The world around us has changed out of all recognition from even fifty years ago. Our chapel has changed very little physically but its surroundings are a different matter. Our expectations of life and our technological capacities have been utterly transformed. The world of the internet (whose inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, is a Unitarian) makes it possible to send messages round the globe almost instantaneously.
And yet, the words of Ecclesiastes ring true: There is nothing new under the sun. Human nature is the same as ever it was, capable of great good or great evil. The 17th century saw wars and persecution, the 20th century has had more of the same and the 21st century shows no immediate sign of change. Meanwhile, the ordinary life of people goes on from day to day much as it has always done.
Today, we face threats to our future from environmental damage, war, and religious and political intolerance. No political philosophy or religious tradition has a monopoly on truth. Truth belongs to God alone, who is greater than anything we may imagine. The words of the novelist, Morris West ring true in this regard:. “A confession of faith is a confession of not knowing…I am still a questioner because I regard the Christian life as a search and not an arrival". That questioning, searching spirit inspired the people of this chapel who called themselves Presbyterians or Unitarians or Free Christians at various times in their history. They believed passionately in education. They read in order understand, not just the Bible, but the world all around us. Joseph Priestley, scientist and Unitarian minister and discoverer of oxygen, believed that religion and science went together in our efforts to understand the world. The impulse of the Christian ‘social gospel’, with its efforts to help the poorest members of society was carried on by Unitarians such as Elizabeth and William Gaskell, Florence Nightingale and Charles Dickens.
We value the past and look to the future. James Martineau, a Unitarian Minister, said: “ I cannot rest contentedly on the past; I cannot take a step towards the future without its support”.
Brook Street Chapel is a creedless church. We agree to differ while remaining united in friendship, fellowship and faith. Many of us are liberal Trinitarians, a large number are traditional Unitarians, and a few refuse any label. We believe that there are many different ways to God.
As a community of friends, we welcome friends and visitors alike in these words: "In the love of truth and in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we unite for the worship of God and the service of humanity. We invite you to worship with us."
Jean Bradley Minister
Brook Street Chapel
A Poem about the Chapel A Very Special Place
Quiet little chapel on a hill patiently bides her time.
A secret, dignified cosy little teapot with two doors.
The stairs outside quietly outstretched
To welcome Sunday visitors .
She has time to spare for everyone.
A congregation who partakes of schoolroom tea,
Rejoice and reflect and sing of seasons
And listen to reasons in sensible sermons and ministers views,
Observing each-other from opposite pews .
You stand firm, quiet, unassuming,
Hidden from view, unobtrusive, always there, everybody’s mother,
Smoothing sadness, sharing joy,
Waiting, watching, accepting, hoping, thinking of the other.
What have you seen through those leaded latticed
Multi-faceted lozenges of light?
You were born amidst famine and fragile unrest
Secretly hidden in the fields by Darkness Lane
A bid for freedom out of dissent, generous courage, and pain
For three hundred years you have watched over town -
Who comes up the cobbles, who goes down -
To sing “The Hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”
Just how many blackbirds have rehearsed those songs?
Inside whitewashed plain walls NOTHING FANCY,
The low Winter sun casts shadows
And moving beams across the red carpet,
Breathing living green energy in from the garden.
We see organist’s legs ascend the outside stair,
A white cat is moving across the panes, hunting out there
Look closer, there are trapped in the glass, bubbles of air.
Did the glass maker sneeze or stir too fast?
It is a very small signature from the ancient past.
NOTHING FANCY, VERY PLAIN.
You are very welcome,
Please come again.