Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

12 September 2021



“The Story is the Thing”



“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the Universe together into one garment for us.”

~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

(US Unitarian Author)





words by John Carter


We light our chalice, this candle,

          as a sign of our connectedness, our community, and of our journey on this spiritual quest called life….


We take a moment to reflect on our life and living of this week… as we reflect…. explore and ask of yourself….

          What was good? Healthy?

          What was not good? Unhealthy?

          What moments, events, conversations, time alone

          that allowed me to connect to another, to life,

                               to that which may be called Divine.


In taking the time to explore, ask, reflect, and finally to name what was good, what wasn’t, and those important connections for you, there is a release for you to grow, to change what needs to be changed, and to reflect-fully live your life.


May the Great Spirit of the Journey walk with us today.




SYF 125 (CD SYF 2/ TK 7)

“One more step along the world I go”

words by Sydney Carter


One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go,

from the old things to the new, keep me travelling along with you;

          and it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.


Round the corners of the world I turn, more and more about the world I learn;

all the new things that I see you’ll be looking at along with me;

          and it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.


As I travel through the bad and good, keep me travelling the way I should;

where I see no way to go you’ll be telling me the way, I know;

          and it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.


Give me courage when the world is rough, keep me loving though the world is tough; leap and sing in all I do, keep me travelling along with you;

          and it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.


You are older than the world can be, you are younger than the life in me;

ever old and ever new, keep me travelling along with you;

          and it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.



“Q3: Does ‘Unitarian’ have the same meaning today?”

Unitarian? What’s That?

by Cliff Reed


Unitarians are less likely to argue about such strictly theological issues today. We now place more stress on the importance of liberty of conscience in matters of faith.


It is still true, though, that most Unitarians affirm the oneness of God: the Divine Unity. Traditionally this was about God as one ‘person.’ Nowadays, however, God’s unity is often seen rather differently: as the oneness of that Ground of Being within which we and all things come to be. Following from this, many Unitarians affirm that the infinite variety and diversity of the universe is connected and enfolded in a transcendent oneness. Thus unity is the true and essential nature of things.


Just as creation is one, so too humanity is one and the human person is one. What divides is less important than what unites. That which unites — the ultimate unifying principle or spirit — is what many Unitarians mean today when speaking of God.





A conversation about G_D

by Alice Walker, The Colour Purple


“Dear Nettie,


I don’t write to God no more, I write to you.


What happen to God? ast Shug.


Who that? I say.


She look at me serious.


Big a devil as you is, I say, you not worried bout no God, surely.


She say, Wait a minute. Hold on just a minute here. Just because I don’t harass it like some peoples us know don’t mean I ain’t got religion.


What God do for me? I ast.


She say, Celie! Like she shock. He gave you life, good health, and a good woman that love you to death.


Yeah, I say, and he give me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister I probably won’t ever see again. Anyhow, I say, the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown.


Shug say, Miss Celie, You better hush. God might hear you.


Let ‘im hear me, I say. If he ever listened to poor coloured women the world be a different place, I can tell you…..All my life I never care what people thought bout nothin I did, I say. But deep in my heart I care about God. What he going to think. And come to find out, he don’t think. Just sit up there glorying in being deef, I reckon. But it ain’t easy, trying to do without God. Even if you know he ain’t there, trying to do without him is a strain.


I is a sinner, say Shug. Cause I was born. I don’t deny it. But once you find out what’s out there waiting for us, what else can you be?


Sinners have more good times, I say.


You know why?


Cause you ain’t all the time worrying bout God…


Naw, that ain’t it. Us worry bout God a lot. But once us feel loved by God, us do the best us can to please him with what us like.


You telling me God love you, and you ain’t never done nothing for him? I mean, not go to church, sing in the choir, feed the preacher and all like that?


But if God love me, Celie, I don’t have to do all that. Unless I want to. There’s a lot of other things I can do that I speck God likes.


Like what?


Oh…I can lay back and just admire stuff. Be happy. Have a good time. Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.


Some folks didn’t have him to share, They the ones didn’t speak to me while I was there struggling with my big belly or with Mr____’s children.


Right….. here’s the thing, The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like…..




Yeah, it! God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.


But what do it look like?


Don’t look like nothing. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything…everything that is or ever was or ever will be. When you can feel that and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it…..My first step from the old white man in the sky was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all round the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like you know what…..




Oh, God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. When you know God loves ‘em you enjoys ‘em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.


God don’t think it dirty?


Naw…God made it. Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.


You saying God vain?


Naw, not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.


What it do when it pissed off?


Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.




Yeah, it always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.


You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.


Yes Celie, everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?


Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that? Not the colour purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.


Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool….still as Shug say,


You have to git man off you eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall. Man corrupt everything. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock.


But this hard work, let me tell you. He be there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all.


Every time I conjure up a rock….I throws it.





Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

by Naomi Shihab Nye


After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,

I heard the announcement:

If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,

Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.


