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Showing posts from 2005


I just found these great pictures on Small Fire from a worship at Greenbelt . Very cool, I like it a lot. I really want to go to Greenbelt next year. I'm trying to get a BUYAN trip to Greenbelt. I think a lot of Unitarian young adults would get a lot out of it, if some of them could get past their hostility to Christianity. I don't think there's many better places for finding dynamic diverse Christian faith. This I think is a good example of combining radical social justice with radical worship, something that rarely happens very well. Sigh. I'm not going to be able to get away with anything like this any time soon. I'm leading the service this Sunday, but I think the regular congregation will think that the fact that I'm including a candle lighting ceremony too radical for them! How much I'd love to get a naked young man and write 'faggot' all over him in worship. One step at a time, dear, one step at a time.

God is a DJ

Our tradition has articulated and emphasized the notion, not only of the priesthood of all believers, but also of the prophethood of all believers. This means especially the capacity and the right to participate in the shaping of the congregation. This prophethood belongs not merely to the clergy: It belongs to the congregation and to the individuals in the congregation. But authentic prophecy does not appear very often within the churches; therefore it had to appear in nonreligious, or even antichurch communities. James Luther Adams Adams' insight that prophetic witness often comes from places seemingly hostile to the church is illustrated by a band who's name is Faithless yet has lyrics that are deeply prophetic and deeply theological. I just got their greatest hits album for Christmas and I thought I would share some lyrics. Mass Destruction - Faithless Whether long range weapon or suicide bomber Wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction Whether you're soarawa

The church needs to change, now, or it will die

This was a letter written to the Inquirer a few weeks ago (edited): A message to the denomination from Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church: Stockton Unitarians believe that all Unitarians understand the denomination to be in numerical decline... We at Stockton believe that everyone wants to experience numerical growth and feel sure that it is necessary to seek a GA Resolution that will encourage every Unitarian to begin to address the need. This is our proposal: 'That this General Assembly etc... acknowledges that, in order to survive, there is an absolute need for numerical growth. It urges every individual and every organisation to prioritise Numerical Growth. It requests them to declare it. It requests the GA Executive Committee to set up an organisation and process that will bring together those who seek to promote numerical growth, where ideas, proven or not, can be exchanged, discussed, and acted upon... We look forward to receiving and reading comments. Observations may

Are civil partnerships equal to marriage?

As same sex civil partnerships come into force in the UK I keep coming back to the question - is this equality? Living in Massachusetts for two years and seeing marriage equality coming into force there, I'm decidedly uncomfortable with the compromise of civil partnerships. I seem to be the only one in this country who is not happy that civil partnerships are not exactly the same thing as marriage. But perhaps I am wrong, maybe this is equality, just with a different name (that seems to be what the news coverage is saying). Am I being silly and ungrateful for not being happy with civil partnerships? Maybe they are giving exactly the same rights as marriage so its being pedantic to complain this isn't marriage. I think what bothers me is phrases like 'gay marriage' and 'gay weddings' with their inverted commas. There's something about putting the phrases in inverted commas that says - these aren't real marriages or weddings, but silly, fake 'gay

This poem is illegal in the UK

Essex Hall are having a Celebration of Blasphemy next week in defiance of Britain's blasphemy law. I'm preaching the next Sunday at church so have decided to preach on blasphemy. I'm researching now and thought I would share the poem that was prosecuted the last time the law was used. This is to affirm my belief in religious and civil liberty. The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name By James Kirkup As they took him from the cross I, the centurion, took him in my arms- the tough lean body of a man no longer young, beardless, breathless, but well hung. He was still warm. While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him. For the last time I kissed his mouth. My tongue found his, bitter with death. I licked his wound- the blood was harsh For the last time I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, stil

