Day 30

Today we are blessed with a submission from some American Unitarian friends, Donna, Lauren and their son Ben:

 

I have attached below what is probably a familiar UU chestnut, Life is Always Unfinished Business, but it always resonates with me -- both as a reminder of the immediate (...leave the unfinished dishes and call a friend who might need support) as well as addressing those pesky, nagging insecurities about not having accomplished enough on some arbitrary timeline. Basically, it is reminder to simply be, which is no small task in our achievement-driven world.  .   

 

My wife Lauren and I came to Lewisham Unity back in the Fall of 2018, when we were visiting London to drop our son Ben off at Goldsmith University in New Cross. We had been practicing UUs in our hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts (USA) for the past 20 years, and thought it would be interesting to take in a service during our trip. We did not expect to receive such a warm welcome and to have such an immediate bond with your wonderful congregation, and are pleased to have maintained the connection across the miles. You are truly "walking the walk" in your community, and we remain inspired by your hands-on commitment to social justice.  

 

All our best for a wonderful holiday season!

 

Best regards, 

Donna (and Lauren and Ben)

 

Life is Always Unfinished Business

 

By Richard S. Gilbert

In the midst of the whirling day,
In the hectic rush to be doing,
In the frantic pace of life,
Pause here for a moment.

Catch your breath;
Relax your body;
Loosen your grip on life.

Consider that our lives are always unfinished business;
Imagine that the picture of our being is never complete;
Allow your life to be a work in progress.

Do not hurry to mold the masterpiece;
Do not rush to finish the picture;
Do not be impatient to complete the drawing.
From beckoning birth to dawning death we are in process,
And always there is more to be done.

Do not let the incompleteness weigh on your spirit;
Do not despair that imperfection marks your every day;
Do not fear that we are still in the making.

Let us instead be grateful that the world is still to be created;
Let us give thanks that we can be more than we are;
Let us celebrate the power of the incomplete;
For life is always unfinished business.

Source: "In the Holy Quiet"

About the Author, Richard S. Gilbert

The Rev. Dr. Richard S. Gilbert retired in 2005 after serving 44 years in the Unitarian Universalist ministry in Cleveland, Ohio, Golden, Colorado, Ithaca, New York, and for 32 years at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York. 

Day 29

Day 29 of #31DaysofLight, a poem about regaining self after heartbreak: “Sit. Feast on your life.” As featured in an always brilliant ezine, The Marginalian (formerly "Brain Pickings"), where you can hear it read by Jon Kabat-Zinn

LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Day 28

From the Unitarians in Edinburgh: Our community very much enjoyed worshipping with the community at Lewisham Unity recently and hope to do so again sometime. We felt that we have much in common. We send greetings and a link to a heart-warming poem written last year by Julia Donaldson. https://poems.poetrysociety.org.uk/poems/the-christmas-pine/ On the website there are two videos. Do be sure to watch them both, and look out for this year’s Christmas poem from the Poetry Society!

Day 27

We have a gorgeous photo of Perthshire taken by Thea, wife of our Unitarian friend (Northampton congregation) Aleks Zglinska. "It had been raining and as we crossed the Firth of Forth the hills I knew were there in reality were shrouded in quite a lot of mist and cloud... As we reached the banks of the Tay north of Dunkeld the sky had lightened and the mist clung in patches to the higher ground obscuring more of the hills we were sure we remembered seeing before!" 

Day 26

From our friend Roberta Wedge: The day after Christmas marks the secular celebration of the resumption of consumerism: Boxing Day. It is also the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. I'm willing to bet that few of us know anything about that preacher in Jerusalem, but you will have heard of him via the first lines of the carol "Good King Wenceslas": it was on the feast of St Stephen that the pious monarch set out with his young servant to take food and fuel to a poor man. I grew up in Montreal, where the snow, long before the winter solstice, really did lie "deep and crisp and even"; sometimes getting to school, in the days before global warming destabilised things, was a battle "through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather". So it was a favourite carol of mine, not least because of the semi-rude word, "rude". Singing it loudly in church provided a small thrill to a small child.

