Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

30 January 2022



“Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed”

Reflections on Holocaust Memorial Day




“do this

lest innocent blood is shed in the midst of your land

which your God YHWH is giving to you [for] an inheritance,

and there has been blood on you”

~ Deut. 19:10 Literal Standard Version


“If I am not for myself, who is for me?

If I care only for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?”

~ Rabbi Hillel


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.


How do you experience manifestation, light, enlightenment in your life?

How do you experience nature? What emotions does the Holocaust evoke in you? What does unity say to you?


As we end these reflections, as we move to worship, may we continue to reflect on the things that make life whole and how we may grow ourselves into them.

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




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.



         Introduction to the readings: Today’s reflections began over a week ago, in prep for last Sunday. It began as a way of looking at three different religious and social events. The Jewish arbor day celebration known as Tu Bishvat, which this year was on Monday the 17th of January. Also last week was the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The final event, which I focus on today, was this past Thursday’s Holocaust Memorial Day.


While last week I was bringing together readings on nature, unity, and a humorous story of a challenge to Christians to simply agree to not kill other Christians, this was done during the WWC Discussions and debates on Unity, especially at the Communion / Eucharistic table.


Today, we explore the Holocaust in particular, but with an eye to the use of genocide by governments. Some of our readings, and one hymn are words penned by victim and survivors of the Holocaust. Two readings are on the work of rescue during that time. Some are by children of survivors, hinting at the generational effects of PTSD.



“The Wall”

by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,

from I Asked For Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology, Crossroad Book, 2021.


The Wall.


At first I am stunned.


Then I see a Wall of frozen tears, a cloud of sighs.


Palimpsests, hiding books, secret names.


The stones are seals.


The Wall.


The old mother crying for all of us. Stubborn, loving, waiting for redemption. The ground on which I stand is Amen. My words become echoes. All of our history is waiting here.


No comeliness to be acclaimed, no beauty to be relished. But a heart and an ear. Its very being is compassion. You stand still and hear: stone of sorrow, acquaintance with grief. We all hide our faces from agony, shun the afflicted.


The Wall is compassion, its face is open only to those smitten with grief.




I hug the stones; I pray.


O Rock of Israel, make our faith strong and Your words luminous in our hearts and minds. No image. Pour holiness into our moments.


The Wall is silent?


For an instant I am her tongue.


Then I hear: I am of unclean lips…..


O God, cleanse my lips, make me worthy to be her tongue. Forgive me for having tried to be her tongue for one instant.


Forgive my ecstasy.


I am afraid of indifference, of disjunctions. Since Auschwitz my joys grieve, pleasures are mixed with vexations.


No security anywhere, any time. The sun can be a nightmare, humanity infinitely worse than a beast.


How to be in accord with Isaiah? I ask in my prayers.


Suddenly ancient anticipations are resurrected in me.


Centuries went and came.


Then a moment arrived and stood still, facing me.


Once you have lived a moment at the Wall, you never go away.


The next two readings are on the work of people who tried to rescue Jews from the Nazi’s. One is about a Huguenot village in France. The second is about the work of the Unitarian mission in the then Czechoslovakia. Our use of the lit Chalice comes from this important mission.



“Lest Innocent Blood be Shed: Magda Trocme”

by Philip Hallie, from Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, 1979/1994.


Her ‘principle’ did not involve any abstract theories, but only a feeling of responsibility to particular people — first of all to her husband, and next to anybody who happened to come to the door of the presbytery.


Long after the war, Magda Trocme summarised for me what all the work meant for her at the time:


‘I have a kind of principle. I am not a good Christian at all, but I have things that I really believe in. First of all, I believe and believed in Andre Trocme. I was faithful to his projects and to him personally, and I understood him very well. Second principle: I try not to hunt around to find things to do. I do not hunt around to find people to help. But I never close my door, never refuse to help somebody who comes to me and asks for something.


This I think is my kind of religion.


You see, it is a way of handling myself. When things happen, not things that I plan, but things sent by God or by chance, when people come to my door, I feel responsible…’


She had much to give those in want, and felt a responsibility to give it — not with feelings, but with action. Hers was a caring involving help, not romantic yearning.


In Deuteronomy, a city of refuge is a place that takes responsibility for the life of the refugee who comes there; that is to say, it is a place that commits itself to protecting the refugee who comes to its gates. Its members do not leave those gates to look for the oppressed; they stand at the gates ready to take the responsibility people put upon them by coming to their city.


