A New Unity Sunday Gathering
We gather here today in hope
We gather with a yearning for something more than we have found in the workplace and the marketplace and in superficial social encounters
We are separated beings yearning for connection
We gather here for a new possibility
To live the dream of knowing and being known
Accepting and being accepted
Loving and being loved
May the heat of this flame burn away the doubts and the fears that keep us apart
Let us be together
The Gestalt Prayer by Fritz Perls
I do my thing
and you do your thing.
I am not in this world
to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world
to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I.
And if by chance
we find each other, it's beautiful,
If not, it can't be helped.
From Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
"What's all this?" said Eeyore.
"What's the matter with his old house?"
"Nobody tells me," said Eeyore. "Nobody keeps me Informed. I make it seventeen days come Friday since anybody spoke to me."
"It certainly isn't seventeen days--"
"Come Friday," explained Eeyore.
"And to-day's Saturday," said Rabbit." So that would make it eleven days. And I was here myself a week ago."
"Not conversing," said Eeyore. "Not first one and then the other. You said 'Hallo' and Flashed Past. I saw your tail a hundred yards up the hill as I was meditating my reply. I had thought of saying 'What?'--but, of course, it was then too late."
"Well, I was in a hurry."
"No Give and Take," Eeyore went on. "No Exchange of Thought. 'Hallo--What'-- I mean, it gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person's tail is only just in sight for the second half of the conversation."
"It's your fault, Eeyore. You've never been to see any of us. You just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don't you go to them sometimes?"
Eeyore was silent for a little while, thinking.
"There may be something in what you say, Rabbit," he said at last. "I have been neglecting you. I must move about more. I must come and go."
"That's right, Eeyore. Drop in on any of us at any time, when you feel like it."
"Thank-you, Rabbit. And if anybody says in a Loud Voice 'Bother, it's Eeyore,' I can drop out again."
From Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
"Where are we going?" said Pooh, hurrying after him, and wondering whether it was to be an Explore or a What-shall-I-do-about-you-know-what.
"Nowhere," said Christopher Robin.
So they began going there, and after they had walked a little way Christopher Robin said: "What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?"
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best?" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, "What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying 'What about a little something?' and Me saying,' Well, I shouldn't mind a little something, should you, Piglet,' and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing."
Message, by Andy Pakula
If you consume the news, you know there’s a lot of bad news every day. There’s always something dreadful about hunger and war and poverty and oppression and violence. As we’ve mentioned before, many if not most of these things are actually getting better over time. They were much worse in the childhood of our species and our culture, which has become less violent and more compassionate through the centuries. The very fact that we notice these problems so much may actually be a positive sign of how we have changed - part of the solution rather than indicating growing problems.
At the same time, though, we don’t hear much about some of the things that are actually getting worse… about the downward trends that are starting to feel like a new normal. To those trends, we can be blind - we don’t even know that things are getting worse because it just seems ordinary and unremarkable.
One of these trends is the loss of close friendships. A few years back, a study in the US showed that Americans - and I have no doubt it is true here as well - have fewer and fewer people with whom they can discuss important things. That 2006 study revealed that nearly half of all Americans at that time had only one person or no one to share the deep topics of their lives. That was much less than a similar study conducted a few decades previously.
We are facing a famine of unprecedented proportions - a friendship famine that is leaving us emotionally isolated.
It may seem odd. We live in a time when people live in with greater population density and greater physical proximity and where we have technologies that can connect us more quickly and efficiently - even over vast distances. And while we are closer in many ways, we have fewer people with whom we can really and truly be close.
I have more than 2,075 friends. But then, I’m not sure what we want to do is let Facebook Incorporated define friendship for us. Some of those friends I’ve never actually either met or even communicated with online!
So, probably a few less than 2,075. A lot less than 2,075. And that depends on what we mean by a friend.
And that’s not to say that virtual friendship is necessarily shallow. I have had instant message communications that were deeper and more honest than almost anything in real life - so I’m not suggesting that technology itself is the problem.
In the lovely excerpts we heard earlier, Eeyore realises that friendship requires conversing - I say one thing and you say another and that exchange to be something deeper than “hallo” and “what.” And he learns that being a friend requires showing up - dropping in from time to time.
That pretty much reduces 2,075 to about 30.
Pooh says that he likes being with Christopher Robin more than just about anything else he can do. Which reduces my 30 still more.
A man called Elbert Hubbard started out his career as a traveling soap salesman in late 19th century America. I imagine how the many superficial relationships he forged in that time may have affected his later life, in which he became a philosopher and author with a profoundly socialist bent. He founded the arts and crafts community called Roycroft - a community of people working and living together.
And Hubbard said “The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” He didn’t know, perhaps, that women could be friends, but his words are still powerful.
A deep, transformative, life-sustaining friendship is one in which you can say anything true about yourself and know that you will be heard and accepted and cared for nonetheless.
Friendship is not about talking or giving advice or gifts or having common hobbies or even common interests. It is not just about action or kindness or enjoyment or conversation. It is a kind of presence that we share with one another.
And this is very rare. It requires people who trust one another with their hearts and who know how to honour that trust with abundant acceptance, honesty, and unconditional care for the other.
It takes time to cultivate friendship. It takes courage to be in friendship.
I imagine Hubbard’s Roycroft as a community where friendship was a possibility - where members had the support and structure to become friends - true friends.
And I dream of New Unity as being such a place as well. Many of us have had structured one-to-one conversations with each other - something that begins the process of sharing our hearts. We have established right relationship guidelines, a structure that creates a greater safety so that we know an offered heart will not be casually crushed. We come together in monthly Convergence groups to share our tender hearts.
New Unity has begun to be - and it is my greatest hope that it will become ever increasingly - a place where the famine is quenched - where our thirst is satisfied by the soothing drink of acceptance - where our gnawing hunger is sated by a nurturing feast of acceptance and unconditional care.
Let this be a place of the greatest and deepest friendships. Let no one who crosses our threshold find themselves alone.
Friendship doesn’t happen in a moment. It takes time. It takes courage. It takes generosity of spirit.
It starts, however, with intention - the intention to be people who are prepared to try to offer our hearts and also people who are committed to holding hearts with unconditional care.
As a symbol of that intention, I have brought something very simple to share with you - friendship bracelets.
But if I were just to give them out, it would be false to the seriousness of purpose and the courage it takes to be a friend, so I want to invite you, if you wish, to put friendship bracelets on one another.
Here’s how it will work. People will come up to the front where they will have a bracelet put on them. They will then be given a second bracelet to put on the next person who comes up. In this way, each person will give and each will receive.
If that seems confusing, don’t worry. It will all become clear.
If you wish to participate, please move to the aisles.
[Service closes with friendship bracelet ceremony]