Friendship – 17/3/24

Musical Prelude: Chanson Villageoise by Arnold Trowell (played by Abby Lorimier and Andrew Robinson)

Opening Words: ‘We Pause This Hour’ by Bruce Southworth

We gather this hour to pause; to honour the spirit and to accept
ourselves as fragile humans, equally full of nobility and strength.

We gather, weary – perhaps – of life’s many trials,
yet cheered by infinite possibilities for love’s grace.

We meet with smiles and glad voices for old friends and new –
every stranger a gift of potential friendship and mutual consolation.

We rejoice in the keen mind and the warm heart.

We remember those whose opportunities and needs our society thwarts,
and we give thanks for the blessings that are ours, even in the midst of struggle.

We praise all who extend a hand in service and whose vision of justice commands action.

We pause; we gather; we meet; we rejoice; we remember; we give thanks; we praise;
We proclaim our community – as we gather this morning to worship together. (pause)

Words of Welcome and Introduction:

These opening words by Bruce Southworth welcome all who have gathered this morning, for our Sunday service. Welcome to those of you who have gathered in-person at Essex Church and also to all who are joining us via Zoom from far and wide. For anyone who doesn’t know me, my name is Jane Blackall, and I’m Minister with Kensington Unitarians. Welcome, one and all.

This morning’s service is the first of two linked Sundays when we’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Friendship’; this week I’ll introduce the theme and next week we’ll hear further reflections from some members of the congregation sharing their own perspectives on the topic. Today we’ll consider the importance of cultivating and nurturing friendships – making and maintaining our connections with those people who will be our companions through life’s ups and downs – while of course acknowledging that the path of true friendship doesn’t always run smooth – and indeed our most treasured connections may be cut short, as life brings challenge, change, and loss our way.

Let’s take a moment before we go any further to get settled, to arrive, to catch up with ourselves and prepare our hearts to worship. We make this hour sacred with our presence and intention. So let’s take a conscious breath or two, do whatever we need to do, to ground ourselves in the here and now.

Chalice Lighting: ‘In the Mystery of Life About Us There is Light’ by George Kimmich Beach

Let’s light our chalice flame now, as we do each week. This simple ritual connects us in solidarity with Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists the world over, and reminds us of the proud and historic progressive religious tradition of which this gathering is part.

(light chalice)

In the mystery of life about us there is light.
It gives us a place to be, to grow, to rejoice together.
It opens the pathways to love.
In this place of friendship there is freedom.
Let the light we kindle go before us,
Strong in hope, wide in good will,
Inviting the day to come.

Hymn (on sheet): ‘Children of a Bright Tomorrow’

Let’s sing together now. All of today’s hymns are on your hymn sheet today if you’re in the building. And the first hymn is ‘Children of a Bright Tomorrow’. For those joining via Zoom the words will be up on screen. Feel free to stand or sit as you prefer.

Now we gather here to worship,
Each with but one life to live;
Each with gifts and each with failings,
Each with but one heart to give.

In our longing, here we gather,
With warm voices for a friend;
Two or three, or tens or thousands,
Heart and hand to all extend.

May our circle grow still wider;
May we see as others see:
Standing in the others’ sandals
Shows us they, too, would be free.

Children of a bright tomorrow,
Every race and every creed;
Men and women of all nations,
Each a glory, each in need.

Small are we, and small our planet,
Hidden here among the stars:
May we know our timeless mission –
Universal avatars.

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 an opportunity now, for anyone who would like to do so, to light a candle and say a few words about what it represents. This time we’re going to go to the people in the building first, and take all of those in one go, and then I’ll call on the people on Zoom to come forward.

So I invite some of you here in person to come and light a candle and then if you wish to tell us briefly who or what you light your candle for. Please do get up close to the microphone as that will help everyone hear (including the people at home). You can take the microphone out of the stand if it’s not at a good height and have it microphone pointing right at your mouth. And if you can’t get to the microphone give me a wave and I’ll bring it over to you. Thank you.

(in person candles)

And if that’s everyone in the room we’ll go over to the people on Zoom next – you might like to switch to gallery view at this stage – just unmute yourselves when you are ready and speak out – and we should be able to hear you and see you up on the big screen here in the church.

