250th Anniversary: Past, Present, Future – 14/4/24

Musical Prelude: Danish String Quartet: Sønderho Bridal Trilogy, Part II (played by the Kyan Quartet: Naomi Warburton (Violin I), Sydney Mariano (Violin II), Wanshu Qiu (Viola), Simon Guémy (Cello))

Opening Words: ‘The Purpose of Religion’ by Cliff Reed (adapted)

The purpose of religion is
to create loving community;
to foster relationships of mutual caring and respect;
to nurture the human spirit;
and to comfort, challenge, and inspire us, as the need arises.

The purpose of religion is
to seek and find a moral compass for the soul;
to make responsible use of the mind’s powers;
to help us become good stewards of God’s green earth;
and to be humble explorers of the universe.

The purpose of religion is
to celebrate life in its fullness;
to follow in the footsteps of those who have
taught and lived the better way for humankind;
and to uphold the universal values that make for
peace, justice, and happiness the world over.

The purpose of religion is
to free itself from inhumanity, bigotry, and empty dogma;
and to serve the cause of human welfare in a
global commonwealth, with joy and compassion.

So as we gather together in religious community this morning,
may we remember these noble purposes around which we gather,
and re-commit ourselves to carrying this free faith onward, together. (pause)

Words of Welcome and Introduction:

These opening words by the Reverend Cliff Reed 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 today, including our chums from Brighton Unitarians who are beaming in, it’s good to have you with us once again. For anyone who doesn’t know me, my name is Jane Blackall, and I’m Minister with Kensington Unitarians, and I’ll be leading this morning’s service with help from our former minister, Sarah Tinker.

This morning’s service is a very special one – we’re marking the 250th anniversary of Essex Church – on the 17th April 1774 Theophilus Lindsey led the very first service at the first avowedly Unitarian chapel in Britain, the Essex Street Chapel, just off the Strand. And there is a direct line from that pioneering congregation to our own congregation here in Kensington, that’s why we’re also known as Essex Church. So this morning we’re going to celebrate this landmark in our congregation’s history – and the history of the Unitarian movement here in Britain – with a service titled ‘Past, Present, and Future’.

Chalice Lighting: ‘We Carry the Flame’ by Douglas Taylor

Let’s light our chalice flame now, as we do each week. It’s a moment to settle ourselves, to be still, to remember what it is that brought us here, and reconnect with our common purpose. 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. And I’m going to invite Sarah to come up and join me in saying our words for chalice lighting.

(light chalice)

SARAH: Across the generations we have carried the flame.
We fought the injustice, sang the songs,
spoke for truth, and built something lasting.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

JANE: Across the generations we are tending the flame.
Hand in hand together we share in the work of
fighting injustice, singing the songs, speaking the truth.
And we are here to build something lasting.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward

SARAH: Across the generations we have been nourished by this flame.
We are singing new songs, breaking old barriers, sharing in the work.
And as we find our own space in what has been,
we are here to make space for the next person as well
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

JANE: Across the generations, this flame comes to us.
We are here for the songs, for the justice, for the community sharing the work.
We are here now, too, to build something new and lasting.
We are ready for a new day together.
We join in the line and we carry the flame forward.

Hymn 135 (green): ‘Sing in Celebration’

Let’s sing together now. Our first hymn is number 135 in our green hymnbooks, ‘Sing in Celebration’. For those joining via Zoom the words will be up on screen. Feel free to stand or sit as you prefer.

Sing in celebration, time to remember
Those who in past ages kept love of truth alive;
Now, in dedication, as we pay them homage,
We too would pledge for truth and love to strive.

Pioneers undaunted, upheld by courage,
Freed the mind from fetters and set the conscience free;
By the tyrant taunted, for their faith derided,
They yet stood firm in love and liberty.

We who share their vision must share their labour,
Marching to the future – a new world yet to be.
This shall be our mission – to extol compassion
Till humankind become one family.

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. We’ll 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.

