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

“How Do We Connect?”
Further thoughts on Community

“When we transcend ourselves for the other, though, community becomes the sacrament of human fulfilment and purpose in life.”
~ Joan Chittister

“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.

SYF 158 (CD SYF 2/TRACK 12)
“The flame of truth is kindled” words by Cliff Reed

The flame of truth is kindled,
our chalice burning bright,
amongst us moves the Spirit
in whom we take delight.
We worship here in freedom
with conscience unconstrained,
a pilgrim people thankful
for what great souls have gained.

The flame of thought is kindled,
we celebrate the mind;
its search for deepest meaning
that time-bound creeds can’t bind.
We celebrate its oneness
with body and with soul,
with universal process,
with God who makes us whole.

The flame of love is kindled,
we open wide our hearts,
that it may burn within us,
fuel us to do our parts.
Community needs building,
a Commonwealth of Earth,
we ask for strength to build it –
a new world come to birth.

Today we continue to reflect on community. I will be upfront here, I believe in community. I see it as a way for myself to become fully human, in the dynamics of inter action with others, my roughness is smoothed and formed into a better part than it was before….

So as we explore our readings today, listen for the nuances that call us to formation and growth, and how these developments have a wider effect and gift for all life, and for our world.

Tao Te Ching no. 29
“Do you want to improve the world?”
words byLao Tzu translated by Stephen Mitchell

Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master see things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way, a
nd resides at the centre of the circle.

Rule of Benedict
Chapter 63
“Community Rank”
with commentary by Joan Chittister O.S.B.

“Monastics keep their rank in the monastery according to the date of their entry, the virtue of their lives, and the decision of the prioress or abbot. The prioress or abbot is not to disturb the flock entrusted to them nor make any unjust arrangements, as though they had the power to do whatever they wished. They must constantly reflect that they will have to give God an account of all their decisions and actions. Therefore, when the members come for the kiss of peace and for Communion, when they lead psalms or stand in choir, they do so in the order already existing among them or decided by about or prioress. Absolutely nowhere shall age automatically determine rand…. all should keep to the order of their entry. For example, someone who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day must recognise that they are junior to someone who cam at the first hour, regardless of age or distinction.” (emphasis added)


A Benedictine community is obviously a motley place. It has locals and foreigners, old and young, cleric and lay, nobles and poor, educated and illiterate all going the same way, all intent on a life of the spirit, and all from vastly different backgrounds. All of theme were conditioned to very defined expectations of privilege or oppression. Benedictine spirituality detoxifies the entire environment by putting the spotlight on the time of a person’s entrance to the time of a person’s entrance to the monastery, on the time at which they publicly began their total seeking of God, rather than on their previous status or position.

The purpose and effect of rank, then, was not the suppression of the person. It was designed to free people from their past castes or demands. The purpose of rank was to achieve equality, humility, and a new definition of self in groups rife with social hierarchies, systemic differences, and groundless exaltations. The date of entrance was the date before and after which all other events in life were marked and noted. The image of a world unscrewed by material values and social definitions is the vision thrust before us in Benedictine spirituality. In a world where sex and race and money mark our spaces on the social ladder it is a picture of human liberation gone outrageously giddy with the freeing power of God as the sign of its sanctity.


“The second core value of the Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective is ‘Community is the centre of our life.’…. ‘True community begins with God. Our God, who theologically is seen as living in community as Creator, Reconciler, and Sustainer… wants us to also experience the joys of close community!”
~ Palmer Becker
Anabaptist Essentials

no. 64
“Integrity is our true nature”
The Second Book of the Tao with commentary
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Integrity is our true nature;
arriving at integrity
is the work of a lifetime.

The person who has integrity
does the right thing without trying to,
understands the truth with our thinking,
and naturally embodies the Tao.

