Sunday 25 April 2021

Beauty Awakens the Eye of the Beholder

Sometime when I stand in the gardens here at the chapel I feel like a cross between Snow White and Francis of Assisi...I feel like I want to preach a sermon or sing to the birds and other creatures all around...Then I come to my senses and just simply listen and soak in what is all around me and realise it is they who preach to me...I am a blessed man indeed. There is beauty all around me and it awakens my soul to act.

The Cherry blossom is out again. Nature is alive all around us, beautifying life. It is wonderful to just wander around and savour it, in the warmth of the sun. Several times over the last couple of weeks I have stood listening to someone as they have pointed out the beauty of the natural world. As I stand there savouring I am reminded once again how much I revere life. It awakens my heart and feeds my soul.

Many years ago our “General Assembly” had to create an Object that described who we are. I’m told that this was to fulfil a commitment to the Charity Commission to gain charitable status as a religious organisation. One line read “The worship of god and the celebration of life”. I have often thought about these words and today I kind of see them in reverse. For me what we ought to be aiming for is the worship of life and the celebration of God. That life is what we ought to hold in highest value, highest worth and that this is celebrated through that love which animates all life, that love that I know as God. That though is just me I am sure that many folk would disagree.


I have been feeling reverence for life powerfully this week as I have noticed the beautiful pink cherry blossom beautifying the trees. This will not last, it is so short lived, but I will enjoy it while it does.

Cherry Blossom is much loved throughout the world. In Japan though it is revered, worshipped. Each year the Japanese people come in large groups with their families and friends to view the flowers and to enjoy festivals with food, drink, and music. The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. It represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It is a reminder that life can at times become overwhelmingly beautiful, while at the same time tragically short. The cherry blossom, blooming for a short time each year, is an overpowering visual reminder of the precious fragility of life. So, when Japanese people come together to view the cherry blossom trees and marvel at their beauty, they aren't just thinking about the flowers themselves, but also about the larger meaning and deep cultural tradition of the cherry blossom tree. This is a truly religious experience. It is more than just spirituality, as they are bound up together sharing the experience.

Life has taught me that how I see the world really depends on where I am at spirituality. I wonder if I have ever seen the world as it really is. Do any of us? How I see the world seems to be constantly changing. I believe it really matters how we see the world, because how we see the world will affect how we live in the world.

As Victoria Safford wrote

“To see, simply to look and to see, is an ethical act and intentional choice; to see, with open eyes is a spiritual practice and thus a risk, for it can open you to ways of knowing the world and loving it that will lead to inevitable consequences.  The awakened eye is a conscious eye, a willful eye, and brave, because to see things as they are, each in its own truth, will make you very vulnerable.”

The beauty all around awakens something in me; it awakens my eyes. It also awakens something else; it awakens my heart and soul and compels me to act more beautifully in the world. Surely the purpose of the religious, the spiritual life is to be awake, awake to the world.

“Let beauty awake, for beauty’s sake”

When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being. They asked him: "Are you a god?" "No," he replied. "Are you a reincarnation of god?" "No," he replied."Are you a wizard, then?" "No." "Well, are you a man?" "No." "So what are you?" They asked, being very perplexed.  Buddha simply replied: "I am awake." Buddha means “the awakened one.” How to awaken is all he taught.

 “Let beauty awake, for beauty’s sake”

Beauty awakens something. That said what is beautiful to me may not be the same for you. The things I find most beautiful, apart from the obvious, are of course the beautiful blossom on the trees, but I am just as enchanted by the wild geese flying high, or the song of the blackbird, or the incredible football that Marcelo Bielsa is creating at Leeds United, or the music of New Model Army, or the batting of Joe Root, or watching our little dog Charlie playing at home or out the park with other dogs, just delighting in life. Charlie is only a little Shi Tzu, but she holds her own with the big dogs, she has such a beautiful spirit about her. She pours out her love and she receives it in equal measure too. I also caught sight of my first ducklings of the year the other day, when out walking Charlie by the canal.

