31 August 2014, Helen Pettigrew & Fiona Tait and the Flower Communion

Fiona Tait and Helen Pettigrew put together a service inspired by the Unitarian Universalist Flower Communion service, originated by Dr Norbert Capek (Chah-Peck), founder of the modern Unitarian movement in Czechoslovakia. The basis of the ritual is that each member of the congregation brings with them to the service a single bloom. They are asked to come and place their own chosen flower in the vase on the altar, signifying by this act that it is of their own free will that they join them to the others. The vase filled with flowers then becomes a symbol of our united church fellowship. The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Together the different flowers will form a beautiful bouquet. This common bouquet that is created would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community. It would not be the same without each and every one of us. Thus this service is a statement of our community.
At the end of the service, the congregation were invited to return to the vase with the following words: “It is time now for us to share in the Flower Communion. I ask that as you each in turn approach the communion vase you do so quietly- reverently- with a sense of how important it is for each of us to address our world and one another with gentleness, justice and love. I ask that you select a flower- different from the one you brought- that particularly appeals to you. As you take your chosen flower- noting its particular shape and beauty- please remember to handle it carefully. It is a gift that someone has brought to you. It represents that person’s unique humanity, and therefore deserves your kindest touch.”
(Helen and Fiona would like to express their thanks to Rob Whiteman, of Edinburgh Unitarians, for his suggestion which led us to the information on the internet which formed the basis for our service.)

24 August 2014, Rob Whiteman and “Summer”

The central theme to Rob Whiteman’s service was that of ‘Summer’ and though it was in part aimed at the young it proved relevant to all ages. He encouraged us to celebrate the good weather, absorbing what we could whilst the sun shines, admitting that he himself suffers somewhat in the darker months (decorating in the Wiseman household is only ever a May – July event!). The phrase ‘Dog Days of Summer’ was explored. Opposing the phrase’s obvious interpretation (an overheated, prone canine) he pointed out its Roman origin, that of the Dog Star’s celestial arrival in the later days of August (no longer the case due to the altered tilting of the earth’s axis). Linking this with the service’s subtext of ‘causation Vs correlation’ he considered the historical frequency of civil unrest during these weeks; Birmingham, London, Bristol and even the Peterloo riots were all around this time. Could these have been because of the weather outside rather than the celestial formation? Further to the causation / correlation theme emphasis, he admitted that his views on Signs of the Zodiac were somewhat sceptical, preferring to see in our behavior, patterns linking to the seasons. “Why explore the effect of distant stars whilst ignoring the huge one right next to us?” As backing to this, he flagged up the general absence of a Zodiacal belief in the Southern hemisphere, due to the predominant importance of other celestial formations. The Chinese’s yearly based Zodiacal calendar, as opposed to our monthly one, added more doubt.

17 August 2014, Rev. Tony McNeile and “The Age of Aquarius”

While discussing his love of the Unitarian model that proclaims us to be individuals in matters of faith, Rev. Tony McNeile, also reminded us of a view exists that speaks against individuality, as a creed of selfishness; of isolation; of imbalance. Tony asked us to consider the importance of belonging to a group, as the way out of the present Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. Pisces: seen as an age of wars; violence; deception and illusion; characterised by fundamentalism and the wrathful God of the Old Testament. Aquarius: an age of spirituality; a transformative and regenerative time, characterised by the redemptive Gospel of Christ. If there is a transition, perhaps as indicated by the role of the UN, and the development of multiracial communities, then individuals are stronger acting in a group to try and tap into this positive future force.

10 August 2014, Dr Barry Thomas and “The Part and the Whole”

Dr Barry Thomas began by asking us to consider 2 different ways of looking at something: either taking a general overview (the whole), or studying only a small section in great detail (the part). In each case there is a trade off. Knowledge of the whole is limited if we concentrate on a small part; but detail is lacking if we ground ourselves in a general overview. While we know most about what is closest to us, our locale, our family, our regional issues: in short, our part of the whole, we are most often concerned with the issues facing the whole and feel frustrated when we lack the means of acting on a global scale. However, this may be an unnecessary conflict. Are we not in our locality, an integral part of the whole? All we can do is to live well in our own local context, for living well in our part, enriched by reverence to our forbears and with a responsibility to future generations, contributes to the whole. In short, “Think globally. Act locally.”

3 August 2014, Chris Pilkington and “Marking the Great War”

Chris Pilkington’s service marked the 100 year centenary of the outbreak of WWI. Denominational press of the time showed a general support, indicating a respect for the state and its decisions, at least at the start of the conflict. As the war progressed, Nonconformist churches were forced to confront large questions for which they were unprepared- about the basic goodness of man and his God. By 1916, the Liberal Christian Peace Fellowship was declaring that “War, and the preparation for war, is irreconcilable with the teachings Christ.” While it is important not to whitewash the past, Chris urged us to remember to take notice of what it meant for many: a personal sacrifice in the hope of a better future.