Blessed are the Peacemakers – 14/11/21

Opening Music: video of Dona nobis pacem, Washington Ethical Society

Words of Welcome and Chalice Lighting:

This simple chalice flame, symbol of our worldwide progressive religious faith, is both an ancient and a relatively modern symbol. In the 2nd World War it was the symbol used by the Unitarian Services Committee working with refugees trying to escape from Europe. It brought a message of welcome and support to all people, whoever they were, where ever they had come from and whatever their faith.

This morning it’s shining out a welcome to all of us gathered here on Zoom for Kensington Unitarians annual Remembrance Sunday service. May this living flame burn brightly today to commemorate all those people whose lives have been taken or blighted by warfare the world over, not least of whom are the civilians. So today, as we honour those who fight and are wounded or killed in wars let us also remember the old, the young, and all those who are caught up in warfare not as participants but as shocked and frightened bystanders. May this, our flame, shine out this day as we remember and reflect.

A warm welcome goes out too to anyone watching this video at a later date or reading this script – I hope that its message – blessed are the peacemakers – helps us all to explore the potential seeds of war-like attitudes that lie within so many of us. And as always here on Zoom please feel free to join in at a level that feels right for you. We’re glad to see everyone’s faces and get that sense of togetherness and we know that sometimes it’s more peaceful to turn off the camera – so do what feels right for you this morning.

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, let’s all be aware of how long we’re speaking for, so that there’s time for others to say something too. Don’t worry 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 as we want to hear from you. And if your device allows, do switch to gallery view at this point 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 the issues for people in our community and their connections with our wider world. We might think too of something that we’re aware of and didn’t speak about. …. All life is represented here – matters small and great, sources of both joy and anxiety – let’s imagine that the whole world rests here with us and that our loving compassion and thoughtful actions may be a comfort and a support to those in need… and let’s hold them – and each other – in compassion and loving-kindness …as we move into a time of reflection and prayer, which marks the start of Interfaith Week here in England and begins with some words by Joyce Rupp.

Time of Reflection and Prayer

Let’s take a moment to align ourselves with that which is greater than our small selves, the God of our hearts and understanding the spirit of life and love dwelling within all that exists in this life of form.

Peace Bringer, come to all hearts at war.
Move them to lay down their weapons,
To cast aside bitterness and resentment.
Bring your peace to hardhearted ones.
Lessen the grip of those who desire revenge.
May your peace release whatever binds
And free all those held captive by hostility. Joyce Rupp

As we in Britain mark the start of Interfaith Week let us dedicate ourselves this day to the shared tasks of our society – making connections between different groups, healing divisions, working harmoniously to resolve social issues born of poverty, ignorance and injustice.

As Unitarians we can celebrate all that connects our world faiths, the fundamental shared values that unite all people of goodwill; we can celebrate the distinctive features of each faith and be enriched by their unique qualities; and we can work tirelessly and with respectful curiosity to increase opportunities for dialogue and to deepen understanding.

Let’s take a moment now if we wish to think of groups or individuals who we find difficult to accept …. Can we do more to remain open hearted towards those who are different from us?

Let’s take a moment now, if we so choose, to think of individuals or groups for whom we are concerned …. Be they people close to us, or people whose lives we hear through the news …. Is there some action, however small, that we could take this day to ease suffering? And if not, can we remain an open hearted and loving witness to the struggles of others?

On this Remembrance Sunday as we honour all those affected by warfare, may we both as individuals and as a community commit ourselves to the task of living our lives for the peace and wellbeing of our society, our wider global community and this precious planet that is our home. May our lives express our faith and our values, this day and all days, and to this aspiration let us say that ancient word, amen, so may it be.

First Hymn: I’ve got Peace like a River

Time for our first hymn now, a recording of our congregation back in 2016 singing Peace like a River. There are 6 verses and they express something of the multiplicity of human experience, flowing onwards. Feel free to join in or simply listen – the words will be on our screens and we’ll do our best to make sure we all stay safely muted.

I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul
I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul

I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul
I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul

I’ve got love like an ocean, I’ve got love like an ocean
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul
I’ve got love like an ocean, I’ve got love like an ocean
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul

I’ve got pain like an arrow, I’ve got pain like an arrow
I’ve got pain like an arrow in my soul
I’ve got pain like an arrow, I’ve got pain like an arrow
I’ve got pain like an arrow in my soul

I’ve got tears like the raindrops, I’ve got tears like the raindrops
I’ve got tears like the raindrops in my soul
I’ve got tears like the raindrops, I’ve got tears like the raindrops
I’ve got tears like the raindrops in my soul

I’ve got strength like a mountain, I’ve got strength like a mountain
I’ve got strength like a mountain in my soul
I’ve got strength like a mountain, I’ve got strength like a mountain
I’ve got strength like a mountain in my soul

Reading by Juliet Edwards

Two short readings now. The first is by John Philip Newell, from his book Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace. You’ll perhaps recognise that these words are a re-working of the Beatitudes found in Matthew’s Gospel

The Blessings of Jesus

Blessed are those who know their need
for theirs is the grace of heaven.