Remembrance: 1945 Sermon

I found this little sermon turned into a leaflet in my minister's office. He said I could have it. It's from the week the war ended. Sermon preached at the Church of the Messiah, Birmingham, May 9th 1945, by Gordon Stuart The war in Europe is over. After five-and-a-half years of labour and danger and sorrow we have attained the end we set before ourselves. But we cannot greet this attainment with any simple feelings. Our feelings are mixed, and they must differ according to the part we have played, and the degree of our suffering and loss. But we must all feel a deep and humble thankfulness that the killing and maiming of men by men is over, whether it has been done by us or to us. We are thankful too that the way of life which we cherish in this country has been preserved to us - that government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the earth, as it seemed at one moment so like to do. We are thankful that it has been preserved to us here,

Cutting through the bullshit: the reality of engaging with other cultures

There is nothing like sitting listening to a Rastafarian to help you cut through the bullshit. Last night I meditated at church with my minister and a Rastafarian guy who’s been coming to these meditations a lot. After the meditation this guy got pretty fired up talking about Rastafarianism, race, nature, God, Christ and all kinds of stuff. A good proportion of it I didn’t understand because of his strong dialect. But in general it made me realise a lot of things. I realised I was encountering something radically “other.” This guy was from a culture so radically different from my own that it was really hard work for me to understand him. I realised that I had never before encountered a person so culturally different in a Unitarian setting. I realised that frankly U*Uism is not multicultural at all, despite all the talk. For two years in America I was not once challenged to work hard to understand a different culture in U*Uism. Even though I was in a different country, it never felt th

Poppies: Red and/or White?

I bought a red poppy yesterday, though I feel ambiguous about it. Partly I feel there's a big pressure to conform and wear a poppy in British society. It seems like politicians and newsreaders are required to wear them for two weeks, like people are scared to be seen not wearing one. I suppose I have no problem with supporting war veterans that need support, though there must be fewer and fewer left from World War II now. My granddad, who was a prisoner of war in North Africa, is still going at 85. But then again, does that mean conscientious objectors, or those who didn't fight deserve less support? Shouldn't we support all people that need it, shouldn't we support elderly charities or disabled charities, regardless of whether those people are war veterans or not? Plus I'm never sure if I'm being overly nationalistic and glorifying war by wearing a poppy. I'm pretty close to being a pacifist, though perhaps not one entirely. I can imagine that war is som


On Friday I went to Harris Manchester College Oxford to speak to the tutor there about Unitarian training. It was cool. Oxford would be a good place to study in many ways. Lots of good books and a chance to rub shoulders with intellectual folks. But I kind of feel like I've already done that a bit living in Boston and having access to lots of intellectual stuff. I have a degree in theology, what I really want to do now is learn how to be a minister by doing ministry. And there's more chance of that at Manchester. The thing is I'm good at theology, so in some ways it would be easier and safer to be at Oxford, it would be more challenging for me to be in Manchester where I would be in a church the whole time, and applying everything I learn directly to ministry all the time. It would be more difficult, but that's what I need, to be stretched. Plus, something in my (sort of) working-class-ness reacts against Oxford. It's Oxford, you know? A bit posh. Seems too remove

Spirituality in a Unitarian church.... there's something new

About two and a half years ago I began only attending Unitarian worship. Before that I was also going to Anglican and Quaker worship as well. But at that time I decided to stick with Unitarianism. There were a variety of reasons for this. One was graduating from university and moving away from the campus-based Anglican and Quaker communities I was a part of. Another reason was the homophobia of the Church of England revealed by the Jeffrey John affair that finally made my separation with the C of E into a divorce. Another reason was the realisation that at one point in life it is important to make a proper committment religiously, with all that that implies. So since then I have been a Unitarian, and only a Unitarian (not that that precludes a lot of theological development). In some ways this has been a great period of my life, most of it spent in the United States. I enjoyed my studies more than any other time of my life. Personally, intellectually, and in a lot of ways it's be

Bisexuals Do Exist! We need proof for Dr. Ruth meeting.

