From the Editor: Reinventing Expressions of Love and Care
The retail calendar features Valentine's Day as the most prominent event of February. The morphing of the 3rd century Roman martyr into a brand icon for our commercial holiday of romance and love can only be described as a major transformation. It is both ironic and amusing.
In a more serious vein, we are in a different kind of transformation concerning the ways in which we express our feelings of love and community. Handshakes and hugs are now considered careless rather than caring. I think that most of us long for the return of a greater opportunity for physical proximity and human touch.
Even so, we have not been passively waiting. We have applied ourselves to create new expressions of our shared humanity. Some of these innovations may continue as common practice even after we are able to return to many of our earlier traditions.
Here at Cork Unitarian, the church has not been standing still. We are living and serving in the moment. This includes the development of new approaches that allow us to continue and even expand our ministries in spite of the pandemic. This issue features a few of them. The pandemic has moved us out of our comfort zone, but we still continue to find and offer comfort. Perhaps, in that process. we are getting a better understanding of a deeper source of our comfort.
Peace, and blessings
Neal Dunnigan, Editor
From the Minister: 4th Anniversary Reflections
Next Wednesday, the 24th of February, is the 4th anniversary of my ordination and instillation as minister of this church. In past years, the trend was to enter ministry having left school, now the trend is for those seeking ordination to have “ experience of the world” before entering. In Ireland, it is what was always known as the “ late vocation”. Like many, this is the category I slotted into.
Having stumbled through my training, my ordination was a wonderful day and as I sat waiting for the rite of ordination and the laying on of hands, I remember how wonderful it felt to have my wife Kay and my daughter, Avie sitting next to me. Of course, after the excitement and jubilation was over, it was time to get to work and to quickly realise that all the training in the world doesn’t quite prepare you for the job in hand. At times, I have felt overwhelmed, I have often felt inadequate and I often suffer from the awareness that I do not always practise what I preach!
Much has been achieved, cosmetically, we have improved the appearance of our building inside and out Our social media profile has soared with a vibrant Facebook page and website and we have taken our place at the ecumenical table, we are now members of The Three Faiths Forum and last year I was honoured to be appointed its secretary. We have worked with the Methodist church in offering a unique “Friday Jazz Vespers” service, been involved in work with the homeless, chaplaincy programmes and we have marched since 2017 in Pride.
Above all though, we have become a diverse and welcoming community, spanning age, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation and we will continue to strive to ensure that our strapline, “ an open and affirming faith community” is more than a catchy slogan, we will work always to ensure that it is lived every time we gather.
Of course, Covid-19 has been a challenge for us, in every way. We are not a wealthy church, no vast amounts of cash in reserve but we have got through it. Our building being closed for most of the past 12 months has been something that as a church, we could never have contemplated but we have done okay!
I guess you’ve spotted the use of the word “ we” throughout this piece. It is not the royal “ we”, it is the “ we” as in all of us as a team. To everyone who plays a part, those who manage church affairs, play music, do readings and blow out the candles after service, to ensure I don’t burn the building down! Those who offer help, advice and support, those who have helped financially during this difficult time. Thank you to all who have helped, taken part, attended or watched our services, each one of you have made me realise, that although I was the one ordained, my ministry is a team effort.
It is, has been and will be for as long as you want me, been a privilege to be minister to such a wonderful and inspiring group of people. Yes, there have been difficulties, yes, I still wake up at three o’clock in the morning wondering “ what have I done?” but all in all, it’s been a privilege.
Rev. Mike O’Sullivan, Minister
Cork Unitarian Church's New Ministry
What is the Prayer Circle?
- The Cork Unitarian Church Prayer Circle is a place to share joys and concerns to a warm and friendly group who have committed to send their prayers, good energy, good thoughts, and care focused on your needs and intentions.
How would you send a prayer to the Prayer Circle?
- Anyone wanting to ask for a prayer can send an E-Mail to: Prayer.UnitarianCork@Gmail.com (this information is also on our church web site and Facebook page).
- The request will be distributed once to the entire Circle at the next Prayer Circle mailout opportunity.
- Please repeat your request as necessary and please send news of answered prayer.
- There is no need to go into detail or name full names - remember, the email will go out far and wide. Please be wise in protecting your own and others' anonymity.
- If you have a need that is so personal you wish not to give any detail at all, that's fine. Just write that you request prayer for a special intention. Remember, God knows the details.
Would you like to join the Prayer Circle and pray for others?
- Simply register as a Prayer Circle member by clicking here: http://eepurl.com/hoQGPT
- After you have joined, you will be on a mailing list and receive regular posts with prayer requests.
- It will be your responsibility to keep private anything you learn from a prayer request out of respect. Do not redistribute or forward the list.
How do I pray for others?
- Prayers take many forms. It is suggested that you relax and take a long breath or two before you open Prayer Circle emails to settle yourself.
- After opening the email, relax, breathe, and pray in the way that feels comfortable to you.
- Remember again, God knows the details.
Would you like to leave the prayer circle?
