Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

29 January 2023





Mystical Rational Divinity




Musician: Jennifer Young



Musician: Andrew Palfreman

PRELUDE: Improvisations on English folk songs

(The Lincolnshire Poacher, The Miller of Dee, The Wraggle Taggle Gipsies, D’ye Ken John Peel).


7 “Ask and keep asking, and you will receive.

Seek and keep seeking, and you will find.

Knock and keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

For the one who keeps asking, receives. The one who keeps seeking, finds.

And the one who keeps knocking, enters.”

~  Matthew 7:7,8



Welcome to each and to all:

seekers, journeyers, questing, and content.

May our time of reflection and worship,

fill our desire for wholeness and belonging.

In this time together we are made worthy…..





John Carter


We light our chalice, this candle,

          as a sign of connectedness….

                     of a beloved faith community,

                               reaching beyond our boundaries…

                                         seeking equity and justice for all creation….

                                                   learning what the human spirit can do and be…


Chris Carr



SYF 195 – (CD 3/TK 21)

“We sing a love”

words by June Boyce-Tillman


We sing a love that sets all people free,

that blows like wind, that burns like scorching flame,

enfolds the earth, springs up like water clear.

Come, living love, live in our hearts today.


We sing a love that seeks another’s good,

that longs to serve and not to count the cost,

a love that yielding finds itself made new.

come, caring love, live in our hearts today.


We sing a love, unflinching, unafraid

to be itself despite another’s wrath,

a love that stands alone and undismayed.

come, strengthening love, live in our hearts today.


We sing a love, that wandering will not rest

until it finds its way, its home, its source,

through joy and sadness pressing on refreshed.

Come, pilgrim love, live in our hearts today.


We sing the Holy Spirit, full of love,

who seeks our scars of ancient bitterness,

brings to our wounds the healing grace of Christ.

Come, radiant love, live in our hearts today.



We take a moment to reflect on our life and living of this week… as we reflect…. explore and ask of yourself….

          For what am I most grateful?

          For what am I least grateful?

          When did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, nature, the                     universe, God?


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.




Today we reflect upon epiphany, or awakenings. Those moments of the Ah Ha we sometimes receive…. But it is more than a moment, it is a journey or process of recognition, enlightenment,





The Awakening

James Weldon Johnson – 1871-1938


I dreamed that I was a rose
That grew beside a lonely way,
Close by a path none ever chose,
And there I lingered day by day.
Beneath the sunshine and the show’r
I grew and waited there apart,
Gathering perfume hour by hour,
And storing it within my heart,
        Yet, never knew,
Just why I waited there and grew.


I dreamed that you were a bee
That one day gaily flew along,
You came across the hedge to me,
And sang a soft, love-burdened song.
You brushed my petals with a kiss,
I woke to gladness with a start,
And yielded up to you in bliss
The treasured fragrance of my heart;
        And then I knew
That I had waited there for you.



“On Pilgrimage”

by Charles Foster. The Sacred Journey. Thomas Nelson. 2010.


You can’t root out something so fundamental to human identity. Christians of all denominations and none, and people with nothing other than the compulsion to walk, flock to Taizé, Santiago, Rome, and Jerusalem. Their motives are perhaps more mixed, or less well defined, than some of those mediaeval pilgrims. Many would say that they are going to find “themselves,” or “what it’s all about.” If the New Testament theology of the kingdom is right, they might not be as self-indulgent or as heretical as Martin Luther would have thought they were.


Not everyone finds what he is looking for, but everyone finds something that he didn’t have before and that he needs and wants. Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have. And faith, like muscle, likes being worked.


In the Armenian chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, third-century pilgrims, who must have battled their way there through hardships unimaginable to our pampered generation, drew a boat. It bears the inscription Domine ivimus: “Lord, we came.” And that’s more than can be said for most.


Hull Chris Carr



HFL 150 (CD1 / TK13)

“Pilgim’s Hymn”

words by John Bunyan


Who would true valour see

Let him come hither.

One here will constant be

Come wind, come weather.

There’s no discouragement

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim.


Whoso beset him round

With dismal stories,

Do but themselves confound:

His strength the more is.

No lion can him fright,

He’ll with a giant fight,

But he will have a right

To be a pilgrim.


Hobgoblin note foul fiend

Can daunt his spirit;

He knows he at the end

Shall life inherit.

Then fancies flee away,

He’ll fear not what they say,

He’ll labour night and day

To be a pilgrim.




by Charles Foster. The Sacred Journey. Thomas Nelson. 2010.


Lots of humans wander. history is crisscrossed by their tracks. Sometimes there are obvious reasons for wandering: to get better food for themselves or their animals; to escape weather, wars, or plague. But sometimes they do it—at great expense and risk—in the name of a supernatural being.


