Filed under: Creative — Jess at 2:56 pm on Thursday, August 21, 2008
The vast majority, though not all, of our congregations light a flaming chalice before beginning worship, and it is customary to say some words of intention while doing so, to set the mood for the service. It is a way to mark the hour of worship as a time out of time, separate from every day life, and sacred.
As the windows around us glow with a hundred colors of light
So may we feel the countless touches of the holy in our world.
All the names and presences, all the ideas and the persons.
May our shoulders feel the embrace of love
Our eyes feel the gentle brush of vision
Our hands feel the stirring of strength
Our legs feel an infusion of steadiness.
May our houses and this house be cleared with the gentle wind of peace.
May we be renewed in this time together
So that we may set out again
To be the hundred touches of the holy in the world.
Filed under: Creative, History — Jess at 12:05 pm on Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Stories and metaphor are essential to any religious language, but perhaps even more so to Unitarian Universalists who are not bound by creed. Stories give us an opportunity to speak about larger things, using a broader vocabulary than we might in our every day conversations.
Long, long ago around a campfire in the evening twilight, a tribe of shepherds sat talking. They looked out across the valley — and over the hills — at the changing colors of the sky — rose and orange beams spreading overhead — pink, fleecy clouds floating among them — golden light coming from beyond out of the nowhere — or was it out of the everywhere?
There was too much greatness all around for anyone to speak. These shepherds of old felt themselves a part of something very large and high and wonderful.
At last someone asked, “From where has this great beauty come?”
Then another asked, “And how did it all begin at the very beginning?”
May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill fortune never pry
about these windows; may the roar
and rain go by.
By faith made strong, the rafters will
withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
will keep you warm.
Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching our lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms
into a shrine.
With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.
Spirit of Life
words by Carolyn McDade
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me,
Come to me.
Source: Singing the Living Tradition, hymn #1, “May Nothing Evil Cross This Door,” words by Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977); and hymn #123, “Spirit of Life,” words by Carolyn McDade.
Filed under: Creative, History — Jess at 8:45 am on Thursday, July 24, 2008
Sometimes it is important, spiritually, to let go of our individual control. Unitarian Universalism places a great value on the individual search for truth and meaning, but also on the value of conducting that search in community. We realize that sometimes, we are weary and just need to rest.
This hymn for an Evening Service, from the 1917 Hymns of the Church: With Services and Chants, published by the Universalist Publishing House, recognizes this need. The tune, Lux Benigna, was written by the Rev. J.B. Dykes and the words by Rev. Dr. John Henry Newman.
Lux Benigna, for Evening Service
words by Rev. Dr. John Henry Newman
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene: one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path: but now,
Lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day; and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long thy power has blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
Source: Lux Benigna, tune by Rev. J.B. Dykes with words by Rev. Dr. John Henry Newman, from the 1917 Hymns of the Church: With Services and Chants, published by the Universalist Publishing House, page 7, via Google Books.
There are times in the lives of all of us when the greatest and most imperative need is for a sense of security and confidence that cannot be shaken by the winds of chance.
The waters of life never run smoothly. Every day has its darkness and its light, its bitter and its sweet, its pleasure and its pain. There are always unfulfilled promises, hopes that fade into the mists of years, the dreams from which we rudely awaken. It is in moments like these when we feel the futility of dreams, the cruelty of promise and the wastefulness of hope.
One of the great song writers, who understood life, challenges us with these words: “Unless you have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?” and we might follow his thought by asking: “Unless we have a hope, how can we find courage for the road, and unless we have a goal, how shall we know when we have arrived?” Dreams with purposes, hopes with purpose, aspirations with purpose, are the “everlasting arms” that bear us up and make sure our confidence in ourselves when the current seems to be running against us.
I will say to my soul: “Thou shall not be shaken by the exigencies of life, for all experiences are necessary to thy shaping,” and I will look hard at the hammer and anvil that shape them.
