“War and preparation for war are irreconcilable with the spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ and the best interest of humankind.”
~ William J Piggott
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.
When you hear the word Peace, how do you react? How do you understand it?
When you hear the word Justice, How do you understand it? What does it mean to you? How do you react to it?
When you hear the word Righteousness? What does it mean to you? How do you react to it?
As we end these reflections, as we move to worship, may we continue to reflect on the things that make peace and how we may grow ourselves into them.
May the Great Spirit of the Journey walk with us today.
HFL 191 (CD 1/ TK15)
“To Worship Rightly”
words by John Greenleaf Whittier
Now let us sing in loving celebration:
The holier worship, which our God may bless,
Restores the lost, binds up the spirit broken,
And feeds the widowed and the parentless.
Fold to thy heart thy sister and thy brother;
Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other;
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of those whose holy work was doing good:
So shall the wide earth seem our daily temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.
Then shall all shackles fall; the stormy clangour
Of wild war-music o’er the earth shall cease;
Love shall tread out the baleful fire the anger,
And in its ashes plant the tree of peace.
The Hebraic Vision of Peace
I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
SYF 87 (CD SYF 1/TRACK 13)
Leave behind your bags and baggage
words by Peter Sampson
Leave behind your bags and baggage.
Throw all caution to the air.
Let the wind blow through the cobwebs.
Cast aside all anxious care.
Let the God of all our mercies
breathe around you everywhere.
Journey onwards never doubting
God will speak a kindly word,
looking forward, always trusting
what your heart feels will be heard.
Love your sister and your brother;
kindness will not be deterred.
In the face of war and hatred
peace and justice we extol.
Share the warmth of fellow-feeling
urging us onto our goal.
With your confidence enthuse us,
God, the life in every soul.
Historic Unitarian Voices on Peace
“The First Step”
Walter M Long (1893-1983)
“Apart from these facts we need to remind the peoples of the world that before real disarmament can come a change of heart is necessary. Men and women fear to take the step that will lead to disarmament and peace. They still hesitate to make the choice between what they know to be right and what they say is wrong. The right to have and maintain armaments shows that when all else has failed, if we so desire we may still exploit, control or conquer the weak.
We need a new idealism to start a new and nobler chapter in the history of the world. Long ago the prophet of God said ‘thev shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,’ and for ages we have been content to say “they.” But the Word of God has come to our day and generation, and instead of saying “they,” it must be “we.” We will beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning-hooks, “ We will not lift up sword against any nation,” We will learn war no more.”
Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825)
“Almost all nations have been in the habit of mixing with their bad passions a show of religion, and of prefacing these their murders with prayers and solemnities of worship. While an unjust war is in itself so bad a thing that there is only one way of making it worse – and that is by mixing religion with it.”
“Every good man owes it to his country and to his own character, to lift his voice against a ruinous war, an unequal tax or an edict of persecution, and oppose them, temperately but firmly by all means in his power.”
“A profession of belief”
The Fellowship of Emancipation for Freedom and Peace
by Stanley Mellor (1881-1926) & William J Piggott (1877-?)
(this document resulted in the foundation of the Unitarian and Free Christian Peace Fellowship in 1916.)
“I. Peace depends on Freedom, spiritual, economic, political and social: Peace and Freedom go together. It is not a question of individuals and nations saying ‘We will not do this or that’, but of determining ‘We will do this: we will be that.’
No mere physical victory of one portion of humanity over another will or can produce the positive spiritual determination necessary to a better way.
These demands involve not simply reformation of our social and industrial system, but radical reconstruction. They are, further, logically implied by any acceptance of the command to love our neighbours, apart from any question of our individual duty towards God.
III. Freedom demands, as a minimum, from the individual, the ceaseless effort to purify the inward life and character, to practise the Christian virtues of goodwill, forgiveness, sympathy, justice, generosity, kindness, to their full extent, to get rid of hatred, ill will, and selfishness completely, and to give oneself in utter devotion to the only two possible worthy lines of human activity, purification of the inner heart and emancipation of the world from the bondage of ignorance, injustice, cruelty and inequality.”
