Newsletter April & May 2018

From the desk

Dear all,
Looking at the weather of late, we seem to have had all four seasons at once. And so it goes that daffodils appear when winter is barely past. What does it tells you when you see a daffodil head appear out the ground with no stem? Now these gradually warming days are starting to become that little bit more. I think that in hope, as it says in the our purple Hymn Book; “Hope was born in springtime”. And hopefully for those who live near the sea, they may start to see the sun across the sea.
Looking at Easter now as it’s that little bit earlier, I do certainly hope that all signs of resurrection, however you look at it, are of clearer meaning. As we are a people that may well have journeyed from various paths of belief and ventured so many different ways, I still find myself looking at the Easter story, and feeling that it is still relevant to us now. I know that we don't follow a Good Friday parade, or a Dawn Mass, Easter Vigil, and sing the Canticles of Communion.
But it’s my hope that we still find the meaning of regeneration in life as we come to understand not only those who believe this, but also those that don’t. “We are travellers on a journey” (written by retired minister of York, Andrew Hill), and thankfully, we can see the clear aspects of what we believe. It’s important to believe in what we must, as opposed to what is prescribed. I still find myself learning theses new and important lessons.
Looking to the future I hope we can still find the tenacity to forgive those who know not what they do, and always hold a light for the good in all those unfathomable situations that we hear of by the day. As we join in the great communion of love, care and compassion.
Where and however: feel believe or explore. Pray wholly, look widely, walk lightly and be at one with every step. May conscience always guide our footsteps.
And enjoy the daffodils.
Yours in faith with love and care.
Karl Stewart. Chair UMB.
Looking forward, in other news, I look forward to another year as the chair of UMB, as we look to work and serve with each other. May all of us as we give, do so of our own conscience; and give of what our hearts can afford, with all that we explore.
Come and join us if you haven’t yet in the Rainbow Path sessions, which are becoming rich and fruitful. It’s not a closed group; feel free to pop by, as advertised in the newsletter.

From the Minister

My Credo


I believe that being nice and being kind to each other is the right thing to do;

Not just because I want friends, attention, to be liked;

But because we should be nice and kind to one another;

Because we’re all sensitive and fragile and subject to myriad pain,

And because I believe we’re all sacred,

And I believe that none of us are immune to suffering,

But none of us are deservéd of suffering,

And I believed that suffering doesn’t have to be inevitable.

I believe you can brighten up someone else’s day with a smile, a kind word, or just by taking some interest in them;

I believe we can broaden each other’s horizons by opening our hearts to one another

And letting one another’s story in;

I believe we can learn to empathize, that we can learn to be better.

I believe in starting again and trying again;

That whatever sad conclusions we’ve come to, these can be erased and we can look again on life with a beginner’s mind;

I believe this is the essence and foundation of hope; that despite all evidence to the contrary; life is not a lost cause; we are not a lost cause; the truth is not a lost cause.

I believe, or I want to believe in something deep down, in all of us, which indomitable, which is holy, which is always striving to be better and to find expression.

I believe that we haven’t yet begun to scratch the surface of our human potential or of knowledge;

I believe our fragmented way of knowing, like jigsaw puzzle pieces whirling frantically in space,

Is only the beginning of a movement towards piecing together; towards sharing, cooperation; of shape rubbing up against shape; of trying and failing, of docking and searching; of momentum building; of fracture and re-forming; of explosion and regathering.

I believe in all of you here today,

I believe that you exist,

I believe each one of us is a universe,

Superimposing in and out of each other’s All;

Comparing our patterns,

Shunning our difference;

Cast out and pulled together by our great gravities.

You are all unfathomable to me, and yet I believe I know you.

You are closer to me than my own shadow, yet as far away as distant stars:

You are cardigans and pin-stripes, faded fabrics and perms,

You are heart and wind and blood like me -

We are fish swimming in the same shoal.

I believe we are soul explorers,

I believe we are lost and looking,

I believe we all came from the same parent;

I wish to trust in you, my siblings -

I believe you are not going to eat me,

I believe that if you do, you’ll have your reasons,

I believe this would still make me very, very sad,

But I believe in second chances and redemption...

This was written by Mark Stewart during one session on the Rainbow Path. The Rainbow Path is a monthly group open to all. We come together to be creative and curious together and to explore our spirituality and search for meaning. We meet at 7-9pm on the third Wednesday of the month at Frenchay.