(zoom candles)

And I’m going to light one more candle, as we often do, to represent all those joys and concerns that we hold in our hearts this day, but which we don’t feel able to speak out loud. (light candle)

Time of Prayer & Reflection: based on words by Simon John Barlow

Let’s take those joys and concerns into an extended time of prayer. This prayer is based on some words by my old friend Simon John Barlow. 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)

Spirit of Life, God of All Love, in whom we live and move and have our being,
we turn our full attention to you, the light within and without,
as we tune in to the depths of this life, and the greater wisdom
to which – and through which – we are all intimately connected.
Be with us now as we allow ourselves to drop into the
silence and stillness at the very centre of our being. (pause)

Source of All that is Good and True and Beautiful,
day by day we are renewed by your blessings
as we seek your presence.

Help us to allow Your Spirit to flow freely through us,
with loving awareness of the present
and hope for all our futures.

Guide us, that we may renew ourselves daily:
opening to new beauties;
uncovering greater courage;
and seeking deeper truths.

Let our shrine be a compassionate heart and our temple a wakeful mind.
Grant us the wisdom to see beyond the limits we set in our lives
and to know that in God there is no boundary.

May we realise: the freedom to be ourselves,
the compassion to be true companions to our friends;
and the desire to live as the passionate hearts of God here on earth;
the embodiment of Love in this interconnected web of All-That-Is. (pause)

Let us take a few moments now to look back over the past week, sit quietly for a while,
and inwardly give thanks for those joys and pleasures we have felt along the way:
moments of love, friendship and camaraderie,
experiences of wonder and delight; reassurance and relief ,
bursts of playfulness, spontaneity and generosity,
feelings of achievement, creativity, and flow,
all those times when we felt most alive and awake. (pause – about 30s)

Let us also take some time to ask for the consolation, forgiveness,
and guidance we may need, as we acknowledge our sorrows and regrets:
times of loss, pain, anger, and fear,
periods of uncertainty and anxious waiting,
realisation of our own weaknesses, mistakes and failings,
awareness of missed opportunities, those things left unsaid or undone,
those moments when we struggled and felt like a mess. (pause – about 30s)

Expanding our circle of concern, let us bring to mind those people,
places and situations that are in need of prayer right now:
– maybe friends or loved ones, those closest to our heart.
– maybe those we find difficult, or where there’s a conflict going on.
– maybe those we don’t know so well, or who we’ve heard about in the news.
And let us take a few moments now to hold them in the light of love. (pause – about 30s)

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 we 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 (on sheet): ‘Loving Friends Together’

Let’s sing again. Our next hymn is one that we haven’t sung in a very long time, we often use the purple book, the green book, occasionally the grey book, this one is from the pink book! It’s called ‘Loving Friends Together’ and it has a very simple tune but I’ll ask Andrew to play it through – both a verse and a chorus – before we sing. The words will be on screen as usual.

Loving friends together,
Reaching out and touching souls,
Holding hands forever,
One on one yet part of the whole.

We can stand tall,
Sharing ourselves, sharing ourselves.
No one soul is an island
Standing by itself.

Loving friends together,
Reaching out and touching souls,
Holding hands forever,
One on one yet part of the whole.

Join our singing,
Souls intertwine, speaking one mind.
Come and join in the circle,
Loving humankind.

Loving friends together,
Reaching out and touching souls,
Holding hands forever,
One on one yet part of the whole.

In-Person Reading: ‘Do You Want to Be My Friend?’ by Amy Sedghi (adapted) (read by Hannah)

This reading is an excerpt from a Guardian article by Amy Sedghi, on loneliness and making friends, published in 2018.

When you are a child in the playground it is pretty simple, but “Do you want to be my friend?” isn’t a line you hear from adults. Teenage years are filled with friendships easily made (and some easily forgotten), when you are feeling keen, sociable and energetic. Then there are engagements, marriage, relocation, career changes, families: life comes calling with its multiple demands, and friendships evolve as a result. I have been happy to see my friends move through these huge life moments, but as much as I value my friendships, I have found myself lonely at times. Some friends are physically far away, while others are time-poor and, with the best will in the world, it isn’t simple to see each other as often as we would like.

