richmond + putney unitarians
Last month we had the first of our book groups, which focused on the work of Herman Hesse's Siddharta. I read the book originally about twenty years ago and in the process of re-readng it, I was surprised about how much more I got from the book this time round. One of Hesse's major themes in Siddharta and indeed central to his overall philosophy in life was our continuing need to engage more frequently with the natural world.
When I first read Siddharta, communing with nature took a central place in my spirituality. However, in recent years this has substantially diminished. It wasn't until I visited my mother in West Dorset for her birthday that I realised how much I have missed it.
Due to her living in the middle of nowhere, there is very little light pollution and so the stars seem so much brighter than they do in Isleworth. That night in West Dorset also happened to coincide with a meteor shower, which might have something to do with the exceptional gleam those stars appeared to have!
Merely by laying outside in my sleeping bag watching the stars, I felt a great sense of peace and connection to myself and the natural world around me. Within those depths of connection in nature the problems of my day to day life seemed to be put into perspective, once again allowing me to act in a more skilful way.
Minister's address // Simon Ramsay
We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea
and land. It is not our purpose to become each
other; it is to recognise each other, to learn to
see the other and honour him for what he
is: each the other's opposite and
Narcissus and Goldmund
- Hermann Hesse
richmond + putney unitarians
So I now firmly believe in the words of Spinoza when he described the Divine as God and Nature. Spinoza felt these two terms, God and Nature, to be so intimately intertwined that we cannot recognise one without the other and for me, this certainly seems to be the case. I also get a sense of the importance of nature to so many of our community in the work that they do in the garden surrounding the church and I have to say that the garden is looking particularly good this year due to the voluntary work of many and also by our new caretaker Peter.
I've been thinking for some time that I would like to include more nature in our worship and it seemed somewhat of a sign when I received a call from Peter to tell me that a pigeon had got into the church and in its trapped panic was making a mess all over the place! But after about three hours Peter had finally
worn the pigeon out, caught it and released it back into its rightful place (see picture below).
The natural world may not be a source of inspiration for all of us, but one thing I think that we can all agree upon, along with Herman Hesse is the central importance of truly recognising one another, to learn and see the other and to honour them for who they are.
Peter rescuing the pigeon!
" the garden is looking particularly good this year due to the voluntary work of many "
Unitarian Discovery Holiday
On Monday 17th July David Knight, Christopher Stevens and Margaret Lord spent 5 days away (not the one for Youngsters, but now mostly for youngsters over the age of 50 or 60) at the Nightingale Centre in the village of Great Hucklow, Derbyshire. There were 16 of us, most of whom we have met before and it was good to see old friends.
Nightingale House itself was built in the 1930s, but the purpose behind it was to continue the work, initiated by Unitarians and already ongoing in two cottages in the nearby hamlet of Windmill, of providing help to those damaged physically and mentally through service in the first World War.
Nightingale House was built to provide much needed expanded
accommodation and facilities,and is sited at a height of over 900ft. up in a small village in the White Peak, a village (among many in the area) once blasted by the effects of lead mining but now a haven of quietness, open fields, boasting many mature trees and a riot of wild flowers in the fields and road margins. Most noticable are the blue meadow cranesbills, the blue scabious and the blue harebells set off by the yellow of ragwort.
Grindlow, about 1/2 mile from Great Hucklow.
View from the front door of Nightingale House.
"a haven of quietness, open fields, boasting
many mature trees and a riot of wild flowers"
richmond + putney unitarians
Later, in the second World War, Nightingale House was taken over by a girls school, and when the need for this was over, it became the much-loved Unitarian conference and holiday centre. It has grown in size and comfort since its rather spartan beginnings and is now proudly classed as a 5-star hostel.
The theme was first presented by an ex-teacher, Andy Allison, who had the knack of explaining the science reasonably simply and with much humour. The conclusion was that whatever onward effect the flap of a butterflys wings had, it was absolutely impossible to predict what it would be as there were too many variables. Hence it lead to the Chaos Theory.