 

Now we're all grown up, we can destabilise Christmas traditions all we want. My offering today is "Good Queen Wenceslas", one of an album of "hyrrs" (festive hymns made feminist) sung by a very talented choir, with proceeds to Refuge, the charity that works against domestic violence. (Sadly, their services are especially in need at this time of year, when the pressures intensify, and the mother of the family is too often expected to provide the perfect Christmas.) Good Queen Wenceslas looks out, and thinks, hang on, why has Stephen got a feast? What about all the women? Who's doing all this Christmas cooking? "Fact is, ovaries do not/ Tie you to the oven". There are half a dozen more hyrrs, all beautifully sung, with good humour, political punch, and some very rude words indeed. I invite you to sing along, and enjoy!

 

***********************

Roberta is a long-time member of New Unity, "birthplace of feminism", where she keeps Mary Wollstonecraft's pew warm, metaphorically speaking. She has been loosely connected to Lewisham for a decade. Lockdown isolation has given her the freedom to sing loudly.

Day 25

For Christmas Day, we give you a bumper crop of content, including some inspirational poems and a few entertaining videos to bring some holiday cheer. Scroll down and enjoy them all!

Best wishes for a peaceful and joyous Christmas...

POETRY​

 

Rebecca Swift shares:

Start Close In, by David Whyte

 

Start close in,

don’t take the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.

Start with

the ground

you know,

the pale ground

beneath your feet,

your own

way of starting

the conversation.

 

Start with your own

question,

give up on other

people’s questions,

don’t let them

smother something

simple.

 

To find

another’s voice,

follow

your own voice,

wait until

that voice

becomes a

private ear

listening

to another.

 

Start right now

take a small step

you can call your own

don’t follow

someone else’s

heroics, be humble

and focused,

start close in,

don’t mistake

that other

for your own.

 

Start close in,

don’t take

the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.

 

--

From Rev Claire: For me this says almost everything about the world that I too want to say.

Mary Oliver just says it better. Here we are in the middle (always) of this much too short life in a relentlessly beautiful and surprising world, among wild and precious other lives, not all of them human, and it is mysterious and utterly uplifting in its brevity and beauty.

 

The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

 

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean -

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?


 

From Chris Martin:

A Short Story of Falling, by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain

to turn into a leaf and fall again

 

it is the secret of a summer shower

to steal the light and hide it in a flower

 

and every flower a tiny tributary

that from the ground flows green and momentary

 

is one of water's wishes and this tale

hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

 

if only I a passerby could pass

as clear as water through a plume of grass

 

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip

turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

 

then I might know like water how to balance

the weight of hope against the light of patience

 

water which is so raw so earthy-strong

and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

 

drawn under gravity towards my tongue

to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

 

which is the story of the falling rain

that rises to the light and falls again

 

First Known When Lost, by Edward Thomas

 

I never had noticed it until

’Twas gone, - the narrow copse

Where now the woodman lops

The last of the willows with his bill

 

It was not more than a hedge overgrown.

One meadow’s breadth away

I passed it day by day.

Now the soil is bare as bone,

 

And black betwixt two meadows green,

Though fresh-cut fag got ends

Of hazel made some amends

With a gleam as if flowers they had been.

 

Strange it could have hidden so near!

And now I see as I look

That the small winding brook,

A tributary’s tributary, rises there.

Day 24

District Minister Jim Corrigall has sent in this Light for the Day – for Christmas 

Eve -- a poem by the environmentalist Alastair McIntosh.

‘Extinction’

Have you heard the cry of the curlew?
I tell you –
I would rather we lost
the entire contents
of every art gallery
in the whole world
than lose
forever
the cry of the curlew.


Historically, curlews were seen and heard across the British Isles. But today,
it’s feared they could disappear from southern England within eight years, and
they face extinction worldwide. Why? Loss of breeding and nesting habitat
caused by the spread of agriculture and climate change. The website ‘Action
for Curlew’ states: “The famously evocative and previously-familiar call of the
curlew is becoming increasingly rare.”


