The Wisdom of Mountains - service transcript, Rev. John Harley, 16.8.2020

Music to settle – Summer – The Four Seasons by Vivaldi – Recomposed by Max Richter

The wisdom of mountains and storms

Good morning to all our friends at Bridport, Bristol, Frenchay and beyond

Opening words

As opening words I have chosen some short quotes by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran in honour of all the people of Beirut in these very challenging times

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.

I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons and daughters of one religion, and it is the spirit.

And some words to light our chalice

Rumi, the Persian mystic – born in the area of land now called Afghanistan
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”

Wherever you have travelled you are welcome here,

Whatever you bring, you are welcome here

Whoever you are you are welcome to this community of warmth and curiosity and hope.


Greetings – let us greet one another…..

Take 3 big breaths

Let’s take some big breaths. Take in the oxygen that sustains all life on this planet, take in the shared breath of life that connects all living things together. Breathe and know you are alive and present.

Song – sung by a Unitarian choir…..

Breathe in, breathe out

When I breathe in, I'll breathe in peace.

When I breathe out, I'll breathe out love.


Many of us have been shocked by the terrible explosion in Beirut that struck on 4 August and killed 150 people, injured 5000 and made 300,000 homeless -

I would like to share a poem and a short meditation before we join together for silence…..

Beirut By Jeanette LeBlanc

There is not enough air in the room but you are breathing.

There is nobody here but you are held.

You have broken and the world is breaking and we will always rebuild.

Do you hear me, love?

We will always rebuild.

Meditation words by Brianna Curran, Washington, DC

We’re often told that tragedies are inevitable in this life, and that we can’t appreciate light without the darkness. This is said about some places in the world more than others, especially as we’ve become unfairly accustomed through media portrayals of the Middle East to accept war and destruction as an inevitable part of daily life. This week, LeBlanc’s words struck deep, “You have broken and the world is breaking.” Vastly greater and more powerful than the inevitability of tragedy, though, is the certainty of human resilience, of empathy, and of solidarity. LeBlanc reassures us that despite suffocating moments of heartbreak, “you are breathing.” Despite the loneliness of feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, “you are held.” Now is the time to mourn, to question, to breathe, to hold and be held. As we try to make sense of the world breaking around us, let us remind each other of LeBlanc’s words: “We will always rebuild. Do you hear me, love? We will always rebuild.”

Let us bring our shock, our rage, our compassion, our sadness to a healing time of silence


May we all share the responsibility and vision to help rebuild for we all have hands to comfort, to construct, to reach out, to receive, to let go.


Lebanese music

Nancy Irjam – Hassa Beek

A story


A young man sought employment on a farm. He handed a letter to his potential employer that read, “He sleeps in a storm.” The desperate owner needed help, so he hired the young man despite his enigmatic letter.

Several weeks passed and, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm ripped through the valley. Awakened by the storm, the owner jumped out of bed. He called for his new employee, but the man was sound asleep. The owner dashed to the barn and to his amazement, the animals were safe with plenty of food. He hurried to the nearby field only to see that the bales of wheat were already bound and wrapped in tarpaulins. He ran to the silo. The doors were latched and the grain was dry.

And then the owner understood, “He sleeps in a storm.”

“My friends, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of “I could have, I should have.” We can sleep in a storm. And when it’s time, our good-byes will be complete.”[1]

[1]Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith: A True Story. New York: Hyperion, 2009, 93.

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... Aha-ah...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Gale Force by Elizabeth Tarbox

Candles of Joy and Concern

May all our hopes and wishes and visions burn brightly and show us the way in all our journeys. Amen

High places and dogs

Have you been up to any high places over the last few months?

Lizzie and I have been cycling or walking up some of the hills that surround Bridport – we have had picnics on Eggardon and Lewesdon Hills

Most recently we walked up Pilsdon Pen – with the impressive contours of an iron age fort at the top now enjoyed by sheep

We looked for miles, and escaped from zoom meetings for a while, and looked down on our lives from a different perspective

It made me think of Thomas Hardy’s poem Wessex Heights

Some of the stanzas go like this……

Wessex Heights

There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.

In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man’s friend –
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend:
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one’s next neighbour is the sky.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

I love these lines – I’m a keen fell walker and I know what he means about stepping out of time and also leaving ones mind chains behind – I think I come to my best solutions in life when in high places

High places can be thin places – where we can get in touch with other worlds and times – and mountains can be healing places 

From Hollering Sun, 1972, by Nancy Wood

My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one
give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.

Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England was in the news recently

Did you hear about the rescue of a St Bernard dog called Daisy?

Daisy collapsed at the peak in a state of exhaustion – Wasdale Mountain rescue team was alerted – and a 16 strong team came with a special stretcher to take the dog down to safety – it took 5 hours to get her down to the valley –the dog weighed 8 stone and 9lb - as they had difficult ground to negotiate including a waterfall – Daisy made a full recovery and the team had got some unusual practice

This made me reflect a bit

St Bernards are of course famous rescue dogs of the Italian and Swiss Alps– rescuing around 2000 people since the `18th century- they are named after the Great St Bernard Hospice – a travellers rest in the often treacherous Great St Bernard Pass – the hospice is named after Bernard of Menthor – the 11th century monk who established the post

The extraordinary story of Daisy for me – was that it was about the rescue of a dog famous for being a rescuer!

How do we care for those who are the carers?

This made me think about all the carers, particularly young carers, who care for family members without any applause or awards. Do we as a society care for them enough?

We have been clapping for our amazing NHS staff over the lockdown months – we have been calling them heroes – and politicians have got into trouble for trying to give them medals! Many NHS workers have responded by saying we don’t want medals – we just want fair pay for the work we do and the risks we take and the right resources to keep us safe

Many of us can think of saviours who have cared for us selflessly at different times in our lives – sometimes when we least expected it – sometimes friends and sometimes strangers - and some of us have been St Bernards for others in peril – perhaps without the Brandy! In our society we seem to have a habit of officially decorating people with various awards but of course our communities are kept alive and kicking by hundreds of unsung heroes and heroines– there may be some here at this service!

Apparently the collective term for a group of St Bernards is a floof – though I would have guessed a slobber – let us pause for a moment and think of the floofs in our lives – those who have given us hospitality and support and given us the courage to get down into the valley safely

Perhaps one of the deepest experiences of being human is to care for one another and be cared for.

Did you hear about the woman who once stood before God – Dear God she cried – look at all the suffering and anguish and distress in your world – why didn’t you send help?

God replied – I did send help – I sent you

I would like to finish with some words by David Whyte – a poet from Northern England – he seems to give us a different take on the meaning of courage


is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but a look at its linguistic origins leads us in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, Coeur, or heart.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

- David Whyte

Mountain Refrain – song - Jane

You can’t kill the spirit it is like a mountain

Old and strong it goes on and on and on

Closing words

After darkness comes the dawn. I know your resilience, your strength and your solidarity, nurtured by your mix of cultures, by this special place you occupy, half way between the Arab world and Europe. Tomorrow, you will rise up as you have always done before. Music will pour once again from your windows, people will dance on your terraces and perfumes will waft from your kitchens. I will be there.

Mika is a Lebanese-born, British singer songwriter

Music to close

Never too late by Michael Franti and Spearhead

You are welcome to join small break out groups if you wish