If you are attending live worship this weekend, please remember that our clocks go FORWARD one hour on Saturday night / Sunday morning.
Prelude Roots and Wings by Elizabeth Harley
Opening Words by Francis Terry
We have been brought to where we now are,
with hearts sensitive to sympathy,
and still reaching out in pursuit of happiness.
Therefore, Creative Spirit, we trust ourselves
to you for the time to come,
and ask you to fulfil our heart’s desire.
Carry us forward to where we may
find again all the good that
we have met with on our journey,
with the cure of every ill, and
the justification of every hope,
and where we may share the happiness
of all beings, with no end
of their number and variety.
Give light upon each person’s path and
show us the next step towards our destination.
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 (adapted)
We gather in this virtual space of peace,
where violence of hand or tongue
are unwelcome strangers.
The Spirit is among us as we breathe and pray,
speaking gentle, kind, and friendly words.
Within us and through us may Divine Love reach out,
cooling hearts in which resentment burns,
warming hearts made deathly cold by hatred,
reviving hearts grown lukewarm with unconcern.
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, Amen
Reading The Goal of Religion by Cliff Reed, from Carnival of Lamps
‘be ye kind to one another’ (Ephesians 4:32)
Some say that the goal of religion
is to be ‘saved’,
to book a place in heaven,
to secure bliss in paradise,
to be rewarded, not punished,
in this life or the next.
But this is not the goal of true religion.
The goal of true religion is to be kind.
There is a well of loving kindness in our hearts,
replenished endlessly by grace, if we will only
draw upon it, use its living waters, and be saved
from the temptation to be unkind.
May it be so.
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 from Focus: How One Word A Week Will Transform Your Life by Cleere Cherry Reaves (adapted)
There are bumper stickers, T-shirts, and all kinds of products that speak to the importance of kindness. We like to pay it forward when we can post about it on social media. We enjoy serving on a mission team where we had already scheduled: “Okay, this week I will be kind and selfless.” We don’t mind being kind when we feel as though the action or character will be reciprocated.
But how do we feel about kindness when it’s not so easy to be kind? How do we feel about kindness when the subject of our attention isn’t someone we particularly like? How do we respond to an interruption in our day when it is asking us to forgo our own schedule and answer the need of someone else? It is in these moments that the source of our kindness is tested. Does it stop being based on our preference, or are we walking in the same kindness that [God] extends to us?
Many times we fear that if we are kind beyond what is deserved, we will not be able to set a standard or prove a point. But what if our standard was grace and kindness?
What would our lives look like if we decided to be out-of-the-box kind?… If we chose to respond with mercy, to give without expectation of reciprocation, and to walk in a way that lets others know we are not operating on our own accord, we would allow ourselves to be used to bless others. We would initiate a new way of communicating that stopped focusing on being right…
It is often the little moments that matter the most to us; it is the times where someone has taken the time to see us, when their acknowledgement and generosity felt like the hug we did not even know we needed. Let us be that same hug, deep breath, and extended hand for others.
Prayer by Leaf Seligman
We pause in the stillness to rest for a moment, to quiet ourselves so that we can feel what stirs within us. Each breath draws us closer to the pulse of life and with each exhalation we make room for something new. May we find in this gathering the comfort of those who care. May we encounter patience along our growing edges and compassion in our most tender spots. Here may we find the inspiration and encouragement we need to face our challenges and nurture ourselves. And in the presence of suffering across the globe may we redouble our efforts to practice kindness where we are, with the hope that the light of our actions travels like the light of faraway stars. May our gestures of compassion and generosity seed possibility. May we walk humbly with one another, choosing reconciliation over resentment as we try to live right-sized. When life presses in and shifts us off balance, when pain assails us, when frustration mounts, may the rhythm of our breath steady us and bring us back to a place of gratitude.