HFL 222 “Hush the sounds of war” words by William Gaskell
O God! The darkness roll away
Which clouds the human soul,
And let thy bright and holy day
Speed onward to its goal!
Let every hateful passion die
Which makes of neighbours foes,
And war no longer raise its cry
To mar the world’s repose.
How long shall glory still be found
In scenes of cruel strife,
Where misery walks, a giant crowned,
Crushing the flowers of life?
O hush, great God, the sounds of war,
And make thy children feel
That one, with thee, is nobler far
Who toils for human weal.
Let faith, and hope, and charity
Go forth through all the earth;
And we in holy friendship be
True to our heavenly birth.
Contemporary Unitarian Voices on Peace
“The Butterfly of Peace”
by Ann Gabell
Peace is an elusive thing. It’s like a butterfly;
It flutters by,
Is here – then gone. Peace at times we truly find .
We seek to hold it fast But it’s soon passed;
Was here – then gone …
Butterflies would lose their charm If long time still they stayed.
Not so they’re made;
But here – then gone …
Peace too we appreciate
The most when found between Our times of strain.
Now here – then gone …
Peace for me? Yes, on this earth I’ll glimpse from time to time Something sublime,
Now here – then gone.
“The Flower that Springs from the Ruins of War”
by John Hands
The flower that springs from the ruins of war is an inspiration
the moss that thrusts through cracks in the wall is courage made manifest
the rock that lies in the bed of the stream is patience incarnate
the tree that waves above the desolate landscape is fortitude in flower
Listen to the wind, observe the flowers, pay attention to the rushing of waters. In observation is joy, in attention is growth, in listening is peace.
Power without harm is given to him who harbours no designs on the myriad creatures.
“Spirit of my every breath”
by Joan Norton
Spirit of my every breath
Help me to recognise the good from the bad – the beautiful from the not so beautiful. Help me to accept other people, even though I may not fully understand.
Give me the grace to accept when I’m wrong, and not to gloat when I’m right.
Give me the time for those close to me, who need my time.
Help me to be a friend to those who need friendship.
Help me to try to understand this world with all its problems – the wars I cannot stop
and the injustices I cannot heal.
Help me to be a caring person in all I try to do. Spirit of my conscience, be my friend.
SYF 122, “O young and fearless prophet” words by S. Ralph Harlow
O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee,
your life is still a summons to serve humanity,
to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd,
to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts unbowed.
O help us stand answering against war’s bloody way,
where hate and lust and falsehood hold back your holy sway;
forbid false love of country, that turns us from your call
who lifts above the nation the neighbourhood of all.
Create in us the splendour that dawns when hearts are kind,
that knows not race nor station as boundaries of the mind;
that learns to value beauty, in heart, or mind, or soul,
and longs to see God’s children as sacred, perfect, whole.
Stir up in us a protest against unneeded wealth,
for some go starved and hungry who plead for work and health.
Once more give us your challenge above our noisy day,
and come to lead us forward along your holy way.
“Not Only do we Pray…we make our actions a prayer for Peace”
I get a bit twitchy around specified days for things. This Sunday is the day to pray for peace, but isn’t every day a day to pray for peace? Or Justice? Or Equity?
This doesn’t mean I disagree with them, and I am proud that Unitarians choose to specify a Sunday with peace as it’s concern. But I worry that in the doing, the naming, the designation of TODAY, is the day we pray for peace, that we may in effect have done the opposite. Instead of highlighting we have trivialised it.
After the service of praying for peace we can all go home now and forget about it, at least until next year.
What I appreciate about our forebears in the realm of Unitarian concerns for peace, is that many actually put their livelihood on the line, faced and lived with heavy societal attack and slander…
Whatever war that is happening is not the morally corrupt thing here, it is those who selfishly refuse to serve God, King, and Country on the battlefield.
It was in this milieu that around 30 unitarian men and women gathered in 1916 to form a Peace fellowship. This happened because a few ministers decided their face was the face of the movement and membership was held in secret.
But that was the spirit of the age, the glorification of the war, the unquestioned servitude of the populace, and the theological defence of Mars being the god of the moment.
They met and they formed a fellowship, and the minister were blackballed, or given a white feather.
