Thursday 25 June 2020

Stepping Through the Threshold

"Stepping Through the Threshold"

This is the thirtienth piece of devotional worship (14th in total) that I have put together for sharing, during the shutting down of worship due to the Corona virus outbreak. I am posting it before Sunday. If you would like to share it with myself and the two congregations I serve, please feel free to do so. We will worship together but physically apart, either at 10am or 11.30am on Sunday 28th June. All you need is an open heart, mind, spirit and soul. A small candle will be helpful. All are most welcome. come as you are, exactly as you are, but do not expect to leave in exactly the same condition.

You can also enjoy a Zoom version of this service at 11am on Sunday 28th June. If you wish to access the serivce the code is as follows: Meeting ID: 841 9082 8195

This is a recurring meeting so it will be the same code each week and for all future

We are here to worship…In this spirit I invite us to still ourselves in silence…to invite a loving presence to be here amongst us and to awaken within us…

Chalice Lighting
We speak to the god, the goddess, the spirit of life, the eternal.
We speak to the mysterious thread that connects us one to the other and to the universe.
We speak to the deep wisdom at the center of our beings.
We embody the yearning of all people
to touch each other more deeply,
to hear each other more keenly,
to see each other’s joys and sorrows as our own
and know that we are not alone,
unless we create solitude for ourselves;
and even then, community awaits us.
Out of our yearning we have come
to join in the spirit of community despite our physical separation.
May we help each other to proclaim the possibilities we see,
to create the community we desire,
to worship what is worthy in our lives,
to teach the truth as we know it,
and to serve with justice in all the ways that we can,
to the end that our yearning is assuaged
and our lives fulfilled in one another.
Let us go, now, into the silence of the faith that is
unique to each of us, and still the same.
Let us be silent together for a moment.
May peace be ours.

Hymn 158 “The Flame of Truth is Kindled” (Purple) words Cliff Reed Music “Morning Light” 76. 76. D George Webb

The Flame of truth is kindled,
Our chalice burning bright;
Amongst us moves the Spirit
In whom we seek delight.
We worship here in freedom
With conscience unconstrained,
A pilgrim people thankful
For what great souls have gained.

The flame of thought is kindled,
We celebrate the mind;
Its search fro deepest meaning
That time-bound creeds can’t bind.
We celebrate its oneness with body and with soul,
With universal process,
With God who makes us whole.

The flame of love is kindled,
We open wide our hearts,
That it may burn within us,
Fuel us to do our parts.
Community needs building,
A Commonwealth of Earth,
We ask for strength to build it –
A new world come to birth.

Spirit of Life, known by many names yet by no name fully known—we gather today with hopes and dreams and also with fears and wounds, wondering what might be in these uncertain times.
May we be reminded that all things come and go; that today’s joys and today’s sorrows will in time give way to those of tomorrow and that those of us who have strength to share today ought do so while we can, and that those who are in need ought allow ourselves to receive, for tomorrow those roles might well be reversed. Spirit of Life, mother and father of us all, help us to remember those who are not with us physically, but joined in heart, mind, spirit and soul. Let us remember those who need to be held in love in their struggle and despair, those who feel dispirited, lost and lonely. May we open our hearts to all in need this day and in the days to come. May we always be open to growth and change, to movement, to grace. In the name of all that is holy, and in all the holy names that have ever been uttered (and those that have not even yet been imagined), let us say Blessed be, Shalom, and Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

A famous spiritual teacher begged an audience with the king, and was shown into the palace.
“What can I do for you?” asked the king.
“I would like to spend the night here in this hotel,” replied the teacher.
“But this is not a hotel,” said the king. “This is my palace. You cannot stay here.”
“May I ask who owned this place before you?”
“My father.”
“And where is your father now?”
“He’s dead.”
“Who owned the place before him?”
“My grandfather.”
“And where is your grandfather now?”
“He’s dead.”
“So, this is a place in which people live for a while and then move on. How is it different from a hotel?”

Many years ago an American tourist visited the famous Polish rabbi Hafrez Hayyam. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench.
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.
“Where is yours?” replied Hafez.
“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi.

However many years we have lived it is important that we remember that we are merely visitors on this earth…Nothing is permanent…Nothing lasts for ever…The only thing that is permanent in life is change…


“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

2nd Hymn 46 “Breath of God” (Green) Words Edwin Hatch Tune Carlisle S.M. Charles Lockhart
1.     Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
2.     Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
3.     Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
4.     Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.