This was a little over the heads of some, so it was good to have a free day the following day. David and Christopher caught the bus to one of their favourite places, Eyam, the plague village. Here they visited Eyam Hall, currently run by the National Trust but soon to be run by the family which owns it.
Margaret went to Chatsworth along with 3 others, but was disappointed by the commerciallism and the crowding of exhibitions and people inside the house.
The following day Rev. Michael Dadson from Macclesfield (whose wife used to be the manageress at the Centre) gave a very different talk, about the changes we have observed in our lives since we were young, encouraging us to identify the person or persons we have known who have been the butterflies, the catalysts for change.
David and Christopher took morning reflections one day before breakfast with Margaret playing the piano, and they also manned the bar one evening during Social Time. As mentioned, much craft work involving butterflies took place, and the small singing group included Love is like a butterfly in their songs, with David playing the triangle in appropriate places. Some day over the rainbow also went down well in the concert (called the Serendipity Evening).
Butterfly and flower hunting above Cheedale.
Alpacas at Foolow, about 1 and 1/2 miles from Hucklow.
Early and mid-July is a fantastic time for flowers in the limestone Peak, and the walking group drove towards Buxton, parking in Cheedale, walked along the river and then up the hill onto a disused railway line. The hillside and pathway were rich with the yellows and blues of wild flowers. The butterfly we saw most of was the Ringlet and a Dipper appeared more than once on the river.
It is good also to mention that the Centre is shared at this time of the year by groups of disadvantaged children, mostly from inner city areas, under the scheme Send a Child to Hucklow. By and large they are very well behaved and sharing the premises with us is no problem. They have a wonderful time. Like much in Unitarianism (and in the wider social scene) attendance numbers are falling and UDH is only able to continue for as long as there is the money to cover it. Thus we have as much in-house activities as we can and our speakers are fairly local to avoid high travel costs, for we cant afford to give them a high fee. New people are always welcome.
Eclipse magic // Simon Ramsay & Clare Taylor
Speaking of the beauty of nature.. What wonders we beheld on August 21st with the first total solar eclipse to cross the USA from coast to coast since 1918, the year that saw the end of the First World War!
In the words of astrologer Rick Levine, "There have been many eclipses, eclipses are regular. Has there ever been an eclipse that started and ended on the continental USA, while the leader of that country had his Mars in ascendant at that degree, while Mercury was retrograde, while we were on the tail end of a 5 year period of rock and roll from a Uranus Pluto square that harkens back to the changes that were occuring during the 1960s? No! This is new territory" https://youtu.be/JSQx7TydE-k
Photograph by NASA.
richmond + putney unitarians
Services are on Sundays at 11am >Led by Rev. S Ramsay, unless otherwise stated .
Organ rota >3 Christopher Johnson .
10, 17 Margaret Lord . 24 Christopher Johnson .
Coffee >Will be a joint effort .
Feel rich 3
Breakfast session then Seekers after truth 10
The title of this Sunday's service is based upon a documentary of the same name that I watched on Netflix. In
this documentary there were a number of musical artists that have taken it upon themselves to promote a healthy way of living as of experiencing life to the fullest rather than the the
striving for monetary wealth as there are different was to enRICH our lives In this service I will talk about the
emergence of this movement of thought and how it might fit into the values of our religious movement.
At the heart of our religious movement lays an appreciation of an individuals freedom in matters of spiritual inquiry. For
many of us the confines of other religious systems didn't suit us and so we found a place of worship that could
accommodate us with our beliefs, uncertainties and unbeliefs. For me religious freedom is essential in being a seeker after truth but seeking manifests in many different
ways. In this service I will talk about the many way we might, in a more focused way, utilise our skills and talents in that
24 Letting go
In all the world traditions there is the practice of repeating a mantra to gain peace of mind and develop ones spiritual life. Is there any justification in using such a practice? Does it matter what the mantra is? And what effect upon the mind does the repetition of a mantra have? This service will involve quite a bit of meditation so come prepared to be relaxed!
