Monday, 21 December 2009

Thought for today

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others"

Sunday, 11 October 2009


Synchronicity is a psychological phenonmenon of seeing random unrelated events occuring in a way that gives the impression of causality- as if there is a benevolent force in the universe.

I have been introduced to this as part of the artists way course. Whilst I remain a fan of the "stone cold reason" school of Unitarianism, I find this idea quite appealing. As part of writing daily pages I have started clocking images that appear in dreams. I remember in particular seeing an image of two autumnal trees through the window of a building that happened to be an art gallery. I was fairly certain I would see this image appear if I kept my digital camera handy. Whilst I had an interesting walk through a park looking at trees, I think the closest thing to the image in my dream is the one featured, which is slightly blurred and action shot, as indeed memories of dream like images are. Whilst I am aware of the pitfalls of looking for circumstantial signs or messages from the universe I think there may indeed by truth in religious experiences comming as part of the collective subconscience. I think the most moving example of this is Jim's story of how he inexplicably found a newly lit candle on Christmas morning having faced the depths of dispair the night before. Like Jim I would not speculate on how that candle mysteriously became lit. But it brings to mind Thomas Hardy's poem about the Oxen...."I would go with him in the gloom, hoping it might be so".

Monday, 14 September 2009

Enlargissez Dieu

Last Saturday the Urban Unitarians made a trip to the chapel of Harris Manchester College Oxford. It happened to coincide with the official heritage weekend so we could hear a short lecture on a the history of the famous William Morris and Burne-Jones windows. I knew a little about these windows because a minister from Manchester once told me how there were six windows, each one representing an episode of the days of creation. She once said how she was disappointed that given there were six windows, you did not actually see God resting up on the seventh. (Actually, William Morris thought of this. You can see a reposing angel with a musical instrument squeezed into the bottom right). Interestingly, even in the nineteenth century the addition of a series of windows depicting the biblical story of creation were enough to rankle a few unitarians, who had been quick off the mark in embracing Darwin's new theories. Hence it was pointed out that the Manchester college creation windows, were the first to readily acknowledge tha they were depicting Genesis as a poetic, rather than a literal truth. If you look, you can also see the quote from the sceptical writer Diderot, "Enlargissez Dieu" in gothic letters above the angels. Roughly translated, this means "enlarge your concept of God". This strikes me as an appropriate motto to appear in a liberal chapel, particularly within an academic institution that never seeks to limit the search for truth.
Posted by Scott

Monday, 24 August 2009

Drawing Mandalas

Partly inspired by our trip to the V&A and the "Artists Way" recommendation to "fill your well" I looked into the question of how to draw mandalas. Mandalas are a creative and spiritual practice, most closely associated with the eastern traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Mandalas are constructed from the centre-point of a circle, working outwards in a symmetrical pattern. In a sense it then grows like a fractal.
Mandalas can be drawn or coloured in. My minister in Manchester said she used to draw them as a way of recording her thoughts. Buddhists make them out of sand as a meditative practice and then blow them away as a symbol of the impermanance of all things. The psychologist CG Jung found the process theraputic and part of his connection with the mystical.
That said, given the use of repetition in the construction of these patterns, digital technology also has its uses. I cooked this one up using MS Paint and a sample of William Morris wallpaper. I think it is quite apt!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Khalil Gibran

On Sunday Jim Robinson's sermon focused on the writer Khalil Gibran, a man who lived deeply and intensely and who was able to experience the pain in his life as growth and transformation.
Gibran writes:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The idea that our being is 'carved' by our experience is simple yet beautiful because it conveys a sense of 'depth' in experience as well as the transforming qualities of the pain of life. The same 'depth' that is needed to be transformed by pain is the kind of intensity of living that we are meant to seek if we want to live a meaningful life.

Gibran writes about religion:

Your daily life is your temple and your religion

Whenever you enter into it take with you your all

Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute

The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

For in reverie you cannot rise above your achievements

nor fall lower than your failures.

And take with you all men.

For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles

Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

To pause and make one's daily life a temple, to experience life in all its mystery and greatness (pain and joy alike) is one of our hardest tasks. We can merely have moments in which we feel the earth below our feet and the presence of our loved ones around us and then do we truly worship and then are we truly grateful.