According to a recent study by the Red Cross, more than nine million adults in the UK are often or always lonely. We are facing a loneliness epidemic. But making friends as an adult can be hard, and takes time – a recent study from the University of Kansas found that two people need to spend 90 hours together to become friends, or 200 hours to qualify as close friends.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair agrees that this can be difficult to achieve: “Usually the basis of making a friend is a shared experience.” These are often in abundance in our earlier years, but once those easy opportunities are gone, you can forget that the initial basis for making a friendship is to have a similar passion or interest. Joining a group or class based on something you really love, or volunteering for something you care about, can be a great first step.

Over the past couple of years, and nearing 30, I made a conscious effort to make friends. Not to replace old ones, but to make new connections. Friendships, says Blair, are “like an onion. There’s all these layers of friends and the inner layer are your best friends – you probably only have two or three in your whole life.” You might not gain a new best friend, but finding friends for different interests in your life, at different stages, can be a positive. It is important to be proactive.

Embarking on friendships as an adult can be terrifying, exciting, rewarding and challenging. Nothing can replace the special connections you have with those who have known you over the years, but taking a leap of faith to engage in group activities can reinvigorate, and get the ball rolling again. When it comes to making friends, don’t be put off by being scared. Do it anyway.

Meditation: ‘After You Die’ by Marva Lee Weigelt

Thanks Hannah. We’re moving into a time of meditation now. I’m going to share a poem that I only chanced across for the first time this week – it’s by Marva Lee Weigelt – and it’s titled ‘After You Die’ – I found it really powerful – it speaks of what does and doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship – what we do need to worry about and what we don’t need to worry about when we make friends. and if you’re anything like me you might find it brings to mind old friends who are no longer with us. This poem will take us into three minutes of silence which will end with the sound of a bell. Then we’ll hear music from Abby and Andrew. So let’s do what we need to do to get comfortable – adjust your position if you need to – put your feet flat on the floor to ground yourself – close your eyes. As we always say, the words are an offering, you can use this time to meditate in your own way.

‘After You Die’ by Marva Lee Weigelt

Just so you know
after you die
I will not wonder
why you didn’t do
your dishes or
how long it’s been
since you
cleaned your
oven or microwave or
mopped your floors
or why there were
dust bunnies under
the bed and
behind the door

After you’re gone
I will not wonder
how you could
have allowed the
piles of old mail to
accumulate or
why you saved so
many bits and pieces
of this and that or
why you weren’t
more goal-oriented and
well-organized or
why your refrigerator
contained so many
expired condiments

When you are
absent from all your
familiar places
I vow to avoid wondering
why you didn’t
eat less and
exercise more or
why you waited so
long to stop smoking
or drinking or
whatever else was
soothing and
deadly or
why you took
whatever risk may
seem to have hastened
your exit or why
you left so much unsaid
unfinished or

I will only wonder
if you knew how much
you mattered to me
just as you are
as you were when we
met in our temporary
human disguises and
laughed in the
dressing room of the
world at how funkily
our skin suits fit
at times

I will wonder and
hope you knew
you were beloved

I will wonder when
we last hugged
and whether you
felt how our
and our bellies
bumped like boats
and then we
both sighed

Period of Silence and Stillness (~3 minutes) – end with a bell

Interlude: Echoes by Marie Dare (played by Abby Lorimier and Andrew Robinson)

In-Person Reading: ‘On Friendship’ from ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran (published 1923) (read by Julia)

And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
And he answered, saying:
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love
and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not
the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires,
all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence,
as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery
is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Reflection: ‘On Friendship’ by Rev. Dr. Jane Blackall

Thanks Julia. Friendship is one of those subjects that I’m endlessly interested in pondering, and one I’ve probably got too much to say about, which is why this is only part one of a two-part service (and next week we’ll be hearing varied perspectives from several members of the congregation).

