'Virtual Service' 23.3.2020

By John and Lizzie Harley

The Unitarian Chapel in the Garden, Bridport, Frenchay Chapel and UMB


Please join together at 11am on Sunday 22nd March in unity, connecting our hearts even at a distance. You may want to choose pieces of music and songs to play at the allotted times.

If you join in at another time, know that there are still Unitarians and people of many faiths and none all around the world taking this moment to be still and connect with others in a meaningful way. Together we make it a sacred moment.

Opening Music - A time to settle for our time together.

Chalice Lighting

This is our covenant prayer for when our bodies are at a distance but our hearts are connected:

LOVE is the founding principle of our FAITH.

The quest for TRUTH is in all of our hearts.

To serve each other is our PRAYER in action.

We dwell together in PEACE;

As we are apart, we are still together.

We seek knowledge, prayer and connection,

To serve HUMANITY,

To the end that all souls shall

Grow in harmony with each other,

and the DIVINE.

Adapted by Elizabeth Harley


Eckhart Tolle says it only takes three conscious breaths to bring yourself into connection with your inner being, with the earth below you. Shall we take three big beautiful breaths now, feeling yourself connect with the earth beneath your feet, let your consciousness relax into the ground and take a breath,... 1. 2. 3



By Christopher Buice

Once, two frogs were hopping through the forest when they accidently hopped into a big churn of cream. The sides of the churn were so slick and slippery that there was no place to hold on to, so the frogs had to swim in circles to stay afloat.

After a long time one frog said, “There is no hope. We’re doomed to drown in this churn.”

The older frog said, “Don’t lose hope. Life is a circle. There are bad times and there are good times. One must endure the winter to see the spring.”

The young frog was not so sure and he said, “You’re wrong. We’re going to sink, I tell you!”

And the older frog said, “We must keep hope alive! For if hope dies, we, too, will die. But if we keep hope alive, we will live to see another sunrise.”

But the younger frog was already starting to lose hope and he began to sink down into the creamy liquid.

“Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!” cried the older one.

Then the younger one started repeating, slowly at first, “Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.”

The more they repeated the words, the stronger they felt. And the more strength they had, the better they could swim in circles.

As they swam and swam, around and around in circles, an amazing thing happened. They realized they weren’t sinking any more. The cream had turned to butter!

The two frogs were able to hop off the butter and out of the churn. They landed on the ground just in time to see a beautiful sunrise. The older frog said to the younger one, “Remember my friend, life is a circle. Despair may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” And the two frogs hopped away into the woods.

Source: "A Bucketful of Dreams: Contemporary Parables for All Ages"

(Skinner House, 1994) out-of-print


Candles of Joy and Concern
Here is a time for you to light a candle or write down on a piece of paper any joys or concerns that you are holding in your heart at this time. Know you have the support and love of your community who share in all your joys and sadnesses. Take a moment to sit in silence, to pray or meditate and connect.


May we be instruments of Peace,

Where there is division, let us sow love.

Where there is harm, forgiveness;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is helplessness, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

In our divine oneness, may we know balance;

In our giving, we receive,

In our understanding, we are understood,

When we love, we are loved,

When we forgive, we are forgiven

And when we cannot give or receive these blessings;

May we be reminded of the mystery, the paradox and the beauty of our existence.

The prayer of St Francis. Adapted By Elizabeth Harley

Contemplative Music


Take a few minutes to contemplate the words in the prayer below. Then if you wish to - think about your own relationship with patience and your innate courage.


By Richard S. Gilbert

When we are overwhelmed with the world

And cannot see our way clear,

When life seems a struggle between tedium and apathy

Or frenzy and exhaustion;

When today seems a punishment and tomorrow a torment,

May we find the courage of patience.

May we recognize courage in ourselves and our companions;

That is not dramatic, that elicits no fanfare;

That commands little notice by the world,

That is forgotten and taken for granted.

May we learn how to cope

Like those who live one day of pain at a time,

Who see the long path of suffering and do not despair,

Who inspire us by their patient courage,

When we are impatient and afraid.

May we know such courage

And quietly celebrate its presence among us.


A Recipe for Resilience

By Margaret Weis

One part courage

Two parts tears of failure and doubt

One part deep listening

One part each of both silence and laughter

A dash of trust

A pinch of wonder

A heaping scoop of naps and snacks

In a separate bowl, mix together family, friends, and those who challenge you to be your best self, those with whom you disagree.

Add slowly to the larger pot, add a bay leaf for … well, whatever it is bay leaves do, and let simmer for as long as you need (which is often longer than you realize or anticipate).

Keep the heat at an even temperature – hot enough to cook throughout, but not so hot it burns the bottom.

