‘The Joy of Repetition’ – 05/06/22

Opening Music: ‘The Jet Whistle – mvt 1’ by Heitor Villa-Lobos (performed by Abby Lorimier and Jess Scott) (2.58)

Opening Words: ‘We Bid You Welcome’ by Rev. Richard S. Gilbert (adapted)

We bid you welcome, who come with weary spirit seeking rest.
Who come with troubles that are too much with you,
Who come hurt and afraid.

We bid you welcome, who come with hope in your heart.
Who come with anticipation in your step,
Who come proud and joyous.

We bid you welcome, who are seekers of a new faith.
Who come to probe and explore.
Who come to learn.

We bid you welcome, who enter this space as a homecoming,
Who have found here room for your spirit.
Who find in this people a family.

Whoever you are, whatever you are,
Wherever you are on your journey,
We bid you welcome. (pause)

These opening words, by Richard S. Gilbert, welcome all those who have gathered on Zoom this morning to take part in our Sunday service. Welcome to regular members of the Essex Church congregation, to friends old and new – a special shout out to our chums from the Brighton and Lewisham congregations who are joining us this morning! – and welcome too to 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 I’m Ministry Coordinator with Kensington Unitarians.

I hope you find something of what you need in our gathering this morning. Please do hang around afterwards for a chat if you’d like to. If you’re a newcomer and you’re feeling shy you can always drop us an email to say hello and introduce yourself if you’d like. Or you might try coming to one of our various small-group gatherings to get to know us better. And if you’re a regular here – thank you for all that you do to sustain our community and contribute to the welcome we offer. Even on Zoom, we have a part to play in co-creating this sacred space, this sense of community.

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 congregation – 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 lurk with our blessing – you know how to find us if you want to get in touch later.

This theme of this morning’s service is ‘The Joy of Repetition’. Repetition has a mixed reputation. It’s often associated with dullness, boredom, a lack of imagination or invention. But this morning we’ll rehabilitate repetition, I hope, as we reflect on the spiritual merit of doing things over and over again.

Chalice Lighting: by Jane Blackall

Before we go any further though, I’ll light our chalice, as we always do whenever we gather (no better example of the value of repetition for Unitarians in our collective spiritual life). This simple ritual connects us with Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists the world over, and reminds us of the proudly progressive religious tradition of which this gathering is part.

We light this chalice as a reminder of the tradition that holds us,
and the values and aspirations we share as a community:
our commitment to the common good,
our search for truth and meaning,
our care for those who are downtrodden,
and our yearning for a better world that’s yet to be,
where all may know true freedom, justice, equality, and peace.

May this small flame be for us a sign of faith, hope, and love.

Candles of Joy and Concern:

Each week when we gather together, 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.

(candles – thank each person)

I’ve got one more candle here and – as we often do – I’m going to light that to represent all those joys and concerns that we might be holding silently in our heart today, those stories which we don’t feel able to share out loud this morning.

Let’s take a moment now to think of all those joys and concerns we have heard expressed… all those little windows into our shared human condition and the life of the world we share… and let’s hold them – and each other – in a spirit of loving-kindness for a moment or two.

And let’s take those joys and concerns into an extended time of prayer now. 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. (pause)

Prayer: based on words by Lyn Cox

Spirit of Life, God of All Love, in whom we live and move and have our being.
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, the light within and without.
Be with us now as we allow ourselves to drop into the silence
and stillness at the centre of our being. (pause)

This morning we give thanks for the gift of renewal.
We give thanks for the ability to begin again, to start over;
after each time of trial and loss, each season of struggle and sorrow;
in the midst of such ongoing upheaval and the endless tests of our endurance.

Grant us the courage to continue on the journey,
the courage to act and speak for the well-being
of others and ourselves and the planet we share.
May we forgive ourselves and each other
when our courage and care falls short,
and may we resolve to try again.

Grant us hearts to love boldly,
to embody our faith and our values
in living words and deeds.
May our hearts open to embrace
humility, grace, and reconciliation.

Grant us the ability to learn and grow,
to let the Spirit of Love and Truth work
its transformation upon us and within us.
Grant us the spirit of radical hospitality,
the willingness to sustain a dwelling place
for the holy that resides in all being.