What is beautiful to you, what does it awaken in you? Beauty is subjective. As they say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

It is a curious phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. It suggests that beauty is subjective. The phrase is of disputed origin. Some say it was coined in ancient Greece. While others site Shakespeare, “In Love’s Labour Lost he wrote:

 “Good Lord Boyet, my beauty though mean,

Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:

Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,

Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongue.”

Benjamin Franklin, in “Poor Richard’s Almanack”  wrote “Beauty, like supreme dominion is but supported by opinion” David Hulme wrote “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” The exact phrase though is attributed to Margaret Wolfe Hungerford who in “Molly Bawn” (1878) wrote “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

Beauty is subjective. it is in the eye of the beholder. It is about what our eyes can, but it is also about how we see, with my little eye.

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…Choose your own letter…

I’d like to share a little Mary Oliver with you. Here is “Mindful”

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver

I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early. © Beacon Press, 2005.

It is easy to look at the world and see what is destructive and life denying, what is ugly. It is less easy to become consistently aware of what is good, true, and beautiful. This requires discipline to open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open. It takes consistent effort. Beauty appears as a grace, but it takes effort to be aware and thus be affected and moved by beauty, that does not come unbidden. That said if we do and if we keep on doing so, despite the very real troubles we are surrounded by. we will begin to see beauty everywhere, not only in nature and one another. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but there’s a lot of good news as well. Pass the word and help keep hope alive. For it is not good enough to merely see beauty, we must be moved by it and moved to action so as to continue to create things of beauty ourselves, or even better become people of beauty, by living beautiful lives.

Plato believed that Love was born of beauty and that it tapped into our basic human drive and desire for Good, that it was not a private or self-indulgent act of pleasure and that “the ability to love beauty has created all the good things that exist for gods and men’.

This brings to mind a passage from Matthew’s Gospel (Ch 26 vv 6-13). It is a much debated primarily because it has been used by some as a justification for tolerating poverty. I believe that to focus on this is to fail to recognise the central message of Matthews Gospel, the abundant blessing of love.

The power in this story is in its recognition of abundant love. It describes a woman who loves and cares for Jesus. She anoints him with oil because she loves him dearly. It truly is an act of loving, nay gracious abandonment. She is overflowing with love and wants to anoint those she loves with this. This is beauty in action. This is a soul awakened by beauty and inspired to act lovingly. Her heart is over flowing with love and she wants to pour out this love onto Jesus who will soon no longer be with her or the disciples.

This is something we can all do we can all pour out this attentive love on one another and all life. We can offer care and attention to each and everyone around us. In so doing we will help create beauty all around us.

Dante claimed that “Beauty awakens the soul to act”. Beauty awakens the soul of me in so many indescribable ways and it compels me to act in such a way as to pour out that beauty within onto the world in which I live and breath and share my life with, in reverence for life.

Beauty not only awakens the soul, but also fills the heart to overflowing, it certainly compels me to pour my heart out on the world in loving ways. In fact perhaps true beauty, certainly in a human sense, is to act morally. 

Beauty is all around us. We are surrounded by it. If we open ourselves to it, it will fill our hearts, awaken our souls and lead us to act lovingly and morally. This is beauty in action. If we create beauty with our own hands we will touch each individual soul we meet and they will grow and flower to their own full potential. We are here to enjoy the beauty that we are surrounded by and to pour out the beauty that lays within us and thus bring it to fruition in the world around us.

Let beauty awake for beauty's sake. Awake from slumber and awake from dreams. Let beauty awake from deep within us, Let beauty pour from us and may we lavish our world with it.

Here is a video devotion based on the "Blogspot" material

Sunday 18 April 2021

Fear and Love: Finding the Courage to Be

I will begin with a story from that “Holy Fool” Nasrudin

Nasrudin was walking alone at night when he saw a group of people approaching in the far distance. Instantly, his imagination began to toy with him: “They are surely robbers!” he thought. “No, why just robbers? Murderers, cutthroats! About to set upon me, a lonely traveller, leave me for dead and steal all my possessions! How are my wife and children going to cope without me?!” Nasrudin’s heart began to pound. His mouth became as dry as his palms became wet. He shook from head to toe and found himself breathing like an unfit man running to the finishing line of his first marathon.