Can be served at room temperature, warm, or even cold if necessary.

Serve alongside your favorite soft blanket, dog, cat, or other soft item.

Make often,

Share with others,

Hold onto the leftovers – you’ll need them after a long day that challenges your soul.

Address by John and Lizzie Harley

The fast-moving events of the Coronavirus pandemic have inevitably brought up a myriad of feelings for us all. Anxiety, disbelief, stress… but also a renewed connection with neighbour and community, respect for nature, better self-care, greater empathy for the suffering of others. I don’t know about you but I have been feeling more tired – each day the landscape seems to change – and I find I need to check in more with myself and my loved ones. It seems exhausting keeping up with events and catching up with just the last news bulletin. One thing I think I am practicing more is prayer. I don’t mean the kneeling down kind of prayer – I mean taking a few more breaths, noticing small things more, noticing inner self-soothing conversations, wondering how friends and family and people in different nations that I hear about in the news are coping and getting through this.

This prayer by the Canadian UU minister seems very relevant…..

Let us pray……
Prayer in a Time of Awe

Holy grandparents of the Universe...energies of creation...endless mysteries of life:
You are the music that sounded before our world was born,
sound and silence woven throughout the ages,
far beyond the most profound wisdom humanity has been able to touch.

Be with us, deepen our willingness to live without certainty;
to take the risks of living on the edges of our creativity;
to step beyond the boundaries of possibility and hope.

Help us always to remember that we are in our essence the magic of star stuff:
that we are kin to all that is and was and may yet come to be.

Teach us to temper our impatience, to retain our conviction that what we do makes a difference;
that even our smallest act can contribute to the good of a greater whole.
Be with me in my uncertainties. Rejoice with my small triumphs.

Comfort my losses. Remind me I am never alone, not in my joys or in my tears.
In the blessing of our silence, may I feel your presence, something greater than I have yet been able to comprehend.


To me there is so much wisdom packed into this prayer and wisdom for these surreal days we are living in. Can this crisis increase our capacity for awe – for truly acknowledging our small place in the universe and our responsibility to walk this precious, beautiful planet with respect and care? Yes we are having to deal with a daily sense of uncertainty in these challenging times. This can feel very draining and worrying. Yet Buddhism reminds us that uncertainty and change are part of the very fabric of existence and should be embraced not denied.

This crisis is testing our individual sense of perspective. It would be easy for us to conclude that this unfolding pandemic is just bringing out the worst in people if all we did was to read the tabloids. Talk of panic buying, hoarding and street entrepreneurs trying to flog stuff we need and horribly inflated prices… the list goes on. But of course many of us have witnessed incredible acts of kindness and community action that lights up human hearts.

This is what Lizzie Harley noticed in Bridport:

Bridport has characteristically pulled out all the stops this week with our community spirit. Have you noticed? It all came to a dramatic head for me on Friday night when after only a few hours of putting out a call for people to light a candle in their window at sunset each evening, the most beautiful thing happened. Soulshine* put about twenty (...supervised) candles in their front windows in South Street after dark and messages of hope in the windows. The video Angie made showed this and the surrounding windows with their curtains open and their candles shining brightly; a message of hope and community when we need it the most. This is probably just the start and I hope it will become a tradition. A safe, supervised tradition using battery candles.

And all across the world we have seen people sharing the best of humanity. Singing from the quarantined balconies in Italy for example was extremely moving. And, earlier this week in London (before the schools closed) a school put up a huge sign saying ‘WATCH THIS SPACE AT 2PM’ which could be read by the residential home for the elderly over the road. The home had been in isolation for a few days by then and at 2pm the residents went to their windows and saw the whole primary school in the playground singing to them. They sang, ‘something inside so strong’ By Labbi Siffre.

*a cafe in South Street, Bridport

Community spirit like this feels like whatever we mean by God – this spirit of love, this feeling of unity, coming to life, being made real. Thich Nhat Hanh said:

"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth."

It already seems clear that whenever we get the other side of this virus life will not go back to how it was before – for worse – and hopefully for better. Perhaps there will be ways of being in community that will be new ways of living that will remain. Who knows there may be behaviours and ways of being that us Unitarians will learn over the coming months that will help deepen and enrich our dear faith.

Let us take the light of our chalice into the real things we do and into the daily relationships we weave together. Let us sing out our faith!

I would like to close with the poem written just last week by an American Unitarian minister Lynn Ungar. It’s called Pandemic.

What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath –

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love –

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

Final Song

Closing Blessing

We breathe together as one breath.

We give each other thoughts of Peace.

We thank one another across time and space -for being here, present with love, friendship and sharing a sense of the sacred.

Let us go now in peace, uplifted, rested

and with love in our hearts.