Re-Think – 28/06/20

Hello everybody and welcome to this week’s podcast for Kensington Unitarians and friends the world over, a short time to pause and ponder, connect and consider – all that’s going on in our own lives and out in our wider communities. It’s a treat to have Benjie Del Rosario and his clarinet to start and finish our recording today. Hearing George Gershwin’s famous tune Summertime from the opera Porgy and Bess reminds us that this is summer here in England. But it’s a different kind of summer than any of us had been anticipating, as the uncertainties of dealing with the Covid pandemic continue and many of us are feeling perhaps rather wearied by lives disrupted and circumstances unresolved.

All the more need then to take time out of our everyday living, to make space for new insights to emerge and for feelings to untangle themselves, and thoughts to be clarified. So let’s all take a conscious breath …. and as we breathe out, imagine a sense of ease working through us all …… whatever the troubles facing us, however we are dealing with the great unknowns we’re living through, however uneasy we may feel ….. may the shared, indeed universal experience of the breath remind us that we are not alone and that our experiences are shared with many others. However isolating life can sometimes feel, may we sense the comfort and solace of our togetherness, even when we are apart.

I’m sitting here today with our Kensington Unitarians’ silver chalice, its candle flame is lit, reminding me of connections our congregation has with other progressive communities of the spirit – its single flame a representation of the oneness of all existence, the warmth of this flame a reminder of the warmth we generate in gathering together. You might choose to pause this podcast now and light a chalice flame of your own …. Or simply imagine a flame that burns brightly, a beacon of light shining out into our world and telling others of a free faith unfettered by dogma, connected by shared values, affirming the worth and dignity of each and every one of us.

Welcome, well come, to every one of us this day and let’s dream of a world in which every person is welcome, a world in which none are excluded. And that’s an aspiration that comes across loud and clear in this reading called – Hey Ain’t That Good News! written by Unitarian Universalist minister by John Corrado.

Hey Ain’t That Good News! A Reading By John Corrado, a Unitarian Universalist minister. He writes:

We believe there is a place at God’s table for each and every child of earth
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe the giver of life has been given many names and loves the givers of all of them
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We are more interested in getting heaven into people now than getting people into heaven later
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe religious scriptures are open doors rather than sealed vaults
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe there is still some holy writ yet to be written
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe true evangelism is more preaching practiced than practiced preaching
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe peace and justice are not just words we form with our lips but realities we shape with our lives
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe in one race—the human race
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe we are one with stars and trees and tigers and rivers and all the stuff of life
Hey, ain’t that good news!
We believe our lives are all about growing hearts that love, minds that seek, and hands that serve
Hey, ain’t that good news!

And we can carry that reading’s message into a prayerful time, aligning ourselves with that which calls us to be the best that we might be and that which accepts and loves us just as we are, in all our human frailty and foolishness, as well as our magnificence.

I invite each of us to think of what we are grateful for this day, perhaps naming those areas of our living that are precious to us and that we appreciate – the pleasures, the people, the ideas – that bring a zest to our existence and remind us what a gift life, and our awareness of it, truly are……

And in a moment of quiet honesty, we can name the troubles we are carrying, the anxieties and difficulties that seem unique to us, perhaps asking for help with particular matters – for to name our needs is to open ourselves to the possibility of support…….

And we may also choose to name the faults and foibles we are aware of in ourselves, the occasions when we have perhaps have fallen short of how we might have hoped to be, that in the naming we might find acceptance of how we are, and some resolve to step forward and to learn from our mistakes…..

Let’s hold a minute or so of silence together now and in that space we may choose to speak the prayers of our hearts this day, to voice our concerns for the troubles and the troubled of our world including those who are ill with the coronavirus or other health concerns, those lacking food and clean water, especially the people of the Yemen caught in civil war, the people of Palestine facing the destruction of their homes and their livelihoods, those working tirelessly to raise awareness of vital issues for our world community – the environmental crisis facing our planet, the issue of racism that is built into the systemic structure of so many of our societies – where one life is valued more than another, when advantages are unjustly distributed according to the colour of one’s skin. In the quiet may our thoughts be guided into actions…….

And may our actions out in the world be guided by the spirit of life and love – and to that let us join to say together – amen, so may it be.

We’ll hear a hymn now, Just as long as I have breath, sung for us by the Unitarian Musical Society:

Just as long as I have breath,
I must answer, “Yes,” to life;
though with pain I made my way,
still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to life.

Just as long as vision lasts,
I must answer, “Yes,” to truth;
in my dream and in my dark,
always that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to truth.

Just as long as my heart beats,
I must answer, “Yes,” to love;
disappointment pierced me through,
still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did best,
tell them I said, “Yes,” to love.

Words by Alicia S. Carpenter

May we indeed be people who say ‘yes’ to life and love and truth.

There’ll be a time, somewhere out there in the as yet unknown future, when we’ll look back on this year 2020 and we’ll remember what these times have been like. And perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll realise that we individually and collectively, made some positive resolutions for change – based on our experiences when the arrival of the Covid 19 virus shook our world and changed our ways of living within it.

One of the positives for me of this time has been conversations with other people, hearing their ideas of how life could be improved. And this week on Radio Four, Radio Five and the World Service there has been a series of short essays called Rethink, delivered by some of our world’s pioneering thinkers, giving their ideas of how the coronavirus crisis could help us as a species chart a new way forward, giving us a chance to reset our ways of being here on earth.

In his essay Pope Francis’ exhorted: Let us not lose our memory once all this is passed. Let us not file it away and go back to where we were.

Back in April a YouGov poll commissioned by the RSA, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture & Commerce found that only 9% of British people wanted life to return to ‘normal’ after the lockdown. The RSA is an organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges and as a group they are convinced that this crisis can be an opportunity for positive change.

If you’re similarly drawn to the idea of a future that could be better rather than worse for our world and all its inhabitants then I recommend some of those radio essays to you. Or let’s just talk to one another, because I’ve heard some inspiring ideas from many of you these last few weeks. Someone in our West London GreenSpirit group spoke to me about the idea of an anthropause – and the value of studying its effect on nature. As we humans have quietened down, as we have paused our habitual loud ways of being, creatures of the world have changed their behaviour – with normally timid animals being seen in town centres, with dolphins and whales revealing themselves rather than hiding away from us and our noisy shipping routes.

At our church coffee morning someone spoke of localization and the value of encouraging more supportive ways to live in local neighbourhoods. Others have spoken passionately to me about the need for social and health care to be combined in order to meet more effectively the needs of all of our society’s members. And this week a Zoom meeting with the title Let’s Talk About Race brought some 150 Unitarians and friends together to make a start in educating ourselves and one another about racial inequality and violence, about privilege and systemic injustice, with long historic origins.

A horrible new virus has turned humanity’s life upside down this year. Let’s seize the opportunity to find ways forward, to find some potential good news amidst all that is difficult and disturbed and uncertain. Let’s not just go back to how things were because so much of our living was not the best that we might be. Let’s rather do some re-thinking and be inspired to say ‘yes’ to life and to love and to the possibility of new ways of being here on our precious planet earth home, the only home all of us have to share.

And so a blessing for us all in the week ahead, that the power of inspiration may work its way into our hearts and minds, that we might not be limited in our thinking to the ways life has been but rather by our dreams of how it could be, to live in a world of love and justice and possibility, we people who choose to say ‘yes’ to life and to love, amen, go well everyone and blessed be.

Rev. Sarah Tinker

28th June 2020