Deut. 19:10 reads: ‘I command you this day to protect the refugee, lest innocent blood be shed in your land… and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.”


Magda Trocme hardly ever speaks of God, and she does not think in terms of innocence or guilt; rather she thinks in terms of people in trouble, in terms of doors that open, and in terms of her own stubborn decision to keep her door open no matter how tired or how distraught she may be.


Despite her secularism, Magda was an effective gatekeeper her city of refuge (the French village of Le Chambon.)



“It was just something that needed to be done”

by Artemis Joukowsky, from Defying the Nazis: the Sharp’s War, 2016.


“…tell me what you and Grandpa did during the war.”


She gave me one of her radiant smiles and began slowly with a description of the January night in 1939 when she and Grandpa Sharp learned, to their utter surprise, that they’d been invited to undertake the Unitarian Church’s first-ever international relief project, a mission of mercy to the imperilled citizens of Czechoslovakia. Gradually she became more animated, regaling me with amazing tales from her six months together with Waitstill in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Later she would speak of Vichy France, North Africa, Israel, and the Middle East.


Martha told me about the frantic work of securing travel papers for Social Democrats, Jews, artists, philosophers, and the long list of other in czechoslovakia who faced certain extermination if they couldn’t escape. She described their desperate schemes to pluck these otherwise doomed souls from the Nazis’ grasp: how exhilaration it was to succeed, how heartsick they were when they failed.


I was amazed to hear what she and Waitstill had accomplished, and nearly as amazed to have known nothing of their exploits until that moment. I asked her why she had never spoken of it, nor had anyone else in the family. She shrugged it off, as if to say that risking your neck for strangers speaking strange tongues in a strange and hostile-world thousands of miles from home didn’t merit discussion, certainly not special recognition.


It was just something that needed to be done.


With this hymn we begin a series of writings by those who fell victim to the Nazis, and at least two that survived….



SYF 131 (CD3 / TK16)

“Out of the depths I call to you”

words by Norbert Capek


Out of the depths I call to you;

God give me power today.

In this dark time let me be true,

Till storms have blown away.


From everything and everyone,

From all life left alone;

Alone, despairing, faith undone,

My heart has turned to stone.


Beside me only you remain,

My comforter and friend;

Your faithfulness my heart sustains,

“I know this night will end!”


The struggle of my life and pain

Fade in the cosmic scheme:

A glimmer in a drop of rain,

Lost in the battle’s dream.


Again, I come to pray in haste,

O God, thanks be to thee;

May all who suffer find your grace,

And may I faithful be.




‘Never Shall I Forget’

by Elie Wiesel


Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp,

that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.


Never shall I forget that smoke.


Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.


Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.


Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live
as long as God Himself.



The Action in the Ghetto of Rohatyn, March 1942

Alexander Kimel – a Holocaust Survivor.


Do I want to remember?
The peaceful ghetto, before the raid:
Children shaking like leaves in the wind.
Mothers searching for a piece of bread.
Shadows, on swollen legs, moving with fear.
No, I don’t want to remember, but how can I forget?


Do I want to remember, the creation of hell?
The shouts of the Raiders, enjoying the hunt.

Cries of the wounded, begging for life.
Faces of mothers carved with pain.
Hiding Children, dripping with fear.
No, I don’t want to remember, but how can I forget?


Do I want to remember, my fearful return?

Families vanished in the midst of the day.
The mass grave steaming with vapor of blood.

Mothers searching for children in vain.
The pain of the ghetto, cuts like a knife.
No, I don’t want to remember, but how can I forget?


Do I want to remember, the wailing of the night?
The doors kicked ajar,

ripped feathers floating the air.

The night scented with snow-melting blood.
While the compassionate moon, is showing the way.

For the faceless shadows, searching for kin.
No, I don’t want to remember, but I cannot forget.

Do I want to remember this world upside down?

Where the departed are blessed with an instant death.

While the living condemned to a short wretched life,

And a long tortuous journey into unnamed place,

Converting Living Souls, into ashes and gas.

No. I Have to Remember and Never Let You Forget.




“Dark of Winter, soft and still”

words by Shelley Jackson Denham


Dark of winter, soft and still, your quiet calm surrounds me.

Let my thoughts go where they will, ease my mind profoundly.

And then my soul will sing a song, a blessed song of love eternal.

