Regular Service and Events Pattern

For all online services and events on Zoom, please apply to for Zoom joining details.

1st Sunday in the month: 

10:30am Service in person at Frenchay Chapel 

5pm Service in peron at UMB (Brunswick Square)

1st Saturday in the month: 

2-4pm 'Divine Witterings' cafe-style discussion group at UMB  (Brunswick Square)

2nd Sunday in the month: 

10:30am Service  in person at Frenchay Chapel 

3rd Sunday in the month:

10:30am Service in person at Frenchay Chapel 

2-:3:30pm Bright Lights all-age gathering on Zoom only

5pm Service in peron at UMB (Brunswick Square)

3rd Thursday in the month:

7-8:30pm on Zoom / at Frenchay Chapel (alternating months): The Rainbow Path, our monthly adult spirituality engagement group

4th Sunday in the month:

10:30am Service in person at Frenchay Chapel 

5pm at UMB (Brunswick Square): Breath-focused Mindfulness Meditation and Sacred Readings from world traditions

4th Wednesday in the month:

7-8pm Service on Zoom only

5th Sunday in the month (when they occur): 

10:30am Service in person at Frenchay Chapel

5pm in peron at UMB (Brunswick Square)


UK Unitarian Annual General Meetings report

Peter Wildman

Early Spring Newsletter

From the Desk

Is it spring yet? Well not so you’d think, but again there are daffodils. I saw some in January - the seasons have taken to following no rule, rhyme or reason. We had a quick sprinkle of snow, a frosty morning or several and a good few downpours.

Although the cycle of the seasons is so familiar to us, I wonder if there’s something new we can discover in the morphing of each season into the next. Every winter tells a new story, as it connects to a new story within us, each time it comes around. With the return of each season, there will always been new facets it brings out in us, new things for us to learn, a new lesson in each day of the season and some new delight for us to discover.

I’m looking forward to slowly returning to the time we can gather again and hopefully it isn’t too far off. Although we are only meeting and seeing one another on screens at the moment, we can still gather the spirit together in community.

It’s a real blessing that we can join others in meeting, and we can welcome others from different places around the region and the country. Looking forward I hope we’ll continue making of all our sacred travels, and meeting together to make a real tapestry of exploration and growth, to welcome the new.

Thank you all for all you have done to keep us walking in the light.

Yours with care.

Karl Stewart. Chair UMB.

Reflecting on Lent.

From Karl.

Looking at Lent probably changes its perspective, something I find myself looking back at is the basic teaching of what it was, as taught in school perhaps even Sunday School. We may well know form this earlier lesson, being told of the story of Jesus in the wilderness; knowing the tale of the searching, watching and waiting; knowing the anguish that Jesus went through. This of course is just one example of a wilderness teaching. Though I don’t particularly feel that this the only literal example, there are of course many different perspectives in the many faiths around the world; and those that don’t mark it may have an acceptance that it is part of a journey for others.

Looking at Lent the sole ritual is sacrifice, this surrender to allowing the strength somewhere within oneself to say I’ll go without this, change that, abstain from. We will have heard many times the question, “what are you going to give up for Lent”? It’s a question that will never cease to be uttered, nor shall it change how ever many times one hears it. But with that does the tone of the question change depending who asks it. I can honestly say, I’ve been asked this by people with a tone of proud glee. To which I’ve often replied, well what are you going start for Lent. It’s with that I feel that we actually do start something, for Lent.

One perspective on the sacrifice of the thing or things you give up, could be that it’s a time to stand aside and look at a part of your being, that you have cultivated for the ritual forty day and nights. There is a stripping back of a small patch of soul that you have weeded, raked over, taken out those small bulbs of nice bits. These little things that are going to sit aside, whilst you take this journey without into the wilderness. For the ritual forty days and nights watching and waiting, on this body holiday. This is a time to at least say I may have this for these days ahead, but while look inside at the wilderness, I can meet the many to will come from all the paths, and meet to replant the sacred.

As we travel Lent together in the way of all we feel and believe, let it be that we all rejoin and greet Easter together and celebrate the newness of the field and all that will grow together.

A prayer for Lent.

Loving God of all creation cool for us the ashes, and anoint the soles of our feet, so that we may walk together. As we travel the journey that all our sacred foot prints will be those that meet together again. May they never fade. Amen.

