Rev John Carter’s Sunday Reflections – 1 Aug 2021

Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

01 August 2021


“Emancipation Day”

And a happy Yorkshire Day too



“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

~  William Wilberforce



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.


In taking the time to explore, ask, reflect, and finally to name what was good, what wasn’t, and those important connections for you, there is a release for you to grow, to change what needs to be changed, and to reflect-fully live your life.


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




Emancipation: the process of giving people social or political freedom and rights:

In British history and law there are various emancipation acts, for Catholics, Unitarians, woman… and what today is to celebrate, the emancipation of Blacks from slavery in most of the British Empire on this date in 1834.

Today’s reflections focus on this aspect of these laws, as well as to invite us to consider further what a beloved community might be and how we work for greater participation and acceptance of the other in our lives and living.



“Joy of Living”

words by Deane Starr


We sing the joy of living,

We sing the mystery,

Of knowledge, lore and science,

Of truth that is to be;

Of searching, doubting, testing

Of deeper insights gained,

Of freedom claimed and honoured,

Of minds that are unchained.


We sing the joy of living,

We sing of harmony,

Of textures, sounds and colours,

To touch, to hear, to see;

Of order, rhythm, meaning,

Of chaos and of strife,

Of richness of sensation,

Of the creating life.


We sing the joy of living,

We sing the ecstasy,

Of warmth, of love, of passion,

Of flights of fantasy.

We sing the joy of living,

The dear, the known, the strange,

The moving, pulsing, throbbing —

A universe of change.




Excerpt from a speech to the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston, May 29, 1850

by Theodore Parker

Such is the crisis in our affairs; such the special issue in the general question between freedom and slavery; such the position of parties and of great men in relation to this question; such the foes to freedom in America.

On our side, there are great and powerful allies. The American idea is with us; the spirit of the majority of men in the North, when they are not blindfolded and muzzled by the demagogues of State and Church. The religion of the land, also, is on our side; the irreligion, the idolatry, the infidelity thereof, all of that is opposed to us. Religion is love of God and love of man: surely, all of that, under any form, Catholic or Quaker, is in favour of the unalienable rights of man. We know that we are right; we are sure to prevail. But in times present and future, as in times past, we need heroism, self-denial, a continual watchfulness, and an industry which never tires.

Let us not be deceived about the real question at issue. It is not merely whether we shall return fugitive slaves without trial by jury. We will not return them with trial by jury! neither “with alacrity,” nor “with the solemnity of judicial proceedings!” It is not merely whether slavery shall be extended or not. By and by there will be a political party with a wider basis than the free soil party, who will declare that the nation itself must put an end to slavery in the nation; and if the Constitution of the United States will not allow it, there is another Constitution that will. Then the title, Defender and expounder of the Constitution of the United States, will give way to this, — “Defender and expounder of the Constitution of the Universe,” and we shall re-affirm the ordinance of nature, and re-enact the will of God. You may not live to see it, Mr President, nor I live to see it; but it is written on the iron leaf that it must come; come, too, before long. Then the speech of Mr Webster, and the defence thereof by Mr Stuart, the letter of the retainers and the letters of the retained, will be a curiosity; the conduct of the Whigs and Democrats an amazement, and the peculiar institution a proverb amongst all the nations of the earth. In the turmoil of party politics, and of personal controversy, let us not forget continually to move the previous question, whether freedom or slavery is to prevail in America. There is no attribute of God which is not on our side; because, in this matter, we are on the side of God.


“Oh Freedom”

African-American Spiritual


Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free (over again x3)


No more mourning, no more mourning, no more mourning over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free


No more crying, no more crying, no more crying over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free


Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free


There’ll be singin’, there’ll be singin’, there’ll be singin’ over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free (over again x2)


Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me

And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in a my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free


Two Readings from Martin Luther King Jr…..

From his last book, Where do We go from here?, written & completed shortly before his death…

“The end of this road is clearly in sight. The cohesive, potentially explosive Negro community…has a short fuse and a long train of abuses. Those who argue that it is hazardous to give warnings, lest the expression of apprehension lead to violence, are in error. Violence has already been practiced too often, and always because remedies were postponed.

It is understandable that the white community should fear the outbreak of riots. They are indefensible as weapons of struggle, and Negroes must sympathise with whites who feel menaced by them. Indeed, Negroes are themselves no less menaced, and those living in the ghetto always suffer most directly from the destructive turbulence of a riot.

Yet the average white person also has a responsibility. He has to resist the impulse to seize upon the rioter as the exclusive villain. He has to rise up with indignation against his own municipal, state and national governments to demand that the necessary reforms be instituted which alone will protect him. If he reserves his resentment only for the Negro, he will be the victim by allowing those who have the greatest culpability to evade responsibility.

Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. There is no other answer. Constructive social change will bring certain tranquility; evasions will merely encourage turmoil.

Negroes hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hands of the white community.”


At the funeral of the UUA Minister James Reeb, who was murdered during the civil-rights protest in Selma, Alabama, on the 11th of March 1965…. Rev Martin Luther King Jr said these words…

“In his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike. He says that we must substitute courage for caution, says to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy that produced the murder. His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.”



“Bread and Roses”

words by James Oppenheim


As we come marching, marching,

In the beauty of the day,

A million darkened kitchens,

A thousand workshops grey,

Are touched with all the radiance

That a sudden sun discloses:

For the people hear us singing,

“Bread and roses, bread and roses!”


As we come marching, marching,

We battle too for men,

For they are women’s children,

And we mother them again.

Our lives shall not be sweated

From birth until life closes:

Hearts starve as well as bodies —

Give us bread, but give us roses!


As we come marching, marching,

Unnumbered women dead

Go crying, through our singing,

Their ancient song of bread!

Small art and love and beauty

Their drudging spirits knew:

Yes, it is bread we fight for,

But we fight for roses too!


As we come marching, marching,

We bring the greater days:

The rising of the women

Means the rising of the race.

No more the drudge and idler,

Ten that toil where one reposes,

But a sharing of life’s glories —

Bread and roses, bread and roses!



The Promise and the Practice: “Missing Voices”

Rev Connie Simon (UUA Minister)

When I started attending a UU church, I was excited by the promise of worship that would draw from the arts, science, nature, literature and a multitude of voices. Indeed, some of the voices that Unitarian Universalists hear in worship each week belong to Thoreau, Emerson, Ballou, and others. Their words are beautiful, but they come from a culture and experience that’s foreign to me. When do I get to hear voices from my culture? I quickly learned that, other than the same few quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Howard Thurman’s “The Work of Christmas,” it wasn’t gonna happen. I sit attentively and listen with my head to “their” voices while my heart longs to hear more of “our” voices.

I am a Black Woman. When I look around on Sunday morning, I don’t see many people who look like me. In most of the congregations I visit, I don’t see anybody who looks like me. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t hear voices of people who share my experience. But it still hurts. I want to hear voices that tell the struggle of living under the weight of oppression in this culture of White Supremacy. I want to hear stories of trying to stay afloat in the water we swim in. I want to hear voices of Living While Black in America.

I don’t hear those voices in UU churches so I have to supplement my worship by reading black theologians like Anthony Pinn and Monica Coleman. I read Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and my favorite poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Though not a Unitarian or a Universalist, Dunbar chronicled the African American experience in the years following the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved Africans — a time of opportunities for blacks as we migrated north in droves seeking employment and education but also a time of continuing segregation, racism and oppression.

Dunbar acknowledged this tension in his writing. We hear him long for joy and prosperity while at the same time knowing that the system would conspire to keep true happiness just beyond his grasp. “A pint of joy to a peck of trouble and never a laugh but the moans come double; and that is life!” Still, he was a champion of social justice, believing that God has sympathy for the plight of the oppressed and that his grace will be bestowed not on those “who soar, but they who plod their rugged way, unhelped to God.”

For Dunbar, the struggle was real. One hundred years later, hearing Dunbar express his frustration and give voice to the contradictions of our existence as African Americans encourages me and nourishes my soul. His voice speaks to my heart. He knows my pain and understands my sadness, my fear and my rage. He understands the tears I cry as I pray for strength to get through another day in this world. He gives voice to my deep faith that real change is coming someday. He didn’t see it in his lifetime and I might not see it in mine, but I have to keep believing it’s possible.

That’s the message many African Americans long to hear in church. I know that’s what I need to hear every now and then. Will it ever happen? Or will we always have to go “outside” to hear our voices? If that’s the case, maybe there’s no place for us in Unitarian Universalism. The thought of leaving is painful—but so is being in a faith that ignores our voices.



I found it interesting that today is designated Emancipation Day, the historic date on which slavery was banned in much of, but not all, of the British Empire. This happened because of the work of British abolitionists, evangelical Christians, and others. One of the leading men was William Wilberforce, native of Hull.

His faith and his politics combined to work for justice. This work was during the period that many other forms of emancipation happened. The repeal of anti-Catholic laws, often called Catholic emancipation, in 1829, which followed after the repeal of legal proscription against non trinitarians in 1813, though other Unitarian emancipations would come later.

In the 1960s the change of legal status for the LGBTQ+ communities began and continue to this day as does Women’s emancipation, and in many ways the Black Lives Matter movement is another example of the on going struggle for full Black emancipation and participation.

We are consistently growing into full emancipation for all.

One of the ways that churches can work at this ongoing action for full emancipation of all, is to open our ears, to actively listen to the voices of the marginalised and ignored. Evangelical, Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren argues that for the church to grow it needs to learn to listen to the people who it has ignored, for us to hear the full voice of the bible we need to listen to other than just straight white old dudes and begin to hear how the sacred is heard in the experiences, lives, and reflections of all communities, genders, cultures and orientations.

While all of this is actually linked, I will end with a Happy Yorkshire Day to you.



While today celebrates Black emancipation from slavery in 1834 on this date, what other forms of emancipation do you know?

Are we closer to total integration and acceptance today than we were a year ago?

In what ways can we open up for the other? How do we hear the perspectives given by the various theological voices in our world? Women? LGBTQ+ folx, Latinx, Black, political folx from the right, from the left, people with disabilities, people living with addictions? How do we hear their voice? How well do we allow their witness to touch our lives?



 The Courage to Begin Anew

By Rosemary Bray McNatt

In this moment of worship we call to mind those times of failure and regret common to all of us. We remember first, in silence, those times when we have failed to do all that we meant to do, or through our actions failed to be all we were meant to be.

[silence, then:]

We now recall our moments of integrity, those times we have lived into our deepest values, and acted as the human beings we always dreamed of being.

[Silence, then:]

We choose at this moment to lay down the burden of our shortcomings, and grasp the courage to begin anew. Together, we affirm our capacity for goodness and grace, for freedom and purpose and joy. We are not trapped in our past, but freed by creation to live and grow today. With gratitude, we say blessed be and amen.


And we pray

I Give You the Last Word, O God

By Beth Merrill Neel


Calling to Unburden

Our play is marked by merriment, but beneath that looms the Other: our worry; our sorrow; our shame, our guilt, our grief. Let us surrender all that to the One who loves us beyond measure, the One who heals us, the One who makes us whole.


Silent Prayer



I have failed.

I have gloated.

I have hated.

I have ignored.

I have raged.

I have hoarded.

I have judged.

I have turned away.

I am sorry.

I am exhausted.

I am done.


Fix me, heal me, break-and-remake-me, hold me, comfort me, nurture me, revive me, resuscitate me, bring me back from death.


I give you the last word, O God. Will it be ‘grace’? Will it be ‘free’? Will it be ‘love’?


Words of Assurance

My friends, God is not done with us, not by a long shot. You are more beloved than you can ever know, and God is working in you and in the world beyond our wildest imagining. The beginning of all that is forgiveness. So know that you are indeed forgiven, and be at peace. Amen.



“A World Transfigured”

words by Jacob Trapp


Wonders still the world shall witness

Never known in days of old,

Never dreamed by ancient sages,

Howsoever free and bold.

Sons and daughters shall inherit

Wondrous arts to us unknown,

When the dawn of peace its splendour

Over all the world has thrown.


They shall rule with winged freedom

Worlds of health and human good,

Worlds of commerce, worlds of science,

All made one and understood.

They shall know a world transfigured,

Which our eyes but dimly see;

They shall make its towns and woodlands

Beautiful from sea to sea.


For a spirit then shall move them

We but vaguely apprehend —

Aims magnificent and holy,

Making joy and labour friend.

Then shall bloom in song and fragrance

Harmony of thought and deed,

Fruits of peace and love and justice —

Where today we plant the seed.



words by John Carter


We lit the candle flame this day to bless and not curse,

We lit the flame to overcome the heavy sadness of our hearts,

We lit this flame to celebrate our love and compassion for all,

We lit this flame to bless and not curse.


So as the light of this flame dims, we take with us

the joy of life and living,

the gratitude for all that is,

the welcome that enlivens humanity in all aspects of our being.


We take and we grant that peace which goes beyond our comprehensions

as we go forth into our activities of daily living and life.

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