If you’re at the church in person you may already have noticed that the picture on the front of your order of service today is of – Dave Myers and Si King – otherwise known as the Hairy Bikers. I know that many of you, like me, were very sad to hear of the recent death of Dave Myers – the Sunday after the news broke I lit a candle here not only for Dave and his family but also for Si – and I could see faces round the room nodding in sympathy. It was clear to see that theirs was a great friendship, and this would be a terrible loss to Si, who had written: ‘My best friend is on a journey that for now, I can’t follow. I will miss him every day and the bond and friendship we shared over half a lifetime.’

Theirs was the sort of friendship we might dream of – decades spent travelling the world together and sharing great adventures – and then showing tender care to each other when times were tough (over the last few years Si ferried Dave to and from chemotherapy sessions and batch-cooked meals to fill his freezer; ten years ago it was the other way round and Dave was caring for Si when, in quick succession, Si’s marriage broke up, and then he a near-fatal brain aneurysm, which took quite a while to bounce back from). Recently the Independent ran an article noting that ‘their close, tender, bond has been a touching depiction of a long-standing male friendship all too rarely seen on television’.

Reading these articles, and watching the Bikers’ final series ‘Go West’ – which has been so poignant, as it’s clear that they both knew at the time of recording that it would probably be their last hurrah, so it’s as much about their friendship and their gratitude for the time they’ve had together as it is about the food or the travel that are purportedly the subject of the programme – all this is what led me to start thinking about friendship as a topic for us to explore in this particular moment. But in truth, it’s a topic I’ve thought about a lot down the years, both personally and philosophically.

You might be aware that Aristotle has one of the best-known philosophical takes on friendship. He reckoned that there were three categories: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of virtue which he also called ‘perfect friendships’. Friendships of utility are those where the friendship is largely based on some practical benefit you get or give to each other: maybe you share a lift to work, and then one of you changes jobs, and the friendship fades away; or maybe you’re friendly with your hairdresser, you get on very well, and enjoy setting the world to rights together when you see each other, but you would never meet up outside appointments, the connection only exists within that limited space of transaction. It’s a relatively weak bond (which some of us might not even count as a friendship at all). Then there are friendships of pleasure, where you’ve got some activity that you like to do together, like dog-walking, or playing bowls, or ballroom dancing. If you engage in these activities together on a regular basis then this may provide an opportunity for a deeper and more lasting connection to develop but it’s also quite possible that if circumstances change – if one of you moves away, or gets sick, or the dance class closes down – all of a sudden you’ve lost that reason for regular contact, and these friendships can quite easily disappear.

So then we’re left with Aristotle’s third option – friendships of virtue – or ‘perfect friendships’. I’m going to share a quote from philosophy enthusiast Jack Maden, founder of ‘Philosophy Break’, on this. He writes: ‘These are the people you like for themselves, who typically influence you positively and push you to be a better person. This kind of relationship, based as it is on the character of two self-sufficient equals, is a lot more stable than the previous two categories… Virtuous friendship takes time — indeed, the length of a relationship indicates its stability — and requires effort on both sides… it involves honesty, acceptance, and selflessness. It is two equal parties coming together to forge a bond that provides mutual benefit, enjoyment, and appreciation over the course of a lifetime.’ And Aristotle himself said: ‘For perfect friendship you must get to know someone thoroughly, and become intimate with them, which is a very difficult thing to do.’

A key element of any friendship is presence – spending time together, being available to each other, racking up the hours-on-the-clock – that reading we heard from Hannah earlier suggested it takes at least 90 hours together to qualify as ‘friends’ and more like 200 to count as ‘close friends’. Though of course it depends what you do with those 200 hours! And ‘presence’ can take many forms. For some, ‘presence’ will mean being in each other’s pockets, living nearby, and popping in and out of each other’s kitchens for a cup of tea. For others, ‘presence’ might mean being ‘in each other’s pockets’ in a different way, via smartphone, regularly checking in, being ‘on call’ for each other, perhaps even engaging in a continuous stream of text commentary on the day’s events, as if we were ‘right there’ and experiencing them side by side. And that’s really important, and no less valid, for those of us who are unable to get about, or whose friends are geographically widespread. It’s another way of being companions, witnesses, supporting each other as we muddle through life. And maybe through circumstance or disposition we aren’t in such frequent contact with our dearest friends – maybe we only see them once in a blue moon – but when we do get together, then we’ll give them our undivided attention, and make sure we are present to each other, so it’s quality time.

