Newsletter May / June 2020

From the desk.

Karl Stewart

Dear All,

After the past months during this time, there has I’m sure been raised within us all, the question of what really matters. There will I’m sure be many plausible answers and many new insights as we have had to adapt our way of living. Although in some ways this has been very testing to each of us in very individual ways, we still find ourselves in the very wider sense united in community. First there is community in the everyday as we try to go about life as usual and the restrictions it brings. We have sacrificed a lot in the hope that we or others we know, and family members don’t become ill.

There is much gratitude across the world as a whole. In the most general of senses, people of all faiths and none have come to know what reverence for human life really is, and what it means to be in community. And with this we have seen the generous and unconditional gifts that people are only too willing to give. As the list is endless, I’ll not run the danger of giving too many examples. As we return to looking into what we have within our two congregations, there has been a show of great support to each other, including looking at the difficult and very sad times of bereavement that have happened.

We think of Jean Bryant who has left a great legacy of love, leadership and commitment - someone who was not only special for that, but also someone with humility and the gift of being able to listen and share with love. Our sincere condolences go to you all, Charlotte, Mary and family.

As we continue forward on this journey may we give thanks for how we have been joined by the many, from the congregations around our region, and the country, for this time we are joined in the great holding of love, care, compassion and hospitality. May we come again to a place where the door is open and remains open to those who are there to welcome us, as we come through. And I hope that no matter how many questions we ask in our searching, that there will be the understanding to always have the strength to answer with love and care.

As we walk our sacred paths together, may we do so gently with love. For whatever it is you give, do so with an open heart. Give your little today – for someone else’s plenty tomorrow.

All we do matters.

Yours with love and care.

Karl Stewart. UMB.

Humility and Love

Rev. Lindy Latham

Dear Friends,

A few nights ago I woke in the night with a nasty bout of leg cramp.

As I walked gently up and down the stairs trying to encourage my muscles to behave and let me go back to bed I was aware of how little extreme physical pain I have suffered in my life.

During this time of lock down I have found myself being able to focus more on the very different situations that many folk are facing....both the enormous physical and emotional pain. Of course this is partly because of the amount of news coverage due to the Covid 19 virus.

It is has been a wake up call for me. A humbling experience as the very different financial and living situations are brought into sharper focus through stories we are hearing.

And now we have our own very sad story of a brave woman who gave so much who died suddenly and too soon leaving a huge gap in her family and in our community. But she also left a large legacy of love.

Dear Jean.

A few days ago I decided to cheer up my front garden with some new plants from my local shop.

Suddenly I realised what I wanted to do. To plant them in memory of Jean.

There are a few pots now looking bright and cheerful.

One of them has your name on Jean and I am so pleased that I knew you and shared your openness and love.

I would also like to remember dear Marie... she is in my garden too.

With my love....


From our Minister

Rev. John Harley

Reaching out

In these difficult times we are holding Charlotte, Shane, Mary and all the family in our prayers – many of us were shocked to hear the sad news of Jean’s death. I can’t believe such a beacon of our community and such a well-loved member of Frenchay is no longer with us. May we take Jean’s passion and kindness into our daily lives. Also our prayers go out to Diane and her son Matthew. May we send them strength for all that they are enduring.

Gabriel Rosenstock, the Irish poet, wrote the wonderfully short poem:

a star
a tree
and the longing in between

This poem reminds us that life is full of beauty and wonder and also loss and separation - in equal measure. It is by reaching out to one other and sharing our common humanity that we make sense of life’s paradoxes and mysteries and this is what we do in our beloved faith.

We are also mindful and appreciative of those in our community who are on the front line of key workers. I feel privileged to know them. Liz at Frenchay comes to mind but there are others too many to name here.

Staying connected

In that bygone world we all lived in pre coronavirus outbreak, the thought of how our sense of community would hold out if we could only see each other online and in cyberspace would have seemed an impossible scenario. Despite the challenges of these unprecedented times I believe that, against the odds, we have remained strong and maybe more connected than before. We have managed to stay close and supportive of one another and join together for uplifting worship even with our precious chapels closed. I’m aware that a number of us have been going the extra mile to check out how others are coping and managing with everyday life by picking up the phone or emailing – our tapestry of community is holding firm. Maybe we have been experiencing a small Renaissance of friendship and connection and an affirmation of our beloved shared ministry – long may this continue! I hope everyone knows about our weekly check in and candle lighting via Zoom on Wednesdays from 7-8. If not then do ask Mark for the invite. We are also continuing with Bright Lights and Rainbow Path in an online capacity. A big thankyou to those who are leading worship for us in these testing times –and being innovative with online technology – these friends include Karl and Mark, Mary, Angela and Lindy.

We are aware that a number of people are not using zoom and some may not be online at all. If anyone knows of individuals who are feeling isolated or unsupported, please let me know. At UMB and Frenchay we have an unofficial pastoral team and during these tough times we want this to be fully activated.

If anyone would benefit from extra support with computers and using Zoom there is a free helpdesk open to all Unitarian communities – Netserve Ltd on 02037288415.

An event for your diary: Weekly check in and candle lighting on Zoom – Wednesdays 7-8pm. Everyone welcome.

Amazing Grace

One blessing that some of us are experiencing is a heightened appreciation of nature and moments of grace. I have heard a number of people share that being outdoors in the sun and in the greenness of Springtime has felt extraordinarily vibrant over the last few months. This is maybe because our skies are clearer and our air cleaner due to massively reduced carbon emissions or could it be because some us simply have more time to notice and be dazzled. Who would have thought that William Wordsworth’s poem written over two hundred years ago would feel fresh to our ears as if penned yesterday:

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Stay safe as they say! Let us continue to practice safe distancing while bridging the physical distances between us in the quality and depth of our togetherness.

John Harley