(posted by Eleanor)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Review: Reason, Faith and Revolution

As I mentioned in my post about Darwin, I am inclined to regard Richard Dawkins to be worth hearing out in his critique of religious orthodoxy. However, for a well informed counter-argument I would recommend the literary critic Terry Eagleton’s book “”Reason, Faith and Revolution”. Richard Dawkins considers the humanist values of the liberal enlightenment to be at odds with those of religion. Unitarians find themselves having an anomalous fusion of both. A frequently cited criticism of humanism, with its positive view of human nature is humanity’s failure to always progress with the fruits of science and learning. The most obvious examples of this failure include Auschwitz and Hiroshima. It is perhaps fair to say that examples of religious bigotry can be attributed to all faiths, only in as much as the production of an atomic bomb can be blamed on the study of nuclear physics. Hence Eagleton argues, “the distinction.. comes down in the end to one between liberal humanism and tragic humanism. There are those who hold that if only we can shake off the poisonous legacy of myth and superstition we can be free. This is in my own view a myth, though a generous spirited one. Tragic humanism shares liberal humanisms vision of the free flourishing of humanity; but it holds that this is possible only by confronting the very worst.” Personally I agree with much of what Eagleton has to say about Jesus’ true message being in-keeping with modern day liberation theologians. In particular, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive”. That said, is final presentation of Christianity is quite orthodox, particularly when he says “if Jesus’ body is mingled with the dust of Palestine, Christian faith is in vain.” As a young Unitarian I reserve the right to take issue with this. I also recall how the question of progress came up when we had our discussion with the Hampstead Humanists. I do not think modern humanists who dogmatically believe unfettered science and reason without being wise to the lessons of twentieth century history. I think a case might be made saying “liberal” and “tragic” humanism present something of a false dichotomy.
By Scott

Friday, 17 July 2009

Making Connections podcast

The poems posted in the past week featured in the recent service led by the Urban Unitarians at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel. Our first podcast features extracts from the service, including a short guided meditation. Just click on the player below to listen. Posted by Kate.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

From "Cornwall In Adolescence"

In quest of mystical experience,

I knelt in darkness St. Enedoch,

I visit our local Holy Well,

Whereto the native Cornish still resort,

For cures for whooping cough, and drop bent pins,

Into its peaty water... Not a sign,

No mystical experience was vouchsafed:

The maidenhair just trembled in the wind,

And everything looked as it always looked...

But somewhere, somewhere underneath the dunes,

Somewhere among the cairns or in the caves,

The Celtic saints would come to me, the ledge

Of time we walk on, like a thin cliff-path,

High in the mist, would show the precipice.

By John Betjeman- Posted by Scott

Mother Teresa's Anyway Prayer

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may cheat you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

The Summer Day

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?

-Mary Oliver
Posted by Eleanor 

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Credulity, superstition and fanaticism

Watching Jon Ronson's documentary on Channel 4 last Sunday I was reminded of an old-chestnut Unitarian Universalist joke:
At one Sunday morning service, in one of the big Unitarian churches in Boston, a man was making a rukus in the back pew. After every sentence the minister spoke he would say “Amen! Halleluia”. The minister replied, “look, this is not the Baptist Church of America. There will be time for discussion and reflection over coffee after the service”. The man protested, “but I got religion”! The minister replied, “you certainly didn’t get it here”!

I would say that as a depiction of the Alpha course, (which I experienced on route to becoming a Unitarian) it was fairly accurate. You might say I should have had some idea of what to expect, but the first time I experienced people "speaking-in-toungues" and attempting healing though the laying on of hands, it was something of a shock to the system. It is all there in The Acts of the Apostles, (should you care to look it up) but as a minister up in Manchester later pointed out, there is nothing to say that they were not speaking human languages. Of course healing ministry also goes on at Rosslyn Hill. However, it is not part of the service, and it is qualitatively different from the kind of thing done by "charismatics".

In many ways I concur with the author of this article in New Humanist, when he says Alpha is really for people who want to consolidate their existing convictions, rather than an avenue for agnostics to objectively, "explore the meaning of life".

