Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
This week’s service is a tribute to the recently-closed congregations of Dudley and Oldbury, who always used to hold an annual Rose Service on the first Sunday in July.
Opening Words by Rabindranath Tagore
I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by Thy side.
The works that I have in hand
I will finish afterwards.
Away from the sight of Thy face
My heart knows no rest or respite,
And my work becomes an endless toil
In a shoreless sea of toil.
Today the summer has come at my window
With its sighs and murmurs,
And the bees are plying their minstrelsy
At the court of the flowering grove.
Now it is time to sit quiet
Face to face with Thee,
And to sing dedication of life
In this silent and overflowing leisure.
Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point). (words by Yvonne Aburrow)
As we light this transitory flame,
May a perpetual flame burn in our hearts.
As we lift up this earthen chalice,
May our hearts be filled with living waters.
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 has not yet gone away,
And the clouds of war hover.
May we keep in touch however we can,
And help 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 Hebrew Bible Song of Solomon 2:10-13
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
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 Fragile and Rooted by Carolyn S. Owen-Towle
See a blossom in your mind’s eye.
Allow it to fill the interior of your imagination.
Greater perfection of form in nature cannot be imagined.
With inward gaze absorb each wondrous fluted petal.
Slide down its humid surface until you drop as the dew into its velvety core.
Immerse your senses in this safe chamber.
Such fragile beauty gives impulse to weep.
Slowly reverse the journey; as you ascend the shaft towards wider light, turn your imagination, around and around to see its many facets.
Stored within is the memory of all flowers.
Marvel that this creation, while utterly fragile – is yet undaunted, boldly buds forth turning resolutely towards the sun.
We, too, shimmer with expectation, exuding our own illumination, colour, pulse, and scent.
Vulnerable, still we venture our lives courageously towards hope and light, at once fragile and rooted.
Prayer by Ishpriya R.S.C.J.
O Holy One, I ran through the fields and gathered flowers of a thousand colours –
And now I pour them out at Your feet.
Their beauty and their brightness shout for joy in Your Presence.
You created the flowers of the fields and made each one far more lovely
Than all the skill of man could design.
Accept my joy along with theirs,
This field of blossoms at Your feet.
As the wind blows through these flowers
Till they dance in the ecstasy of creation,
Send Your Spirit to blow through my being
Till I too bloom and dance with the fullness of Your life. Amen
Reading: Creation’s Praise (inspired by Psalm 96) by Annie Heppenstall (adapted)
Sing to the Eternal One,
sing a new song from the heart,
tell of the majesty and wonder of the Holy One,
the way of wholeness, of gladness and peace.
Some have confidence in material wealth
and many trust in forces that cannot help them,
but true wisdom and insight are a rare treasure
to be sought after, a jewel of great worth.
Truth lies in obedience to the divine call
to live with simplicity and integrity,
with compassion for all and gratitude in the heart.
Trusting in God, who is supreme in goodness,
is a path to peace, the way of humanity;
by so doing we join our voices with all creation,
which puts its trust completely in the Divine,
our songs mingling with the ocean’s roar,
the forest’s vibrant voice,
the field’s and the mountain’s hymns of praise.
Prayer by Annie Heppenstall
We bless you, O God, as Source of All,
as we look back to the roots of trust in you:
firm roots support and give strength,
embedded in the living soil,
firm roots are like ancestors,
named grandmothers and grandfathers
Sarah and Abraham, Rebekah and Isaac,
ancient stories of faith in you;
from them we draw wisdom,
from them we draw courage
as we find our way today.
As a tree trunk grows firm and tall,
lifting up its leaves to the sky,
so we strive for the light, the meaning, the truth.
We aim to live well,
and falling, we hope in the power of life
to let new shoots grow from the old.
We look to the one who lives fully in your light,
perfect and true, with leaves of healing for all the world.
So, we face the future,
the fruit of our works and words,
and we ask your blessings,
that it be your own goodness that flowers in us,
your own loving kindness that bears fruit in us,
our seeds a blessing to the world,
and a source of peace,
a source of deep peace.
Poem: Summer by Max Ehrmann (author of Desiderata)
O World of green and shafts of golden sun:
Of nightly, silent silver moonlight;
And the strange songs of gentle winds!
O time of dreams, and trysts, and
Olden memories come to life! Sweet summer,
May I sing as thou, for every leaf
Of thine is pregnant with music in the soft
Winds, and every rose inspires the
Tenderness of song. I yield myself to the
Thousand enchantments of sky and
Field and wood, and play again like a child
On the soft green of the earth.
And as the God of the universe has
Made thee to bloom in tenderness, so also
May my heart be made to bloom again.
Prayer from the Chinook Psalter (adapted)
The garden is rich with diversity
With plants of a hundred families
In the space between the trees
With all the colours and fragrances.
Basil, mint and lavender,
God keep our remembrance pure,
Raspberry, apple, rose,
God fill our hearts with love,
Dill, anise, tansy,
Holy winds blow in us.
May our prayers be beautiful
May our remembrance O God
Be as incense to Thee
In the sacred grove of eternity
As we smell and remember
The ancient forests of earth. Amen
Reading. from How to Have More Love in Your Life by Alan Epstein
Spend time in a flower garden. Stay there as long as you wish, but make sure your visit is long enough to take in the various charms that the world of blossoms and petals provides. You can sit in a chair or on the grass, lie down looking up at the flowers from below, or walk around. However you choose to spend your time, be aware that you are a guest in someone else’s home – nature’s – so act accordingly.