Blessed are those who weep
for their tears will be wiped away.

Blessed are the humble
for they are close to the sacred earth.

Blessed are those who hunger for earth’s oneness
for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the forgiving
for they are free.

Blessed are the clear in heart
for they see the Living Presence.

Blessed are the peacemakers
for they are born of God.

And now, perhaps some similarly well known words from the Chinese writer Lao Tse author of the Tao Te Ching.

Peace by Lao Tse

If there is to be peace in the world
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.


We’re moving into the meditative part of our gathering now – we’ll have some words to guide us into stillness, then there’ll be a video of our chalice flame for you to focus on if you find that helpful and after 2 minutes of silence you’ll hear our Pianist Peter Crockford playing two Chopin preludes for us. He chose them as laments for the innocent victims of war.

And as always feel free to think your own thoughts and meditate in your own way. My words are simply suggestions.

So let’s get ourselves into a comfortable position, turn off your camera if that helps, enjoy that feeling of resting in your chair if you are sitting down, the sense of the earth beneath you, slip off your shoes off if you like or put your feet up, whatever feels right for you. Maybe have a stretch, gently straightening our backs perhaps, and lifting your shoulders up and let them circle back and down, releasing any tension you might be aware of.

With eyes open or closed, your facial muscles eased and relaxed, softening your forehead and the muscles of your head and neck, let’s take a breath in and out – and breathe into a peaceful place within our very being.

As we enter the fellowship of silence together we might imagine all the silences that will be held today on Remembrance Sunday here in Britain at 11am, the memorial days that happen on different dates around the world, and know ourselves to be part of remembering.

Let’s enter a quiet time together now, with our chalice flame, which will end with our Chopin piano preludes.

Silence and Music

Address: Blessed are the Peacemakers

It’s Remembrance Sunday and as usual there will be a Unitarian representative at the Cenotaph here in London, when wreaths are laid in honour. There will also be a member of our congregation taking part in the Armed Services parade – some of you will know Ian Entwistle who is a Chelsea Pensioner. I spoke to Ian this week and he has helped me write this address. Let’s have a look at a photo taken of Ian and some of his companions. This photo is taken by Rami Hyun who is creating a really interesting photographic record on his blog of soldiers who fought in the Korean War. It’s sometimes described as the hidden war, yet some 1000 British soldiers died, with much higher casualties amongst the American and Korean forces. Let’s pause a moment and look at this group, all aged now around 90. Ian is standing on the back row second from the right, and he told me that he was just 19 when he went to war in Korea – the last war in which trenches were dug. He still remembers the 19 year olds’ sense of adventure – setting off for war. He still remembers his friends who died, who didn’t come home. And he told me that in his view, those who have fought in wars, and lived to tell the tale, are the most anti-war people you will ever meet – because they all know the suffering, the noise, the stench of battle – and ultimately the sense of futility.

Thank you for that photo Ian and for talking to me about your experiences.
Ian also told me that for most of his time in the army they were involved with peacekeeping activities, how they were trained to take on any project, and how worthwhile it felt to have engineers able to bring help in times of disaster – re-building bridges destroyed by floods, clearing the debris, marshalling resources and feeding the hungry. We need peace makers in our world and we need peace keepers.

As Unitarians we do not have one message to proclaim on a day such as Remembrance Sunday. Some of us are pacifists and view war as a crime against our very humanity, some of us may consider war a sometimes terrible necessity. Our lives, just like the lives of all other human beings, will have been touched by war in different ways because war is an uncomfortable reality for us all. Our experiences have varied widely but we share a concern for what human beings can do when we view the world from only one perspective. Our service today has a theme of Blessed are the Peacemakers and yet we know that peace, like war, is complex, multi-layered and far from straightforward.

The kind of peace making I’ve been considering all this week is far from a wishy washy kind of ‘let’s roll over and hope they tickle our tummies kind of peace making. It’s not appeasement, it’s not abasement. It requires us to stand and face one another as equals and to dare to make the first steps towards greater understanding of one another’s lives. Earlier on Juliet read for us a modern re-working of Jesus’ Beatitudes with the lone – blessed are the peace makers for they are born of God. Its original wording is blessed are the peacemakers for they are children of God. If theist language doesn’t work for you don’t be put off by God in these statements. We might replace it with ‘one source’, with a sense of the physical elements that all life shares. Blessed are the peacemakers for they are born of one source. Blessed are the peacemakers for they know we are born of one source. Only by understanding what it means to be one humanity can we move towards peaceful co-existence as a species.