It is interesting to consider how of the 2 million people in the UK who have tried an Alpha course a significant proportion must have made the tough and unsettling decision to walk out after deciding it was not for them. It is also interesting that my Quaker friends have adopted a remarkably "Alpha-esque" outreach course called Quaker Quest. I have heard of people floating the idea of a Unitarian outreach course (provocatively named the Omega course). This might be worth considering, given that it has been suggested new members of the Chapel be offered some kind of induction procedure. I would sign up to help run it, as long as we could use Goldfrapp's Happiness as the theme tune!
Find happiness and peace of mind! Scott

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Shocking the Victorians

A group from Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel recently visited Tate Britain to take a tour of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings on display. The Chapel has a link with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood because two of its stained glass windows were designed by the Burne-Jones/Morris partnership. The values of the PRB and the Arts & Crafts movement was also similar to those of the Unitarians at the time and the Gothic Victorian style of the Chapel, which is unusual for Unitarian buildings, reflects the move from neo Classical architecture to Gothic during Victorian times.

These days, images of Pre-Raphaelite paintings are ubiquitous on greetings cards, dinner mats and cushions so it's difficult to imagine just how shocking the original paintings were when they first appeared. During the tour we discussed the image of the Virgin Mary in Ecce Ancilla Domini by Dante Gabriel Rossetti which shows a frightened girl cowering at the sight of the angel Gabriel thrusting a lilly at her womb. The dramatic realism of Millais' huge painting Christ in the House of his Parents
was shocking to Victorian sensibilities as the holy family is dipicted as ordinary people with working hands and ruddy complexions. Charles Dickens was horrified by this painting and the scene that was usually portrayed in a reverent and glorious manner. There's also an interesting article in the Telegraph discussing subject.

The paintings of the PRB are full of signs and symbols and you can find something new with each visit. Minister Jim and arts graduate Maya, guided the group through a series of paintings from the PRB with religious themes. We discussed as a group the choice of models, the difference made by the use of dramatic lighting and positioning as well as sharing our spiritual feelings about the paintings.

This visit was timely, since the BBC is showing a series on The Pre-Raphaelites which can be viewed via iPlayer or on TV. Also, the work of later Pre-Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse, will be exhibited at the Royal Academy from 27 June. Posted by Kate.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Glad to be a Darwinian!

The term "Darwinian" has become somewhat loaded and the latest spin on it comes courtesy of the TV show "Sex and the City"....
Miranda: Y'see, this is why I don't date -- the men out there are freaks.
Carrie: Well that's completely unfair.
Miranda: I'm sorry, if a man is over 30 and single, there's something wrong with him, it's Darwinian -- they're being weeded out from propagating the species.
The message I came home from the "Evolution, Religion and Politics" seminar was that it is time for Darwin to be reclaimed. Primarily, RHUC's own David Williams discussed how the theory of evolution through natural selection has changed our concept of how we view the world and our place in it. Whilst the religious right can feel theatened by seeing man as the product of a process of adaptation, occupying a seemingly insignificant place in the cosmos, religious liberals can argue this knowledge enobles mankind and life on earth. Secondly, Pejman Khojasteh discussed his paper of how religions themselves can be analysed as part of an evolutionary process, since by encouraging and disseminating moral sentiments they give mankind a "survival advantage". Finally, Unitarian minister Richard Boeke (a former airforce chaplin to the custodians of nuclear weapons) discussed how when faced with global warming, we should not be complacent about the possibility of our own species' extinction.
I have heard some people describe Richard Dawkins as a "secular fundamentalist". However, on the whole I think his defence of the science of evolution against "intelligent design" theorists is sound. Since our denomination has never shied away from siding with reason against credulity I think his arguments are at least worth hearing out. Instead of Richard Dawkins, I think the people who could most be accused of abusing Darwin are the advocates of untrammelled individualism. There is a popular misconception that the phrase "survival of the fittest" is an apology for everything from Nazi Eugenics to its more benign form in the antics of "Sex and the City". In fact Darwin's point is best expressed as, "survivial of the most well adapted" and refers more to the species as a whole than any individual. As such, if it is found that religious experience and spiritual sentiments have an explanation in evolutionary biology, Unitarians should be the first to celebrate that finding. Rather than "explaining away" what we do, it might underpin its value and enoble it.
Posted by Scott