Having thoroughly terrified himself, he stumbled into a nearby graveyard and cowered, shaking inside an open tomb, awaiting his fate. Meanwhile, the harmless strangers, worried by his dramatic behaviour, approached him and looked with concern down into the tomb. “What, pray, are you doing down there?” they asked. Nasrudin, calming down quickly, said: “Well, put it this way: I am here because of you and you are here because of me!”

I received a phone call from the local funeral directors Ashton Brooks the other day. They thought I was the perfect person for this particular “difficult” funeral. During the conversation Alison, the funeral arranger said that Clive, the funeral director had seen me in Altrincham, “looking very casual”. I could just imagine him saying it. Anyhow after a little banter and conversation I realised where and when he had seen me. I was out walking and talking with a friend. He had something big to talk to me about. It seems he had decided to propose to his long term partner. They have both been married before and have grown up children. It seems he had already sought permission from his children and his partners children, as well as her parents. It appeared that the only person who didn’t know was his partner. He had bought a ring, in consultation with his partners daughter and had booked the time and place at the gardens at Dunham Massey. The spot he chose was their “favourite bench”. Now he obviously had quite a bit of fear about this and it was this that he wanted to talk through with me. Not that I could give him what he needed. That said I could walk with him and listen as he cemented the faith and courage he needed to fulfil this beautiful act of love.

On Monday morning I received a beautiful message of love from him, it brought a tear to my eye, she had said yes. He sent me a lovely picture of the ring on her finger and of him holding her hand. It was beautiful to see love manifested there right in front of my eyes. Love gave him the courage to be what he needed to be. Just beautiful.

I had another conversation with an old friend. He has a salon in Leeds and of course was reopening this week. He told me was feeling a bit nervous about him. I told him that this was quite natural, that he was experiencing a kind of return to school feeling we would get on a Sunday night as kids; that horrible feeling in the stomach that would come over us. I said can you remember that feeling that would come sometime between watching “Bullseye” and “Surprise, Surprise”. I think that both the empathy and humour helped.

There is quite a bit of nervousness and fear around at the moment. Life is returning to normal and folk are experiencing all types of fear for a variety of reasons. Fear about the vaccines and whether they will work long term, as well as fears about complications potentially arising from the vaccines. Fears about businesses reopening, will they survive after the challenges of the last year or more. There are fears of the virus rising again as we reopen and other strains spreading. There are fears of life retuning to some sense of normality, will things ever be the same again. Will we be able to truly be together again. Yes, there are many fears and they are all understandable, they ought not to be dismissed or ridiculed. They need to be understood and empathised with. I have my own and I am sure we all do.

Now there is nothing new people experiencing these fears., they always with us, they are a part of our humanity. Ok they are manifesting in one particular area at this time, but the fears and feelings are not new. Neither by the way is the courage required to over come them, that will allow us to live in the love that will overcome the fear.  

Fear is a powerful emotion. It has the power to inhibit but it also has the power of allure. Fear comes in many forms. Forrest Church identified five different types, which he associated with the body, intellect, conscience, emotions and soul. These being:

“Fright” (Centred in the body), which is a kind of instinctive fear, designed to protect us from physical danger. It’s that feeling that makes us jump while watching a horror film or the thing that gets our blood pumping and awakens our senses and allows us to respond to physical danger, like when you get cut up in traffic.

The second being “Worry” (Centred in the intellect), this is a fear that is produced by our worst imaginings. Often they are not real and can be blown out of all reasonable proportions. Shortly before he died Mark Twain mused, “I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened”

The third being “Guilt” (Centred in the conscience). This is a fear of being caught out or found out due to something that we have done in our past. It’s a fear we often carry with us and can be projected into so much of our lives. It’s the feeling that can come over us as we pass through security at airports, even though there is no reason to feel it, or when walking out of stores and passing through the security senses, even though we know we haven’t stolen anything.

The fourth being “Insecurity” (centred in the emotions), this is fear prompted by feelings of inadequacy. It is a fear that breeds a need to seek approval from others. It’s form of Narcissism and forms deep self-consciousness which makes us unconscious to life itself.

The fifth and perhaps most debilitating is “Dread” (centred in the soul), a fear that is generated by life’s general uncertainty. In “Freedom from Fear” Church wrote “ ‘Man himself produces dread, wrote the Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. We manufacture it whenever we attempt to control things over which we hold no final authority. We reduce life to a battleground, where we struggle against insurmountable odds. Fearing every transition from certainty to uncertainty, we devote our full energy to protecting ourselves against loss. Dread is the opposite of trust. The more we dread death and dying, the more alarming life and living turn out to be.”

Yes fear has many faces and all of them powerful in their own ways. We each of us experience every type at different times in our lives. Think about those feelings of fear you have experienced recently, see if you can identify which of the five, or a mixture of the five you have been experiencing.

Fear is a natural human reaction to life, Fear is not the problem, the issue is the power that fear can have over us. The key is to find the courage to over come the fear and courage of course comes from love. I have seen some wonderful examples of this all week. My friend in Dunham Massey gardens being a beautiful example of this just last Monday. The key is to choose courage, it si to choose love over fear. As John 4 v 18 states

John 4:18

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

How though do we do this? How does love overcome the power of debilitating fear? How do we find the courage just to be?


Well it takes just a little faith and a little love to create the courage just be. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Which of course it is, but it is far from easy.


Courage in many ways is the essence of life, maybe it is our daily bread. Anais Nin once said “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” I’m sure we can all think of moments when our own lives have either expanded or shrunk in proportion to our courage. Courage itself comes from the French root “Cuer” meaning heart. To have courage is to have strength of heart. Courage is a consistent and sustaining love, it is a spiritual energy that sustains us in sickness and in health, in loss or disappointment.

It is said that there are only really two emotions fear and love. Well, it depends what we mean by that. To feel the emotion of fear is not to lack love, or courage or faith. The problem isn’t fear itself, rather it is the power that fear can have over us. The problem is being ruled by fear, to be paralysed by it. How often in life, do we say no to life because we have become paralysed by fear? Faith is about discovering the courage to be all that we can be do and to do in love.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to the size of our heart; life shrinks or expands in service to life itself. It’s about heart, it’s about courage, and it’s about being all that we can be.

To have courage is to have strength of heart and to live from our hearts in our ordinary everyday activities. Courage is a way of living and breathing it’s about living openly and vulnerably in the world. Courage comes in those ordinary acts of love as we walk through life. It is courage that allows us to learn that even when life has betrayed us, love is still present; it is courage that allows us to stay open to life even when it’s tough; it is courage that is formed in the heart; it is courage that is the ultimate act of faith; it is courage that keeps us open to life so that we can live in love.

This brings to mind a verse from one of my favourite hymns “Others call it God”


The verse goes like this...


“A picket frozen on duty,

A mother starved for her brood,

And Socrates drinking hemlock,

And Jesus on the rood;

An millions, who though nameless,

The straight, hard pathway trod –

Some call it consecration,

And others call it God.”


The straight hard pathway of faith is not easy...


The images depicted in this verse are of characters who had the courage to do what they believed they were there to do, whether a picket on duty, or a mother looking after her children or the likes of Jesus and Socrates who were willing to sacrifice their lives for love or truth...inspirations to me, inspirations to us all


Socrates was charged by the Athenian council with “corrupting the minds of the young, and of believing in deities of his own invention instead of the gods recognised by the state.”


He courageously contested the charges against him, but ultimately lost and as a result was condemned to die. He accepted the judgement of his peers, while responding with these immortal words “The difficulty is not so much to escape death...The real difficulty is to escape from doing wrong, which is far more fleet of foot.”


He did not fear death because he felt that it would take nothing from him of value. As he said to the court “I have never lived an ordinary life...I did not care for the things that most people care about – making money, having a comfortable home, high military or social rank.” Neither did he fear what death would bring which he saw as either the sweetest sleep or a journey to a better place, a place of justice. As he proclaimed “nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death.”


Socrates would rather have surrendered his life, than his integrity. Both in life as in death he perfectly illustrated the courage to be. He had the integrity and therefore courage to say “I have a more sincere belief than any of my accusers, and I leave to you and to God to judge me as it shall be best for me and for yourselves.”


“Jesus on the rood” (Jesus on the cross) like “Socrates drinking hemlock” is another incredible example of someone living out the courage to be, an example and beacon to us all. He was not immune from fear though. In the Gospel accounts of his life he rarely quoted scripture, and yet in his final moments he did. He did not quote the comforting 23rd Psalm “I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil for thou are with me”. No, instead he quoted the much starker 22nd Psalm “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?” He did not quote the comforting words “My cup runneth over”, instead he cried out “I thirst”.


Some might say where is the courage here? Well it is in what comes next, as he utters “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In these words lies the essence of his message of radical love. For Socrates integrity gave him the strength to be; whereas for Jesus it was love; the love of God and the love of neighbour as for self. He surrendered himself utterly to his purpose and to his God as he uttered those immortal words “Father, I commend my life unto thy spirit.”


This is where we find the courage to truly be, to overcome the power of fear, through living in and through love, truth and integrity. Love will always overcome fear; love will always enable us to find the courage to truly be all that we can be. It is love that enabled the picket to stand in the freezing cold to stand up for what he believed in; it is love that motivated the mother to sacrifice herself for her children; it is love that enabled both Jesus and Socrates to make their ultimate sacrifices.


We will always know the emotion of fear, we will always feel it. We need it, it is a natural instinct. That said we need not be enslaved by it. To be free all we need do is live in integrity, live in love and the courage to simply be will shine out of us. In doing so not only do we liberate ourselves, but we will be a light to others who in turn may be inspired to liberate themselves and others too.


Let love and truth show us the way to be all that we can be...Let us find the courage to truly be.

Here's a video devotion based on this "blogspot" 



Monday 12 April 2021

One Good Word Is Bread For A Thousand

“Loaves and Fishes” by David Whyte

This is not

the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,

and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

A man approached Nasrudin and asked him, “how does one become wise?”. To which Nasrudin replied: “listen attentively to wise people when they speak. And when someone is listening to you, listening attentively to what you are saying!”

I was amused by a thread I saw on twitter the other day. It began with the following “

People who can't differentiate between entomology and etymology bug me in ways I cannot put into words.” By “tattooedselkie. Carwyn Tywyn the wonderful harpist and former Unitarian Welsh secretary replied “ Think I’ll let this one fly! Dad was a FRES (Fellow of the Royal Society of Entymologists) Top which Kenny Burns replied “I always liked ‘To the person who stole my thesaurus – I have no words to describe how angry I am,” and added “I wonder what’s the origin of this irritation that’s put such a bee in your bonnet.”

I won’t the rest of the thread as it moved 18+ levels.

I loved the thread of puns, minister level and I love the word play.

I made reference to the word “apricate”, meaning to revel in the warmth of the sun on your back, last week. After the service I got into a conversation with Barbara and Pauline, they told me that the weather presenter Owain Wyn Evans had made reference to the word or a similar word, pronounced differently, but sharing the same root. The word is “apricity” which meant to revel in the warmth of the sun in winter time.

Both are lovely words, warming words, words that bring comfort, something that we all need at this time. As David Whyte wrote “People are hungry / and one good word is bread / for a thousand.” Such words can feed our souls and inspire us to loving action, no matter how they are pronounced. Such words have been desperately needed this last year, more than usual as we have not been able to be together as we would like. Words spoken and written through whatever medium have fed us, warmed us, comforted us, made us laugh, sustained us in oh so many ways.

I recently took a weeks leave. It was so needed. It had been planned for over a year. I had been invited to Prague to speak at the Unitarian Academy. They had been asking for a couple of years and this was the first time I was free to come. Obviously, I could not go. That said I still had to deliver the lectures. Obviously, my talks had to be translated. Zoom is a wonderful function and my words were translated as I spoke through the facility. While those asking questions of me were translated by the same person. I am told that they understood me clearly, although I was asked to speak a little slower for the second talk. It seems that they were well fed by the words that I shared. We weren’t able to meet face to face and yet we truly encountered one another, we all ate and we were fed. It fed our spirits and filled our souls. It was wonderful to listen and share together, if on a two dimensional level.

The modern technology, like Zoom, has been a Godsend this last year and has helped feed and sustain so many people. The words and work shared has fed hungry souls and kept people together. That said it is not quite community, it is not the same as being together face to face. I long for the day when we can all be together as we once were, joining in and building community, a living, breathing fellowship of love. Where all bring what they have to offer to share together. We are going to need this in the coming weeks, months and years as we begin to build back from the ravages of the last year.

Words shared seem even more important at this time, more than ever. We cannot connect physically as we would like to. Therefore, the words that we share, that we speak and that we hear seem even more important, as they can sustain us and or connect us. It is not only about speaking words, but hearing them too, truly listening when others speak. I know as a minister one of the most important aspects of my role is to listen. I spend most of my life listening. Listening to people, listen to life and listening to what I believe is at the core of all of life. We feed one another as we share, as we speak and as we listen. One of the greatest gifts we can give another is to truly listen to them. If I have learnt anything over the years it is that you can’t fix people, you can’t bring healing; you can’t take their troubles away, but you can listen to them, to the words of their heart. We might not be as close as we would like, but we can still listen in so many other ways. We can bless each other with our time and presence. Community, fellowship is built in these kind of relationships when we speak and listen to one another. People are hungry for words that sustain, not only spoken but also heard.

As Parker Palmer suggests this is what is really at the heart of the “Feeding miracles” in the Gospel accounts. That these are tales about fellowship, about community, about how we ought to be with one another. An example of what Jesus called the “Kingdom of Heaven”, what I call the “Kin-dom of Love”, that this is how we ought to be with another. They are about the relationships between Jesus, his disciples and the people in the crowds. This is abundant love being poured out in these deeply connective and connecting relationships. The key phrase is ( Mark Ch 8 vv 1-9) “They ate and were filled”. The crowds hunger is acknowledged and they are cared for face to face, relationally. Thus, their common humanity is cared for, they eat and they are filled.

The word “care” has an interesting etymology. Its origin is the old English word “caru” meaning “sorrow, anxiety, grief” as well as "burdens of mind; serious mental attention," from the Proto-Germanic word “karo” meaning "lament; grief, care". To really care is to truly feel another’s sorrow to cry out with them and to truly be with them. To care is to truly empathies and not merely sympathies. To truly care is to be with another, it is about meeting another in common human relationship. It hurts to care, which is why so often we turn away. No one likes to feel powerless and to care is about recognizing our singular powerlessness at times. It’s also about recognising the healing power that can begin to grow from this powerless state, as the common grief is recognised and shared and the healing comes in that very space.

No doubt many of us have felt a sense of disconnection over the last year, have felt lonely and cut off. Have felt that life is not feeding them as it once did and that they have felt unable to feed as they once did. There is a real need to find ways to feed and to be fed, again as David Whyte wrote “People are hungry / and one good word is bread / for a thousand.” We need to feed and we need to be fed. We need to speak these words for others to hear and we need to listen to them when they are spoken. We don’t need to necessarily answer, sometimes there is no answer, but we do need to listen.

Being listened to and especially being accepted and understood is so vital to all people. I have noticed this particularly in the grief group I host. Whenever a new person attends the one common feature for everyone is this sense of loneliness that they express after the loved one has gone, how they feel unheard by others, like their words are not being accepted or that others have tired of hearing them. The beauty of the group is that each can come and speak freely and are truly accepted. I have witnessed some moments of deep connection with the group. I have truly seen love incarnated in the sharing. I noticed it once again on the Zoom meeting this Monday evening. I notice it in all the different groups we host and in the interaction that are slowly beginning to happen again.

“People are hungry / and one good word is bread / for a thousand.” We all hunger for purpose and meaning. As Viktor Frankl pointed out we are driven by a will to find meaning and purpose. I would go further and suggest that we are also driven to find companionship. We need to share our words or our souls will starve. I have discovered and I keep on discovering that our deepest pangs are not satisfied by the food that is laid on the table but in the relationship that occurs as we feed one another. This is fellowship; a living breathing fellowship of love. To me this is the principle purpose of a free religious community, of a Unitarian congregation.


This is something that the world will need even more as we return to normality following the horrors of the pandemic, let us be prepared and be there. Again, to repeat David Whyte’s words “People are hungry / and one good word is bread / for a thousand.” We need to speak these words in love and we need to listen to one another as we share what is in our hearts, as we truly care.

From you I receive, to you I give, together we share and from this we live. 

Please find below a video recording of based on this "blogspot"

Saturday 3 April 2021

Easter Morning: Respair Awakening to a Fresh New Hope

We have passed through more than a year since the beginning of this pandemic. A year in which so many lives have been lost; we have lost people close to us, family and friends and folk from both communities. We have also lost much in the way of our experiences of life. A year staying in and staying home, of not mixing, of not celebrating, of not being together. It has felt like a long year and more now actually. It is not over just yet, but there is a little more light. There is a little more life, coming to birth once again.

Today is Easter, but it is not a time of absolute halleluiah, not just yet. There is much to do, to rebuild, to heal, to mend. There is much to give birth to within our hearts and lives and those of whom we share this spinning planet with.

That said just because we cannot live as we would like it does not mean that we cannot enjoy the Love that is to born again in the emptiness of tomb. Winter is over, Spring is here, life is returning and there is love in our hearts. From the dark caves of despair, hope is being born again. Let us give birth to this hope, but let it be a new hope, a fresh hope, may the despair become respair. May a new Hope be born this day in the dark caves of our lives. Today is Easter, let us give birth to the love born in the caves of our own hearts. A day of fresh hope, a day of respair.

I saw a wonderful example of “respair” while I was working on this sermon in the chapel the other day. I had just been out for a walk, it was beautiful to feel the sun on my back, to experience to appreciate, that beautiful feeling of the warmth of the sun on my back, it has been too long since I felt this. By the way did you know that there is a word for this feeling, or there use to be in the 17th century. The word is ‘apricate’: to revel in the warmth of the sun on your back. “Apricate”, like “Respair” has gone out of usage, we should give birth to them once more.  Sorry I digress. Back to that example of respair. It came as I crossed the threshold of the chapel, there at my feet was an enormous bee. It was struggling along the ground, didn’t look in the best of shape, but wanted life so much. I knelt down beside it, it brought Galilee to my mind and those words “Interpreted as Love, interpreted as love.” It was the first bee I had seen this year. It seemed to me to be another sign of “Respair” of a new fresh hope. I left the door open for it and filmed it as it crawled toward the door. As it moved back towards light and life and into the unknown of who knows what. It didn’t fly off immediately, it seemed to crawl up the door frame and I watched for a little while longer. Then the phone rang and I was distracted for a while and by the time I looked again, it was gone.

I then returned to my desk and wrote this sermon with these wonderful feelings of “Respair” and “Apricate”, singing in my soul. With this sense of new life and new beginnings, singing in my soul. Isn’t that what Easter is about “Respair”, a new Hope, a Fresh Hope, sunshine returning once again, the Sun rising once again. It certainly felt like that in that moment. It inspired me to write these thoughts. It brought Easter alive in my heart, it opened the cave of my soul. It brought my understanding of Easter to life.

I wonder what Easter means to you.

There are many layers to the “Easter Mythos”, that if we allow it to can touch all of us, that can bring respair, a fresh, a new hope. In order to be touched by the magic of Easter you do not have to believe in the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus, you can believe in Easter without having to accept that this actually happened. Perhaps if all we focus on is this, then we will miss some of Easter’s power. What is clear to me is that Easter is about the Power of Love that grew from that empty tomb. It brought a new fresh hope, it brought respair, two thousand years ago in a time of utter despair, that those who followed him must have felt. Whatever we may think about bodily resurrection, something definitely lived on beyond the physical death of Jesus. While his body may no longer have remained in the empty tomb, some beautiful aspect of his life certainly remained. Love was born again, even after the body was killed.

I believe it is the same with every life and the love that life leave behinds, something beautiful always remain.

This brings to mind those beautiful words often shared at funerals by that famous author “Unknown”

“Something Beautiful Remains” – Unknown

The tide recedes but leaves behind
bright seashells on the sand.
The sun goes down, but gentle
warmth still lingers on the land.
The music stops, and yet it echoes
on in sweet refrains.....
For every joy that passes,
something beautiful remains.

Every life leaves its mark. Every life impacts in some way. We should never think that we are insignificant, that we do not matter. We impact on everyone and everything around us. Everything that we do and everything that do not do matters. There are those who I have known and who have loved me, who have been gone many years, who are still impacting on my life. Of their lives, something beautiful remains.

Easter is a reminder to me that even after death something beautiful remains. It is an acknowledgement of life’s sacredness. It is a reaffirmation of life that not even death can end.

All around us life is being reborn. I see this clearly each morning as I take my daily exercise. The spring flowers are everywhere, the birds are singing more sweetly. As I pass people, I offer a smile of love and nod of connection. It fills my heart to overflowing with a love for life itself and helps me connect to my true inner being, to all life and to that Greater reality that gives birth to and connects all life, whether I can feel the warmth of the sun on my back or not, you do need to “apricate” in order to appreciate. It is amazing how love and light finds a way through, even in these dark difficult times.

You can find the essence and spirit of Easter in your own heart, we can incarnate that love through our lives. This love can seemingly die in the winters of our lives and come to life once again in our spring times, regardless of the time of year. It is we who can bring this love alive once again. In so doing we will ensure that something beautiful will remain from our simple, humble lives.

Easter begins with the death and loss of the life of Jesus, with the seeming end of his life’s promise. As every single death means just the same. It begins with the despair of the empty tomb. This though is not where it ends, something else happened, something grew from this emptiness, this hopelessness, this despair. Something beautiful remained. Something new was born again. This despair was transformed into a new Hope.

This very same possibility of transformation and renewal exists for all of us. New hope can be born even in despair. Hope is born from despair. They share the same root. In French Desepair and J’espair share the same linguisitic root, it is the same with life. Yes we can know utter despair, but this despair can be transformed into a new Hope, “Respair”, a new hope, a fresh hope.

Even after death, something beautiful remains. If we live lives of love and beauty. If we become all that we were born to be if we bring to life from the empty tombs of our own lives the love that is at the heart of the Easter Mythos. A love that is eternal, a love that never dies, a love that I believe is our task to bring alive.

This is the Love that is born again on Easter morning. This is what grows from the emptiness of the tomb when the stone is rolled away…From nothing to everything…From Despair, Hope is born again…Respair a new hope, a fresh hope is born again in our own hearts.


Now I would like to end with these words of blessing by David Whyte.


“Easter Blessing”

The blessing of the morning light to you,
may it find you even in your invisible
appearances, may you be seen to have risen 
from some other place you know and have known 
in the darkness and that that carries all you need.
May you see what is hidden in you 
as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,
may that hidden darkness be your gift to give, 
may you hold that shadow to the light
and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light, 
may you join all of your previous disappearances 
with this new appearance, this new morning, 
this being seen again, new now, and newly alive.

David Whyte: Easter Morning 2015
In Memoriam John O’Donohue

Here's a video recording based on the material in this "blogspot"