Sunday morning services
We hold a service every Sunday morning at 10:30am at the Memorial Church building (map). The service is simple and traditional in form. It usually consists of hymns, prayers, meditations, readings, music (sometimes this is on the organ and sometimes a piano and double-bass jazz duet) and an address. After the address people are free to engage in a period of conversation with the minister about the address. The whole service lasts just over the hour and afterwards we go through into the hall to share tea, coffee and conversation. Transcripts of the addresses are available here.
Structure of the service
- Opening music, period of quiet reflection & the lighting of the chalice.
- Prayer (including the Lord's Prayer) - this opening prayer concentrates on the process of us gathering together and thanksgiving.
- Welcome, notices, celebrations and collection.
- Story (this is not done every Sunday, but is reasonably common).
- Prayer & a period of silent meditation - this long, meditative, pastoral prayer usually begins with reflections on our own hopes and aspirations (often connected with the theme of the address which follows) but always opens up to a meditation and prayer about our wider world and its joys and concerns.
- First musical offering.
- Prayer (the Prayer for Peace).
- Second (brief) musical offering - the congregation remains seated during this.
- Tea, coffee and further conversation in the Church hall.
- The printed order of service is prefaced by these words:
This church welcomes children to the first part of our morning service. We hear in their voices the strength of our community’s future. During the second hymn the children go to the common room for their own activities which are on the first and third Sundays of the month. This is also the opportunity for restless babies to join them. Parents provide their own child care on other Sundays.
- Usually the chalice lighting is as follows. It is an adaption of some words by Cliff Reed, the minister of the Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House:
Divinity is present everywhere; the whole world is filled with God. But, at certain places and at certain times we feel a specialty of presence. May this be such a place and such a time.
- The Lord's Prayer is said in its traditional form (and learnt by the children in the children's church). Recently (during the late part of 2008 and early 2009) there was some discussion about our continued use of the Lord's Prayer. In both the church committee and the worship group (April 2009) it was felt that the prayer continued to provide us with both important insights and a sense of continuity with, not only this local church's past but, of course, with the ongoing history of English speaking Christianity. As a congregation we are acutely aware of the danger of thinking that any form of words could adequately map our faith and that, therefore, no form of words we could imagine introducing would ever be perfect. We are less concerned with what the prayer means (in a literal way) than with how we use it and, in a very basic sense, we use it to remind us to be humble in the face of both our bodily and our intellectual/spiritual needs.
- The Prayer for Peace is as follows:
O Loving God, spirit of hope and peace, Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Peace, Peace, Peace.
- The service usually concludes with the following words. It is taken from "Hymns for the Celebration of Life" the 1964 hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Association:
Now, may the spirit that was in Jesus be in us also, enabling us to know the truth, to do the will of God, and to abide in his peace.
- The text that appears on the order of service pertaining to the period of conversation after the address is as follows. It was written by the current minister. This period of conversation was introduced into the service at the beginning of 2009:
‘Conversation as the natural organ communicating, mind with mind,…is the method of human culture. By it I come nearer to those whom I shall address than by any other means’ (Bronson Alcott). The period of conversation which follows immediately after the address and musical offering is here to allow those present to add brief thoughts and additional points to those made by the person who has given the address. The simple purpose is to help enlarge our collective understanding of the complex issues facing us as a contemporary liberal religious community. Contrary viewpoints are genuinely welcome but please try your hardest to avoid engaging in argument at this juncture. There is plenty of opportunity for more critical engagement with each other immediately after the service and in our ongoing series of Wednesday evening conversations. In all this we affirm but one orthodoxy: a love of truth that is a sincere desire to understand how the world is and our place in it.
- On the back of the order of service there appears a general summary. It was written by the present minister (Andrew) and incorporates texts from various sources:
This church belongs to a liberal Christian tradition which welcomes the loving, critical and enquiring spirit and, accordingly, it is founded upon an Open Trust which imposes no doctrinal tests either upon its minister or its members. We meet together simply in the spirit which is exemplified in the life and utterances of Jesus, for the worship of God and the service of humankind. Anyone accepting this free basis may become a member of this church.
The address draws on the faith and experience of the person conducting the service and it is offered to the congregation as encouragement to further reflection and thought. It is most certainly not a definitive statement with which you must agree. As our sixteenth-century Polish Socinian forbears said:
Whilst we declare our own opinions, we oppress no one. Let every person enjoy the freedom of their own judgement in religion; only let it be permitted to us also to exhibit our view of divine things, without injuring and calumniating others.
In the light of all the above we also strive for a broader understanding among religious and secular groups and endeavour, in a spirit of enquiry, to appreciate truth, beauty and goodness in whatever form of religion or philosophy these may be found.
We are a financially independent congregation and, as such, rely upon the generosity of our members and visitors for our income. Without this suport we cannot continue to function. If, in anyway, you have found in this service food for thought and the soul please do consider making a contribution to the collection or by becoming a subscribing member. How much? Well, naturally, whatever you can afford (in money or in straightforward help such as helping to tidy up the hall after coffee). However, to put some perspective on things it is worth noting that, according to British Sandwich Week 2008 (it really exists!), the average price of a sandwich is £1.77 and a reasonable Indian or Chinese buffet lunch in London per person (eat as much as you can) is between £5-00 to £7-00.
Order of service prior to 2001
Here are two jpgs showing the order of service in use until 2001. It dates back to at least 1960. The canticle and doxology were replaced by a single hymn sometime in the 1980s.