An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,

Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.

Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her

Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she

Did this.


I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.


Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,

Sho bit se-wee?


The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—

She stopped crying.


She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.

She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the

Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.


We called her son and I spoke with him in English.

I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and

Would ride next to her—Southwest.


She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and

Found out of course they had ten shared friends.


Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian

Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then.

Telling about her life.



She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered

Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—

And was offering them to all the women at the gate.


To my amazement, not a single woman declined one.


It was like a Sacrament.


The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,

The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same

Powdered sugar.

And smiling.

There are no better cookies.


And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—

Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African

American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice

And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.


And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—

Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves.


Such an old country traveling tradition. Always

Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.


And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,


This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped

—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.


They took the cookies.

I wanted to hug all those other women too.


This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.



SYF 35 (CD SYF 3/TK 7)

“Find a stillness”

words by Carl G. Seaburg, based on a Transylvanian Unitarian Text


Find a stillness, hold a stillness, let the stillness carry me.

Find the silence, hold the silence, let the silence carry me.

In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,

I will find true harmony.


Seek the essence, hold the essence, let the essence carry me.

Let me flower, help me flower, watch me flower, carry me.

In the spirit, by the spirit, with the spirit giving power,

I will find true harmony.



“The Frog in the Well” Chinese Fable by Zhuang Zhi, as retold by John Carter


The Chinese tell of a frog who lived in an old, crumbling brown stone well. No one used it anymore so the frog had it all to itself. This frog was born in that well, and loved it. It had everything that the frog needed.


Occasionally, the frog wondered if there should be more to life. Yet being comfortable with the world as it is, the mossy ring of stones, the neat little circle of blue above and water below, and the rhythms of the day, the frog was content.


Very rarely the frog would see something looking down from above and then as sudden as it was there it disappeared. The long nights and short days allowed the frog the time to dream.


To dream of a bigger world, with broader horizons and longer days… and other frogs croaking by other waters.


And the frog would wake, blink slowly and sigh…


“These are foolish dreams. Look around and see, there are no other waters, and no other frogs”


One day the frog was awoken by a noise, and looking up saw a creature like none other, it’s wizened face had black beady eyes, and when it moved the frog could see a domed shell upon it’s back.


“Hello” it said in a deep husky voice.


“Hello” responded the frog, “what kind of creature are you?”


“I am a turtle, one my home is the wide blue ocean.”


“I don’t believe you, this is the only world, and I have only just seen you in it.”


The turtle chuckled and said “If you think this is the only world, then you have much to learn my friend.” And the turtle went on to describe all that it had seen of the world.


The frog listened, spellbound. “Such a large world…”


And yet as the frog looked at it’s secure snug well, it’s familiar circle of sky and water it was scared…


“What must it be like out there?”


Yet something stirred within the Frog, curiosity, adventure, longing for others, who knows, and the frog decided to climb out of it’s well, stone to stone, upward climbing, until the cool breeze touched it’s damp skin, and off in the distance another frog croaked.


Gazing with excitement at the wide world, the Frog thanked the wise turtle, and with it’s sight on the wide horizon the Frog hopped off to explore this trilling new world.



“Encounter on the Frontier”  A Quaker Tale, as retold by John Carter


The Quakers tell of an encounter during the colonial days in the north America.

In telling this, they go to great lengths to be clear that what happened on this day was not always the outcome that other meetings experienced.


It was a time of troubles, some of the western native nations were attacking villages, killing the villagers and setting the buildings afire.


In one Quaker village, on a Sunday morning, as they were gathered in meeting, they heard some noises, their leader saw their anxious faces and bid them to be calm. When the door to the meeting house opened.


In walked a war party of the one the native nations.


Again the quaker leader held his silence and subtly directed the meeting to continue in silent worship. When the chief of the party saw this, he sat down with them and his men did and joined the Quakers in worship. It was said that the meeting told of their worries during this hour of worship, unsure if they would live or die.


Still they held their silence, and continued their worship.


When the warriors began to slowly stand and move, the Quakers knew that they were ready to meet death, yet the warriors began to leave.


The chief was the last to stand…. And he left he said to meeting…


“We have felt the great spirit of us all, here with you, we shall not harm you.”



What stories of our chapel bring a smile to you?

During this weekend’s Heritage open house, what do you tell others of our history?



This week during the minister’s retreat at Great Hucklow, I spoke of my reaction to the Wizard of Oz. That the wizard of oz and I have a complex relationship.


I never met a Dorothy while I lived in Kansas.


While the home I lived in flew away one June evening, I was left behind to live with the destruction of the storm, not escaping to a fantasy, techno-coloured alternative world.


In this conversation it was the second movie made of the story with which I was reacting, The one that stared Judy Garland.


In fact one of the things I was often asked, that was when meeting me, was something along the lines of did I know Dorothy, being from Kansas. It is nothing original, I got the question as example when I was a fresher at my university in Fresno California I was asked the same thing.


