Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Newsflash: Steve Dick appointed as CEO

Message sent out on the general GA mailing list:

The GA Executive Committee is pleased to announce that the Reverend Steve Dick has been appointed as Chief Executive. Steve will commence work for the General Assembly on 1 March 2007 for an induction programme. Steve will take on the full responsibilites of Chief Executive from the present General Secretary, Jeff Teagle, at a hand-over ceremony on the last morning of the Annual Meetings in Hatfield on 13 April 2007.

My thoughts:

Steve Dick is London District Minister, an American, a member of the Executive Committee and that's about all I know about him.

Presumably he's going to resign from the EC. The Chief Executive can't also be a member of the EC, surely?

Some people have said to me (not in relation to Steve Dick specifically) that it's a waste of a minister's talents to have this kind of job, which is essentially a senior administrative position.

I'm still not entirely sure about the significance of the change of title from General Secretary to Chief Executive.

Any thoughts?



PS I am breaking this story before it's on the official GA website, which in itself is worthy of note. When is that website going to get more active?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Death of a denomination

I was talking to some United Reform Church ministers this morning. One of them predicted the death of his denomination within a decade. He wasn't mourning either. He thought something good would rise out of the ashes.

The URC is bigger than the Unitarian church. When will be become extinct? I think it's quite possible we could be dead before the centenary of the General Assembly in 2028.

Some things will definitely die. What will be left?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mind Body Spirit Fair


Last week I went to the Mind Body Spirit Northern Festival in the centre of Manchester.

I went largely out of curiousity. Steve Hollinghurst who I heard speak at Greenbelt trains churches to run stalls at Mind Body Spirit fairs. It seems to me a good place for evangelism for Unitarians too. I'd like to see us running stalls at these things. But what would we have on them? Perhaps Emerson and Thoreau's books would be good. But beyond that I'm unsure.

Sanctus1 were there (I still haven't visited them yet). As was the Manchester Centre for Urban Spirituality. I think in general we'd sit well amongst that ecology.

I had a few reflections as I wandered around the fair. Some of it was incredibly commercial, indeed one stall looked like an infomercial as a guy in a suit demonstrated some kind of juicer I think. Some of the stuff like life coaching about relationships and bright lights for dealing with Seasonal Affected Disorder made infinite sense to me. Other things like Aura photography I was more sceptical about. I'm starting to think that things like palm reading is about human connection, and the ability for us to communicate with each other non-verbally. Then there were things that made me more uncomfortable like all the cultural misappropriation around Buddhist and Native American artefacts.

There were more women than men I think. As far as I could work out everyone who was attending was white, though some of the exhibitors weren't. There were all kinds of ages there.

It was a good morning I spent there. I'm confirmed in my conviction that Unitarians should be organising at these things. It's one of the places where people are searching. So we should be there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

(Divine) Authority

What do popular books like the Da Vinci Code and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series reveal about this culture? They are cultural tips of icebergs, pointing to greater realities beneath the surface. They tap into popular feelings about religion. They show what this culture thinks about religion.

One theme in both books is a menancing kind of 'church.' They shows attitudes of deep distrust towards churches and particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Why? There is a deep distrust in our culture to religious authority and hierarchy (and there is no better example of that than Catholicism). We live in a democratic society and yet church can seem stuck in medieval hierarchies. How can church survive in a democratic culture?

But this goes deeper than polity. This goes right to the nature of God. Can the idea of the God King survive in a democratically minded culture? Can divine authority, power, lordship, even parenthood possibly be acceptable in today's western society? Are these ideas necessary doctrines of God, or ones which we should do away with?

Mission is the process of making your faith understandable and desirable to the surrounding culture. We've forgotten how to do this in the west. But it's something that must be done.

Perhaps we need to talk more loudly about a powerless God, a God that does not require worship and the lauding of honours, but is Friend and Guide, helping us empower ourselves.

Perhaps we need to talk more loudly about the fact that the Unitarian Church democratically elects its leaders. Perhaps this is the most amazing thing about the Unitarian Church.

We must keep thinking about these sorts of things.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reading week, haven't done much reading yet

Some basics about my life right now.

I'm living in Manchester. I'm attending Unitarian College Manchester which exists in a partnership with four other colleges in the same building: Luther King House.

I have a placement church in the area, which I'm slowly getting to know.

I should be here for two years, then I'll be qualified. That in itself worries me a bit. Every other denomination seems to require much longer to qualify. Unitarians are supposed to do it in three years if they don't have a degree and two years if they do. Is that enough?

Next week I'm taking a one-week course in the theology and practice of ordained ministry. It's actually a very puzzling subject to me. What is a Unitarian theology of ministry? We don't actually get 'ordained' in the (British) Unitarian church. I'm not really sure what ordained means. Why do we need ministers at all? I know some people who believe we don't. Why do we call ministers 'rev'? What do we expect ministers to wear and why? Like many things I don't think Unitarians have a clear idea about these things and I think we should do.

Just some thoughts on a Tuesday evening.