Drop in and give feedback to your minister! Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April

Would you believe it it’s been a year since I started working with Bristol Unitarians. I am starting to reflect on where we’ve come and where we’re heading. It would really help me if you can give me any feedback, comments, suggestions on our shared ministry. We have rebooted Bright Lights and started off the Rainbow Path and the Worship Inspiration Forum but maybe you have some ideas of new initiatives we can try or things we need to do differently. How is the worship going for you? Would you like to see it change? How can we develop the Unitarian presence in Bristol and be a welcoming community for all? What can we do to make our presence grow? If you have any ideas or questions please drop in for a chat. Or you may prefer just to email me or phone me: and 07985 900935.

Snow permitting I will be at Colston Hall Cafe, Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5AR on Saturday 14th from 2-4pm and I will be at Freshly Grounded, Downend, BS16 6BB on Sunday 15th from 12-1.45. Just drop in for a coffee or whatever.


BRIGHT LIGHTS flier drop – Saturday 5 May 1-3pm. 

We are excited by the way our monthly intergenerational workshop is flourishing. We want to let more locals in the area know about Bright Lights. If you would like to help distribute posters in the Brunswick Square area please let John know at We will meet outside UMB and go and visit local cafes etc and hopefully grab a coffee and cake.


Walking our paths together………

Bristol Unitarians retreat weekend at The Ammerdown Centre, near Bath

Friday 7 – 9 September 2018

Join us for a restorative time of fellowship, creativity and spirituality sessions, time to enjoy the outdoors, worship, free time and great food.

A weekend offering us the space to relax, reflect and reinvigorate ourselves in this beautiful old retreat centre with landscaped gardens. Join us for quality time to live in community, deepen our connections and make new friends.

The cost of the weekend is £150. This weekend fee includes accommodation, home cooked meals and resources. Or come just for Saturday: day rate with lunch - £20 or day rate with lunch and evening meal - £35

(if finances are an issue please contact your chapel treasurer to request a further reduction)

To make a booking please contact Karl at

For further information contact Karl or John at

The rise of No Religion 

Paul Wheeler, UMB

I offer here a few points of interest from the recent talk by Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology of Religion, where she presented her analysis of survey findings showing the rise in those in this country describing themselves as having no religion, which she abbreviated to NONs.

1. The rise in the NONs has been gradual rather than dramatic – In 1983 it was 31%. In 2015 it had risen to 53%.

2. The NONs are far from being all atheists or anti religion – About 2 in 5 NONs say they are atheists, but about 1 in 5 say they believe in God. Only about 1 in 8 NONs have aggressive secularist views of the Richard Dawkins variety. Therefore, NON does not necessarily equal secular or having no interest in religious matters.

3. The younger you are the more likely it is that you will be a NON.

4. NONs are 100% liberal in their views on the moral issues of euthanasia, abortion and same sex marriage, and (maybe surprisingly) the vast majority of Anglicans and Catholics also hold liberal views on those issues, even though their churches’ have contrary teachings.

5. Is the fact that NONs are now in the majority a bad thing? - Professor Woodhead sees this as an open question, the answer to which depends on whether you think it is desirable for religious beliefs to come pre-packaged or for individuals to be left to work out their own religious beliefs. However, for liberal churches it is particularly relevant that most of those who work out their own religious beliefs are choosing to do so outside a church setting.

Poem written for Palm Sunday Service at Frenchay

Mark Stewart

The light re-establishes itself in Springtime
The vernal equinox;
This threshold, this limen
When hours of light begin to supersede hours of darkness.

Bleary-eyed the fairy folk begin to emerge from their prickly shells where they have been hibernating.
Ice nymphs and goblins of the cold scurry back to the their dank hiding places under bridges,
Or simply melt away into the river
To rejoin its flowing water.

We stretch and yawn and extend ourselves into the lengthening day;
Keen now to the birdsong,
Senses sharpening,
Taking further footsteps beyond boundaries,
Less afraid to venture out into the forest.
The new emerging life a reassurance of protection;
A promise fulfilled,
A hope realised,
A wish granted,

Betwixt shoots of green and new born lambs,
And daffodils and warmer winds,
We greet the spring as an old returning friend,
Ever old, ever young, ever ours.