The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice

The quotation at the top of this page comes from Martin Luther King. It is in fact itself a distillation of a quotation from Theodore Parker, the nineteenth-century Unitarian theologian and abolitionist:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

It is interesting to compare the two sayings; one a very powerful soundbite, the other, the older one – the first to make the case for this imagery – far less snappy but explaining the idea in a very clear way.

I use this saying in this week’s online service which looks back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The impetus for this momentous event came from the churches, most notably in Leipzig where St Nicholas Church became the centre of resistance to a corrupt state in a society poisoned by secret police and corrupted by layers of informers and spies.

St Nicholas Church, Leipzig (Wikimedia Commons)

The minister of the main church in Leipzig, the Rev Christian Führer, led the people in mass prayer vigils which helped to bring the system to an end. His position was similar to that of László Tőkés in Romania, who I was privileged to meet a couple of years ago in Transylvania, and who distilled his experience in his book With God, for the People. But both men showed the necessity of observing the phrase in our reading today ‘choose this day whom you will serve’.

You can see the service in this week’s video:

Available from 9.45 am on Sunday, 15th November

This week’s service is filmed in Dunmurry. The reading is from Joshua ch.24 v.14-18 and is given for us by Emma McCrudden. Church organist Allen Yarr plays the hymns When I survey the Wondrous Cross and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Time for a Story: War Horse

With Armistice Day in mind this week’s Time for a Story, given by Sue Steers, tells the story of the work of horses in the First World War, an aspect of the story of that conflict which was long overlooked until the publication of Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse. The video can be seen here:

Worship Sunday, 17th May: Dunmurry

Dunmurry window

This week our service is recorded at the First Presbyterian NS Church, Dunmurry and Allen Yarr, the church organist, has very kindly provided music on piano for two hymns plus some additional music for the opening and closing of the service. The hymns are:

‘The Church Hymnary’ No. 704 ‘Yield not to temptation’

‘The Church Hymnary’ No.532 ‘Stand up! Stand up for Jesus’

The reading is from John ch. 2 v.13-2 and the address contains some reflection of Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going.

It pleases me to stand in silence here;

 

A serious house on serious earth it is,

In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,

Are recognized, and robed as destinies.

And that much never can be obsolete

In the end though our spiritual relationship with the divine is about something more than any building.

 

Over this last week we also uploaded another video, one which tells the little-known story of Henry Croft. His life-size, but diminutive, statue is hidden underneath Trafalgar Square in London. As such it is the complete antithesis of the giant statue of Lord Nelson that sits high in the sky, almost touching the clouds. You can hear all about the life of Henry Croft on this Time for a Story video above.

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View looking across Trafalgar Square from Charing Cross, towards the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column, St Martin’s Church on the far right, in the foreground to the left is the equestrian statue of Charles I, the surrounding streets busy with pedestrians, riders, coaches and carriages. 1852 Colour lithograph. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Online Worship: Easter Day

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Our service for Easter Sunday comes from First Dunmurry NS Presbyterian Church, Dunmurry.

Easter service, Sunday, 12th April 2020.

Service conducted by the minister in charge: Rev Dr David Steers

Piano: Allen Yarr

Guitar and solo: David Gibbs

Reading: John ch.20 v.11-18

 

The hymns played are:

Church Hymnary No. 119

‘Jesus Christ is risen today’ (first three verses)

Church Hymnary No. 123

‘The day of resurrection’

With special music provided by David Gibbs of Portrush. David sings Moliannwn (Let’s Rejoice) a Welsh folk hymn written by a Welsh slate quarryman called Benjamin Thomas who lived from 1838 to 1920. This is a great song for this time of year. Benjamin Thomas emigrated from Wales to North America and with his roots in Wales but living in America it beautifully brings together his experiences of the Spring on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Stories in Slate blog says:

“Born on April 9, 1838, Benjamin Thomas was a native of the famous slate quarrying town of Bethesda in North Wales, but he spent a good half a century on the North American Continent ending his days in the Slate Valley. He was a man who involved himself in things Welsh, most notably in poetry – he penned several verses which can be found in countless old periodicals of the age. Most are musings upon the vicissitudes of life, but there is no doubt that his most enduring piece is ‘Moliannwn’, the vigorous song of praise at the arrival of spring.”

You can read the full fascinating account of this song here:

Moliannwn (Let’s Rejoice)

Thank you David for singing it for us.

Image at the top of this page: The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco, Illumination on vellum, 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Source: Wikimedia. Public Domain.