So I learned to live it, roll my eyes and prepared for the second question about tornados, which allowed me the chance to tell of the story of a hot windy June evening, which the tornados swept in from the opposite direction, and destruction ensued.


Over the years I have been amazed at the milage I have gotten out of a childhood experience. I am amazed by the way the Wizard of Oz still sparks children’s imagination, and how the story told and retold still captivates we adults.


L Frank Baum wrote about 20 stories about Oz. One even happens after Dorothy had visited family in Australia and when on her return ended up shipwrecked. Baum did try to stop writing them but the demand was too great and so he continued. To fair you can tell this in the quality of story telling, the later books are not nearly as good as the earlier books.


One item most people are not aware of is that when Baum wrote the first book he placed Dorothy in North Dakota. But realised that as most of his immediate family lived there, he would not be welcomed because of his dire descriptions of the place, so he moved it to Kansas.


Over the years people have tried to describe what Baum did as political satire of the current political directions and leadership of the US. Which one could argue his placing Dorothy in Kansas, was due to Kansas’ history of a radical kind a leftist political thought up to the early twentieth century. But this is speculation, and considering the number of books written it is clear that if political satire was behind the first, it quickly disappeared.


Early on in the film industry, there was a film made of the first book.


But the film we know was the second one. The one to show off the studio’s expensive new toy, Techno-Colour. The shoes were changed from being silver, in the book, to being ruby in the film, so they would pop more on screen. The landscape was bright and beautiful, and we all went on an adventure with Dorothy, Toto, Cowardly Lion, the rusty Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Bright flowers dotted the way, and that field of poppies…..


What the film did, was to give the adventure, what it didn’t give was the lesion of the book. At the end of the film we see the lion getting courage, the tin man a heart, scarecrow a brain, and Dorothy a way back home.


Yet when I read the stories by L. Frank Baum

I saw a different pattern to his story telling and that was…


In each incident…


The lion always acted with courage even when he scared to shaking,


The Tin man always was moved to compassion without a beating heart, bursting into tears because he stepped on an ant and crushed it,


Scarecrow, head full of straw, always figured out a way through their troubles, and


Dorothy always knew home, even when she didn’t realise it, she knew deep within a place called home.



For Our Home

A reworking of the the prayer: A Morning Prayer

From the British League of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women, 1928

by Rev John Philip Carter


Divine Spirit of Life,

G_D of many names and of none


May we know this day that you are a part of our lives and our living.

May all that we do, our actions, our duties, our hard, arguious and distasteful tasks show forth a joy and contentment that we have come to know in our walk upon this good green earth.


May we always see the beauty of our home, the world around us, no matter where we walk, nor what circumstances we find ourselves.

May our hands reach out to all things in love, compassion and understanding…

          seeking a way to bring healing and wholeness to our suffering and broken                             world.

May our hearts be open to all life surrounding us.


May our spirits learn from our earth’s many spiritual masters and mistresses so that we too may lead lives befitting ones called to divine purposes.


Ones called to be a light,

Ones called to be a blessing,

Ones called to serve all life.


May we be such a people for such a time as we live

          serving the whole of this beautiful world and all that live upon her.





SYF 193 (CD SYF 3/TRACK 20)

“We laugh, we cry”

words by Shelley Jackson Denham


We laugh, we cry, we live, we die, we dance, we sing our song.

We need to feel there’s something here to which we can belong.

We need to feel the freedom just to have some time alone.

But most of all we need close friends we can call our very own.

          And we believe in life, and in the strength of love,

          and we have found a need to be together.

          We have our hearts to give, we have our thoughts to receive,

          and we believe that sharing is an answer.


A child is born amongst us and we feel a special glow.

We see time’s endless journey as we watch the baby grow.

We thrill to hear imagination freely running wild.

We dedicate our minds and hearts to the spirit of the child.

          And we believe in life, and in the strength of love,

          and we have found a time to be together.

          And with the grace of age, we share the wonder of youth,

          and we believe that growing is an answer.


Our lives are full of wonder and our time is very brief.

The death of one amongst us fills us all with paint and grief.

But as we live, so shall we die, and when our lives are done

the memories we shared with friends, they will linger on and on.

          And we believe in life, and in the strength of love,

          and we have found a place to be together.

          We have the right to grow, we have the gift to believe

          that peace within our living is an answer.



We seek elusive answers to the questions of this life.

We seek to put an end to all the waste of human strife.

We search for truth, equality, and blessed peace of mind.

And then we come together here, to make sense of what we find.

          And we believe in life, and in the strength of love,

          and we have found a joy to be together.

          And in our search for peace, maybe we’ll finally see:

          even to question truly is an answer.




Words by John Carter


In our searching to become

The Beloved Community…


As we wander

As we grow, and

As we become…


May Good guide us

May Love sustain us

May life empower us….


As we live out our answering of these questions in our quest to be faithful to the task set before us.

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