Unitarian Sunday Reflections
(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)
18 July 2021

“A Feast For Our Hearts”
Reflections on the tradition of 7 sweets & 7 sours (savouries)

We begin with a toast…

“You have heard it said that Mennonites are dull, earnest white folks with a penchant for passive aggression. But I say to you – we’re not all white.
Here’s to an inclusive Church that welcomes dull, earnest, passive aggressive types of all colours and origins.”

~ S.L.Klassen


Today’s reflections are based on a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, practiced by the Amish and other Old Order Anabaptist groups.

I originally heard of this tradition as a meal with a series of courses that alternated between seven sweets and seven sours or we would say savouries. Yet my research has shown this to be about the pickles served with the meals. I also knew a Mennonite family that made the flow of the meal along these lines of sweet and savoury. The number seven related to this may simply be a standard, with each doing the number of sweet and savoury according to supplies, and time.

This tradition has been credited with the change of having a more non conformist form of meals, like, and I have experienced this, having the meal consisting of home churned ice cream. Accessorised with all sorts of sweet and savoury toppings. Salty pretzels were a favourite of many. I will admit skepticism at first, but my Pennsylvania Dutch friends convinced me.

By the way, it is in actually pronounced Pennsylvania Deutsch not Dutch, but over the ages it was easier for the English to say Dutch, or this switch came really out of the English misunderstanding the platt Deutsch languages of the various germanic immigrants colonial communities.

I am inviting you to reflect on the sweetness of things.

Songs, authors, events, poets, film that bring you joy, that is the sweet, but those that also challenge you, or even scare you, that is the sour.

In the study of spirituality, in their practices it is simply understood that all of these, sweet, savoury, and sour can inform and grow us…

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…
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.

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

HYMN (Sweet)
HFL 176 (CD We will sing for them /TK17)
“Come Together in Love”
words by Dorothy Grover

O come together in truth;
O come together in peace;
O come together in joy and sharing,
come together in knowing and caring;
come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.

We come together in search
of new beginnings for all,
where understanding and trust surround us —
gone the hate and fear that bound us;
come together,
O come together,
O come together in love.

READING (Savoury)
I had mentioned before of my pleasure in getting to know this poet this past year. In my review of a course and other materials, I discovered that the poem I will be reading I in fact heard over five years ago. As I mentioned before I find his work familiar due to experiences and places and theological heritages which we shared or which resonated with me. His words inspire and challenge me. Some of his poems are beautifully haunting while being equally disturbing.

“The Way It Is”
by William Stafford (1914–1993)

There’s a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die;
and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.


This next reading comes from the anabaptist tradition of the Church of the Brethren, it was written in the early to mid 1940s. The hymn music text is simple, and the words convey a basic corporate prayer pattern. It comes from a peace church perspective, which grew out of a merging of Anabaptist theology and Radical Pietist theology.

When in seminary, the hymn writer Rev Brian Wren, from the United Reform Church, UK, was our visiting lecturer in worship studies for a year. In a two week intensive one day we were asked to name hymns that were important to us from our traditions. Our class had several different denominations attending.

Those of us from the Church of the Brethren agree that this hymn was one of the important hymns for the church. And like with the other mentions, we sang it.

His response, as well as many of the other non-CoB members of class were along this line of thought….

“When I first looked at this, I saw it as naive and not really workable, I couldn’t understand how it could be so important. Then you sang it, and while I couldn’t see it before, I could now see and experience how this simple hymn works.”

“Move In Our Midst”
words by Kenneth I. Morse,
Hymnal: A Worship Book prepared by Churches in the Believers Church Tradition

Move in our midst, thou Spirit of God.
Go with us down from thy holy hill.
Walk with us through the storm and the calm.
Spirit of God, go thou with us still.

Touch thou our hands to lead us aright.
Guide us forever, show us thy way.
Transform our darkness into thy light.
Spirit of God, lead thou us today.

Strike from our feet the fetters that bind.
Lift from our lives the weight of our wrong.
Teach us to love with heart, soul, and mind.
Spirit of God, thy love makes us strong.

Kindle our hearts to burn with thy flame.
Raise us thy banners high in this hour.
Stir us to build new worlds in thy name.
Spirit of God, O send us thy power!

READING (Savoury)
There are authors that people divide over, some will not like them due to the cultural context of which they write. One example is a author I particularly love, Alice Walker, and her book The Colour Purple was a part of a reading group I was in recently. We were split heavily about the book. No one seemed to be in the middle.