I love this poem by Alastair McIntosh; it opens with a stark question, almost
mimicking the haunting call of this bird. Then into prophet mode, as the poet
asks … what is this cry of nature worth to the human spirit? Well, more than
all the art humans have created and put in art galleries over the centuries!
There’s humour directed at the poet’s large assertion, as he piles up the
adjectives: ‘entire contents’, ‘every art gallery’, ‘in the whole world’. In
contrast, that word ‘forever’, on its single line, carries stark power. That’s how
serious it is.


Yet I don’t find this a gloomy or despairing poem, rather a ‘call to arms’, a call
to resist. The BBC has described Alastair McIntosh as ‘one of the world’s
leading environmental campaigners’; he’s also a spiritual teacher and writer.
You may know he’s one of two speakers at our online Festival of Unitarians in
the South-East (FUSE), on 19 th + 20 th February 2022, on the theme ‘The
Pilgrimage of Life – Journeys of spiritual unfolding’. Even more reason (I hope)
for you to book tickets! … on our District’s website:
www.ldpaunitarians.org/fuse2022

Day 23

Our Treasurer, Mark Cooper, says this: For my 31 Days of Light I would like to post a poem and some lines from a song. I was looking for something about darkness and light. But it is also a time of year for looking back, so the poem is Christina Rossetti's "Remember".

Remember when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,

Better by far that you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

 

And, strangely, as we start days becoming lighter, some more optimistic lines from the start of Leonard Cohen's song Anthem:

 

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in

 

The birds they sang

At the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Day 22

Today's entry for 31 Days comes from Tam Fowles, founder of Hope in the Heart:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JsFSkSbN6o

 
Day 21

From our friend Lizzie Kingston: The 'On Being' project describes itself as pursuing deep thinking and moral imagination, social courage, and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together. The website holds a wealth of articles, radio shows, podcasts and poetry and is a beautiful online space for spiritual nourishment. 

 

This article invites us to find meaning in the holy darkness of December. It calls us to learn lessons from the wintering and waiting of the world during advent, and to turn inward and find the light of love deep within us.  

 

https://onbeing.org/blog/finding-ancient-pagan-meaning-in-the-darkness-of-advent/

 

Day 20

Day 19

From our friend Ann Peart:

 

On going to Hucklow Chapel by Kath Mayor*

 

We filed in candle-let procession along the field-path to the chapel for the final epilogue of the week. I was at that time very close to blindness. The candles glowed, flickered, blew out in the wind, and were reignited from one another. The winding line of little lights shone down the path. The effect was beautiful and, to me, quite frightening, for I was stumbling along afraid at every moment of falling. Suddenly a voice said quietly, ‘Hold on to me’ and an arm took mine. I walked in safety and the little lights shone for me.

 

From "Crying Out Loud", published by the Unitarian Worship Subcommittee in 1987

 

*Kath Mayor was an active Unitarian who died in 2009

Day 18

From our musical friend Flora Curzon: I put this piece together last year, drawing on fragments of Hildegard of Bingen and GP Telemann, and reworking them for voice, violin and loop pedal. The light and peaceful presence I absorbed from playing and reimagining their pieces of music helped me through the darkest time of last year's winter lockdown. These particular pieces feel like whispers offering solace and wisdom; it was a joyful process to bring together pieces from such different eras and into the present moment. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NiQgE3gDL8

 

As you listen, I invite you to meditate on this poem:

 

Divine Love, the heart

of hearts, abounds

in every grain of being,

from atom's gleam 

to starry sky, from darkest 

pain to brightest joy.

Unceasing love kindles life - 

a royal promise sealed 

with the kiss of peace.

 

 -- Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) in Symphonia (translation from the German by Devi and Allaudin Matthieu; from Mirabai Starr's Hildegard of Bingen: Devotions, Prayers and Living Wisdom)

Day 17

Another ray of light this morning, this time from our friend Sheila Puffer: "I chose this statue I came across in Telegraph Hill Park as a reminder of the resilience of people including those oppressed by slavery in its various forms. The quote by Margaret Mead in the last line of the sign is a compelling reminder of the power of individual action."

