COCU Index Year B 2014-15

The COCU Index for Year B, 2014-15: COCU master index.YearB.2015

Upcoming Sundays
COCU 12B, 1st February, 2015, 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Epiphany 4B
COCU 13B, 8th February, 2015, 5th Sunday after Epiphany, Epiphany 5B
(COCU 14B-16B not used in 2015 – Epiphany 6B, Ord7B/Proper 2B, Ord 8B/Proper 3B)
COCU 17B, 15th February, 2015, Transfiguration of Christ
COCU 18B, 18th February, 2015, Ash Wednesday

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COCU 11B.Epiphany 3B.2015

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

A reflection based on Psalm 62.5-12
Beloved, for you my soul waits in silence.
My hope is hidden in your silence.
Life of my living, you are my earth.
You are what cannot be taken.
In the gravity of your grace I rest.
In your silence is my deep belonging.

I trust in you, Holy One.
I pour myself into your hands,
into this light, my resting place.

Rich or poor mean nothing;
they are an illusion.
I abandon my little “happy” and “sad.”
They are both lint.
Do I catch myself trying to gain?
Ah, ignore all that fool’s gold.
Ignore it. Let it go.

I keep hearing this in the silence;
the silence says it over and over:
the only power is Love,
and love, all love, is God.

Beloved, you live, you speak, you resound
in all we do.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

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Australia Day resources – various

Straya – national anthem
This youtube clip has gone viral as an unofficial ‘national anthem’ for Australia to the tune ‘hey ya’.

Rev Ken Sumner, an indigenous leader in the Uniting Church, reflects on Australia Day in this article.

Song for Australia – words by Helen Wiltshire here: Australia Day.Song for Australia.HW (music in ‘Here’s a New Day, published by Pilgrim Publishing,, 08 82123295)

Loving God, undiminished by distance, unconstrained by place or time, forever seeking, forever calling, forever drawing humanity to yourself and to each other, we glimpse your Spirit in the brooding silence of awesome landscape, the ancient law of Aboriginal nations, the unspoken trust of honest mateship. Yet in the vastness of this place, Australia, we often feel alone, alienated, unworthy of more than a passing acquaintance with your love.
Help us understand you ever yearn to make us whole, drawing near in Christ to show us the way. Amen.
(Source: Rev BL Smith, published in Frontier News, August 2011)
=> could be shaped as a prayer of confession, with silence after ‘with your love’, and the last line as words of assurance.

The French historian Ernest Renan (1823-1892) described forgetfulness as “essential in the creation of a nation”.  Renan is known for the statements that a nation is “a daily referendum”, and that nations are based as much on what the people jointly forget, as what they remember). Renan states: “Forgetfulness, and I would even say historical error, are essential in the creation of a nation.” Historical research, by revealing unwanted truths, can even endanger nationhood. nationality is based on sentiment. “All nations, even the most benevolent in later practice, are founded on acts of violence, which are then forgotten”. “Unity is always achieved by brutality”. He believed that people unite in their memories of suffering because alleviating grief requires a “common effort” which serves as a foundation for unity. Members of a community feel as though they have accomplished something great when they are able to survive in adverse conditions.  “Now, the essence of a nation is that the people have many things in common, but have also forgotten much together”. Renan concludes that a nation is “a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which are really one, constitute this soul and spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other, the present. One is the possession in common of a rich trove of memories; the other is actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value the undivided, shared heritage….To have had glorious moments in common in the past, a common will in the present, to have done great things together and to wish to do more, those are the essential conditions for a people. We love the nation in proportion to the sacrifices to which we consented, the harms that we suffered”. (Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?“, conference faite en Sorbonne, le 11 Mars 1882).
What might this mean for Australia?

