Regulation of our Living – 16/08/20

Opening Music: ‘Tis a gift to be simple – cello

Opening words: Hello everybody, I’m Sarah Tinker, it’s Sunday morning and I’m glad to welcome you to this Kensington Unitarians online service on Zoom. Welcome to our congregations members, welcome to friends and visitors joining us today. A warm hello as well to those of you who are listening on a podcast, or watching a video this service on YouTube some time in the future. If you are new to our Sunday morning gatherings a particularly warm welcome to you today and please join in at a level that is right for you – it’s fine just to sit back and listen and switch off your video if that’s more restful for you. There’s no need to join in, in any active way, although there is chance to speak and sing if you want at several points in this gathering. Your presence here in community is what matters most.

So let’s together now create this as a sacred time and space, let’s bring a reverence for all life to this moment, a sense of delight in the miracle of our existence, an appreciation for the unique creatures that we are.. We are choosing to maintain our physical distance for the good of all, yet we create community across those physical distances by spending time together in this virtual realm and by affirming the value of gathering in this way. Ours is a community that accepts you as you are and encourages you to be the best that you might be. We believe that we individually and collectively have a shared responsibility for the life of our world, we believe that life itself matters and that how we choose to live our lives makes a difference. In today’s gathering we’re going to explore the importance of regulation in our living and we’ll also delight in freedom – which may seem like regulation’s opposite – I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts about that. But for now I invite you to join in taking a conscious breath together and allow that breath to bring us to the present moment, here in our homes, in our bodies – we unique and quite remarkable beings – unique and yet intimately connected by our shared experience of life itself in this material world.

Chalice Lighting: And I light our chalice flame, as we do in all our gatherings, a tradition connecting us with Unitarian communities the world over, the oneness of its light reminding us that we are one people, living one life here on our one planet earth home. We can focus for a few moments on this precious flame ….. we can imagine a light shining within each of us and beaming out to a world so in need of its illumination and warmth…. And may this light remind us that we are connected, in mystery and miracle, to the universe, to this community, and to one another.

Candles of Joy and Concern: Each week when we meet in our building in Notting Hill or here in our online congregation, we share a simple ritual of candles of joy and concern, where we invite one another to light a candle and share something that is in our heart. So here in our Zoom service we’ve a good few minutes for some of you to tell us of a joy or a concern, and to light a candle, real or imaginary. When you are ready to speak you can unmute yourself and just speak out so everyone can hear and then re-mute yourself when you’ve finished speaking. Do give it a go if you’d like to, as it’s quite special to hear some other voices and perspectives, and let’s stay aware of how long we’re speaking for so others have chance to speak too.
And I suggest we each now switch to gallery view on our own screens so we can see everyone. Our hosts Jane and Jeannene will do their best to spot if someone wants to speak and can’t unmute themselves.

Prayer and Reflection: Let’s bring the joys and concerns we’ve heard expressed today into our time of reflection and prayer. Let’s make ourselves as comfortable as we can, take a bit of time to turn inwards, to bring all of ourselves to this moment, align ourselves with that which guides our living in this world, the god of our hearts and our understanding, the ground of our being. Today let us particularly hold in our hearts all young people and their teachers who have been adversely affected by this week’s A level results. May those who are angry or despairing be helped to find ways forward at this stressful time, may all educational efforts be valued, may every young person feel valued, beyond any grade on a piece of paper.
And let us pray too for those living in Beirut and Lebanon who are struggling with their country’s infrastructure and failed government. May other governments of the world step forward in their support of all countries less fortunate than their own. I invite you to hold a short silence for our own thoughts and prayers …..

A WORLD AWAKE by the Rev. Cliff Reed

Source of love, help us to love when it is hard to do so.
Source of courage, help us to endure when we are afraid.
Source of inspiration, breathe into us when we are dried up.

The world cries out for love to heal its hatred and indifference.
The world cries out for courage to heal its cowardice and weakness.
The world cries out for inspiration to heal its soul-hunger and its withered hopes.

Source of vision, show us the vision of a better world:
a world awake to its oneness,
a world of colour, song and comradeship,
a world of fairness, joy and festivals.

And give us the faith to feed the vision and to make it real. Amen

Reading: by Sallie McFague
“It is no coincidence that the Greek word for house, oikos, is the source of our words for economics, ecology, and ecumenical. The three belong together: in order for the whole household of the planet to flourish, the earth’s resources must be distributed justly among all its inhabitants, human and earth others, on a sustainable basis. The three basic economic rules for all to thrive in this household are: take only your share; clean up after yourself; and keep the house in good repair for those to come. These rules should be pinned up on the planet’s ‘fridge’ for all members to memorize and follow. They are necessities, not suggestions, that constitute the basic economic laws for long-term planetary well-being. . . .