Day 16

Today's entry comes from member Becca Daley, who remembers her father on his birthday: 


"Perhaps it seems strange to share a blessing about darkness in amongst 31 days of lights - but of course, as the old saying goes, you cannot have the light without the dark. Lewisham Unity - and our minister Claire in particular - introduced me to the blessings of Jan Richardson during 2020. When I moved away from mainstream Christianity, I left blessings behind too for a time. They were one of the things I missed most, and I've loved being able to reclaim them in this community. Today, 16 December, would have been my Dad's birthday - and my memories of his blessings to me bring me a huge amount of comfort. I hope this blessing brings you comfort, too."

A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark

Go slow
if you can.
Slower.
More slowly still.
Friendly dark
or fearsome,
this is no place
to break your neck
by rushing,
by running,
by crashing into
what you cannot see.

Then again,
it is true:
different darks
have different tasks,
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
in peril
or in pain,
this might be no place
you should dawdle.

I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
or ill.
It is not for me
to reckon
whether you should linger
or you should leave.

But this is what
I can ask for you:

That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows
your name.

—Jan Richardson

Day 15

From Liz Slade: Sending warm wishes in the cold days to Lewisham Unity - I’m grateful for your lights in the dark. 

I’m sharing a passage from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.

 

"When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom — freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.

 

This is a passage I come back to again and again, with each new wave of groundlessness that arrives. These recent times have given us a clear message that uncertainty is inevitable - and so we may as well embrace our groundlessness, uncomfortable though it is, and move towards freedom."

 

About me: I’m Chief Officer of the UK Unitarian movement, and have been a member at New Unity in Newington Green for nearly a decade. In doing this work, I’m committing to helping more people find the connection, love and inspiration that I have found in the Unitarian community.

Day 14
From The Befrienders, a marvellous over-50s singing group that reminds us that there is light at any age! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s9tM2anMsM
Day 13
Committee member Elizabeth Bergeron says: "Wishing everyone a Happy St Lucia: that all may have a light in darkness to guide them." https://youtu.be/C9f6zxo6X0s
Day 12

Today's entry comes from our friend and former minister for Lewisham Unity, Rev John Philip Carter,

Minister for Hull Unitarian Church and Lincoln Unitarian Chapel. (On a side note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!)

 

Our Lady of Guadelupe

 

The 12 of December is the feast day for Guadelupe, and it is an important date for

myself. I choose Guadelupe because of the date, and the message of liberation within it, oft

hidden, but present.

My confession with this is that I am not a big fan of the various Mary cults,

adorations, and such. Yes and at this same moment I am moved by them. There is a

sense of empowerment within them for women and yes for men as well.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Latin American Poet, Eduardo Galeano, wrote

a trilogy of the history of the Americas….Called Memory of Fire. Within the pages he

explored and told the story of the Americas from the point of view of the dispossessed

and powerless. Basic on original sources and a chronological timeline, he informs us

of the history we often miss, or have neglected. This is what he wrote for Guadelupe….

1532: Mexico City

The Virgin of Guadelupe

That light, does it rise from the earth or fall from the sky? Is it lightning bug or bright

star? It doesn’t want to leave the slopes of Tepeyac and in dead of night persists,

shining on the stones and entangling itself in the branches.

Hallucinating, inspired, the naked Indian Juan Diego sees it: The light of lights opens

up for him, breaks into golden and ruby pieces, and in its glowing heart appears that

most luminous of Mexican women, she who says to him in the Nahuatl language:

‘I am the mother of God.’

Bishop Zumarraga listens and doubts.

The bishop is the Indians’ official protector, appointed by the emperor, and also

guardian of the branding iron that stamps on the Indians’ faces the names of their

proprietors. He threw the Aztec codices into the fire, papers painted by the hand of

Satan, and destroyed five hundred temples and twenty thousand idols.

