Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

27 June 2021



“How Do We Connect?”



“Worship is our response to beauty as we offer awe and gratitude for the gift of goodness.”


~ Dan B. Allender

from the book Sabbath

(The Ancient Practices Series, Thomas Nelson Inc, 2009)


“Prayer invites God to be present in our spirits and in our lives. Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, or rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.”

~ Abraham Heschel



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.





“For All That is Our Life”

words by Bruce Findlow


For all that is our life

We sing our thanks and praise:

For all life is a gift

Which we are called to use

To build the common good

And make our own days glad.


For needs which others serve,

For services we give,

For work and its rewards,

For hours of rest and love:

We come with praise and thanks

For all that is our life.


For sorrow we must bear,

For failures, pain and loss,

For each new thing we learn,

For fearful hours that pass:

We come with praise and thanks

For all that is our life.


For all that is our life

We sing our thanks and praise;

For all life is a gift

Which we are called to use

To build the common good

And make our own days glad.




As we come out of Covid lockdowns and limitations, we could reflect on the meaning of what it means to be a faith / religious community. How the symbols of “church” speak to us, or how they don’t, what can we do without, do a bit of change to make it workable for us. How do the ways we meet, work together, plan, and envision speak of our theology, our faith, our engagement with the world?


Our readings today, in their own way, speak to these questions.



One of my favourite Evangelical Christian authors, someone who has grown in his understandings of life and faith, Brian McLaren, I have known of him over the years, when he towed the conservative line, and his growth and change. Somewhere between 1990 and 2014 his belief and thoughts about LGBTQIA involvement in the church changed, as I sat in a workshop he was leading. When I introduced myself as a unitarian minister he immediately exclaimed his appreciation and friendship with a local UUA minister to him. I was happy to be wrong about him and now find myself trying to pick up things that he has written.


In this reading Brian begins the exploration of worship and spirituality, and it’s meaning for us to be “church”.


“The Way of Community”

by Brian McLaren

from Finding Our Way Again, The Ancient Practices Series, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2008


…The way of community (via communitiva) is about the inward journey, not the journey into me but the journey into we (emphasis added). Or perhaps we should more accurately say that all spiritual journeys are adventures into God, but be it an upward, inward or outward expression, these journeys explore God in solitude, in community, and in service, respectively.

When people gather for what is often called the “worship service” or “going to church” they are engaging — usually without realising it — in the via communitiva. If spiritual practices are actions within our power that help us become the kinds of people who can do things currently beyond our power, then “going to church” means gathering for communal spiritual practices, engaging in a kind of group workout, if you will. In so doing, the community that carries on a way of life and its practices calls people together weekly or seasonally or annually to reaffirm their commitment and practice being a community.


In fact, the word liturgy suggest as much. The word literally means “the work of the people.” This is commonly understood to mean that the people do the work of praying, singing, listenings, speaking, kneeling, (Unitarian addition here: debating), and so on. Let me offer a slight modification. What is we define liturgy to mean “the workout of the people’?


In this way, our traditions and gifted liturgists / worship leaders offer us time tested and skilfully designed workouts, just as an aerobics or tai chi instructor or vocal coach might. The goal is to help us maintain our spiritual health and strength, and more to stretch us and challenge us to new levels of health and strength, grace and balance, endurance and performance.


Liturgy is a thoughtfully designed, time-tested set and order of communal spiritual practices that must be adapted and updated as needed for the times and community in which it is employed.


* * * * *


For a non-creedal tradition, we Unitarians write quite a bit of things that sound suspiciously creedal in form and text. Many carry meaning that is important for us to consider as we explore our connections as a faith community…


Unitarian Thoughts on Religious Community


Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere;

its temple, all space;

its shrine, the good heart;

its creed, all truth;

its ritual, works of love;

its profession of faith, divine living.

                                         ~ Theodore Parker


Because of those who came before,

we are;

in spite of their failings,

we believe,

because of, and in spite of

the horizons of their vision,

we, too, dream.

                                         ~ Barbara Pescan



“We gather as a caring spiritual community,

To help one another

And to seek meaning and direction in our lives

by exploring the vast reaches of our minds and spirit.”

                                         ~ Hull Unitarians


Mindful of truth ever exceeding

our knowledge

and community ever exceeding

our practice,

reverently we covenant together,

beginning with ourselves

as we are,

to share the strength of integrity

and the heritage of the spirit

in the unending quest for wisdom and love.

                                         ~Walter Royal Jones, Jr.


Help us to be the always hopeful

gardeners of the spirit

who know that

without darkness nothing comes to birth

as without light nothing flowers.

                                         ~ May Sarton


Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humanity in harmony with the earth,

Thus do we covenant together.

                                         ~ UUA Affirmation


Life is a gift for which we are grateful.


We gather in community to

          celebrate the glories

          and the mysteries

                     of this great gift.

