by Rev Jennifer Sanders
From the beginning, we emerge into awareness within a web of human connections that
unceasingly engage us until death. James Hillman
Good morning and welcome to the read along service. My thoughts and heartfelt wishes to you. May this time that we spend together bring a closer connection to the sacred.
I begin our service today in the usual way by lighting the chalice and you may like to light a candle where you are too.
In every darkened corner there is a chance for the light of love to shine. Serving as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the spirit of love, truth and liberty.
We come together in this moment to give thanks for all that we are and all that we have and we are reminded of the love, compassion and generosity of our own hearts and those of others.
We bring our fears, anger, confusion and our brokenness to be healed.
May we seek to find the peace within our inner selves.
May we give ourselves the gift of our union in this gathering.
Divine spirit, help us to come together and be present in this space for a short time of Silent prayer and stillness which will be followed by some music
On this day in 1956 – June Eileen Beatrice Wiseman married Roy Oliver Sanders in the parish church of Wivelsfield. They went on to have two daughters and were blessed with a grandchild.
Their marriage lasted 46 years until Roy’s death in 2004.
These people were not famous, one born into great poverty in the tenements of the Edgeware Rd and the other into a middle-class family in Harrow.
They had very different upbringings.
June, was a working-class daughter with memories of the Yarrow marches and the chants and roars of Queens Park Rangers Football club on a Saturday afternoon. She remembered the Lon-don bombings often scurrying down to the underground as the sirens roared.
Roy one of 3 sons was raised in a large house in Harrow. At seven he sent off to Cornwall as an evacuee enjoying the space and adventures that a rural coastal farm life brought only to be brought back for finishing school In London after the war.
One had a strong belief one an agnostic.
Their experiences could not have been more different – class, education, siblings and yet some kind of love brought them together and through they had many difficulties and challenges they remained married – Through times of abundance and debt and in sickness and in health until death parted them. Today would have been their 64th wedding anniversary.
These two people were my parents and each year and every year I take some time on this day to remember their relationship, the eclectic mix of culture, class and experience and the legacy it brought me.
In the fifties when women were supposed to give up their careers and be stay at home mums, and fathers were the bread winners, it was far removed from today’s mix match of part time work con-tracts, home working, shared parenting, same sex and trans relationships, civil partnerships, mar-riages, single parents, co parents, mix religions and no faith relationships.
They had to work at their marriage – it wasn’t an easy match; adapting to new jobs, homes, friends, several redundancies and financial insecurity, raising two fiercely independent daughters and long periods of illness and eventually loss and grief. A lot was asked of them and they adapted as best they could with a commitment to work through challenges.
Marriage has not been part of my journey to date and yet when I made my vows as an Interfaith ordinand I was asked to compose a personal vow that would grow with me as I developed in my ministry. It has and continues to serve me and although that commitment to the sacred and my spiritual practice falters on what seems a daily basis there is a commitment to build that relationship despite the trials and tribulations that face me.
We have all faced huge challenges and changes to all of our relationships in recent times
In the words of Mark Oden and Stefano Mariotti of the Christian mission,
“What a fascinating social experiment. 60 million people in lockdown for an indefinite number of days or weeks, maybe even months – just like the big brother house – and even without the camer-as, has felt intense and surreal.
It has affected us differently. For some it has been a chance to take stock, for others it has been a time dominated by anxiety, for others there may be tension as they have shared space and time with others.
We got used to a new way of doing things and to some degree have been forced to live in the pre-sent. Some of us have found the lack of hustle and bustle unsettling. We’re so accustomed to background white noise that when it ceases, we may feel uneasy.
Quietness and solitude can also expose us to discord in our minds, which starts to chatter away, creating a sense of disturbance. Negative thoughts and feelings emerge — especially during un-certain times, when there are urgent and real concerns about job security, family members, and financial stability.
Not unlike a marriage these times have been troubling, upsetting, rewarding and challenging. Huge life shifting events have an impact and they illustrate and highlight what is and isn’t working.
We have not been able to worship together in the flesh. The doors to our churches have been firmly closed for some months now and we have lost some of that intimacy and soul food that we receive by being together and yet we have experienced growth in other ways. The willingness to worship online or through the written word has sustained many of us and our relationship with the sacred may look different now.
For some of you your relationship with spirit may have deepened and for others you may be left questioning if there is any such thing as the sacred?
Like a marriage our spiritual lives sometimes need a spring clean, an injection of commitment, look-ing at things in another way.
We are not bound to be married to the God of our understanding but like any relationship we get out of it what we put in.
As Unitarians or seekers, we have the wonderful freedom of choice. Our connection and commit-ment to the sacred is based on our own set of beliefs and this is something that develops over time. Its unique like a marriage or long-term relationship. Externally it may bare similarities but within the soul it has a unique imprint to each of us and this is the beauty.