From the Bi Resource Center in Boston . PLEASE POST ! PLEASE DISTRIBUTE! We are preparing for a meeting with Dr. Ruth the famous sex “expert.” Her recent statement in her syndicated column that “Everyone is either straight or gay…there really is no such thing as being bisexual” needs to be refuted. We need your help. We want to bring a large stack of letters from bisexual people to the meeting. We need you to write a brief letter. It will only take 1-2 minutes! (We especially need letters from people who have been bisexual for 2 years or longer to counter her just-a-phase theory.) The letter should say: 1) How long you have been bisexual. 2) If you can identify bisexual feelings you had in childhood, (or anytime before you chose a bi identity) but couldnt put a name to at the time: describe those feelings and say at what age they started. 3) Sign and date the letter. If you don’t feel comfortable signing your whole name feel free to sign your first name only. 4) Feel free to add mor

10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning. 02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall. 03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract. 04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal. 05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed. 06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children. 07)


Hopefully one of the signs of emergence in our faith is a commitment to minister to young adults. Becoming relevant to our society is more than young adult ministry, but young adult ministry has to be a big part of it. So we've now launched BUYAN - the British Unitarian Young Adult Network. Here's an article I wrote that should be in the Inquirer very soon. The journey of nine British Unitarian young adults to the Opus conference in Iowa this summer was only the beginning of the process of forming a viable young adult presence in British Unitarianism. Those of us who went on the trip have returned with a lot of ideas, and a renewed sense of confidence in our faith and our ability to work for young people in Unitarianism. During the conference, and subsequent meetings, we have launched BUYAN – the British Unitarian Young Adult Network. It is hoped that BUYAN will act as an overseeing body for national young adult (aged 18 – 35) activities. The exact institutional organisatio

Meanwhile, in real life

I have an interview for a job tomorrow. Gulp. My first interview. At least I know my applications haven't been terrible if one place invites me to interview. It's a Teaching Assistant job - maternity cover - which is good because I only want it for this year. Hopefully next year I'll be training for ministry. I've put in my application form and I've visited Unitarian College Manchester where I think I'll train. Fingers crossed all around. I'm now in Birmingham, living with another Unitarian young adult, which is very cool. I'm back at Unitarian New Meeting , which is cool cos they now have a young minister. I'm going to preach there soon. Hey ho.

Political involvement

James Luther Adams said that every Unitarian should be involved in controversial social justice work. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. In America I was impressed by the commitment a lot of people had to working on campaigns. I was also frustrated that in many ways I could not get more involved, because I was not a citizen, a tax-payer or a voter, but only a visitor. So now I'm back in my own country I'm looking for groups to put my time, energy and money into. This has been a bit of a depressing process. I find British society a lot more apathetic politically. Of course there are not so many right-wing nutters in power here, but still there is work to do. I think I should join a political party. I voted Labour in 2001. This year I didn't get to vote because I was out of the country (I did try but never got a postal vote). I think I would really like to vote Green but I think I have to be more compromising and responsible and not vote for a small party. I th


The Unitarian faith is, of course, in a period of transition. It's almost a cliché to say so. The most visible change is the change in the way we govern ourselves nationally. The old big Council is going and it's going to replaced by a slim line Executive. This Executive is going to be elected directly by every member of every congregation (at least in theory if everything works out with paperwork). This is quite remarkable. It makes us in the Britain much more democratic than the American UUA which as far as I understand it elects the President at a General Assembly. Not that for us, but a direct postal election for every registered member of a congregation. Hopefully people who are Associate Members of the General Assembly will also be able to vote, but that has yet to be decided. I'm an Associate Member, but I only just joined my church so I will only be able to vote if Associate Members can. I think the change is to be welcomed, although I wish a more spiritual, and le

The General Assemby Object

There's been some debate in the Inquirer newspaper about the General Assembly Object . The main part of the Object is this: 'To promote a free and inquiring religion through the worship of God and the celebration of life; the service of humanity and respect for all creation; and the upholding of the liberal Christian tradition.' After much wrangling this wording was accepted in 2001. This has been controversial. Mainly people have complained about the 'God' and 'liberal Christian' bit. So we're back to the tiresome Christian - non-Christian debate. Sigh. I'd like to side-step this debate a little and approach this from another angle. First I'd like to say that it is a good thing to have an 'Object' or something similar. I don't find the word 'Object' very inspiring. 'Seven Principles' is a little pit better, but not much. But I think its worth doing the hard work of saying what we are, as Unitarians. I think it i

