Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

Sunday 20 November 2022



Lincoln Service ~ 11 am

Led by Jennifer Young


Hull Service ~ 4 pm

Led by Chris Carr

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Meeting ID: 851 6409 5601

Passcode: 130597



“Reflections on Being the Beloved Community”


We continue to Pray for the Ukraine, Yemen, and all places of war and destruction and all people, creatures and the environment effected by these wars.


May Peace come

“No more war, please”





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…..





A short Unitarian Prayer

“Teach us, good lord, that being religious consists

not in the observation of holy days but in the living of holy lives,

for each day provides us with a golden opportunity for doing good.

And help us to see the folly of yearning after eternity

when we have not yet learned to use wisely the few short hours of a single day.”

~ John Andrew Storey



words by John Carter


We light our chalice, this candle,

          as a sign of connectedness….

                     as an avenue to remembrance….

                               a reminder of learning from the past…

                                         a call to look to today and another way of living…




by Laurie Stuart


In the spirit of community and a sense of purpose in our ministry:
Let us commence the discovery of our strengths, our concerns, our grief and our joy.
Let this journey be one of love, authenticity and reverence.
Let us shape our lives, our work and our days as an expression of that joy,
that love and of our commitment to service and to each other.





In the liturgical traditions of mainstream Christianity, today is celebrated as Christ the King, sometimes taking on apocalyptical meanings and explorations. As a faith tradition that is both dissenting and non-conformist we would explore this differently.


Not looking at worldly power, as the sign of religion or as a sign of the anointed one, but exploring what our faith, our doubts, our considerations, our questions, and our time together and upon this earth can be to bring about healthy living.


In this we are revisiting what it means for us to be a Liberal religion, a progressive religion. How we embody our faith in our daily living.


Our readings today are in three parts, 1) biblical material and a commentary reflection upon it… 2) Unitarian voices exploring the theme of being a religious community and how it effects daily life… 3)Voices from other traditions and cultures that also reflect on these themes.



1) Biblical voices:

LUKE 1:68–79

Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible . Sheed & Ward.


“Blessed are you, the Most High God of Israel—

for you have visited and redeemed your people.

You have raised up a mighty saviour for us

of the house of David, 

as you promised through the mouths of your holy ones,

the prophets of ancient times:

salvation from our enemies

and from the hands of all our foes.

You have shown mercy to our ancestors

by remembering the holy Covenant

you made with them,

the oath you swore to Sarah and Abraham,

granting that we,

delivered from the hands of our enemies,

might serve you without fear,

in holiness and justice,

in your presence all our days.

And you, my child, will be called

the prophet of the Most High,

for you’ll go before our God

to prepare the way for the Promised One,

giving the people the knowledge of salvation

through forgiveness of their sins.

Such is the tender mercy of our God,

who from on high

will bring the Rising Sun to visit us,

to give light to those who live

in darkness and the shadow of death

and to guide our feet

into the way of peace.”


Reign of Christ: Traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday

by Jennifer L. Lord

Preaching God’s Transforming Justice (Lectionary Commentary). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.


Introduction to the texts:


According to Luke, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion three different voices mock Jesus and taunt him to save himself. He is, after all, the Messiah. He is God’s anointed ruler. This is the meaning of the inscription hung over him on his cross. But the texts for this Reign of Christ Sunday make it clear that Jesus is not the sort of king who is interested in saving himself and coalescing power and privilege. That is a misunderstanding of what his sovereignty means. Instead the texts for this day give us pictures of alternative understandings of monarchy. Jesus is the type of ruler whose concern is not in saving himself, but in the manifestation of righteousness, justice, and mercy for all.


There are, then, a few themes to highlight for this Reign of Christ Sunday, according to Luke. One theme is that Jesus is a king, but not according to standards of power, influence, and privilege. Instead, Luke’s account of Jesus emphasises his ministry to the marginalised: the poor, the orphans, the women, and even sinners. This includes also his ministry to the rich, and his teaching that there be no chasm between the two. Jesus’ ministry is about the reign of God, whose mercy knows no boundaries. We could simply turn our sights to current health care debates and set these alongside Luke’s account of Jesus the Messiah. The poor, the developmentally disabled, the physically disabled, these marginalised ones are to receive care and be fed. And woe to the ones who are rich and perpetuate the gap between the needy and the wealthy! This king does not save himself; he is about the salvation of all. While we do not have a king in North America, we do have entities that behave in ways that are critiqued by Jesus’ reign, which challenges the validity of any entity that seeks to maintain power, that sustains self-serving interests of money and influence. Insurance and banking industries do not fare well when set alongside an understanding of kingship that is about the safety and prosperity of all members of the kingdom. Money cannot be the goal. The needy and the outcast must profit from this king’s system of government.


