Sunday, September 22, 2019: Drifting as a Spiritual Practice

Welcome before prelude

Good morning and welcome to West Fork Unitarian Universalists. I’m Lisa deGruyter and I feel blessed to serve this congregation as a lay leader. I’m glad to see all of you here today.

Thank you for joining us.

Let us use the prelude for centering. We are about to enter sacred time. We are about to make this time and this place sacred by our presence and intention.

Please silence your phones… and as you do so, I invite us also to turn down the volume on our fears; to remove our masks; and to loosen the armor around our hearts.


Let go of the expectations placed on you by others—and those they taught you to place on yourself.

Drop the guilt and the shame, not to shirk accountability, but in honest expectation of the possibility of forgiveness.

Let go of the thing you said the other day. Let go of the thing you dread next week. Be here, in this moment. Breathe, here.

Prelude – Let Your Love Flow – Joan Baez

Chalice Lighting

There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man.
How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

(Leo Tolstoy “Three Methods Of Reform” in Pamphlets, trans. by Aylmer Maude).

We gather today in hopes of changing ourselves for the better.

Hymn in Honour of Our Ancestors
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valour; those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; those who spoke in prophetic oracles; those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing; rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes — all these were honoured in their generations, and were the pride of their times. Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise.

But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; their offspring will continue for ever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.

Introduction to Drifting

The idea for this week’s service comes from Andrew Brown, the minister of the Unitarian Church of Cambridge, England. A service he did last summer was on drifting. His sermon, or address, as he calls it, was a memento of what he had found on a drift. But this morning I thought, instead of a sermon, we would try the spiritual practice of drifting ourselves. We did this last July, but only a few of us were here, and I thought it was worth repeating.

It is appropriate that we ended up doing this service again now, rather than in August when it was originally scheduled. This month’s theme is Expectations, and, as you know, Robert and I just got back from our trip to the Netherlands. We like to make our travels pilgrimages, and I think an important part of a pilgrimage, like a drift, is not having too many expectations. We have some goals, in this case visits to places some of my ancestors lived, but we try not to know to much about where we are going, so that what we see is unexpected, and we pay more attention to what we see and experience rather than looking for what we expect.

I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about what we are doing, and then we will go out and drift for about half an hour.

Phil Smith, author of Mythogeography, describes drifting as a form of embodied contemplation for the ambulatory soul. This is Smith’s starter kit.

Starter Kit

Five steps to a drift or dérive

1. Knowing why.
It’s not a stroll in the park, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. ‘Drifts’ are for opening up the world, clearing eyes and peeling away the layers of spectacle, deception and that strange “hiddeness in plain sight” that coats the everyday. The disruptions that set a ‘drift’ or ‘dérive’ apart from other kinds of walk are there to shake up things (and you) so that rather than wandering ankle deep through the sediment of discarded images and illusions, you can explore the whole whirling snowglobe.

2. Knowing where.
You can ‘drift’ anywhere. But to begin with, start somewhere you know well, next to somewhere you don’t. Start in the familiar and straightway head off into the unknown. Remember, you don’t have to get anywhere, there isn’t a set destination. It’s all about the journey. Generally, keep out of shops, museums, art galleries. Go to places you wouldn’t normally visit – courtrooms, waste tips, fairgrounds, industrial estates, morgues, stadia car parks, ornamental gardens, bad zoos. Avoid suburbia and countryside on a first ‘drift’. Slip down alleys, chase any intriguing detail, follow instincts not maps.

3. Knowing me, knowing you.
While ‘drifting’ alone is fine, start with a least one other. Above six or seven you’ll probably split into smaller groups. Even if you organised the meeting place and the time and maybe a starting idea, you don’t need to be in charge. Let the group develop its own instincts and make its own discoveries. Drifts do NOT have guides or leaders. Remember, your focus is on the place you’re passing through, let it shift from self and others for a while – that leaves a space for ‘our (dis)placed selves’. ‘Drift’ with friends, with friends of friends. The ‘drifting group’ should be a web of friendship and acquaintance. You do not need to be a history buff or an architectural boffin to make mythogeography. In fact, experts may have to be tamed (distracted, really) and prevented from turning drifts into guided tours. Any group of people will have different skills, stories and sensitivities that can be shared in teasing out the mythogeography of the journey.

4. Knowing how.
You need to free yourselves from your usual walking habits. Maybe start at a time that is odd for you – 4.30am, 9.15pm, noon… Make sure you have at least half a day – the drift is not a stroll. Find a way to get you off your beaten tracks. Jump on any bus at random and get off at the 7th stop. Order a cab, close your eyes and ask the driver to drop you “somewhere anonymous”. Start with some kind of theme – look for traces of rebellion or snuffed-out difference, for wormholes, for powerful symbols, for voids, for where things are interwoven. If the drift diverts you onto another theme, that’s fine. The drift may begin to tell a story and you can look out for things that will develop the narrative. You might set out to collect things or take things to leave as memorials or surprises or plan to seek particular types of place: the tops and bottoms of buildings, rooms without windows.

5. Knowing what.
Sensible shoes, maybe – needs vary. Maybe, something to leave behind. Small torch. Some chalk. Notebook and pen. Camera. Water. Food to pass round. Something a little luxurious or unusual – a treat. Not maps usually. You’ll notice what you miss the first time, so take it on the second.

Après dérive: make some memento of your drift to share with your fellow drifters or show to others. They may become your next companions.


(in downtown Clarksburg for about half an hour)

Invitation to Offering

We will now receive an offering for the support of this religious community and its work in the world. You are invited to give generously and joyfully as you are willing and able.

Response to the offering (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.

Hymn: Here on the Paths of Everyday

Here on the paths of everyday, here on the common human way,
Is all the stuff the gods would take to build a heaven, to mould and make
New Edens: Ours the gift sublime to build eternity in time.

We need no other stone to build our temple of the unfulfilled,
No other ivory for the doors, no other marble for the floors,
No other cedar for the beam and dome of our immortal dream.

Joys and Sorrows

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.

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


May we go forth from this place thankful for the life that sustains and renews us, and open to the grace that surrounds and surprises us.

May we go forth from this place with openness and with thanksgiving.

The chalice flame is extinguished until once again ignited by the strength of our communion.

Go now in peace.

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