Friday, 5 June 2009

Fashion and Faith

The other day, I bumped into someone wearing the same scarf as me. One woman’s pretty pashmina scarf is another’s pretty hijab headscarf…

‘Fashion and Faith’ was a debate held at the V&A Museum recently. It brought together a panel that included academic experts in religious costume, a legal spokesman from Liberty (the organisation, not the department store!) and a fashion columnist. The panel showed us many new design collections that show modest Islamic clothing with a modern twist from Islamic Design House and Imaan. Fashion designer Elenany was in the audience, modelling her own funky jacket, and she spoke about the way Islamic influences resulted in a clothing range that can be worn by anyone.

Although the debate about how people display symbols of faith tended to focus on Muslims, there were also examples of other faiths such as
Nadia Eweida, the British Airways worker who was banned from displaying her crucifix publically. Conforming to religious dress may not be immediately apparent; some Jewish women choose not to wear trousers but walking down the street in skirt, you may not know that she was practising her faith in this way.

The fashion columnist spoke about ‘the new modesty’, a trend in fashion that links to a more puritan spirit of dress and lifestyle as a backlash to the luxury designer-bling of recent years. This simplicity in fashion also mirrors the austere vibe ushered in by the current recession.
There are of course risks in mixing faith with fashion. One panellist admitted to wearing a rosary purely as a fashion necklace and being caught out by a Hollywood star who congratulated her on having the courage to display her Catholic faith publically! The general consensus of the panel appeared to be that religious dress should be a matter of choice and people should be allowed to express their faith appropriately if they wished but shouldn’t be forced to do so.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Learn With Every Goodbye

After a while, you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats,
With the grace of a woman,
not the grief of a child,
And learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down mid-flight
And after a while, you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn
and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.

Author unknown, posted by Josephine

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Gill's Stations Of The Cross

At a recent Art class, our model had a look at my life drawing and said my work reminded her of Eric Gill's. Having never heard of Eric Gill I was of course delighted and proud to have my work compared to a "proper" artist. However, when I did a Google search, I discovered he described himself as being of, "sufficient, if only just sufficient technical ability combined with a complete and genuine ignorance of art school anatomy and traditional academic style". Somthing of a back-handed compliment then!
However, I then discovered that Eric Gill was the artist responsible for the carved Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral. As I work near Victoria I was curious and went to pay a visit.
I would like to say I had a go at walking around the cathedral, empathising with the depictions of the passion as Catholics traditionally do at Lent. As it was, I had picked a time to visit when the Cathedral was chock full due to an initiation rite being held on the same day. I find the idea appealing though, comparable in some ways to the labyrinth walking that goes on at Rosslyn Hill. I would also agree that spiritual inspiration can be found from the lives and works of artists, not least artists as afflicted by the darker sides of the human psyche like Gill.
Anyway, I think the last word in a post on Stations of The Cross should go to John O'Farrell's newsbiscuit.
Take care all! Scott

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tawney, Temple and the Credit Crunch

Last Thursday I attended the dialogue held in the memory of RH Tawney. Tawney was an academic who along with Temple and Beveridge believed there was a role for the state in creating a welfare society. Furthermore, his own personal faith informed this perspective.
This year the Tawney dialogue covered the issues of the credit crunch from a faith based perspective. Examples include how a principle of Islamic finance is that there should be a link between the borrower and the lender. This has broken down in the creation of derivatives that packaged debts. Others might consider how the incentives offered by city bonus culture led to reckless or greedy behaviour. This might imply possible financial market reforms. In any case the recession following the credit crunch has turned a financial market problem into a social problem. Social institutions such as churches and all people of goodwill will be called upon to respond to this.
Unitarians have a history of being on the side of social reform. In the modern era the church as an institution has had to deal with the question of how far concern for a fairer society is the responsibility of the private citizen or the state. Now more than ever, this is a debate that cannot be ignored.