Integrity is not only
the fulfilment of our own being;
it is also the quality
through which all beings are fulfilled.
When we fulfil our own being,
we become truly human;
when we fulfil all beings,
we arrive at true understanding.
Humaneness and understanding
are inherent in our nature,
and by means of them
we unite the inner and the outer.
Thus, when we act with integrity,
everything we do is right.


Integrity is the bridge to the kingdom, the kiss that wakes the dead princess, the fingers that that spin straw into gold. When a person has integrity, she’s genuine; you can always trust that her use is a yes and her no a no. There’s no motive behind it, no sweet sticky lure for approval.

We love integrity. It feels like home. It’s solid, there’s no acting-out in it, no backtracking, no second-guessing. When you act with integrity, everything you do is right, because there’s no separation between doer and done. Besides, you realise that you’re not doing it in the first place. You have let go into the nameless, and it’s not even you who have let go. It’s not even you who have been let go of.

“A Holy People”
by Abraham Joshua Heschel I Asked For Wonder

What we have learned from Jewish history is that if an individual is not more than human then they are less than human. Judaism is an attempt to prove that in order to be human, you have to be more than a human, that in order to be a people we have to be more than a people. Israel was made to be a “holy people.”

SYF 204 (CD SYF 2/TRACK 24)
“When I am frightened”
words by Shelley Jackson Denham

When I am frightened, will you reassure me?
When I’m uncertain, will you hold my hand?
Will you be strong for me, sing to me quietly?
Will you share some of your stories with me?
If you will show me compassion, then I may learn to care as you do,
then I may learn to care.

When I am angry, will you still embrace me?
When I am thoughtless, will you understand?
Will you believe in me, stand by me willingly?
Will you share some of your questions with me?
If you will show me acceptance, then I may learn to give as you do,
then I may learn to give.

When I am troubled, will you listen to me?
When I am lonely, will you be my friend?
Will you be there for me, comfort me tenderly?
Will you share some of your feelings with me?
If you will show me commitment, then I may learn to love as you do,
then I may learn to love.

“The Velveteen Rabbit”
by Margery Williams

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.


Benedict of Nursia said:

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (MT 25:35).

Once a guest has been announced the superior and the community are to meet the guest with all the courtesy of love. First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace…

Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims because in them more particularly Christ is received….”
~ Rule of Benedict 53:1;3-4;15

When I was studying the art of Spiritual Direction, one of the traditions we specifically explored was that of Benedict of Nursia, writer of The Rule of Benedict. In conversation I mentioned to my Tutor that I would be interested in reading the rule.

My tutor immediately tensed up, became defensive… and encouraged me not to read it as he was afraid that the archaic language would put me off, cause me to miss read it, or bring out a negative judgment from me about the rule.

Yes the language was archaic, without a doubt, but it’s psychology was as contemporary as anything. It did not turn me off, but excited me, there was a wisdom that shown through his thoughts. The ways of community that can assist in our transformation into becoming better humans……

All this reminds me of a story that many have heard or used…. There once was a monastery that was situated in a green and lush forest, and garden. Over the years people of the surrounding area would come and visit. They only had eyes for the gardens and the space. While the community of monks began to dwindle, more and more as the years progress.

Now in the area was a retreat centre for a wise Jewish Rabbi. Who over the years formed a good and strong friendship with the Abbot of the monastery.

After so many years of loss the Abbot decided to ask his friend for advice on the situation.

After they had their tea, and polite conversation, the Abbot said…

“I don’t know what to do, our community is near death. We have visitors, but none come to stay with us, and if we don’t turn this around our community will surely die.”

They sat in silence for several minutes, pondering the situation, enjoying the comfort of silence with a good friend, when the Rabbi softly spoke…

“O my friend, I am saddened by this news. I cannot answer now, but allow me this night to pray and reflect and I may have an answer for you tomorrow.”

The Abbot when back to his community with a fresh step and a commitment to also reflect.

The next day he excitedly went to visit his friend, and unable to contain himself asked for the advice….

The Rabbi smiled and said “I believe the Holy One, whom you call Christ, is present among you and your brothers.”

