Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

19 March 2023


Lincoln Service

11 am

Musician: Jennifer Young

Worship Leader: John Carter


Hull Service

4 pm

Musician: Andrew Palfreman

Worship Leader: John Carter



“Wandering the edges of the Future”

Reflections on Lenten Practices

Via Transformativa




Hull prelude: improvisations on folk tunes




“The time is coming when people will be insane,

and when they see someone who is not insane,

they will attack that person saying:

You are insane because you are not like us.”

~  Abba Anthony

from Desert Wisdom


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…..



by John Carter


We light our chalice to open ourselves to a Lenten spiritual journey

         to release that which needs to be released.

         to incorporate that which we now need for growth.

         to transform our lives into avenues of health and          hospitality.


We light to become co-creators of a life and of a world

         of justice, love and peace.




Once again we gather, and we take time to reflect on our lives and living….


  • For what am I the most grateful?
  • For what am I the least grateful?
  • In this past week, when did I feel connected, a sense of deep belonging, to another, to myself, to nature, to the transcendent, life, God?


May our reflections continue in this time together, as we join to reflect on the deep things of the divine, and so we pray…


“May the spirit of life, guide us today” AMEN



Lincoln: HFL 191 (CD 1/ TK15)

“To Worship Rightly” words by John Greenleaf Whittier


Hull: HFL 6 “Sons and Daughters” words by William E. Oliver & John H. Hille



“Embracing Compassion, Justice and Wisdom: The way of Transformation (Via Transformativa)”

by Grace Blindell, from GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness, O Books, 2010.


Someone once said “Nothing has changed except the way I see things, — so everything has changed.”


The path called Via Transformativa, brings the insights of compassion, justice and wisdom to bear upon our interpretation of the other paths, most particularly upon that of the Via Creativa.


Do we create or do we destroy?


Our creativity will need the compassionate direction of wisdom and justice, for we are not puppets. We are a species with self-awareness, a species that knows it knows, a species with the power to choose.


Our conditioning is deep however, and we slip back into old patterns of seeing so easily. Yet each small illumination, each seemingly slight shift in perception is a step along the way of our Cosmic unfolding.


There are five subtle transformations in perception that mark our spiritual journey, as we embody this vision of life and the future that is dawning in our soul.


We move from being consumers to becoming partakers. A consumer devours whereas a partaker shares from an awareness of mutual interdependence.


We move from being an observer to becoming a participant. We are no longer detached observers of our home, the planet earth, and all that lives upon her. We have become aware that we are totally dependent upon this planet. It is this sense of interconnectedness that empowers our transformation from an observer to participant.


We move from being a tourist to becoming a pilgrim. We become ones who recognise and who seek the sacred nature of our planet.  A place of beauty, worthy of our reverence and awe.


We move from being the masters to becoming co-creators. We learn to listen and to see that we are not in control but are in partnership with the world around us, working for the good of all, ‘walking humbly upon this earth’.



“Original Blessing or Original Sin?”  by Dale Brown, from Another Way of Believing. Brethren Press, 2005.


As human beings, are we naturally good or bad?


Opinions about human nature have not been extensively debated, divisive, or resolved among liberal people. In spite of assumptions of theologians that what we believe about this doctrine affects how we shape other convictions, Schwarzenau Brethren, as well as other religious liberals, have generally remained confused or silent about this one. In looking at hymnody as practiced by our tradition, the committee responsible for the 1951 hymnal changed the first line of the hymn Amazing Grace, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saveth men like me.”


At that time many ardently opposed calling themselves or others a ‘wretch,’ defined as a wicked or despicable person.


Later, due to a growing concern for inclusive language, the 1992 hymnal committee, made up of different Anabaptist, non-conformist churches, chose to have us sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”


((Just a note: as I understand wretch was an upgrade from being a worm))


A feminist member of one of my classes had recently given birth to her first child. She glowingly testified to the wonderful birth experience and added that ‘only male theologians could contrive a doctrine such as original sin.’


A Presbyterian classmate injected that she had four sons and love then dearly, but still believe in the reality of original sin.


In tears, another woman accused the others of assuming that if you have not borne a child, you are not capable of doing theology.


This was a rare occasion where I was wise enough to keep the peace.


Our discussion that followed indicated that ambivalence may be a better word than confusion to describe the situation, for ambivalence refers to uncertainty that come with mutually conflicting emotions or thought. Because of our propensities for tolerating differences on this question, we will not presume to make definitive statements of our views of human nature, but will search for hints on how contributions of our heritage and life may enlighten our convictions and explorations of this, for us, ambiguous topic.



“Introduction to the reading for the fourth Sunday of Lent” by Randall K Bush, Preaching God’s Transforming Justice (Lectionary Commentary). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.


How shall we talk about the boundary experiences of life from a faith perspective? Faith experiences of boundaries are usually liminal in nature. This old-fashioned word relates to places of transition, where an intermediate phase or condition is present as people move between stages in their lives. It is possible to speak about a liminal state between shadows and light or between life and death.


Different perceptions or spaces of liminality offer interpretative insights to these passages for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.


The reading from Joshua 5 deals with the liminal place between the end of wilderness wanderings and the beginning of a new life in the land of Canaan.


Psalm 32 describes the boundary zone between places of iniquity and places of penitential wisdom.


The short passage from 2 Corinthians touches on a type of “double vision,” noting the liminality between a human point of view and a Christ-centered point of view.

Finally, the parable of the Prodigal Son is full of these transitional moments, such as when the father watches his younger son return or when the father stands outside the “welcome home” celebration, trying to convince the petulant elder son to join in.


Since our lives are spent navigating times of liminal transition, and since every movement from injustice to justice involves stepping across barriers and boundaries, there is much contemporary wisdom in the passages for this Sunday in Lent.



Lincoln: HFL 125 (CD 1 21HYMNS/TK 11)

“Let freedom span” words by Jacob Trapp


Hull: HFL 31 “The Flow of Life” words by Bruce Findlow



“Abba Isaiah, and the threshing-floor”

from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedict Ward, SLG


It was said of Abba Isaiah that one day he took a branch and went to the threshing-floor to trash and said to the owner,


‘Give me some wheat.’


The latter replied,


‘Have you brought in the harvest, Father?’


He said,




The owner said to him,


‘How then can you expect to be given wheat, if you have not harvested?’


Then the old man said to him,


‘So then, if someone does not work, he does not receive wages?’


The owner replied,




At that, the old man went away.


Seeing what he had done, the brothers bowed before him, asking him to tell them why he had acted thus.


The old man said to them,


‘I did this as an example: whoever has not worked will not receive a reward from God.’





“Rebuilding: Life as a Spiritual Exercise” by Joan Chittister, from For Everything A Season. Orbis Books, 2013.


Some people go through life dispensing ideas that they never then bother to enflesh or that they abandon at the first hint of opposition. Armchair critics sprinkle their judgments liberally through life and then move on quickly to criticise the next effort of the the next persons who, Noah-like, embark on a braver path. They always know what’s wrong with any element of the human estate. They seldom, if ever, on the other hand, provide a better solution to the problem themselves. Their forte is questions, not answers. Rebuilders, on the other hand, show a different mettle.


To the rebuilder, life is on long spiritual exercise in co-creation. Sanctification depends for them on doing, always doing, whatever is necessary to prod the world one step closer to the realm of God, one idea nearer to the vision of God, one moment closer to the way of God.


Rebuilders are artists of the soul who shape a piece of human creation and leave the results to the kiln of time. They do not claim to have all the answers. They claim to honour the questions. They are prepared to float forever, if necessary, to find a better world, to shape a finer piece of the planet.


No amount of ridicule can discourage the rebuilders. No degree of rejection deters them. Rebuilders have a goal in life too finely honed to be abandoned for something so snivelling as thoughtless censure. But ridicule, rejection, and censure are commonly their kingdom nevertheless.


For the zealots of the society, they are too slow.

For the conservatives of the group, they are too fast.

For the orthodox of the world, they are heretics.


Their lot is too often, too plainly a lonely one. They are followed as heroes by some and tracked as traitors by others. They die as failed messiahs and vanquished enemies. They cannot possibly succeed because what they set out to build is not the damaged structures of a people seeking shelter but the plastic hearts of a people gone too long without anything of substance to love. They work with a people who know what was wrong with what went before but who are, at base, bereft of the longevity of spirit it will take to replace it with better.


Rebuilders face grey roads on dark nights that go nowhere that anyone has sever seen.


The soul of a rebuilder is based on the ability to look lovingly into nothingness and know that there is something there worth going to, worth giving this ice to doing so that the lives of those that follow can be better still.


Rebuilders are commonly misunderstood, misjudged, and misnamed. They are called ‘reformers,’ ‘liberators,’ and ‘leaders,’ when, as a matter of fact, they are simply lovers gone wild with hope.


Consequently, rebuilding is a sad but glorious task. Many the rebuilder who has died with a broken heart, sure that they had failed when the truth of the matter is that one lifetime is simply not enough span for anyone to succeed in reconstructing an entire culture gone to dust. Rebuilders are those characters of history who rise long after their deaths in the purple haze of tenacity. Eventually the world remembers hem as the rethinks, the redefines, the rejuvenators of the world who carried it across the broken bridges of the past to the empty shores of a tenuous new era. Too late are the rebuilder then to know the beauty of being determined beyond all groof of possibility but not too late for the rest of us.


In the rebuilders of the world, the rest of us can see the power of vision and the implacability of prophetic patience when our own lives seem to have stumbled and stalled. Rebuilders teach us that ‘courage is fear that has held on one minute longer.’


Rebuilders look to the rainbow with the eye of a Noah. They intend to save as well as to flee, to begin as well as to end, to repeat the good things of life in a hight key. They do not deter easily, and because of them the human spirit has lived on from one human fiasco to the next, always better, always with the faith of the unfalteringly simple who have heard the word of God and been foolish enough to believe…


George Bernard Shaw said,


‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.’



Lincoln: HFL 209 (CD WWSfT/TK 22)

“A World Transfigured” words by Jacob Trapp


Hull: HFL 193

“God of Grace and God of Glory” words by Harry Emerson Fosdick

((MUSIC: use the tune CWM Rhondda instead of Triumph in the HFL))




Spirituality transformed in the living places”

(Examination of the Via Transformativa)


In exploring this theme for today, I began to wonder if Unitarians are nervous about the use of the word Transformation. We have no section of hymns under this terminology, yet we have hymns that would fit the ideas of a world transformed. Is this too close to the language of conversion?


We are comfortable with transition, transience, change, but not transformed.


When we hear transformation, what are the thoughts that come to mind? Could it be a judgment about who we are as a person that we need to be better? Or that we are engaged in activities that are questionable? Or that we are not quite proper, whatever that really means….


In a way is transformation a demand of society, the status quo, or is it a personal assessment that we need to change.


Spiritual exercises are meant to help us grow into a better person, so we can help our community grow into a better group of people, and so forth. We are not comfortable with human negativity, harmfulness, sin, evil….. especially within our self reflections.


As an activist, especially around peace, I discovered that many activist become the very thing they are fighting. Peace activist who use passive aggressive behaviour to force their will, which is still violence. Social Justice activists who often in their attempt to recognise the humanity of the oppressed, turn out to be as violently negating of the humanity of the oppressor. How many revolutionaries become the very thing they despised after the revolution was over. I am certain each of us here can name one or several.


In this our readings for today are about recognising the importance of transformation as a theological, religious, spiritual imperative. Regardless of our beliefs, it is how we live out the core of our faith, and how that core moves us…


I suspect that in our hyper individualistic era, the idea of being aware of our own foibles is near heresy. When we look at the growing religious groups many are defined by self interest, not service, nor care of the world and all life upon it. We need the push of compassion to get us to look beyond our own selfish gene. We need the call of empathy to move us beyond our secure boundaries. We need to transform or transcend our ways of perception so that all life can survive with dignity.


Be the we, individual, or be the we corporate.


Transformation and conversion language are about how we perceive the world. The goodness of it, and the evil too. Spiritual practices, like meditation, or sacred reading, of walking in the forest, or entertaining friends are some of the ways that perception can be challenged and changed. With the proviso that we must actively seek it.


This will sound strange, even to myself, but in some ways the language of conversion doesn’t bother me…. Unless I being told to do so, being held that at one point of my life, I was not a part of a community and only when I joined or said that I converted that I was then a part and okay, now.


When I began my studies for Unitarian ministry, I had people tell that I was involved in a conversion studies. I of course balked at that one.


My joining, taking membership in the Unitarian church, was due to a sense that we were closer in thought and practice to the christian community of which I was a member of in the states. That was not conversion, it was simply finding home. The language of conversion can get really patronising, condescending, arrogant. All of which puts barricades to others joining us.


Which why a healthier view of transformation can serve us. It is not a sudden thing, but a growing thing. One of which we are also participating in, seeking, study, praying. Transformation is our whole self involved in a spiritual evolution of our soul, mind, body, and will. It moves us inward to grow us outward. While that feels and sounds paradoxical, it is that multiple thrust that transforms us into a people who seek the good of all…. It is evolutionary, simple and complex…. But it is what we must allow compassion to make of us…..


“Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right”


Movement, dance, transformation…… simples.



O Rest in the Lord. Felix Mendelssohn (from “Elijah”)




It is a cool, rainy evening…

          I walk in it’s beauty


The temperature is dropping….

          I dance in it’s beauty


The time hastens and I must too….

          mindful of the beauty that envelopes me..


And I am home.







Lincoln: HFL 198 (CD3 / TK16)

“The healing of the nations”  words by Fred Kaan


Hull: HFL 212

“The Golden City” words by Felix Adler



May we walk this week in the humbling sense of transformation,

May we be Living edges, sustainers of life,

A people transformed by compassion.




Hull: La Mer (Beyond the Sea) Albert Lasry and Charles Trenet (Accordion).


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