Opening prayer/call to worship
Our land is alive with the glory of God
Desert sands hum and gum trees dance
Brown grasses sing
and mountains breathe their stillness.
All created things add their rhythm of delight
and even the stones rap out their praise.
Let our voices mingle with the song of the earth
May our hearts join the beat of her joy
For our triune God is with us:
Our creator surrounds and upholds us.
Christ Jesus walks beside and upholds us.
The Spirit moves within and between us.
Blessed be God, our wonder and our delight.
Jenny Tymms

Call to worship
As we tread the ground of this place,
call to us, Spirit of God.
Open our ears to hear the sound of your voice
speaking in the desert silences,
stirring in the moving
of the grey-green bushland trees,
singing songs in the rhythm of our farmlife
and rising free in the humming of our cities.
Call to us again, Spirit of God.
Make your music of peace and joy in the midst of our life.
For your song is true, your voice is of love,
and in your Holy Spirit lies our hope. Amen.
Dorothy McRae-McMahon

Acknowledgement of land
This prayer by Dorothy McRae-McMahon could precede an acknowledgement of land.
Sometimes we think we are small gods, God of all creation.
We think we own this land
and can tame its eternal energies.
But it teaches us who we are in the cosmos, O God.
Its endless changing rhythms
of flood and dryness,
fire and fertility
invite us, age by age,
to simply take our place as your humble children
thankfully receiving small and larger gifts,
invited to cherish a mysterious landscape of your making…….

…….We acknowledge that we are on the land of the (name of traditional custodians of the land eg Kaurna) people and that the Spirit was in the land revealing God to them through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the Kaurna people and gave them particular insights into God’s ways. Therefore, we honour the wisdom of the Kaurna Elders and their continuing culture, and pray that we might all work together for reconciliation and justice in this nation.
(Using words from the Preamble to the Uniting Church constitution)

The Acknowledgement of country was written by Jonathan Hill who is an  Aboriginal poet living in New South Wales:
We begin with the acknowledgement of country:
Today we stand in footsteps millennia old.
May we acknowledge the traditional owners
whose culture and customs have nurtured,
and continue to nurture, this land,
since men and women
awoke from the great dream.
We honour the presence of these ancestors
who reside in the imagination of this land
and whose irrepressible spirituality
flows through all creation.

ther suggestions for wording for acknowledgement of land here)
For more resources …..
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COCU10B.Epiphany2B.18 January 2015

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Ps 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Cor 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

There is a God who steps free of the binding chains around our souls,
and calls us in a voice which also knows our name,
and always knows our pain,
who lifts our feet as though our life stands cupped in a saving hand
and cherished forever in a life-filled place.

Affirmation 1 (based on Psalm 139:1-6)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it. Amen.

Song: Weave our lives together (Helen Wiltshire) (Tune: Glenfinlas 65.65)

Weave our lives together,
sinew, blood and bone;
shape us in completeness,
secret and yet known.

Knit our souls together, spirit, mind and heart;
weave us in the darkness;
craft our ev’ry part.

Hold us in enchantment;
nurture us in grace;
search us in our being;
carve for us a place.

Draw us to your presence,
gather us in care;
call us to your beauty;
nourish each one there.

Woven, shaped and living;
held within love’s womb;
may we spring and flourish,
grow and come to bloom.

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COCU9B.Baptism of Jesus.Epiphany 1B.January 11th 2014

Texts: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

Old Testament – early thoughts: Howard Wallace
New Testament – early thoughts: Bill Loader

Traditionally observed January 6th, the Epiphany is the celebration of three events that are said to demonstrate the significance of Jesus – that is the divinity of Christ. “Epiphany” means “to show, make known, or reveal.”
It started in the Eastern Church in AD 361 as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi (which is our focus), Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River (next week’s Gospel reading), and Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.
The Revised Common Lectionary readings focus on firstly on the visit of the Magi and the theme of light or being enlightened and on the second Sunday of Epiphany we focus Jesus’ baptism. The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognise the significance of the baby in the manger and offer their gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
All the readings for this Sunday have light bulb moments where the people of God take responsibility for either being a light to those beyond themselves or that light comes to them from those outside their community or faith. The theme of God’s expansive love is prevalent and that this love can and does stretch way beyond our human limits to include those who we might want to exclude.
(by Rev. Chris Vermeulen, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2013)

Call to Worship (Thom Shuman)
On that first day, when time began:
you gave birth to creation;
light danced through the darkness;
the waters of hope flowed free and clear.
On that first day at the Jordan, when redemption began:
you spoke of life for all your children,
as your Child stepped into the waters of forgiveness,
dancing in hope with his cousin, John.
On this first day of the week, when we begin anew:
you call us to faithfulness,
as we open our hearts to you,
your voice claiming us as your own.

