Opening Words for Father’s Day from Carl Sandburg’s The People, Yes
A father sees a son nearing manhood
What shall he tell that son?
Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.’
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum and monotony
and guide him amid sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
‘Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.’
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
And left them dead years before burial:
The quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
Has twisted good enough men
Sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat not on the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use amongst other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is a born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
And the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
Introduction by Rev. EdWard Thompson
In his book “Rabbi Jesus”, Bruce Chilton discusses Jewish Mysticism at the time of the historical Jesus and speculates that visualization of a chariot was part of the practice for those who were serious about that tradition. In that case, the chariot was a symbol of the Divine presence. In the same way that Moses encountered the burning bush, to encounter the chariot meant to be on holy ground, to be in a state of high consciousness, to have an epiphany or to embrace new insight.
Over the years, the chariot has meant various things. To be sure, it has mostly signified a vehicle that brings individuals from one place to another. There are some people who, even today, refer to their car as their chariot! For the slave, to ride the chariot was to use the Underground Railroad to escape north to freedom. To the singer of early Gospel music, referring to the chariot meant to wish for a time when they would encounter Jesus face to face in a heavenly paradise. Without going into the rich history of chariot symbolism let me refer briefly to the pieces you will hear this morning.
The first piece was written in 1778 by the early American composer William Billings. Isaac Watts completed the text in 1719 and it states: “Lord, when thou didst ascend on high, ten thousand angels filled the sky. Those heavenly guards around thee wait like chariots that attend they state.” The chariot is compared to angelic beings who carried the historical figure from one place to another.
The second piece, “Ride the Chariot”, is an Afro-American Spiritual. It says: I’m gonna ride the chariot in the morning, Lord, I’m getting ready for the judgment day. I’m gonna ride the chariot to see my Lord. I never can forget that day when all my sins were taken away. Are you ready for the journey? Here is a case where the chariot is the vehicle for deliverance from guilt to forgiveness, joy, wholeness.
In the third piece C. Hubert Parry puts music to the words of “Jerusalem” by the eighteenth-century English Mystic, William Blake. Blake asks for bow, arrows, spear and chariot of fire! Why? To build a new Jerusalem, a new sense of the sacred, a rededication to that which is holy in our lives. The chariot is again the vehicle.
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is an Afro-American Spiritual in which we hear “Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.” And where is ‘home’ ? We will talk about that.
Our concluding piece, “Freedom Trilogy”, we have sung for the last two years at this the final regular service of the year. Although it does not mention the word ‘chariot’ specifically, its themes of freedom, outreach and journey are not unrelated.
I hope your ride is a good one!
A Reading from the Work of Lewis Thomas
A century ago there was a consensus that evoltuion was a record of open warfare among competing species, that the fittest were the strongest aggressors, and so forth. Now it begins to look different. The great successes in evolution, the mutants who have made it, have done so by fitting in with and sustaining the rest of life.
Up to now we might be counted among the brilliant successes, but flashy and perhaps unstable. We should go warily into the future, looking for ways to be more useful, listening more carefully for signals, watching our step and having an eye out for partners.
Reading: Jerusalem, by William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem building here
Among these dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear!
O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Commentary, by Frank Hall
In this poem William Blake refers to the holy city of Jerusalem not as a geographical place, but the sacred center in the heart of each person. He calls for a ‘chariot of fire’ to get to that holy place inside.
The chariot is used as a metaphor for a vehicle by which to ‘ride’ to the ‘holy land’ inside each person, as well as a symbol of the means by which we can build a better world.
He asks ‘did the Countenance Divine/shine forth upon our clouded hills?/ And was there Jerusalem builded here among these dark Satanic mills?”
In other words, did the face of God look down on his England in spite of its Satanic mills.those infamous houses of toil where children worked along side their parents who slaved away at their tedious tasks 12 hours or more a day, six days a week.
His poem is a promise to work for economic justice–to work together to build a holy city, Jerusalem, “…in England’s green and pleasant land.’
The poem uses the image of the chariot to suggest the inner spiritual work, which is the lifelong task each of faces–to build an inner Jerusalem, a holy city inside ourselves, in spite of the faults and failures in our individual lives as well as the faults and flaws in our collective lives.
The chariot theme conjures images of Charlton Heston in Ben Hurr; but for us it’s a metaphor for the inner life and the struggle to build a holy city within one’s own heart.
The word career shares the same root as the word chariot. A career is, of course, one’s chosen pursuit or occupation. A career is the means by which we make a living. But it’s also the means by which we make a life! As a vehicle, a chariot, it suggests one’s progress toward the common goal of creating a life worth living.