If you’re here in person, please do come up if you’d like to, you can either light the candle yourself or I can light one for you. I do have a special plea: when you tell us who or what you’re lighting your candle for please PLEASE use the microphone and get it within an inch of your mouth – like you’re about to eat an ice cream cone – pointing directly at your face. I’ve had some feedback from the people at home who can barely hear you and they really want to hear you. You can take the microphone out of the stand if it’s not at a good height. 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 Bruce Southworth

Let’s take those joys and concerns into an extended time of prayer. This prayer is based on some words by Bruce Southworth. 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)

As we gather together in prayer this morning let us be aware of the
varied human experience embodied in this community;
we each go through such a mix of ups and downs.

Sometimes, life is tough, and the world bears heavily upon us;
we struggle alone, search the depths, and long for healing,
for renewed hope, for strength, which give their grace and peace.

Each of us here gathered carries our own private griefs and burdens.
Sometimes we can share these, and for the open hearts
which respond with tender care, we are grateful.

Each of us here gathered knows something of life’s blessing too.
This bright spring morning, let us give thanks for all those joys that break through.
Let us give thanks for the care and compassion of friends, family, neighbours.
Let us give thanks for the communion of all those who seek to serve others. (pause)

May we be strengthened in our efforts to be of service,
and may we always be mindful of all the good in our lives;
whatever privilege, success, and happiness we have been blessed with.

May our prayer be that we always see clearly
and keep before us the commandment to care;
striving always to be generous, inclusive, and open.

On this day and every day, may we give thanks,
but let us also be dissatisfied with the world as it is,
for a new world, a realm of love, is still waiting to be realised.

May our spirits and bodies be nourished and nurtured
as we give thanks in praise of all that sustains,
heals, and holds – all that is holy and Good. (pause)

And in a few moments of shared silence and stillness now,
may we speak inwardly some of those deepest prayers of our hearts —
the joys and sorrows we came in carrying – in our own lives and the lives of the wider world.
Let us each lift up whatever is on our heart this day, and ask for what we most need. (pause)

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 17 (green): ‘Song of Thanksgiving’

Let’s sing again. Our next hymn is number 17 in your green books, ‘Song of Thanksgiving’. The words will be on screen as usual.

We sing now together our song of thanksgiving,
Rejoicing in goods which the ages have wrought
For Life that enfolds us and helps and heals and holds us,
And leads beyond the goals which our ancestors sought.

We sing of the freedoms which martyrs and heroes
Have won by their labour, their sorrow, their pain;
The oppressed befriending, our ampler hopes defending,
Their death becomes our triumph, their loss is our gain.

We sing of the prophets, the teachers, the dreamers,
Designers. creators, and workers, and seers;
Our own lives expanding, our gratitude commanding,
Their deeds have made immortal their days and their years.

We sing of earth’s comradeship now in the making
In every far continent, region and land;
With folk of all races, all times and names and places,
We pledge ourselves in fellowship firmly to stand.

Reflection: ‘Lindsey’s Clear Sense of Mission’ by Rev. Sarah Tinker

So here we are, celebrating that it’s 250 years since the very first publicly acknowledged Unitarian service here in England back in April 1774. It didn’t happen here in this actual church building. It didn’t happen here on this particular bit of land in Notting Hill, west London. But it was the start of this Essex Church congregation. And it was a big deal at the time. A very big deal.

A man called Theophilus Lindsey, an Anglican minister from the north east of England, decided that he could no longer, in all good conscience, remain an Anglican and chose with his wife Hannah Lindsay to give up their livelihoods and start again, here in London. They established the Essex Street Chapel in Essex Street in central London – just opposite the Law Courts in the Strand. They took over an old auction house, and although the original buildings are long gone, our Unitarian headquarters are on the same site all these years later. The congregation that Hannah and Theophilus Lindsey founded was the first of a number of congregations that declared themselves to be Unitarian in their faith. Apparently there were government spies attending that first service, by all – tasked no doubt to inform the leaders of the day about what had taken place – what had been said and done. There were members of the judiciary in attendance, members of parliament – current and future. It was still illegal at this time to assemble and pray if you held Unitarian beliefs. That law would not be abolished until The Trinity Act of 1813. But law or no law – Unitarian thought and belief was buzzing in the latter years of the 18th century. But even so, Theophilus Lindsey was a daring man, and clearly a man of conscience when he gave up the Anglican priesthood to forge a new pathway of faith. He had a really clear sense of mission, of what he was being called to do. He felt that he must speak his truth about matters of theology – whatever the consequences might be. His faith was his life.

