Our Services - What to Expect
Our services are as diverse as we are.
Our services may include any of the following elements:
inspirational words from a variety of sources (including self-penned poetry and prose);
readings from a variety of faith traditions; prayer (in a multitude of expressions);
sharings and words from the heart; time for dialogue;
time for silence;
various expressions of meditation; music – hymns, pop songs, classical pieces, jazz, Scottish pipes, recorded pieces and pieces played 'live'....
and then some...
Usually, our services are themed, and there is different theme each week.
The range of themes/ subjects explored at our gatherings is diverse – check out our programme of upcoming services.
Usually we open by lighting a candle.
Below is an example order of service, with annotations, to give you a flavour of how we spend time together.
(a piano piece played by our pianist as folk arrive).
'Welcome to St. Mark's, home to Unitarians in Edinburgh and surrounds, and to all those on a journey of spiritual exploration.
My name is Peter and I'm the minister of St. Mark's.
To begin, let us extend a gentle welcome to each other.
This might be by saying hello, through gentle handshake, a smile or a wave, or by simply sending out loving thoughts from where we are. Whatever feels comfortable. Please support each other in making connection. Thank you.'
This may be a piece of poetry or prose, perhaps expressed as prayer, perhaps not, that connects with the service theme.
Lighting of our Unitarian Chalice or Peace Candle
The candle is lit by a member of the congregation for whatever they choose to light it for, for example:
people in the news for whom the candle lighter has a special concern
people of other faith traditions who are celebrating a major festival
concerns and causes in which the lighter has a special interest
AN OPENING INTO THE THEME OF TODAY'S SERVICE.
OFFERING / OFFERTORY
‘It is a blessing to be able to govern and support our religious community ourselves to make possible everything we dream of and do, and to live out our shared values.’
Time for All Ages
Children are invited to the front and encouraged to engage with a short story/ sharing. Afterwards they leave the sanctuary with facilitators to follow their own programme in the lower hall.
Example story: ‘The Story of The Cracked Water Jar’
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said. The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house." Now, aren't you glad you are a "cracked pot" too!
Children leave for their own activities in the hall.
Usually the following is noted:
the month's 'good cause' for retiring collection;
intimations of events and community-related activities during the coming week;
other notices which people may wish to share;
notice of next week's service;
dedication of flowers and their gifting;
and thanking the holding team.
READINGS OR OTHER SHARINGS MADE BY THE CONGREGATION AND/ OR TIME FOR DIALOGUE, GUIDED MEDITATION, OTHER EXPRESSIONS OF WORSHIP– USUALLY, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY RELATED TO THE SERVICE THEME.
SERMON/ THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
This may be piano or other music.