Transcript of Service 2nd August 2020 with Rev. John Harley



This is our first face to face worship since March – there is something very human and grounding and primeval about meeting physically together after all these months of meeting in cyberspace – we meet in the way humans have been gathering for millennia – like a circle of bodies meeting around a fire – in meeting in person we bring all of ourselves and we greet all bodies, somebodies, any bodies for our bodies are holy and part of all creation – all our bodies are welcome here

Some words to invite our breathe into this space – for us to be fully present and to bring our breathe of life to this worship….

Opening words

By Matt Alspaugh

Breathe with me
Breathe with me—the breath of life
Inhale, Inspire, Inspiration,
Ruacḥ, Pneuma, Spiritus, the Holy Spirit
the many names for breath.

Breathe with me.
Know that with each breath we take in molecules of air
that were breathed by every person that ever lived.

Breathe with me,
and breathe the breath of Jesus, of Moses,
of Mohammed, of the Buddha.

Breathe with me,
and know that we are all interdependent,
that the spirit of life
flows through us all.

Breathe with me,
as we come together to do the holy work
of interconnection and relationship,
that our work here may be blessed.

Frenchay. Hymn to listen to:

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

UMB. Hymn to listen to: Sing Out Praises for the Journey (chosen by Karl)

Sing out praises for the journey, pilgrims, we, who carry on,
searchers in the soul’s deep yearnings, like our forebears in their time.
We seek out the spirit’s wholeness in the endless human quest.

Look inside, your soul’s the kindling of the hearth fire pilgrims knew.
Find the spirit, always restless, find it in each mind and heart.
Touch and hold that ancient yearning, kindling for a newfound truth.

Stand we now upon the threshold, facing futures yet unknown.
Hearth behind us, wayside hostel built by those who knew wild roads.
Guard we e’er their sacred embers carried in our minds and hearts.

Reading 1

By Maria Popova

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope,” James Baldwin told Margaret Mead in their historic conversation about forgiveness. “To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt,” poet and philosopher David Whyte observed a generation later. How few of us are capable of such largeness when contracted by hurt, when the clench of injustice has tightened our own fists. And yet in the conscious choice to unclench our hearts and our hands is not only the measure of our courage and our strength, not only the wellspring of compassion for others, but the wellspring of compassion for ourselves and the supreme triumph of personhood. “As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time,” Anne Lamott wrote as she contemplated the relationship between brokenness and joy, “we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.”

Once in a generation, if we are lucky, someone comes about who in every aspect of their being models for us how to do that, how to be that — how to place love at the center, the center that holds solid as all around it breaks, the solid place that becomes the fort of what is unbreakable in us and the fulcrum of change.

Among those rare, miraculous few was John Lewis (1940– 2020), who began his life by preaching to the chickens at his parents’ farm in southern Alabama and went on to teach a nation, a world how to step into that rare courage, that countercultural act of resistance in refusing to stop loving this broken, beautiful world. In every fiber of his being, he upheld that stubborn, splendid refusal as the crucible of justice, of progress, of all that is harmonious and human in us.

If Lewis’s legacy is to be summed up in a succinct way, if his immense and enduring gift to the generations is to be bowed with a single ribbon, it would be these passages from his 2012 memoir Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change (public library):

Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.

A century after Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi that “love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills” in their extraordinary forgotten correspondence about why we hurt each other and how to stop, Lewis writes:

Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”

Contemplative: Hallelujah, K D Lang

Prayers of Lamentation and Thankfulness

By Mark Stewart (slightly adapted)

Prayers of lament

We divide our prayers this morning into a time of lamentation and later on a time of thanksgiving.

Please feel to join in the response: We pray a change will come

We lament when people in our community are left behind. When people are unable to access the help they need. We pray a change will come

We lament the power structures that continue to make lives unbearable for many people: We pray a change will come

We lament this coronavirus, which continues to cause so much loss, suffering, worry and uncertainty, in terms of health, finance and what our day to day purpose on this earth is: We pray a change will come

We lament the violence that any human hand does unto another being, and the injury that any human tongue speaks unto another creature: We pray a change will come

We lament the iniquity in the world, and the forces of greed, fear and jealousy, which keeps the gulfs between peoples so wide: We pray a change will come

We lament the needless suffering of all beings this day, particularly where we have contributed to it by our actions or inaction: We pray a change will come

Take a moment to give voice or embodiment to your lament, in a heave or a sigh, or a grunt; a hunch of the shoulders, a screwing up of the face, a clench of the stomach and fists. Gather all your lament up in this noise and this movement, and then let it go.


Music (after prayers of lamentation) Ian Burdge and Max Richter Origins

Prayers of thanksgiving

We now move into our time of Thanksgiving Prayer, to which you’re welcome to respond: We give thanks.

For the lives of those lost: We give thanks.

For the Black Lives Matter protests around the world and the momentum of change they are gathering: We give thanks.

For people in public life speaking out and for ordinary people rising up in solidarity: We give thanks.

For the health-care professionals who have risked their own safety to look after us during this pandemic: We give thanks.

For the wonders of modern technology that allow us to meet when we are physically apart: We give thanks.

For the small and unexpected gifts of grace that befall us, and our ability to recognise them: We give thanks.

Allow yourself to give voice and movement to your expression of thanks giving with a yelp and a whoop and a cheer, a hooray, a bow or a flinging up and wide of arms (take all off mute for this).


