Christmas Newsletter 2018

Sunday 2nd December

(1st Sunday in Advent)

10:30am at Frenchay Chapel - Tree Blessing and Festival of Lights with our Minister, Rev. John Harley

6pm at Brunswick Square  - Tree Blessing and Festival of Lights with our Minister, Rev. John Harley

Sunday 9th December

(2nd Sunday in Advent)

10:30am at Frenchay Chapel - Gift Service with Gavin Lloyd

6pm at Brunswick Square - Gift Service with Susan Wildman 

Please bring along items to donate to Caring at Christmas. Click here for list of needed items:

Sunday 16th December

(3rd Sunday in Advent)

Frenchay 10.30

‘Bring and share’ worship exploring Advent, the winter solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas. Do feel free to bring a reading, poem, music, meditation, chant, story..... the sky’s the limit.


Shared lunch 12.30.

Special Christmas Bright Lights. 1-2.30. A creative intergenerational time for all the family and anyone of any age. All welcome. This time we will be making garlands and decorating gingerbread people. Do bring any ivy, ribbon, yarn etc to make our garlands. We will be playing games also.

Carol Service. 3-4pm. Join us for carols, readings and hearing the ancient story of the Oak King and the Holly King. For all ages.

Sunday 23rd December

(4th Sunday in Advent)

10:30am at Frenchay Chapel AND 6pm at Brunswick Square - Happy Christmas Eve EVE Service with Karl and Mark Stewart - festive thanksgiving with a fun theme!

Tuesday 25th December

(Christmas Day!!!)

10:30am at Frenchay Chapel - Short Christmas Day Service

No services at either chapel on Sunday 30th December. 

All welcome to any of our Christmas gatherings!!!

An Advent Message from our Minister


Grey waters, vast

as an area of prayer

that one enters. Daily

over a period of years

I have let my eye rest on them.

Was I waiting for something?


but that continuous waving 

that is without meaning 


Ah, but a rare bird is 

rare. It is when one is not looking 

at times one is not there 

that it comes. 

You must wear your eyes out 

as others their knees. 

I became the hermit 

of the rocks, habited with the wind 

and the mist. There were days, 

so beautiful the emptiness 

it might have filled, 

its absence 

was as its presence; not to be told 

any more, so single my mind 

after its long fast, 

my watching from praying. 

– R.S. Thomas 

in Laboratories of the Spirit, 1975 

At first glance this poem doesn’t seem connected with the season of Advent but on reflection it acknowledges the power of waiting, of being patient in life. Thomas compares the mystery of prayer to gazing towards the endless sea with the hope of glimpsing something of value. In our society we are fed the constant messages of ‘speed up’ and ‘don’t waste time’ – in fast food restaurants we are bombarded with reds and yellows to persuade us to hurry up and computers boast the incredible speed of their microchips. ‘Drive Thrus’ are cropping up everywhere! The season of Advent invites our souls to inhabit the darkness and wait, to make peace with the gentle process of seeing what might emerge. We know that a holy birth is in the runes but for now we have to survive the long nights and adapt to the spiritual practice of watching the shadows with uncertainty. We might want to ask questions in this time of not knowing. Waiting in the darkness before the excitement of a birth and before the promise of the returning sun of the winter solstice can make us feel more vulnerable and smaller but this period of fallow in Advent is full of riches. Can we dare to accept the many invitations offered to us at Advent? To slow down, to live in anticipation and befriend the fertile regions of silence, inaction and uncertainty in our lives. Can you allow yourself to fall into Advent fully and not try and race onto Christmas?

John Harley

From the Desk

Off to advent. Christmas here we come. Another year passes and here we are again at the crossroads of all the decisions, what shall I buy and who for, what do I get someone who has everything? I have often found myself wondering where to begin. Or even how to make sense of it all, with the early Christmas music being piped through shop hi-fi’s and window displays, and all the Christmas saturation in the media.

So, with that I’ve stopped to take a step aside from the commercial trappings, and I can only but think, that the best gift I can give, is that of simplicity. It’s a gift to be simple, a gift to be kind and a gift to be true. I wonder if we just need to look back on the true meaning, where a few were simply gathered at the birth of a baby, who was called Christ. And a ‘mass’ is the a few or more that gather to celebrate.

Over the coming Sundays when we meet at all the various destinations, through the time of Advent, we will be celebrating many aspects of world traditions. Perhaps we can interpret the essence of these traditions to all be about simple and true gift giving in the hospitality which we’ll share together, as we gather in the spirit of faith, care, compassion and giving. Most of all, gratitude is the simple gift, and with gratitude, I’d like to thank everyone for all that has been done over the year, and all that continues to be done. All we do matters. I hope we an all give in the way of what the heart and conscience affords.

As we journey together as an Advent people, share with all who you meet the simplest of gifts. And I hope we will realise the light within ourselves, as we shine it for others.

Yours in faith with love and care.

Karl Stewart. Chair UMB.

Caring in Bristol - Caring at Christmas

Last Christmas over 700 volunteers came together to support over 1000 homeless and vulnerable people with shelter, warmth, food, activities, advice and good company. This year Caring at Christmas are expanding their work to provide much-needed support for homeless families who will spend their Christmas in temporary accommodation. To do this requires ongoing financial donations.

A donation of £39 pays for someone to access Caring at Christmas for five days, where they will have access to: a warm bed each night, hot meals, shower and fresh clothes, a warm welcome and good company, wellbeing and social activities, emotional and medical support.

Paul Wheeler

Remembering our friend, Grace Cooper, with love…

Just a note on our dear friend, and long-standing, dedicated and vital member of both Bristol Unitarian congregations for many decades, who passed away on Tuesday 27th November. Please get in touch if you would like contact details for Grace’s niece Susan, who is organising the funeral arrangements.