A Different Perspective

Last week I went to the V&A Museum to watch an evening of Rare Buddhist Dances. There were performances by nuns from India, a Nepalese traditional dancer, but the most striking performance was by a group showing Japanese Noh theatre. It was quite unlike anything I've seen before and I found it quite uncomfortable to begin with. There was a strange vocal quality and ghost-like movement - it would be called avant garde if it weren't hundreds of years old. It probably didn't help that I missed the introduction so didn't really know what was going on, but after a while, I began to sink into a meditative state and felt quite exhilarated afterwards. Apart from the performance itself, another interesting experience was observing the drop-in audience. Late-comers sneaked in excitedly as they passed people tip-toeing out unable to stay in an uncomfortable state. It made me realise how we often don't allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable or take risks to try something new. Putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation can sometimes lead to discoveries about yourself, your boundaries and your strengths.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Clean Up Network Telecommunications!

A slightly surreal exchange between me and my flatmate!:-
Flatmate: Where have you been this afternoon Scott?
Me: Up at my Church.
Flatmate: On Saturday? Doing What?
Me: Mostly looking at pornography.
I was really inspired by the Doll's House seminar. A great deal of effort was put in by the organisers on an issue they clearly cared about. I have felt it is high time someone acknowledged that there has been something of a post-feminist backlash, amongst members of my own generation. However, as soon as anyone (let alone a religious group) complains about images of women in the media, they invite comparison with the likes of Mary Whitehouse (pictured). No pro-feminist would want to become the unwitting ally of the Taleban.
But I think it is important to differentiate reactionary panics about moral decline ( like this,%20etc.. ) from the progressive case that needs to be made against mysogyny in mainstream culture. One of Anne and Appleseed's resources was the following:
Whilst they are multifaceted social issues, the mass media has some part to play in the explosion of demand for cosmetic surgery, incidence of eating disorders and depressive illness. The shocking truth is that with the internet, the debate about pornography has gone beyond the 1980s protests against page 3. There is a less "benign" side that is a potential cause of violence against women.
The Social Action Committee is still open to ideas on what might be done, but I would suggest the following for starters.
A fitting tribute to our own Mary Wollstonecraft!

Sing for your life

Over the weekend, I was reminded of how much I love singing. Rosslyn Hill choir starts up again this Wednesday 29 April (for more info contact RHUC) and even though sometimes I have to drag myself there after the working day, I always feel a million times better afterwards. It seems that there is some academic evidence on the health-giving benefits of singing. But more than that, I know I feel more alive when I sing. I am also looking forward to meeting other Urban Unitarians on Tuesday 28 April. So this week, I will celebrating spirituality through voices of discussion and music. Posted by Kate.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Slow Down London

One of the wonderful things about going to Rosslyn Hill Chapel is the feeling of slowing down and re-setting of the soul that comes after a service. I don't know if it's the same for you, but I find that achieving 'slowness' is one of the greatest spiritual challenges I face in my daily life, cluttered by emails and high-speed thoughts which are usually trivial and time-consuming. If you are interested, over the next couple of weeks (April 24-May 3) there will be a festival on precisely this topic organized by Slow Down London . It will include lectures, free yoga and meditation classes, crafts as well as a Slow Food Market to sample some local and traditionally sourced foods. Otherwise let's just remind ourselves to look up at the buildings and the people when we are rushing for that tube station, to stop and consider the loved ones in our lives and to remember that they won't always be there, to marvel at the power and strength of our bodies while they are still young, to dance and look up at the stars...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Dolls House - images of women

Being out of town for a few days and coming back to London makes me appreciate how people come in all shapes and sizes. And after trip to the gym showing impossibly beautiful girls on MTV, it seems like just the right time for RHUC's Anne and Appleseed to run their workshop 'The Dolls House - images of women'. This free session will look at how images of women are shaped by the media. It's at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel on Saturday 25th April and is open to everyone (even men!). Check out the details on page 6 of the April bulletin or contact RHUC.

Experiments With Light

I went along to a workshop with my Quaker friends (small "f") on Saturday. It was based on the idea of how the early Quakers practiced searching for the light of truth by experimentation. There was a six stage guided meditation that essentially accomplised the following:
1) Relax body and mind
2) Using a receptive state to bring out the real concerns of life.
3) Focussing on one issue that troubles you.
4) Asking why it is like that.
5) Welcoming any answers that emerge.
6) Feeling different as a result.
Most people found this particularly useful and in some cases felt physically healed. In secular terms it bears much resemblance to what can be accomplished by cognitive therapy, but there is something spiritual about trusting an insight that comes from this kind of introspection. I think I now know something of what my Quaker friends mean when they speak of the "leadings of the light".

