Newsletter December 2014 to January 2015

From the Desk

Dear all,
Firstly it’s with great sadness we have so very recently lost a very dear and committed member of our Unitarian family and loving community, Bob Cook past away suddenly, I along with you all mourn this sad loss. Bob was such a kind and truly gentle man, we will always hold so many happy memories of him.

Music is a priceless gift, which Bob bought to us as part of the ministry we share together as we all have our own thoughts and memories of him, our thoughts and prayers, for his family are that of unconditional love from us all. The memory of his kind and loving spirit and the greatest gifts of the music he brought, to all for every occasion will be those that will last for a long time, we will all miss him greatly; there are so many lives he touched not only for us, but those who he knew through his work, and the many people he played for in weddings, funerals, memorial services, the special occasions at Frenchay Chapel and UMB. I along with you all who came will remember how special he made our wedding service last year to and his happiness for all.

In loving memory of Bob Cook, now and always with the light of the divine sprit we all join in believing. Never shall we forget. We will remember, Amen.

Thank you all once again for all that has been done this year, in both chapels and for all we have left to do in the remaining few weeks of this year, everything we have done in unity is what holds us together, in great strength. Along with sad moments and the joys we share, it means so much the care and compassion we show one another, is great testament in our human kindness. All we do and say matters, and the time we spend in faith and fellowship, not only on a Sunday but the week as it passes too. Thank you for a thought, a phone call, a lift to chapel, stepping in to help, and so much more. And most of all, when we get it a little wrong, thank you for forgiveness.
I look forward to the services ahead and times we shall continue to share together.

I wish you all a happy Christmas and new year.

Yours with all good wishes, in faith and fellowship with love.

Karl Stewart, Chair – UMB. 

Bob playing the organ at UMB at Karl and Mark's wedding, 13.7.14

Reflection for the life of Bob Cook

How can anyone sum up in a few words the life of someone we have grown to love and respect over so many years?

I certainly cannot do that, but here are a few memories of the gifts that Bob brought not only to our chapels, but to my life personally.

Most ministers will tell you that many church organists are renowned for their own particular ways of doing things – things they will do, and things they won't!!

Bob was no exception to this – but this is what made him such a loveable character.... you knew where you stood – he was amazingly reliable – always there... he even brought me lunch to Frenchay when we had a child blessing in the morning and a wedding in the afternoon. Good job I was not a vegetarian! How could I have said “no” to his beef sandwich!

You might have thought that Bob was just the traditional sort when it came to music – and of course, he was at heart.

But I remember how thrilled and pleased with himself he sounded when he was asked to play some Beatles songs for a wedding.... and did it brilliantly... … and he was always open to unusual requests.

When I first new him I was surprised at his need to have hymns and other music given to him well ahead of time so as he said “he could practice”.

With his skills and experience I thought this unusual. However, maybe this was a glimpse into his more sensitive side –and his need to make sure that he could deliver.

He once told me what an honour it was to be asked to play at our Carol Services....

Bob was both thoughtful and generous … he was always “just there” when we needed him. He will be badly missed but remembered with great love and affection.

Lindy Latham, November 2014

Bob Cook

We have all been saddened by the news of the sudden death of Bob Cook who died on 18th November. Our beloved organist and strong supporter of both chapels had played for nearly 600 services over the years. After a private committal there will be a service of remembrance and thanksgiving for Bob's life at the Frenchay Chapel at 2pm on Saturday 13th December. Afterwards there will be refreshments and an opportunity to share our recollections of Bob at the Friends Meeting House on Beckspool Road, a few hundred yards from Frenchay Chapel. Susan Wildman 

Rajah Day 2014

The Commemoration began at the Rajah's chattri in Arnos Vale Cemetery, with laying of flowers and the singing of two hymns and two readings from the Rajah's own prayers, by London Brahmo Samajis. Bristol's Lord Mayor, Cllr. Alistair Watson, and two representatives from the Indian High Commission were present and about 50 Brahmo Samajis from across the country, plus local Unitarians and interested Bristolians. Then the Commemoration moved into the nearby Anglican chapel for further speeches and tributes. 