Just two little words easily spoken and written but in practise less easy to do! In this service I will look at different ways that we might learn the skill of letting go and the benefits that that might have on our lives and those around us.
The RPUC book club
The book club is going to break for the month of September due to the work needed to be done to do our
whole being workshop on September 16th. But is back on Wednesday 11th October and the book is Book of Hours by Rilke. The last book club was absolutely
wonderful with some really profound conversations and - for me - realisations. It would be marvellous to see you
there with your unique perspective in what is widely thought to be a spiritual classic!
richmond + putney unitarians
Saturday 2 | 10.30 am-1 pmGardening Club
A group of volunteers meets once a month to tend the garden areas around our church. All volunteers welcome.
Contact : Margaret Lord
Monday 4 | 7-8.30 pm Development Group
An open working group looking for ways to grow and enhance our church community and explore options for its sustainable future.
Bring your energy and ideas.
Contact : Rev. Simon Ramsay, David Watson
Every Tuesday | 6.30-7.45 pm Light Tribe Yoga
A yoga class designed to increase emotional resilience and build strength. Especially helpful for carers.
Contact : Clare Taylor
Every Wednesday | 23 pm Coffee with the minister
Simon will be available at Tide Tables near Richmond Bridge if you wish to drop by for a chat. This is an open social gathering, but
one-to-one pastoral sessions are also bookable later in the afternoon or at any other time needed.
Contact : Rev. Simon Ramsay
Wednesday 6 | 1-3 pm Stitches and Stories (Holland Room)
Our craft and storytelling group meets to knit, crochet or sew items to be donated to charity. Good company and good causes
make for a lovely afternoon. Contact : Margaret Lord
Friday 8 | 7-8 pmCreative JournalingThe journalling group, all warmly welcomed, shares silence, a check-in, takes time for writing or reflection, some time for sharing as wished. Sometimes we work with a theme, sometimes the theme emerges out of our check-in. Contact: Kitty Lloyd Lawrence, Helen Nicholls
Sunday 10 | 9.30 amBreakfast club - The Reflective MindCome along and have breakfast with us before the Sunday service as we look at and reflect upon the theme of affirmations as part of spiritual practise. This is a bring and share breakfast which starts promptly at 9.30am.Contact: Rev Simon Ramsay
Sunday 10 | 12.30-2 pmManagement CommitteeAs is our tradition, these are open to all to attend, unless a sensitive agenda item is tabled. Contact : Rev. Simon Ramsay, David Watson
Sunday 17 | 12.40 pm Choir practiceCome and sing with us. No audition required!Contact : Margaret Lord.
Monday 18 | 7-8.30 pm Development GroupAn open working group looking for ways to grow and enhance our church community and explore options for its sustainable future. Bring your energy and ideas. Contact : Rev. Simon Ramsay, David Watson
richmond + putney unitarians
A few weeks ago our Minister, Simon Ramsay spoke of himself and his brother taking on adult responsibilities when young. This prompted me to think about my own pre-school age of four and a half years with my older brother, John at just six years, and our sister, Margaret Anne, a baby still in arms.
On the 7th September 1935, my father was killed whilst on duty as a Police Officer, based at High Barnet, Herts, Police Station. He was on traffic duty and keeping the crowd off the road going to the traditional Barnet Horse and Pleasure Fair. He was trying to clear a crowd of people from the road out of the way of a cement lorry that was out of control, with no brakes. He was successful in saving many members of the public but the lorry knocked him down and killed
him outright. He was posthumously awarded the Kings Police Medal for Gallantry for his action.
September, to me, has always been a dark month until I became a Fleet Street journalist, specialising in food and farming, nationally and world-wide. This was when we members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists look forward to the results of the world harvest. We still hold our own Harvest Service in the Fleet Street church of St Brides, every year.
The night of my fathers death still comes to mind most vividly, although it happened more than 80 years ago. My late brother and I were in our beds, when the urgent knocking on the front door woke us. We whispered in the darkness.
Our mother was downstairs, nursing our baby sister Margaret in her arms. We sat on the top stair and...