Grant us a sense of being at peace in the world,
even as we are in perpetual motion,
tossed and turned by life’s tempests.
Let us cultivate – together – the strength
to welcome every kind of gift life brings our way
and all manner of ways to be on the journey together. (pause)

And in a quiet moment now, let us look back over the week just gone, bringing to mind
all the cares and concerns of our own lives, and those people and causes we care about.
Let’s take a little while to sit quietly in prayer with that which weighs on our hearts this day.

And let us also take a moment to notice all the good that has happened in the past week.
Bring to mind some of the blessings – be they small or large – that have graced our days.
Let’s take a little while to sit quietly in prayer with these memories and give thanks.

Spirit of Life – God of all Love – as this time of prayer comes to a close,
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: ‘Meditation on Breathing’ by the UU Phoenix Video Choir

Time to sing! In the spirit of today’s service we’re going to sing a chant rather than a regular hymn. This is a recording of the ‘Meditation on Breathing’ made by the UU Congregation of Phoenix and their choir director kindly gave us permission to share it in our service. I’m a firm believer in doing a LOT of repetitions when chanting – to allow the message to really soak into us – so I’m going to play the video twice through (also this should give you plenty of time to pick up the tune if it’s not one you already know). I find it very comforting so I encourage you to join in and take it to heart – the words are very simple – the bass part simply goes ‘breathe in, breathe out’ – and the higher lines are ‘when I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love’. The words will appear on screen so that you can sing along – or you might prefer just to listen instead.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.

Reading: ‘The Ten-Time Rule’ by Marlys Brinkman (read by Maria Petnga-Wallace)

Marlys Brinkman, one-time choir director at Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Lafayette, Colorado, distributes the following text as a handout to people when they first try chanting. It explains the brain’s typical reaction to the repetitiveness of chant. She says:

When chanting, it is important not to stop too soon. The benefits of chanting are surprisingly satisfying if you give yourself time to fully experience the deepening aspects of the chant.

Often a person will go through a rainbow of emotions when first learning to chant. It is completely normal to feel a bit anxious at first, then perhaps bored, even annoyed during part of the chanting. Thoughts such as, “why are we doing this so long? When are we going to be done? What’s the matter with everyone? This is boring!” come to mind and distract us for a moment or two as we experience negative feelings. Actually, this is a normal phase of chanting, part of the growing into chanting, and, if you just keep going, with a sense of trust in the work, you come out of that space and into a sense of lightness and connection. Some call it a place of wonder, or of deep peace.

Here’s an example of the phases that your mind might go through:

1st time – the chant is new; you are concentrating on singing it right.
2nd time – you do it a bit more “correctly”, and make only a few mistakes.
3rd time – you sing it right all the way through; you feel a sense of accomplishment.
4th time – you can now sing it right without much effort. You begin to think Now what?
5th time – you feel a bit of annoyance. Hey, I’ve got this down. We can stop now.
6th time – you are bored, tired of it, your mind is objecting to this waste of time. This is stupid.

(sometimes you get stuck in the 6th time, but, if you stay with it, your mind will go to the 7th time after a few more reps)

7th time – you give up, mentally throw your hands up, and think, Oh well, we’re probably going to go on forever, so I guess I’ll just relax.
8th time – you feel that relaxation, and sort of enjoy it.
9th time – as you continue to enjoy the relaxation, you begin to feel something deeper now. Your mind is quiet, taking a mini-vacation, while you are doing this boring (to its way of thinking) activity.
10th time – you continue to relax, feel the ebb and flow of the chant. Without noticing it, you are opening to a larger part of yourself, and the chanting is the doorway. A whole new way of experiencing is just beyond the threshold of this door. You feel more relaxed and more at peace, and you feel healing energy flowing within you as you sing this simple chant. You walk through this doorway and begin.

The trick to chanting is knowing that the tenth time is the beginning of the work, not the end.

Meditation: ‘The Power of Repetition’ by Deng Ming Dao

Thank you, Maria. We’ve come to a time of meditation. To take us into stillness, I’m going to offer a few words, by the contemporary Daoist teacher Deng Ming Dao. These words will be followed by a few minutes of shared stillness during which we’ll have our virtual chalice on screen. The silence will end with some music by Abby Lorimier and Jess Scott. All three of their musical offerings today are movements of ‘The Jet Whistle’ by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. So let’s each do what we need to do to get comfortable – have a wiggle – or put your feet flat on the floor to ground and steady yourself – maybe close your eyes. As I always say, these words, images, and music, they’re just an offering, feel free to meditate in your own way. (pause)

Deng Ming Dao writes:

People seldom understand the power of repetition.
What is repeated over and over again can become enduring;
what is done in a moment is seldom lasting.

