Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Cliff Reed (adapted)
For millennia beyond count,
in winter’s cold and night’s darkness,
people have gathered around fire,
feeling its warmth, seeing by its light,
forging community with food and work
and songs and stories.
In all faith traditions of our kind,
fire has meaning. And so we gather,
sharers all in the human spirit
that makes us one.
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 11.05 am on Sunday morning) words by Cliff Reed
We kindle our chalice flame
as other chalice flames burn brightly
around the world.
May our flames
warm all human hearts
of all faiths and nations
and direct us towards a future
of peace and justice,
oneness and loving kindness.
May it be so.
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 not quite yet post-Covid world,
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 from The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Hooga? Hhyooguh? Heurgh? It is not important how you choose to pronounce or even spell ‘hygge’. To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time – Winnie-the-Pooh – when asked how to spell a certain emotion, ‘You don’t spell it, you feel it.’
However, spelling and pronouncing ‘hygge’ is the easy part. Explaining exactly what it is, that’s the tricky part. Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’, and ‘the absence of annoyance’, to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’, ‘cosy togetherness’ and, my personal favourite, ‘cocoa by candlelight’.
Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life – or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company – or simply be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea. Hygge.
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 The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
The words of the next reading describe a typical hygge experience…
One December, just before Christmas, I was spending the weekend with some friends at an old cabin. The shortest day of the year was brightened by the blanket of snow covering the surrounding landscape. When the sun set, around four in the afternoon, we would not see it again for seventeen hours, and we headed inside to get the fire going.
We were all tired after hiking and were half asleep, sitting in a semicircle around the fireplace in the cabin, wearing big jumpers and woollen socks. The only sounds you could hear were the stew boiling, the sparks from the fireplace and someone having a sip of their mulled wine. Then one of my friends broke the silence.
“Could this be any more hygge?” he asked rhetorically.
“Yes,” said one of the girls after a moment. “If there was a storm raging outside.”
We all nodded.
Prayer Thanks Be For These by Richard S. Gilbert
For the sound of bow on string,
Of breath over reed,
Of touch on keyboard;
For slants of sunlight through windows,
For shimmering shadows on snow,
For the whisper of wind on my face;
For the smooth skin of an apple,
For the caress of a collar on my neck;
For the prickling of my skin when I am deeply moved,
For the pounding of my heart when I run,
For the peace of soul at day’s end;
For familiar voices in family rites,
For the faces of friends in laughter and tears,
For the tender human arms that hold me;
For the flashes of memories that linger,
For the mysterious moments that beckon,
For the particularity of this instant;
For the silence of moon-lit nights,
For the sound of rain on my roof,
Of wind in dry leaves,
Of waves caressing the shore;
For the softness of summer breezes,
For the crispness of autumn air,
For dark shadows on white snow,
For the resurrection of spring,
For the faithful turning of the seasons;
For angular, leafless trees,
For gentle hills rolling in the distance,
For meandering streams seeking an unseen sea;
For cornstalks at stiff attention,
And brittle plants bristling past their prime,
For un-harvested gardens returning plants to enrich the soil;
For the sight of familiar faces,
The sound of our spoken names,
The welcoming embrace of outstretched arms;
For the ritual of friendship,
Reminding us we matter:
Thanks be for all these. Amen
Reading from The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Part way in to his remarkable book, Meik Wiking shares the Hygge Manifesto. It has ten simple points:
- Atmosphere – Turn down the lights.
- Presence – Be here now. Turn off the phones.
- Pleasure – Coffee, chocolates, cookies, cakes, candy.
- Equality – ‘We’ over ‘me’. Share the tasks and the airtime.
- Gratitude – Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.
- Harmony – It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.
- Comfort – Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.
- Truce – No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
- Togetherness – Build relationships and narratives. ‘Do you remember the time we …?’
- Shelter – This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.
Time of Stillness and Reflection (words by Ken Sawyer)
To the blessings of this season,
may our senses be alert
and our hearts take heed,
for in a busy and sometimes tragic world,
beauty is often the comfort most sure.
To the blessings of warm, accepting human relationship,
may our hearts be open
and our minds take heed,
for in a lonely and sometimes frightening world,
friendship is often the support that upholds us.
To the blessings of high ideals and noble aspirations,
may our minds be open,
and our hands take heed,
for in a troubled and sometimes dangerous world,
justice is often the hope that sustains us.
Forgiving each other and ourselves for all we do not sense,
for the love we do not share,
for the acts of justice we avoid,
let us treasure the parts of ourselves that do respond
Blessed be the life that comforts, sustains, and upholds us,
and blessed be we who do, now and then, awaken to its grace.
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address The Season of Hygge
I first came across the concept of hygge about five years ago, when I discovered Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge on the shelves of my supermarket. I thought that the cover was pretty and was intrigued by the title. So I bought it.
And it is delightful. It is definitely one of my Ah! books, straight off the bat. One of those books which, in the words of Vernon Sproxton, “induce a fundamental change in the reader’s consciousness. They widen our sensibility in such a way that we are able to look upon familiar things as though we are seeing and understanding them for the first time. … Ah! Books give you sentences which you can roll around in the mind, throw in the air, catch, tease out, analyse. But in whatever way you handle them, they widen your vision.”
So what is “hygge” and why am I devoting an entire service to it? As Meik Wiking said in my first reading, hygge is “about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life – or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company.” For me, hygge is what a Unitarian congregation, a Unitarian community, at its best, is all about. Summer School is particularly hyggelig.