Matthew 7 vv 1 - 13
7‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s* eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbour,* “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s* eye.
6 ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
7 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12 ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
13 ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy* that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

“To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border” by Esther de Waal
Esther de Waal on the importance of honoring thresholds as sacred things.
"There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: 'A threshold is a sacred thing.' . . . When I visited Japan I experienced the role of the threshold in a very simple daily experience. Before entering the house, the Japanese stand on the lintel in order to remove the shoes worn outside in the street. Upon entering the house, they put on slippers placed inside the door. This forces a very deliberate and conscious way of standing still, even if for only for a moment, in order to show respect for the difference between two spaces, the outer and the inner; the preparation for the encounter with another person, another household.
"This is very similar to the traditional monastic practice of statio, which also pays homage to the threshold moment, and shows reverence for the handling of space and time. The monk or nun enters the church for the saying of the daily offices, but always leaves him- or herself time to stand, to wait, to let go of all the demands of whatever the previous activity had been, with all its concurrent anxieties and expectations. That stillness permits each one to enter into that space kept empty in the heart for the Word of God. By rushing whether through a sense of duty or obligation, or to save a few extra moments for the task at hand, they may gain something in terms of daily work. What is lost, however, is the attention, the awareness of crossing over into the time and place for opus Dei, the work of God."
To Practice This Thought: Whenever you arrive at your home after time away, briefly pause before you open the door and take a breath of gratitude for this place which offers you essential shelter.


I invite you now to join together in a time of prayer, meditation and contemplation…a private time, a personal time, but a time we share together in communion with one another…
I will lead us into this time with some words that I will sing for you…
So let us still ourselves, lets quieten our thoughts, our minds, lets connect to our bodies, to our breathing, let’s be still and silent together…

Long Silence (5 minutes)

Music for Meditation (Music of own choice)

Hymn 255 “This Land is Your Land” (Green) Adapted from Woody Guthrie 10.10. 10. 8. (Irregular) Woody Guthrie
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters;
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley;
This land was made for you and me.
I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding;
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking I saw a sign there,
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


From “A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-first Century”
John A. Buehrens and Rebecca Ann Parker on celebrating progressive religious communities of commitment, hope, and renewal.
"We are here at the threshold.
We are here,

We who have crossed many thresholds already
To arrive at this space and time,
Coming out — from identities and locations that
didn't embrace the fullness of who we are;
Coming across — distances, boundaries,
discoveries that have beckoned us to deeper life
and challenged us to change;
Coming with — our loves, our partners, our children,
our memories, our knowledge,
our wisdom, and our willingness;
Coming to — our senses, our awareness
of the critical issues that threaten the well-being
of earth's creatures, communities, and cultures;
Coming again — to decisions, commitments, hopes,
determinations that we know matter.
We are here at this threshold,
the threshold of a house of study,
where minds and hearts are on fire;
the threshold of a house of spirit
where prayer and contemplation
take us deeper;
the threshold of a house of hope
for greater justice and compassion in the world;
the threshold of a house of history
that can inform our present lives
and link us to a communion that
crosses the boundary of death;
the threshold of a house of preparation
for the thresholds we will lead others to cross,
for the thresholds yet to come,
for the thresholds the world stands on —
poised, now, as always
between the possibilities of violence
and the possibilities of peace.
Come, let us cross this threshold


I have heard it said many times these last couple of weeks that are standing at another threshold, a space between one thing and another. A transition phase, in liminal space. That we are stepping back into the world as it was before the current Covid 19 crisis that has struck our world. Certainly, we in Europe appear to have come through the worst of it. Or at least the first phase of it. Medical experts are preaching caution and I feel it is important to heed their advice. Some say that the disease is not as intense as it once was, but I am not sure anyone knows for sure. There is no doubt though that we have come through the worst of the first phase. This though of course is not the same for other parts of the world. Firgures show that this week has recorded the highest number of Covid cases globally in a single day. We here though are opening up more and more. We are currently considering how we may be able offer public worship again, finding ways for us to gather together and worship physically, to cross the threshold of our places of worship. We are allowed to open for public worship, under certain conditions, from the 4th of July.

So we are once again in a place of transition. We don’t know what will come next, to be honest this is the nature of life. We are always at the threshold of something, the end of one moment moving into another. People say live in the moment, well I have discovered that the moment is not some static thing that you can live within, the moment is liminal in nature, it is the space between the past and the future. You cannot really live in the moment. Maybe it is more accurate to say that the moment lives in and through you.

To truly alive is to inhabit the liminal space to live by threshold. We are constantly living in the season of change, moments when the future is unknown, and times where we just feel stuck in the in-between. However, with awareness and intentionality we can even make meaning out of the seasons of our life in which it seems like all meaning has been stripped away.