From our Minister John.

In memoriam.
Mary Cowley.

Our very dear friend and member of Frenchay Chapel. Mary Cowley passed away on Sunday the 31st January. During the past five years Mary and Colin attended the Chapel and UMB. It is with much appreciation for everything, Mary did in her time as secretary, leading worship and the work she as a session leader to the Rainbow Path group. May we give thanks for the last five years of Mary exploring with great courage and question, in the exploration of faith as she spent it with us.

Our condolences to Colin and the family at this sad time. Colin would greatly appreciate a phone call, any offers of help are also welcome. The phone Number is: (0117) 239 0735.

A little wooden house

A 'Hygge' meditation by Karl Stewart

It's a dark day in knotty tree wood.
And it's chilly, cold and wet I'm off to my little wooden House. I've been out walking in all directions, but now it's time to rest.

Winter comes and goes, there's a little fire place in there with a stone hearth ready and waiting with the wood I collected in summer.

I'm off to my little wooden House to stay warm and rest a little, I'll know I'm on the way. I'll know it when I see it there's a little candle lamp in the window.

On my way to the little wooden House the light of the fallen snow lights the way. As the sun goes down over knotty tree wood, the snowy white light, is soft and still. It lights my path to the little wooden House.

Where the fire is going to light and warm the heart of the home that loves you, me and all in this world. Bless this little wooden House.


Joy to the World with verses written by attendees at Bristol Unitarians Rainbow Path 17.12.2020

Jennifer Nicholson

Joy to the Earth, we're still alive!

When all was looking grim

We've dug down deep,

we've faced our fears…

And now it's time to shine!

And now it's time to live!

And now, oh now ... it's time to love!

Peter Bruce

Joy to all living, upon this earth

We are all... from the... same source

We eat and drink and sleep,

We dance and play and laugh

Let all enjoin in our space

Let all enjoin in our space

Let all…. enjoy our peace and space.

Anna Sweetham

Joy to the World, a new day dawns,

This virus has done its work.

With pain and loss

And suffering

Let's look at life afresh,

Let's look at life afresh

Let's see... how love has helped us through

John Harley

Joy to all those in leadership

Politicians, kings and queens

may they not….

Forget... our children

Let's give them space to grow

Let's give them space to grow

Let's give them space to grow and thrive

Karl Stewart

Joy grace and light, the day is new.
May…. we all... give thanks,
As we step
the journey,
Wondering the path ahead,
wandering the path ahead,
Seeking truth and joy and love this day.

Mark Stewart

Joy to the world, take a deep breath
Step back and look around
You are safe and sound
In this moment now
Your fear has flown away
Your shackles on the ground
Jump for joy for true freedom you have found

Christmas Tree Dressing Video 

at Brunswick Square (UMB)

By Karl Stewart with Mark Stewart, December 2020

From The Desk

Karl Stewart, Chair Bristol Unitarian Meeting 

Dear all,

We have this year seen many dramatic changes; some we’d never even thought possible. We have been faced with having to make many unforeseen decisions, taken many different navigations, listened to a lot of new information on things we probably would have ever envisaged knowing. For us all in our Unitarian communities and church families we will have been challenged by the twists and turns of all the realities this year has brought us. Speaking for myself, it’s somehow allowed me a treasury of strengths that were unknown to me. That said, there has amid this been not only for me, but all of us, a type of grief. I’m considering this in what has been called National Grief Week, this of course is a week that looks at how we process that very emotion. This on the one hand may be a “lets give something else a title – as if things don’t have enough titles already moment” type of scenario - grief is never confined to just one week. However, by calling grief by its name, it at least gives grief a space to be just what it is, although we know that grief lays in all our lives and in all our days, as many of you will know only too well.

So here we are just approaching Christmas and on our way through the Advent season, leading to the birth of the child in the stable, a story told a number of ways, and spoken in many languages: the familiar story of Christmas or Yule. As we enter the festival days I hope that we can make all of the days special, and still filled with the meaning of what they are for you. We have been taken en-route through a change or two this year. However, I believe we will rekindle as we did before, within the light of the sacred flame that keeps us joined. Let it be so that the flame will be the strength it was and will be stronger still, while love continues to be the beacon of hospitality we all share in gratitude with each other.