If farmers do not tend to their field every day, they cannot expect a harvest.
The same is true of spiritual practice.
It is not the grand declaration or the colourful initiation that means anything.
It is the ongoing, daily living of a spiritual life that has meaning.

Our progress may range from dull to spectacular, but we must accept both.
Each and every day should be linked together, strung into a long line of prayer beads.
In life you don’t know how many beads you’ve counted already,
and you don’t know how many are yet to come.
All that matters is holding the one that comes to you now
and taking the spiritual significance of that moment to heart.

Silence: 3 minutes silence accompanied by chalice video

Musical Interlude: ‘The Jet Whistle – mvt 2’ by Heitor Villa-Lobos (performed by Abby Lorimier and Jess Scott) (2.44)

Reading: ‘Deluxe Avocado Sandwiches’ by Jeffrey Lockwood (read by John Humphreys)

“Deluxe avocado again?” my wife asked incredulously. We don’t go out for lunch very often, but my favourite place is Jeffry’s Bistro and my favourite sandwich is the deluxe avocado. I’d dutifully scanned the menu, considered the options, and settled on my usual. I gave a wan smile, and Nan suggested, “You’re in a rut.”

“How come,” I replied, “being married for eighteen years is virtuous but ordering the same lunch is a character flaw?”

“Being faithful to me is not the same as sticking with avocado sandwiches,” she said.

“I like to think I’m just a constitutionally loyal sort of person,” I responded.

That was nearly a decade ago, and I’m still ordering the deluxe avocado sandwich, still married – and still wondering whether I’m in a rut.

Why are change and variation so celebrated? What’s wrong with regularity? There are certainly enough medicines extolling its virtues. What if our bodies, our minds, and our hearts functioned willy-nilly? We’d never know what to expect. Patterns give our lives a familiar framework. Through repetition we cultivate familia, literally, a household. Through constancy of people and places, we shape a sanctuary in a chaotic world. At then in the morning I have coffee with my co-workers, and at five in the afternoon I go to the gym and sweat with a steadfast group of middle-aged guys. I like the sense of dependability, safety, and assurance that comes with these rituals.

We can become slaves to custom, and fears of bondage seem to drive the modern disdain for traditions. We see earlier people as mindless adherents to cultural norms. When our patterns of life become thoughtless and we are disconnected from the meaning of our actions, we are enslaved. But from what do we seek to be liberated? If we have no traditions, we are free to dismiss the holidays as being insignificant and go about our work. If there are no rituals, we are released from the deep meaning in our actions. If there are no customs, we are free to welcome people into a community devoid of a meaningful story. But there is a middle way.

By choosing a pattern in our lives, by understanding how it binds us to our community and our past, and by allowing it to soothe our minds, bodies, and souls, we transform a mere habit into a sacred rite. We cultivate a sense of continuity and connectedness. We shape our home in the world. So what about my deluxe avocado sandwich?

Over the years, Nan and I have developed a stylised and predictable dialogue about my lunch selection; it’s a sort of ritual. I know that after perusing the menu, Nan will give me an expectant look. I’ll shrug and say, “The deluxe avocado.” She’ll give me a half smile and shake her head in mock disgust at my lack of originality. Then I’ll say, “Loyalty’s a good thing.” And we both know that I don’t mean the sandwich.

Sermon: ‘The Joy of Repetition’ by Jane Blackall

In our culture, in the modern world, repetition has got a pretty mixed reputation. Consumerism helps to push the try-everything-once message that ‘variety is the spice of life’. There is a certain pressure on us all to be on the lookout for what’s new, to valorise novelty, change and innovation, even to be on the move in our personal lives and never stay put in the same place for too long.

In the next fourteen minutes or so I’m going to try and redress the balance a little bit. I’m going to echo the question we heard from Jeffrey Lockwood (he of the Deluxe Avocado sandwiches) a bit earlier, and ask: ‘What’s wrong with regularity?’ Or to put it more positively, I’m going to offer a few thoughts on the valuable role that repetition has to play in our lives: in the arts and the creative life, in in our worship and spiritual practice, and as we all go about our everyday business.

