Monday, August 22, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer 2011 Schedule

Our series goes more practical this summer, so we will be exploring the practice of spirituality.

17 - Interfaith Services
24 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: exploring ways of centreing for prayer, conversation on the Buddhist techniques of breathing and meditation with Syd Smith, and Pastor John.
31 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: exploring various prayers with Pastor John

7 - Family Services: Exploring our Spirituality: Music/Hymns with Pastor John
Pastor John will be away on holidays from the 7th until the 18th.
14 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: Drumming with Remi Fadare, and others
21 - Interfaith Services
28 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: Social Action/Justice as Spiritual discipline with Tim Atkinson

4 - Family Services: Exploring our Spirituality practical: welcoming as a spiritual discipline, with Pastor John and a Naming Ceremony for Alice Riley followed by a BBQ
11 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: icons, images and the use of the visual with Pastor John
18 - Interfaith Services
25 - Exploring our Spirituality, practical: beads and use of touch with Pastor John

2 - Family Services: Exploring our Spirituality, practical: taste, conversations on communion, and Harvest Festival Celebrations led by all of us, with potluck following.

Hopefully you will be able to join us!

Pastor John

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sundays at LUMH till the end of 2010

24 October Pastor John
31 October Roberta Wedge

07 November Matthew Smith
14 November Pastor John
21 November INTERFAITH
28 November Pastor John

05 December Advent Service led by Pastor John
12 December INTERFAITH
19 December Christmas Service led by Pastor John
26 December NO SERVICE

02 January Congregational lead

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lewisham People’s Day report from Liz Hills- fabulous photos

This must be the 3rd or 4th time I have helped with our stall at this event and so it was with rather mixed feelings that I agreed with the idea that we should once again go and stand in the middle of a park for 5 hours whilst people walk past us as if we were invisible!

What a surprise then this year! The day was bright and sunny with just enough wind to stop it feeling really hot. Lori had done some great work on posters, leaflets and info for our stall – even finding a 20 year old banner – and coming armed with table covers, large clips, glue and blu-tak. All essential believe me!

Tim had suggested some interactive activity as a way of getting people to engage and Lori successfully translated this into a large piece of wood upon which people were invited to draw/paint/graffiti whatever it was that inspired them. This in turn led to some very interesting, and in some cases moving, conversations. The finished piece is now in the Meeting House.

Our stall was one of many in the voluntary and community area so we felt quite at home between the 'Stop the war in Iraq' stall and the 'Vietnamese Women's project' stall. As so often happens we got talking with many of the other stall holders and one even knew that Unitarians were the first denomination to have women ministers!

A few stalls down from us were the local evangelical group and when one of their representatives positioned himself next to our stall for his conversations Lori very kindly went up and offered him our 'Unitarian views on Jesus' leaflet. He took it and rushed away!

Our 'yoof' were very much in evidence and were able to chat to other youngsters and the chair we put out in front of the stall for people to rest, was rarely empty.

For next year – more of the same then but with more leaflets especially the 'Where We Stand – LGBT issues' one from the GA. Given the debate over women bishops we could have done with a leaflet on 'Women in Ministry'. We have a year to write one! Oh – and some more sun cream!

I had a really great day so when the subject comes up again next year the answer will be very definitely – count me in!

Monday, August 16, 2010

“Stepping out of the Queue”

I grew up walking the line, being in those various queues of existence.

When I moved to the UK, I knew that the British took queue-ing very seriously and were, are, rightly proud of this cultural icon. I knew this, knew how I experienced it in the US and thought that I was quite well adapted to it within British culture. That is until the Queen Mum died. When it was announced that she would rest in state at Westminster Palace, I decided that I needed to go attend the viewing. Mostly due to the historical aspects of it, as well as the sight-seeing aspects of going into the palace where one doesn't usually get to go.

So on the day I set out to join the queue. I caught up with it around about Southwick Bridge. And this started a full afternoon of walking alongside the Thames. Which I must admit is still one of my favourite walks here in London. Many others joined the queue at the same time as I did, and as we walked to Westminster Palace, we found that there were many coming toward us to join up with the queue.

As the minutes went by so did the hours that were added to the time spent by those joining the end of the queue. So we slowly moved up the queue, early on most people spoke with their friends and companions, and then somewhere about hour three conversations broke out between strangers. I heard stories of when people met the Queen Mum, some of the traditions related to this, and their admiration of her.

