Saturday, July 28, 2007

Off to Taize for the week

Ta ra.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From growth to mission

I'm delighted that the Annual Meetings will focus on growth. I was somewhat disappointed that there was not more talk about it at this year's Annual Meetings. If nothing happened in 08 I would have been asking some loud questions. I don't want the 06 resolution to get forgotten.

But it hasn't been. We will focus on growth. Good. However the conversation must be effective. It shouldn't be just how each of us thinks growth might come about, in our opinions, that won't get us anywhere. Nor should it all be about PR. A national advertising campaign would be a huge waste of money right now. And it's starting in the wrong place.

Conversations about growth need to draw on the best hard research and theological reflection in religious communities that are growing. Although the explicit concentration on numerical growth in the 06 resolution was necessary, the only way we can achieve growth is if we have a sense of MISSION and even EVANGELISM. We can't do this without reference to what evangelism is taking place in the churches. We can't do this without understanding the big changes in culture that have taken place, especially for my generation. I need to spend the next year reading up on all of this (and practicing it) to do my bit to contribute to a useful conversation next March.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Annual Meetings will focus on growth

Worth reproducing in full I think, I'll comment further tomorrow.

Unitarians to Focus on Women's Achievement and Growth

Next year's annual conference of the Unitarian movement will have two central features: a focus on growth including membership and on the contribution of women, in the centenary year of the Unitarian Women's League. This was decided at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, held at Luther King House in Manchester in mid-July.

The 2008 General Assembly annual conference (known as our 'Annual Meetings') will be held at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield from Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th March. The Executive decided that a full day should be devoted to exploring what growth means for our movement and how we might achieve our ambitions in this area. Growth in membership is important but only one of the potential dimensions of growth to be the focus of this gathering. Although there will be some talks and presentations during the event, there will be key opportunities during the day for participants to contribute their own views in discussion groups.

The Executive said it hoped many Unitarians would be attracted to the special 'Growth Day' even if they were unable to attend the full Annual Meetings. The Executive Committee stressed that while the leadership could provide resources for growth, the vital impetus must come from ordinary members.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Unitarian Women's League, the Executive decided that the Opening Ceremony at the Annual Meetings would be conducted by Unitarian women.

In addition, the Women's League will host a special reception for all conference delegates and observers, and it is planning further events during the Annual Meetings. The aim of all these will be to highlight the achievements of women, past and present, and their contributions to our Unitarian cause.

Me and Jesus: Episode 5

I deliberately didn't read any Christian books while I was on retreat, though I did have one book of Jesus' words for emergencies.

I wanted to try to be with the divine through a window other than Jesus. Inevitably my mind came back to Jesus occasionally.

But I did have one insight. I was thinking about what it might mean to be a 'progressive' Christian. I suppose I've been getting caught up in the idea of being a 'follower' of a man limited to one period of history. What could that possibly mean?

But I've changed the image. What if, instead of me being a follower of Jesus, I imagine Jesus having pointed in a direction and walked some way in that direction. I have seen the way he walked and am walking in the same direction. What if being a Christian isn't walking behind Jesus, but keeping my eyes on the same point Jesus did, and walking in the same direction as Jesus. Being a Christian is caring about the same things Jesus did. It's not about mechanically imitating Jesus but moving, progressing, in the same direction as Jesus.

When I look at it this way I can see myself as being on the Way of Jesus while accepting Jesus as limited, and perhaps on some issues, plain wrong. But I can decide that the overall direction, the overall orientation of Jesus is worth following, which may not be the same thing as walking the same path.

Sufi Retreat

So... a few unsytematic reflections on my first Sufi retreat.

I love the fact that in one tradition there is a place for silence, for liturgical prayer and for dancing and singing with a guitar. Usually I have to go to different communities to get all those.

I didn't like how programmed the retreat was. I would have liked more spare time to get more reading done and reflection.

For the first time in my life I was worshipping in a non-Christian, non-Unitarian community. I needed to do that. If only for some perspective.

I think my spirituality might be more visual than auditory. I'm not sure chanting words over and over again suits me.

There were some lovely people there, though not a great deal of diversity.

It was absolutely beautiful all week, I was sunbathing while other parts of the country drowned.

I starved myself of Jesus, intentionally, more about that later.

There was lots I was critical of, I don't know why that should suprise me. It's the same in any mainline Christian service. I'm a critical rationalist trying to be a mystic. They're not mutually exclusive. But I want concepts explained to me.

There were times when I winced when it all seemed a bit New Age in the worst sense of that kind of thing.

Where is social justice in this sort of thing? If I did reach the heights of mystical achievement what difference would that make to the world?

I am a Unitarian. It sort of suprises me when I come back to that conclusion. I give myself every opportunity to come to a different conclusion, but it never happens. It is good to test the path.

Speaker wish list

Going through my emails after getting back from Cornwall I got one asking for suggested speakers for next year's Annual Meetings. I think they want someone pretty high profile. Here's my wishlist:

Karen Armstrong
John Shelby Spong
Richard Holloway
Marcus Borg
Robert Beckford
Jim Wallace

What's yours?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finally home

I left the west coast of Cornwall at 10.30am on Saturday morning. I didn't get home until 5pm today (Monday). The flooding meant I could not get north of Bristol. Luckily I had hospitable friends in Wiltshire that put me up for two nights. Tired now. Blogging later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Go West (Life is Peaceful There)

I'm about to head off to the westernest, westernest tip of this great island for a retreat on the coast of Cornwall. It's a long way down. But it'll be good to go back to Cornwall, where my grandfather came from, I haven't been there for over 10 years. See you later.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Change of policy?

With a new Prime Minister in place are we seeing a significant change in the direction of the government? A change for the better?

A couple of really positive things: It looks like the government proposal to build a super casino in East Manchester have been shelved. This seems like a good idea as I'm should it would have created problem gambling in a deprived area.

More importantly than that are the rumours that DESO, the government funded department that works for arms companies, might be closed down. There have been campaigns for this to happen for a long time, so it'll be a great victory if this happens.

Is this a sign of a more moral government? Let's hope so. Let's hope it translates to foreign policy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Screeching into the twenty-first century: GA Anniversary Sermon Online

I've had this link for a while but it didn't work the first time I did it. But it is there now.

Click here to watch the Anniversary Sermon from GA 2007 by my friend and colleague Brenda Catheral.

Again, it must be noted that there is no link to this video from the official Unitarian website.