This is very strange. There are many books about pilgrimage: personal accounts, histories, sociological studies, and more or less structured anthologies of pilgrim tales and reflections. I have read quite a few of them. Many are superb. This work does not seek to compete with them. I am interested in three questions:


  1. How did anyone ever think that a journey, such as a journey made by a barn swallow, had any religious significance?
  2. Were they right?
  3. If they were, what should we do with the insight?


 I have tried to articulate a theology of pilgrimage. Some will be hurt and offended by it, and I’m sorry about that. It goes roughly like this:


  1. Travelling is fundamental to the definition and the psyche of human beings. We can suppress the desire to move, but if we do, nasty things happen to our heads, our societies, our souls, and our coronary arteries.


  1. Since earliest times there has been a bitter battle between settlers and nomads, (or as Oklahoma portrayed it, Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends )… or as portrayed in the bible, the story of Cain and Abel. Historically, Cain seems to have gotten the upper hand.


  1. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, Yahweh is loudly and unequivocally on the side of the nomads. He was a pilgrim God, travelling in a box slung over the shoulders of refugees and worshipped in a tent.


  1. Yahweh’s preference for the nomads is understandable. Yahweh, whenever and in whatever guise he appeared, was a traveler. There are things about the nomad’s life that embody Yahweh’s values and character: life on the edges; indiscriminate and costly hospitality; solidarity with the marginalised (most of the nomad’s time is spent outside main centres and in the company of peripheral people); intimate relationships with humans and the environment; a new view at every step; the loosest possible hold on possessions. And although many nomadic societies are hierarchical, there’s an inevitable democracy among travellers. When everyone walks, no one’s a king and everyone’s a king. But let’s not get too romantic about the margin-people. They still need salvation. They’re just likely to find it easier to grasp than centre-people do. It’s notoriously hard for poor little rich boys to enter the kingdom of heaven.


  1. When Yahweh became a man, he was a homeless vagrant. He walked through Palestine proclaiming that a mysterious kingdom had arrived. That was and is the gospel. He called people to follow him, and that meant walking. The kingdom that sprung up around his dusty feet was weird: it was a place in which the first were last and the last were first. This Yahweh-man, partly because he was an itinerant tramp and partly because that’s the way the kingdom always works, fascinated particularly the people on the edge of things: the underdogs, the despised. He wasn’t a big hit with the urban establishment.


  1. Being Christian (a word too contaminated by millennia of hypocrisy, violence, and downright error to be safe), means following the Yahweh-man, and expanding the topsy-turvy kingdom movement (significant word, that).


  1. Pilgrimage is wandering after God. That it may be to a definite destination doesn’t mean that it’s not wandering and doesn’t destroy its continuity with the beloved nomads and the kingdom-preaching wanderings of Jesus.


  1. There is a potent and important connection between the necessary, self-imposed marginalisation of the pilgrim and Jesus’ own bias towards the edge-people. Christian pilgrimage can and should be a walk with Jesus. And that is necessarily a walk in kingdom territory, under those upside-down kingdom rules. The pilgrim road is a physical peninsula of the kingdom. As the kingdom sprung up around the sandals of Jesus, so kingdom flowers can spring up around pilgrim boots. Not necessarily, of course, but it often happens.


  1. Edges are exciting places. It is there that different things collide and, therefore, that new syntheses happen. Just think about Portuguese cookery. To mix pork and clams and make savoury cakes is insane, but the world would be much poorer if it had not happened. And it could only happen on the wild edge of a sober continent.


  1. Physical pilgrimage involves bodies, blisters, hunger, and diarrhoea. And it’s a kingdom activity. It is accordingly one of the best prophylactics against, and cures for, one of the most deadly and prevalent diseases crippling the church: gnosticism. It is also effective against bigotry, self-righteousness, and angst.


  1. Pilgrimage is a journey back. It can give us new eyes—the eyes of children. And that’s just as well, because only those who come as children can enter that strange kingdom. Children’s eyes see color and significance where we see only grays and emptiness. Pilgrims are dancing, delighting children. In the curious spiritual geometry of the kingdom, you can only go forward by going back.


  1. Arrival is less important than the journey. This is because, if the journey is a walk with the Yahweh-man, there is an important sense in which you have arrived already. Yes, intimacy develops, but do you ever say of a relationship, “I’ve arrived”? Along the road there may be moments of epiphany, but if not, that’s fine. Ecstasy isn’t of the essence of relationship. But expect things to happen. Your incremental shuffle along the road is an incremental edging forward of kingdom borders—it’s a restoration of broken things and a making of new things. The leopard might lie down with the lamb, but if anyone suggests that I’m saying if you go on pilgrimage you’ll be able to talk to the birds, they haven’t read the book properly.