- Each email from the Prayer Circle will contain an UNSUBSCRIBE link.
- Simply press the link to leave the group.
- Come back at any time.
- No questions will be asked.
Our prayers may be awkward.
Our attempts may be feeble.
But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it,
our prayers do make a difference. ― Max Lucado
Lenten Reflections on the Life of Jesus
Cork Unitarian Church is offering a 6 week series of reflection on the life of Jesus. Each week will focus on a spiritual topic and explore it both through reflections on the gospel accounts of Jesus and also our own lived experiences.
The session topics will include:
- The Person of Jesus (Initial impressions)
- Repentance and Forgiveness
- The Person of Jesus (Closing impressions)
- Session will be lead by Rev. Mike O'Sullivan, Cork Unitarian Church minister and Br Neal Dunnigan, an Ecumenical Franciscan
- Pre-readings (scripture passages and reflection questions will be provided in advance)
- Sessions will be on Wednesday evenings from 7:30PM-8:30PM Beginning on February 17 and ending on March 24
- You need not attend all of the sessions, and you can join the series mid-way through the series
- Sessions will be held live on Zoom. No recorded playback
- Details are posted on the church's Facebook page (look for "Events")
- Registration is required and can be done via Eventbrite at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lenten-reflections-on-the-life-of-jesus-tickets-141303389241?aff=ebdssbeac&keep_tld=1
All are welcome.
Who Do You Say I Am?
A Survey for Cork Unitarian Church
In the New Testament, Jesus asks his disciples how people describe their understanding of Him. (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9). This story is a reminder that it is important to reflect on how we personally and collectively perceive our identity as a church.
Describing what our faith community is all about is challenging for Unitarians because we cannot simply point to a set of beliefs or creeds. We used to be able to say, “Come join us and see for yourself.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed things. The Unitarian Church’s response has been to continue to serve our community with electronic media (Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.) This has included our Sunday service broadcast, Wednesday and Friday Night Prayers, this new newsletter, and our new Prayer Circle (see article in this letter.)
The good news is that we have reached many new people – and the challenge is that we need to have a more concise message of who we are as a faith community since those new folks cannot come to “see for themselves.”
Our faith community is held together by common values rather than a common theology. We share our expression of those values when we recite our Unitarian affirmation which represents the covenant we have with each other and God.
To capture those sentiments to form a clear message, we have adapted those affirmation concepts into a statement of Vision / Mission / Values. The vision expresses our hopeful view of an improved world. The mission expresses how our faith community responds to those hopes. The values describe our core ethical and spiritual drives that motivate us to act together to achieve those hopes.
Interestingly enough, our Unitarian Universalists (UU) siblings in the Unites States are going through a similar process with their Seven Principles (See: UU Seven Principles Study Commission ). Fortunately for us in Cork, re-crafting our messaging is an easier task than it is for the much larger UU organisation in the US. However, even here in Cork, re-messaging is still a collaborative effort that needs your participation.
In person community discussions about this new messaging has not been possible during the pandemic, so we are now reaching out through electronic means for feedback in the form of an online survey.
Please take the time to reflect upon and consider each of the questions as the survey walks you through the vision / mission / values. This can be a wonderful opportunity for personal, prayerful contemplation on these concepts.
When taking the survey, please keep in mind:
- The survey is anonymous. Your name, email, and other information is not tracked.
- A report on the survey will appear in a future issue of the newsletter.
- Anyone who knows us is encouraged to respond. We are interested in both church member and non-church member perceptions and opinions.
- The questions will ask for both your personal views and your perception of outside views.
The link to the survey is:
Peace and blessings
Neal Dunnigan, Editor
Supporting the Ministry of the Cork Unitarian Church
Christian philosopher Henry Nouwen wrote, “Fund-raising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.”
Why would this be? Why would fund-raising, or funds giving, be as spiritual as a sermon, a prayer, a sickbed visit, or feeding a hungry person?
There could be several answers to that question. I will submit a few for your consideration. I believe that giving and encouraging others to give (fund-raising) is spiritual in the above ways because:
- Giving is a sermon. It is a statement of what we value, and how we balance our financial security in a healthy way. We don’t cling to things that are impermanent, but invest in things that are hopeful and good.
- Giving is a prayer. In giving, we show that we wish someone (besides ourself) well. We show our concern for the healthy operation of that which blesses others. We bless good acts with our support.
- Giving is like a sickbed visit. It is an opportunity to take time out, to think of someone else, to bring a blessing, and to show care. But we do it with an open hand – the hand of generosity and compassion.
- Giving is feeding a hungry person. Often, literally, giving goes toward feeding someone. But giving also feeds our hungry souls – the part of us that hungers to be part of something larger than ourselves, and to make a good difference in the world.
Have you ever thought about giving to the Cork Unitarian Church in this way – as a blessing rather than an obligation? Something to be taken advantage of – an opportunity to bless and be blessed? Think about it, and I hope it will make a difference as you support the work of the church.
Here is the link to make that kind of blessing:
Blessings and love to you!
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