Truth, Justice, and Change - 14/06/20

Truth, Justice, and Change – 14/06/20

Opening Chant: Spirit of Life, come unto me.

Hello everybody and welcome to our Sunday Message podcast for Kensington Unitarians and friends the world over. Once again thanks go to Abby Lorimier our music scholar and her mom Sue for the cello and piano music today – you might have recognised that our opening music is an old favourite for some of us, spirit of life:

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Let us indeed this day summon the spirit of life to be with us, to sing in our hearts and move in the hand, so that life here on earth may indeed be shaped by justice, justice for all. You might like to take a conscious breath as a way of connecting us with one another and with that spirit of life, (pause) and as we breathe out we can imagine releasing anything that we feel ready to let go of this day. Let’s make this time holy and sacred, for one and for all, for this is a time set apart from everyday life, a time when we can connect with something greater than ourselves.

I’ve lit our Unitarian chalice flame here, and you might like to do the same, to light a candle in your imagination, or an actual candle, a flame to connect us with progressive communities the world over, its one light reminding us of the oneness of all existence.

Our message today has the title Truth, Justice and Change – words borrowed from the Grenfell Tower survivors, words which state their mission. Today the 14th June marks the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire just a mile away from our church building, a fire in which 72 people lost their lives. Let’s join with one another and in solidarity with the Grenfell Tower residents and hold now a 72 second silence for us to remember those lives that were ended that dreadful night 3 years ago, remember together the many other lives that were turned upside down when homes and treasured possessions were burnt and when a neighbourhood was completely disrupted. Our shared silence will lead into a time of prayer.

(72 seconds silence)

Let’s join in a time of reflection and prayer. May the spirit of compassion help us to feel the suffering of the peoples and the creatures of the world.
May the spirit of love melt cold hearts that trample on human rights.
May the spirit of beauty help us to preserve the unique splendours of each community.
May the spirit of wisdom help us to treasure the mystical insights of all religions.
May the spirit of patience and endurance strengthen those who are oppressed and exiled from their homes.
May the spirit of courage strengthen those who speak for those who have no voice.
May the spirit of non-violence bring healing peace and justice to all the peoples of the world.
May the spirit of unity help us to recognise our oneness with all people and all of creation.
And in the spirit of justice and in a few quiet moments I invite you now to send your thoughts and prayers where you feel there is need – be that places within yourself, in those you love or in our wider world ……
And may the blessing of love and compassion and justice be with all beings this day, Amen.

Our Unitarian faith calls us, not to unite through shared beliefs, for our beliefs differ and may change through the course of our living; no, ours is a faith defined by shared values, shared principles, the ways we choose to live our lives, knowing that how we choose to live, the values that shape our behaviours, help to shape our world.

Rosemary Bray McNatt writes ‘By no means are we [Unitarian Universalists] perfect; we often fail as much as we succeed. Yet …. we return to this essential work of justice and liberation for all. We do the work best when we remember what church is and what it is not. Church is not a place to hide. It is not the place to get away from the world. It is not a place where we get to pretend that the lives we live and our particular situations are not terribly complex, often confusing, and sometimes depressing. Church is the place where we stand with one another, look the world in the eye, attempt to see clearly, and gather strength to face what we see with courage, and yes, with joy.’ Let’s breathe that in …. (repeat last sentence)

This has been another difficult week in the life of the world hasn’t it. Many of us continue to struggle with the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic that has so disrupted everyday life. Many of us have been deeply affected by the upsurge of concern about racial violence not just in America but here in Britain, where we too carry a legacy of racism that requires attention and action. The issue of who is commemorated in public, and how and why, is very much to the fore of public discourse – and like any issue it elicits a wide range of responses from us all. If it wasn’t such a serious subject I would find the very public conversation about whose statue deserves to be chucked in the harbour and whose statue deserves to be protected somewhat absurd.

What are memorials for? What or who should be remembered? What is better remembered in a museum than in a public space? Let’s all of us listen out today for memorial bells tolling 72 times to mark the 72 lives that were ended, trapped in a tower block here in London. Look out for public buildings lit in green, the colour of the Grenfell Tower memorial campaign. It’s my personal view that we will need our memories shaking up every year by tolling bells and green lit buildings, until the day the 300 other tower blocks clad in similarly combustible aluminium cladding are brought up to a safer standard. It’s my personal view that we will need these annual memorials to the Grenfell Tower fire until our national government improves the funding available for social housing here in the UK. For surely the decision to lower the fire retardant standards of the materials used in the Grenfell Tower renovations bears some responsibility for the deaths that night of June 14th three years ago.

The week ahead is Refugee Week here in Britain. It’s the UK’s largest festival celebrating the contribution refugees make to our society and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuary in another land. This year’s Refugee Week has the theme Imagine and they have brought together a digital anthology with Imagine as its title. Authors, both well-known and new voices, have written about what they’d like to change about the future, how they’d like to challenge the status quo and how we could go about making the invisible visible. We’re not all world famous authors but we do have a voice and our opinions and stories to tell. I’d like to encourage us all to hear one another more in the weeks ahead, to listen in non-reactive ways to others telling their stories, sharing their feelings and their views. Some of us feel disturbed and upset at the moment. Let’s try and find a way to share this with others in a way that does not blame, but rather speaks from our own heart. And if we are the listener and we do not like what we hear, let’s take a breath and allow another human being to tell us more not less. Be curious, be compassionate, be kind. Let us remind ourselves that we have all been shaped by our histories and our experiences as well as our personalities; our unique histories, experiences and personalities make for truly remarkable listening. And perhaps through hearing the stories of others and being given the chance to tell of our own lives we will find the strength to imagine and build a world built on foundation stones of truth and justice, and perhaps even reach a shared consensus on the changes that the very future of our planet and our species so very much need.

We’ll have some chances to tell each other our stories in the week ahead that are open to everyone to join in, so do have a look through our Sunday Message email to find ways to meet with others and tell your stories and hear the stories of others – our Tuesday coffee morning, our Thursday West London GreenSpirit group summer solstice celebration, various chances to join our Heart and Soul alternative spiritual gatherings and don’t forget to check out our Lockdown Chronicles and our Nature Carries On WhatsApp group.

At the end of today’s message we’ll hear a favourite hymn played by Abby to the Welsh hymn tune Cwm Rhonnda. We’ve typed out the words to this hymn in the written version of this message in case you want to sing along. Here are the words, which make a fine closing prayer:

For the healing of the nations,
God, we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing
Of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
Help us rise and pledge our word,
Help us rise and pledge our word.

Lead us ever into freedom,
From despair your world release;
That, redeemed from war and hatred,
All may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
Fear will die and hope increase
Fear will die and hope increase.

All that kills abundant living,
Let it from the earth depart;
Pride of status, race or schooling,
Dogmas keeping us apart.
May our common quest for justice
Be our brief life’s hallowed art,
Be our brief life’s hallowed art.

Closing blessing: And so indeed may our common quest for justice be our brief life’s hallowed art and may we use all our imaginative powers to envision the changes that could arise for all people if our living were based upon values of truth and justice and equality for all. May our living of our days be shaped by such an aspiration. And so may it be, amen, go well all of you in the days ahead, and blessed be.

Rev. Sarah Tinker

14th June 2020