We may crave the time when we can go to church and sing and pray and worship together, nourish our souls and re build our relationships with each other and God. These times will come again but they will be different shaped by our individual experiences and external influences – sitting further apart maybe, no tea, strange entrances and exits, maybe face masks
We don’t even worship the same God or in some cases any God and yet we have a commitment to come to worship together, to be together differences and all, to feel and share in a sacred experi-ence
And as we have found out recently our relationship with God is not just about sitting in the pew or saying our prayers – it’s so much more that. Like a marriage it is so much more than the fancy suit and cake.
Linda and Charlie bloom have been Married since 1972 and are counsellors and spiritual guides.
In a recent article in Psychology today they talk about relationships as spiritual practice.
“Most people think of spiritual practice as going to church or temple, prayer, singing of hymns, chanting, ritual, and meditation rather than daily interactions with other human beings all day long. In fact, they have their spiritual rituals in a very separate category from the way they relate to those in their lives. But the process of spiritual development and conscious relationship are not separate or mutually exclusive. The chanting and meditation are optional, as is the wearing of orange robes, but what is as essential as any of the spiritual rituals we do, is how respectful we are and how we hon-our and support those with whom we interact.
A spiritual practice is any process which promotes the experience of openheartedness, speaking the truth as a means of uncovering and discovering who we are, and connecting us to our true na-ture. It’s not necessary to go to India or to meditate hours a day. The experience of the sacred is available through relationship with our spouse, lover, parents, children, and closest friends. They are all our holy teachers providing us with opportunities to practice.
It is the joy of using our relationship as our spiritual practice that can transport us to the sublime. But it is the breakdowns of relationship that can also propel us to a divine energy source. In fact, it is those places where our edges rub most abrasively against each other that can provide the greatest amount of growth.
Quiet Reflection and Meditation
So, we take the next few moments to reflect on those important relationships we have with our selves our spiritual community and the sacred.
I invite you wherever you are to take a moment to breathe and bring yourself into the presence of what you choose to call spirit. Read each paragraph and then take some time to reflect before morning on. You may like to play a piece of music at the end of the quiet reflection.
Without judgement or criticism and with compassion and gentleness we think about the relationship that we have with ourselves.
How we live our daily lives, how we talk to ourselves how we feed and nurture our bodies and minds, how we give and receive.
We are reminded we are a child of God.
Without judgement or criticism and with compassion and gentleness we think about the relation-ships we have with our partners or close friends, colleagues and those in our church communities – you may be new to Unitarianism so you may want to think about what friendships you would like to grow. You may have been coming to church for a while yet the relationships that you have with others may be somewhat fleeting. There may be someone that you would like to get know a little more, but have not had the courage to do so or there may be a relationship that requires some at-tention, some of your time and patience.
We are reminded we are a child of God.
Without judgement or criticism and with compassion and gentleness we take a moment to reflect on our relationship with the sacred, the Divine, the God of our understanding. It may be the best it has ever been; it may be a new relationship in its infancy delicate and fragile or we may be strug-gling and we may have no idea of what this could be
We are reminded we are a child of God.
In this moment, in this virtual sacred space we look, we see, we accept where we are in all of these relationships and in prayer we ask for guidance, Divine wisdom and unconditional love granting us the courage to remain on the path of connection.
We give thanks for all these relationships we have in our lives. We honour each and every one of them
Angela Wilson a faculty member at Kripalu – A centre for yoga and health was once asked by a student what is the most healing experience of her yoga practice – going straight to the postures of yoga she wracked her brain as to which one had brought long standing change.
A host of memories flooded in: moments of insights and emotional release, a nurturing sense of be-ing a part of something greater than herself but she was left feeling there was still something more.
“As images of yoga mats and meditation cushions began to fade, other images emerged—of people who had supported, challenged, moved, and consoled me. Moments with friends, teachers, part-ners, and parents. A time crying on a friend’s shoulder. A time when conflict merged into greater understanding. Some of these faces were directly connected to my formal practice; others were, surprisingly, not. But they all had one thing in common—they had changed my life.
I was surprised that so many of my most transformational moments came with another person at-tached. It got me thinking: When it comes to healing, how important are relationships on the spiritual path?
From birth, we require connection to survive. Babies who don’t receive enough physical contact and emotional responsiveness are at higher risk for behavioural, emotional, and social problems. They cry more and sleep less. At its extreme, babies who are neglected and not touched often don’t survive. Human contact and engagement is as fundamental to our survival as food and water.
Relationships become transformative when we stick our necks out, when we’re honest and vulner-able. The more we allow ourselves to be truly seen and known, the more we open the door to heal-ing. When we do this, there’s no guarantee that things will go the way we want them to.
The transformation arises not from the outcome but from being honest, open, and willing to receive and be impacted by what comes from that authenticity.”
As we come to the close of our time together this morning my wish as a Unitarian is that we contin-ue to grow together whether that be online, in person, or a combination; in spirit and in friendship.
And in the words of Swami Kripalu,
“The key to your heart lies hidden in the heart of another.”
May you go in peace and with an open heart accepting that the relationships that you have in your lives today our exactly as they need to be