In the 1980s I travelled with a group to Nicaragua. We were a short stay delegation to bear witness to what was happening in that country. We lived, worshipped and worked the fields alongside the people of the town we were stationed in, which was a mile off of the Nicaragua & Honduran border.
We were there to bear witness.
To see firsthand what the conservative media of the United States refused to report.
As far as I know our names and background was checked, but nothing further happened to us.
About a year later, a friend introduced me to someone she thought that I would get on with, our first date was to go join a public protest outside the Illinois Air National Guard, who were being sent to Honduras to train and fly support for the counter revolutionaries against Nicaragua. For the two hours we were there, there was a photographer on the base with long range lens taking our photos, and when we approached the gate to engage in conversation, he was there snapping away as we were denied entrance and told to return to the designated protest site.
We did and I have no idea where the photos landed.
During the 2nd gulf war, I heard reports of some peace groups being under surveillance by the US government. Lone men who appear, and participate in a sort of way, and then disappear and someone else would come along and the pattern repeats.
The historic peace churches have lived with this behaviour by the government from their inception.
In many ways this is why we must pray and be active in the quest for peace…. For the peace groups are often seen as more dangerous than political subversives, even the enemy state.
Because we know that for peace, for true security to happen, there must be an internal change and not just an external pressure. Jesus saw this in the commandments, the greatest is to Love God with your entire being, that is Emotional, spiritual, physical and yes intellectual capacities. And to love your neighbour as you love yourself.
Lao Tse said for Peace to happen in the world is must begin in the heart.
Over the years as I have lived, studied, contemplated, and advocated, I have learned that in all things spiritual, or religious, if you are serious about it, than it is a quest, a journey that one will enter. Never stopping, always flowing, a life which began when we decided to walk this path for the rest of our lives.
For myself it was the path of peace.
Taking my lead from the hebraic prophets and Jesus, learning from others, struggling with my own issues and desires for a more forceful resolution to conflict, I have walked.
Today and everyday you are invited to reflect and decide how you will live your life…
And my hope is that you will grow in such a way that your…. No …. That we will grow in such a way that our heartfelt prayers for peace become a heartfelt and actively lived life of peace.
by A Powell Davies
“O Thou to whom we pray for shelter, peace, and life, and there is none, teach us how to pray a braver prayer.
All about us are the miseries of humanities injustice and oppression: when shall we be one with the destitute, the dispossessed, opening our hearts to the downcast and the weary? These are our brothers and our sisters, flesh of our flesh, bearing Thine image and breathing Thy breath within them. These are our compatriots, pilgrims journeying with us in hope and yearning.
O God, when we pray for a better world, joyous and peaceful, with all its banners bright, help us to see that we ourselves must bring this world to pass, and take us to where our work is waiting for us.
How long must it be, O God — for our years grow shorter — before we are ready for our duty?
Save us, O God, from prayers that are too fluent and from softly spoken insincerities. Help us to beware of language which in its soothing beauty hides the truth, and especially the truth about ourselves. When the tranquillising word is spoken, give us to search out its inner meaning, lest we still the voice of conscience, thinking thus to quieten our unrest. Remind us how brittle is the shelter that we build about ourselves with comfortable phrases: show us how vain, at last, are all our self-deceiving words. Give us to know that the path to peace is guarded by the flaming sword of truth, and that is guide is righteousness. And let us not forget that all pretence is unavailing when we talk with Thee.”
HFL 226 ( CD 3 / TK 19)
“Song of Peace”
words of Lloyd Stone
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine;
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.
Words by John Carter
In our searching for Peace
As we wander
As we struggle
As we are faithful to the vision of the Peaceful Realm
As we grow, and
As we become…
May Good guide us
May Love sustain us
May life empower us….
For the living out of the ways that make for peace, in our constant searching for the answers that drive us ever onwards in this quest, and in our search to be simply faithful to the call of love, and of peace.
Rev John Carter Unitarian Minister at Hull & Lincoln chapels gives his reflections on the theme of Unitarian Day of Prayers for Peace
“Not Only do we Pray…we make our actions a prayer for Peace”