                                         ~ Marjorie Montgomery


* * * * *


This next reading is from a UUA minister in New York City, and I find his words inspiring, challenging, and well a bit non reflective in places, but that said overall they are a great beginning to exploring what it means for us to be a Unitarian faith community…


The heart of our faith

By Rev Galen Guengerich


In addition to my practical problem with orthodox Unitarian Universalism, I also have a theological problem. Our usual way of describing ourselves doesn’t even begin to suggest that we are a religion. In my view, religion is constituted by two distinct but related impulses: a sense of awe and a sense of obligation. The feeling of awe emerges from our experience of the grandeur of life and the mystery of the divine. This feeling becomes religious when a sense of obligation lays claim to us, and we feel a duty to the larger life that we share. In theological terms, religion begins as transcendence, which is the part about God, and then leads to discipleship, which is the part about the discipline of faith.


I realise the idea of faith as a discipline may also sound like heresy to many Unitarian Universalists. Unless our faith is mere intellectual affectation, however, the defining element of our faith must be a daily practice of some kind. What kind of practice? For Jews, the defining discipline is obedience: To be a faithful Jew is to obey the commands of God. For Christians, the defining discipline is love: To be a faithful Christian is to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself. For Muslims, the defining discipline is submission: To be a faithful Muslim is to submit to the will of Allah.


And what of us? What should be our defining religious discipline? While obedience, love, and even submission each play a vital role in the life of faith, my current conviction is that our defining discipline should be gratitude. In the same way that Judaism is defined by obedience, Christianity by love, and Islam by submission, I believe that Unitarian Universalism should be defined by gratitude.


Why gratitude? Two dimensions of gratitude make it fitting as our defining religious practice. One has to do with a discipline of gratitude, and the other has to do with an ethic of gratitude. The discipline of gratitude reminds us how utterly dependent we are on the people and world around us for everything that matters. From this flows an ethic of gratitude that obligates us to create a future that justifies an increasing sense of gratitude from the human family as a whole. The ethic of gratitude demands that we nurture the world that nurtures us in return. It is our duty to foster the kind of environment that we want to take in, and therefore become.


The two forms gratitude takes in our lives (a discipline and an ethic) are natural outcomes of the two elements of religious experience (awe and obligation). The experience of awe leads to the discipline of gratitude, and the experience of obligation leads to an ethic of gratitude.



HFL 133 (CD HFL 4/TRACK 9)

“How Can I Keep from Singing!” 

Early Quaker Hymn/Song


My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentation:

I hear the real though far-off human

That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing:

It sounds an echo in my soul —

How can I keep from singing!


What though the tempest round me roar,

I know the truth, it liveth.

What though the darkness round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that rock I’m clinging:

Since love prevails in heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing!


When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knells ringing;

When friends rejoice, both far and near,

How can I keep from singing!

To prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts of love are winging:

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing!



Community seems to be one of those words that become cliche after it has been uttered. Too many talk about it, it’s importance, and yet seem not to care about it’s formation.


Our communities become narrow in focus, tribal is action, a mockery of the ideal. Community demands hard work, it means learning, no not learning, we know that bit, community demands that we be willing to work in equity with those we most disagree with, those who’s beliefs and ideas we despise, those who we would not really go to the pub with…..


I don’t know if that truly radical view is ever reached, but that is what we strive for in our spiritual workouts, our daily practice.


I suspect that each step closer to that far ranging communal diversity, is in fact a step toward our community being a healthier place and space.


Are we there, probably not, I know and admit I am not, yet this still does not stop me from working for that sense of community.



What is it that holds we Unitarians together?

What is important to you about our faith tradition?

Are there things you would challenge in our tradition?

In what ways does it feed your spirit, mind, and heart?




“Worship is our response to beauty as we offer awe and gratitude for the gift of goodness.”


~ Dan B. Allender


Beauty Way Prayer

from the Navajo Nation, recorded in the UUA Hymnal Singing the Living Tradition


Beauty is before me, and

Beauty behind me,

above me and below me

hovers the beautiful.


I am surrounded by it,

I am immersed in it.


In my youth, I am aware of it,

and, in old age,

I shall walk quietly

the beautiful trail.


In beauty it is begun.

In beauty it is ended.



SYF 88 (CD SYF 1/TRACK 14)

“Let it be a dance we do”

by Ric Masten


          Let it be a dance we do, May I have this dance with you?

          Through the good times and the bad times, too,

          Let it be a dance.


Let a dancing song be heard. Play the music, say the words,

and fill the sky with sailing birds. Let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. —

Learn to follow, learn to lead, feel the rhythm, fill the need

to reap the harvest, plant the seed, Let it be a dance.


          Let it be a dance we do, May I have this dance with you?

          Through the good times and the bad times, too,

          Let it be a dance.


Everybody turn and spin, let your body learn to bend,

and like a willow in the wind, Let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. —

A child is born, the old must die, a time for you,

a time to cry, take it as it passes by. Let it be a dance.


          Let it be a dance we do, May I have this dance with you?

          Through the good times and the bad times, too,

          Let it be a dance.


Morning star comes out at night, without the dark there is no light,

if nothing’s wrong then nothing’s right, Let it be a dance.

Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. —

Let the sunshine, let is rain, share the laughter, bear the pain,

and round and round we go again. Let it be a dance



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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