Music (after prayers of thankfulness) Soweto Gospel Choir Woza Meli Wami

Candles of Joy and Concern


Reading 2

The Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:1-12 (below) and paralleled in Luke 6:20–23:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)

Reading 3


Jan Phillips

Blessed be the Earth and those who tend her,

for she is the source and sustenance of our lives.

Blessed be the children who hunger for food,

learning, and homes that are safe,

for their future is shaped by our choices today.

Blessed be the refugees fleeing the violence of war and poverty

may they find shelter, peace, and work that sustains them.

Blessed be those who are calling for freedom,

resisting oppression and risking their lives in the struggle for justice,

for they are the shapers of a brighter world.

Blessed be the persecuted and wrongly judged,

for theirs is a sorrow lessened only by mercy and human kindness.

Blessed be the prophets who speak and write of a world beyond war,

for theirs are the words becoming flesh.

Blessed be the Story-tellers, music-makers, and artists at life,

for they are the true light of the world.

Blessed be the tender-hearted who mourn and grieve

the wars we've fought, the lives we've lost,

may peace ride in on the river of their tears.


Arvo Part – The Beatitudes – Choir of Kings College, Cambridge

Micro Addresses:


I thought of the Beatitudes in my reflecting on the lockdown and in trying to work out what we may have learnt as a society.

These are revolutionary words for Jesus to preach – I love the way he turns everything upside down - those who are broken will find joy, those who grieve will find new life, those who hunger will be welcomed at the feast. The kingdom of god he offers brings riches to those who have nothing – the old order is challenged.

Has the world been offered a chance to begin again after the pandemic? Many of us have observed that the environment seems cleaner and the airs clearer and communities have pulled together. Some of us described the sensation of feeling blessed in some way – certainly on some of my walks and bike rides I have felt more awake and dazzled by nature. The word beatitude comes from the Latin beatitude meaning blessedness – Jesus offers blessings to those who suffer and to those who feel powerless and I wonder if some blessings as well as challenges and huge losses have emerged from these difficult times. The Beatitudes are full of paradox like much of the poetry of the mystics – the impossible is made possible – the lonely are in community, those that have nothing have everything they need. The experience of the coronavirus brings us a feast of paradox.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmentalist, has observed the way many nations have decided that they can, after all, act decisively and almost overnight for the common good and find huge amounts of money to support people who need it. She is staggered by the way world leaders saw her as naïve for saying that we have take climate change seriously and yet with the pandemic many nations have brought in massive and reaching measures and legislation to try and save lives. She said,

“The coronavirus is a terrible event...there is no positive to come out of it,"

"But it also shows one thing: That once we are in a crisis, we can act to do something quickly, act fast. Though it must be in a different way to how we have acted in this case, we can act fast and change our habits and treat a crisis like a crisis."

The Beatitudes celebrate the riches of the soul and the real gifts of humanity such as compassion and forgiveness and peace – and place these higher in value than traditional riches and patriarchal power. Jesus celebrates a mindfulness and a sense of grace that some of us have experienced under the lockdown and wish to take into what some call the new normal. This sense of feeling blessed reminds me of a poem:

The Orange

By Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.


But what if a re-reading of the Beatitudes brought an even more radical approach? The presberterian Arch-bishop Elias Chacour said that the more traditional Greek meaning of the word Beatitude is on the passive side – we are used to hearing ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God ‘ as a blessing from Jesus – something we receive - but she says the Aramaic route enlightens us to a new meaning. The Aramaic translation of the word beatitude is “set yourself on the right way, to turn around, repent, become straight or righteous’. I will read a bit of Elias Chacour’s stirring words here….

“How could I go to a persecuted young man in a Palestinian refugee camp, for instance, and say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," or "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?" That man would revile me, say neither I nor my God understood his plight,

and he would be right.

When I understand Jesus' words in the Aramaic, I translate like this:

Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice,

for you shall be satisfied.

Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers,

for you shall be called children of God.

To me this reflects Jesus' words and teachings much more accurately. I can hear him saying, "Get your hands dirty to build a human society for human beings; otherwise, others will torture and murder the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless." Christianity is not passive but active, energetic, alive, going beyond despair.

"Get up, go ahead, do something, move," Jesus said to his disciples.”

Elias Chacour, 'We Belong to the Land' (pp 143 - 144)

So it’s a lot more like Bob Marley says ‘Get up, stand up! stand up for your rights!’ and a lot less meak. But we need it ALL, I believe we need the humbleness that brings us empty to God, ready to listen. We need to bless each and every one of us, but also to call out injustice and do something. This is the balance we need. We are still hearing this call, thousands of years later. To change our world, to listen to the voices of those who struggle and to speak truth to power…..

If you type in ‘Blessed are the’… into YOUTUBE. What comes up next?

Yes - Cheesemakers. Before Peacemakers. Thank you Monty Python, I don’t think I could be truly religious without a sense of humour. Blessed are all the makers of dairy products. And bless you too. Each of you. Amen.

Song: Bob Marley Get up, stand up

Frenchay. Song to listen to:

This Little Light of Mine/ Sam Cooke

Amen (Repeat)

This little light of mine

I'm going to let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm going to let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine

To show my love

Everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine [x3]

I let it shine to show my love

Even in my home, I'm gonna let it shine

I let is shine to show my love

When I see my neighbour coming

I'm gonna let it shine


UMB. A Hymn to listen to: 177 We can become


A Blessing for the Senses

– John O’Donohue, from “Anam Cara”

May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful
and beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful
and recognize that your senses
are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is
mindful, gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to
celebrate the universe and the mystery
and possibilities in your presence here.
May the spirit of the Earth bless you.

God be in my head