One’s career, then, is a ‘chariot.’ It’s how we get from here to there; to drive in life’s battles. Each of us has a common career–to build and tend that holy place inside–to become the person we are meant to be, the person each of us must decide to be.
A reading of the poem Home by Alla Renee Bozarth
The small plot of ground on which you were born
cannot be expected to stay forever the same.
Earth changes and home becomes different places.
You took flesh from clay
But the clay did not come from just one place
To feel alive important and safe
know your own waters and hills
but know more.
You have stars in your bones and oceans in your blood
You have opposing terrain in each eye
You belong to the land and sky of your first cry.
You belong to infinity.
Year End Reflection by Barbara Fast, Frank Hall and Ed Thompson
Sunday September 9th was our Homecoming Service of Re- Dedication and All Congregation Cook out.
Tuesday Morning was September 11th a date the dug into our hearts, minds and souls.
Tuesday evening we kept our doors open and lit candles in the darkening Sanctuary.
Wednesday evening was the Westport Community Service of Hope and Healing.
Friday Noon was the service for our National Day of Remembrance.
The Sunday following September 11th we came together again, seeking comfort, purpose, a sense of security, healing and hope.
Our yearly cycle of congregation programming began.
Children’s and youth Religious Education and so many Odyssey Adult Education Courses.
Music Activities: Youth Choir and Teen choir; Women’s Choir and Men’s choir; Once and Again Folksingers, Chamber Choir and Special Projects Choir
Sunday Greeters and Ushers; Senior Brown Bag programs; UU Women’s Federation programs and Potlucks
First Friday Forums and Potlucks; Movie Review Fridays;New Member Orientations & Potlucks
Rainbow Taskforce Programs: Our Gay, Lesbian, Bi Sexual and Transgender Committee Activities
Social Action Priority Programs: Beardsley School, Habitat and Prison Programs and the 9/11 Response Team
New programs included: Family Friday Potlucks; Eliminating Racism Task Force;
Small Group Ministry: 10 groups and growing
Our Board of Trustees, membership and canvass committees and our Soundings Team work, support, guide, encourage community life and service year round. The fellowship and friendship that grows during foyer coffee hours year after year.
Special events of the year included:
Youth Group Barbeques and camp out; The “Say it With Music” Potluck Sing Along
Peggy Block’s Ordination
The Memorial Service to honor the lives of Scott and Keith Coleman
Dedication of our Pastoral Care Associates; The Adult Trip to Boston with Frank;
RE Teacher Pot Lucks; The Annual Fellowship Dinner; Canvass Sunday;Cabarets
Tellebration;Thanksgiving Family Service; Christian Community Action Thanksgiving Food Drive
Zany Brainy Fundraiser for Beardsley School; Guest at Your Tables Boxes are handed out
Children’s RE celebrated the Hindu festival of Divali;
Frank’s Natural Selections CD and Book is published
Children’s RE studied the Muslim month of Ramadan and celebrates the Jewish holiday of Hannukah.
Intergenerational Christmas Carol Potluck; Christmas Concert ; Holiday Boutique ; Christmas Presents for Children of Prisoners collected; The Youth Group sold Christmas Wreaths
Christmas Pageant was presented;We celebrated two Christmas Eve Candlelight Services;
My Sabbatical begins
The Youth Group goes to Ground Zero
Valentine’s Cabaret; 49th Annual Meeting ;
Spring Concert – Faure’s Requiem
COA Service Project ;Jr. High Con
Annual Intergenerational Pot Luck Seder
My Sabbatical Ends
NY Metro District Annual Meeting
Coming of Age Trip to Boston
Make a Joyful Noise Interfaith Concert for ABC Program
Camp Jewell Retreat
Cap the Campaign
Coming of Age Candle light Ceremony and Service
RE Sunday Service
Senior Youth Bridging Ceremony
SAC Recognition Ceremony
Bob Lavendar receives an Honorary Doctor or Humane Letters from Meadville Lombard Divinity School
Habitat Work Weekend
Gay Pride Day
$10,000 is mailed to the UUA for the Transylvania Fund to rebuild Unitarian Seminary Dormitory in Kolosvar. A classroom will be dedicated to the memory of Nicholas Paige.
Rites of Passage: Child Dedications; Weddings; Funerals and Memorial Services
Finally, fundamentally, let us not forget the spiritual nurture of Sunday services:
Pablo Neruda, Keeping Quiet
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;…
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems to be dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.