I find myself thinking too of his wife Hannah and how this life change would have been for her. She was wealthy in comparison with her husband and from the little bits of information we have about her life we know that she dedicated herself to alleviating the sufferings she witnessed around her – at first in the Yorkshire village they lived in and then later in central London where they established Essex Street Chapel. In those days the area was mostly very poor, with many tiny alleyways and back streets, highly polluted – especially in the summer months when the Thames reeked of sewage and decay. London’s alleyways became Hannah’s faith in action – using her own resources and the resources of the congregation that her husband had founded, to improve health conditions for the many poor families that lived near the chapel and to educate youngsters so that they might have greater opportunities in their adult lives.

If Hannah and Theophilus Lindsey suddenly appeared here with us right now they’d be astonished I reckon – but so would we. Lindsey always thought that his breaking away from the Church of England would ultimately lead to a revised church which would incorporate a wider range of theologies, including Unitarian beliefs. He was first and foremost a Christian as were most other people in this country. The pluralism of belief that we enjoy now would have been incomprehensible to him. In the late 1700s most people knew very little about other faiths. Hannah and Theophilus would be astonished to meet me and Jane as women ministers. That future reality was a long way off in their day.

If we could meet them today I think we’d be struck by what you might call a spiritual seriousness about them. Faith was at the core of their living, faith mattered deeply to them, faith shaped their choices day to day.

Our lives today are more complex and yet I think many of us do still have a sense of faith at the core of our being, a sense of faith shaping our ways of being in the world and guiding our steps and our choices. I wonder how your faith shapes your living in the world today.

This congregation of ours that the Lindseys founded – has of course gone through many stages to reach where we are now. There came a time in the late Victorian era when the population of central London had greatly diminished – and so the Essex Street chapel congregation merged with a congregation here in Kensington – an area of considerable population growth. A small iron building here on this site was replaced by a magnificent neo gothic brick church with a mighty spire – and that too was later replaced in the 1970s with the building we’re enjoying being in now.

Jane mentioned earlier that we have members of Brighton Unitarians joining us online today – I enjoyed having a look at your congregation’s website and discovering a number of interesting bits of information. Brighton Unitarians’ history traces back to 1793 when 19 members of a Baptist church in Brighton were expelled because they could no longer believe in pre-destination – the idea that anyone God had not already picked for heaven was headed for everlasting Hell, no matter what they did on earth. These were the kinds of belief that Unitarians felt passionate about – that it mattered how people behaved in life and that God was surely a loving and benevolent force in our world, not a harsh and arbitrary judge.

I also read about Brighton Unitarians receiving the very posh organ that was removed from the old Essex church on this site when it was being readied for demolition back in 1973. Thank you for giving it a good home and for looking after it so well.

So I hope this whistle stop tour of this congregation’s beginnings gives us all encouragement to think how we express our faith in the living of our lives and what we in this congregation and our wider Unitarian movement might be building for the generations yet to come.

Meditation: ‘Our Journeys of Faith’

We’re moving now into a meditative time in our service, when a few words of introduction from me will lead into a shared silence together and then our musicians will play the second piece from the Danish String Quartet, based on traditional Danish and Faroese wedding tunes.

So let’s get ourselves comfy as we can, enjoy a moment of settling and stilling ourselves, making those little adjustments that can ease our bodies and help us quieten. Following perhaps the gentle rhythm of our own breathing, in and out, aware of our surroundings, aware of our feet resting on the floor, connecting us with the earth on which all life is lived, making this a time for turning inwards and going deeper. And in our shared quiet you might like to think of what has called you in life, what or who has helped guide your journey of faith. What has brought us to this community and what might be whispering to us now in the quiet moments, in the stillness of our turning earth. What might our Unitarian community of the future require of us now? Let’s enter the fellowship of quietness together now for a few minutes, our silence will end with a chime from our bell.

