Sermon #37 (4th August 2019 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)
Once again it falls to me to introduce our new ministry theme for the month of August: For the next few Sundays we’re going to focus on the topic of ‘Hopes and Dreams’. When Sarah, Jeannene and I sat down to plan our service titles a while back, I immediately thought of a well-known quotation – one that’s often, wrongly, attributed to Goethe – in fact it’s by a Scottish mountaineer called W.H. Murray (and I’ve included an extended version of it on the back of your hymnsheet today). It’s just the last few short lines that came to mind though, in connection with this topic of ‘Hopes and Dreams’, as they’re rather memorable and stirring words. Murray says: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now!’
In truth I didn’t remember the exact quotation until I went to look it up. In my mind, I had somehow just stored the essence of it, and it was distilled to this: ‘Dream boldly! And then get on with it.’ Not nearly so poetic but I still think it’s a fairly accurate representation of the sentiment…
Sermon #36 (7th July 2019 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)
If I had my way, I wouldn’t be giving a sermon this morning. Not even a mini-sermon like this. What I really would have preferred to do instead – were it not for insurmountable technical issues – was to show you a rather special little film. It’s nine minutes long and forty two years old. I’ve borrowed the title of that film for today’s service: ‘Powers of Ten’. Who’s seen it?
This film was directed by Charles and Ray Eames, a couple most famous for their work in furniture design and architecture, and it exists in two versions. They had a first go in 1968 and then produced the definitive version in 1977, which has the full and unwieldy title: ‘Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero’. The title is nearly as long as the film! Seeing as I can’t just screen it for you today – though it is on YouTube – I’ve brought a book and a flick-book of the film for you to look at, and I’ll read you a brief description of the film from the Eames’ own office.
Sermon #34 (12th May 2019 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)
One of the best things about being in community – especially a community like this one – is, as Sarah’s already said, the opportunity it gives you to meet and get to know people who aren’t like yourself and who you might not ever get to mingle with in other settings. Here, people of different generations, different socio-economic groups, different backgrounds, can become friends, hear each other’s stories, and learn from one another’s varied perspectives. We Unitarians often speak with pride of celebrating diversity and being enriched by it.
However… as well as being a source of delight, differences can sometimes be… difficult. When we first chance across a community like this one, there can be a temptation to idealise it, and imagine that everybody’s chosen to be here ‘cos they think in much the same way as we do – with broadly similar theology, politics, ethical values, manners even – but that’s not quite true. We can’t take it for granted that we’re all pulling in exactly the same direction on every single issue. So when we bump up against people who see the world in a different way than we do – whose life experiences have given them a different outlook, temperament, or habits of behaviour – well, that can sometimes cause a bit of friction. We might rub each other up the wrong way.