A call to worship (based on Psalm 29) (Joan Stott)
We come, in response to God’s voice calling us to share in revering the Holy One.
We greet you, God of holiness and mystery;
Creator of all life and wondrous beauty.
We come, in response to God’s voice calling us to honour the name of Lord God.
We greet you, God of wisdom and truth;
God, the Quiet Centre of all life and hope.
We come, in response to God’s voice calling us to celebrate with joy the glories of
our Great and Glorious God; whose majestic voice thunders through all of creation.
We greet you, God of radiant light and splendour, the Lord God Almighty, glorious in power; yet God’s holy voice also overflows with tenderness, peace and blessings. Amen.

The Celtic Caim (The prayer of encircling – a prayer of presence and protection)
Imagine a circle round yourself.
God is with you in the circle.
God our Father, keep faith in and doubt out.
Imagine a circle round us as a group.
God is with us in the circle.
Jesus, Son of God, keep love in and fear out.
Imagine a circle round a person for whom you are concerned today.
God is with them in the circle.
Holy Spirit of God, keep hope in and despair out.
Imagine a circle round the planet earth – in all its beauty and tragedy.
God is with us in the circle.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our God, keep goodness in and evil out.
In the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. AMEN.
(by Rev Peter Neilson, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2015.)

Prayer of the Day (Thom Schuman)
Beloved’s Parent:
grace is the gift which flows to us from your heart;
joy is the seed planted deep within our souls,
that it might blossom into lives of service to all.
And we cry: “Glory!”
Servant of sinners:
you emerge from baptism’s water, to embrace us in your hopes;
you take our fears from us and toss them aside
as you lead us into your kingdom;
you shine the Light which brings us out of despair’s shadows.
And we cry: “Glory!”
Wind upon the water:
you move among us
sweeping aside our petty pride,
and offering us the gifts of humility and servanthood.
You whisper of your yearning for peace and reconciliation,
until it silences our angry voices and unclenches our fisted hearts.
And we cry: “Glory!”

Prayer of Praise (Genesis reading)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.
God our Creator,
We praise you for this wonderful world!
Not by chance, but by choice
You created this world
before we took a breath.
A theatre of your glory.
‘Let there be light’, you said.
A spotlight shines on the empty stage,
waiting for the scenery
the characters
the unfolding plot of creation.
Lord, as your light shines
on our creation today,
open our eyes to see
and marvel at all you have made.
We blink and marvel in the miracle of light.
God, our Creator,
We praise you for this wonderful world. AMEN.
(by Rev Peter Neilson, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2015.)

Song: John Preaches  (Tune Kingsfold #518 TiS 262, 585)
The herald of the one to come,
Came preaching inner peace;
“Turn from your sins and be baptized,
And God will give release.”
This Baptist wore a leather belt
And clothes of camel’s hair;
Wild honey, locusts were his food;
He breathed the desert air.

“The one expected”, John declares,
“Is one who is unique;
“Much greater than I am, is he:
“Compared with him I’m weak.
“Not worthy to untie his shoes”;
John takes the lowest place,
And with him we can see in Christ
The wonder of God’s grace.

When John baptized him, Jesus saw
The heavens from above
Were op’ning and then coming down
God’s spirit like a dove.
Now Jesus stands before us all,
We see a man who’s free;
We ponder on his deeds of love
Lived out so wondrously.
(c) George Stuart – can be used freely with acknowledgement

Call to Reconciliation (Thom Schuman)
You and I are now the ones who step forth out of the safe waters of baptism, to bring hope, to share a word of grace, to carry healing into the brokenness of the lives around us. Let us confess how we still struggle to follow in faith wherever Jesus leads us.
Timeless God, you cast Light into sin’s dark places and call us your Beloved.
Forgive us:
when we still linger in the shadows;
when we treat others in hurtful ways;
when we speak ill of your friends.
As he knelt in the waters of Jordan,
you proclaimed Jesus as your Child,
pointing to him as the way to you.
Forgive us:
when we put ourselves ahead of him;
when we think he is no longer needed;
when we fail to see him in the broken of our world.
Baptized and blessed in your living waters,
you would have us be your servants in our time.
Forgive us:
when we fail to welcome the stranger;
when we refuse to forgive as we should;
when we believe we are too good to kneel down
and tie the shoes of the lost, the least, the last, the little. A silence is kept

Words of Assurance
Touched by the waters of life, fed at the feast of grace and hope, embraced in the warmth of God’s love and hopes – this is good news! Blessed by baptism’s tears, called to servanthood by the Beloved, filled with the peace of the Spirit, we are indeed God’s people – redeemed, restored, refreshed to serve. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offertory (Thom Schuman)
Bathed in the waters of baptism, we are graced people. Graced people, we recognize the gifts which have been poured out upon us. Recognizing these gifts, we take them and give them back to you, God of the waters, so that others might be bathed in hope, graced with joy, gifted with your peace and love. Amen.