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

Interlude: Danish String Quartet: Sønderho Bridal Trilogy, Part III (played by the Kyan Quartet)

Reflection: ‘The Next 250 Years?’ by Rev. Dr. Jane Blackall

Some years ago I read a paper written by my ministry colleague Stephen Lingwood, on Unitarian theology, and its opening premise has really stuck with me. It’s pertinent to the anniversary we’re celebrating today so I want to share a little excerpt from it with you now. Stephen Lingwood writes:

‘I am a Unitarian. That label, “Unitarian” was also used by Theophilus Lindsey when he started the first explicitly Unitarian church in Britain in 1774. What does it mean to make the claim that both he and I are Unitarians? What relationship do I have to Lindsey and to this thing called “Unitarian”? What is the relationship any Unitarian has with Unitarians of the past?… The language, practices, and beliefs of Lindsey seem to be radically different to mine… The Unitarian tradition has changed, sometimes quite rapidly. And its self-understanding is that it does change, and that it should do. But this does make the question seem even more pressing: in what sense do we claim religious continuity in a non-creedal tradition that allows the freedom of religious evolution? In what sense is the Unitarianism of the past the same thing as the Unitarianism of the present?’

A very interesting question posed there by Stephen Lingwood. What have we got in common with Lindsey, who founded this church, and indeed Unitarianism in Britain, 250 years ago? What have we got in common with the 200-or-so people who gathered there in Essex Street? Let’s imagine what it would have been like to attend one of Theophilus Lindsey’s services. What do you reckon it would have been like? I wasn’t confident that I could provide an accurate picture of these early services myself, so I asked a few colleagues this week, and I’m grateful to Daniel Costley for telling me about the work of historian Professor Grayson Ditchfield, who’s researched the early history of the Essex Street Chapel. In 1774 Lindsey had just left the Church of England so his early services were very similar to what he’d left behind – apparently he more-or-less followed the Book of Common Prayer – he just took all the specifically Trinitarian bits out. Early Unitarianism, as practiced by Lindsey, was like a reformed Church of England. The sermons were, as I understand it, very very long. In the early days, the singing of hymns was unaccompanied and, apparently, terrible (that’s the polite way to put it). It would have been much more formal than we’re used to nowadays. If I suddenly decided I was going ‘back to basics’ and preached a Theophilus Lindsey style service next week… I suspect you wouldn’t like it very much. What Unitarianism looks like on a Sunday morning has changed quite a bit (in some ways, at least).

But still, this early Unitarianism was very radical in spirit – as Sarah said, it was still illegal at that time to preach Unitarian beliefs – even if the shape and feel of the gathering was still pretty traditional. It really mattered to the people who gathered at the old Essex Street Chapel – they were spiritually serious – serious enough to break away from the mainstream to pursue what they thought was right and true.

Sometimes, these days, you hear Unitarians dismissed as people who can ‘believe what they like’. But it’s more accurate to say that we ‘believe what we must’. And Theophilus Lindsey, and those early Unitarians who gathered at the Essex Street Chapel, must have been driven by something deep in order to pursue this new way of doing religion when it was counter-cultural, against the grain, illegal. They weren’t prepared to sign up to the required dogmas of the mainstream church – they were compelled by their conscience to think for themselves – to seek truth was a moral imperative. For each and every person to be free and unconstrained in their search for meaning – that really meant something to them – perhaps to a degree that we slightly take for granted nowadays, 250 years on.

To come back to Stephen Lingwood’s question – what is our relationship with Lindsey, his Essex Street congregation, and those early Unitarians? – in the conclusion to his paper, Lingwood writes:

‘What is my relationship to Theophilus Lindsey? The answer is we are both part of the same tradition… We are both involved in the same process of religious discovery, we are both part of a continuous virtuous tradition seeking justice, and we share a collection of meaning-making stories. In fact his story is one of the stories that gives me meaning. He is part of my tradition.’

