Elizabeth’s theme was ‘Travel in hope, arrive in wonder’, tying in with the start of the advent period. Four aspects of Advent (latin= arrival) were examined and she was keen for us to think about them in a relative form.
Faith – to have faith we must doubt
Hope – to hope we must accept that defeat is real
Love – to truly love we must dread loss
Joy – only by being certain of future sorrows can we be joyous no
Christmas is about giving of ourselves and we were encouraged to give to someone / anyone we don’t know.
(Thanks to Jamie Scott for the service write up this week.)
Our first Animal Service, led by Louise Van der Hoeven, was fascinating and very moving. Attended by several humans, and one dog, the congregation brought gifts of pet food and goods (leads, blankets, and toys) to donate to Bryson’s Animal Shelter in Gateshead.
Our opening words were from Einstein, followed by readings by Gary Kowlaski and Barbara Gardner. The readings focussed upon the need for compassion towards all living things, and not putting profit before lives. Gary Kowlaski’s piece discussed the old church tradition of blessing animals, and how some Unitarian congregations have adapted this for the modern day.
As the service continued, we considered how animals are often our companions throughout the different stages of our lives. Thinking about animals and spirituality, the service invited us to consider how many creation myths from the world’s religions introduce the idea of humans as in some way separate from, even above, the natural world.
New spiritual initiatives, such as the Quaker-led Interfaith Alliance for Animals, seek to redress this, and encourage us to see ourselves as part of the natural world, not divided from it. Whilst we must be careful not to sentimentalise or anthropomorphise animals, the service ended with an invitation to think again about our relationship with non-human animals, and revere life in all its forms.
Tony opened the service by lighting ‘the flame of truth in the cup of wisdom’ and went on to investigate peace, both that in our time and beyond. He started by wondering if our attitude to peace could be influence by our surroundings, even suggesting that the clothes we wear, if second hand, could pass on the previous owners intent (The Shirt of Nessus).
Drifting back to a more likely scenario he felt that our influences should be primarily scientific and latterly philosophical. Thinking back to his own childhood he recalled the fear he had of The Mekon, Dan Dare’s nemesis (rather than the river!) written in a time when it was presumed that there would always be conflict against evil. His present views of promoting peace would have been, he believed, totally unacceptable then. Carrying on his Dan Dare theme his thought for the day was that if we do visit another planet in all likelihood we’ll take flags to wave, weapons to fire and diseases to spread where what we should take is peace.
With somewhat tongue in cheek he pointed out that as all wars invariably end with conflicting sides sitting around a table making decisions perhaps the fighting part could be avoided by just doing the debating in the first place. Admitting that life is not so black and white he surmised that whist there is good in human nature, no one person is all good or all bad with goodness being like a precious metal – sometimes found in opencast and sometimes in deep cast. (Thanks to Jamie Scott for the service write-up this week.)