Bishop Zumarraga well knows that the goddess of earth, Tonantzin, had her

sanctuary high on the slopes of Tepeyac and that the Indians used to make

pilgrimages there to worship ‘our mother’, as they called that woman clad in snakes

and hearts and hands.

The bishop is doubtful and decides that the Indian Juan Diego has seen the Virgin of

Guadelupe. The Virgin born in Estremadura, darkened by the suns of Spain, has

come to the valley of the Aztecs to be the mother of the vanquished.”

I commend these books to you, if you can still find them…. The power here to me is,

while not ignoring the blatant appropriation of the Native Nation mythos, is another

aspect that is important, equally oft forgotten by the powers that be.

People take ownership in their lives when they see themselves as valued, in seeing

Mary as Aztec, she empowered a sense of esteem within that native nation (continuing

to this day for the people of Mexico) and thus a move toward a true sense of liberating

empowerment for the people.

And maybe we can find empowerment to change and become better people as we

examine the Christmas mythos of God becoming human in a little Jewish Baby.

Day 11
Today's ray of light comes from our friend and the new "Weddings Lead" at the Unitarian General Assembly, Melda Grantham. Here she talking about the joyous celebrations Unitarian weddings can be:
Day 10

 

Simone Riddle: The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

 

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears that rule our lives and form our silences will begin to loose their control over us.

 

 —  Audre Lorde


Source: https://quotepark.com/quotes/1257867-audre-lorde-the-quality-of

Day 9

From Committee member Tatiana Spencer: On our 9th day of 31 Days of Light, I’m sharing Ederlezi, a traditional Serbian Roma song. This version features on the soundtrack of 1988 Serbian magic realist film Time of the Gypsies. While the folk song actually celebrates the coming of Spring, the night-time river ritual lit with many candles speaks to the theme of bringing light during a time of darkness.

 

We're partial to a river metaphor at Lewisham Unity! For me the poignant melody and warm glow of the candles soften the edges of the darkness, allowing emotions to flow and sorrows a little privacy in the shadows. As a wry rhythm swells, young love blossoms and little children practice the behaviour of adults. I was moved by this marriage of music and image: how their ritual of light connects the community while meaning different things to different people, and echoes how the cycles of life can offer the hope of spring and new beginnings.

 

I'm also grateful for the whole soundtrack (despite a translated title that would not be acceptable today) which shows us how music is at the heart of the life and culture of the much persecuted Roma, their dignity held in the dark and light of their experience with such powerful lyricism and honesty.

 

The music is adapted by Goran Bregović, and the film directed by Emir Kusturica.

Day 8

Sally Rogers shares with us her rendition of Give Light, by Jan Nigro

 

"Give light and people will find the way
Give light and people will find the way
Give light and people will find the way
Peop le will find the way, I do believe
Teach peace….
Stand together…
Give love …
Give light"

 

Day 7

Submitted by Sara Jane Bailes: 

Warm Decembering wishes to all Lewisham Unity members from Sara Jane Bailes, friend of Rev Claire Macdonald and orbiting, occasional visitor to your community. What an invitation to bring light to this day in this underlit month as daylight hours inch away from us still. I offer this poem because it speaks with profound resonance to the current moment and our pressing relationship to what we sometimes call 'the world.' And resonance for me is itself a form of light, insight and connection. Here poet Ellen Bass traces a small opening, discovering something about reciprocity as we stand together in the long now, side by side and scattered, a little bewildered, wondering. 

 

The photo brings December morning light from my living room in Brighton.

 

The World Has Need of You 
by Ellen Bass

 
…everything here seems to need us…
—Rilke
 
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.

Day 6
From Ann Howell, Lewisham Unity Chair: Today I share a Moravian Christmas hymn, Morning Star, sung by the congregation at my mother's childhood church in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Traditionally, the solo is sung by a child, as is done here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SomCY-K2NSc
 
Day 5

From longtime Lewisham Unity member Lynne Markey: Here's my poem for my day in the month of light. I chose this poem by Pablo Neruda because although it's quite short, it's also quite beautiful. I chose the 5th of December for my day as this is my youngest daughter Katie's birthday.