While we wait in the shadows of hope, may we walk each step in compassion with ourselves and one another. As we journey on the path to the stable so bare, I hope we will see the candle flame to bring us together when we are miles off, to that open door. When we meet again may we see one another through the divinity of all that’s beyond our knowing.

Wishing you all a good and soul-filled Christmas, with peace as we replant the sacred.

Yours with love and care.

Karl Stewart, Bristol Unitarians.


Rev. Lindy Latham, December 2020

This is the season of anticipation, 

of expecting, of hoping, of wanting. 

This is the time of expecting the arrival 

of something – or someone. 

We are waiting..... 

When I was working in a Day Centre for people with disabilities, I asked a group of older members what they spent most of their time doing.

“Waiting” replied Peggy. “Waiting for the bus to bring me here, waiting for my dinner, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for my friend to pop round.”

The memory of Peggy's words have come to me several times recently. They were not said with any kind of resentment...more of a calm acceptance that that was how things were for her.

Many of us now are experiencing a deeper and longer sense of waiting than we usually do in this time of Advent.

So what are we waiting for?

What is the world waiting for?

The Christian focus is of course waiting for the coming of the Saviour, Mary was waiting for the birth of Jesus..

...and with all these kinds of waiting, there is a sense of unknowing..

The bus might not come, our friends might not phone, and possibly more powerfully for all of us at the moment, we don't know for sure about the availability and efficacy of the much longed for vaccine for Covid 19.

In the meantime we are left waiting in a state of uncertainty, but this space also gives us an opportunity to reflect on what matters most of all to us.

Waiting for a world which might know true justice,

Waiting for a lasting sense of peace,

respite and renewal

Waiting for a sense of hope

For all of this – we are waiting.

Wishing you all a peaceful and  joyful Christmas.

With love, Lindy 

Words in italics by Universalist Unitarian minister Leslie Takahashi [adapted]

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly 

Rev. John Harley, December 2020

Loneliness has been in the headlines recently. I spotted an article on the BBC News website: ‘Lockdown loneliness reaches record levels’ – it explored the experience of isolation many people have been feeling during the pandemic lockdowns. This hardship is now being intensified by the darker evenings and colder weather and added to this we have heard the scaremongering claims of this Christmas being cancelled! I know that some people within our congregations have been struggling with a sense of isolation and solitude over these strange, stressful months. In the first lockdown I certainly had some moments of renewal but also some difficult times of overwhelm and exhaustion.

The truth is that whatever the state of the restrictions and whichever tier we find ourselves in, the spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah can never be postponed. The heart of these festivals does not depend on shops being open or even physical journeys being made. The warm glow of Christmas celebrates the intimacy and love at the centre of the human experience when faced with poverty and darkness. We can get into contact with one another and reach out despite distances and disappointments. Hanukkah is the festival of lights for Jewish people who remember the miracle of hope and freedom in a time of threat and fear. Perhaps we are invited to rediscover the spiritual riches at the heart of these festivals in these recent challenging times. Can the Covid restrictions on partying and travelling and limits on the commercialisation of this festive period bring some of us closer to the profound and magical core of these ancient celebrations and rituals?

And maybe even loneliness itself can bring us gifts if we are brave enough not to run away from it but see what lessons can be learned. Hafiz, the Persian poet and mystic from the Fourteenth century wrote:

Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,

My need of God

At Frenchay and UMB we will certainly not be cancelling Christmas or any of the other winter festivals. We may have to approach these festivals differently though and we may even get fresh insights into their true meaning and value. Wishing you all flickers of gold and light in these winter months of uncertainty. Happy Christmas/Hanukkah/Winter Solstice!!

With blessings and cheer


What matters most 

Mark Stewart, December 2020

For our Bristol Unitarians retreat weekend this year, if it had gone ahead, we were going to have spent some time considering the question ‘what matters most?’

In planning for the retreat we talked about the ways in which the pandemic had forced us all to strip life back to its essentials, and how it had brought into sharp focus the things that really matter to us.

As we approach the end of the year, at the darkest time of the year, it’s a time when we traditionally reflect on the past twelve months, giving rise to new year’s resolutions, or catching up with people we might not have spoken to since last Christmas.

