Friday, 16 February 2018

Ringwood #Unitarians use a motto discarded by the United States of America - what we did at our February gathering for reverence

Our theme on 11th February 2018 used the first motto taken by the United States of America – e pluribus unum, meaning “out of the many, one.”

We lit the chalice with the words of the ICUU Global Chalice Lighting for February 2018 and then spent time in silence, each remembering their personal creed.  Despite what you may sometimes hear said of the Unitarian church, it is not a creedless church.  Rather, it is a church where every person is invited, and indeed challenged, to find their own creed, the creed demanded of them by their own experience, study, and insight regarding the divine.  Many people, many creeds.  Yet, one church.

We prayed some prayers written by people known to us, including a former Unitarian Minister from Edmund Kell Unitarian Church in Southampton, and then we sang a couple of hymns and carried out our usual ritual of building our circle.  We do this by passing between us a flame, bread, water and a musical device representing air, then placing them in the centre of our circle next to our chalice.  It’s a simple ritual and no spoken interpretation is given.  In silence we each seek and find our own purpose and meaning in it.  The conversations we have later about our ritual are often surprising!

We had three readings today, rather than two.  The first by John Andrew Storey included the words, “We cannot all think the same way.  No words can be found which adequately express the true depth and range of what each one of us believes.”

The second, by Rowan Williams, reminded us that whereas we may imagine we can deal with our spiritual life as if it were a separate compartment, in fact it is bound up completely with our relations with the people around us.

And the third reading, from Christopher Jamison, included these words: “Community is sacramental – that is to say, the material realities of community are the means by which hidden grace is given to the members.  There are qualities that we experience through faithfully persevering in community life.  That is what a community is for: to foster the experience of these qualities through its very structures.”

After a rousing but profound song from The Fisherman’s Friends – The Union of Different Kinds
we spent some quiet time pondering some questions about our community and our place within it.

How should persons behave in a community?
What do our responses to otherness tell us about ourselves?
What is different about us, as a result of our coming here and sitting with others?
Would another person recognise a difference in us because we come?
What does it mean to be a community of diverse persons?
What does it demand of us, when we commit to meeting and engaging with people whose views and paths we already know are different from our own?
What does it mean to make a safe space for each other?

Is a community more than the sum of its parts?
What is the relationship between the community and the members who comprise it?
How are the needs of the community and the persons within it balanced?
When we sit together, do we look at each other or do we look at something that lies beyond us all?  Or both?  How do we do that?
Is there a centre of gravity, a pulling force at the heart of our group, which energises and refreshes us?

 After a period of silent meditation we carried out our muster, our annual roll call, in which those who wished were able to declare themselves as members of the group for the coming year, our fifth year together.

We finished with some more prayers, including a Buddhist litany invoking wellness in ourselves, in the person next to us, and in all humanity.