ministers update

Ministers Update

Dear Members and Friends of Godalming Unitarians – 31st May 2020

With the lock-down rules being relaxed for some – whether that’s a return to work, children returning to school, or simply being able to meet with a few more people outside – and with the prospect of shops and other services soon to open – some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief, whilst others may feel apprehensive – and there are others still – shielding for health reasons, for whom nothing much will change. Today is our 10th Sunday away from the Chapel and whilst we hope the worst of the pandemic is over – sadly, with continued loss of life and so much uncertainty, we must remain vigilant and continue to hold our services online for the moment. However, whilst there can be no quick and easy return to ‘normal’ it is timely that we start to look to the future, to consider what lessons can be learnt from the pandemic – and what sort of community, what sort of world – we hope to build in the aftermath. The future is a new chapter, yet to be written – and each of us has a part to play in shaping it.

This weekend both Jewish and Christian communities celebrate Pentecost. Shauvot – known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost – is a Jewish holiday held 50 days after Passover. It marks the wheat harvest, and also commemorates the giving of the Torah (Law) to the nation of Israel, at Mount Sinai. For Christians, Pentecost  is considered the ‘birthday of the church’, with the book of Acts telling the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit – ‘in a rushing mighty wind’ and with tongues of fire – to the disciples of Jesus, gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Jewish Pentecost.  Many religious and spiritual traditions liken the Spirit to the breath and the wind (in some languages the same word is used.) Just as you can’t see the wind, but can see, hear and feel the effects of the wind moving – so too, people of faith claim that even though you can’t see God or Spirit – you can experience the effects of the Spirit manifest in the world.  For some Unitarians – the Holy Spirit is simply another name for the divine – in its most subtle, fluid form – the Spirit of life that animates everything.  And just as in the story of Pentecost, the mighty wind brings change, so too the winds of change are blowing all around us – in our nation, our faith communities, and our world.

Today’s service explored the relevance of Pentecost for our times, focussing on the winds of change that have swept aside old certainties and ways of living once taken for granted – and considered how we can work with the new energies being unleashed, for the greater good, rather than resisting. Doing church online is just one of the changes we have had to embrace – and it seems we will be doing this for some time to come! (N.B. for those who aren’t able to Zoom in, full copies of service scripts are available by email or through the post on request)

On this Pentecost Sunday I offer you these words of blessing by author, artist and minister – Jan Richardson.

In Faith and Hope, Sheena


Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.

It is stubborn
about this.
Do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.

To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.

Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.
Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness,
your pain,
your disgust at how broken
the world is,
how fractured,
how fragmented
by its fighting,
its wars,
its hungers,
its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.

I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.

But in the place
where you have gathered,
wait.
Watch.
Listen.
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom

or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones,
a clarity
in your heart
that tells you

this is the reason
we were made:
for this ache
that finally opens us,

for this struggle,
this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
and into
the blazing day.

—Jan Richardson – from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

 pentecost photo