Thursday, 16 April 2009

A retreat?

We have been thinking of going on a spiritual retreat somewhere outside of London. Perhaps one of these places might be worth thinking about? They have the benefit of being only an hour away from London...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Up North

The Easter day service in Manchester centred on an annecdote about a young evangelical Christian whose life centred around his "personal relationship with Jesus". Whilst this usually rings alarm bells for people with a Unitarian view of the historical Jesus, there are perhaps parallels with the Buddhist concept of the "inner guru". It is a way of thinking that chimes with the following passage from Elliot's the Waste Land. It alludes to the psychological phenonenon of seeing a third person in survival situations, as well as Luke xxiv.13-16.

Who is the third who walks always beside you,

When I count, there are only you and I together,

But when I look ahead up the white road,

There is always another one walking beside you,

Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded,

I do not know whether a man or a woman,

- But who is that on the other side of you?

Friday, 10 April 2009


Kate's post made me think of one of my favorite Rainer Maria Rilke poems, Initiation

Wilderness on our doorstep

Andrew Motion, who is about to step down as Poet Laureate, was the special guest on BBC Radio 4's Book Club programme. A reader asked him about his poem The Ash Tree and they discussed the afinity that some children have with trees. You can listen to the programme here.
I also feel a soul-settling calmness around trees which I trace to my childhood. So it was sad to hear so many kids these days are wrapped up in 'cotton wool' and not able to explore nature. Read how Natural England is 'releasing children into the wild' here. For those living in or near Hampstead, the wilderness is on our doorstep. This picture was taken just by Hampstead Heath Overground station with Hampstead Heath itself a short walk away. This week I'll be looking for the spiritual amongst the trees.
Posted by Kate.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Go Placidly Amid the Noise and the Haste

As the sun makes an effort to burst through the clouds, I'm thankful for the coming of Spring. I often find the spiritual in nature and I'm enjoying the daffodils that I planted in the burial ground opposite my flat. I can just about see them through my kitchen window so it feels like my own little patch of garden.

In the rush of urban living, I take comfort from the Desiderata, a poem written by Max Erhmann in the 1920s.

It's not always easy to remember the spiritual but the daffodils help...

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

Read the full poem here. Posted by Kate.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Unitarian Musical

I was looking on the internet and discovered that a Unitarian Universalist Chapel in the USA had made a comedy musical about the life of their chapel. Some of the recurring themes and characters seem alarmingly familiar! Here is my favourite, featuring a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major General.

It takes a refreshingly honest look at that thorny issue of giving that can occasionally perplex a well intentioned new member. Perhaps we should write to them and ask for a copy of the libretto.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 Prayer

This has been adapted from the 'Put People First' Ecumenical Service.

'We stand in prayer as the global economic crisis casts a shadow over the peoples of the earth. In a world as closely connected as ours, each of our actions affects the whole. We are sorry when we have failed to act beyond our narrow interests. We seek to live as a community and care for others, especially the vulnerable and the poor among us.

As the G20 meet, we ask for wisdom from the leaders of the world. Where nations have pushed their agendas on others; we ask that becomes partnership and love. Where people have lived lives disconnected from their human family in other countries; bring solidarity and compassion. May we see the dawning of a new world, a world of justice, mercy and humility.Help us transform our lives so we find light in darkness, seek solidarity with our human family and in our emptiness recover wholeness from our brokenness.

With hope for a better world.'

Monday, 30 March 2009

Unitarian press

Another mention in the Guardian this Saturday with some interesting comments afterwards.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Joseph Campbell on Transcendence

Part of Bill Moyer's famous interviews with Joseph Campbell on the Power of Myth. 
Reflecting on the question of the transcendent

Friday, 20 March 2009


We've finally put together this blog which we hope will become a forum for sharing inspiration of all kinds as a complement to our individual spiritual explorations. To begin we suggest users stick to one post a week, let's see how it goes...