That evening the few brothers asked the Abbot…

“What did the Rabbi say?” “Please tell us.”

The Abbot replied:
“Our dear friend simply said that the Holy One, the Christ, is here with us, in one of you.”

Now the brothers were confused by this news, and yet bemused but also they began wondering about what this meant.

Each one thought, I cannot be the Christ… but brother ___, well he shows the love in so many ways. Even when he is grumpy…. And so on each brother was thought to be the Christ even with their o so human faults.

Somehow these thoughts began to be expressed in small ways and actions that made their lives a bit more joyful. Each brother began to see that even they were bearers of the Christ Light.

Over the next few months the people that came to picnic and enjoy the gardens, began to notice the monks, the way their treated each other, the way they treated their visitors. Nothing different in action, but a new quality of action, more gentle, caring, and deeply loving.

Soon more and more came to visit. To attend services, to talk with the brothers, to spend time in the gentle peaceful atmosphere of the community.

After a year, one young man asked to become a member. Soon others did as well.

At the next tea with the Rabbi the Abbot joyfully reported this change in his community, both in personal growth and in the new life the community has experienced.

We are in our second Sunday on considering what it means to be community….

What are the markers of good community for you?
What is the relationship between, or the dynamic of, being individual and being in community?
How well do we welcome new comers into our faith community?

Ibrahim’s Prayer
By Jan Taddeo

Beloved Children of the Oneness of many names,
you who cover the land
in numbers greater than the stars,
I petition you, I pray to you,
because you are the fruit of God’s promise to the World;
because each of you holds a piece of the truth of all that is;
because the vision of Beloved Community needs each one of you.
And this is what I pray:
Show loving kindness for one another,
use wisely the unique gifts of your humanity:
your free will, imagination, creativity, compassion;
your knowledge, power of understanding, and awareness;
all that is an image of the Highest Good.
See the beauty in your cousin’s eye;
the wisdom in your sibling’s smile.
Listen for the truth which is unspoken in each heart.
Hold one another with tenderness,
and allow love to transcend fear;
fear that too often darkens your thoughts and poisons your heart.
Come together followers of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed,
(Peace Be Upon Them All).
Embrace the children and followers of all the prophets who call us toward peace;
all the seekers and people of good will;
adore all that emerges from the mystery of life.
Treasure one another.
Call forth wholeness for your fellow creatures.
Protect and renew the sustenance for life: the earth, the air, the water;
hold the fire with gentleness; use it wisely for growth and goodness.
Come together from the deserts, the mountains, the wetlands and the shores.
Lift the veil of indifference, learn to understand one another’s plight, and share
in the beauty, wonder, joy and awe of life.
Love mercy and kindness, and walk humbly with one another,
and with all creation.
Love your neighbors as you love yourself.
Give to others the full measure of your goodness,
so they will give unto you the same.
As you honor the covenant of your traditions,
may you also covenant with all people of good will:
a covenant of love, compassion, humility,
generosity, gratitude and celebration.

May it always be so.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom.
Blessed Be.


SYF 198 (CD SYF 4/TRACK 21)
We’ll build a land
words by Barbara Zanotti

We’ll build a land where we bind up the broken, we’ll build a land where the captives go free, where the oil of gladness dissolves all mourning. O we’ll build a promised land that can be.

Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God may then create peace: where justice shall roll…. down….
like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.

We’ll build a land where we bring the good tidings to all the afflicted and all those who mourn. And we’ll give them garlands instead of ashes. O we’ll build a land where peace is born.

Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God may then create peace: where justice shall roll…. down….
like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.

We’ll build a land building up ancient cities, raising up devastations of old; restoring ruins of generations. O we’ll build a land of people so bold.

Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God may then create peace: where justice shall roll…. down….
like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.

Come, build a land where the mantles of praises resound from spirits once faint and once weak; where like oaks of righteousness stand her people. O come build the land, my people we seek.

Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God may then create peace: where justice shall roll…. down….
like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.


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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