25 May 2014, Rev. Winnie Gordon and “Living a purposeful life”

It was lovely to welcome Rev. Winnie Gordon to lead us in worship for the first time. She challenged us to ask ourselves what worshipping together as Unitarians really means, in the context of a purposeful life, as opposed to what we may all do as individuals in our lives.  As a convert to Unitarianism, Winnie found purpose in the work and lives of our Unitarian ancestors, but now fears that we may be so bloated with these ancestral achievements that we no longer seek a current purpose. She recognises a need to revitalise our purpose.

Whilst worshipping together means we connect to the divine within and we reconnect to our own individual purpose, how could it also transform us into a Unitarian unit?  A ‘we’ that we could take beyond the door of the church? The premise being that collectively we are stronger and that we need to believe that the things we are unhappy with in our society could be changed. The action of one matters. The actions of many matter more.

18 May 2014, Rev. David Garrett and “Beauty”

Rev. David Garratt spoke to us of beauty- in nature, in art, or of the intellectual and moral beauty of objects when they evoke symbolic thoughts. Nature’s beauty, founded in pattern and order, softens an elemental harshness and mimics the creation of order out of chaos by God. Artists, in all mediums, follow this impulse, shaping and ordering their materials to bring stability and harmony, often layering their output with a moral or ethical component.

These patterns and rhythms evoke personal memories, providing a link to ourselves, as well as to our past and our society. Beauty may be an agent to bring us back to ourselves after an experience of the too dreadful starkness of truth.  Music, for example, is used as a healing agent for torture victims and those recovering from strokes. Song and melody, being stored across the entire brain, may restore precious contact with the self. It also recalls the essential rhythms of life- of a heartbeat or a voice. Beauty, then, can lead us straight into the heart of the matter of things.

11 May 2014, Mike Tomlin and “Christian Aid Week”

In his service for Christian Aid Week,  Mike Tomlin spoke of the need for hope; which can be defined as expectation and desire combined; a form of trust or promise. He reminded us of 2 areas in the world- South Sudan and Columbia where civil war, in the former, and in-fighting between the drug cartels and the army, or palm oil land purchases, in the latter, have displaced people and broken communities.

HARD- Hope Agency for Relief & Development- works in South Sudan to bring practical help: tools for working the land; small business know-how; also setting up a church, to bring the community together- to sing, pray and support one another. In Columbia, Christian Aid has been setting up humanitarian zones: camps where no arms are allowed. These are places where hope may begin to resurface.  Mike set out the choices we have before us: to do nothing; to support Christian Aid with a donation; to join a group to take further action or to discuss these issues and write to our local MP, again calling for action.

4 May 2014, Rob Whiteman and “How does change affect us, and our view of God?”

In a service looking at change- whether for sound reasons; or just for the sake of; whether resisted to maintain a tradition, or accepted as necessary,  Rob Whiteman also posed the question of whether God changes over time.  A traditional view of religion is of a system that maintains traditional rules and beliefs; one in which God remains static. But a world view that positions God as a repository of our collective subconscious suggests that he would travel with us; change with our societies; that he suffers that change with us.

But we can still refer back to texts across the ages for an understanding of God, for though we may now perceive God differently, the underlying themes remain the same. This leads us to see that not all change is for the better; but nor are all traditions sustainable. Religion is not a set of fixed beliefs, but a way of living. As our world changes, so does our manner of tackling life and religion. Rob ended by quoting Ralph Waldo Emmerson, reminding us that things are changing, but then they always have been, so we may as well accept it, trust it and go along with it.