But of course for the Danes, hygge is not a religious matter; it is a whole-of-life matter. They seem to apply the word to all kinds of everything, and all kinds of situations and places. It is derived from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing”. But it can be used as a noun, a verb, and also an adjective. Wiking uses words like “cosiness” “warmth” and “togetherness” to describe hygge, but that isn’t the half of it. He also talks of “getting the hygge on”; of a “hyggekrog” – that nook in a kitchen or living room where you can sit and have a hyggelig time; of a “hyggestund” – a moment of hygge, for example sitting quietly in your special place and drinking a cup of coffee. It’s a very complex, and all-pervasive concept in Denmark.
I found the whole idea enchanting. Let me take you through the Hygge Manifesto, which I shared as our final reading. Firstly, Wiking talks about creating a cosy atmosphere, a hyggelig atmosphere, by turning down the lights – by having table lamps and candles which create pools of light, rather than strong, overhead lighting; and about the importance of being present, not being distracted by phones and other social media. Being in a place with friends and committing your complete attention to this.
He speaks of pleasure – of sharing food and drink, mainly of the warm and sweet varieties. Also of cooking together to create, and then share, a simple, satisfying meal. Or simply spending time in a common, pleasant activity; for example, playing cards or board games, are very popular hygge pastimes, played for pleasure, not for competition, nor to score points. Which brings me to the significance of the next point on the manifesto: equality – it’s about sharing the tasks, the activities, whatever these might be, and allowing everyone to be heard and held and listened to.
He mentions gratitude – being grateful for what we are experiencing at that very moment. This is, of course, linked to being present. In one of our prayers this morning, Richard Gilbert gave thanks for “familiar voices in family rites, for the faces of friends in laughter and tears, for the tender human arms that hold me. … for the sight of familiar faces, the sound of our spoken names, the welcoming embrace of outstretched arms, for the ritual of friendship.” I believe that all this too is hyggelig. And we do need to be grateful for it, and appreciate it, as it happens.
Another element of the hygge manifesto is harmony – Wiking comments “It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.” The hygge experience is about choosing to embrace each person just the way they are, with both strengths and weaknesses, gifts and imperfections. I came across a gorgeous new word the other day: “flawsome”, which is a way of describing an individual “who embraces their ‘flaws’ and knows they are awesome regardless.” I like this very much and think that each and every one of you is flawsome.
Comfort is one of the most fundamental parts of the hygge manifesto – being comfortable and relaxed, not stressed. It’s about wearing comfortable clothing – soft, hand-knitted sweaters and cardigans, paired with soft jeans or leggings, or comfy trousers, a scarf, and woolly socks. Anything tight or confining is out. Because how can you experience hygge if you are being “cramped, cabined and confined” by your clothes? Or if you’re too cold, or too hot? So it is about spending time in warm, comfortable spaces, wearing comfortable clothes, just chilling out, doing something which brings you quiet pleasure, either with good friends, or on your own.
Which is why “Truce – no drama” is a vital part of the hygge manifesto. There are times and places to talk about current affairs and politics, but hygge time isn’t one of them. The idea is to avoid anything which is going to raise the emotional temperature, or cause stress or disagreement.
But perhaps the most foundational element of hygge is togetherness. Wiking explains: “While you can hygge by yourself, hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family. Hygge is also a situation where there is a lot of relaxed thoughtfulness. Nobody takes centre stage or dominates the conversation for long stretches of time. Equality is an important element in hygge – a trait that is deeply rooted in the Danish culture – and also manifests itself in the fact that everybody takes part in the chores of the hyggelig evening. it is more hyggeligt if we all help to prepare food, instead of having the host alone in the kitchen.”
He continues: “Time spent with others creates an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, friendly, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug and welcoming. In many ways, it is like a good hug – but without the physical contact. It is in this situation that you can be completely relaxed and yourself. The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.”
Given this emphasis on togetherness, it is not surprising that the final component of the hygge manifesto is shelter. Wiking comments “This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.” So being with other people in a place of comfort and safety, experiencing the everyday joy of good company, and a sense of belonging, is the final element of hygge.
I was especially struck by the similarities between the elements of the Hygge Manifesto, which I’ve just been talking about, and the constituents of a religious, spiritual Sabbath. As some of you may know, I have been keeping a weekly Sabbath, just a half day, on a Wednesday morning, for some years now. It helps to ground me, and to give me some uninterrupted time for stillness and reflection, and communing with the Divine.
But today, I’d like to tell you about the elements of the Sabbath Manifesto, which was the document which started the sabbath process off for me, at a Summer School some years ago. I still have the handout I was given then, and the similarities between Sabbath time and Hygge time are quite striking. The Sabbath Manifesto also lists ten principles: avoid technology; connect with loved ones; nurture your health; get outside; avoid commerce; light candles; drink wine; eat bread; find silence; and give back. Not a million miles away from hygge!
Of course the decision to observe a regular sabbath is a lot more intentional than being hygge with friends, or at least it is in one way. I think that the difference between them is the desire to connect with the divine, with God, which is a crucial part of sabbath time. Whereas hygge time is more about relaxing and chilling out. It is more cultural, and less spiritual, I suppose, at least overtly. But deep down, where it matters, I think that the resemblances are quite telling. They have in common the use of candles or soft light, the connection with loved ones, whether friends or family, the sharing of food and drink, the avoidance of stress, the importance of self-care, and the avoidance of technology.
Although all seasons of the year can be hygge seasons, I think that winter, when we are more likely to gather around a fire, wear soft, voluminous jumpers and enjoy being together, is perhaps the most hyggelig. I wish you all a very hygge season this year.
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we share hygge time together
with our loved ones this season.
May we return to our everyday world refreshed,
may we share the love we feel,
may we look out for each other,
and may we keep up our hearts,
now and in the days to come.
Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley