Harvest Thanksgiving: Nature’s Abundance – Fair Shares For All? – 10/10/21

Opening music: I will go with my father a-ploughing sung by Trevor Alexander and accompanied by Peter Crockford

Opening words of welcome and chalice lighting:

Welcome to this day and to this gathered community of Kensington Unitarians here on Zoom. Our Unitarian faith welcomes all people of goodwill who seek a faith to guide our steps, to stir our hearts and challenge our thinking. Let’s gather to remind the world that it’s important to explore the nature of truth, it’s healthy to be uncertain and not always have the answer, and it’s comforting to make deep connections – connections with ourselves, connections with one another and connections with that which we hold to be of greatest worth. So let’s take a moment to sense all those connections, …… (light chalice) and may this our simple chalice flame, worldwide symbol of our Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist faith, remind us of the oneness from which all else unfolds.

If you are here for the first time today with us on Zoom – a particular welcome to you. I hope you find something of value to you here. Please do stay afterwards for a chat or drop us an email to introduce yourself if you’d like. Or think about coming to one of our small-group online gatherings during the week as they’re a good way to get to know people and find out more about us as a congregation. And if you’re a regular here – thank you for all that you do to build our togetherness. Even on Zoom, we each help to co-create this sacred space, this sense of community. So whoever you are, however you are, whatever has brought you here, know you are welcome, just as you are.

As we always say, feel free to do what you need to do to be comfortable this hour – it’s lovely to see your faces in the gallery and to have a sense of togetherness – 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 but there’s no compulsion to do so. You can quietly rest back with our blessing. Today’s service is our harvest thanksgiving service – it’s our celebration of nature’s abundance. Here in England in early October there’s a real feeling of moving into what the poet John Keats described as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. So towards the end of the service we’ll invite people to hold up and wave a favourite fruit or vegetable or flower maybe, if you have one nearby.

Candles of joy and concern:

Each week when we gather together, whether it’s in person at our 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. 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. At this point I suggest, if you can, that you switch to gallery view so we can all see everybody.

(candles – thank each person)

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 hearts today.

Let’s take a moment now to think of all those joys and concerns we have heard expressed… and let’s hold them in compassion and loving-kindness, as we move into a time of reflection and prayer now, a prayer for abundance in our world and our lives.

You might first want to adjust your position for comfort, close your eyes, or soften your gaze. There might be a posture that helps you feel more prayerful. Whatever works for you. Do whatever you need to do to get into the right state of body and mind for us to pray together – to be fully present here and now, in this sacred time and space – with ourselves, with each other, and with that which is both within us and beyond us.

Time of reflection and prayer:

I call on the spirit of life and of love to be with us now and to bless all that we say and do together this day. We who live in this world know both abundance and scarcity.

Let us give thanks for the world of abundance in which we live, especially in autumn time when so many fruits ripen here in northern latitudes ….. Let’s acknowledge the plenty that we have and in our hearts find a silent expression of gratitude for whatever we are glad to have received in life – be these great gifts or small mercies. To give thanks is prayer from our heart. ……

We may well be all too aware of what we lack in life – for no life can have everything it wants or needs; many of us have unfulfilled yearnings that point us in the direction of our hopes and dreams. ……. Or require us to accept that we cannot always have what we want ….

We know the great injustices of our world, the economic inequalities, the unequal distribution of the world’s resources, the lack of basic provisions for too many of the world’s people. Let us be silent for a few moments together in quiet acknowledgement of all that is unjust in human society, recognising the privileges we ourselves possess by birth or good fortune if that be so.

May we be the people who work to right such wrongs. May we dedicate ourselves to a fairer sharing of all that is. May we dedicate ourselves to every person’s right to clean water, adequate food and fresh air; a safe place to live and a way to be who they truly are, a place of kindness and encouragement.

In a few moments of shared silence now let us each silently voice our own thoughts and prayers for those we know to be in need this day, including ourselves ……

And may the words of our hearts be matched by the actions of our hands, working in this world of abundance, and to this aspiration let each of us say if we so wish, amen, so may it be.

Some words are going to appear on our screens now and I invite you if you wish to join me in speaking these words in unison. They are taken from a prayer written by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev Peter Raible , which may well have been adapted over the years, and they express for me that understanding that we humans are bound together by ties of mutuality – across the generations and across the world.

We build on foundations we did not lay
We warm ourselves by fires we did not light
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant
We drink from wells we did not dig
We profit from persons we do not know.