As we step out of lockdown and back to the life perhaps, we will do so with a new outlook, a new perspective. Are we going to step out into the world as the same people we were before or has something changed within us? Perhaps we have gained a new awareness, a new perspective and we have awakened to something within or perhaps without.

Earlier we shared a wonderful poem, that Sue and I have on wall in our living room, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford. It is the line “For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep” that speaks powerfully and intensely to me. It is not merely that we need to keep ourselves awake, but that we need to remind one another who and what we truly are in order that we remain awake and do not go back to sleep. We have to bring to life what has awakened within each and everyone of us and share that with each other so as to remind one another of the importance of staying awake, or we will go back to sleep.

There are been many concerns that have awakened in society these last few weeks; one that has awakened in me has been a growing concern for the most vulnerable in society. As I have shared before I have become deeply troubled with the growing sense that some that there are those in society that are expendable, or seen as a burden. What has occurred within our nursing and care homes has troubled me deeply, thankfully this is becoming more public and I feel the need to do something about this, to become more involved in ensuring better provisions are put in place. I feel as we step back into life once more that I want to become involved in ensuring that we take greater care of one another, particularly the most vulnerable in society. For what we do to the least amongst us we do each other. Who will be the next to become expendable, to be considered of less value in life.

As we step back into life I must remember these feelings, these passions and not allow them to go back to sleep. I must remain awake. I must bring these memories to life, in order to live alive and awake in the moment I will find myself in and thus play my part in making a better future for all.

If I have learnt anything from the past it is that it brings the present to life. No one lives passively in the moment, or they ought not to. By being informed and inspired by the past we bring the present to life, we live alive in the time we find ourselves and we can then build something for the future of us all. This is why history is so important, something we are having a good look at and reassessing in this time and place. This can only be a positive thing. A true sense of history is vital to understanding the present. May it inspire us to bring this our time to life and inspire us to build a better future for all.

We bring the time we are living in now alive by bringing our whole being alive within it. The moment has to be lived actively and not passively. It is about opening our whole selves up to the present moment and not just passively experiencing what is there; It is about wholly living in the moment and then carrying this experience into the future; It is about truly living on the threshold of life. The truth of course is that this is how we are always living, on the threshold of something, as one moment ends another begins. We bring our memories into the present and it is this that opens the future to new possibility.

As David Whyte so beautifully put it “Memory is an invitation to the source of our life, to a fuller participation in the now, to a future about to happen, but ultimately to a frontier identity that holds them all at once. Memory makes the now fully habitable.” It’s not just about living in the moment, but about bringing the moment to life. This is what it means to be truly awake to life and to live spiritually alive. Let us remember this and not allow one another to go back to sleep

This sense of aliveness brings to my heart and mind a short poem by Ann Hillman “We look with uncertainty”