Gentle darkness, soft and still, bring your quiet to me.


Darkness, soothe my weary eyes, that I may see more clearly.

When my heart with sorrow cries, comfort and caress me.

And then my soul may hear a voice, a still, small voice of love eternal.

darkness, when my fears arise, let your peace flow through me.



What are the various ways that Genocide appears and happens?


How did the news of the Holocaust, the Death Camps, and concentration camps of Nazi Germany effect you?


How do you experience the news of other genocides in history? European colonisation of the Americas? 18th & 19th century enslavement of Africa? Armenia? Cambodia? Bosnia? Rwanda? Uyghurs in China? Rohingya in Myanmar?




I think at this point I just want the words to settle and touch your thoughts, your soul, your life.


Genocide and the Holocaust have such an over whelming capacity to totally numb us into inaction.


Yet I must stress that life, our faith, and religious principle call us to act. To act for the better of all. Not to use faith to justify evil, but to called into compassion and to seeing that life is more than our personal tribes and groups.


In all I firmly believe that the act of remembering is also a call to ensure that such an evil does not happen again. To remind us, because humanity, seems to forget so easily the horror of the holocaust, and of genocide of cultures, religion and of peoples.


May we stand for life, so that the genocides of the past may cease.





“Kaddish for Our Souls”

by Abraham Joshua Heschel

(translated from Yiddish by Sylvia Fuks Fried)


We still feel the blow to our head. Huge chunks are falling from the heavens, but we have yet to grasp the rupture and the misfortune that have befallen us. We are still waiting for the funeral, not yet ready to sit shiva. distraught, broken, confused, and petrified, we are living in a state of chaos. We celebrate our joyous occasions, but it’s akin to holding a wedding ceremony at a cemetery.


Our enjoyments are awkward and even grotesque, mere this worldly pleasures. Our people was consumed by fire. And the world is unchanged. The ash of human skeletons emits no door. The atmosphere of the world is not contaminated. Our bread is fresh; our sugar is sweet. The screams of millions of victims of the crematory were never transmitted over the radio waves. Hush, quiet; nothing ever happened. If we still had a heart, then it has turned to stone. I often sit and wonder: perhaps our souls went up in flames along with their bodies in Majdanek and Auschwitz.


Ours is Godless world. We Jews dance around the Golden Calf. We have forgotten that we live in a world that is treyf (impure). The times are dark, yet we do not even light the Sabbath candles. Six million Jews went up in smoke. Blood will remain silent. But our conscience is mute as a wall. We are inebriated and distracted by the follies of this world. The martyrs do not need our recitations of kaddish — but we need someone to recite kaddish over us, for us, because we have lost our souls.


I do not seek merely to unburden my heart. We will not fulfil our obligation by reciting lamentations. Our task is not to bang our heads against the wall.


Our task is to find an answer to a crucial question: What is our generation’s obligation? What is the task? Not to forget, never to be indifferent to other people’s suffering.




‘We Remember Them’

by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer


At the rising of the sun and at its going down We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring We remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer We remember them.


At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn We remember them.


At the beginning of the year and when it ends We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart We remember them.

When we have joy we crave to share We remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make We remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.



SFY 68 (CD SYF 3/TRACK 11)

“I dream of a church”

by Kate Compston


I dream of a church that joins in with God’s laughing

as she rocks in her rapture, enjoying her art:

she’s glad of her world, in its risking and growing:

’tis the child she has borne and holds close to her heart.


I dream of a church that joins in with God’s weeping

as she crouches, weighed down by the sorrow she sees:

she cries for the hostile, the cold and no-hoping,

for she bears in herself our despair and dis-ease.


I dream of a church that joins in with God’s dancing

as she move like the wind and the wave and the fire:

a church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,

with the steps that can signal God’s deepest desire.


I dream of a church that joins in with God’s loving

as she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,

a church that can free, by its sharing and daring,

the imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.


God, make us a church that joins in with your living,

as you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,

a church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring;

lioness of your justice and lamb of your peace.




Each of us ministers to a weary world

words by Darcy Roake


There is too much hardship in this world to not find joy,

every day


There is too much injustice in this world to not right the balance,

every day


There is too much pain in this world to not heal,

every day


Each of us ministers to a weary world.


Let us go forth now and do that which calls us to make this world

more loving, more compassionate and more filled with the grace of divine presence, every day

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