Here’s an interesting phenomenon for you to consider: A number of people who are known for being very creative have chosen to order some aspects of their personal lives in such a way that they are extremely repetitive (in ways that others might regard as very dull). You may be familiar with the popular science writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, a very excellent human being, who wrote ‘The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ and many other fascinating books. Oliver Sacks always ate exactly the same things every single day. Every Monday his housekeeper would get in enough supplies to see him through the week: ½ a gallon of soya milk, ½ a gallon of prune juice, about a gallon of orange jelly, 7 tins of sardines, a big bowl of tabbouleh, 7 apples, and 7 oranges. Additionally, each day he had a ritual of going to a fancy chocolate shop up the road and buying himself exactly one dollar’s worth of broken 72% chocolate. He said he never got bored and he ‘enjoyed it with equal relish each time’.

And the co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs, was known to have a wardrobe full of identical clothes, and he used to put exactly the same thing on every morning. He once found a particular black turtleneck that he liked the style of, and promptly bought a hundred of them, as his own personal uniform. He said: ‘That’s what I wear. I have enough to last for the rest of my life.’ And so it was. In both of these cases, what I think is going on, is that these creative people have decided that there is just too much to think about in life – too many choices to be made – and they want to save their creative energies and their choosing power for the things that REALLY matter to them, such as their creative projects. For them, deciding what to wear in the morning, or what to have for tea, is something they’d rather not have to think too hard about.

Frederic Brussat, co-founder of the excellent ‘Spirituality and Practice’ website, has written about this as he’s of much the same temperament, he’s another one who would be very happy to have the same thing for tea every night. He says ‘the rest of my day is spent in inquiry and exploration, new information and experiences, and by dinnertime I’ve had enough of the new and the varied and just want something familiar and predictable with no surprises.’

So this is one of the virtues of repetition – it can simplify our lives somewhat. Repetition is something I also associate with comfort, a sense of security. Think of the way that little children love to her the same bedtime story again and again. Having certain set routines and patterns can give our lives a familiar framework – ‘dependability, safety, and assurance’ – which might provide a strong foundation, a necessary base of stability, for those occasions when we DO want to venture out and try something new. As Jeffrey Lockwood said, ‘through constancy of people and places we shape a sanctuary in a chaotic world.’ A sanctuary. If we have invested the time, energy, and patience, committed our hearts and formed our habits in this way, we build a sanctuary to go out from and come back to when we DO feel like being more adventurous.

Repetition is also at the heart of many spiritual practices and religious rituals. I expect that many of us are familiar with meditations which focus on breathing, those practices where you follow every breath you take in, and out, over and over. Or walking meditation, where you pay attention to each step, and the next, and then the next. The repetition of some simple pattern or ritual can provide a focus which may help us to escape the relentless chatter that often fills our minds and may provide temporary respite from the wordy, critical headspace which I suspect is familiar to many of us present here this morning.

In the reading by Marlys Brinkman, the one that Maria gave for us earlier, she offered a typical internal monologue, what might be going through the head of someone who tries chanting for the first time. Those stages of anxiety, boredom, and resignation might well be stages you recognise. Not just in terms of chanting but in terms of any repetitive practice or ritual. Firstly, anxiety, and maybe a bit of embarrassment: ‘Am I doing it right?’… Then perhaps boredom and resistance: ‘Yeah, OK, I’ve had enough now thanks’… Maybe you’ll move on to resignation: ‘Oh, well I suppose I’m going to have to see this through’… But if you hang on in there, you’ve got a chance of breaking through into something else. It’s the point at which your resistance cracks and you give yourself over to just doing the reps – whatever the practice is – when you come out the other side and into deeper, richer territory. As Marlys Brinkman says, ‘the tenth time is the beginning of the work, not the end.’

Personally, I find that – particularly in a time of crisis or high anxiety – I want to return to familiar rituals which will bring me comfort and steadiness. At times when I have been ill or in pain – physical or emotional pain – or, say, sitting by a hospital bed or waiting for a dreaded (or longed-for) phone call – I tend to repeat one of a handful of short but powerful prayers I have learned by heart. If you haven’t got such a prayer in your repertoire I recommend that you seek out one that calls to you so that you have it there to draw on when you need it most. And it’s not just for moments of crisis: you might find it helpful to have a very short sacred phrase, or mantra, something that you can repeat day in, day out, as you go about your business, to help keep yourself aligned with your best intentions to live well everyday.

