Newsletter February 2019

From the Desk

Dear all, 
Four seasons seem to be more common as the days go by. Over the last month we’ve had snow, sun, ice, rain, sleet, cold and wind. As we walk our paths together in faith and community, there are examples of regrowth we see on the way - I think in particular of the daffodils peering up through the snow as I walked to work on that snow covered day. As the day went on I saw all sorts of plants that had awoken. Very much earlier than usual. As though to say nature is setting its own pace. 

With that in mind it looks as though nature has no will to be consumed, and whilst that appears a lesson; perhaps we can take a step back and allow ourselves not to be consumed. On the thought of regrowth, do ask if that is what is called resurrection. 

If so, maybe that will have a meaning to us individually, in that we rekindle a feeling or belief, or something within our faith we have put aside. This step back will take some concentration. 

As we journey towards Easter, maybe the time of concentration will be Lent. Lent being the thing you give up, for a time of the forty days before Easter. I have a thought on Lent and that is, as well as giving something up, it’s more that you are starting something for Lent. What are are you going to start to leave aside and concentrate on?. 

As the gentle heat of the winter sun warms all you give hospitality to in your soul, may the road rise to meet you. 

Enjoy the daffodils, yours in faith with love and care. 

Karl Stewart. UMB.

How do we care for one another? 

Come into the circle of caring,
Come into the community of gentleness, of justice and love.
Come, and you shall be refreshed.
Let the healing power of this people penetrate you,
Let loving kindness and joy pass through you,
Let hope interfuse you,
And peace be the law of your heart.
In this human circle, caring is a calling.
All of us are called.
So come into the circle of caring.

-Rev. Richard Gilbert

I would say one of the most valuable strands that form part of our precious Unitarian community is the way we can look out for each other and offer support. Our faith community has a unique set of characteristics. We are not work colleagues, we are not family, we are not all close friends – instead we are companions, fellow pilgrims in this extraordinary journey we call life. In some ways we can serve one another in a purer, less complicated way since we are equals. We are human beings – struggling along and having mini breakthroughs between the boundaries of belief, non-belief and disbelief! 

At Frenchay and UMB some of us are trying to get a little more organised and mindful in how we support each other pastorally – so that none of our brothers or sisters lack the support they need. Karl and I have written some ‘pastoral care guidelines’ to offer a few extra ideas and signposts for those of us who are involved in visiting folk who belong to our congregations. If you would like a copy of this document let one of us know. 

We have a good tradition of supporting one another pastorally – lets think of ways to strengthen this support network. I would like to add that if any one would like to request a visit from the minister let me know. I can visit people’s homes or we can meet in cafes etc. Or maybe you know someone who would like a visit? 

Yours in fellowship

Rev John Harley –

Between the dawn and dusk of our being, let us be brave and loving.
In our little passage through the light let us sustain and forward the human venture—
in gentleness, in service, and in thought.

-Carl G Seaburg 

You are warmly invited to the 

Windows Dedication Service 

at The Frenchay Chapel, 

Frenchay, Bristol 

which will be led by Reverend John Harley 

on Sunday 17th March 2019 

at 10.30 a.m. 

To celebrate the completion of the fifth ‘Sponsor a Pane’ plaque for the restoration and repair of the Frenchay Chapel Windows. 

Please join us for this special service and for refreshments afterwards. 

RSVP by 4th March 2019 - Pauline Furnivall 

Most welcome 

In January we had the welcome service for the Bristol group minister Rev. John Harley. As part of this very joyful occasion, there were several testimonies given. There was representation from Rev. Kate Wyman for the Western Union, a personal contribution by the Rev. Lindy Latham and Rev. Maud Robinson. There was a congregation of 55. This was a moving service with other contributions from people around the region of the congregations that form the western union: Devon, Somerset and Dorset. The president of the western union, Mrs. Bernice Lashbrook, sent in writing congratulations and well wishes on the behalf of the regional body of the Western Union. 

As we travel together with John, and support one another, may we look to sustain welcome as we grow in fellowship. 

Karl Stewart.

Women’s League 

We were sorry to hear that Grace Cooper, a loyal and well loved member of the Women’s League Bristol Group, died in December 2018. Several of us attended her funeral at Westerleigh Crematorium which was conducted by Rev John Harley assisted by Rev Lindy Latham. Grace’s cousin’s daughter, Sue Halliday entertained us all to refreshments at the New inn, Westerleigh afterwards. Many thanks to Sue for her hospitality and for all she did for Grace. 

There will be a Women’s League supper and talk or entertainment at UMB on Friday 15th February at 7pm - hot food! Susan Wildman 

A Creed of Uncertainty, a Creed of Mystery… 

Mark Stewart 

I come to Unitarians to help me cope with the uncertainty of being alive. 

Struggling with uncertainty seems to be one of the main reasons why people seek out a spiritual practice or community. 

I wasn’t content with a spiritual community which claimed it had all the answers to life’s uncertainties. 

I was looking for a spiritual tradition which acknowledges the reality of uncertainty, because its primary allegiance is to the truth, even if that truth is beyond our understanding. 

I wonder if our most fundamental act of observance as Unitarians is to sit with uncertainty. 

I wonder if that is our task, whenever we gather, to sit together in the presence of uncertainty. 

I wonder if our weekly meeting should be the time when we support each other to look uncertainty right in the eye. Maybe we need each other to do this, to hold each other’s hand. 

Maybe in doing so, we can turn our Creed of Uncertainty into a Creed of Mystery. If we can ritualize joining together to hold hands in the face of uncertainty, then maybe this ritual act can nudge us to change our perspective on uncertainty. 

How much more appealing would it be to worship a God of Mystery, rather than a God of Uncertainty? If we can alchemise Uncertainty into Mystery, then maybe we can start to see the magic in the unknowing. Maybe we can nudge life from being a peril into being an adventure. 

We are living in a time of great political uncertainty in our country. Our country feels rudderless; we don’t know where we are going; no-one seems to have the answers. 

Is it helpful for us to remember that all times are uncertain? Could our spiritual observance help us to take a step back from this political uncertainty and remember: 
  • This world was not created with borders dividing nations
  • We were given no treatises defining relationships between groups of peoples
  • There is but one gene pool of our ethnicities; we all carry each other’s DNA.
As Unitarians we are amongst the most practised at sitting with uncertainty. May we be an example of how to face uncertainty with dignity, hope, kinship and love. And may we take the thread of life’s mystery and quietly weave some magic signposts into the fabric of this world.