This take from Stephen Lingwood seems about right to me. What we have in common is not the shape of our worship, especially, and not even specific beliefs – I suspect that most of us gathered here today are not nearly as worried about the differences between Unitarian and Trinitarian theology in the way that our forebears were (or at least it’s not such a prominent and burning question in our minds) – it’s more about the approach we have to life’s big questions, and our commitment to an ongoing, ever-unfolding, process of religious discovery – an honest search for truth and meaning – and a sincere quest to live good and virtuous lives – to help bring about justice, peace, and a better world for all.

The continuity of this congregation over the last 250 years rests on this shared process and purpose – our mission – the outward forms have changed quite a bit but this is the constant heart of our faith.

And I’ve witnessed this unfolding in front of my own eyes: As well as celebrating our big anniversary this week – the actual 250th anniversary of the first service is on the 17th, next Wednesday, if you want to raise a toast, or have a celebratory slice of cake, in honour of this anniversary on the day itself – but I’m also going to be celebrating a small anniversary the day after, on the 18th, which is 25 years since I first set foot in Essex Church (I was quite pleased that the numbers lined up like that).

Even over 25 years I’ve seen quite a bit of change, in this congregation, and the wider denomination. But our change and evolution should always be in service of our shared purpose – our mission – and in line with the process that’s so characteristic of our tradition – this non-dogmatic pursuit of truth. That’s why I chose this morning’s opening words on ‘The Purpose of Religion’ by Cliff Reed – as a reminder of what it is we’re here for – and the nature of the Unitarian tradition we are upholding. It seems important that we should keep coming back to this, reminding ourselves of this guiding vision (and we’ll be thinking about our congregational vision again in two weeks’ time – on AGM day – always a very good moment to reflect on what we’re doing in the light of our religious purpose).

Lingwood’s reflection on what connects contemporary Unitarians with Lindsey and his congregation of 250 years ago suggests another question to me: How will future generations of Unitarians look back on us in 250 years from now? 250 years is quite a long time, isn’t it? Will we make it that far? Will humanity make it that far? Let’s scale it back: What about in another 25 years, in 2049? I hope there are enough people of ‘spiritual seriousness’ – people to whom this way of doing religion really means something – who will step up to keep the doors of Essex Church open, and take the tradition onwards, so our chalice flame will keep on burning for the next generation, and centuries to come.

But in 25 or 250 years: It probably won’t look like exactly like church-as-we-know-it. We know how many changes we’ve made here at Essex Church even over the last four years – our way of doing church has evolved – and for very good reason. In order to fulfil our purpose, and uphold our values, we’ve made the move to hybrid services and taken a lot of activities online – It has not been an entirely easy ride – change is often challenging – and it was hard work to make it happen. It isn’t a change that was remotely on our radar five years ago but – I hope you’ll agree – it’s congruent with our Unitarian principles, we did it for the sake of justice and inclusion, and it’s something we can be proud of doing.

I hope future leaders of Essex Church – our spiritual descendants – will also ask themselves the same sort of questions when they’re making plans and discerning the way forward, for this congregation and for the Unitarian movement as a whole, in the years to come. I hope they ask: ‘Is this in line with our Unitarian values?’ ‘Does this serve our religious purpose?’ ‘How does this fit the mission of this church?’ and perhaps even ‘What is God calling us to do now, in this time, and in this place?’ I hope they won’t be too attached to church looking a particular way, or to doing things the way they’ve always been done, and that they’ll continue to evolve in order to better serve the mission. But, even as the world changes, and our church changes, there will be this thread of continuity – as each new generations steps up to be stewards of this tradition – our shared process and purpose will go on.

And in that spirit I invite you now to join in the responsive reading that is in your order of service – the words will be up on screen shortly – these piece adapted from words by Scott Alexander is titled ‘We Need a Religion’ and it affirms something of our shared purpose, process, and values as Unitarians.

So I invite you to join in, if you wish, with the responses printed in bold.

Responsive Reading: ‘We Need a Religion That…’ by Scott Alexander (adapted)

In a world with so much hatred and violence,
We need a religion that proclaims
the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In a world with so much brutality and fear,
We need a religion that seeks justice,
equity, and compassion in human relations.