Filed under: Creative — Jess at 12:50 pm on Thursday, July 3, 2008
The International Council of Unitarian Universalists publishes a reading for the lighting of the chalice every month, with the intention that all of our congregations across the globe have the opportunity to come together for worship with a common focus.
Hallelujah for the chalice which contains the wine, which contains our lives
Hallelujah for the flame which rises with our prayers, with our hopes
Let us give thanks to God, to the divine Breath, to the Matrix that is the source of the life.
Let us give thanks for this Creation given and received.
Thanks to rabbi Jesus of Nazareth and all the wise ones of our Humanity,
of all the religions, all wisdoms, all philosophies.
Thanks to the men and women of our History who built this world,
That we are present, by mutual agreement, together at the meeting-point of our worship.
That we are present, listening each other, helping each other, at the meeting-point of our worship.
Alléluia pour le calice qui contient le vin, qui contient nos vies.
Alléluia pour la flamme qui s’élève avec nos prières, avec nos espérances
Rendons grâce à Dieu, au Souffle du divin, au Matriciel source de la vie.
Rendons grâce pour cette Création donnée et reçue.
Merci au rabbi Jésus de Nazareth et à tous les sages de notre Humanité,
de toutes les religions, de toutes les sagesses, de toutes les philosophies.
Merci aux hommes et aux femmes de notre Histoire qui ont construit ce monde.
Que nous soyons présents, d’un commun accord, les uns avec les autres, au rendez-vous de notre culte.
Que nous soyons présents, avec écoute mutuelle, les uns pour les autres, au rendez-vous de notre culte.
Filed under: Creative — Jess at 10:44 am on Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The balance of science and religion, of the work of humanity versus the ineffable, can be hard to describe. This lovely song by Catherine Faber, set to images by Vu Trong Thu on YouTube, does a beautiful job of speaking to the complexity of the world we live in and seek to understand.
The word God in this piece may cause some readers pause — how do you hear this word in this context? Personally, I find it well in keeping with Rev. Michael Dowd’s treatment — god as the whole of creation, constantly growing and changing.
The Word of God
by Catherine Faber
From desert cliff and mountaintop we trace the wide design,
Strike-slip fault and overthrust and syn and anticline…
We gaze upon creation where erosion makes it known,
And count the countless aeons in the banding of the stone.
Odd, long-vanished creatures and their tracks & shells are found;
Where truth has left its sketches on the slate below the ground.
The patient stone can speak, if we but listen when it talks.
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the rocks.
There are those who name the stars, who watch the sky by night,
Seeking out the darkest place, to better see the light.
Long ago, when torture broke the remnant of his will,
Galileo recanted, but the Earth is moving still
High above the mountaintops, where only distance bars,
The truth has left its footprints in the dust between the stars.
We may watch and study or may shudder and deny,
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the sky.
By stem and root and branch we trace, by feather, fang and fur,
How the living things that are descend from things that were.
The moss, the kelp, the zebrafish, the very mice and flies,
These tiny, humble, wordless things — how shall they tell us lies?
We are kin to beasts; no other answer can we bring.
The truth has left its fingerprints on every living thing.
Remember, should you have to choose between them in the strife,
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote life.
And we who listen to the stars, or walk the dusty grade
Or break the very atoms down to see how they are made,
Or study cells, or living things, seek truth with open hand.
The profoundest act of worship is to try to understand.
Deep in flower and in flesh, in star and soil and seed,
The truth has left its living word for anyone to read.
So turn and look where best you think the story is unfurled.
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.
As we approach Memorial Day, a reading from the Rev. Kathleen McTigue, senior minister of the Unitarian Society of New Haven, Connecticut, along with photographs of memorial gardens at Unitarian Universalist churches across the country.
They Are With Us Still
by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
In the struggles we choose for ourselves, in the ways we move forward in our lives and bring our world forward with us,
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