Elevator speech

As Unitarians, we don't have many religious obligations - but one of them is to work on an elevator speech. Yes it sounds quite American, but "lift speech" doesn't quite sound right. It is an American phrase, presumably from the business world, and I have been made to think about it by reading a sermon by William Sinkford and listening to a sermon by Gini Courter at ConCentric. These are the two most senior people in the American Unitarian Universalist Church right now. An elevator speech is basically a 30 second speech. You get in a lift with someone, the door closes, and they ask you about your Chalice badge/T-shirt/tattoo. You say, 'It's the symbol of my faith, I am a Unitarian.' 'Oh, what's that?' they say. You have 30 seconds until they get out of the lift to explain your strange faith. What do you say? I nearly had this opportunity recently. It was on my flight from Chicago to London. The person sitting next to me asked what I had be

Churches that don't meet every week

So I tried to go to church today. My local church is Newcastle Unitarian Meeting House . The trouble is it does not meet every week, it meets twice a month. The website says that there are services on the second and fourth Sunday of the month. And today is the fourth Sunday, is it not? So I trotted along there for worship at 10.30 this morning. When I got there, the door was locked, there were no cars outside, and when I looked at the notice board I saw that in fact they had met last Sunday, at 6 o' clock in the evening. I had missed church. So I decided to wander across Newcastle-under-Lyme to find the Quaker Meeting House that I hadn't been to before. It was very nice, though pretty low on the ground. So I think I've been in Stoke-on-Trent for about 6 weeks now, and I've only managed to get to church once. I was there one Sunday, then I went to Opus/Concentric in Iowa, then I came back, and now I've missed another service because they switched to the third Sund

"Churchmanship" labels

Strange old word "churchmanship" isn't it? What about "churchwomanship"? It's kind of one of those quaint Anglican things. In Unitarian circles, one is much more likely to ask about someone's "theology." I suppose this is because there is more theological diversity. But I think a humanist or a theist could still have the same "churchpersonship" - with Unitarians its probably low-church-long-sermon-hymn-sandwich churchpersonship. In some ways I'd see my instincts as an emergent churchperson to be much more important than a purely intellectual humanist-theist identity. Anyway, with the prospect of going forward for ordination I expect I might be asked about these things, so I thought I would write a little about them. I like to play with labels. I find labelling can be very empowering. Unitarians are all about reclaiming words nowadays, so here goes. I am: UNITARIAN: human nature is a location of divinity and religious truth CHRIS

The story so far

So, about me and my recent history. I am a young British Unitarian living right now in Stoke-on-Trent. I grew up in the English Midlands, particularly Walsall . My father is an Anglican priest and I grew up in the Church of England. During my time at the University of Birmingham while studying geology and biology I became a Unitarian, though I was still involved in a few Anglican and Quaker things. I began attending New Meeting Church pretty regularly during my last year in Birmingham. After Birmingham I switched tracks in my education and decided to study theology. I attended Boston University School of Theology in the USA where I graduated after two years last June with a Master of Theological Studies degree. While in Boston I worshipped at First Church Boston . Now I'm back in the UK, looking for a job and a place to live and seriously considering becoming a Unitarian minister. I might apply in the next month. I love my faith but I know that it has to change. We need a rev

Back in the UK, permanently, and looking to the future

So I thought it was about time I started a blog. I'm back in the UK, going into a new period of my life, and thought it would be cool to share some thoughts with the world. I think this will save me ranting on email lists. Here I can rant and people can only pay attention if they want to. Hmm, there is a great deal I could talk about today, but I just wanted to get a first entry in to check this was all working. So I'll write something infinitely more interesting in the next entry.