Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, Rev Tom & Brigitte McCready have been circulating paper-based spiritual material to those members of the church who are unable to attend our online services. Having received a copy today, I thought it would be nice to share it on this blog. Be aware that if you attend the online services, some material may be duplicated across both.
Hello everyone; Tom here. It is my turn with the circulars this week, and there are two aspects to what I would like to offer. One is quite a serious set of reflections on where we stand in relation to our own history and our own hopes and plans in these challenging times. And the other reflects my own conviction that to be serious about life is to relate to the whole of life; and that means that you have to be serious about seeing the value and importance of the humorous and playful side of life. Since I also believe that any religious belief or spiritual practice that is ‘fit for purpose’ for the times we live in is one that will find inspiration in the blend of human imagination and divine revelation we should not be ashamed to praise the works of human imagination that flow and shine in the best of popular culture. Neither should we be afraid to celebrate the richness and warmth of an artistic vision that found the utmost depth and delicacy in one of simplest and humblest formats that we know: the illustrated children’s story. i.e. Rupert the Bear is 100 years old this year.
Once upon a time I used to buy and sell rare and collectible children’s books and comics and I once bought a job lot of vintage Rupert the Bear annuals that dated from 1946 to 1970. All the ones from 1950 onwards were in pretty good condition and I made a very decent profit selling them on as single books. The earlier books from the 1940’s were in terrible condition: coverless and with torn, missing and scribbled on pages. They were falling to bits, and in fact were only bits of books. The collectors who would have paid hundreds of pounds for these books if they were intact and complete, even if in bashed and battered condition, would not have given me 50p for this lot, so I kept them and put the separate pages and panels that were in better condition into frames and onto cards and gave them away as gifts. I still have quite a few left, and that is what you have in these centenary Rupert the Bear envelopes: genuine, authentic pairs of panels from the late 1940’s!
but if you have any of the books illustrated above hidden away in your attics, they could be worth as much as £500. The better the condition the higher the price.
“We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw.
I am inclined to think that when we look back and remember this September and the six months leading up to it we will remember it like no other September in living memory, and I wonder if the people who come after us will look at this period and say that this was a turning point in history, that this was a time when things changed forever.
That this was the time when many of the freedoms, comforts and opportunities that we took for granted were taken away from us and we had to re-evaluate what mattered most to us; what was most precious and important in this life.
That these were the days when we learned what was truly valuable because these were the days when we gained a deeper appreciation of our connection to the natural world, of our connection to each other and of the underlying bond of our common humanity, holding and protecting all of us in the vast diversity of creed and culture we have created, and in all the infinite variety of the abilities and vulnerabilities that we as a species embrace and express.
There is a verse in the hymn ‘Where are the Voices for the Earth’ (211 in the purple hymn book) which I think is a rich reflection on our rootedness in the natural world and one that leads us to contemplate our responsibility for the care of the natural world, and that could well be the hinge on which our way forward and our hope of recovery turns:
Sacred the soil that hugs the seed,
sacred the silent fall of snow,
sacred the world that God decreed,
water and sun and river flow.
To articulate the intricate connection between the natural world and the world created by our human experience, may I be bold enough to suggest that as well as the words ‘water, sun and river’, we also think about the words: ‘heart, mind and spirit’ in whichever order you prefer?
That the human heart, mind and spirit should not only flow but flourish? That the human heart and mind shall flow and flower in the freedom of the creative imagination?
And that the human spirit shall flourish and rejoice in creative worship; not the worship of a distant untouchable deity beyond all comprehension and communication but in free creative worship that unites the personal and the universal, the intimate and the ultimate in the love and care for all creation?
By Rev Thomas McCready
The Greatest of These is Love
Each year we recite these words from our litany of membership: “We do not claim to know all the answers. In the face of the great mysteries of life and death we realize our ignorance and our limitations. Not only in our worship but in our common life together we must strive to deepen our understanding and to give of our love.”
These words are even more true in the challenging conditions of today than they ever were in any previous period. Not only regarding the recognition of our limits before the great mysteries of life and death but in the strength of our commitment “to deepen our understanding and to give of our love.”
And these words, and this commitment, will be even more necessary in the days to come than they ever were in the days that have gone. Not only that we ourselves might preserve this sacred space that we might have a place to stand; and a place to rest, where we might draw the strength to serve the common good, but also that we might honour the effort and the struggle and the sacrifice of all of those who have served the common good with courage and dedication; all those have done their utmost to help those who are suffering and to support those who are recovering; that we might join our voice with them; with the overworked and underpaid heroes of our times; that we might look with them upon all that has been offered and all that has been achieved and join with them in dedication and determination and say with them: ”It will not be wasted.”