“If we were to follow these rules we would be living within a different vision of the good life, the abundant life, than is current in our consumer culture and that is destroying the planet. We would begin to accept what ecological economist Robert Costanza calls our greatest calling: ‘Probably the most challenging task facing humanity today is the creation of a shared vision of sustainable and desirable society, one that can provide permanent prosperity within the biophysical constraints of the real world in a way that is fair and equitable to all of humanity, to other species, and to future generations.’ “

And now let me hand over to Sonya Leite who is going to lead us in an extended meditation practice – these exercises are guaranteed to make you feel better in life I reckon.

Meditation: Good morning everyone ….

Today I will be offering a couple of practices for Self – Regulation.

Everything I will talk about is to reduce the stress hormone of Cortisol in our systems and bring us back into a resourceful state.

When I am calm I can be more powerful and effective, I think clearer and sense what I need to do, feel or say.

We will be exploring Conscious Breath, Touch and Awareness. After each practice we will sit in a silence for a short time to sense the effect and then this will come to a close with a chant recorded by Corina Dolso.

Breath is the connector between mind body and emotions and from a physiological point of view it stimulates and regulates all our body systems. The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in the body – attaches to the brain stem – goes through the heart and down into the gut – our instinctual centre. When we breathe consciously the brain stimulates and relaxes all these systems. The nervous system is soothed. Our immune system strengthened.

Breathing with Sound
Breathing in hold for a few seconds and Breath out with a SIGH or HA sound. Using sound is self – soothing for the body.
Approximately 6 times and then sit in silence for a short time.

The Havening Technique is a gentle 3 touch process used for trauma and shock, which we are certainly experiencing – they also describe trauma as any upset. We are going to cross our arms – hands on opposite shoulders and gently stroking down to the elbows and back up to the shoulders. The second one is stroking our faces from the forehead the side of the face and down to the chin. The third is stroking gently in the inside of the palms.
After we have done this a few times we then sit in silence for a short time.

Awareness Practice with What is

Entering into the silence, let us use this moment, to notice what we feel, sense, think. This is done without judging, fixing, healing, changing. Being with what is.

To end Corrina Dolso has recorded a chant on Peace for us to finish with.

Address: Regulation in our Living

I have the feeling that none of you would have spent the day in Hyde Park the other weekend protesting about lockdown rules and the requirement to wear face masks in shops and other indoor spaces. You’ve got better things to do on a Saturday. And I reckon most of us accept that human societies need governments and regulations to guide our ways of being together. We don’t want to hurt other people through our behaviours. We don’t hold our personal freedoms as being of greater value than the well-being of others. And yet I’d not be surprised to find that most of us have our criticisms of current government policies on all sorts of issues. We are thinking beings and we are continually assessing how our nation is being run and comparing that with experiences of people living in other lands. I’m as critical as anyone of our government and yet …. If I was in charge of this country at the moment I’d be most likely to be found hiding under my duvet and quietly sobbing.

I’m suggesting that we all have a think about this word Regulation this morning – not because my thoughts are clear and concise – they’re fuzzy and uncertain. But I do think it’s a crucial word in the political realm these days. And that it has a spiritual element to it – our views about regulations say something about our attitudes towards other people and other beings we share this planet with, – our views about regulations reveal something of our attitudes towards the whole of creation.

Now I wonder what your particular relationship is with rules. Do you mostly follow the laws of our land – because they are the law? Do you weigh up rules and laws and decide how you will, or will not, comply with them? Do you find yourself kicking against rules and regulations – because they feel confining or limiting in some way? Perhaps all of these and more reflect your response. They do mine.

Our relationship with rules may also reflect the age in which we live for ours is, as we’ve often said, an unusually individualistic age. Our dominant neoliberal ideology makes much of us as individuals. We are encouraged to better ourselves, to ‘get ahead’. On both sides of the Atlantic we are currently led by governments elected on a platform that promised smaller government, less state interference, an ending of the ‘nanny’ state, a cutting of red tape, a bonfire of regulations, lowered taxation. This neoliberal narrative views society as a market place rather than a community. It weakens the welfare state. It regards competition as the root of human existence. And competitions of course have winners and losers. A quick survey of life in America and Britain today will find plenty of evidence of winners and losers won’t it. And we know that the gap between rich and poor, which had been shrinking over decades, well that gap is now widening once again.

We are right to treasure our freedoms. There are freedoms that need our vigilance even today for they are easily eroded. But we need also I think to treasure our rules and regulations – and be suspicious of anyone who shouts too loudly about tearing up rule books or removing regulatory systems.

We have all been shocked by the hugely destructive explosions in the Lebanese capital of Beirut 10 days ago, caused by a dangerous store of a chemical left in a warehouse because no-one knew quite what to do with it. This explosion should send shock waves out across our world and those shock waves should wake us up – wake us and remind us to be vigilant about the ways our own countries are being run. Who is checking what is being stored in our own warehouses or fed to our farm animals or sprayed on our crops? George Monbiot is one of my favourite writers – he’s an environmentalist and political activist – he’s doing his best to keep us all aware of what goes on in a society where regulation has become a dirty word. This week he has been publicising the quiet yet frequent poisoning of our rivers by water companies, who bend the rules about storm drains. None of us like to think of raw sewage going straight into a river and yet that’s what happens when we have heavy rainfall like last night. It poisons all life in the river. What we need are improved drains and that requires investment, long term investment. But our prevailing economic ideology doesn’t consider the long-term, only short term profits. Nor does it consider the well-being of people, real people, ordinary people. Let’s beware the promise to tear up planning regulations here in the UK – because it will give property developers the chance to house people in tiny spaces with little natural light – if they are allowed to ignore building regulations and standards – regulations and standards that ended the slums that once existed close to this church in now leafy Notting Hill.

I’m grateful to Sonya who led our meditation today. She reminded me this week of the importance of self-regulation in our lives. In order to live well we need to stay awake to our own system – our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our spiritual and social lives – because they are all one system, one feedback loop that can do just that if we pay attention – give us necessary feedback so that we can make minor adjustments that will help our whole system to run more smoothly and harmoniously.

A similar watchfulness is needed isn’t it at the societal level too. One of the ways I often end my own prayers is with the words ‘and may this be for the greater good of all’. Let us be the people who resist all attempts to turn us into competitors and our lives into economic units. Let us be the people who shout out our common and shared humanity with all citizens of the world. Let us be the people who develop an ever more empathic response towards all living beings and towards our planet earth home itself. And we can’t do this alone – we have to work together – this task is in our own hands. Let’s work together – for the greater good of all. Amen.

There’s an opportunity to sing a hymn now but like all Unitarian activities this is optional. If you would rather just read the words that are going to appear on the screen soon that’s fine. But if you like singing then do join in with gusto, safe in the knowledge that we will all be muted and no-one will hear you. And this hymn, for the fruits of all creation, has some lovely descriptions about these lives of ours and the life of the world. I like the tune too – watch out for the last line of each verse – as it does a little stop and re-start. And then the next verse starts very quickly. And If God language doesn’t work for you try changing God to life or love. It works well. I hope you enjoy this recording from the Unitarian Music Society – for the fruits of all creation, thanks be.

For the fruits of all creation,
thanks be to God;
for the gifts to every nation
thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe-keeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labour,
God’s will is done;
in the help we give our neighbour,
God’s will is done;
in the world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God’s will is done.

For the harvest of the spirit,
thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God;
for the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all, that love has found us.
thanks be to God.

Announcements: My thanks go to Jane and Jeannene for their o so professional background work of hosting today and to our musicians Abby Lorimier and Corrina Dolso and to our very own Sonya Leite for such a useful meditative practice that we can all use again in our lives. All of you much appreciated. It’s been a pleasure to spend time with you here today. We’ll be back again next week for a 10am service here on Zoom, and you’re also welcome to join us for our 10.30 coffee morning on Tuesday and there are some spaces left for Heart and Soul, our alternative spiritual gathering. Make a note in your diaries as our next Thursday@3 group will be on August 27th when our poetry group returns – all welcome to bring a favourite poem. Thank you to everyone who has made a donation towards church running costs in the last week – they are much appreciated and help to keep our particular work going out in the world. My suggestion again this week if you have any spare money in your pocket or bank account is to donate to the Red Cross Appeal for the Lebanon and the Yemen crises. Don’t forget we have a virtual coffee time to chat after the service in small groups if you’d like to join in – and we’d like to take a photo of us all as soon as the music ends, so do stick around if you don’t mind being in a photo.

We’re going to have some closing words in a moment followed by the hymn tune Tis a gift to be simple – I invite you to select gallery view on your screen now so that we can all see each other for the closing words and enjoy a feeling of connection in community.

Closing Words, Extinguish Chalice:

I extinguish our chalice flame but not the warmth of this community. And I send the light of this candle out into the world for all those who struggle with issues of regulation and freedom. In this world may we take only our share; clean up after ourselves; and keep the planet in good repair for those to come. And may our love for our world and our love for one another and our love for all of creation inspire us to live our lives well, this day and all the days of our lives.
Amen, go well all of you and blessed be.

Closing Music: Tis a gift to be simple – on cello.

Rev. Sarah Tinker

16th August 2020