Time Out – 25/07/21

Opening Music: played by Abby Lorimier and Peter Crockford (2.00)

Opening Words: ‘Lay It Down’ by Joan Javier-Duval (adapted)

Here – here is where you can lay it down.
Lay down all that you have carried
the weight of the world that has rounded your back
leaving you aching and exhausted.

Here – here is where healing begins,
where burdens are set down for a time
and seen alongside one another’s
their magnitude might not seem quite as great.

Here – here is where the doors are thrown open
and the light can lift away the shadows
and what was hidden can now be seen.

Here – here is where you can rest;
where nothing is expected
but that you bring all of who you are
into the presence of the holy and of this loving community.

So let us join now in worship together.

These words by Joan Javier-Duval welcome all who have gathered on Zoom for our Sunday service. Welcome to regular members of the congregation, to friends and visitors with us today – also those who might be listening to our podcast, or watching on YouTube, at a later date. For those who don’t know me, my name is Jane Blackall, and having been part of the congregation for 22 years I’m now Ministry Coordinator here and also a Ministry Student at Unitarian College.

If you are here for the first time today – we’re especially glad to you have you with us – welcome! I hope you find something of what you need here – a bit of consolation or spiritual uplift perhaps. Please do hang around afterwards for a chat or drop us an email to introduce yourself if you’d like. Or you might think about coming to one of our small-group gatherings during as they’re a good way to get to know people more organically and deepen your connection to this community. And if you’re a regular here – thank you for all that you do to welcome all who come each Sunday. Even on Zoom, we have a part to play in co-creating this sacred space, this sense of community. So whoever you are, however you are, know you are welcome in this space, just as you are.

As we always say, feel free to do what you need to do to be comfortable this hour – it’s always lovely to see your faces in the gallery and get a sense of our togetherness as a community – but we know for some it will feel more comfortable to keep your camera mostly-off and that’s fine. Similarly there’ll be opportunities to join in as we go along there’s no compulsion to do so. You can quietly lurk with our blessing – you know how to find us if you want to say hello later.

The title of this morning’s service is ‘Time Out’. This theme was inspired – as is so often the case – by a chat we had after last week’s service. Last week’s topic was ‘Being Bored’, and after the service one of the comments I heard was that for so many people there is such a lot of pressure to be productive, to be always ‘on’, such a sense of oppression by the never-ending to-do list (in many cases also real economic pressure to hold down multiple jobs to make ends meet), that for many there’s just no chance to be bored. There’s always something we feel we ‘should’ be doing. People of all ages – including retired people! it doesn’t seem to stop then – speak of the many projects, voluntary commitments, and domestic, family, caring responsibilities they are juggling.

So in this service of readings and music, prayer and meditation, we’ll focus on the importance of taking ‘Time Out’. Not just in the sense of letting ourselves off-the-hook of the tyrannical to-do list from time to time, but also in the sense that we heard in our opening words, taking time out to lay down the weight of the world, all the stress and aggravation and upset that’s seemed endless and inescapable – not just this last hard year – but for many of us over a much longer period. Even if we’re not in a position to step away from our responsibilities entirely, let’s consider how we might disengage from our troubles for a bit, and claim some much-needed rest and respite for ourselves.

Chalice Lighting: ‘Not Alone’ based on words by Sharon Wylie

I’ll light our chalice now, as we do each Sunday, and at other times when we gather. This simple ritual connects us with Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists the world over, and reminds us of the historic and progressive religious tradition of which this gathering is part.

It is okay to be tired of change and uncertainty.
Okay to feel weary of ‘resilience’ and ‘wholeness’
(and all these opportunities for learning and growth).
When you’ve had enough, it’s okay to yearn simply for rest.

It’s okay to be tetchy, confused, and dissatisfied
and all the ordinary human ways of being that we are.
Let this morning be a reminder that you are loved and precious.
Let the solidarity of our time together soothe what is restless in you.

May you be comforted in knowing that whatever you are feeling,
today and other days, you are not alone. You are never alone.

