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Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

Open Hearts Open Minds

Minister’s Letter

May's Theme: Beauty

God must get hungry for us; why is He not also a lover who wants His lovers near?

Beauty is my teacher helping me to know He cares for me.

Hafiz

 

As the years pass I find myself more and more interested in beauty. Previously I have viewed religion as more about truth and goodness. It is about those things. It is important to seek truth and to work for a better world. More than ever, and in this time of political turmoil, we need to be doing all we can for a peaceful and just society. In this election campaign we need to be asking our politicians what they are doing to create peace and justice.

But more than ever I think we're missing something if we're not also pursuing beauty. It is not just that we want a better world, we also want a beautiful world. And we want to save the beauty that exists in this world: the beauty of the natural world, the beauty of people who are fully alive living in joy, the beauty of art and music that touches the soul.

Beauty does something to us. As we reach out to it, somehow, it also reaches out to us. Beauty moves us in a way nothing else can. It shows us the way to God in the way that nothing else can. Somehow, when we are overwhelmed with beauty we find ourselves meeting the divine. May we be open to that meeting.

In peace and love,

Stephen

 

 

 

Theme Resources

Books (non-fiction):

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and and Ted Orland. Short book honestly exploring the creative process and the fear that stops us from creating art. The ideas in this book can be applied to many different tasks in life.

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master edited by Daniel Ladinsky. Translated in an accessible and modern style this is a large collection of ecstatic love songs to God.

Films:

Life is Beautiful/ La vita è bella. Award winning Italian comedy drama about a father shielding his son from the horrors of a concentration camp. Rated PG.

American Beauty. Drama about a suburban American family where, spurred by forbidden passions, the father begins to dramatically change his life. Rated 18 with strong adult themes.

Minister’s Letter

April's Theme: Compassion

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Jesus of Nazareth

As we approach the festival of Easter we know that many Christians are thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. This story is often re-enacted in passion plays. There's not a passion play in Bolton this year as there has been in some previous years, but there is going to be one in Manchester. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of things. To be honest I find them to be a bit gruesome. And as a Unitarian my faith is not rooted in the passion of Jesus. Rather what's more important is the compassion of Jesus.

Passion means pain/suffering and com-passion means being alongside another in their suffering. Compassion is feeling the pain of another and reaching out to alleviate that pain. Jesus put this at the heart of his teaching and explained what it meant by telling a story of someone beaten up at the side of the road. One passing person, a Samaritan, felt compassion, and reached out a helping hand. "Go, and do likewise," says Jesus.

The death of three-year old Alan Kurdi, the tiny body washed up a Turkish beach in 2015 made us all feel that com-passion, that pain striking into our hearts. The refugee crisis continues today, still demanding our compassion, our feeling-with, and our acting-with. One way we can stop this happening again is giving to our Lent charity, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station in Malta, who have already rescued 30,000 people from the Mediterranean. They continue to operate search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. This is one small way we continue to follow the way of compassion.

In peace and love,

Stephen

 

Theme Resources

Book (non-fiction): Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. Taking as a starting point the teachings of the major world religions Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion into our lives.

Want to change the world?

Let love be your energy.

 

A better world is possible when we're powered by love.

Find the love within. And let love be your guide.

 

We are Unitarians.

 "Never lose a holy curiosity."

So said Albert Einstein.

For us, curiosity is holy.

We never stop questioning, never stop seeking.

The universe is too big to think we have all the answers.

We believe in curiosity.

We believe there is more to life than we can know.

We believe faith should open your mind, not close it down.

We believe we will always have more questions than answers.

Ours is the religion of curiosity.

 

We are Unitarians.

 

 

We love Jesus. We love Buddha too.

And Muhammad and Krishna and Moses and Guru Nanak and Julian of Norwich. And lots of other folks.

We find that when you look for it, you find spiritual wisdom in lots of places.

And why should wisdom only come from one place?

Why should God only care about one religion?

What if God's love is bigger than any one religion?

What if God speaks in a thousand different voices?

Shouldn't we listen?

 

We believe truth is bigger than any one religion.

We believe love is bigger than any one belief.

Love beyond belief.

Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

Open Hearts, Open Minds

 

 

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