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Winter 2019 / Spring 2020

Dear Friends,

I have a great deal of admiration for the Pope.

In his Christmas message for 2019 he included the idea that God loves us all, even the worst of us.

Earlier in the year I remember him replying to the question “What happens to wicked people when they die?” by saying there is no particular punishment awaiting them, they pass away like the rest of us.

The Pope’s humility and humanity in remarks like these impressed me, even brought a tear to my eye.

It is easy these days to follow Francis’s pronouncements online. Here are some of his other ideas which I like:

“I prefer a church which is bruised hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather a church which is unhealthy from being confined…”
“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just…”
“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm hearts … it needs nearness, proximity…”

All this reminds me of the Dalai Lama, whose great pronouncement “Kindness is my religion…” has long been inspirational.

His Holiness also wrote: “Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies… to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all human beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

I wonder whether you made a New Year’s resolution this year? Well, instead of a personal resolution, try instead to come up with what you would say if you had to make a public pronouncement in the manner of the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis.

What wisdom or insight would you most like to share? I would love to know.

If I had to make a pronouncement for 2020 it would be: translate your theology into simple terms of kindness and acceptance, these are more important than the rules of religion.

We remember Whittier’s immortal words:

“The letter fails, the systems fall,
And every symbol wanes:
The Spirit over-brooding all,
Eternal Love, remains.”

This Christmas my daughter Kate gave me a copy of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse by Charlie Mackesey. Hailed by the critics as one of the most beautiful books, it is a story of love, friendship and loyalty, written and drawn freehand: it looks as if it was done with a quill and Indian Ink.

It is indeed beautiful and affecting, a simple moral tale simply told. You can read it in less than an hour, although it repays much longer to reflect on and savour.

Comparisons are always invidious, but it might be said to belong to the same genre as The Wind In The Willows. Winnie the Pooh has also been mentioned, and adjectives such as Whimsical and magical wise and adorable have been employed.

It is the sort of book which can be enjoyed by people of all ages – a timeless account of experience which we can all relate to.

Reviews have been uniformly adulatory, and I imagine thousands of copies were sold for presents.

Personally I was left feeling (as I often am), if only life were as honest and straightforward as this… But it is still good to have the precious virtues of love and friendship rehearsed again.

As someone once said, the best advice for everyone is: hold hands and stick together.Leicester Unitarians Great Meeting Happy New Year

P.S. 2020 sounds like a year of vision, doesn’t it? Let’s hope it is indeed perfect vision!


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