This was partly due to our experiences, those of few of us from the US resonated with the book, majority of those from the UK didn’t. While I though of using a reading from Alice Walker I chose instead a reading from another book that had my class divided.

I find David Benner challenging, as he is willing to push us to look at our negative sides, or our shadows. I also found a joy in reading him, and with his conversations I found that one didn’t have to approach spirituality through a narrow lens.

Faith and Belonging
by David G Benner, PhD, Soulful Spirituality.

“A sense of belonging is absolutely vital to human well-being. If your spirituality does not provide you with a deep awareness of belonging in life and in the world, it is not serving you well.

Belonging will always be grounded in an experience of safety and trust. It is only when the universe seems to be reasonably safe that we can relax in our engagement with life and experience belonging. Without this sense of basic trust, we will always be on guard against dangers and in tension with our longing to belong. Faith begins with trust, with emotional trust as the foundation for spiritual faith. One leads seamlessly into the other.

The experience of belonging to those who love us is essential even to physical well-being. Study after study has shown that people who feel isolated are much more likely to get sick and die prematurely when compared to those who have a sense of connection and community. Even the love of a pet can make all the difference in the world. Belonging is essential for human well-being and is central to any healthy spirituality.

Faith is not merely for the religious.

It is the trust that is present in the life of everyone who has a sense of belonging to someone or to something. Belonging to something other than self is foundational to any healthy spirituality.”

HYMN (Sweet)
HFL 101 (CD1/TK9)
“Dear Lord and Father”
words by John Greenleaf Whittier

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust, like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above!
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of thy call,
as noiseless let thy blessing fall
as fell thy manna down.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease:
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.


One of my favourite paintings is the White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall. He has been a favourite painter of mine since the mid seventies when I saw his stain glass windows at the Hadassah Medical Centre’s Synagogue in Jerusalem. I first saw the White Crucifixion at the Art Institute in Chicago, after I had viewed another of Chagall’s windows there. I went intentionally to see this window. The painting was placed in a corner and easily missed. I was captivated by it….

In the painting we have a rabbi being crucified.

The rabbi which is Jesus is surrounded by scenes of various violent attacks that the Jewish people have historically experienced.

It speaks powerfully to the idea of Jesus’ crucifixion being continually repeated in the lives, anguish, and violence that were historically experienced by Jewish people, and still are. Ironically and obviously these acts were done in the name of that rabbi, Jesus.

This painting bears witness to the ongoing issues of racism, anti semitism, and religious / cultural intolerance.

The idea of sweet and sour things can grow us, open us to see new perspectives or horizons. This may come in a long run, or in a serendipitous moment.

All things can be a source for which we can grow….
Especially those things with which we have a severe reaction, either in a sweet aha of joy, or in the negative sour taste that has left us reeling, confused, and questioning.

So today….


I ask of you…

What is sweet to you? What is savoury? What is sour?
Are there authors, or hymns, or themes…. Etc. that you would place into these zones?
Have you discovered surprises when you have reflected on this?

“You are always with us”
words by Fr. Pierre-Etienne (adapted by JPC)
found in the Mennonite Central Committee cookbook, Extending The Table

Great Spirit of Life…

You are always with us,
You are water in the desert,
the fruit of life in the garden,
light at evening time.

In that way you are with us.

You are always with us,
You are the face reflected in the mirror,
the wine of joy at the celebration meal,
the sharing between friends.

In that way you are with us.

You are always with us,
You are the pilot in the boat,
the healer of the injured,
the parent in the home.

In that way you are with us.


HYMN (sweet)
HFL198 (CD3 / TK16)
“The healing of the nations”
words by Fred Kaan

For the healing of the nations,
God, we pray with one accord;
for a just and equal sharing
of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
help us rise and pledge our word,
help us rise and pledge our word.

Lead us ever into freedom,
from despair your world release;
that, redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
fear will die and hope increase,
fear will die and hope increase.

All that kills abundant living,
let it from the earth depart;
pride of status, race or schooling,
dogmas keeping us apart.
May our common quest for justice
be our brief life’s hallowed art,
be our brief life’s hallowed art.

Words By Jim Wickman

May our faith sustain us,
our hope inspire us,
and our love surround us
as we go our separate ways,
knowing that we will gather again
in this beloved community.


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