Reading Gratitude by Nicky Jenkins, from With Heart and Mind 2
It is often difficult to be thankful. I sometimes wonder if it is part of the English habit of modesty and reserve that encourages this. ‘You have a lovely house,’ says the visitor. ‘No, no,’ we demur. ‘It has all sorts of things wrong with it.’ Well, to agree that we have a lovely house would not be modest, and we don’t want anybody to think we might be stuck-up, or to envy us for our wealth and nice things.
But do we carry this over into other areas of our life? To accept and be thankful for our blessings requires a proper humility, not a false one, which is in any case a form of arrogance. By acknowledging the many good things already in our lives, we are better able to let go of that striving for even better, even more possessions, which seems to have become a part of our Western society. When we are able to acknowledge that we do indeed have an abundance of material wealth, perhaps we will be able to give more away, and to share our resources.
And it is not only our material possessions that we should be aware of, but also the rewards of the spirit. If we set aside time daily to be thankful for our material possessions and spiritual growth, then we start to change.
I have found that remembering with gratitude the gifts of the day, before I sleep, counteracts my anxiety and concerns, and keeps me in touch with the truth that I am loved, and helps me to trust in life. There is nothing very new or profound in this idea, but I believe, if practised regularly, it could transform our outlook on, and attitude to, life; and make the world a better place.
Time of Stillness and Reflection (words by Nicky Jenkins, adapted)
Spirit of Life and Love,
Too often we focus on what is wrong.
Teach us to focus on what is right,
and to finish each day in gratitude.
Too often we look to the future in fear.
Teach us to expect joy,
and to look forward to what may come.
Too often we try to control our lives.
Teach us to trust in life,
and to welcome the gifts without fear.
Too often we close down the doors of our hearts.
Teach us to risk opening them,
and to receive love.
May our hearts and minds and spirits be open to all that is good in our lives. Amen
Musical Interlude Welsh Wedding by Elizabeth Harley
Address Kindness and Gratitude
I know that I have chosen both gratitude and kindness as themes for my services quite recently – Gratitude in December last year, and Kindness as recently as January – but in the light of the events of the weekend just gone, I feel the need to revisit them. Because the great kindness of others has led to enormous gratitude in my heart. Let me tell you the story…
Last weekend (18th and 19th March), the two Welsh Districts invited me down to Carmarthen to address them all, at a Saturday morning meeting. I had a smooth journey down on the Friday, covering the 200+ miles in only four and a half hours, and my sat nav led me accurately to Aberglasyn, a lovely garden, where I met Welsh Secretary Melda Grantham just before two. We walked and chatted, admiring the beauty of spring coming to life all around us, then adjourned to the café for a cup of tea. And calloo, callay! They did gluten-free scones – a rare treat! Then I followed her to the small town of Llandeilo, where we visited a gorgeous wool shop, and I lost my head to the tune of £24 on two gorgeous balls of Stylecraft Charm, which I intend to crochet into two shawls, one for me, one for my best friend. Then we drove to Carmarthen, where we met fellow minister Wyn Thomas and the three of us enjoyed a convivial meal together. Melda had kindly booked me into a B&B a few miles out of town and I had the postcode for it, so I was all set for an early night.
But it was not to be. My sat nav, which had served me so faithfully up until then, played me false, and took me down a dark, single track lane, which got steadily narrower and bumpier. Then, about three quarters of the way down, I managed to run into a rock at the side of the lane, which did for my left front tyre. Imagine the scene, if you will. The left front wheel was making a dreadful crunching sound, it was pitch dark and I had no idea where I was, nor how much damage I had done. I didn’t know whether to burst into tears or turn the air blue with curses. In the event, I did neither. I tried to ring Melda – but the call went to voice mail – she was evidently still on her way home. And my phone was rapidly running out of charge. So I abandoned the car, taking only my handbag and phone charger, and squelched back through the mud to a house I had passed on the way down – the only house on the entire length of the lane. The lovely people there, who I’m sure had been expecting a quiet and peaceful Friday evening in, welcomed me in to their home and allowed me to plug my phone into their electricity, so that I could ring Autohome and Melda. They answered the question in my second reading, “How do we respond to an interruption in our day when it is asking us to forgo our own schedule and answer the need of someone else?” with warm charity and kindness. I was so grateful to them.
