Human Rights Day: Online Service for Sunday 11th December 2022

Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley


Opening Words by Evelyn Ryder


In a world free of greed and hatred,

I see the peace of which I dream;

Hands once filled with weapons

Now held out in faith and trust.


In a world free of fear and prejudice,

I see the love of which I dream;

Minds once closed and blinded

Now open, full of light and joy.


In a world free of hunger and pain,

I see the hope of which I dream;

Hearts once broken, hard and bitter

Now are mended, whole and free.


Chalice Lighting (you may wish to light a candle in your own home at this point). Words by Cliff Reed.


Martin Luther King once said, “The hope of the world is still in dedicated minorities. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific and religious freedom have always been in the minority.”


As we gather to worship today,

may it be as such a minority,

dedicated to the cause of freedom

for all the people of the earth.


Opening Prayer


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,

victims of violence and war,

suffering in any way,



Reading: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, introduction by Joy Croft


One of the first tasks the United Nations set itself on its foundation in 1945 was the formulation of the principles upon which it would operate: a Universal Declaration of Human Rights – rights to be understood as “universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.” The Universal Declaration, which we’re about to hear, was formally adopted on 10th December 1948. Sadly, over seven decades later, the quality of human life it undertook to make possible is still not a universal reality. Yet the Declaration offers humanity an abiding vision and a goal to strive for.


Here are its thirty articles – they are quite something.


Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.


Article 2 Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.


Article 3 Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.


Article 4 No-one shall be held in slavery or servitude.


Article 5 No-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Article 6 Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.


Article 7 All are equal before the law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.


Article 8 Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by the constitution or by law.


Article 9 No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.


Article 10 Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.


Article 11 Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.


Article 12 No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon honour and reputation.


Article 13 Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.


Article 14 Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.


Article 15 Everyone has the right to a nationality.


Article 16 Men and women have the right to marry and to found a family.


Article 17 Everyone has the right to own property.


Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.


Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.


Article 20 Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.


Article 21 Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country.


Article 22 Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.


Article 23 Everyone has the right to work. Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions.


Article 24 Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.


Article 25 Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.


Article 26 Everyone has the right to education.


Article 27 Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community.


Article 28 Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realised.


Article 29 Everyone has duties to the community.


Article 30 Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth.


Prayer: A Thanksgiving for Human Rights Day by Cliff Reed (adapted)


We are human beings, whatever our beliefs, whatever our gender or our politics, whatever our faith or race or nation. We are human beings – this at least we have in common. Each in accordance with their own understanding, let us give thanks together.


We give thanks for all who, through the centuries have striven for human freedom and human dignity.

We give thanks for those who named and pioneered the rights of conscience and self-determination.

For those who asserted the freedom of mind and intellect, who challenged ignorance and strove to bring education to everyone,

For those who championed universal healthcare, who opposed exploitation in the workplace,

For those who struggled, suffered and died to win us democracy, free speech and equality before the law,

For those who fought against slavery, tyranny and oppressions of every kind,

For those who penned the testaments of liberty; their speeches and their sermons, their books and declarations, which set forth the equal rights of all human beings. And we give thanks for those who claimed those rights.

In particular, we give thanks today for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Composed in the aftermath of war, informed by the experience of monstrous inhumanity, its words encompass the hopes of humankind.

But we cannot leave it there. As we celebrate those rights, let us also accept our responsibilities. Our responsibility to enshrine them in our hearts and make them real in our lives, our responsibility to respect them in all our dealings with others, our responsibility as citizens to see that our own countries abide by them, our responsibility to establish them in the many places where they are ignored, violated or suppressed, our responsibility to live truly as members of the human family.

For all of these we give thanks.

And as we give thanks, so we accept these responsibilities.

Let it be so, Amen


Freedom and Justice Denied


Reading: Caged Bird by Maya Angelou


1 A free bird leaps                                       4 The free bird thinks

on the back of the wind                              of another breeze

and floats downstream                                and the trade winds soft

till the current ends                                      through the sighing trees

and dips his wing                                         and the fat worms waiting

in the orange sun rays                                on a dawn bright lawn

and dares to climb the sky.                         and he names the sky his own.


2 But a bird that stalks                                5 But a caged bird stands

down his narrow cage                                 on the grave of dreams

can seldom see                                            his shadow shouts

through his bars of rage                              on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped                                   his wings are clipped

and his feet are tied                                     and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.                  so he opens his throat to sing.