The Jewish storyteller Yitzhak Buxbaum says: ‘The repetition of a holy sentence, phrase, or name can be used during work, when walking, even when you are otherwise occupied. It is relatively easy to do, and is therefore of particular value at times when you are somewhat fatigued, or when other, more demanding religious practices are impossible.’

In many other religious traditions repetition is a much more explicit part of worship compared to what we do here and in most other Unitarian congregations I’m familiar with. I’m thinking of the liturgy in Catholic and high Anglican churches in particular, the rhythm of the mass, indeed the year-round rhythms of the liturgical calendar. Or the daily routine and practice of ‘praying the hours’ in certain monastic communities, where everything stops at set times throughout the day, every day, for the community to come together and say set prayers. And it’s not just about the repetition that we do ourselves – it’s also repetition down the ages that is important – there is continuity that exists within a religious community – and the knowledge that many, many, generations before you have participated in the same practices and rituals adds to their power.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re missing out, somehow, on the depth that such repetition can offer. But then I realise that our freedom of worship as Unitarians includes the freedom to positively choose repetition. Really, we can do what we like in Sunday services, and we could mix it up and do everything completely differently each time if the mood took us. And yet our services are more or less the same shape, week-in, week-out, and that’s an intentional decision. The repetition provides a familiar structure and rhythm which holds us. The same goes for ‘Heart and Soul’, our regular contemplative spiritual gathering – the shape of the sessions is highly structured with the same elements in the same order. It turns out that even us Unitarians quite LIKE a bit of repetition and regular ritual! But, importantly, within the holding framework of a Sunday service or a ‘Heart and Soul’ there is great freedom, in terms of the choice of theme, words, and music, in terms of the energy and the contributions that the gathered individuals bring to the shared space.

There’s another observation I want to offer in relation to my experience of Sunday worship. I don’t know about the rest of you but I find that I don’t necessarily HEAR something the first time I hear it… if you know what I mean. I’m not sure how much of any new idea I really absorb at the first encounter. Maybe one or two fragments from a typical Sunday service will stay with me. (and I should say that I think that’s OK! I feel I’ve been lucky if I get that much). When I first started coming here, twenty-three years ago, everything was so new to me that it was all a bit overwhelming. Every story, every reading, every idea was new. So many factors need to align for a new idea to go from being just part of the endless stream of information I encounter each day, to being something that I’ll pay attention to, to being something I’ll reflect on later, which will stay with me long-term, and in the best-case scenario that will change me in some way and become integrated into my self, who I am, and how I live. One thing I did when I first came here was to encourage the Minister to put the text of his sermons up online, so I could re-read them over and over, allowing time for the ideas to work on me. I do the same with books and podcasts these days as well. Once is rarely enough. Again, again! This is why I’m so pleased that we have all our services up online in perpetuity now – not just the text but the audio and video – for people to stumble across and perhaps return to.

And if we go back to the same material yet again at a later date, we might be surprised to find something new in what we thought was familiar, something that speaks to our condition in a fresh way and resonates with us in the state that we find ourselves in on the day – at the moment – that we revisit it. Think of the old saying from Heraclitus: ‘you cannot step into the same river twice’. No experience is ever the same when you try to repeat it – there’s always something new to be gleaned when you revisit it – as you have changed, the situation has changed, the world has changed.

Repetition is a key part of learning pretty much anything – people can be dismissive about rote learning – but this method of fixing ‘the basics’ in our memory through drills and repetitions (whether it be memorising times tables, going over musical scales, practicing a golf swing) is the foundation for greater things and (hopefully) the first step towards mastery of an art. I believe that learning things ‘by heart’ is, again, a stepping stone to something deeper. Once some new knowledge or skill has really become part of you in this way you are in a better position to call on it in a heartbeat when you really need to use it. Prior to the pandemic I used to be an enthusiastic ballroom dancer and in the early days of learning to dance I remember having to think quite hard about where my feet were going, and what way we were meant to be turning, and what I was supposed to be doing with my face. I never got all that proficient at it, but I remember the joy of getting just-good-enough that I didn’t really have to think about the technicalities of where my feet were going anymore and I could just enjoy the flow of the dance. Karlfried Graf Durkheim said: ‘The more we have mastered some relevant technique, and the smaller the amount of attention needed to perform the task satisfactorily, the more easily may the emphasis be transferred from the exterior to the interior.’