“We Look With Uncertainty” by Anne Hillman

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
As we continue to step into life more and more what matters is finding ways to live more alive and awake, to allow what is new within us to be born and come to fruition.
Sometimes before we can be born again and step into new light, we have to take shelter as we reform quietly in our cocoons waiting to give birth to what is within. I recently learnt of wonderful illustration of this. It was during another time of fear and distress of not knowing what might be, during the London Blitz of the Second World War. It was a story about the great sculptor Henry Moore. He joined with many thousands of others seeking refuge in the tunnels of the underground. He brought with him his art supplies and spent the nights sketching his sleeping companions. One in particular stands out “Tube Shelter Perspective”. Using water colour, crayon and pencil he depicted people sleeping in two rows just like the tube tracks themselves. As they lay there like caterpillars in coccons, waiting in liminal time and space waiting to re-emerge as something new, he depicted them cocconed together in the glistening walls of the tunnel. Henry Moore beautifully captured this inbetween state. Those lying, asleep could not see what was outside, above the ground. Yes, some of are depicted as being awake and sitting up listening to the life beyond and above, anticipating what might yet be. I can just imagine them holding their breath in anticipation of what might come once they passed through this terrifying threshold, will it be destruction or the new dawn. As they lay there together they were living in a communal threshold, alive in the moment they were in, awaiting the new life, when they would step through the threshold into the light of a new dawn, in those hours and days, weeks, months and even years they were alive in this liminal space.
“Liminal Space” is a threshold, a space between things. The word “Liminal” comes from the Latin “limens”, meaning “a threshold.” A threshold is a doorway or the entrance, it is a place or point of entering or beginning. In psychology the term “Limen” means the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect.
So “Liminal Space” is that moment when something changes from one state to another.  Such as the dawn of each day when the morning sun rises high in the sky to bring in daylight.  Or at dusk when the evening sun sinks into the horizon bringing nightfall.
“Liminal Space” is that moment when we move either into or out of a deep fog, whether physical or one made from our own minds. Sometimes in that fog we find a complete stillness and in that stillness a new truth can be revealed. As we do we come out of the fog once again and step into a new clear light. This is similar to those moments when we awaken from a deep sleep, when we are not yet fully awake but no longer asleep.  And at the other end of the day is that state when we move from being fully awake and conscious into deep sleep. Then there are those moments of life’s transitions, between life and death itself.
“Liminal Space” is a boundary. Think of fences, walls and trees between property. It is the edge between things. Such as water and land, a valley or a hill. When I think of where I come from in West Yorkshire, such boundaries are everywhere in those hills and valleys of green and grey, as the land changes in shape. Another example is the East Coats of Yorkshire , around Filey and Flamborough Head where the cliffs are eroding and falling away into the North Sea. It is amazing to stand there sometimes and stare out into the sea watching the waves hitting and then retreating from the coast . It is that moment of contact, just before the sea withdraws once again that is a kind of “Liminal Space”.
“Liminal Space” is not only physical in nature though. It is that moment, which may last a lifetime, that lies between the known and the unknown. It is a moment of transition a space of heightened intensity when we cross the threshold of what we think we know. That moment of abandon when things change and are never quite the same again. Moments that can change us forever. Moments that change everything. We all have them, it’s just that too often we are not fully awake to them. We all of us stand in that space, between the changing of the light. Between every sunrise and every sunset, a whole new world of possibility is born.
We are always changing, we are always on the threshold of something, moving through liminal space. Some of those changes are physical, others psychological and still others spiritual.
So here we are at another threshold, wondering what the future holds. Coming out of our shelters like those people that Henry Moore painted. Has something changed within us? Have we awakened to something new? What world are we stepping into? How will we impact upon it, how will it impact on us? If something has awakened within us how do we keep that awake, to impact positively as we step out into the future.
The key is to remember and to bring the memory alive in this moment we find ourselves in right here and now. To communicate what we have learnt and to listen to what has awoken within each other. We are not alone in these uncertain times, it is important to remember this, even in our physical separation, we are still tied together in mutual love and support.
As I step over the threshold into the new life I am going to be holding those words by William Stafford deep in my heart, I will attempt to live that ritual and keep on reading it to others and listen to it as they read the ritual to me. I will remember the line.
“For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep”

Let us stay awake, may we never go back to sleep. Let’s step over the threshold and bring alive ever moment of our lives and thus build a new future for us all.

I will end with some words of blessing by Mark Belletini “Spiritual History”
“Spiritual History” by Mark Belletini
Let my body remember.
Let my hands and feet remember.
Let my breath remember those who came before me, those who have come before us.
Didn’t Muhammad wait quietly in his cave?
And didn’t Jesus sigh silently by the blue lake?
And Guan Yin, didn’t she sit in silence thinking that what to do before doing it?
And what was Siddhartha the Buddha doing anyway under that tree if not sitting quietly?
And Susan B. Anthony, didn’t she push back from her desk, and take a breath now and then?
And Florence Nightingale, didn’t she put down her nurse’s hat and think silently about what to write in her essay on mysticism before she actually wrote it?
And Sophia Fahs, didn’t she stop telling stories sometimes and just sit there?
And didn’t Black Elk just notice the sunlight glancing on his chair sometimes?
And Starhawk, does she only talk and write, or does she too keep silence?
Let us remember them all with our bodies.
Let us remember them with the silence they too knew.

Hymn 208 “When my heart is in a holy place” (Purple) Words and music Joyce Poly tune Holy Place
When our heart is in a holy place,
When our heart is in a holy place,
We are bless’d with love and amazing grace,
When our heart is in a holy place.
When we trust the wisdom in each of us,
Ev’ry color ev’ry creed and kind,
And we see our faces in each other’s eyes,
Then our heart is in a holy place.
When our heart is in a holy place,
When our heart is in a holy place,
We are bless’d with love and amazing grace,
When our heart is in a holy place.
When we tell our story from deep inside,
And we listen with a loving mind,
And we hear our voices in each other’s words,
Then our heart is in a holy place.
When our heart is in a holy place,
When our heart is in a holy place,
We are bless’d with love and amazing grace,
When our heart is in a holy place.
When we share the silence of sacred space,
And the God of our Heart stirs within,
And we feel the power of each other’s faith,
Then our heart is in a holy place.
When our heart is in a holy place,
When our heart is in a holy place,
We are bless’d with love and amazing grace,
When our heart is in a holy place.