And thus we commit ourselves to the preservation of this sacred space; of this, our spiritual home; where we may say, in all sincerity that this is a place where you do not have to believe in order to belong. Where you do not have to believe in wisdom and mercy to receive wisdom and mercy and you do not have to believe in God to be at home in this house of God; and you do not have to believe in prayer for your voice to be heard in this house of prayer.
We are here to stand with people at the turning points and defining moments of their lives; to give depth and dignity to life's most important occasions. We are here to offer an access to spirituality, to grace, to wisdom and to the blessing of the sacred that is unconditional and unconstrained.
And what is to be found here is healing for the heart and wholeness for the soul. For here, healing and wholeness and courage and wisdom and mercy are real and achievable; not in the next world but in this world; and not for imaginary perfect beings who have no problems but for you and me and for all of us, for all of our flaws and failings there is a love that frees and heals.
Now freedom, reason and love; these three abide:
But the greatest of these is love.
By Rev Thomas McCready
We inherit this free faith from the brave and gentle
We inherit this free faith from the brave and gentle
The light we kindle
is set in the lamp of our history.
We inherit this free faith
from the brave and gentle, fierce and outspoken
hearts and minds that have come before us.
Let us be worthy inheritors of this faith
and through our good works, pass it boldly to a new generation.
By Audette Fulbright Fulson
They Are with Us Still
In the struggles we choose for ourselves,
in the ways we move forward in our lives
and bring our world forward with us,
It is right to remember the names of those
who gave us strength in this choice of living.
It is right to name the power of hard lives well-lived.
We share a history with those lives.
We belong to the same motion.
They too were strengthened by what had gone before.
They too were drawn on by the vision of what might come to be.
Those who lived before us,
who struggled for justice and suffered injustice before us,
have not melted into the dust,
and have not disappeared.
They are with us still.
The lives they lived hold us steady.
Their words remind us and call us back to ourselves.
Their courage and love evoke our own.
We, the living, carry them with us:
we are their voices, their hands and their hearts.
We take them with us, and with them choose the deeper path of living.
By Kathleen McTigue
"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love." By Reinhold Neibuhr
“But what is this mysterious thing called faith? I think it’s simply acknowledging that we can’t control every detail or plan for every eventuality. It’s having trust in something beyond which we can see right now, whether that’s a trust in God, the universe or the power of love.” Rev Ant Howe Inquirer 5 sept 2020
We come to love a church,
We come to love a church,
the traditions, the history,
and especially the people associated with it.
And through these people,
young and old,
known and unknown,
we reach out --
Both backward into history
and forward into the future --
To link together the generations
in this imperfect, but blessed community
of memory and hope.
By Andrew C Kennedy
The road of history is long, full of both hope and disappointment. In times past, there have been wars and rumors of wars, violence and exploitation, hunger and homelessness, and destruction of this earth, your creation.
We have become a global village, with a growing realization of how fragile this earth is, and how interconnected we are to each other and to all creation. We cannot continue to live in the old way. We must make a change, see a new way. A way toward peace with justice and a healthy planet.
O Great Creative Spirit: You have given a vision of the good, and we yearn for a new way. But where are we to find the courage to begin this work? We know that a different tomorrow is possible, but how can we build it?
We think of the prophets, women and men, who voiced unpopular opinions, who made personal sacrifices, and sometimes lost their lives, for the sake of justice.
We think of Isaiah, who called out to let those who are held in captivity go free, to give solace to the poor and homeless. Let us be inspired by all who work to overcome misery, poverty, and exploitation.
We think of Harriet Tubman, who called out to people of goodwill to join her on an underground railroad, to lift a dehumanized people from the bondage of slavery to the promise of freedom, even when it meant challenging unjust laws. Let us be inspired by those who are outlaws for freedom.
We think of Gandhi, whose belief in "Soul Force"—the witness to Love's Truth—helped to overthrow the oppression of an empire and gave witness to the way of nonviolent action. Let us be inspired to become witnesses for peace.
We think of Chief Seattle, who reminded us that we belong to the earth, not the earth to us. Let us be inspired by all those who work for the healing of creation, of Mother Earth and all her creatures.
Who are the prophets who inspire you? They may be well known, or known only to you, offering personal inspiration, courage, and hope.
May they join a great cloud of witnesses to a new way of life—the way of peace and justice, the way of justice lived according to the way of peace, the beloved community.
So may it be. Amen.
By Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, Clyde Grubbs