Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Sylvia L. Howe (adapted)
I bid you welcome on this first Sunday of the New Year.
Like Janus we gather with part of us looking backward
and part of us looking forward.
We gather on the edge of the new year
saddened by our losses,
cherishing our joys,
aware of our failures,
mindful of days gone by.
We gather on the cusp of this new year
eager to begin anew,
hopeful for what lies ahead,
promising to make changes,
anticipating tomorrows and tomorrows.
Let us join in a celebration of life,
knowing that life includes good and bad,
endings and beginnings.
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
We gather on this first Sunday of the year
to renew our flame of love and fellowship
in hope of better days to come for us
and everyone on earth.
Spirit of Life and Love,
Be with us as we gather for worship,
Each in our 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 world in which Covid again seems to be rampant,
Keeping in touch however we can,
And helping each other,
However we may.
May we remember that
caution is still needed,
that close contact is still unwise.
Help us to be grateful for the freedoms we have
and to respect the wishes of others.
May we hold in our hearts all those
Who are grieving, lost, alone,
Suffering in any way.
Reading New Year’s Day by Kathleen McTigue
The first of January is another day dawning, the sun rising as the sun always rises, the earth moving in its rhythms, with or without our calendars to name a certain day as the day of new beginning, separating the old from the new, so it is: everything is the same, bound into its history as we ourselves are bound.
Yet also we stand at a threshold, the new year something truly new, still unformed, leaving a stunning power in our hands:
What shall we do with this great gift of Time, this year? Let us begin by remembering that whatever justice, whatever peace and wholeness might bloom in our world this year, we are the hearts and minds, the hands and feet, the embodiment of all the best visions of our people.
The new year can be new ground for the seeds of our dreams. Let us take the step forward together, onto new ground, planting our dreams well, faithfully, and in joy.
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. Amen
Reading Year’s End and Year’s Beginning by Keith Gilley, from Echoes
Years come, and years go, always the same, but never the same. And I have known and remember decades of life. There have been times of war and times of peace; times of hope and times of despair when hope was hard to cling to; times of love and times of desolation. And there were times of great joy, when all the pain and suffering of life were hard to credit, like believing in snow in the heat of the day, or sun-burn in a blizzard.
Yet these, and all the in-betweens, I have known. I wasn’t someone different at those times; it was the same me in all those times, the same me in continuity in each long decade of living. So are we all, people of all seasons. Can we then be people for all seasons? Celebrating, accepting, rejoicing, grieving, and sorrowing, as the die of the times is cast for us? We are here, each of us, with different burdens as with different gifts.
We would resolve to live fully, richly and wisely in all that pertains to ourselves. We would resolve to live thoughtfully, kindly and compassionately in all that pertains to others. We would be secure in the knowledge that we are all kindred, one of another, bound together in sorrow as in joy, in trial as in celebration.
Prayer by Cliff Reed
God of our inmost hearts, we turn to you
at the start of another year.
No one knows what it will bring, and we
make our plans in hope, not certainty.
As we set out once more on the journey, we pray
for courage and guidance in the way of love.
Help us to hold to the truth we know, and to
resist the lies and follies that beguile the world.
Open our eyes to see the needs of others,
our ears to hear your call in their unhappiness and discontent.
Make us listen to the Earth and what she has to teach,
for the sake of all your children.
In humility we turn to you, O God. Help us to
make this year a better one than anyone dared hope.
Reading New Year Snow by Frances Horovitz
For three days we waited,
a bowl of dull quartz for sky.
At night the valley dreamed of snow,
lost Christmas angels with dark-white wings
flailing the hills.
I dreamed a poem, perfect
as the first six-pointed flake,
that melted at dawn:
a Janus time
to peer back at guttering dark days,
trajectories of the spent year.
And then snow fell.
Within an hour, a world immaculate
as January’s new-hung page.
We breathe the radiant air like men new-born.
the children rush before us.
As in a dream of snow
we track through crystal fields
to the green horizon
and the sun’s reflected rose.
Time of Stillness and Reflection Meditation for a New Year by Amanda Poppei (adapted)
My friends, we have arrived.
We are here, in this new year.
We have crossed the boundary of time, into the next year, with all its resolutions and plans and schedules ahead of us.
Let us pause, for just this moment, before we move boldly onward.
Let us pause to hear the breathing of those around us,
to feel their presence in this space.
To know their presence in our lives.
Let us pause to consider the trees, their branches stripped bare,
their elegant architecture on display.
Let us pause to feel the spirit of life and love that ties us to each other, that winds its way through our very bones and settles in our hearts.
Before we march forward, armed with resolutions that will shortly be forgotten in the day-to-day of living, let us notice what it is that remains every year, every day. What exists beyond schedules and months, beyond time. It welcomes us to life, not just at the start of the year, but every day. And let us answer . . . Amen.
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address New Year 2022
It is a new year. I would like to begin by sharing some words by Patience Strong: “It is good to throw away the old calendar with its all too familiar picture, and to hang something fresh on the wall. How clean and bright the new calendar looks! It seems to symbolise the high hopes of this new morning of a new year. But as I flick through the crisp new pages of the months, I am suddenly aware of the strange mystery of the future. These pages with their neat rows of dates represent unlived time, the promise of seasons not yet come to fulfilment.” This time of year is full of new promise.