Loving Spirit, be with us as we part.
Bless those who are here.
Bless those who are not here.
Bless those we love and those we should love.
Bless those who need our love and those whom we need to love.
Bless those we would love if we knew them and those we may never love.
Bless all who love and help us to love when we find it hard.
And may we carry these blessings, the blessings of love with us…in all that we feel, all that we think, all that we say and all that they do…

Friday 19 June 2020

Come out of the closet "Homo Puppy": Don't be ashamed to do good

This is the twelfth piece of devotional worship (13th in total) that I have put together for sharing, during the shutting down of worship due to the Corona virus outbreak. I am posting it before Sunday. If you would like to share it with myself and the two congregations I serve, please feel free to do so. We will worship together but physically apart, either at 10am or 11.30am on Sunday 21st June. All you need is an open heart, mind, spirit and soul. A small candle will be helpful. All are most welcome. come as you are, exactly as you are, but do not expect to leave in exactly the same condition.

You can also enjoy a Zoom version of this service at 11am on Sunday 21st June. If you wish to access the serivce the code is as follows: Meeting ID: 841 9082 8195

This is a recurring meeting so it will be the same code each week and for all future

Let us join together in worship…Let us invite a loving presence to be here amongst us and awaken within each and every one of us…

Chalice Lighting
We have lit our chalice to mark the commencement of worship…
May it bring light to our minds, wisdom to our souls and warmth to our hearts:
Light to show us the Way, wisdom to walk it truly, warmth to enfold our fellow pilgrims with compassion.

Hymn 176 (Green Hymn Book Come Together in Love (Come Together) P.M.

O come together in truth;
O come together in peace;
O come together in joy and sharing,
Come together in knowing and caring;
Come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.
We come together in search
Of new beginnings for all,
Where understanding and trust surround us—
Gone the hate and fear that bound us;
Come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.
[Dorothy Grover]

In a moment I will invite you to join together in a time of prayer. These words of prayer are based on verses from Mathew’s Gospel ch 10 v 6 and Luke’s Gospel ch 23 v 24. A verse that is central the ethos of fellow Unitarians in Transylvania. “Wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”

I invite you now to join together in a time of prayer…

God of our hearts, in an imperfect world may we go out as sheep among wolves;
As wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.
Help us to be trusting but not gullible, open-hearted but not empty headed, ready to think the best but prepared for the worst.
May we never become hardened against the humanity of others, especially those who are themselves the victims of deceit and exploitation;
Those who never learned the better way.
Help us to be kind, even as we stand firm against the instruments of malice and evil, remembering always the prayer of Jesus:
“Forgive them, for they not what they do.”
God of our hearts, in an imperfect world may we go out as sheep among wolves;
As wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.


Lord’s Prayer


“The Strangers Gift”

There was once a village that had fallen on very hard times. The villages had once been very happy, and their community had been famous for its hospitality and friendliness, and the warmth with which it welcomed strangers.
But something had gone wrong in the village. People had begun to bicker with one another. Quarrels broke out for no apparent reason. Rivalry sprang up where once there had been friendship and trust. The chief of the village was very sad about this. He knew that the people would never be happy like this, but he could do nothing to restore the old times of harmony and peace. Strangers no longer wanted to visit the village. The people stopped caring for it. The village was falling into ruin.
But it happened that one day a stranger came by. He approached the village like one with a mission, as though he already knew what he would find there. And very soon, he met the village chief. He recognised the sad expression in his eyes, and the two were soon engaged in a serious conversation.
The village chief told the stranger about his feelings of despair, and his fears that soon the village would disintegrate. The stranger told the village chief that he might know a way to redeem the lost village, and restore it to a real community again.
“Tell me the secret,” The village chief begged the stranger.
“The secret is very simple,” the stranger said, by way of reply.
“The fact is, one of the villagers is actually the Messiah”
The village chief could hardly believe what he was hearing, yet the stranger had an air of authority about him that was irrefutable.
The stranger left, but the village chief couldn’t resist telling his closest friend what the stranger had told him. Soon the rumour ran through the village like wildfire.
“One of us is the Messiah! Can you believe it, somewhere, hidden among our number, the messiah is living.!”
Now deep down, the villagers were a godly folk who wanted things to be right in their community. They thought that the Messiah himself might be living among them, incognito, made them see things very differently. Could it be the baker? They wondered. Or the postman? Or the old lady who breeds chickens and sells eggs? Perhaps its old granny Riley, whom the children were in the habit of taunting because of her scarred old face. The speculation went on and on.
But the strange thing was that, after the stranger’s visit, things were never the same again. People began to treat each other with reverence. They lived like people who had a common purpose, and who were seeking for something very precious together, never quite knowing whether the treasure was actually right in front of them.
Before long, visitors began to come to the village, just to be part of the happy, holy atmosphere that prevailed there. The stranger never came back. He didn’t need to.


