by Stephen Crowther
Joy and woe are woven fine
A clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
Man was made for joy and woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the world we safely go.
(Auguries of Innocence by William Blake)
Submitted by Liz Button
Have a candle ready to light. You may want to play some gentle music for 5 or 10 minutes before we light the candle at 11.00.
11.00am light a candle.
As some of us begin to come out of hiding and some of us remain isolated, may we be reminded once more that we are always connected – with each other and with the wider world.
May the flame of this candle connect with the light in all our hearts bringing trust and hope to each of us in this continuing time of uncertainty.
Good morning and welcome once more to our weekly communal Sunday service during this ongoing pandemic time.
Whatever the state of your heart or frame of mind you find yourself in this morning, may you find solace and connection here in this beloved community.
In case there is anyone joining us, who doesn’t normally worship with us on a Sunday, I would like to extend a special welcome. Unitarians have no fixed statement of beliefs or creed to which you have to agree in order to be accepted. Our attitude is that religion is wider than any church or faith-group, and deeper than any set of beliefs. Here we practice a free faith unfettered by dogma.
As such, when I speak of God, I invite you to bring your own unfolding, personal and intimate understanding to the name – for it is yours and yours alone and may just be your most intimate relationship of all….
Prayer is like watching for the
All you can do is
Be where he is likely to appear, and
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
No visible sign, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
(Disclosure by Anne Lewin)
There can be few of us who try to pray regularly who have not found our pattern of prayer disturbed by the lockdown. This is partly owing to other changes in our daily rhythms, and partly by the burden of distress and confusion which we are all carrying at the moment. Our lives have been suspended, and, in spite of the cautious changes that have been announced, there is no “normal” in sight. Meanwhile, we worry — for ourselves, for ageing friends and parents, for school-age children, for the furloughed and those unemployed, for the future.
We should not be too hard on ourselves if we find personal prayer difficult at this time. It is challenging enough to have our health threatened by a mindless microphysical entity.
But the virus has also cast a shadow into our souls, creeping into our dreams and our daylight reveries, perhaps causing us to question the love of God. If prayer was once a safe stronghold, it may often now be a battleground. And yet, while my regular pattern sometimes seems meaningless, I find that the urge to pray comes suddenly in the dead of night, or in encountering the multiple, and often unknown, names on intercession lists, or when I watch the news.
Our lives may never be quite the same again, but all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.
(Angela Tilby in the Church Times, 15.5.20)
So, how is your prayer life going? How has it been during this abnormal time? Has your prayer practice (if you have one) changed at all in the 3 months of lockdown?
I know mine has. With this expansive sense of time that has been a gift of lockdown, I have found myself praying more regularly and consistently. I have felt God’s presence more closely. Particularly when spending time in my garden first thing each day and in the busyness and songs of the birds that visit. I suspect this is because I’m not travelling around much or stressfully clawing myself from one deadline to the next. I have the time to be alert. It seems I am not alone in this. In a recent Church Times survey exploring the impact of the lockdown on relating to God, it was shown that, while respondents felt more distant from other people, 41% felt closer to God, and 48% felt more prayerful.
So, how’s your prayer life going?
Listening with the Heart by Gary Kowalski
As we enter a time of Prayer and Quiet Reflection, let us come together in prayerful stillness. We will we move through prayers of thanksgiving, reflection, loving and listening. (This format may be familiar to those of you who have been to a heart and soul service.)
You may want to begin by closing your eyes and directing the focus of your attention inwards, bringing it to your heart – penetrating its walls and spending a few moments breathing into it deeply.
With each out breath, let go:
• of tension in your body – let it soften
• of thoughts in your mind – let them go – don’t follow them – let them move off.
Come, Holy Spirit of Love.
In the silence come to us and bring your peace;
Rest in us that we may be tranquil and still;
Speak to us as each heart needs to hear;
Reveal to us things longed for;
Rejoice in us that we may praise and be glad;
Pray in us that we may be at one with you and each other;
Refresh and renew us from your living springs of water;
Dwell in us now and always
• We begin with Naming Prayer.
This is a time to reflect on the things we feel grateful for and to acknowledge them. I invite you to think back over your day, week or month. Notice what or who you feel grateful for – however big or small. Take your time with this. Naming and holding whatever it is you are grateful for, in the confines of your heart.
• And now, we come to Knowing Prayer.
Resting in God’s presence, allow yourself to be bathed in the healing light of unconditional love – breathe it in….. breathe it out, filling the space around you with it.
Take a few moments to look back over your day so far. If your day has only just begun, then also include yesterday. Without judgement or criticism of any of it, gently recount events from the moment you awoke right up to this moment here, now.
- And as you do this, ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are most grateful.
If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
When were you most able to give and receive love?
When did you feel most alive? most connected? most fully yourself?
Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so special. Breathe in the gratitude you feel and receive life again from that moment….
- Ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are least grateful. When were you least able to give and receive love?
When did you feel most drained of life? least connected? least yourself?
Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so difficult. Be with whatever you feel without trying to change or fix it in any way. You may want to take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are….
As this time of knowing prayer comes to a close, you might want to speak inwardly to God, that which you hold to be Divine, asking for comfort, compassion, or forgiveness… perhaps asking for guidance, or ways to live your own life more fully.
• Now we move to Loving Prayer
At this time, let us bring to our hearts and minds all those who are in need of our prayers right now.
Those who are confused and unclear with the lifting of restrictions; those living in fear of infection and those infected with the coronavirus. May they be granted courage and be restored to wholeness.
Those who are alone, feeling the pain of isolation, starved of human contact. May they know they are not alone. May they feel God’s touch and be comforted by His presence.
May those who are suffering be released from their pain.
May we all be released from our pain.
• Now we move into Listening Prayer.
- time to sit in silence and stillness, with the intention of allowing ourselves to listen for the still, small, voice within that may speak….
Silence for aprox 5 minutes
Six Recognitions of the Lord by Mary Oliver
A closing story
This story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air – until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore. “My God, this terrible”, the wave says. “Look what’s going to happen to me!”
Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him: “Why do you look so sad?” The first wave says: “You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?”
The second wave says: “No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.”
(from Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom)
Spirit of all blessing,
be with us in the ordinariness of our days.
May hope’s light guard us and keep cynicism from our hearts.
May the energy of laughter build endurance for the dark times of our lives.
May creativity’s vision grant the possibility of seeing old relationships with new eyes.
May the oil of healing keep us from anger’s hardness or despair.
May the mantle of humility give courage to admit when we are wrong.
May compassion’s loom weave in us the discipline to forgive.
May patience help us bear in mind that ours is not the only scale of time.
May the flame of justice be a beacon for the choices we must make.
May peace be ever in us and sustain our stressful days.
Spirit of all blessing,
be with us
in the ordinariness of our days. (Maureen Killoran)
And so, until such a time that we can meet in person, may the wind of the Spirit blow through our world, giving the answer of God’s everlasting love. That when you leave this place, you go with peace and joy in your heart.