Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daniel


I don't write too much about my personal life on this blog. I don't really want to include all the ins and outs of my own personal life and the lives of friends and family in a completely public medium. Nevertheless major things in my life I don't mind sharing.

So I thought I'd share the belated news that I've become an uncle this year. Not without difficulties, and very premature, my nephew Daniel was born into the world in August. He's doing very well now, and today I bought a big Christmas present for him.

Isn't he lovely?

Monday, December 17, 2007

What's the difference between a Pentecostalist and a Unitarian?

No, it's not a joke, but a theological reflection.

This just sparked off from reading a Unitarian prayer calling on 'the Spirit of Life to be with us.' It's the kind of phrase I would often say in a prayer too.

But how much do we mean this? It seems to me that one of the characteristics of the Spirit, as expressed in the Christian tradition, is that it 'blows where it will.' The Spirit has a wild, dangerous side. It can push us in uncomfortable directions, transform us, knock us down.

So what is the difference between what a Pentecostalist means by the Spirit, and what a Unitarian means?

It seems to me that we Unitarians are in daner of domesticating the spirit. Our soft humanism/minimalist theism tends to see the Spirit as something safe and comfortable. No doubt it can be, but how would we feel if the Spirit started pushing us out of our comfort zones?

Perhaps a relevant theological distinction is not whether one says 'God/Spirit' or not, but rather whether one believes that the Spirit/God is controllable or not. Is the Spirit just a projection, an idea, a metaphor for our inner selves? Well to a great extent I do believe the Spirit is those things. But is the Spirit then incapable of of being anything but a mirror of my own surface-level thoughts and feelings? No, I don't believe that. I believe the Spirit transforms. I believe the Spirit of Life, if we are truly open to her, can no more be controlled than the wind.

So I think the Pentecostalist tradition, at its best, has a greater grasp on the truly wild nature of the Spirit, and we need to learn that.

(By the way, I am aware that Pentecostal worship can be just as predictable as any other way of worshippping, in its own way, and that much talk of the spirit can be a disguise for power games and spiritual abuse, but as I say - at its best)

(By the way, if any one does know a joke about the difference between a Pentecostalist and a Unitarian, do let me know)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's amazing what you find in second hand books


So I just bought a second hand book from the college library, Jesus the Jew by Geza Vermes. And what do I find inside the covers of the book? Bits of paper from 1977. One was a letter that wasn't that interesting, and the other was an order form for gay porn magazines with 'new year' 1977 offers listed ('A Taste of Beefcake' anyone?). Slightly bizzare, but somehow it doesn't suprise me. Perhaps this has come from the theological library of a Anglo-catholic queen somewhere.

(I wonder if my blog will get more hits now I've put the words 'gay porn' in it?)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Teddy bears


After the Sudan teddy bear storm last week, it's possible another controversy might erupt in the Unitarian world. A long term student at Unitarian College Manchester is a teddy bear called Theophilus, named after one of the founders of British Unitarianism, Theophilus Lindsey. I hope this doesn't upset reactionary Unitarians. Look out for the protests.

The smaller bear is called Barth and sings 'Jesus loves me, this I know, cos the Bible tells me so.'

Friday, December 07, 2007

Blasphemy update

So it looks like the Blasphemy Law is dead in the water as a private prosecution against the BBC has failed in the High Court. Here's the links from Ekklesia.

'Blasphemy law must go' says Christian thinktank

Lord Carey backs call for an end to the blasphemy law

Christians and Humanists welcome High Court’s decision on blasphemy

Rethinking hate speech, blasphemy and free expression

Hark! What are those angels singing?

I find myself a bit confused with the editorial decisions of those who created Hymns for Living when it comes to carols. Number 90, Hark the Herald Angels misses out 'offspring of a virgin's womb' 'born that man no more may die' but keeps in 'Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail the incarnate Deity'. That seems rather trinitarian to me; I can't sing that. I think I'm going to just take the traditional version and use verses 1 and 3.

Later: On closer inspection I've worked out the decision is related to two lines. The editors decided that 'Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/ Hail the incarnate Deity' was preferable to 'Mild he lays his glory by/ Born that we no more may die'. I disagree. I'm including the latter line.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How can a carol service be missional?


I'm putting together a carol service for my church. I'd love this to be an outreach to the local community. That's what the congregation wants. But I'm mulling over how to make this a missional event.

When we expect people to come to a carol service are we working from Christendom assumptions - assuming everyone is basically Christian and so will want (and be able) to sing carols? Are we relying on the Christian cultural remnants hanging around society? Is it a bad thing if we are? How much longer are those remnants going to hang around? Or are we moving into a society where people are as likely to go to church at Christmas as go to a Mosque at Eid?

Is this a time for Unitarians to paint themselves as Christians to draw upon the Christian themes in culture? Or should a Unitarian carol service look distinctively different from the carol service that you would get in the Anglican service down the road?

How can a carol service be missional?