Sending (Thom Schuman)
Go into the world as God’s beloved children.
We will go to share the gift of grace which flows from God’s heart.
Go into the world as baptized sisters and brothers of Jesus.
We will go to bring the light of hope to all in despair.
Go into the world as those filled with the Holy Spirit.
We will go to hear the whispered yearnings for peace and reconciliation.

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George Stuart writes thoughtful new lyrics to traditional and familiar tunes. Here’s some new lyrics suitable for baptism services. Could also be helpful for the Baptism of Jesus service (January 11th in 2015). George graciously offers these lyrics, and no copyright license is needed. You are free to print them out and copy them or create PowerPoint presentations of them to screen through a data projector to use in public worship. Click on link (above) for George’s blogsite or here for his website.

In this Sacrament with Water.  Tune  All through the night.  Not in AHB  TiS 168

In this sacrament with water
God can be seen;
In each human son and daughter
God can be seen;
When love streams from fathers, mothers,
Gen’rously from sisters, brothers,
When compassion flows from others
God can be seen.

God in love’s refreshing water
Brings us to life;
God in love’s creative water
Brings us to life;
Water, vital for our growing,
Health and energy bestowing,
Like God’s love, is overflowing
Brings us to life.

Joining in this solemn moment
Our spirits rise;
As we pledge our shared commitment
Our spirits rise;
Through this joyous celebration
We receive God’s affirmation;
So it is with all creation
Our spirits rise.

We come here not knowing    Tune  The Ash Grove  Not in AHB  TiS 531

We come here not knowing
The myst’ry of growing,
But still we are thankful for what it may bring;
New life in the making
With ev’ry awak’ning
Gives promise of joy, so with nature we sing;
In myst’ry we’re seeing
The Ground of all Being
Displayed here before us – a wonderful sight;
All new life is telling
That God is indwelling,
And in that assurance we take great delight.

The womb with safe water
For each son and daughter
Has been the first home in which love is the food;
Now water of blessing
In love is expressing
The welcome of God and our own gratitude;
Clear water refreshes;
It cleanses then blesses
With what is essential for life to abound;
So love, like the water
For each son and daughter
Through us, is God’s gift with which they can be crowned.

In great jubilation
With all of creation
We honour the living with all of our heart;
To mould the potential
To be influential
We pledge to give nurture, accepting our part;
We look at each baby
And feel that just maybe
God’s face is all smiling with these gifts of grace;
We all have the duty
To live out our beauty
By holding each one in love’s richest embrace.

for more, click on the link…..
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COCU 7B. Christmas 2B

Note: COCU coding relates to a way of indexing lectionary material. The full list is here.

Jeremiah 31: 7-14
Psalm 84/Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:10-18

Call to worship
A new year has dawned; the old is past and gone. This is a time for beginnings, a time to encounter God anew. God of the future who is always ahead of us, we are here to thank you, God of the present here in our midst, we are here to trust you, God of life beyond us within us, 
we are here to praise you, and to rejoice in your glorious love.

Hymn : Love now ascending (Holy, Holy, Holy) Tune: #TiS 132
Holy, holy, holy, love now ascending
Early in the morning our song shall rise to you.
Holy, holy, holy, joy that has no ending
Giving, forgiving, breathing life anew.

Holy, holy, holy, love without a limit
Care that binds creation in sacred unity,
Holy, holy, holy, birthing every minute,
Christ, Love’s revealer, sets our spirits free.

Holy, holy, holy, infinite compassion,
Makes a place for every soul in God’s eternal reign,
Holy, holy, holy, truth beyond religion,
Love that endures should nothing else remain.

