Newsletter December 2017 / January 2018

From the Desk

Karl Stewart

Looking back on the past year, there have been many great things we have achieved in all our working together. Aside of working together of course, we have laughed, consoled, cared, learned, taught, shared, spoken, listened. Not agreed, agreed, enjoyed much happiness in all that we share together in compassion and empathy. All we have done has mattered as we not only keep going, not only will we keep going in what matters, we will continue as travellers on a journey. As we look at the season of Advent, we will all have had many different experiences and perspectives, that may have been taught to us. Or that we may feel are still relevant today. Only now we have the freedom in believing what we must. That is a very true and simple gift, we can all discern. 

I look forward very much to the very special time this season affords us in our being together in true simplicity, on the path towards what the real meaning of Christmas is to us as a family of seekers and believers, and all that the new beginnings of Epiphany shall bring.

It’s been a great joy to have our Minister, John Harley, this year who has achieved some good things with us already - thank you John. And in working with John the Rainbow Path course has been a pleasure to lead. Thank you to all those who bring music, flowers, making drinks, treasury, fixing things, fundraising, secretarial and minute taking, chairing and cleaning, phoning and listening and giving a lift, all the engagement of our worship, as we live in the work of all that is our ministry together.
As we give of what we can discern of our heart, let’s give without condition in grace. What we give as our little today, may be someone else's plenty tomorrow. All are worthy to come and feast.

Again, thank you for all you’ve done. Peace and joy this season.
Yours in faith with love and care.
Karl Stewart. Chair UMB.

A poem by Wilfred Owen

Submitted by Paul Wheeler

The browns, the olives, and the yellows died,
And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed
Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide…

From our Minister

Rev. John Harley

A letter to a friend
A letter written by a poor monk, Fra Giovanni, to the Contessina Allagia della Aldobrandeschi, a great Italian lady, on Christmas eve, 1513.

“I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!”

These words are over 500 years old yet they still hold a great deal of power for our 21st century lives. Fra Giovanni can’t give the lady anything material for Christmas but he can challenge her to see things differently, to change her outlook on the world; to allow heaven in and to believe in peace and joy. 

For me, even more fundamental than the Christ child being at the heart of Christmas is that a vulnerable and ordinary baby, born from refugee parents, born in a barn in poverty, is at the centre of this story. Any baby, every baby can be a saviour to us if we dare to change our perspective. We have all experienced how babies and children often see the world differently – they bring a truth, an innocence, an ability to trust, a playfulness, a spontaneity into our adult world. They can literally wake us up from our cynicism and tiredness. So let us reflect on the advice from Fra Giovanni: ‘I beseech you to look’. Can we see life differently this Christmas time, can we find a fresh way to see something that looked like a problem, can we allow our intuitive, imaginative selves see something new or surprising beyond the gloom? Can we truly hear the revolutionary, transformational message that new life brings? Can we see the light? Can we listen to the child deep in us and respond to his or her needs? 

I wish you all much inspiration and warmth this Christmas time and extraordinary discoveries in the way you see things. If you are looking for some new perspectives in the coming New Year you may like to join us for some of our special regular events. These are all ways of exploring and building a sense of community together and developing and deepening our spiritual selves through creativity and sharing. Do join us also for our Sunday worship and continue your journey in worth-ship. 

Bright Lights at UMB: on the third Sunday of each month from 3-5pm. Join us for creativity, compassion, community and cake. This group is for all ages – from 2 to 102; we have an exciting mixture of games, art, storytelling, tea and ritual. 

Discussion Group at UMB: on the 4th Sunday of each month from 6-7pm with tea and coffee at 5.45. Typical topics for discussion: Genetic Engineering: Is it playing God? Can sex be spiritual? Social media is bad for our mental health. There's no such thing as truth.

Rainbow Path: on the third Wednesday of each month at Frenchay – 7-9pm. Open to all. Explore your roots and wings with like-minded people through creativity, discussion, meditation and fellowship. 