And – as an aside, we haven’t really got time to get into this today, but maybe next Sunday – for me this stuff brings up all sorts of issues around expectations and equality in friendship. What if you’re starting to connect with a new friend but you’ve both got a different sense of what sort of ‘presence’ is essential to friendship – if one of you expects to be hanging out in-person all the time or making plans to do stuff together – while the other is content with drifting in and out a bit, only seeing each other occasionally, but expecting to fall straight back into deep-and-meaningful conversations? These sort of differing expectations can make or break our friendships and it’s something to be mindful of.

For me, the ideal close friendship is one in which we might be seen, known, understood, accepted, and loved for who we are – and in that friendship there is also a freedom to change and grow – our friend doesn’t require us to be fixed as the person they thought we were on the day we first met. I’ve always loved this old quote on friendship by Dinah Craik: ‘Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.’

As I read those words some of my dearest friends come to mind – and I hope you can also think of people with whom you’ve had this sort of deep and precious connection – I find myself thinking of my best friend Jef Jones, who some of you knew, Jef died suddenly and unexpectedly last May.

I guess quite a number of us are of an age where we’re likely to have lost some of our friends – some will have sadly died, some may have moved away and lost touch, some we may have fallen out with. The loss of a close friend can be absolutely devastating – I’ve experienced it twice now, with Jef last year, and also with Simon John Barlow who I was very close to in my 30s – he also died suddenly and he was only the age that I am now. I chose a prayer he’d written for today’s service in his honour. People don’t always seem to realise the impact of such losses – it’s treated as not as significant as the loss of a family member – but I know many people (particularly people who are estranged from their family of origin) who speak of their friends as ‘chosen family’; certainly for those who of us who are single, or without an extended biological family, our friends can be really central to our lives.

Each friendship draws out a certain version of us. As Thomas Moore wrote: ‘Each friend is indeed a world, a special sphere of certain emotions, experiences, memories, and qualities of personality. Each friend takes us into a world that is ourselves as well. We are all made up of many worlds and each friendship brings one or more of those worlds to life.’ And, likewise, Henri Nowuen wrote: ‘One friend may offer us affection, another may stimulate our minds, another may strengthen our souls. The more able we are to receive the different gifts our friends have to give us, the more able we will be to offer our own unique but limited gifts. Thus, friendships create a beautiful tapestry of love.’

When I think about my friend Jef, and about Simon John, both ‘gone too soon’, I feel a bit robbed. I really envy people who have those long-lasting – even life-long – friendships, where they’ve been able to accompany each other through decades of life, they’ve gone through all the ups and downs together, and have been there for each other offering mutual support through life’s many phases. But still, though those significant friendships were cut short, they were both transformative for me – they played a role in my own becoming – coming to know myself, to find my way in the world, to flourish. So in some sense I know they are still with me – they’ve shaped who I am – and I carry them onward in my mind, my heart, and my own way of being in the world as I live on. As David Whyte has written: ‘Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way, even after one half of the bond has passed on…. the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.’

As we heard in the reading from Hannah earlier, it can feel harder to make new friends as we get older, as our lives might already be full-to-overflowing with grown-up commitments, and it can feel impossible to put in the hours required to meet new people and build deep and lasting connections. And our capacity for such deep friendship is probably limited anyway – it is likely we can only sustain a few such connections – to quote Aristotle again: ‘To be a friend to many people in the way of perfect friendship is impossible… it is difficult to share intimately in the joys and sorrows of many people; for one may very likely be called upon to rejoice with one and to mourn with another at the same time.’

That said, I encourage you to tend to your friendships – to give them the care and attention they deserve – as they are so crucial to our mutual flourishing. And if you don’t feel you have these sort of connections in your life right now, and you’d like them, why not treat this as an invitation to set out with intention to meet new people and, perhaps, find those with whom your soul resonates?