So along with the usual reflecting we do around this time of year, we have perhaps been particularly reflecting on with the way that Covid has affected so many parts of our lives.

So what matters most?

The first thing that comes to my mind is FOOD! The strangeness of queueing down the side of Aldi, keeping two metres apart. Whilst everything else was shutting down, the supermarkets remained open. And that reminded me of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. The most basic needs of keeping body and soul together are towards the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid: food, water, air, warmth, sleep, shelter and health. These were the things that suddenly became our priorities.

We quickly learnt what didn’t matter as much: education, employment, travel, leisure, socialising, entertainment and even religion! These were the things we had to give up in service to the basic needs of life.

And many of us rediscovered some of the things that mattered that we’d forgotten about: spending time in nature, going for walks, a slower pace of life.

But as the pandemic restrictions rolled on, more and more we began to find that some of the ‘higher’ needs mattered as much as the ‘lower’ ones: the need to spend time with friends, to hug and shake hands, to be able to move around freely, to be able to congregate and celebrate. Loneliness and mental health issues have definitely increased because of the pandemic.

So in this time of reflection, I’m asking myself, what really does matter most from the ‘lower’ and the ‘higher’ needs. What can we do without and what have we realised we really do need?

I often think of our nomadic tribal ancestors. What did they manage with? What was essential to their lives?

Could we live without an economic system that isn’t dependent on climate-crisis fuelling consumerism? Could we live without the need to feel busy, important and stressed out all of the time? Could we embrace scientific and technological innovation without turning ourselves into slave-drones and destroying the planet? Can we have aspirations and strive for goals, without turning everything into a competition and treading on each other?

Can we return to the simplicity and essentialism of a nomadic, tribal, ‘travel light’ existence, and yet still find purpose and meaning in life? I hope so. So may it be!

November 2020

Bristol Unitarians Strategy Group

Volunteers required for new Strategy Group to evaluate Frenchay and UMB congregation's vision, strengths and goals

We are in changing times so aim to review our plans. We will be following and exploring a model for congregational development created by John Bates, a Unitarian based at New Unity, London. This model is being followed by a number of Unitarian congregations around the country. Our strategy group will be facilitated by Peter Bruce and will be covered in around 4 zoom meetings each one lasting 90 minutes. The group will then present some proposals and action points for both congregations to take up in their own time and in their own way. 

If you would like to take part in this strategy working group please let Peter know on or 07527118586 if you want to talk about what's needed - we are looking for around 6 people representing the diversity of our congregations. We will then find an evening slot that all of us can attend.

Many Thanks,
John Harley, Mark Stewart, Angela Bufton


Wednesday Check-In's and Candle Lighting

Usually 2nd and 4th Wednesdays in the month, 7-8pm on Zoom

(Apply to for Zoom joining details).

Sharing news, lighting candles of joy and concern, caring for each other as community. All welcome!

October 2020

Reset The Debt

Request from our member Paul Wheeler to forward this to our membership and publish here on our website.

Reset The Debt is a united call from several UK church organisations for the Government to set up a fund to pay off debts that low income families have been driven in to as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. This would be a practical way for the Government to help those whose lives have been most severely worsened by the lockdown and ongoing restrictions.

Those who support this call are invited to email their MP. The Reset The Debt website provides a template email, which can be amended if desired.

Click here to see the website: Reset The Debt


An Autumn Poem

Written by Karl Stewart, 1/10/2020

Here in Autumn's waking 
This new and familiar season is born, 
Returning as it did last year, 
Putting to rest the exhausted branches of Summer's leaves, 
So strong, the trees holding.

The new day
Again and again.
Just as the sun rises as it's able, 
Over the houses and office blocks. 
The crisp morning air that passes undaunted, 
Again, find ourselves coming full circle, 
Walking the path through the season. 
Autumn hasn't a promise or oath, 
It just is.

This Autumn sun 
Different in its purity; 
Not that of Summer - 
It has a new message. 
Every walking and waking second
A falling leaf passes by again.

Whilst these days put to rest the summer, 
We know it'll come again, 
But first let us see the beauty of each season as it arises, 
It has no wish from now to the next. 
The season just is, 
Winter isn't far - that'll tell us another story.