If the day is warm and sunny, savour the rays and imagine how the flowers must feel at this very moment. Look closely at the variety of blooms, at the different shapes and colours, at the way the individual blossoms grow out of their leafy sheaths. Now use your sense of smell to take in the stunning array of fragrance, all of which can be divinely overpowering.
Keep an eye out for the various animal life that also lives in the garden, the birds and squirrels, the insects that fly, the ones that crawl. Notice how intently they go about their business, how they move from place to place trying not to notice you but in fact finding that task difficult. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the garden, the chirping and humming, and the movement of the stems and leaves in the mild breeze.
Now see if you can transcend your individual senses and feel the presence of the garden inside you. Try to become just another flower, at home in the garden, as if you were in your own house or place of worship.
Time of Stillness and Reflection (words by Cliff Reed, adapted)
‘… the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.’ (Malachi 4:2)
The fiery power of heaven
rises in glory to its zenith,
drenching our northern lands
with warmth and light,
bidding the waving grass to grow,
the butterflies to flutter by,
the scarlet studded fields to ripen
and yield their harvest bounty.
With joy in our hearts we greet
the summer sun that gives us life,
and we hail and sun of righteousness
who shows us how to live it.
Musical Interlude A Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address Rose Service
I was looking on the internet for a story about roses to share with you, and came across this lovely reflection by Connie Faust:
“One of my very favourite flowers is the rose, but I never had much practical knowledge about roses until I began to look for some “rosy” thoughts to share. I learned that Columbus discovered America because of a rose. On October 11, 1492, in the Sargasso Sea, one of Columbus’ crewmen picked a rose branch from the water. This sign of land renewed their hope for survival and gave them the courage to continue their journey.
According to one legend, the rose was born from a smile of Cupid, but we know it is one of God’s finest gifts to humanity. Its combination of beauty and fragrance are seldom surpassed by any other bloom. A rose has been fashioned by God, who was not content with making one kind of flower. No, God, in His amazing creativity, has made probably thousands of varieties of flowers, each one unique. How much like His creativity in fashioning people!
I’m thinking of you as roses today, each one beautiful in your own way. Some are sweet and fresh little rosebuds; some in the full bloom of maturity; and some of you may even feel as though you are wilting today. Like the rose, you have been created by God, made to fulfil a special purpose. You are much more precious to your Creator than any rose. And He knows and understands each and every one He has made.”
Her words made me stop and think about the qualities that roses have – their silken beauty – have you ever kissed a rose petal and felt how soft it is? Their heady fragrance – I love the old-fashioned roses, which smell so very sweet. My mother used to nurture a rose bed in the corner of our front garden, and when I was small I used to love to get in amongst the rose bushes, smelling my way round the different colours. Even now, when I walk through our village, and go past one particular garden, in which there are a variety of roses spilling over the garden fence, I cannot resist the temptation of smelling my way along the line.
Roses also remind me of the beautiful words of the 19th century American Unitarian minister, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower, there is no more; in the leafless root, there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. There is no time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”
Which is a beautiful reminder to pay attention to the present moment, to be like the rose “perfect in every moment of its existence.” Because, unlike us, they “make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are.”
I was walking in Salcey Forest the other morning, as I do most mornings of the year. We are so very blessed to live where we do, five minutes’ walk from the edge of the Forest. At the time I went out (8 am) I had the place pretty much to myself, apart from the birds, who were filling the air with their song, and I was filled with wonder at the beauties of God’s creation. The cow parsley still lines the path, its heady scent filling my nostrils, and there are dandelions and buttercups, pink and white clover as well as the ubiquitous nettles. Also some lovely wild roses. And of course, the trees themselves. Too many shades of green to name. I recalled the passage in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, when Merry and Pippin first meet the Ents: “The Ents were as different from one another as trees from trees: some as different as one tree is from another of the same name but quite different growth and history; and some as different as one tree-kind from another, as birch from beech, oak from fir.”
Each tree, each flower, that I saw was unique. No tree or flower quite like it had ever grown before, nor would ever grow again. And people are the same. Each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God, with our own unique gifts. As Connie Faust wrote, “Some are sweet and fresh little rosebuds; some in the full bloom of maturity; and some of you may even feel as though you are wilting today. Like the rose, you have been created by God, made to fulfil a special purpose. You are much more precious to your Creator than any rose. And He knows and understands each and every one He has made.”
It is a difficult lesson for us to pay attention to, this need to recognise that each and every one of us is a unique creation of the Divine, with our own special gifts (and flaws, perhaps). I suspect we would be happier in our lives, happier in ourselves, if we could remember this more often than we do. And not waste time trying to fit ourselves into a different mould to the one God intended us to have. And not falling into the insidious trap of comparing ourselves to others, especially to the social media images and stories of others. Because that is comparing their edited, airbrushed outside with our flawed, imperfect, messy, sometimes chaotic, but oh, so very precious selves. None of us is perfect. Indeed, perfection is not within the grasp of humankind. Nonetheless, each of us has something to contribute to the wider world, and the world would be a poorer place without any one of us. So let us strive to learn the lesson that roses can teach us, and remember that each of us is a beautiful, unique human being.
May we all be granted the gift of growing into the shape that God intended, so that we bear witness to the Light within, that is uniquely ours. Amen
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we be grateful for the beauties of Summer,
And for the unique gifts each of us are to the world.
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