More on this next week – when we’ll hear from Liz, Carolyn, Gaynor and Roy – but I want to close this reflection with a short blessing for friendship, adapted from words by John O’Donohue:

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you never be isolated.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
(and) may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey. Amen.

Hymn (on sheet): ‘All of Life is Filled with Wonder’

Time for our last hymn, ‘All of Life is Filled with Wonder’, to a very familiar tune. Please sing up and let’s enjoy our closing hymn.

All of life is filled with wonder,
so we thank you, God of love —
For the crash of evening thunder,
clearing clouds, then stars above;
For the night that turns to glowing
as we feel the morning mist,
God, we praise and thank you, knowing
every day we’re truly blessed.

For the joy of daily waking,
for the gift of each new day,
For the smell of fresh bread baking,
for the sound of children’s play,
For the ways we seek to serve you
as we work and volunteer,
God we humbly praise and thank you
for your presence with us here.

For the ways we’re blessed with plenty —
love and laughter, neighbours, friends,
Nature’s wonders, seasons’ bounty,
life in you that never ends,
For the ones who’ve gone before us,
giving witness to your way —
We rejoice in all you give us
every moment, every day.

For your love in times of trouble,
for your peace when things are tough,
For your help when hardships double,
for your grace that is enough,
For a stranger’s gentle kindness,
for a doctor’s healing skill —
God, we thank you that you bless us,
and you bless your world as well.

For your presence in our neighbours,
for your love that claims and frees.
For our talents and our labours,
for our faith communities.
For your daily great surprises —
poor ones lifted, lost ones found —
God, we thank you! Hope still rises,
as your gifts of grace abound.


Thanks to Ramona for tech-hosting. Thanks to Charlotte for co-hosting and welcoming everyone online. Thanks to Abby and Andrew for playing for us today. Thanks to Hannah and Julia for reading (and also for greeting and making coffee today). For those of you who are in-person – please do stay for a cuppa and cake after the service – it’s an old favourite, apple and sultana, this week – served in the hall next door. If you’re joining on Zoom please do hang on after for a chat with Charlotte.

This afternoon if you’re here in person why not stay on for a singing class with Margaret, that’s from 12.30, always good fun, free of charge, she can help anyone improve their voice. We also have our regular online ‘Heart & Soul’ Contemplative Spiritual Gathering, tonight and Friday at 7pm, this week’s theme is ‘Something to Say’. We gather for sharing and prayer and it is a great way to get to know others on a deeper level. Email me to book your place for that. On Wednesday night the in-person Heart and Soul takes place, let me know if you plan to come. And Sonya will be here as usual for her Nia dance classes at lunchtime on Friday. If you want to join in with our ‘Better World Book Club’, the next gathering will be next Sunday (on Zoom)when we’ll be talking about ‘Laziness Does Not Exist’ by Devon Price.

And a date for your diaries: We’re going to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of this congregation on Sunday 14th April – me and Sarah will be co-leading a special service – and there’ll be a congregational bring-and-share lunch after. Save the date and look out for Liz with a sign-up sheet so you can let her know what food you’re planning to bring for that.

Next Sunday at 11am as I’ve said we’ll have part 2 of this exploration of friendship – with contributions from congregation members Liz, Carolyn, Gaynor and Roy – so come back for more next week.

Details of all our various activities are printed on the back of the order of service, for you to take away, and also in the Friday email. Please do sign up for the mailing list if you haven’t already. The congregation very much has a life beyond Sunday mornings; we encourage you to keep in touch, look out for each other, and do what you can to nurture supportive connections.

I think that’s everything. Just time for our closing words and closing music now.

Benediction: based on words by Cynthia Landrum

We leave this gathered community,
But we don’t leave our connection,
Our concerns, our care for each other.

Our service to each other, to the world,
and to the promptings of our faith, continues.

So until we are together again, friends,
Be strong, be well, be true, be loving,
and nurture Goodness wherever you go.
May it be so, for the greater good of all. Amen.

Closing Music: Stomping Boys by Eduard Pütz (played by Abby Lorimier and Andrew Robinson)

Rev. Dr. Jane Blackall

17th March 2024