. I am also deeply impressed by the realisation that we are all human beings, given life by God. What right have others to take that life away? What cause can possibly justify it? Not many, I think.
Being a mother has also affected my views. Having grown my children in the womb, and having nurtured them in the years that have followed, I feel a deep fellowship with all women who have done the same, and can imagine the anguish that every parent must feel when their precious child is killed. The common humanity of humankind should be an overarching bond that prevents war. After the terrible events of September 11th 2001, now nearly twenty years ago, we saw this in action – people all over the world of whatever political complexion were united in horror at the toll of death and damage. We just need to be reminded of our common humanity. Often.
A friend of mine sums up the arguments for and against pacifism as follows:
“The fence on which I seem to sit is this:
- That I am dedicated to the proposition that love will ultimately (but not consistently or progressively) triumph over hate.
- That by the same token peace will triumph over war – but not consistently or progressively.
- That there are some things one must do, not believing in their success, but because doing them is essential to one’s integrity (actually I’d say ‘for the sake of my soul’)
- I know quite well that my blood can be fired by the beat of a drum or the skirl of pipes – just as I can be moved by ‘Last night I had the strangest dream’. I am not one of the world’s instinctive herbivores.”
My feelings are much the same.
The thought I would like to leave you with is that it is the responsibility of the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead. We, the privileged people whose countries are not at war, have a responsibility to influence our governments and fellow citizens to work towards a more peaceful, happier world, in which war would no longer be necessary. I know that faith groups the world over are trying to do the same – we just all need to work together, and to keep at it, until humankind finally realises that peace is so much better than war, for everyone.
Most wars are allegedly fought to bring peace – a most ingenious paradox! We should remember and honour the dead, but also pledge ourselves to make our world a better place – to end all wars, to relieve world debt, to feed the hungry, to find a cure for terrible diseases, to stop destroying our environment. It is still a beautiful planet, or it could be, if we could only learn to live together in peace.
May it be so.
Closing Words The International Prayer for Peace
The words of this prayer, adapted from the Hindu Upanishads, were used by Mother Teresa in 1981. She urged everyone of all faiths to use the peace prayer daily at noon. Let us join together in prayer:
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley