“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Warm Welcome

Part of my role as District Minister for the Midland Unitarian Association, is to do two services a month "around the District", either covering for ministers' holidays, or for congregations who don't have a minister at present. It is a part of the job I really enjoy, meeting all the different congregations, and catching up with their news.

This morning, I travelled down to Cheltenham, to do a service at Bayshill Unitarian Church, and got a warmer welcome than I had anticipated ...

image by Cressida Pryor
I had decided to give them a nice, peaceful, reflective service entitled The Tree of Faith, and we were half way through the Time of Stillness and Reflection, when a series of what sounded like small explosions came from outside. One of the congregation went to look, and came back in and said, very matter-of-factly, "The building next door is on fire; I think we'd better get out."

So we gathered our things together, and left. Sure enough, there were smoke and flames pouring from the roof of the adjacent building, and there was some concern that it could spread to the church. But the fire brigade soon arrived, cordoned off the area, and put it out.

In the meantime, we adjourned to the Bayshill pub, where. over cups of coffee, I delivered the address and benediction. It was certainly one for the diary.

Monday, 16 May 2016

"Just Pop Your Card In There, Dear"

This morning, I went into town with the Chair of my congregation, who is 70, but looks younger, to see the borough council about organising waste collections for our new building.

It has also been in my mind that we need to set up a Twitter account for Northampton Unitarians (watch this space) so as I don't know much about Twitter, I decided to buy a simple book about it. The one I found is called Social Networking for the Older Generation.

We went to the till to pay for it, and I became, for the first time, the victim of age dsicrimination. The woman on the till could not have been much younger than me, but I don't think she actually looked at me once. She saw the title of the book, and the whole tone of the transaction was set by it. She adopted a sing-song, cooing tone of voice, and said to me: "Just pop your card in there, dear."

I was so taken aback that instead of challenging her, I meekly did what I was told, completed the transaction, and then lingered to see whether her tone to the person next in the queue (a young man) would be the same.

Needless to say, it wasn't. She was much brisker and normal with him.

It left me thinking about how I treat elderly people. I *hope* that I am not as patronising as that woman - I certainly don't adopt a "special" tone of voice when talking to older people. But it was a real lesson in What Not To Do.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Delight in Creation

In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero writes: "On Sabbaths we are called to enjoy and delight in creation and its gifts. ... We are to take the time to see the beauty of a tree, a leaf, a flower, the sky that has been created with great care by our God. He has given us the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, that we might feast with our senses on the miraculousness of life."

When I read this, I realised that I do this all the time. Most mornings I go out for a two-mile walk, either round the village or up into Salcey Forest. And I always have my phone with me, so that I can snap anything particularly lovely that catches my eye. I am so grateful for modern technology, because the camera in my iPhone takes surprisingly good pictures.

When I'm out and about, I try to open all my senses to the world around me, and walk mindfully, which makes it a quiet pleasure to wander alone in God's world, seeing the natural or cultivated beauty around me, listening to the ever-present birds, and sometimes, being intoxicated by the wonderful smell of newly-mown grass, or the roses in one particular front garden in our village.

I am so very blessed to have such beauty on my doorstep. Yet it is also present in the urban environment, as the photos of friends on Facebook testify. As Wayne Dyer writes, our aim should be to  "Recapture the childlike feelings of wide-eyed excitement, spontaneous appreciation, cutting loose, and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe."

Monday, 18 April 2016

Discovering the Source

In the last couple of days, two memes by very different writers have been posted on Facebook. The first was by Richard Rohr, one of my favourite religious authors, who is a Franciscan monk, and Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation:

"Love is the source and goal; faith is the slow process of getting there; hope is the willingness to move forward without resolution."

(image: Center for Action & Contemplation, shared by Contemplative Monk)

The other was by Geneen Roth, whose books about women's relationships with their bodies have had a huge impact on me, particularly Women, Food and God, which taught me to love my body, rather than hating her. She wrote: 

"You already have everything you need to be content. Your real work is to do whatever it takes to realize that."

(image: Geneen Roth)

It strikes me that they are both talking about the same thing. For me, the recognition that God is Love, and that my whole life should be about growing into a more loving relationship with Him/Her - both source and goal, is a life-changing revelation. 

Having faith is the realization that God *already* loves me, just the way I am - I already have "everything you need to be content". My "real work" will be to be aware of this every day, so that I can grow closer to God, and grow into the sort of person who walks lovingly through life, cherishing that of God in everyone, and in the the natural world..

It will take a lifetime, but now I know where I'm going.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Food, Faith, and Fellowship

I came home from our General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches Annual Meetings on Saturday, feeling quite uplifted. The Meetings are a wonderful opportunity to see "Unitarians at their best" - to meet old friends, make new ones, and learn more about our beloved Uncommon Denomination.

When you get 300+ Unitarians together all in one space, there are bound to be differences of opinion (come to think of it, this happens when there are 3!) but this year, there seemed to be a spirit of tolerance and respect around, which was lovely to experience and behold.

The title of the Anniversary Service summed up these Meetings for me - it was a Feast of the Heart. A feast of good food, vibrant faith, and good fellowship. From the Peace Fellowship's Opening Celebration to the investment of Dot Hewerdine as our new President, it was a very special few days.

I know that our numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate, but I refuse to give  up hope. I believe that what Unitarianism has to offer is so special that we need to positively articulate what we *do* believe in - freedom from subscription to a particular set of beliefs; an opportunity to share our spiritual journeys in the company of like-hearted folk, a broad, inclusive, welcoming community, and compassion and respect for those different to ourselves. What's not to like?

Friday, 25 March 2016

Still Beautiful

The glowing orange roses I was given on Mothering Sunday have aged in an extraordinary way. They have dried up and withered, but have neither dropped any petals, nor lost their shape. Their colour has darkened from that bright silky orange to a rich old red with hints of dark yellow. They are old, yet still beautiful.

They were bought to celebrate my 25th year as a mother. Like the roses, I am older, a little more dry and withered on the outside. But they have taught me that I am still beautiful, and can still give pleasure. And that it is what is on the inside that matters.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Patience and Trust

As some of you will know, I have recently been called to be quarter-time minister at Northampton Unitarians. This has been a leap of faith on the part of the congregation - we are currently very small in number, but great in heart. We moved to a fine new building at the end of last year, and are hoping that the opportunities for growth from these developments will prove to be a turning point in the life of the congregation.

We have started regular Tuesday Gatherings, a different one for each week of the month - Discussion Group, Happiness Project Group, Meditation Group, Heart and Soul Gathering, and also regular Friday Gatherings to walk our splendid new labyrinth. Some people are coming along, which is super. It is early days yet,

But I am finding that, like Ce'Nedra in David Eddings' splendid books The Belgariad,  I am "not emotionally constructed for waiting." So it was good to be reminded that my focus has to be on my call to provide spiritual ministry in Northampton, and then to let go of expectations and outcomes. It is only three months since we moved in, and there is plenty of time yet for people to discover us, and the wonderful faith that is Unitarianism.

So I was so pleased to come across this quote, by Leon Brown:

"You cannot expect miracles to happen overnight. 
Be patient, be loving, 
and little by little the change you seek will come."

I am going to take this for my mantra in the days and months ahead.