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Bury Unitarian Church



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general assembly


Sermon by Tom Grimshaw  12-6-16



I have to begin by sharing a shocking confession, and I hope you will not judge me too harshly but the truth is that    “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens

Brown paper packages tied up with strings “

These are actually not even a few of my favourite things  and if  Kirsty Young were ever to ask me then none of them would end up on my desert island, but in the spirit of reason and tolerance I would completely understand if they were to be on your list. In that same spirit I would ask you to bear with me as I share details of some of the places which prove to me the truth of Wordsworth’s lines  “for oft when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood ,they flash upon my inward eye which is the bliss of solitude, and then my heart with pleasure fills.”

You know my heart always fills when we are on the A6  approaching the bridge just outside Buxton and I spy Bill’s chip shop. This is not because of Bill’s undoubted contributions to  high cholesterol  but rather because it brings back the Friday night feeling of a forthcoming Summer weekend in the Peak District when the clock had stopped and the weekday frets and worries simply faded  away. I  think back to a night at the barn in Flagg when in pitch blackness we looked up at a sky blazing with stars  and we were filled with awe and deep wonder.

 I could go on describing  the  gusts of wind at Whitby  or  the Great Orme in the rain, but I realise that even as I speak , your mind is travelling to your  very own special spots. Such times could be deemed as holy days. Eric Glasgow in the Inquirer argued that we are often overwhelmed by the oppressive continuity of it all: day after day passing in seeming unending sameness and monotony. We need interludes of something special.  Shakespeare,, obsessed with rural Warwickshire, recalled in As You Like It the delights of being in a ‘holiday humour’ A necessary escape from habit back into the land of impulse.

 At such times we should endeavour to recover some of the carelessness, the innocence, and the inquisitiveness which is endemic to childhood so we may return to   weekday   life renewed and invigorated in mind, in body and in spirit.

Perhaps thankfulness is an appropriate term , not just for warmth and shelter and food but also  for this spiritual enrichment which can lift us up above the littleness of the  everyday.

Yet if my theme were to end there would it not simply be an exercise in sheer self indulgence?

Our   own  fulfilment  and satisfaction alone , on closer examination would ring very  hollow. Most major religions advise us that a good life is not about celebrating our own good fortune, as our opening sentence by the Prophet  Mohammed reminds us ‘Our true wealth is the good that we do in this world. None of us has faith unless we desire for our neighbours what we desire for ourselves ‘

It is at this point that I want to talk a little about the work of the Send A Child to Hucklow charity. I do realise that I am talking to the converted here  and  would hasten to gratefully acknowledge any help you may  have been able to give in the past  in  what  ever form ,but I do  feel that at times it is sometimes useful to revisit the familiar and to  take a fresh look at what we might think we know so well.

The word Hucklow itself conjures up many many happy memories of sunlit days in the quiet of the Derbyshire countryside and perhaps of good friends remembered and  fine experiences, but I would contend that its special delight is that in 2015 it was used by fourteen groups who otherwise would have had no opportunity at all of time away from difficult circumstances. Hucklow is not simply a  pied a terre of the denomination or a country retreat but above all a place where good is done.

The celebratory service of the charity narrates that In 1961 the Rev Peter Godfrey  supported by the Rev Glyn Pruce  wrote a letter to the Inquirer appealing for donations to pay for a group of disadvantaged children to have a holiday at the Nightingale Centre and they raised 31 which funded a party from Manchester. Since then groups have come from as far away as London and Glasgow,the Isle of Wight and Northern Ireland and metropolitan areas in the North and Midlands.

   Over the past 54  years  some thousands of children have benefited from the holidays. Some have found their asthma eased, some have made new friends, some have shown improvements in manners and behaviour, some  have enjoyed a break from responsibilities at home. All have been introduced to a new lifestyle which will  , hopefully influence their lives for ever. One seventeen year old girl returning to visit her old primary school said, ”That week at Hucklow was the best week of my life”

It is the ministers and people in our congregations, and their friends, who have made all this possible by raising the hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep these holidays going. There have been raffles, carol singing, concerts, harvest auctions, coffee mornings, preaching fees, bequests, donations in lieu of flowers or gifts on people’s special occasions , grants from charitable  organisations. There have been so many imaginative and heartfelt efforts.   I hope it is not complacent to take pride in the substantial funds raised by such a small denomination , which lacks the multi million pound infrastructure of  the mainstream churches. It is a charity with minimal administration fees as it depends on willing volunteers and requires no thanks or championing of Unitarianism in return for favours received.

 Recently ,  Bill Darlison, the President of the General Assembly, published a highly provocative article about Unitarianism .citing possible  criticisms of it  as a bloodless ,drily intellectual religion , in which the triumph of reason leaves  behind  emotion and passion , and yet he went on to concede that Unitarians were some of the very best people he knew.

In celebrating the work of this admirable charity, which relies on your continuing generosity, I would repeat the sentiments of a familiar traditional hymn which goes :

 Scorn not the slightest word or deed

 Nor deem it void of power

There’s fruit in each wind wafted seed

That waits its natal hour

 No act falls fruitless, none can tell

How vast its power may be

Nor what results infolded dwell

Within it silently

   It links to the opening sentence by Sydney Smith,   “ It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”    An interesting thought.  Let’s all look forward to more  holy days in the Summer and   wish SACH even more success.








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0161 761 3785



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Charity Registration No. 1078570
Bury Unitarian Church 2016