Holy, holy, holy, raise your voice in singing,
Join the cosmic chorus in praise of Love divine,
Holy, holy, holy, God beyond all naming,
Echoes our song in harmony sublime. (Words:J Burklo)

For more, click on the link…..
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COCU 6B.Christmas 1B

Note: COCU relates to a way of coding for the lectionary year. A PDF download and explanation of the COCU Indexing Scheme are available here.

Isaiah 61: 10-62:3 (the good news of deliverance)
Psalm 148 (A call for the universe to praise God)
Galatians 4:4-7 (No longer a slave but an heir)
Luke 2: 22-40 (Jesus is presented in the temple)

First Thoughts on the Old Testament Readings of the RCL

Bill Loader’s First Thoughts on the New Testament readings here.

WCC prayers (Week 52: 21-27 December)
Let us pray with the people of Ghana, Nigeria: “O Lord, we beseech thee to deliver us from fear of the unknown future: from fear of failure, poverty, bereavement, loneliness, sickness, pain, age and death. Help us by thy grace to love and fear thee only. Fill our hearts with cheerful courage and loving trust in thee; through our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. AMEN.” (From ‘With All God’s People’, WCC Geneva)

Here’s a great story related to prayers for Nigeria (2014): More than 200 Muslim youth volunteers are part of those protecting Christians from any attack during church services to celebrate this year’s Christmas, says Pastor Yohanna Buru. According to him, the feat is the first of its kind after the series of crises that rocked the state in recent past. Buru said the essence of that was to protect the Christian worshippers as part of effort to strengthen peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians in the state. He noted the initiative was an indication that peace has come to stay in the state, saying the measure will strengthen a lasting peace between the two religions. He also prayed God to continue to bring about peace in the country the country, praying that other citizens would emulate the gesture. He urged Nigerians to learn to live in peace with one another irrespective of ethnic or religious differences.

We invoke you, Spirit of Unity, transform our divisions and reshape our vision.
All of creation, all living beings, cry in the midst of injustice and brokenness.
Spirit of Unity, reconcile your people.
We invoke you, Spirit of Unity, heal the wounds of our history,
remove from us all that sustains our present divisions.
Unstop our ears to hear your call for unity.
(From: ‘In God’s Hands’, WCC Geneva). See other WCC prayer resources here.

For more, click on the link……
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Christmas Eve

This year at Pilgrim Church, we developed the (late) Christmas Eve service around refugees, a pertinent topic in Australia in 2014 with the cruel punitive policies of the Government. We interviewed four people and edited the interviews into 2 minute segments. I’ll upload a PDF of the service and make a link to the video clips. It was a meaningful and thought provoking service.

A service for Christmas Eve by Rev John Maynard CHRISTMAS EVE.John Maynard

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Blue Christmas

We held our second ‘Blue Christmas’ service this year. Will upload a PDF of the service. In addition to  people grieving the loss of a loved one, we included all kinds of losses – health, security etc, as well as recognizing those who support others who suffer loss (including those supporting refugees).

We are a city church and open our doors each day for people who wish to use the church for quiet meditation, reading and ‘being’. We have prepared a resource for people who wish to drop in to reflect on ‘blue feelings’ at Christmas. The resource has been compiled and adapted from several sources. The resource enables some guidance for reflection and prayer without a formal church service led by a minister, which suits many of the folk who work and play and visit the CBD, and who prefer to drop in and quietly read and meditate in the church.

Blue Christmas, Blue Christmas PDF

Rev Cathy Lambert writes: The idea of this service is to acknowledge that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. We are surrounded by the media telling us how we should be full of joy during this season, but that is not always easy. If this is the first Christmas since a loved one died, or it has been a difficult year emotionally, or there are broken relationships to deal with – Christmas can be a time of dread and sorrow.