“From Humankind: A Hopeful History” by Rutger Bregman
“Come out of the closet: don’t be ashamed to do good” Pg 395

“Modern psychologists have discovered that when people do something out of the goodness of their hearts, they often fabricate selfish motives. This is most prevalent in individualistic Western cultures where veneer theory is most entrenched. And it makes sense: if you assume most people are selfish, then any good deed is inherently suspect. As one American psychologist notes, “People seem loath to acknowledge that their behaviour may have been motivated by genuine compassion or kindness.”
Don’t get me wrong: inspiring others is not about flaunting your deeds, and championing the good doesn’t mean blowing your own trumpet. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned his disciples against the one, while he encouraged the other: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a light and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works…”

2nd Hymn 151 (Green Hymn Book) Tune Monksgate 65. 65. 6665.
Be thou my vision, O God of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom and thou my true word,
I ever with thee and thou with me, God;
Thou my soul's shelter, thou my high tower,
Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor world's empty praise,
Thou my inheritance, thou and always;
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
Sovereign of heaven, my victory won;
May I reach heaven's joys O bright heaven's Sun.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
[Selected by Eleanor Henrietta Hull from a Gaelic source]

Sue’s Address

Don’t be taken advantage of
Give them an inch and they’ll have you
Don’t be gullible
Look after your own
Charity begins at home

Lockdown. Talk of bubbles.

My fear in all this is that actually I have become a little preoccupied with me and mine. Fear that recession is coming, worry how long this will go on, smaller concerns that make me blush to admit when I think of others.
I feel compassion and sympathy towards all those whose lives have been affected, to those who have lost, been separated from, yearned for people they could not physically be with.

But what am I actually doing? What are you actually doing?


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
We have that on the wall at home, front and centre.
I believe it.
No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.


Isn’t so much of the problem in perception?

Don’t be SEEN to be a do-gooder. Don’t set yourself up as being superior,
That old chestnut “who do you think you are?”
I’m sure that is an insult in all cultures but in British society it seems particularly divisive. That old sketch from The Fast Show with the clapped out celebs saying:
 “I do a lot of work for charity”
We are encouraged to laugh as though to say it out loud strikes out the benefit.

I didn’t get it then and I don’t now.

Is the question really “Why am I ashamed to tell people I have done something good” or is it
“Why have I not done more?”

“One good turn deserves another”
Who does the first?

Are we only inspired to kindness and compassion when we are in some way to be rewarded for it further down the line.
To live a ‘christian’ (with a small c) life is to practice kindness, benevolence. To give to others less fortunate than ourselves. To give time, put ourselves out for others and the greater good.
Are we only able to do this from a position of having enough ourselves?
Any feeling of lack on our part seems to disturb this instinct to give.

If there is a perception of too few school places, a groaning health service, lack of money for social upkeep - this is easily taken advantage of by those who wish to demonise the other (so often the immigrant, or those ‘different’ to the majority)

Are we not then truly responsible for establishing that we feel we have enough in order for our cup to overfloweth and therefore this abundance to flow forth towards others with less. “I would like to give to charity but I don’t have enough myself at the moment”

This can’t be down to monetary levels or creature comforts. We can always want more there, we will always want.
Can we be settled in our spirit that we have enough, we are enough and therefore not be constantly battling to keep something or get something.


Growing up there were two particular examples I remember as role models of altruism.

My godmother. She and my godfather lived “up the hill” in Hale (ie rather than having just a big house they had an enormous house). She would dedicate some of her spare time in the week to prison visiting at Styal Women’s Prison. This was fodder at home for criticism. My mum would question how any ‘poor’ inmate might receive any comfort from a visit from ‘Lady Bountiful’. What would they have to talk about? It obviously made my mum extremely uncomfortable to consider it, she assumed that this well spoken ‘do-gooder’ would be seen as patronising. And did Tessa have to talk about this kindness that she did? That was the really distasteful part.

My best friend’s mum ‘Mrs T’ another angel for me to witness. She was forever cooking mince or baking. I would so often arrive at the house to her leaving with a basket (yes, proper old fashioned basket) over her arm, filled with tasty uplift for someone in need. Whether it be 100 cupcakes for a children’s party because the parents were poorly or the hundreds of cottage pies over the years - the dish that arrives at all times of distress or fatigue, all encompassing cottage pie for births, deaths and upset. She was (and still is) a wonderfully kind lady.
She was deemed by my own mother as being “a bit Christian”

To be seen as a ‘do-gooder’ in the home where I grew up could often be synonymous with God-botherer (God forbid)
My mum resisted the pull of the church except in times when she truly felt lost when she would run to it.