Candles of Joy and Concern:

Each week when we gather together, whether it’s in person at the church in Kensington or here as an online congregation, we share a simple ritual of candles of joy and concern, an opportunity to light a candle and share something that is in our heart with the community. So we’ve got a good few minutes now, for anyone who would like to do so, to light a candle (real or imaginary) and say a few words about what it represents.

When you’re ready to speak, unmute your microphone so we can all hear you, and then re-mute yourself once you’ve finished. If you are going to speak, please be aware of how long you’re speaking for, so that there’s time for others to say something too. Let’s leave a pause between one candle and the next, so we can honour what’s been shared. And don’t worry too much if two people end up speaking at the same time, or there’s a technical hitch of some sort – these things happen on Zoom – please do persevere! At this point it’d be nice, if you can, to switch to gallery view so we can all see everybody.

I’ve got one more candle here and – as we often do – I’m going to light that candle to represent all those joys and concerns that we might be holding silently in our heart today. Let’s take a moment now to think of all those joys and concerns we have heard expressed… and let’s hold them – and each other – in compassion and loving-kindness as we move into an extended time of prayer now. This prayer is based in part on words by Gretchen Thompson.

So let’s each do what we need to do to get ourselves into the right state of body and mind for it – maybe shift your position, intentionally adopt a prayerful posture – close your eyes or soften your gaze – whatever helps you get your heart in the right place to be fully present with yourself, each other, and that larger presence which holds us all.

Prayer: based on words by Gretchen Thompson

Spirit of Life, God of All Love,
Source of Strength and Infinite Compassion,
as we turn our attention to the depths of this life –
the cosmic mystery and wisdom that abides in All-That-Is –
we tune in to your Holy presence within us and amongst us
and we turn to you in a spirit of hope, and openness, seeking consolation. (pause)

Upon the gentle altar of your care,
we place, as best as we are able,
our sorrows and our regrets;
our longing and our woundedness;
our weary, aching, bodies and spirits;
the worries that circle round and round within us,
leaving our troubled minds unable to rest.

If there are any among us now who feel overcome with fear,
we pray that they receive the comfort of renewed courage.
If there are any among us now who feel lost in hurt and loneliness,
we pray that they receive the tender healing that comes from connection to others.
If there are any among us now who feel trapped,
imprisoned either outwardly or inwardly,
we pray from our hearts for their liberation,
that they may be – each in their own way – set free once again.

Spirit of Life, God of All Love,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
grant us a sense of your presence in this time, your holding, and your comfort.
Let us know that you are with us. Let us trust that you are for us.
Let us experience the mysterious and sacred power of your movement among us
as we share this sacred time, and all that is most precious to our hearts. (pause)

In our company this morning, and every time we gather in community,
there will be those whose hearts are freshly broken open:
by loss and grief, rejection and loneliness, disappointment and meaninglessness.
Let us spend a quiet moment directing prayers of loving-kindness to the broken-hearted. (pause)

In our company this morning, and every time we gather in community,
there will be those whose hearts are full and overflowing:
buoyed by the beauty of nature and culture, uplifted by family and friends.
Let us spend a quiet moment directing prayers of thanks for all that is good in our lives. (pause)

In our company this morning, and every time we gather in community,
there will be those who are simply keeping on keeping on as best they can:
their hearts a blessed, messy, blend of all life’s mixed emotions.
Let us spend a quiet moment asking for what we need to face life’s ups and downs. (pause)

Spirit of Life, God of all Love, we offer up our joys and concerns,
our hopes and fears, our beauty and brokenness,
and call on you for insight, healing, and renewal.

As we look forward now to the coming week,
help us to live well each day and be our best selves;
using our unique gifts in the service of love, justice and peace. Amen.

Hymn: ‘Come and Find the Quiet Centre’ (Unitarian Music Society)

Time for us to sing. Our first hymn, ‘Come and Find the Quiet Centre’, sung by the Unitarian Music Society, continues our theme; it speaks of the importance of setting aside time and space, away from all the busy-ness and demands of the daily round, to focus on what really matters. The words will appear on screen so that you can sing along – or you might prefer just to listen – we’ll do our best to make sure you’re all muted throughout so nobody will hear you. After the hymn we’ll hear from Harold with the first of two slightly-longer-than-usual readings for today.

Come and find the quiet centre
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the space where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace;
God it is who speaks and names us,
knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we’re shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun.

In the Spirit let us travel,
open to each other’s pain;
let our lives and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain:
there’s a place for deepest dreaming,
there’s a time for heart to care;
in the Spirit’s lively scheming
there is always room to spare.

Reading: ‘Rest’ by David Whyte (read by Harold)

Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be.

Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavour, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull’s eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.

The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving that forms the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. When we give and take in an easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self-indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.

In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state, deep in the primal exchange of the breath, is the give and the take, the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage of deep rest is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms; a sense of being the meeting itself between inner and outer, and that receiving and responding occur in one spontaneous movement.

A deep experience of rest is the template of perfection in the human imagination, a perspective from which we gain that most difficult of human virtues: patience, that is, we are able to perceive the outer specific forms of our work and our relationships whilst being nourished by the shared foundational gift of the breath itself. From this perspective we can be rested while putting together an elaborate meal for an arriving crowd, whilst climbing the highest mountain, moving a herd of sheep along a Cumbrian country lane or sitting at home, surrounded by the chaos of a loving family.

Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way. In rest we re-establish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous, more of an invitation, someone we want to remember, and someone others would want to remember too.

Meditation: ‘Blessing for One Who is Exhausted’ by John O’Donohue

Thanks Harold. We’ve come to a time of meditation. I’m going to share some words from John O’Donohue to take us into a time of meditation – they may well be familiar to you – I feel like I’ve heard them shared a lot in this last year or so – but I think they bear repeating as they reflect the experience of many in these challenging times. It’s a ‘Blessing for One Who is Exhausted’. These words will be followed by a few minutes of shared stillness during which we’ll have our virtual chalice on screen in case you like to focus on the flame. The silence will come to an end with some lovely music performed by Abby Lorimier and Peter Crockford. So let’s each do what we need to do to get comfortable – readjust your position – perhaps put your feet flat on the floor – or close your eyes. As we let these words from John O’Donohue take us into a time of meditation:

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

Silence: 3 minutes silence accompanied by chalice video

Musical Interlude: played by Peter Crockford and Abby Lorimer (3.30)

Reading: ‘Remember the Sabbath’ by Wayne Muller (read by Chloë)

In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest. Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something – anything – is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the pointers that would show us where to go. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. Even when our intentions are noble and our efforts sincere – even when we dedicate our lives to the service of others – the corrosive pressure of frantic overactivity can nonetheless cause suffering.

What makes life fruitful? The attainment of wisdom? The establishment of a just and fair society? The creation of beauty? The practice of loving-kindness? Life has become a maelstrom in which speed and accomplishment, consumption and productivity have become the most valued human commodities. In the trance of overwork, we take everything for granted. We do not have time to savour this life, nor to care deeply and gently for ourselves, our loved ones, or our world; rather, with increasing haste, we use them all up, and throw them away. How have we allowed this to happen? How did we get so terribly lost in a world saturated with striving and grasping, yet somehow bereft of joy and delight? I suggest that it is this: we have forgotten the Sabbath.

“Remember the Sabbath” is a spiritual precept in many of the world’s spiritual traditions. Sabbath time can be a revolutionary challenge to the violence of overwork, mindless accumulation, and the endless multiplication of desires, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know, and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity. Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honouring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.

I invoke the Sabbath for its proven wisdom over the ages. But I also call on the authority that still clings to its name. While many of us are terribly weary, we have come to associate tremendous guilt and shame with taking time to rest. Sabbath gives us permission; indeed it commands us to stop. The wisdom of Sabbath time is that, at a prescribed moment, it is time for activity to cease. We cannot wait until we are finished, because we are never finished. We cannot wait until we have everything we need, because the mind is seduced by endlessly multiplying desires. We cannot wait until things slow down, because the world is moving faster and faster, and we cannot be left behind. There are always a million good reasons to keep on going, and never a good enough reason to stop. If we forget to rest, we will work too hard, and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a “life-style suggestion”, but a commandment – just as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play, and bless, and make love… and remember to take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

Hymn: ‘Moods of Summer’ (Unitarian Music Society)

Thanks Chloë. Time for us to sing once again – our second hymn is ‘Moods of Summer’ – I admit I chose this hymn a bit earlier in the week when the weather was rather more summery! Also I was thinking of Mary Oliver’s famous poem, ‘The Summer Day’, with its famous closing lines:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

This hymn evokes a little of that spirit, for me, so I think we can take it as an invitation to be ‘idle and blessed’ – at least once in a while – and to pay attention to what is beautiful and good in life. So feel free to join in with singing ‘Moods of Summer’ (or as usual you can just listen along).

