Sermon #14 (12th July 2015 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)
Shame is pretty much universal, as we heard in the first reading, from Brené Brown’s ‘I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)’… but generally it is a topic which makes people so uncomfortable that we don’t like to talk about it very much in polite company. Some of us might be more plagued by it than others, it’s true, but I doubt that anyone here today is entirely unfamiliar with the experience of feeling shame – that cringing feeling – the ‘painful wave of emotion that washes over us when we feel judged or ridiculed’.
The Unitarian Universalist minister Christine Robinson makes a distinction between guilt and shame which I think is quite useful: guilt is about a thing we have done whereas shame is about who we are. If you feel guilty about something you have done then you can regret the behaviour and resolve not to do it again. If you feel ashamed you would think ‘I’m a bad person’… (taking this one mistake or failing to be indicative of who you really are) and this sort of thinking has all sorts of negative consequences, for ourselves, our relationships, and society as a whole.
Sermon #13 (25th January 2015 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)
You know that saying ‘I’m sorry I sent you such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one’? That’s what happened with this service. As your last-minute stand-in in the pulpit today I am going to offer a few thoughts on what it means to be hospitable here in our spiritual home. (This was meant to be a 5-minute reflection but it turned out to be a 10-minute sermon instead!) Often our services consider issues that might help us lead better lives as individuals. I think it’s important, once in a while, to consider what might help us to lead a better life as a church community. How should we live – together? I hope that there will still be something in this service for you today regardless of whether or not you are already a committed member of this church, as hospitality is an important consideration in any groups we are a part of, and the lessons we have to take note of as a congregation are more widely applicable. The issues we are considering about hospitality here in our church community also have parallels at a smaller scale – in our homes, families, social groups – and perhaps also at a larger scale – in our nation and in the world beyond.