For all this praise of repetition and routine, of course we still need to remain open to the new – to expanding our boundaries and broadening our horizons – to learning and growing, increasing the scope and the breadth of our lives. But I reckon that repetition and routine can help to provide a valuable foundation and stability out of which to be brave, be adventurous, and reach out into the unknown. Repetition can enable us to grow in depth and to engage more meaningfully with ideas and practices that we might only superficially grasp on our first encounter with them.

So, in the days to come, I encourage you to notice opportunities to relish repetition. And I’ll close with a quote from Joan Chittister: ‘Repetition… frees the mind for greater thoughts… it sensitizes the soul to the sacred poetry of the present moment. For when the day is really routine, we get to think awhile about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, and how we are doing it. Repetition is a well from which we draw our reasons to go on.’ May it be so, for the greater good of all. Amen.

Hymn: ‘Walk in the Light’ sung by the Unitarian Music Society

Let’s sing together one last time: an uplifting one with a repeating refrain (we’ve got fewer repetitive hymns than you might think, I found out while choosing our music for today): ‘Walk in the Light’. Once again the words will be on screen so I encourage you to sing along.

The Spirit lives to set us free,
walk, walk in the light.
It binds us all in unity,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, (3 times) walk in the light of love.

The light that shines is in us all,
walk, walk in the light.
We each must follow our own call,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, (3 times) walk in the light of love.

Peace begins inside your heart,
walk, walk in the light.
We’ve got to live it from the start,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, (3 times) walk in the light of love.

Seek the truth in what you see,
walk, walk in the light.
Then hold it firmly as can be,
walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light, (3 times) walk in the light of love.

The Spirit lives in you and me,
walk, walk in the light.
Its light will shine for all to see,
walk, walk in the light
Walk in the light, (3 times) walk in the light of love.


Just a few brief announcements this morning: Thanks to John and Maria for reading, also John for co-hosting, and Abby and Jess for great music (there’s a longer than usual final piece, the third movement, to close the service so do settle in for about 4 ½ mins after the benediction). We’ll have virtual coffee-time after the service as usual so you can stay and chat if you’d like. If that’s not your thing, as I said at the start of the service, do get in touch via email if you’d like to say hello. And if you can bear to hang around we like to take a group photo after the closing music.

We have various small group activities during the week for you to meet up. Coffee morning is online at 10.30am this Wednesday – note the switch to Wednesdays this week – this is to allow me to have an official ‘weekend’ and take my days off on Mondays and Tuesdays (thank you!) There are still spaces left for our Heart and Soul gatherings (online Sunday/Friday at 7pm). Heart and Soul is a contemplative spiritual gathering, on Zoom, it’s a space for prayer and deep sharing, newcomers are always welcome – email me to sign up. This week’s theme is ‘Paying Attention’.

If you’re in London and you want to go to an in-person event this afternoon our own Veronica Needa is offering an afternoon of storytelling on the Dragon Boat Festival over at church at 2.30. And a date for your diary: The poetry group will be back as an in-person event next month, led by Brian, Marianne, and David, and the next session will be on Wednesday 6th July at 7pm. Get in touch with them if you want to know more and please sign up to let them know you’re coming. The congregation very much has a life beyond Sunday mornings; so we encourage you to keep in touch, look out for each other, and do what you can to nurture supportive connections.

Next Sunday we’ll be having a hybrid service on ‘Wild Things’, I’m hoping for a few congregational contributions to the service, about our relationship to wild creatures and the natural world. Do get in touch if you might be able to contribute either in-person or online next Sunday and I’ll talk you through the parameters of what I’m looking for. As previously mentioned, this summer we’ll be alternating between hybrid services (where you can join either in-person or online) and zoom-only, so if you’re wanting to attend in-person maybe get the dates in your diary: next week, 12th June, then 26th June, 10th July, 24th July and so on. And of course you can still attend all our services on zoom as usual or catch up via YouTube or our podcast feed (have a look at our website for details).

Benediction: by Theodore Parker (1 min)

We’ve just got our closing words and music now. 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.

Be ours a religion which,
like sunshine, goes everywhere:
Its temple, all space;
Its shrine, the good heart;
Its creed, all truth;
Its ritual, works of love;
Its profession of faith, divine living. Amen.

Closing Music: ‘The Jet Whistle – mvt 3’ by Heitor Villa-Lobos (performed by Abby Lorimier and Jess Scott) (4.24)

Rev. Dr. Jane Blackall

4th June 2022