 

Ode to Enchanted Light by Pablo Neruda

 

Under the trees light

has dropped from the top of the sky,

light

like a green

latticework of branches,

shining

on every leaf,

drifting down like clean

white sand.

 

A cicada sends

its sawing song

high into the empty air.

 

The world is

a glass overflowing

with water.

Day 4

 

Day 4 of #31DaysofLight comes from our friend Adrienne Wilson who shares this beautiful piece of music by Paul Buckmaster - Dreams Awake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqv4oGDyq7E

 
Day 3, From Edie Campbell:

 

Tell it as a story
about darkness
giving birth to
light, about
seemingly endless waiting,
and about that which
lies at the end
of all our waiting.
With each telling,
more of the story
comes to light:
 
Darkness can become the
tending place
in which our
longings for healing,
justice, and peace grow
and come to
birth.


I carry with me the awareness that many people find that this season brings not tidings of comfort and joy but of frustration and grief. I believe that Jesus came not to dispel the darkness but to teach us to dwell with integrity, compassion, and love in the midst of ambiguity. The one who grew in the fertile darkness of Mary’s womb knew that darkness is not evil of itself... I believe that this is the gift that God holds out to us in this Advent season: to carry the light, yes, but also to see in the dark and to find the shape of things in the shadows. With a perception that goes beyond visual sight, we are called to know and to name the gifts of the night and to share the visions that emerge from the darkness. In darkness and in light, God beckons us to keep vigil and to companion one another in this and every season. In giving voice to our visions, we find strength in the shadows and a presence that guides the way.
Jan L Richardson in Night Visions: searching the shadows of Advent and Christmas, 1998 Pilgrim Press
These words of Jan's speak to me every Advent, and reawaken my own longing. May we befriend the darkness of this Advent season. May we choose to enter the dark cave of the heart, waiting and watching for what may meet us there, what waits for us, welcomes us, what wants to be born in and through us and so go out into the world’s darkness as light.

 

Edie Campbell, occasional LU service leader, wishing you each a blessed Advent, Hanukah, Solstice, Yule-tide season.

2nd December: Pat Lamana

 

Greetings to the Lewisham Unitarians from Pat Lamanna in Hyde Park, N.Y., U.S.A.! I have such fond memories of presenting my Peace Pilgrim service to you over two years ago. I'd like to share with you a song I wrote that reflects on the commonalities of all the holidays that take place in the winter months. Perhaps you don't have the problem that we have in the U.S., that some people believe we are a Christian nation, and are offended when people try to be inclusive by saying "happy holidays." But I hope you enjoy the song at any rate. And may you have a joyous and peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, whatever you celebrate! Here is the link to the song: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s4dk4LGGII

1st December: Rev Claire MacDonald

The past year and more has got me thinking about what it means to live an ‘enchanted’ life, a life present to wonder and joy even when we know that ‘the bowl is broken’ (and the bowl is broken). To attempt to live in wonder and joy is a task of the spirit -- to care for the inner life in a broken world. There are so many connections to this idea -- so many links to choose from, so many great, amazing and compassionate thinkers who keep me alive to the spirit of possibility. I am going to choose just one. Ursula Le Guin. In her last great book, Always Coming Home, which is a collection of songs and drawings and tales from a fictional people far off in the future, she says this ‘Even if the bowl is broken (and the bowl is broken), from the clay and the making and the firing and the pattern, even if the pattern is incomplete (and the pattern is incomplete), let the mind draw energy. Let the heart complete the pattern.’ Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, Gollancz 1985, p. 53

 

For me this poetic sentence has become a small mantra and it means more each time. I say it. It seems to say that it is worth it, all of it, each day and all that this world is, even if the bowl is broken. Everything is always incomplete and unfinished, so let the heart complete the pattern.

 

About me: I have been part of the changing and growing community at Lewisham Unity, as its minister, for four years. It is a community of deep heartfulness and creative spirituality and I am thankful for it every day. Good holidays everyone, this December, as we move towards the shortest days of the year.

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