A few minutes later, Wyn rang my phone and the man of the house kindly explained to him where I was. Both he and Melda turned up and provided much-needed sympathy and moral support. A big hug from Wyn was particularly welcome. Wyn and I managed to persuade Melda that there was no point in both of them staying, so she drove home. Wyn waited with me for the recovery lorry to turn up, but they couldn’t find us in the dark. And it had started to pour with rain. What to do now? I had phoned the B&B I was supposed to be staying in earlier to let them know what had happened and that I would be arriving later, but after all the alarms and excursions of the night, I really didn’t want to be on my own.
“Right,” Wyn said, “you’re coming home with me.” So between us we carried all my luggage (overnight case, backpack, pillows and Unitarian bag) back to his car, and he drove me back to his home. He and his husband Matthew couldn’t have been more kind. I was warmly welcomed, given a cup of tea, then shown into the spare room where a comfortable bed was waiting for me. Bliss.
The next morning, I got the chance to see around their smallholding – they have ducks, geese and three adorable donkeys. Then Wyn drove me to the recovery garage for nine to drop off the key, before we headed to Carmarthen so that I could fulfil my speaking engagement. By the time we returned, the garage owner had not only recovered the car, but repaired it (fortunately it was only the tyre which needed replacing), and also checked the suspension and balanced the wheels. When we got there, he was playing a hose over it, to get rid of the worst of the mud. So very kind.
The engagement with the people of the two Welsh districts went really well, with a warm welcome and lively discussion afterwards. They had laid on a buffet lunch and there was a special plate of gluten-free goodies, carefully covered with clingfilm for me. So very kind. And at the end, Megan Jones, Secretary of the South Wales District, presented me with a Black Spot mug and two lovely placemats with pictures of the thirteen chapels in the district. Again, so very kind.
I had originally planned to drive home on the Saturday afternoon, but hadn’t slept well the previous night due to worrying about the car. Wyn saw how tired I was and kindly offered to put me up for another night, so that I would be fresh for the journey home on Sunday. And during the evening, he received a message forwarded by Melda from the B&B I had never reached on the Friday evening. It read, “As you probably know, Sue never made it to the B&B. We would normally charge for the room, but in the circumstances we have decided to waive the fee. It must have been a stressful and probably expensive weekend for her. Martin.” Again, so very, very kind.
Had it not been for the kindness of not only Wyn and Melda, but also of the two strangers who took me in, the mechanic who recovered and repaired my car so efficiently, and the generous B&B owner who waived my accommodation fee, my predicament would have been very much worse. I was incredibly grateful to all of them.
It would have been very easy for me to do as Nicky Jenkins said in our time of stillness and reflection and “focus on what is wrong”. To allow the events of Friday evening to ruin the entire weekend. But the heavenly kindness shown to me by everyone concerned turned what could have been a very unpleasant experience into multiple occasions for gratitude. So instead of bemoaning my bad luck, I ended up thinking how very lucky I had been to receive such kindness, not only from Unitarian friends, but also from complete strangers. It has even given me the theme for my outgoing President’s address at the forthcoming GA meetings, when I intend to repeat at least part of the story.
And my son rang me to wish me Happy Mother’s Day on the Sunday morning, while I was driving to Capel y Cwm (Wyn had invited me to do the address) and when I finally got home at 4.30 that afternoon, it was to find a Mother’s Day card and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my daughter. And my son is taking me out next Sunday. I am so blessed, so very grateful to have two such loving and wonderful children.
And Maz had a meal ready for me, and it was wonderful to be able to settle down for the evening with Luna in my lap, to watch the final episode of Endeavour together. It was a peaceful ending to an eventful weekend, and again, I realised how blessed I am, and gave thanks.
Spirit of Life and Love,
May we be open to occasions for gratitude,
Not only when things go right for us,
But also when others are kind, when things go wrong.
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