Sunday December 4, 2016: Walking In the Woods

Swallow Falls State Park, Oakland, MD

Prelude: Heyr himna smiður – Árstíðir

[Heyr, himna smiður (Hear, Smith of the Heavens) was written by the Icelandic chieftain and poet Kolbeinn Tumason, according to tradition, on his deathbed in 1208 AD. Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson set the poem to music in 1973. This recording features the Icelandic “Indie Rock” group Árstíðir. For more information, see]

Welcome: The beauty of the whole, By Meg Barnhouse

We gather to worship, our hearts alive with hope that here we will be truly seen, that here we will be welcomed into the garden of this community, where the simple and the elegant, the fluted and frilled, the shy and the dramatic complement one another and are treasured. May we know that here, each contributes in their way to the beauty of the whole. Come, let us worship together, all genders, sexualities, politics, clappers and non-clappers, progressive or conservative, may we root ourselves in the values of this faith: compassion and courage, transcendence, justice and transformation.

Chalice lighting: Afraid of the dark, By Andrew Pakula

In sightless night, terrors draw near
Nameless fears of talon and tooth
Hopelessness yawns before us—an abyss
Alone and unknown in the gloom, longing for the dawn
O sacred flame blaze forth—wisdom brought to life
Guide us—
With the light of hope
The warmth of love
The beacon of purpose and meaning
Because we are all afraid of the dark
Let there be light

Song: Come Whoever You Are (5 times)

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, come yet again, come

Principles of Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Story for All Ages: Skare’s Woods, by Robert Helfer

Offering and Response (Unison)

For the gifts which we have received — and the gifts which we, ourselves, are — may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.

Reading: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Lesson: Walking In the Woods
Robert Helfer

Around the time I started college, one of those weird little pop-psychology personality tests became popular. You may know the kind, a little game in which someone, usually someone no older than yourself with no greater understanding of the human psyche than you have at the age of 19, asks you a question, then analyzes your personality based on your answer. An acquaintance, a fellow first year student in my dormitory, asked me to close my eyes and imagine myself on a road, which I was then to describe to him. After listening to my description he would reveal my personality to me.

I think I was supposed to think of some abstract, non-existent road, and that’s probably what I expected to see. But perhaps I was too young and inexperienced to invent an abstract, non-existent road; when I closed my eyes I found myself walking along what looked like a tractor or wagon path, slightly rutted wheel tracks in the dust and dry grass, passing through a copse of tallish trees — a link between two fields on a farm. I don’t think I realized at first where this road was, but I do remember that it felt like home.

Well, it was home, or close to home, a wagon road on Norm Skare’s farm, and so it seems that amid the pressures, anxieties, and uncertainties of my first year of college I had retreated to Skare’s Woods, in my mind at least.

There really isn’t much more to this lesson. It seems to me that the times we in are no longer “normal”, that much of the world that we thought we could take for granted seems to be slipping out from under our feet. That we expect disaster to come, but we don’t know when. We are anxious. And yet we must go on. And to go on we need to keep our sanity. We need to keep our balance. We need to keep our feet on the ground.

For me, that means, at least sometimes, walking in the woods.

Being in the woods allows me to be surrounded by sounds other than city noises. It allows me once again to be in Skare’s Woods.

Song: Let It Be a Dance, led by Ric Masten

Chorus: Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times
And the bad times, too,
Let it be a dance.

Let a dancing song be heard.
Play the music say the words,
And fill the sky with sailing birds.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance

Learn to follow, learn to lead,
Feel the rhythm, fill the need.
To reap the harvest, plant the seed.
And let it be a dance….Chorus.

Everybody turn and spin,
Let your body learn to bend,
And, like a willow with the wind,
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance

A child is born, the old must die,
A time for joy, a time to cry.
So take it as it passes by.
And let it be a dance….Chorus.

Morning star comes out at night,
Without the dark there is no light.
If nothing’s wrong, then nothing’s right.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance.

Let the sun shine, let it rain,
Share the laughter, bare the pain,
And round and round we go again.
Let it be a dance.

Joys and Sorrows
(Please save announcements and comments until the end of the service)

If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it;
or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.
For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts.
These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.

Music: Lean On Me – Bill Withers

Reading: The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Silent Meditation
Let us join our hearts and minds in silent meditation

Song: Go Now In Peace (3 times)

Go now in peace, go now in peace
May our love and care surround you
Everywhere, everywhere, you may go

Closing: Extinguishing the chalice, By Martha L Munson

We extinguish the chalice here that it might glow gently in our hearts.
May it light your path as you leave this place.
May it guide your way until we are together again.

The chalice has been extinguished.
Go now in peace.

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