When the summer sun is shining
Over golden land and sea,
And the flowers in the hedgerow
welcome butterfly and bee;
Then my open heart is glowing,
Full of warmth for everyone,
And I feel an inner beauty
which reflects the summer sun.

When the light of summer sunshine
streams in through the open door,
Casting shadows of tree-branches,
living patterns on the floor;
Then my heart is full of gladness,
And my soul is light and gay,
And my life is overflowing
Like the happy summer day.

When the summer clouds of thunder
bring the long-awaited rain,
And the thirsty soil is moistened,
And the grass is green again;
Then I long for summer sunshine,
but I know that clouds and tears
Are a part of life’s refreshment,
like the rainbow’s hopes and fears.

When beneath the trees of summer,
under leafy shade I lie,
Breathing in the scent of flowers,
Sheltered from the sun-hot sky;
Then my heart is all contentment,
and my soul is quiet and still,
Soothed by whispering, lazy breezes,
like the grasses on the hill.

In the cool of summer evening,
when the dancing insects play,
And in garden, street and meadow
linger echoes of the day;
Then my heart is full of yearning
hopes and memories flood the whole
of my being, reaching inwards
to the corners of my soul.


Just a few brief announcements this morning: Thanks to Maria for hosting, Jeannene for being so diligent in Zoom support, Harold and Chloë for reading, and Abby and Peter for our lovely music.

I want to take this opportunity to remind you that this church, this community, very much has a life beyond Sunday mornings on Zoom. We’re still collectively going through pretty rough times, and many of us feel worn out and weary, but let’s remember that we can be a source of mutual support. We might think to check in with each other during the week, with a text or email, or pop along to the online coffee morning or one of our other regular gatherings to connect with others. If you’re relatively new to the congregation these small groups are a great way to get to know us and to have conversations about the things that matter most in life (or often just to have a laugh).

As ever there are a number of opportunities to hang out and have a chat in the week ahead: Coffee morning 10.30 Tuesday – always excellent conversation – newcomers always welcome. Heart & Soul, our contemplative spiritual gathering – on the ‘In Between’ – a couple of spaces left tonight and Friday at 7pm. Even if you’ve not been before it’s never too late to start. These are real community-building sessions where people can reflect on all the ups and downs of life together and share our collective wisdom. Next Saturday the GreenSpirit group are holding a Lammas picnic in Kensington Gardens. There are details of all these events in the weekly email. And don’t forget you can be in touch via email during the week – do get in touch to say hello.

Don’t forget we’ll have virtual coffee-time after the service if you’d like to stop and chat. And if you can bear it we like to take a group photo after the closing music so stick around. We’ll be back next week on Zoom at 10am as usual. Feel free to share the link with trusted friends.

We’ve just got our closing words and music now. So I invite you to select gallery view at this point so we can all see each other for the benediction and get a sense of our community.

Benediction: based on words by Dan Lambert

Because the daily pressure of life weighs heavy
on our minds, on our bodies, and on our spirits.
We need a time of sabbath rest.

Because the stresses of our culture often leave us
feeling burdened and looking for hope.
We need a time of sabbath rest.

Because rest, fun, leisure, and naps
help us cope and feel refreshed.
We need a time of sabbath rest.

Because we think more clearly, love more freely,
and share more joyfully when we are well rested.
We need a time of sabbath rest.

So, in the week ahead, may we recognize
when we need to stop and care for ourselves.
May we enjoy a sabbath as often as we need one.
And may we rest without guilt so that we may live with more joy. Amen.

Closing Music: performed by Abby Lorimier and Peter Crockford (1.40)

Jane Blackall

25th July 2021