Another theme is that this salvation for all is not a future hope but a present reality. The today sayings culminate in the “today” said from the cross. And if we are the ones who recognise this king for who he is, then we are to be the ones who participate in and work for this present reality.


These passages also speak of citizenship—our transfer into Christ’s realm. This passage continues the theme of the other texts: this reign is present tense and therefore not solely for afterlife. In its context the texts function to give the church strength to live counter-culturally. This theme alone serves as a call to action for us. If the reign of God is not for the future but is for now, and if we are claimed in Christ as citizens of this rule, then there is a summons to live from a posture that challenges any aspects of church and state that run counter to this claim—because this reign is about justice and mercy for all!


On this day, then, we claim a ruler who was mocked and crucified but who, even from the cross, announced the presence of his realm. We claim a ruler who surpasses all earthly rulers and judges any evil misrule. This ruler judges the kings of the earth who serve themselves, ignore the needy, and perpetuate any oppression. We praise the One who names us as citizens of a realm of prosperity and safety. And all are to be gathered into this fold.


2) Unitarian Voices:

HYMN (This hymn could be sung or read as a unison reading)


“Be ours a religion”

words by Theodore Parker,


Be ours a religion

which like sun-shine goes everywhere

its temple all space,

its shrine the good heart,

its creed all truth,

its ritual works of love.


A Sermon on war: an excerpt

By Theodore Parker


War is in utter violation of Christianity.


If war be right then Christianity is wrong, false, a lie.

But if Christianity be true – if reason, conscience, religion, the highest faculties of humanity – are to be trusted, then war is the wrong, the falsehood, the lie. 


I maintain that war is a sin, that it is national infidelity, a denial of Christianity and of God. Everyone who understands Christianity by heart, in its relations to humanity, to society, the nation, the world – knows that war is a wrong.


“Make a better world”

by David Usher

from 12 Steps to Spiritual Health


“An unfortunate consequence of much of contemporary interest in spirituality is that it tends to focus exclusively on the individual.


‘It’s all about me’ is the cry. ‘My purpose in life is to be a whole person, to tend to the needs of myself and those in my immediate circle.  I cannot save the world if I am not fulfilled and happy in myself.  Peace in the world begins with me and who I am; therefore I will concentrate on myself, and being a happy and contented and spiritually fulfilled person will be my contribution to the peace of the world.’


Many people spend great sums of money and devote considerable amounts of time to self-improvement courses, attending residential workshops, and reading books, all of which are designed to help turn them into better and more enlightened people, as if their life’s work was to do no more than tune in to their own karma.


If that is your view of spiritual health, perhaps you have already realised that what I am saying is simply not for you.  If you think that the responsibilities of your spiritual life begin and end with you, then the really bad news is that not only have you wasted some of your time and even your money in this, but your quest for spiritual health is fatuous and doomed to fail.  A healthy personal spirituality is impossible if it does not include an ambition and a sense of responsibility beyond self.


Yes, work on self is an important and essential part of work in the world.  Yes, espousing peace in the world is a hollow cry if you are in conflict with yourself and with those immediately around you.  But the work of true spirituality is the work of being engaged with the world, not withdrawing from it.  Charity might begin at home, but it does not end there.  Charity that does end at home is not charity at all, but narcissism and self-centredness.  Spirituality that ends with self is not real spirituality, but a stunted distortion.  True spirituality is found in the interface between nurturing one’s own inner core and being fully involved with the world.


If you wish to be a spiritually alive and fulfilled person in the world, then you must be active in the world, your presence in the world must be a positive asset to that world, and your spirituality must serve needs greater than your own.”


“Doubting Believers”

by Tom Owen-Towle

from “Freethinking Mystics With Hands: Exploring The Heart of Unitarian Universalism”


“Christine Robinson, in “Cherish Your Doubts”, says….


The theology of doubt is the underlying theology of Unitarian Universalism….It is a theology which keeps us from self-righteousness, but not action….So let’s cherish our doubts.  They not only lead to larger truth, but they make us wise, keep us humble, and allow us to live together in love.”


Unitarian Universalists may not be born skeptics, but sooner or later we develop a passion for the art of creative doubt.  We are not comfortable in being intellectually stodgy and spiritually quiescent.  We question because we are willing to grow.  Desiring a supportive clan in which to expand our horizons, we end up in the Unitarian Universalists fold.


However, we soon realise that doubt by itself isn’t enough.  We choose to live with doubt but not by doubt.  We live beyond reason and despite doubt; we live by faith.  Doubt alone leads to despair, in which we slide from healthy skepticism into a debilitating cynicism that negates the spirit of life.


Much of my life is grounded in faith.  My wife and I share multiple evidences of our love as well as vexatious doubts.  But the foundation of our love rests upon faith in our good will, our stable commitment, our abiding intimacy.


Faith is integral to my communion with self, neighbour, nature, and God.  In all these covenants, I proceed deliberately but confidently, despite partial knowledge and flawed vision.


To be mature doubting believers, we seek comrades who will keep us awake and on our course.  A religious community is where our faith can be celebrated, stretched, and refined.  It is where we can share the burdens of our doubts and our temptations to despondency.  It is where our faith can be spurred to extend outward to serve the larger world.  This Midrash reinforces the need to share such religious community:


          “God said to Moses: ‘You doubted me, but I forgive you that doubt.  You doubted your own powers as a leader, and I forgive you that also.  But you lost faith in this people and doubted the divine possibilities of human nature.  That I cannot forgive.  The loss of faith makes it impossible for you to enter the Promised Land.”  


It is foolhardy either to doubt or to believe all by oneself!”


Confessions of a Neo-Transcendentalist Christian Humanist Unitarian

by Cliff Reed, from Beyond Darkness.


“…there is no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins.” 

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


I am Neo-Transcendentalist because the spirituality and

insights of the original Transcendentalists resonate within me:

their affirmation of a single seamless Divinity reaching out

from our inmost being to the “starry heavens above.”;

of the inner soul’s identity with the universal ‘Over-Soul’;

of the connecting sacredness indwelling Nature and ourselves,

enabling us to experience it as wonder and beauty.


I am Christian because the life and teaching of Jesus is the

model I was brought up to follow, and because I see in him

and his true disciples the Way to follow still.


I am Humanist because I believe that our human life is

the only arena in which to work out our own salvation; that

the ‘supernatural’ is the stuff of myth or of delusion, or —

sometimes — the natural we don’t yet understand.


I am Unitarian because I believe that God is One — the source,

cement, and soul of the universe;

that Humanity is One, a single species enriched by its

superficial diversities of culture, faith and ethnicity;

that life on Earth is One, an evolving interdependent web of which we are part;

that Liberty of Conscience is the birthright of everyone, and

that loving kindness should be our duty, aim, and practice.




3) Other Voices:

A Presbyterian Voice


by Rev Jim Rigby. 17 March 2022 Facebook post


I remember the very moment I became a heretic.


It was right after high school and long before seminary. I began reading the works of Albert Schweitzer. I turned to Schweitzer thinking I would find a kindly mystic. I was not prepared to find a rational skeptic as well. What I found was someone who loved science and held reason in creative tension with creativity and compassion.


I have not been able to find the quote since, but I remember Schweitzer saying somewhere that there are two distinct groups calling themselves “Christian.” He said there are those who follow the teachings OF Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount, etc), and another distinct group that follows their church’s teachings ABOUT Jesus (creeds, rituals, rules, etc.)


Schweitzer said:

“What has been presented as Christianity during these nineteen centuries is only a beginning, full of mistakes, not full blown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.”


“Nowhere does (Jesus) demand of his hearers that they shall sacrifice thinking to believing.” “(It) was important, therefore, to overthrow superstition and to bring religion within the domain of reason.”


“First of all the priesthood must be deprived for ever of its influence. Then an improvement of the social condition of (humankind) must be introduced, since the level of morality depends upon social conditions. Jesus was a social reformer.”


“The law of love was the indissoluble bond by which Jesus for ever united morality with religion.”


I will always be grateful for Schweitzer’s distinction between two forms of Christianity. If someone wants to wear the big hats and wear the fancy robes of the church I would recommend following the religion ABOUT Jesus. But if you want a life of helpful trouble on behalf of ALL people (and animals too) I would take the path taught by Jesus and by spiritual and secular teachers the world over- that of radical and universal love.


A Native Nation Voice

Eagle Poem

— Joy Harjo

from “In Mad Love and War”


To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.


A Palestinian American Voice


—Naomi Shihab Nye


Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.


Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.


Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and

purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where

like a shadow or a friend.


Two Roman Catholic Male Voices: One monastic, One Priest

“Letter to Czeslaw Milosz”

by Thomas Merton

from a collection of letters Thomas Merton: A Life In Letters


“To Czeslaw Milosz                                                             15 March, 1968


Let me reassure you. There was absolutely nothing wounding in your letter. Anything you may be tempted to think about the Church. I think myself, and much more so as I am in constant contact with all of it. The boy scout atmosphere, the puerile optimism about the ‘secular city’ and all the pathetic manoeuvres to be accepted by the ‘world’ — I see all this and much more. And I also get it from the other side. Conservative Catholics in Louisville are burning my books because I am opposed to the Vietnam War.


The whole thing is ridiculous. I do think however that some of the young priest have a pathetic honesty and sincerity with is very moving. Beyond that I have nothing to say.


And I have a thick skin.


You can say absolutely nothing about the Church that can shock me. If I stay with the Church it is out of a disillusioned love, and with a realisation that I myself could not be happy outside, though I have no guarantee of being happy inside either.


In effect, my ‘happiness’ does not depend on any institution or any establishment. As for you, you are part of my ‘Church’ of friends, who are in many ways more important to me than the institution…”


Heart of Authentic Spirituality

By John Dear (RC Priest)

From the Foreward, Peacework, by Henri Nouwen


There are many books on spirituality, many spiritual teachers, and many ways to pursue the so-called “spiritual life.” But as a Jesuit trying to work for peace and justice over the last twenty-five years, I find that most miss the mark because they do not address the global crises of war, nuclear weapons, poverty, hunger, AIDS, and the threat of environmental destruction. These so-called “political issues” are matters of life and death, which means they are first and foremost spiritual matters. That is why Jesus dedicated himself so passionately to justice for the poor and a vision of God’s reign of peace on earth, and why he gave his life to the formation of a community of peacemakers who would confront institutionalised, imperial injustice head on, just as he did.


Publicly resisting evil and making peace in the world are at the heart of every authentic spirituality. Unfortunately, few of us make this critical connection between the spiritual life on the one hand, and war, poverty, and nuclear weapons on the other. Most of us disconnect our private spiritual experience from “the real world” of business, electoral politics, bombing raids, and national “security.” Perhaps we do not want to cause trouble, divide our congregations, or risk the charge of being unpatriotic. Yet, without realising it, our passivity and silence in the face of global violence renounces the prophetic witness of the non violent Jesus. Rather than align ourselves with God’s reign of justice and peace, we opt for the status quo of war and global injustice. It is as if, in order to write or speak about prayer and spirituality today, we have to ignore the war in Iraq, or the violence in the Middle East, or the ongoing development of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, while in the meantime budgets for schools, jobs, homes, food, and health care are slashed. The culture tells us that these issues, painful as they may be, do not concern our spiritual life, that there is no connection between our private prayer and the horrors we read about in the morning paper.




“Striving to be faithful:

The journey of Liberal – Progressive religion”

Rev John Carter


This is a topic I return to in many ways.


Beginning with perspectives of my Mennonite & Schwarzenau Brethren heritage… where the understanding of faith was striving to be faithful to the call of Jesus.


Yes that sounds conservative in language because there are so many who exploit that call without examining what it is about…. So basically, when I say it, I mean that Jesus calls us to a spiritual life, here and now, that contributes to the development of a world of peace (shalom) and Justice (relational: how we live together).


In University one of my roommates was from a fundamentalist denomination, Evangelical Free Church. He would in all our conversations about faith and the perspective of the Mennonites would simply dismiss us as being liberal.


Because of the way we interpreted the Bible, he was taking issue with our seeing Jesus’ call to love your enemy as being literally political, and personal. Our seeing as universal Jesus’ command to Peter to put away your sword, for those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.


Now what I am demonstrating is a fairly literal sense of reading the biblical material, but a hermeneutic (meaning: the way that we interpret) that is basically progressive, in that it reaches further than the scope of a personal connection to a multinational sense.


I would add that in this conversation the biblical material, through it narratives, poetry, and prophetic utterance do lead to this conclusion. That is take it seriously and see that it calls you to apply it universally.


So our desire for just ecological treatment of the earth and all that live upon her, is in fact a way of living our the love ethic of the biblical material.


“Love your neighbour as yourself”


We Unitarians have this sense as well, first because we too are the children of the radical reformation, the Anabaptists, the Dissenters, the non-conformists. Who saw that the spiritual life has far reaching implications for the way we live in the present moment.


We strive to live this spirituality daily.


We also fail to do so, but we know that love is an invite to the journey of life, where faithfulness is the call, that is we strive to live in this way, not in our successes.


Our readings today show this desire from a variety of sources. They also show that you can have what is seen as a conservative way to being with a progressive way of doing.


So I invite you to visit your history, and examine how it may be lived with care for all.


What makes us, the Unitarians, a safe place for all who come in our doors?


And to celebrate that we truly want to be the difference that we desire to see in our world.




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,











by John Carter


May our days be filled with saintly and not so saintly purpose,

may we embrace that which makes us different and that which connects us all.


In our desperate world


Being guided by the Good

Sustained by love

Empowered to live


May we live our life


As instruments for compassion, joy, peace, justice, spiritual wholeness for the whole of creation…..