Don’t get me wrong here. Both my parents were generous-spirited folk, happy to help if they could. Bill and Carole were people who would be asked to lend things, give time, sought for advice. As role models go my mum is right up there in my witnessing her help of others.
As she berated someone else for their public ‘good doing’, she might do it from her own kitchen where she would be baking, cooking cottage pies and sitting on the phone for hours to friends in need. Accompanying cleaners, builders, the woman from the post office to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. She hated to see anyone being taken advantage of and a particular bug bear were the local au pairs who needed representing.
In the same breath she would be bringing down the “lazy Hale mothers” as she instructed her own cleaner to “have a good go at the top bathroom please”

Dad mischievously labelled her a ‘Champagne Socialist’ as though she would find this insulting. As a girl born just after the war, raised in a single parent family in inner city Birmingham, my mum knew poverty and she knew the comfortable life she went on to live. She was a proud ‘Champagne Socialist’ though would happily use the expression herself to cut someone else down to size.

Hahaha. We are complex we humans.


Are we really selfish and brutish by nature with a thin veneer of nice?
A book on the shelf as i grew up in the 70s was Desmond Morris’s ‘The Naked Ape’. Now, if I’m honest, it caught my eye as a child because it had a row of bare bottoms on the cover. Eventually as a teenager I became sufficiently intrigued to browse through the contents. I think it is one of the texts that led me to study Sociology at university. I have a lot of time still for the idea that we are primates with some social skills necessitated by the situations we inhabit.
There is a great chapter entitled “Grooming” which draws parallels between the lip smacking and picking over of each other performed by apes and humans. Yes, people developed language to assist in our complex communications but you can still observe us humans ‘grooming’ each other.

Acts of kindness, being kind and doing good are necessary for the ongoing smooth living of any tribe or pack.

I’m going to leave the ape analogy because we have to bring in human intellect and evolution. It is too convenient and tidy to see each other as base natures.
We are more than creatures looking for food, mates and establishing territory to be protected. Aren’t we?
In writing that sentence I am questioning it.

No, surely we are complex and complicated both as human individuals, in our particularly families or tribes and as a global population.

If we assume that people are selfish and that their individual narcissism really only stretches to include those nearest and most important to them we come to expect an isolationist approach to life. The prophesy fulfils itself, the blinkers are on and it’s full on ‘me and mine’ and ‘you and yours’.

I am at my most kind and compassionate when I appreciate all that I have and all that I am.
I have to practice this.
It is worth it.

Spiritual contentment has nothing to do with the financials. If I am loved, have shelter and food, I have enough.

Maybe we are not so far from being the Naked Ape after all?
Acts of kindness and consideration for individual comfort both for the receiver and the giver add to the common good. A group of apes know this, do we?

I invite us to join together in time of quiet reflection, meditation and contemplation, a time if you wish for personal prayer…a personal time, a private time but a time that we share together as a worshipping congregation…
Let us quieten our thoughts, still our minds, connect to our bodies, to our breathing, let us be still and silent together…

Silence (5 minutes)


Music for meditation (Of your own choice)

Hymn 148 (Purple) “Spirit of Life, come unto me” Carolyn McDade

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.


Thich Nhat Hanh “The Good News”

They don't publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

They don’t publish the good news, well rarely. It seems that the only news we get these days tell us how wrong we are, how terrible we are, how selfish we are, how we cannot trust anyone. When was the last time you read a headline praising our humanity? All we hear about is how bad and wrong we all are. I find this rather sad, because as I walk and talk and observe folk, that is not all I see. Most folk, when they see another in trouble, will do what they can to help and yet we are told that you can’t trust anybody these days and if a person does anything to help anyone that you can’t trust their motives. If you tell someone of the good that you do, then your motives will be doubly questioned. Why are we so cynical about ourselves and each other? Cynicism is a disease. Kindness is a word that is often scoffed at. How often are the so called “do-gooders” in the world seen as foolish? Actually worse than this, they are viewed with suspicion as someone whose motives ought not to be trusted.

It does not have to be like this. We do not have to live in the cynic’s nightmare. If you look around you and look carefully, paying attention with an open heart you will become aware of kindness all around. Our task is, I believe, to be both open to it and to allow it to radiate from our being. We need to come out of the closet, about the good we do. It will encourage others to do the same.

“May we be filled with loving kindness, may we be well.”

Now the cynic’s will say I’m merely a dreamer, but I know I am not the only one.

Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, was one of them. She often spoke of her belief in human kindness and the need to develop it as a spiritual practice, something she saw as the essence of all the great religious traditions of the world. In her book "A Revolution in Kindness” she wrote:

"To me, kindness is one of the most important words in the English language. It's enormously resonant and life-enhancing. And yet, over the past generation or so, it has begun to disappear from polite discourse. It's considered insipid, almost embarrassing. People are not praised for their kindness anymore. It is often viewed as something sanctimonious, patronizing and unrealistic — as if being kind somehow ignores the basic causes of a problem in the first place. Kindness carries with it implications of noblesse oblige, even snobbery . . .
Kindness is lumped along with “nice” as unrealistic and not possessing the power to bring about real change in the world, that it is simplistic, syrupy and worse still cowardly. Roddick though suggested the opposite claiming that kindness required real courage as it goes against the grain of the times and does bring about change on a very human level. She further stated that “…kindness doesn't have to be insipid or random to be effective. Far from it: deliberate kindness can be fierce, tenacious, unexpected, unconditional and sometime positively revolutionary…These qualities give kindness its power to create change, to make things happen. And in a period of human history in which we are obsessed with change — personal or political — and are unsure whether it is possible at all, kindness could be our salvation."

Could Kindness be our salvation. Could we actually bring about “The Kin-dom of Love” right here, right now?

We have often heard it said that “Love makes the world go round”, well actually perhaps what really makes the world go round is kindness. To quote Forrest church on this “'s a purer virtue. When you're kind to a taxi driver or check-out person, you expect nothing in return. And yet, if you make kindness a habit, others may find it contagious.” Church saw “kindness” as the purest virtue and the purest form of love, which he equated with agape love, self-giving love, the love spoken of in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 13 and those immortal words. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Earlier we heard an extract from Rutger Bregman’s wonderful book “Human kind: A Hopeful History” Here he is suggesting that we “Come out of the closet: don’t be ashamed to do good”
Now this probably sounds a little shocking as it seems to go against the grain of what we are taught to do, to keep quiet about the good we do. We need though to let our light shine, so that people see another example of our humanity other than what we hear and read about on the news.
As Bregman highlights
“Unfortunately, this reticence works like a nocebo. When you disguise yourself as an egoist, you reinforce other people’s cynical assumptions about human nature. Worse by cloaking your good deeds, you place them in quarantine, where they can’t serve as an example for others. And that’s a shame, because Homo puppy’s secret superpower is that we’re so great at copying one another.”
Bregman suggest that we “come out” about our generosity as an example to others, to encourage them to do the same. To counteract the narrative of so called human selfishness. That it is our nature to learn, to almost copy and mimic others, we like to fit in. therefore if we teach a frightening and scary and untrustworthy nature then this will be mimicked in others, thus creating a nocebo effect.
It is time to come out of the closet about who we, to stop hiding our light. To stop suppressing our humanity. To recognise the instincts that are a part of our humanity. Yes, we are capable of hideous and heinous things. We only have to pick up any daily newspaper to see evidence of this, but this is not all we are. We only hear the bad news about everything. We need to become the good news, the news the world needs to hear. Let’s start talking about the good we do and the good that is done for us. Let’s tell a different story for the world to hear. Let’s acknowledge our altruism, that the good we do is motivated by genuine compassion and kindness. Let’s stop fabricating selfish motives, when there aren’t any. Let’s become true Homo puppy’s and encourage others to use their secret superpower’s. Let’s show one another the better example. In so doing you will not be flaunting your deeds, or blowing your own trumpet, what you will doing is encouraging others to let their little lights shine. In so doing we will be encouraging one another to become the light of the world. Let’s begin to build the kin-dom of love right here right now, let’s share good news, cos the world really needs to hear it.


Hymn 201 (Purple) “What shall we say to them” words Peter Sampson Music Diademata S.M.D. by George J Elvey

What shall we say to them
when they all want to know
that god is in the world and feels
their inmost secrets glow?
We all must say to them
what we all know for sure
that there’s a kindness in the world
which ever shall endure.

What shall we do for them
when they are in distress
and anguish burns within their hearts
for which we seek redress?
We all must help them live
with confidence and trust
that if we hold fast to the truth
love lights sup even dust.

What is our vision bright
which we must show the world;
how perfect love can cast our fear
and life’s flag be unfurled?
We may not give up hope;
we will not give up love.
Our lives are grounded in the faith,
in one God we all move.

God of our hearts, bless us as we part. Be with us as we face the quandaries, fears, and puzzles of the coming days. Send your peace amongst us, and through our troubled world…
And may we carry that love with us…as we reach out our hands…in all that we feel, all that we think, all that we say and all that we do…