3 The caged bird sings                               6 The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill                                           with a fearful trill

of things unknown                                       of things unknown

but longed for still                                        but longed for still

and his tune is heard                                   and his tune is heard

on the distant hill                                         on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.         for the caged bird sings of freedom.


Born Free


Reading: from Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela


I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free: free in every way that I could know: free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and to ride the broad backs of the slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man nor God. It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered, as a young man, that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it.


Then I saw slowly that, not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not only my freedom that was curtailed but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people. The chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them. The chains on all of my people were the chains on me.


It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew, as well as I knew anything, that the oppressor must be liberated as surely as the oppressed. When I walked out of prison, that was my mission: to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.


Prayer: a variation on The Lord’s Prayer by Rosemary Arthur


O divine Parent, maker of the heavens,

May your light find a place in our hearts.

May justice and unity reign on earth,

As in ideal, so in reality.

Give us each day our needs for health in mind and body.

Relieve us of the burden of our guilt;

May we expect of others what we expect of ourselves.

Save us from being seduced into wrongdoing,

And relieve us from violence and aggression.

From you has come our will and our strength.

To you be songs of praise while the world lasts.

Source of our being, may this be so. Amen.


Rights and Responsibilities


Prayer: A Stoic’s Prayer by Eusebius


May I be no man’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.

May I never quarrel with those nearest me; and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly.

May I never devise evil against any man; and if any devise evil against me may I escape uninjured and without the need of hurting him.

May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good.

May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill fortune of one who has wronged me.

When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of another, but always rebuke myself until I make amends.

May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent.

May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another.

May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help to my friends, and to all who are in want.

May I never fail a friend in danger.

When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain.

May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me.

May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never to be angry with people because of circumstances.

May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps. Amen


Freedom to Dream

Reading: I have a Dream by Martin Luther King, delivered August 28th1963 on the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

And in the recent past, a black man was President of the United States.

The Unitarian Heritage of Freedom

Reading: The Free Mind by William Ellery Channing

I call that mind free which masters the senses, and which recognises its own reality and greatness. Which passes life not in asking what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering and thirsting and seeking after righteousness.

I call that mind free which jealously guards its intellectual rights and powers, which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith; which opens itself to light whence-soever it may come; which receives new truth as an angel from heaven.

I call that mind free which is not passively formed by outward circumstance, and is not the creature of accidental impulse; which discovers everywhere the radiant signatures of the Infinite Spirit, and in them finds helps to its own spiritual enlargement.

I call that mind free which protects itself against the usurpations of society, and which does not cower to human opinion; which refuses to be the slave or tool of the many or of the few, and guards its empire over itself as nobler than the empire of the world.

I call that mind free which resists the bondage of habit, which does not mechanically copy the past or live on its old virtues; but which listens for new and higher monitions of conscience, and rejoices to pour itself forth in fresh and higher exertions.

I call that mind free which sets no bonds to its love, which wherever they are seen, delights in virtue and sympathises with suffering; which recognises in all human beings the image of God and the rights of God’s children, and offers itself up a willing sacrifice to the cause of humankind.

I call that mind free which has cast off all fear but that of wrongdoing, and which no menace or peril can enthral; which is calm in the midst of tumults and possesses itself though all else be lost.

Time of Stillness and Reflection adapted from David Rhys Williams

This precious life that is in you and me is the same in all. Rich and poor, wise and simple, strong and feeble, we are joined together by a mystic oneness whose source we may never know but whose reality we can never doubt.

  • When one suffers, we all suffer.
  • When one hungers for bread, we all hunger.
  • When one tramps the street in search of work, we all tramp the streets.
  • When one defrauds a fellow, we are all implicated.
  • When one destroys a human life, we all share the guilt.
  • When one attains a heart’s desire, we are all partners of the joy.

This mystic identity of the one with the many was divined by Hosea, Buddha, Jesus and St. Francis, and has been glimpsed by nearly all the great seers and prophets of humankind. We are our brother’s keeper, because that brother or sister is but our larger self.

Then let a sense of our vital unity with all people everywhere possess our minds and hearts. Behold, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, because thy neighbour is thyself.

Let us reflect a moment on our world-wide human kinship: on the blessed freedom we share with one another and the responsibility we share for one another [silence]

Behold, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, because thy neighbour is thyself.. Amen.

Benediction:  by Rabindranath Tagore


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way in the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action –

Into that heaven of freedom, dear God, let our world awake. Amen


Postlude Lady of Lewesdon Hill by Elizabeth Harley