The theme this year was the Rajah's death mask. This had been molded in plaster at the suggestion of John Bishop Estlin , the Unitarian surgeon from Park Street in Bristol who had been the Rajah's main doctor when he lay dying at Stapleton Grove. The mask had ended up in Edinburgh, and so Carla and the Ghosh husband-and-wife team from Bath Spa University. went up to the Grantham depository where it is held. Suman Ghosh made an excellent and most professional 15 minute film to depict the mask itself , and Swagata spoke on the linkage between the Rajah and the Unitarians of the early 1830s over the abolition of Slavery. Deepali Gaskell talked of the Rajah in England, and Sumit Chandra discussed the Rajah's modern management and presentation skills. 

Lindy spoke most movingly and offered a suitable and very Unitarian Universal Solemn Affirmation, in which visitors joined. Finally we all sang "One Human Commonwealth" to the rousing tune of Gerontius, and went off to the Spielman centre to have a lunch - Indian or other choices were laid out for us. We sat in groups or moved around until late; discussing the day, and the Rajah's continuing influence. It was a calm but satisfying event; not just a service but a time of learning and reflection plus a meeting of many old friends. 

Carla Contractor
Carla Contractor with Lord Mayor of Bristol at Rajah's memorial in Arnos Vale Cemetery

Bright Lights

After a long break the 'Bright Lights' got together again for a party and to renew old friendships on 23rd November. Almost 30 people from 3 to 90 years of age gathered on 30th November to be inspired by Rev. John Harley the National Unitarian Youth Officer who, with the help of everyone, created a tree supporting stars, spiders, squirrels and a sloth which we had made. It was good to see Lindy again. Our thanks to those who brought food contributions. 

Susan Wildman

Bright Lights Christmas Tree

Women's League

Susan Wildman attended the National Women's League Triennial Conference held at Whalley Abbey, Lancashire in October. 

A Christmas card workshop was held at UMB on 5th November and led by Ann Butler, who is a Fellowship member. Everyone enjoyed making their own cards. Those who attended the Lord Mayor's Christmas tea at the Mansion House on 3rd December were warmly greeted by the Lord Mayor and listened to carols while enjoying tea and mince pies. ...Our next meeting will be to the Tobacco Factory to see their Christmas production of "101 Dalmatians".

Susan Wildman

Lord Mayor's Christmas Tea

Women's League Members at Lord Mayor's Christmas Tea

Discussion Group

The discussion Group, led by Mark Stewart, has had a very successful year. We have covered a wide range of topics from 

"Free Will" to "Why Bother About The Environment" and "Is There A Place for God In The Modern World?". We will resume in the New Year. 

Susan Wildman

What keeps us coming back to Unitarians?

As Christmas can be a time for reflection as well as celebration, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about the past year with Bristol Unitarians. 

It is almost a year since the retirement of our minister Rev. Lindy Latham, and no-one has as yet applied for the job. We’ve had some new initiatives, which been quite successful, as well as a slight decline in numbers attending services. 

Yet we have managed to keep the show on the road, and I think we should all be proud of that. 

Bristol Unitarians is at present a group without a leader, which can lead to a feeling of insecurity and lack of direction. However, the current situation has allowed many of us to take on new responsibilities and develop new skills, which has been good to see.

The Unitarian movement was not founded by sheep, but by people who weren’t afraid to go against the grain of popular opinion. And in the same way, I don’t think we should be afraid of doing things differently, if there’s the possibility it might lead to new spiritual growth and renewal.

Unitarianism is a conviction religion, made up of people who cannot attest to a faith, which runs contrary to their own understanding.

So Unitarians have built a new faith, which holds as sacred the principle that no single person, tradition or philosophy has the monopoly on truth, and that spiritual insight can come from limitless sources and is ever-evolving.

Therefore if Unitarians stand for anything, it’s religious freedom. And religious freedom is a big thing. So the more people we have contributing to our worship and sharing their spiritual perspectives, the more we will be living by our principle of religious freedom.

So my plea to you is this: come and share your spiritual insights with us in the New Year, and help Bristol Unitarians to grow into the shining beacon of religious freedom, warmth and exploration which it could be. Your experience is unique, it is sacred, and it will be valued and treasured by us.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
From Mark Stewart