As individual citizens we may blame our politicians or the generals or the terrorists for the violence that they seem to lead us into – but we must share that responsibility. I believe that only by owning our own warlike natures can we start the great turning towards peace. This can begin at the simplest levels of everyday life – by examining our prejudices, our judging natures, our irritations, our rage – not to suppress these feelings in any way – the opposite – to own them, to acknowledge them, and then to find healthier ways to work through them in the world with other people. We need to become experts in examining our ‘othering’ – a strange yet important word that describes our human propensity towards having ‘us’ and ‘them’ – recognising our own tribe, whatever that tribe may be, as a safe place where people are like us, and the others – as somehow different, apart, bewildering or even frightening.

How then shall we better get to know the ‘other’? Perhaps firstly be naming them if only to ourselves – who are the groups we dislike or fear or disapprove of? And then finding a real live human being that we might tentatively reach out to, or listen to through their speaking or writing. Let’s awaken our capacity for curiosity – being curious about those who are different from us and using that age old mantra when faced with something or someone we find challenging – ‘this too is me’. Let’s encounter the other with a heart that can acknowledge – this too is me, we are born of one source.

And on this Remembrance Sunday let us truly honour all those who died that we might live and let’s honour all those who quietly go about the work of peacemaking in their own lives and in the life of the world. Amen.

Second hymn: Song of Peace

Our second hymn today – a song of peace, sung to Sibelius’ tune Finlandia from his Karelia Suite – Sibelius, whose music is credited with inspiring the movement for Finnish independence. Its words always move me as they remind us of that which transcends nationhood. We are so much more than the tribes to which we are assigned by birth.

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.


A few more announcements than usual: Thanks to John Davies and John Humphreys for hosting. Thanks to Peter Crockford for our piano music and Juliet Edwards for our reading. Don’t forget we’ll have virtual coffee-time after the service, to chat together if you’d like. If that’s not your thing, do get in touch via email if you’d like to. We’ll be back next week on Zoom at 10am when Jane Blackall will be leading service. Feel free to share the link with your friends.

As ever there are a number of opportunities to connect congregationally in the week ahead: Coffee morning 10.30 Tuesday – great conversation – newcomers always welcome. Heart & Soul, our contemplative spiritual gathering – on ‘Strangeness’ – that sense of mystery that exists for us even in those we know well – that’s tonight, Sunday, or Friday at 7pm with Jane on Zoom. Other leaders have Heart and Soul; groups at other times. Even if you’ve not been before it’s never too late to start.

Some in-person events coming up: in a couple of weeks there’ll be another ‘Getting to Know You’ walk, that’s at 2pm on Sunday 21st, organised by Carolyn Appleby, I think it will be in Kensington Gardens, more details next week. And Carolyn’s a hardy soul so she tells me that this will be a ‘whatever-the-weather’ walk. Make a note in your diary that the next West London GreenSpirit group gathering will be an in person Winter Solstice celebration on Tuesday 21st December 1.30 to 3.30pm in the church in Notting Hill.

Looking further ahead: we’re looking for lots of people to be involved in a ‘virtual choir’ singing Christmas Carols to include in our Christmas Eve service. You don’t have to be a brilliant singer! The idea is that this is a community singalong. If you want to be involved please get in touch and I’ll send out instructions during the next couple of weeks. All you’ll need to do is video yourself singing a few well-known carols – we’ll send you the words and some guide tracks to sing along to – and then Jane and Marilisa will put them all together into a composite video. They can coach you! The more the merrier so drop Jane an email if you want to be a part of this fun community project.

The congregation very much has a life beyond Sunday mornings; we encourage you to keep in touch and look after each other while we’re still mostly online. Preparations are still ongoing behind the scenes to move towards hybrid Sunday services and we appreciate your patience as we work on that. We need to get all the technology in place and train volunteers to do a proper job, and it takes time and person-power, but we are getting there and we’ll keep you posted.

We’ve just got our closing words now, which are a bit longer than usual, and music to follow, when Peter will play a wartime classic – we’ll meet again. So I invite you to select gallery view at this point, if you can, so we can all see each other and get a sense of our gathered community as we close.

Closing blessing: ‘Making Peace’ by Denise Levertov

Poet Denise Levertov in her poem Making Peace tells us

A voice from the dark called out,
‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
Levertov goes on to remind us of our part in the making of peace
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .

May each of us in the week that lies ahead allow some long pauses in our habitual ways of being, that peace might find a welcome in our lives and radiate out into a world so yearning for curiosity and compassion alongside our love, amen, go well everyone and blessed be.

Closing Music: Peter Crockford playing ‘We’ll Meet Again’

Rev. Sarah Tinker

14th November 2021