“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, 29 September 2013

Belief's Wide Skirt

Today a friend posted a wonderful quotation from Toni Morrison on Facebook:

image by quotepixel.com
"For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief's wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul."

And it occurs to me that this is what ministry (and religion) should be about. It isn't about telling people what they should believe, or frightening them with bogey-stories about what will happen to them if they don't subscribe to a particular creed or ethical viewpoint. It should be about sharing our own authentic beliefs ("what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light") with courage and honesty, so that others may do likewise.

This is why freedom of belief is so important to Unitarians (and to other religious liberals, such as Quakers). We believe that everyone has the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves, and that the final authority for this is the still, small voice of your own conscience. So within the Unitarian community, belief does indeed have a wide skirt, and the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for each other is to share our authentic beliefs in a supportive community that encourages questions and doubts, so long as they are real.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Trusting the System

It has been an eventful week! On Wednesday, my children-no-longer-children and I spent the day at Alton Towers, enjoying a last family day out together before they both go off to university this weekend.

And I was persuaded by my daughter to have a go on the new attraction, a fourteen-loop rollercoaster called The Smiler. From the ground it looked terrifying. But, not wanting to appear a wuss, and not wanting to disappoint her, I joined the queue, which lasted for 50 minutes. During that period, I had plenty of time to regret my decision, as we could watch the ride from below, and people were spending a lot of time upside down, from what I could see. My stomach was full of butterflies, and I really wasn't happy.

image: dailymail.co.uk

Then our turn came. The harness was secured and the ride - which lasted nearly three minutes, which is quite long for a rollercoaster - began.

And yes, I was frightened. As we looped over and under, and round and round I had oodles of time to wonder what would happen if something broke. The only thing that got me through without screaming was the mantra "Trust the system." In other words, I realised that at a place like Alton Towers, safety is paramount, and this was a new ride, which would be maintained to the highest standards. And that therefore I was Quite Safe and in No Danger At All.

And the recognition at the end that the fear is generally worse than the reality, and that I had survived.

This recognition is holding me in good stead now, as I help the children to pack their worldly belongings, in preparation for their departures for university - my daughter on Saturday, my son on Sunday - both freshers. I am, of course, thrilled and delighted that both of them have got into their first choice of uni, and am so happy for them as they start a new phase in their lives.

But my goodness, I'm going to miss them. And of course I'm going to worry about them endlessly in the early days. But I'm hanging on to the knowledge that I can only give them two things - roots to grow and wings to fly (to coin a cliché). And that like when I was on the rollercoaster, I need to trust the system, and have faith that their future reality will be life-enhancing and good, and that I will survive missing them, and look forward to them coming home full of stories about their new lives.

And I know that I am so very lucky - I won't be alone - my beloved husband and cat will still be here. My new reality will be quieter, but not lonely. So I give thanks.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Sum of All Our Experiences

A few nights ago, I went to see the new Richard Curtis film About Time with my husband and my daughter. It was a lovely film, well up to his usual standard, but what I found interesting was our differing responses to it. I was much more emotionally affected by it than either my daughter or my husband.

image: derekwinnert.com

This made me realise that whatever you experience, whether it is going to the pictures, attending a lecture or concert, or going to a church service, you will react to what you hear and see in a particular way, depending on your past experiences. What you get out of a particular experience will very much depend on the baggage you bring to it.

We are all the sum of all our experiences. Maybe we need to bear this in mind, in our dealings with others, treading gently and lightly on their tender spots, knowing that our own are just as tender.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Facebook Grace

I have just made a fairly fundamental change in my life, and am feeling good about it, if a little fragile. So it was wonderful to turn on my computer this morning, and read the following from PeaceBang, Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, a wonderful Unitarian Universalist minister:

photo by telegraph.co.uk

"I would like to speak on behalf of SAVORING. Not gloating, but savoring. Stopping to recognize how much work, hope, planning, collaborating, expense, risk, what-have-you has gone into a project or event or life change, and really letting it soak in that you got there. You did it. You landed. I agree that our work is never done, but there are times during the climb up the mountain that one has to not only stop and look at the view but look behind and appreciate how long a climb has already been achieved. It's so easy to get absorbed in the next To-Do List. Take some time and get found in the Right Here List."

Reading it felt like a personal benediction. And I'm finding that this is happening more and more with Facebook. Perhaps it's just that I have a wonderful group of friends, but so often, I read posts and am inspired and cheered by what I read.

Thank you all. Reading your posts and blogs makes my life just that little bit richer, and I feel blessed.