Together we are more than any one person could be.
Together we can build across the generations.
Together we can renew our hope and faith in the life that is yet to unfold.
Together we can heed the call to a ministry of care and justice.

We are ever bound in community.
May it always be so.

Words by Rev. Peter Raible (adapted)

Hymn – A New Community

Time for our first hymn, ‘A new community’, in a recording of one of our services in Kensington – we didn’t know then that we’d be playing this years later online to singalong to – so do excuse the coughing and rustling. The words will appear on screen in a moment so that you can sing along – or you might prefer just to listen – we’ll do our best to make sure you’re all kept muted so nobody will hear you.

Reading: Let Us Give Thanks by Max Coots (adapted) – read by Jane

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.
Let us give thanks: For generous friends . . . . with hearts . . . and smiles as bright as their blossoms. For feisty friends as tart as apples. For continuous friends, who, like spring onions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them; For crotchety folk, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible; For handsome people, who are as gorgeous as aubergines and as elegant as artichokes, and the others, as plain as potatoes and as good for you; For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as wriggly green beans; and serious companions, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions; For people as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as celery, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as courgettes, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter; For old companions, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young companions coming on as fast as radishes; For loving neighbours, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings; And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who nurtured us in their times that we might have life thereafter; For all these we give thanks.


We’re moving into the meditative part of our gathering now – when after a few words of introduction, we’ll hold 3 minutes silence with our chalice flame video, which has an abundant apple harvest theme this week, and that will then lead into a piece of piano music, to accompany a harvest slideshow.

So I invite you to ready yourself for 7 minutes or so of meditation, find a comfy position that works for you, maybe turn off your camera if that’s more restful for you, maybe do a scan of your body to see if there are tensions that might be released, perhaps lifting your shoulders and rolling them back and down, straightening your back, taking one of those deep belly breaths that help settle us, allowing the gentle rhythm of your breathing to soften your whole being, enjoying a sense of sinking down a bit towards the floor, knowing that the earth holds us. And with a softened gaze or closed eyes you might like to listen to these words to guide us into the stillness:

In an unsettled world, we seek for a few moments
to turn away from the noise and confusion of our lives.
We seek to enter a stillness, a stillness that resides in the depths of each of us,
A stillness that is at the centre of all that exists.
For a few moments, let us seek quiet,
quiet moments when we can pause and give thanks for our own sources of abundance.
Let us pause our busyness and listen for the stillness
that rests beneath the confusion and complexities of our lives, to listen for the whispered message that we have enough and we are enough, that there could truly be enough for everyone when we learn ways to share life’s resources.
Let’s enter the fellowship of silence together now.

Video – 7 minutes of silence with chalice video and apples, followed by piano accompaniment and a harvest slideshow

Address: Fair shares for all?

I’ve called this short address Fair Shares for All? with a question mark at the end of it. For me the question mark expresses a rather delayed realisation on my part that things will never be fair in this world. I wonder what your relationship with this concept of fair shares is? We’ll all have different stories to tell about our relationship with fairness as a concept.

I’m the middle child of a family of five children and still remember our long-suffering mother counting out the chips because each of us was convinced one of the others had more than us. I recall a particular meal when she finally lost her temper, in response to my argument that some of the chips were longer than others – and that the length of a chip did need to be taken into account. It was a marvellous day of freedom for me when I could take my own money and go down to the local chip shop on my bike and buy my own bag of chips – and eat them all and not share them with anybody, at all.

And I guess like me, you’ve had your moments of liberating freedom , and your moments of feeling the harsh pinch of life’s injustices. You’ll perhaps also have your memories of dawning awareness – your version of my lifetime’s growing understanding, that not everybody can hop on a bike and buy a bag of chips. Human society, at least as we have it structured at present, is built on injustice isn’t it. It requires there to be haves and have nots.

Over the last week here in Britain we’ve been reading or hearing about what are called the Pandora Papers – the result of collaborative work of hundreds of journalists around the world exposing the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. It’s worth having a read of some of the findings because these are levels of injustice that we need to know about. They are levels of injustice that governments to some extent can do something about – instead of which some governments, including our own, are in effect encouraging such illicit dealings. Why are so many people homeless here in Britain? Well partly it’s to do with our property market being inflated by money from abroad. British property is seen as a safe investment so rich people buy houses and flats – not to live in but simply to hold as an investment. Most of us pay our taxes dutifully – knowing that our taxation system pays for what people need – for infrastructure and health services and education and care for those in need. Yet we allow the rich to use offshore investment companies to hide their wealth and to avoid paying taxes. I won’t go on too long – you all know this already.

You’ll probably also have heard these statistics – where we’re asked to imagine that we live in a global village of 100 people. These come from Daniel G. Groody’s 2015 book Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace and they remind us of something we already know far too well, that ours is an unfair world and that the gap between rich and poor is far too great:

“In our global village of 100 people, the resources are unevenly distributed. The richest person in the village has as much as the poorest 57 taken together. Fifty do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some of the time, and 30 suffer malnutrition. Forty do not have access to adequate sanitation; 31 people live in substandard housing; 31 do not have electricity; 18 are unable to read; 15 do not have access to safe drinking water. Only 16 people have access to the Internet. Only 12 own an automobile. Three are migrating. And only two have a college education. Overall, 19 struggle to survive on one dollar per day or less; 48 struggle to live on two dollars a day or less. In brief, as the World Bank describes it, two thirds of the planet lives in poverty.”

I suspect some of these figures will have changed since Groody wrote his book. For example, I checked and 59% of people have access to the Internet in 2020 – mostly via mobile phones. Some of these statistics have been improved in my lifetime – more people have access to clean water, more girls are being educated, fair trade and micro credit projects have greatly improved some people’s lives in developing countries. I wonder what improvements you are particularly aware of in the life of the world?

These changes, these improvements, came about because certain people raised our awareness of the problem. We need to listen to the brave people who lift their heads above the walls of indifference and shout out to the rest of us. And the world needs the rest of us to be aware and to do the bits we can do to level the field. At this time of autumnal plenty, let’s remember our ability to share what we have, just as nature shares her abundance with us.

I wonder what issues you particularly care about – and it’s worth speaking with one another about our particular areas of concern isn’t it – knowing that together we can achieve so much more than we ever will alone. There is so much to despair of in our world – and sometimes we can only bear witness – only sit and weep at the world’s injustices. But then there are the days when our strength returns and we roll up our sleeves and do what we can, joining with others in co-operation and compassion, to move our world towards greater justice for all – no longer then just a dream, but rather a possibility, a reality, worked towards by all of us who care for others as well as ourselves. Amen

Hymn: we plough the fields and scatter

And our second hymn today is the harvest classic – we plough the fields and scatter. This won’t reflect everybody’s theology – for me it expresses the important reminder that we are part of a great mystery of existence here on planet earth and that there is a rhythm to the living of our lives within the cycles of the natural world. Thanks to the Unitarian Music Society for this recording, feel free to sing with them or simply listen. We’ll try and make sure we all stay muted.


With thanks to Jeannene and Jane for all the background work of hosting today and to Jane for our reading and cheering harvest slideshow, thanks to Peter Crockford and Trevor Alexander for seasonal songs and music and to all of you for getting up and joining us this morning.

Next week’s service will be led by Jane Blackall.

Everyone is welcome to join Tuesday’s coffee morning and two Heart & Soul sessions – tonight and Friday on the theme of ‘Transformation’ – you’re welcome to join these sessions – newcomers.

We’re making plans for a ‘Getting to Know You’ walk on the afternoon of Sunday 17th Oct at 2pm; this won’t be a strenuous walk but it’s a chance for a walk-and-talk meet-up so that people who have only discovered the church since we’ve been online can socialise safely. The congregation very much has a life beyond Sunday mornings; we encourage you to keep in touch during the week, drop each other a line, let’s look out for each other as best we can, while we’re online.

So it’s time now for our closing words, followed by a very short but very sweet song sung by Trevor Alexander, piano played by our very own Peter Crockford. It’s funny and will appeal to anyone who’s ever grown vegetables.

I suggest we now switch to gallery view, if your device allows, so that we can see each other here in community together, for our closing blessing.

Closing blessing:
We build on foundations we did not lay
We warm ourselves by fires we did not light
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant
We drink from wells we did not dig
We profit from persons we do not know.

Each of us is blessed with gifts from those who were here before us. And have gifts to pass on to others in our turn. In the week ahead let us be intentional in our living, in the choices we make and the paths we take – and may our intention be to share the harvest of life more fairly with all those we meet along the way. Amen, go well and blessed be.

Closing Music: The vegetable garden sung by Trevor Alexander and accompanied by Peter Crockford

Rev. Sarah Tinker

10th October 2021