On New Year’s Eve, for the past few years, my husband and I have filled in our Year Compasses, which provide us with an annual opportunity to look back on the past year (which hasn’t brought the freedom from Covid we hoped for this time last year) and to look forward to a (hopefully) less constricted 2022. Although I must say at this point, I would far rather go back into lockdown and get this horrible virus finally defeated, than carry on as usual and risk it going on for yet another twelve months. What will actually happen remains to be seen. All we can do is to try to stay faithful to our resolve to be our best selves and respond to whatever happens with compassion, kindness and gratitude (when appropriate).
In spite of all its oddness – who would have dreamed that everyone not only could, but should, walk into a bank in a face-mask and ask for money and no-one would turn a hair? – 2021, like 2020, has not been entirely bad. We have grieved over the loss of friends and acquaintances, missed all the hugs we haven’t been allowed to share, the friends and family we haven’t seen face to face for far too long, and the Unitarian events we haven’t attended. If they happen next April, the General Assembly meetings will be the first in three years – astonishing. Again on the minus side, two of our congregations in the Midlands have closed their doors for the last time and some well-loved congregation members have died – particularly poignant sadnesses.
But like I say, it has not been all bad. One super thing that happened was that Unitarian College launched an online version of the Worship Studies Course Foundation Step, for which I was one of the guest tutors and it was an unalloyed joy to watch the students on the four courses that happened during the year, learn and grow. Most of our congregations have resumed face-to-face worship (although how long that will last as the Omicron variant runs rampant through our communities is anyone’s guess) and it has been a joy to start visiting “round the District” once more. My mother turned 90 in October and we had a joyful family gathering at my sister’s house – it was good to see everyone again, even if we still had to be careful. In my spare time, I have continued to write and crochet, both of which hobbies fill me with contentment and joy.
I think I have learned to appreciate all the little “joys” that come my way and to be grateful for each and every one, however small and insignificant. Part of which has been not being sure when I might be able to do or see whatever it was again…
At this time of year, a time of endings and beginnings, I always find the words of 19th century Unitarian and Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, both challenging and reassuring (please excuse the exclusive, masculine language):
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. No man has learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is doomsday. Today is a king in disguise. Today always looks mean to the thoughtless, in the face of a uniform experience that all good and great and happy actions are made up precisely of these blank todays.
Let us not be so deceived; let us unmask the king as he passes! He only is rich who owns the day, and no-one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with worry, fret and anxiety.
You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
Good advice at any time, but particularly apposite, perhaps, at the beginning of a new year. I always feel that I’ve been given the chance to begin again on 1st January, to forget the “blunders and absurdities” of the previous year and to start afresh. Our second reading, by former editor of The Inquirer, Keith Gilley, reminds us that we are “people of all seasons” and challenges us, “Can we then be people for all seasons? Celebrating, accepting, rejoicing, grieving, and sorrowing, as the die of the times is cast for us? We are here, each of us, with different burdens as with different gifts.”
He also suggests some wise new year resolutions: “We would resolve to live fully, richly and wisely in all that pertains to ourselves. We would resolve to live thoughtfully, kindly and compassionately in all that pertains to others. We would be secure in the knowledge that we are all kindred, one of another, bound together in sorrow as in joy, in trial as in celebration.”
This April, all being well, I will be installed as President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. I hope I will have the opportunity to travel around the country, visiting many congregations and districts, meeting new (to me) Unitarians and representing the General Assembly in other ways.
In our first reading, Unitarian Universalist Kathleen McTigue bids us remember “that whatever justice, whatever peace and wholeness might bloom in our world this year, we are the hearts and minds, the hands and feet, the embodiment of all the best visions of our people.” I hope, with her, that the new year will be “new ground for the seeds of our dreams.” And that I will be able to walk alongside Unitarians in the UK, “planting our dreams well, faithfully, and in joy.”
Because whatever happens in the next 364 days, whether it is “bad” or “good” or “indifferent”, it will be up to each one of us to make it the best year we can, by living “fully, richly and wisely… thoughtfully, kindly and compassionately,” as Keith Gilley advises.
In last year’s New Year address, I mentioned the 18 sacred intentions I have on the noticeboard in my study, and I think they will bear another airing, because if we are able to follow them, 2022 will be a better year, both for us and for the people we interact with – family, friends and acquaintances. They never fail to inspire me to give of my best. Here they are again:
1 I will take less and give more.
2 I will work less and live more.
3 I will do less and be more.
4 I will speak less and listen more.
5 I will buy less and simplify more.
6 I will have fewer distractions and more time for reflection.
7 I will be less realistic and dream more.
8 I will complain less and appreciate more.
9 I will worry less and surrender more.
10 I will judge less and understand more.
11 I will hate less and love more.
12 I will criticise less and praise more.
13 I will follow less and lead more.
14 I will fear less and act more.
15 I will think less and go with my gut more.
16 I will please less and stay true to myself more.
17 I will require less perfection from myself and accept where I am more.
18 I will hold fewer grudges and forgive more.
I do hope that 2022 will be a better year for all of us – that we will all be vaccinated against Covid, that the fear this terrible virus has engendered will fade away, and that our experiences of the past two years will have turned us into kinder, more compassionate people. Another New Year has been welcomed in, full of hints and promises. We have another chance to learn new things, to make new friends, to appreciate old friends, and to recognise God everywhere.
Spirit of Life and Love,
another New Year has begun.
May 2022 be a good year,
for me and for all those I love,
and for the world.
Closing Words from The Gate of the Year by Minnie Haskins
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
followed by some words of blessing by David Cole
May the coming year be significant in your life journey
May you know love, joy and peace
May it be a time of adventure and security
May you draw closer to the Divine and be a purer channel for the Divine flow
May you be blessed and be a blessing. Amen
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley