Counting Our Blessings, Checking Our Privilege – 07/06/20

Hello everybody and welcome to Kensington Unitarians’ Sunday Message, which began with Edward Elgar’s Salut D’Amour, a greeting of love to everyone listening in, skilfully played for us by Abby Lorimier and her mum Sue over in Florida. Thank you both. Our message today includes an extended meditation led for us by our very own Jeannene Powell, to help us locate our sources of inner strength and inner stillness, much needed in turbulent times. And that will be followed by a hymn ‘One more Step’ sung by Jen Hazel over in Southend on Sea for which Jeannene has written some extra verses, verses that speak of the need for every one of us to stand for justice and equality in an unequal and painfully unjust world.

One more stand, we will take one more stand,
’till we have justice here for everyone, we’ll take one more stand.

One more step, we will take one more step,
’till there’s an equal world for everyone, we’ll take one more step.

And we can start as we often do on a Sunday morning, or at any time when we want to focus our attention, by lighting a candle, our Unitarian chalice flame, symbolising the oneness of our world, that its light might channel our yearnings for a life of justice and compassion, a life of justice and compassion for all, not just for a favoured few.

And let’s take those yearnings into a short time of prayer and reflection now, aligning ourselves with the god of our hearts and our understanding, within us and beyond us, connecting us with all life and all love, reminding us that we are part of all existence and that we have responsibility and agency in this world. There is justice building work to do, we inhabit structures of inequality that are ours to dismantle, we are called to take an active part in the healing our world so sorely needs.

And in a few moments of shared stillness let us each direct our thoughts and prayers to those in need this day… and may our love and our honesty do good in the world, and to that aspiration let us each say amen, may this be so, for the greater good of all.

Friends, in a world troubled to its core by a pandemic that continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods, in a world where the disturbing effects of climate change are ever more apparent, this week we have been reminded of a legacy of injustice and violence that shames our species, for our human society is one where people are treated differently according to the colour of their skin. We are being reminded of a long history of violence against people of colour, a history rooted in painful inequalities, a history that has left a shameful legacy of privilege for some of us, a legacy of privilege that we must now examine and address.

Many of us are suffering one way or another at present. And I’ve been touched when speaking with people to hear how helpful it can be to count our blessings. Many of us are experiencing roller coaster type emotional states, and it can steady us, can’t it, to notice the many ways we are blessed. We’re noticing perhaps the night sky with its recent full moon, enjoying the wind on our faces, the growing plants and heart-warming birds. We’re touched when people phone or send a card or email. Food tastes sweeter when we have more time to prepare it and when the arrival of certain ingredients is a little uncertain.

Years ago we Kensington Unitarians created a shared list of 100 Blessings, a Jewish practice of noticing our good fortune. To create such a list is a worthwhile exercise for any of us, especially when life is not quite how we’d wish it to be. It reminds us, that despite everything, life is filled with precious experiences and good fortune. Given the spotlight that is now being shone upon the issue of racial violence, not just in the States but rightly here in Britain too, maybe now is the appropriate time for us to examine our privilege as well as count our blessings. Because good fortune is not fairly distributed in our society. The colour of someone’s skin will affect their chances in life, their economic situation, the way they are treated by the legal system, their educational attainment, their health and general well being. As people committed to a spiritual path that asserts the equality of all, we Unitarians cannot rest easy whilst such injustices still exist. So let’s help one another wake up to racial injustice and get clear about the legacy of white privilege on which our society is built. I’m grateful to Jeannene for writing a meditation to help us locate the inner strength we need for this work of justice building.

Sources of Inner Stillness and Inner Strength – Meditation by Jeannene Powell

Over the past two weeks, many, if not all of you have seen the protests happening across the States, the UK, and other countries around the world, and some of you may have participated in them. Sparked by the killing of George Floyd, there has been an outpouring of outrage at the inhumanity of his killing, and human empathy in the face of a legacy of inequality and oppression. People clearly recognising that there is such a strong injustice when some people’s lives are viewed as being worth less than other people’s lives, based on the colour of their skin – not only in America, but in our own cities, towns and countries too.

Injustice comes in numerous forms, and is directed towards many diverse groups of people and those deemed to be “different” in some way. But so does the desire to make a difference, to change the systems which leave people voiceless, marginalised and devalued.

I’m going to lead you into a period of meditative silence, in which I’ll invite you to consider what sources you draw inner strength and inner stillness from, to better work in the world, to bring about justice and equality. So I’ll say a few words, which you can choose to follow if you wish, or think your own thoughts, but if you do follow my words and you find images, senses or ideas coming to you, which don’t seem related, that’s ok, just trust that that’s what your inner-self or unconscious mind feels is the right thing for you. And after a minute or two, this meditative silence will be ended by our friend Jen Hazel singing the hymn, “One More Step,” complete with additional verses, written for our message today. And if you want to listen to the hymn again and sing along, the words can be found on the printed version of this Sunday Message.

So I invite you, to take this time, wherever you are, to get comfortable…. to settle where you’re seated or laid down,….. if doing something, to take the opportunity to pause and rest a while, maybe putting down what you don’t need to hold and carry – in your hands and in your mind…… Be aware of the supporting surface beneath you. Maybe choose to soften your gaze or close your eyes – whatever works best for you….to help you to relax and be present in this time….. Relax your breathing as you can….breathing in…. and breathing out…. letting any noises or distractions from elsewhere just drift past…. and allowing your attention to turn inwards now….
And I ask you to reflect on the places in your life where you do, or you can, draw inner strength and stillness, in the face of inequality or injustice. Maybe these are people, places or objects, things which are external to you or reside within, that give you inner stillness and strength to do what you can to re-address equality imbalances in our world. Helping you to take steps that create effective change, to stand up and be counted in some way, to speak out instead of choosing complicit silence maybe, to acknowledge, examine and weaken the impact of our own biases, prejudices and privileges.

How can you gather that internal strength, to support charities and organisations which work for equality, or sign petitions, join protests, write to MP’s and policy makers insisting on change, not just once, but over and over again.

What sources give you your strength, to not turn away from the pain of living in a world which protects some and so easily discards others, and instead choose to embark on actions, which heal and transform organisations, institutions, our society and our world, towards a vision of equality, justice and peace for all.

Where do you draw your inner strength and inner stillness from?


Hymn 124 Purple Hymnbook, ‘One More Step’ sung by Jen Hazel, Last 2 verses written by Jeannene Powell

One more step, we will take one more step,
’till there is peace for us and everyone, we’ll take one more step.

One more word, we will say one more word,
’till every word is heard by everyone, we’ll say one more word.

One more prayer, we will say one more prayer,
’till every prayer is shared by everyone, we’ll say one more prayer.

One more stand, we will take one more stand,
’till we have justice here for everyone, we’ll take one more stand.

One more step, we will take one more step,
’till there’s an equal world for everyone, we’ll take one more step.”

(first three verses written by Joyce Poley)

Closing Blessing

And so a closing blessing for us all and for our world; knowing that there is always more to be done, more to understand, more to appreciate, let us in the week ahead be ever grateful for the blessings that come our way, ever more aware of the many privileges that we too often take for granted, and ever more committed to taking one more step towards a world of greater justice and greater equality. This is vital work that is calling to us – let’s help one another find the inner strength and inner stillness to face the truth of how things are, and how they could be; amen, go well all of you, and blessed be.

Rev. Sarah Tinker and Jeannene Powell

7th June 2020