Transcript of John Harley's Service 7.6.2020

Sunday Worship for Bristol Unitarians – 5pm – 7 June 2020

Taize Piece

Welcome to our worship.

Come into the calming, creative, warm energy of this holy space

Come into the spirit of curiosity, of exploration and questioning offered by this community

Come, bring your humanity, bring your beauty and your doubts, bring your gifts and your losses and we will welcome you on our journey of hope

In today’s worship we will be considering

Are we humankind? What are we learning about human nature from this pandemic?

Let us greet each other now – in any way we wish – thumbs up, waving, high fiving

Many of us are saddened and shocked by the violence sweeping the United States – we will holding all those communities and individuals who are campaigning for change and justice in our prayers and thoughts – let us hope that racism and massive inequalities can be challenged and healed by the biggest protests since the 60s

Let us light our chalice with some words from Martin Luther King

When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Gary Kowalski

Loving Spirit,
Be our guest,
Dine with us,
Share our bread,
That our table
Might be blessed
And our souls be fed.

192 O Perfect Love [A New Community]

We would be one as now we join in singing
Our hymn of love, to pledge ourselves anew
To that high cause of greater understanding
Of who we are, and what in us is true.

We would be one in building for tomorrow
A greater world than we have known today;
We would be one in searching for that meaning
Which binds our hearts and points us on our way.

We would be one in living for each other,
With love and justice strive to make all free;
As one, we pledge ourselves to greater service,
To show the world a new community.

[From Samuel Anthony Wright]


Nasruddin and the Walnut p66 in The Shortest Distance – 101 Stories from the World’s Spiritual Traditions

Time for prayer

Prayers about our unrealised potential and stored possibilities in our lives – for some of us this pandemic has been a time to re examine what really matters in life – as Kark and Mark reminded us last week – and to notice what needs to emerge in our lives and in society and many Americans want to seize the opportunity of this painful moment in history to change institutions and the system so that every life matters once and for all….

Let us pray and be together in stillness and reflection…

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainer Maria Rilke


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"

I invite you to sing Kum ba yah

Kum ba yah, my lord, Kum ba yah!
Kum ba yah, my lord, Kum ba yah!
Kum ba yah, my lord, Kum ba yah.
O Lord, Kum ba yah

Someone's crying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's crying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's crying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
O Lord, Kum ba yah

Someone's singing, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's singing, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's singing, Lord, Kum ba yah!
O Lord, Kum ba yah

Someone's praying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's praying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
Someone's praying, Lord, Kum ba yah!
O Lord, Kum ba yah

Candles of Joy and Concern

May all our hopes and joys and concerns and prayers burn brightly and show us the way in all our journeys. Amen

Bridge over Troubled Waters by Victory


From the Boston Globe

By Jaclyn Reiss Globe Staff,Updated June 4, 2020

The Rev. Al Sharpton drew multiple standing ovations from the crowd gathered at a memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Thursday, delivering a eulogy that was both fiery and emotional as he spoke about the man whose death at the hands of police has sparked worldwide protests against police brutality.

“George Floyd should not be among the deceased,” Sharpton said. “He did not die of common health conditions. He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction. He died because there has not been the corrective behaviour that has taught this country that if you commit a crime, it does not matter if you wear blue jeans or a blue uniform, you must pay for the crime you commit.”

Sharpton said “time is out” for “empty words and empty promises,” and vowed, “we won’t stop. We’ll keep going until we change the whole system of justice.”

“Time is out for not holding you accountable! Time is out for you making excuses! Time is out for you trying to stall! Time is out for empty words and empty promises! Time is out for you filibustering and trying to stall the arm of justice!” he said.

“George Floyd’s story has been the story of Black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said in his fierce, emotional eulogy. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”

Sharpton also said that just as Black people have had to fight slavery, Jim Crow laws, and for voting rights in previous times, “this is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice."

In that spirit, Sharpton announced he and the Floyd family would organize a march in Washington in August: "We need to go back to Washington and stand up: Black, white, Latino, Arab, in the shadows of Lincoln, and tell them: This is the time to stop this.”