A poem by Anna McKenzie (may be appropriate for Blue Christmas):

And so we must learn to live again,
we of the damaged bodies
and assaulted minds.
Starting from scratch with the rubble of our lives
and picking up the dust
of dreams once dreamt.
And we start there, naked in our vulnerability,
proud of starting over, fighting back,
but full of weak humility
at the awesomeness of the task.
We, without a future,
safe, defined, delivered
now salute you God.
Knowing that nothing is safe,
secure, inviolable here.
Except you,
and even that eludes our minds at times.
And we hate you
and we love you,
and our anger is as strong
as our pain,
our grief is deep as oceans,
and our need as great as mountains.
So, as we take our first steps forward
into the abyss of the future,
we would pray for
courage to go places for the first time
and just be there.
Courage to become what we have
not been before
and accept it,
with bravery to look deep
within our souls to find
new ways.
We did not want it easy God,
but we did not contemplate
that it would be quite this hard,
this long, this lonely.
So, if we are to be turned inside out,
and upside down,
with even our pockets shaken,
just to check what is rattling
and left behind,
we pray that you will keep faith with us,
and we with you,
holding our hands as we weep,
giving us strength to continue,
and showing us beacons
along the way
to becoming new.
We are not fighting you God,
even if it feels like it,
but we need your help and company,
as we struggle on.
Fighting back
and starting over.

Please speak the response when you hear: “…this season brings forth many feelings”

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There is grief with the loss of relationships,
Those we love no longer with us because of death
Those we have loved who are estranged from us
Those we love yet experience a diminishment of intimacy
There is grief with the loss and change of relationship,
Grief, bittersweet for it is a consequence of the presence of love
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be pain in our bodies,
Physical pain as a natural outcome of aging
Physical pain that presents itself in illness
Pain in the body that forces us to change and imposes limitations
Pain, bittersweet for physical experience includes both pain and pleasure and
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be anger and regret with the memories we hold,
Anger with past experiences of hurt or abuse,
Regret of our own actions that may have cause hurt to others,
Anger that life has not turned out as we imagined,
Regret for what we might have said or done,
Anger and regret, bittersweet in presenting the possibility for healing and forgiveness,
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be uncertainty that accompanies transition and change,
Uncertainty of what the future may bring with changes,
Uncertainty of direction or purpose after retirement or change of vocation,
Uncertainty when changing residence, by choice or necessity,
Uncertainty, bittersweet for change, a constant in life, let’s us know we are alive, and change along with
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There may be a sense of hopelessness,
Hopelessness in the face of so much violence and suffering
Hopelessness with attempts to heal our aching world and ourselves
Hopelessness in witnessing what we have not managed to accomplish
Hopelessness, bittersweet for its longing reminds us of our capacity for hope and the human spirit’s tenacity and courage that rest deep within each of us as
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
There is loneliness,
Loneliness when we find ourselves alone after being long-partnered,
Loneliness when we are separated from loved ones,
Loneliness when we move to a new community and struggle to find our way,
Loneliness that never seems filled even with good company,Loneliness that is an ever-present aching in the heart,
Loneliness, bittersweet for it is felt only when we have known connectedness and
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

All around us are bright lights and merry messages
Yet in our heart not all is joyful
We know grief and pain,
We know anger and regret,
We know hopelessness and loneliness,
We know all these feeling, we name them, we live them for such is the human experience
That love presents us with the possibility of being hurt, with the grief of loss,
That connection holds the potential of loneliness and uncertainty,
That forgiveness can begin to heal anger and regret
That being alive is a courageous act in which we engage all of our emotions and
…this season brings forth many feelings

Response: We find comfort in naming these feelings; we find some peace in being together

Source: Rev. Debra Faulk for Blue Christmas Vespers Service, December 2007, Don Heights Unitarian Congregation, Toronto, Canada.


In my family mourning was not done publicly. Therefore, I, as a child, assumed it was not done at all. Both sets of grandparents died and I recall hidden tears, the quick turn away to look out a window, the closing of a door. This mysterious behavior seemed to commence with the announcement of death and end immediately after the funeral.
Of course, if mourning is private, almost secretive as though shameful, there can be no comforting.
Now I discover that, if honest emotion is shared, the response tends to be compassionate, but if those who grieve don’t bring up the subject of fatal illness and death, no one else will. Those who would comfort us are watching our eyes, awaiting our lead. No one can know how to help unless we teach them.
Barbara Lazear Ascher, Landscape Without Gravity: A Memoir of Grief, 121

I do not think that time heals all wounds, but sometimes we can find ways of integrating our losses into a new sense of ourselves and the world. We cannot always know the way in advance. And the best, most empathetic guides are often support groups or the supporting presence of those individuals who have survived similar experiences.


Jan Richardson
You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

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