For now we can enjoy the leaves 
And the work that we see squirrels doing:
Feasting and searching with each other, 
As they, like us, harvest for Winter's coming.

May we all remain present as will the seasons, 
As the Autumn days turn straw-like in the fading sun 
And the sepia light, 
As it finds its way to the joyful dark of sunset. 

Weekly Emails

​We're trying to limit these weekly emails to one per week, so that people don't get bored of them and start sending them to junk. I will try to send these emails out on a Saturday to include the next two weeks of service joining details, so please let me have any information you'd like distributed here in good time. I can always update the NEWS page of the website as your bulletins come in. Many thanks, Mark. 

September 2020

Celebrating Raja Rammohan Roy

Brigid Benson

Dear friends,
The website below this text refers to a ceremony in 2018 but gives good brief synopsis of Raja Rammohan Roy, & this remarkable man’s life. Highly respected in his lifetime then honoured by others inc Gandhi since his death.

Until I moved to Bristol in 2014, I had never heard of this special, spiritual social activist, credited with creating the term Hindu, as described below. He lived at Beech House, just opposite our flat at Linden House and was originally buried in the gardens outside there. There is a path from the road Barkleys Hill towards Beech House, named after him and I sometimes walk it just to keep him in mind, a slight detour on my way back.
When the house & land was sold, the decorative tomb and remains were transferred to
Arnos Vale Cemetary - a more fitting place to visit & pay homage. In his lifetime, he was apparently a wellknown & colourful figure as he walked about the streets of Bristol.
He was interested in & sought to accomplish many things, including syncretism and the oneness of creation & our spiritual being. This led him to a close association with the Unitarians who had a significant presence in Bristol at the time. Other Unitarians today certainly know much more about him than I do.
There is still a Raja committee in Bristol which seeks to keep his memory alive, principally by an annual comemmoration at the Cemetary. Unitarians have traditionally been part of this committee & event. There is still a lovely statue of Raja between Bristol Townhall & The Cathedral but otherwise, I fear the profile is not being kept alive in the way it deserves. This man achieved so much that has endured, both in the UK & India, including the right for women to receive education, the law to abolish the Sati system, burning of widows on funeral pyre.

So, wherever you are this Sunday, I hope you will join me in remembering this wonderful man.

One Love

August 2020

Open Minds Together

This is an initiative developed by John's cousin Rupert Taverner - he asked if we could pass this onto Bridport and Bristol congregations. John is aiming to attend. 

"We are a new initiative in the Alton area that aims to create a welcoming and informal space for people to connect with others around a range of social and political themes, issues or challenges of our age."

See for futher information.

Returning Home to Frenchay Chapel Services

By Mary Cowley

Our visit to the chapel on Sunday for the first in-person service since lockdown was very special. We have not walked further than short walks from our flat since March and the only outings by taxi in that time have been to hospital or doctor. So, finding ourselves (suitably masked of course) in the chapel garden, looking at its best with the front path lined with colourful geraniums, was quite overwhelming. Andrew, acting as steward, took our temperatures (with a non-touch thermometer), pointed us to where we needed to sanitise our hands and directed us to our well spaced out seats. 

We felt very safe throughout, with everyone at least 2 metres from us and at the end we did not linger inside but went out into the garden, where we were able to chat with several people, all very aware of socially distancing. John did the actual lighting of candles of joy and concern, as requested by members of the congregation (those present and also those on Zoom), so we did not need to move from our positions. Readings by members of the congregation were done from our seats. This did not work for those on Zoom, who could not hear but technical wizard Peter is looking at rectifying that. No hymn books were used but we were given printed sheets, so that we could gently hum or mouth the words, as the music was played on Peter’s computer. 

There was also very beautiful music for us to listen to. Our drive home also felt significant, as the taxi driver was extremely interested in what Unitarians believe - we could have gone on for hours but he had work to do! After weeks of Zoom meetings and services, being with real people in a real place was momentous. It was an historic day for the chapel and we felt honoured to be part of it. The theme of the service was the Beatitudes and we certainly came home, feeling very blessed. If you are unsure about venturing out to the next in person service, I hope you can see that is being made as safe as possible and we would love to see you there.