The reverend also said Floyd would be joining his mother, who is deceased, in heaven.

“There’s a place where police don’t put knees on you, George. There’s a place that prosecutors don’t drag their feet,” he said, drawing another standing ovation. “Go on home, George. Get your rest, George. You’ve changed the world, George. We’re gonna keep marching, George. We’re gonna keep fighting, George.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


I wanted to ask you the question – are you more positive or less positive about human nature after the experience of coronavirus?

I remember travelling in the West of Ireland a number of years ago and being quite taken a back by the way strangers and passers by would greet me everywhere I went – there would always be a hello, good morning, how are you?

I have been observing this over the last few months in England – strangers and neighbours having more time for one another just to be friendly

In the first week of lockdown half a million people signed up to be volunteers for the NHS

Who would have thought even as recently as a year ago that we would have such a big state again with a raft of traditionally socialist policies announced by the Government – from furloughing to grants to help small businesses

Can we dare to be more hopeful about human nature?

I saw an interview at the Hay online literary festival with Rutger Bregman – the Dutch writer – who has written a book called Humankind – he calls it a hopeful history – a tribute to our better nature

He claims cynicism is out – hope is in – he is suggesting a new politics of collaboration is emerging

He shared the example of a major health care company in the Netherlands with no chief executive and no board – a company in which workers decide their schedule, training and who to hire – he said the results are amazing – with a better product and more efficiency than the more usual hierarchy of leadership

What do the shocking events across the United States say about human kind? Simply that power corrupts and humans in authority will always mistreat humans who are oppressed or that humans will always rise up and seek justice, even while risking their safety. Meanwhile Nasa and Space X send two astronauts into space – a brilliant technological achievement and demonstration of teamwork – yet in the context of much poverty and inequality in such a rich nation.

In the book he talks about reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies when he was a teenager – he said he was disillusioned by Golding’s bleak story imagining what would happen if a group of school boys were stranded on a desert island with no grown ups – they start forming rules with the use of the conch and then slowly slip into mayhem, disorder and violence –two opposing ideologies emerge – the group who see the urgency to keep a fire going to send a signal to passing ships and the tribe who just want to hunt - by the end of the story three boys are dead and one of the central characters Ralph bursts into tears and weeps for the end of innocence and for the darkness of man’s heart. Golding wrote the book in 1951 and was possibly influenced by the rise of the Nazis in the Second World War

Bregman was never very convinced by Golding’s pessimistic view of human nature – you can imagine how delighted he was when he found a real life Lord of the Flies – In 1966 a group of 6 schoolboys decided to escape from a boarding school in Tonga – who can blame them? – in a boat – and they were caught up in a storm and marooned on the miniscule island of Ata and stranded for 15 months – by the time they were rescued the boys had set up a small commune with a food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.”

The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarreled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer.

One day, one of the boys Stephen slipped one day, fell off a cliff and broke his leg. The other boys picked their way down after him and then helped him back up to the top. They set his leg using sticks and leaves and looked after him until he was better.

In the book Bregman concludes

It’s time we told a different kind of story. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other. including the lesson that you should always look for what is good and positive in people.”

Bregman suggests that deep down we are friendly, peaceful and healthy


Just to go back to the Coronavirus pandemic – we have just a few moments for any comments or views – do you think humankind has come out well from this crisis ?– are you encouraged by how we can pull together for the common good or do you fear that as soon as a vaccine has been found it will be business as usual…..

I’m going to finish with a poem.

Sheenagh refers to men but of course she is referring to all humanity.

Sometimes - Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go

amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

Hymn: Shalom Havayreem

(Shalom Havayreem means: I wish you peace, my friends, until we meet


Shalom Havayreem, Shalom Havayreem

Shalom, Shalom

Shalom Havayreem, Shalom Havayreem

Shalom, Shalom

Glad tidings we bring to peace on earth

Goodwill to all

Of peace on earth, of peace on hearth

Goodwill to all

Shalom Havayreem, Shalom Havayreem

Shalom, Shalom

Shalom Havayreem, Shalom Havayreem

Shalom, Shalom

Mary Oliver – closing words

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

Still I rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Thanks for joining us for our worship.