I found that day that everyone wanted to tell me their stories of their queen mum. When we crossed the river and were getting closer to Westminster Palace, the mood suddenly changed. And then and there I learned just how seriously the British take the traditions of the queue. A woman, joined the queue when we were just off the bridge and going down a set of stairs.

The anger then began to appear. All these gentle, lovely grandmothers, swiftly turned. Ugly would be nice compared to what this was. Evil might be right, but.....the rapid change was downright scary. I wouldn't want to cross those women on that day. I grew up in lines, but the US variation was open and loopy, I don't know how we survived those undisciplined queues, and since I began learning the British tradition of Queue I don't think I can ever return to those standard and boring US lines.

I like the tradition of the queue. That is the thing of it, traditions are like queues. They give you a sense of place, of order and of historic connections. Without tradition life would be like a fiddler on the roof, to quote the musical, shaky and always on the edge. In other words tradition does give you security, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Yet the problem is when tradition becomes the rule unto itself. We cannot do that because it is against tradition. How dare you explore a belief like that, it dishonours God. If we allow them to marry than society will collapse. All sorts of evil happens when tradition is challenged or changed. We fall off the roof. Is that such a bad thing? Unitarian approaches to tradition are varied, and that reflects the variations of our denomination.

Some Unitarians came out of Presbyterian approaches to Christian faith, others from Anglican, and others from Baptist. Some of our congregations started as Unitarian and other started as Free Christians. I mention these because all of these traditions are within our Unitarian heritage. We Unitarians are not products of a singular tradition, save that of we are all from a variation of Dissenting Christianity. We are the ones that decided to step out of the queue so to speak.

Thus endeth the lesion, or does it. One of the things that has annoyed me in reading other's peoples definitions of Unitarian is the way of definition that they make. It is negative. Unitarians are anti Trinitarian. Now I am not opposed to the negative way. It is a part of our dissenting tradition. But it is not and should never be the end of the conversation.

At some point the positive must also be addressed. I am not anti Trinitarian, I happen to believe in the Oneness of God, I can discuss Trinitarian belief and how it can be used in a positive way, but that belief does not speak to my experience or understanding of the Divine. We Unitarians have a tradition and heritage to be proud of, one which we shouldn't forget, and one that is attractive to others.

We are not for everyone, but there is nothing wrong with that, our open questioning can be scary, but for some it is the entry for that exciting spiritual exploration that they need and desire. It is our gift to our neighbours, our nation and our world.

Pastor John

Monday, April 5, 2010

John's Easter reflections

From Pastor John's Easter service


My third year of seminary, after I had switched emphasis, I was asked by the pastor of the church I was attending at the time to take the Easter Sunday service. First I was surprised due to the fact that most preachers refuse to give up major Sunday services, but he asked and I said yes. Then I began to worry.

Holy Covenant was a mixed bag of a church. Its primary population was gay and lesbian, and the majority theology was fundamentalist, with ‘gay is good’ added. Our senior pastor was a Pentecostal Unitarian, and our liturgy was a form of Eastern Orthodox with revivalist style of hymnody. I knew that I couldn’t really make the Easter acclamations in the way that the majority would expect or demand. So I began to search for a way to say the Easter story but to say it with integrity for myself.

The Orthodox acclamation is Christ is risen, to which the congregation responds with Chris is risen indeed. The gospel text for that Sunday was the one just read and I began to explore how to bring these together in a way that was comfortable for me and honouring the faith of the congregation present.

As I read through the gospel, I was struck by the fact that Jesus was recognised in the breaking of the bread. The simple act revealed a great truth. So out of that reflection I begin to speak of the various passages within the Christian and Jewish texts which state that in our actions God is revealed, or in this case, the risen Christ is seen in deed and action for good.

I spoke of how the prophets condemned the Israelites for their faithlessness because they thought they were good because they follow correct ritual and belief, when as Micah says, “What does the Lord your God require of you, but that you do Justice, love Mercy and walk humbly with your God.

I then mentioned Jesus’ parable of the judgment of the sheep and goats and how they are seen as faithful or faithless due to their actions of care and compassion. I also spoke of James statement that faith was seen in our behaviours not in our confessions.

For me this is still the central point of the Easter story, and why the road to Emmaus is such a great text. The Christos, that is the Christ, is seen in a common simple meal shared together, whose actions of caring and compassion speak of a truer faith than the ability to recite by heart all the creeds and confessions of the church. It is in this understanding that one can joyfully and honestly enter into the season’s celebrations and thus say Christ is risen in deed.