In a world with so many persons abused and neglected,
We need a religion that calls us to accept one another
and encourage one another to spiritual growth.

In a world with so much tyranny and oppression,
We need a religion that affirms the right to freedom
of thought and conscience, and the proper use of the democratic process.

In a world with so much inequity and strife,
We need a religion that strives toward the goal
of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

In a world with so much environmental degradation,
We need a religion that advocates awareness and respect
for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

In a world with so much uncertainty and despair,
We need a religion that teaches our hearts to hope, and our hands to care.

In a world where so many people yearn for connection, yearn for love,
We need religious communities like ours to welcome all people of goodwill,
offering a place to call home, to belong, where each can be who we truly are. Amen.

Hymn 208 (green): ‘Forward Through the Ages’

Time for our last hymn, number 208 in your hymnbooks, ‘Forward Through the Ages’, it’s a stirring one to end on. The words will be up on screen. Please sing up and let’s enjoy our closing hymn.

Forward through the ages in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine:
Gifts in differing measure, hearts of one accord,
Manifold the service, one the sure reward.
Forward through the ages in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.

Wider grows the kingdom, reign of love and light;
For it we must labour, till our faith is sight.
Prophets have proclaimed it, martyrs testified,
Poets sung its glory, heroes for it died.
Forward through the ages in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.

Not alone we conquer, not alone we fall;
In each loss or triumph lose or triumph all.
Bound by God’s far purpose in one living whole,
Move we on together to the shining goal.
Forward through the ages in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.


Thanks to Sarah for co-leading today’s service. Thanks to Ramona for tech-hosting. Thanks to Charlotte for co-hosting and welcoming everyone online. Thanks to the Kyan Quartet and to Andrew for playing for us today and to Benjie for supporting our singing. Thanks to Juliet for greeting and Liz for making coffee (and coordinating lunch). For those of you who are in-person – please do stay for a cuppa and indeed for lunch after the service – we’ve got plenty of food to share I think – that’ll be in the hall next door. If you’re joining on Zoom please hang on after for a chat with Charlotte.

We also have our regular ‘Heart & Soul’ Contemplative Spiritual Gathering, the online version is on Friday at 7pm, this week’s theme is ‘Belief’. 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. We also have an in-person Heart and Soul this Wednesday, let me know if you plan to come along.

It’s just two weeks now until our Membership Service and AGM so please do come along for that. Then annual report will be out soon I hope. And we sent out membership renewal emails this week so please do fill that in ASAP to re-affirm your belonging to this congregation. If you’re someone who’s been coming to church for a while and you’re interested in becoming a member please do have a chat with me, or a committee member. It’s not about money, there’s no requirement to donate, it’s about pledging your support and affirming your sense of belonging, and it’s good for morale for those of us who are keeping the show on the road if you feel able to say ‘yes, I am a member of this congregation, this is something I am proud to be part of.’

If you want to join in with our ‘Better World Book Club’, the next gathering will be on Zoom at 7.30pm on Sunday 28th April – we’re exploring ‘What’s in a Name?’ by Sheela Banerjee. Been getting some very positive feedback on this book from people who’ve read it already. Please do pick up a flyer if you’re here in-person as we’ve lined up all our books until August.

Next Sunday at 11am I’ll be back to lead our service in connection with Earth Day. And the special music continues as we’ll have not one but TWO bassoons in the house which I am looking forward to. After the service next week Margaret will be here to offer her singing class, all are welcome.

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 Andy Pakula

As you prepare to leave this sacred space,
Pack away a piece of this church in your heart.
Wrap it carefully like a precious gem.
Carry it with you through the joys and sorrows of your days –
Let its gentle glow strengthen you, warm you,
remind you of all that is good and true
Until you gather here again in this place of love.

May it be so, for the greater good of all. Amen.

Closing Music: Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in C Major, Op. 33 No. 3 – IV. Presto (played by the Kyan Quartet)

Rev. Sarah Tinker and Rev. Dr. Jane Blackall

14th April 2024