  1. There’s nothing heretical about the idea of a particularly sacred place. Yes, there is a sense in which everything is sacred—the veil between the sacred and the secular has been ripped down. But that doesn’t mean that sanctity doesn’t bubble up particularly vigorously in certain places.


  1. Not everyone can go on physical pilgrimage. But everyone can have the mind of the nomad-disciple. The lessons taught by the road need to be applied from birthing to dying.


  1. Pilgrimage can give a taste of Christian radicalism. In fact “Christian radicalism” is a tautology: nothing that is not radical is Christian. That takes some grasping. The road can help us grasp it. A stockbroker on pilgrimage for a week will be able to imagine better what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus. He’ll be on the fringes of places and the fringes of society, and hence in the heart of the kingdom and the company of its elite. For that week he’ll be an ally of Abel, not an enemy. Those little tastes of the kingdom can be addictive.


  1. Salvation is by grace, not by pilgrimage. But pilgrimage can help to create the conditions in which grace can work best.


  1. So get up and out and follow.


 Pilgrimage is ubiquitous. But there is something particularly odd about Christian pilgrimage. I deal very briefly and blandly with the role of pilgrimage in other religions, and I quote a good deal from the pilgrim literature of other religions. Sometimes that is to illustrate how their ideas of pilgrimage differ from the Christian notion—often it is because because they have important, beautiful, and significant things to say in their own right.




“Journal Excerpts, August & September 1876”

by Vincent Van Gogh


“If you want to persevere and make spiritual progress, look upon yourself as an exile and a pilgrim on this earth.” 

 ~ Thomas a Kempis


“One hears the cheerful sound…..and in me I feel something of the faith.


What I should wish to be I am not yet, but with God’s help, I’ll succeed…..


No longer des a day pass without speaking about God…. God’s help and blessing that shall become better…..


The Lord has taken me as I am, with all my faults, but I am still hoping for a more profound acceptance.


There are hours and days and times in life when God hides…, but for those who love God even those times, those sad times, are not entirely without god, but as though full of prophecies for the future and full of voices from the past. A moment in which we felt that we have a Father in heaven… in heart there was an even bigger voice than our own crying “Papa.”


The Lord is thy keeper.  A shade on thy right hand. In God is deliverance from death, in God is everlasting life. There will come days when we shall no longer believe because we heard it said, but when we shall know and feel and love.


Then we shall be moved, when we hear the name of God pronounced, even as we are moved when we see our parent again after having been gone from home for a long time.


It is an old faith and it is a good faith that our life is a pilgrim’s progress; that we are strangers in the earth, but that though this be so, yet we are not alone for our Father is with us. We are pilgrims — our life is a long walk, a journey from earth to heaven.”



HFL 163 (CD3 /TK 10)

“Those who seek wisdom”

words by Richard Frederick Boeke


Those who seek wisdom

Seek truth and courage,

Walk through the darkness,

Endure through the storm.

Those who meet wisdom

In your or in old age

Know  that the wonder

Is always new-born.


They know the vision

In words is spoken.

They live the vision

Without words in deed.

Touching with loving

In healing the broken,

Touching with dreaming,

With vision they lead.


Rise out of weeping,

Joy in this hour.

Sing out our greeting

In this new-born day,

Now may our meeting

Rekindle the power

Of truth and courage

To walk in the Way.



* * *


by Chris Carr

* * *

Musical Reflections

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves  Verdi.

* * *


We Make the Road by Walking

The ancient practice of pilgrimage


One of the first pilgrimages I did was in university, it wasn’t to a religious site, it wasn’t one of the many religious tourism types…. It was to raise awareness, and funds for fighting drought and famine through a multinational and multi-faith organisations. We walked all over Fresno California, going to different spots, in total the days distances….we walked an equivalency of the average walk that people in developing nations would walk to get fresh water on a daily basis. It was an experience that has stayed with me my whole life, at least the blisters that developed that day, went down and disappeared, but in my white middle class way, I discovered the wider world and the needs of people.


Epiphanies, awakenings happen in the various places and ways. Yet they do not happen outside a context. That is the reality of the spiritual life, and of spiritual disciplines, or practices. In reading, and my own limited experience, pilgrimages are one of those practices that can fortify us and open us up for these ah ha moments.


One of myths related to epiphanies is the suddenness of it all… often the story of Saul’s violent ride to Damascus where he has an conversion from being anti Jesus to being pro Jesus. And soon the name change to Paul.

But was he truly converted from one thing to another. I would say No. His passion for God, remained the same, his intellect, same. His belief system remains much the same, embedded in his understanding of Judaism, only that his understanding of Jesus has changed, and how Jesus opened the inclusive nature of God for him.


In reading some of the spiritual classics, there is this pattern. Epiphanies don’t  happen without something prior in place. There was a story of a village in Africa,  which was a Muslim village, the village was faithful to its practice and study of Islam. When some Christian missionaries came through, they noticed that the village had a decidedly Jesus overtone. When asked the Elders of the village said that in the study of the Quran they were convinced to focus on Jesus.


Of course my teacher was using this story as proof of the work of the Holy Spirit, but for me, it shows this spiritual dynamic, that our Ah Ha moments are built on something…. Even when we don’t see it.


I see this in the photos, and story telling that my husband does….. He likes to go to bird reserves, to watch birds, well duh, but also to simply to be present to nature. He returns from these walks, very deeply filled. It meets his experience with church as well.


When I was a teen, summers spent at camp, and having a spiritual high moment, whether in the plains of Oklahoma, or the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, were venues and training camps for my spiritual development. My work in anabaptist theology and peace studies prepared me for my ministry here and now. When I joined the Unitarian Church is was a part of the progression of my spiritual development that began those many years before at the feet of my parents and grandparents, arguing theology and faith. That was maturated in those summer and winter camps and retreats, and in my formal studies.


When another Unitarian spoke of my conversion and I strongly disagreed. I am where I have been moving my entire life.


My Ah Ha epiphany has been an ongoing, thought filled, reflective process, not without some high moments, but filled with moments unnoticed that I savour deeply.


It is this connection of activity, passion, and an openness to the ways that the spirit may speak to us that empowers our liberal / progressive faith. We are not bound to damascene conversions, nor to static conventions of the past, or the whims of populist  religious fads.


We are, as Unitarian Minister Tom Owen Towles calls us, Freethinking Mystics with hands. A descriptor of a tradition that doesn’t build its faith on endless ecstatic highs, or on endless philosophical debates, we seek a wholistic faith that connects heart, soul, mind and body in service, devotion, and gratitude.



A Prayer for germination

by John Carter


Life begins with a seed,

time flows within life and death and birth and ageing processes

Life begins with a seed,


human development is in a constant state of flux,

we are at the same moment, seed, germination, plant and product to be harvested


Yet even as we move simultaneously through these stages,

we need mindful attention that the vagaries, the malpractices of life do not harm our development


we even need each other


far too often the response to this flux

is a call to restrict, to harm, to build a wall of separation


all which can choke out the life of the seed and young plant.


we need each other, even the stranger


far too often the response to this need

is to deny it, to hide it, to focus upon quote unquote legitimate needs


and thus to cause one to stumble and stub one toes, tripping us up.


we need each other, even the undefined transcendent


that which moves us beyond our own petty interests

beyond myopic self centred-ness, beyond shallow, superficiality


that which moves us to painful clarity

that which moves us to grapple with our thorns

that which moves us into the fertile field of life, of the spirit, of growth and development.


of the dream for a better world for all


and it is thus asked of us


Are we willing to walk this path of struggle, of obstacles, of the undisclosed and undiscovered country of risk, struggle and life.





So we pray may we be willing to be willing to walk this fertile field of life.


so say we all,




Chris Carr leads today’s reflection and prayer




I shall be leading the service.


Reminder that our offerings are received in a retiring style, that is there is a plate and you are welcome to give as you are able… but know that all that you do for this beloved community is a gift, be it of your presence, your time, and or your monetary gifts, we celebrate all these gifts, our response of gratitude for the gift of life.



SYF 90 (CD3 /TK14)

“Let us give thanks and praise”

words by Peter Sampson


Let us give thanks and praise for the gifts which we share, for our food and our friendship, for water and fire, for the earth and the sky and the stars and the sea, and the trust we all have in God’s love flowing free.


Give a shout of amazement at what life can bring, put your heart into raising the song all can sing. What a world we could build with our minds and our hands where the people live freely and God understands.


Let us give of our best with the tools we shall need, use our eyes, hands and brains so that we may succeed. Inspire us to cultivate what we have sown so that nature and nurture make a world we may own.


We adore you, great Mother, O help us to live with a love for each other that each one can give let the pain of our brothers and sisters be faced and the healing of all souls on earth be embraced.



May our journey of faith open us to the far horizons and beyond

May we walk lightly on this earth and humbly with all that we meet.

May our lives radiate health, wholeness, and compassion.


So….. lets go walk about…





(accordion): Mon Homme. Maurice Yvain

The Digest - YUU Blog