Group Meditation at Frenchay: on the second Monday of each month – 6-7.30pm. Person centred – relax into peacefulness. 

Worship Inspiration Forum: on the second Thursday bi-monthly at Frenchay. (14 December, 8 February, 7.30-9.15pm). Open to all who conduct worship or wish to conduct worship in the future. Join us to share ideas, good practice and sharing of wisdom. 

Visiting: I would also like to remind everyone that if you would like to request a pastoral visit do get in touch. I am available for visiting homes or meeting in town for a coffee on the third Saturday of each month or other specially arranged times.

John Harley and 07985 900935

Plan for Bright Lights and Worship on Sunday 17th December at UMB:
Bright Lights 3-4.30, Tea and cake – 4.30-5.15, Worship 5.15-6

Frenchay Windows Dedication Service

On Sunday 19th November Frenchay Chapel held their windows dedication service to honour the fundraising for the windows restoration and thank the sponsors of the fourth plaque. The service was led by Rev. John Harley, it was attended by 38 people and was a great success. Our ongoing thanks to Pauline Furnivall for organising the windows appeal. 

Below: Not a Christmas cake, not a birthday cake, but a windows cake - made for the dedication of the restored windows at Frenchay. 

Unitarian Women’s League - Triennial Rally, Luther King House, Manchester 18th - 19th October 2017

Twenty members of the Women’s League and three men attended the Triennial Rally held at Luther King House, Manchester in October 2017. Our President Rev Celia Cartwright leda service, in the chapel. Celia lit the chalice and we then sang “We light the flame that kindles our devotions”. We shared candles of concern and then sang “We are daughters of the stars”. Celia's theme throughout the service was to encourage the League to move forward and our last hymn was “Let it be the dance we do”. 

At the business meeting held on Wednesday morning it was reported that “Heads Together” had declined our proposal that they be this year’s Project on the grounds that they had been overwhelmed with such offers. They did, however, point us in the direction of their partner mental health charities. After discussion it was felt that we should revert to one of the charities originally put forward at the Central Committee in February 2017. and from these the charity ‘UK Sepsis Trust’ was chosen for 2018/19. 

A card of greetings from Eunice Smith was read out and the meeting was informed that Eunice would be standing down as Project Treasurer in April 2018 and all agreed to accept Ann Harrison’s offer to take over this work. Ann has stated that she will not be able to compile the League Annual this year. Ann also sent greetings. Jean Bradley also sent word that she was resigning as Treasurer of the India Fund and it was agreed that Janet Poole take over this post. Cards were signed and have been sent to Eunice and Jean. The next Rally will be on 17th and 18th October 2018 at Whalley Abbey. Joy Foster made an impassioned speech on behalf of the League Letter. She felt that there were many social issues to be highlighted and that we should speak to the wider community and not just ourselves. 

Discussions in the Thursday morning continuation of the meeting were very lively and ideas need to be digested. There was general agreement that we should try to change our image starting with a different format for the AGM. The Project should be made central to the AGM, a warm welcome should be given to visitors by the President and the business should be kept short. The wording of the Mission Statement in the GA Directory was also discussed and ideas on this given to Celia, our President. 

On the first evening there was “”Show and Tell” with many items of interest including Runcible spoons, fans, a wartime postcard and a certificate from British Airways presented to a member who had attended a course to overcome “Fear of Flying”. The visit to Mrs Gaskell’s house on the second afternoon was very enjoyable and greatly appreciated. Our guides were very knowledgeable and stressed the Gaskell family’s contribution to the life of Manchester in the 19th Century. 

Susan Wildman - Secretary - Unitarian National Women's League

Items to donate for Caring at Christmas  - Please bring to the Gift Services on Sunday 10th December. 

The Elton John Experience Fundraising Concert at UMB – with Band!

Tickets also available in advance at £5 each after services.

“While many old men may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” 
GK Chesterton