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Showing posts from 2006

Change of tense, gender

At the start is the Word, and the Word is with God, and the Word is God. She is at the start with God. All things come into being through her, and without her not one thing comes into being. What comes into being in her is life, and the life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it... The true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world. She is in the world, and the world comes into being through her; yet the world does not know her. She comes to what is her own, and her own people do not accept her. But to all who received her, who believe in her name, she gives power to become children of God, who are born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humans, but of God. And the Word becomes flesh and lives among us, and we can see her glory.

Good graffiti

Sitting on the bus today I looked across to a billboard that said something like: "Looking good isn't important It's everything." Which is a horrible message. What I loved was that someone had graffitied it so that it read: "Looking good isn't important Love is everything." Which I must say I thoroughly approved of. I'm trying to work out if this makes me an anarchist or a romantic. Possibly it makes me a Christian.

I'm a Servetian

I've always had some envy of Quakers who have a strong sense of who their founder was - George Fox - and all Quakers know that and still talk about Fox. Unitarians have less of a sense of a founder, and this gives us less of a sense of identity. Recently though I've started to read more about Michael Servetus . And I've started to really warm to the idea that he is our founder, and should be viewed as such. True, he didn't start a community, but then, neither did Jesus. True he wasn't perfect, but then, neither was Jesus. I've recently gained more insights into Servetus that I didn't appreciate before. He was an ethnic minority as a dark-skinned Spanniad in France. He was a healer as he worked as a doctor. He read the Qur'an, and possibly read Arabic, and had a very positive approach to Jews and Muslims. He suffered a death for what he believed in, much like Jesus and Al Hallaj . But mostly I love his mysticism, his sense of God within, that I'm

What is dying?

British Unitarianism came from many different sources. The source of much Unitarianism was the old Presbyterian churches dating back to the Great Ejection in 1662 , over the years these churches became increasinly liberal until they became Unitarian. Although Presbyterianism was the dominant strand, other movements did come into the Unitarian community. Unitarians came from Anglicanism ( Lindsey ), Methodist Unitarianism and the General Baptists. But these remained a minority that were absorbed into the majority. Well what's that all got to do with anything? Well it means that the style (but not the polity) of Unitarianism is dominantly Presbyterian. And what can we say about Presbyterianism in the last few decades in the West? It's in decline. It's in a nose dive. The United Reform Church has halved it's membership since 1972. The Presbyterian Church USA is losing 50,000 members a year . Liberal-moderate Protestantism is dying. I think this is largely about worship.

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 t

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?

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 thing

(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 soci

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'

Happy Bisexuality Day!

OK so I'm two days late, it was September 23 , but I have periodic internet access right now. I went into Manchester to go to BiFest which was a lot of fun. I'll try and post some more about life and stuff as soon as possible. But needless to day I'm in Manchester and everything's going well.

Leaving Birmingham

For 22 of my 24 years on this Earth I lived within 20 miles of Birmingham . For 4 years of my life have been lived in the city. I've never lived in any other British region, though I have lived in another country. Yesterday I left Birmingham. I should be in Manchester now, but there's been complications with the flat so I'm in Stoke until it's sorted out. I may be offline more in the next few weeks and so things may quieten down on here. I'll be back when I get broadband (and myself) into my new place.

Greenbelt

So prompted by Scott I thought I should share my experiences at Greenbelt (I got back on Tuesday and went to see my ministerial mentor yesterday [which went well] so this is the first chance I've had to blog). One other Unitarian was there who I met up with sporadically but I failed to get a big group to come with me, so I went down with a friend and made some friends there as well. Here's some brief notes: Talks: Jim Wallace was good, but nothing really new said. Ibrahim Hewitt , a Muslim convert, was interesting enough (I missed the other talk on Muslims in the media). It was interesting to hear Norman Kember interviewed, but I had already heard most of it in a radio interview a few months ago. The outstanding talks I heard were from Clive Stafford-Smith and Sarah Jones . Both were very funny in dealing with serious issues. Clive Stafford-Smith is a lawyer who's represented a lot of people on death row in the US and is currently representing people in Guantanamo

I want one!

Wow, I think every household should have one of these, order now! Christianity well never be able to purge itself of homosexuals while it continues to produce kitsch like this.

Unitarians on Staffordshire TV

Click here to watch a video of the Newcastle-under-Lyme congregation on BBC Staffordshire TV. I was part of the conversations that led to this short video, though I wasn't there when it was being made. Local TV is a service that's been running as a pilot scheme in the Midlands in an attempt to be more local that the regional news programme can allow. It's only available on the internet and through Sky Digital TV service. It should be rolled out nationally next year. Faith producers are happy to do a little film like this one with anyone who approaches them so it's something that a congregation can easily do to raise its profile. I'd be interested to get anyone's thoughts on the video. I think I'll save my thoughts for a later post.

Please Help the Gay Police Association

From LGCM: A few weeks ago the Gay Police Association placed an eye-catching advertisement in the The Independent (a UK national newspaper) citing evidence of a 75% rise in homophobic incidents which could be linked to religious belief. A massive campaign to try and discredit the advertisement has been organised by the religious right who clearly don’t like the implication that homophobic crime can be generated by distorted, hateful religious values. We know they can be. LGCM is asking you to write an email or letter TODAY please to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, via the GPA, who is dealing with the complaints on behalf of all police forces across Britain. The Gay Police Association appreciate our offer of assistance and we have been working closely with them over recent weeks to provide support. They are under a great deal of concerted, well organised pressure and need people like us more than ever to stand with them. In your response please mention some or all of

Authenticity

Ron Robinson has got a couple of interesting posts here and here . As someone who wants to marry the emergent church and Unitarianism, I find what Ron is doing very inspirational. The one thing that struck me from his notes was this trend: 'boomers [i.e. people older than 40-ish] focused on excellence, busters and mosaics [younger] on relevance and authenticity.' This made me think about something I read in the GA Annual Report. The Worship Panel states that its Aims are this: 'We are committed to fostering worship of the highest quality wherever Unitarians gather.' Something about the phrase 'highest quality' made me really uncomfortable. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but Ron's post made me see it. I want authenticity not quality, not excellence. I have seen an amateur pianist and an amateur singer creating music in a church basement because they are members of a church plant and that is the ministry they offer. And I have seen a profession

Take Action To Save Lives in the Middle East

From Christian Aid: Dear supporter, Civilians are bearing the brunt of the latest crisis in the Middle East. More than 400 Lebanese, 40 Israelis and 80 Palestinians have died since the current violence began. Hundreds of thousands more have lost their homes and had their livelihoods destroyed. The UK government has failed to use its influence to bring about an immediate ceasefire, an end to hostilities and full compliance with international humanitarian law by all sides. We need your help to put pressure on Prime Minister Tony Blair to call for an immediate ceasefire. Write to him today. Email Tony Blair now Christian Aid’s Middle East crisis appeal Christian Aid has launched an appeal for the crisis in the Middle East. With your help our partners in the region will be able to provide water tanks to affected areas, distribute food or medicines to the poorest families and rebuild communities. Please give generously. Donate online here Thank you.

The shocking truth #2

Here's another shocking truth for Unitarians: People don't have a problem with 'God' - people have a problem with 'church.' If two thirds or more of the British population consider themselves Christian, but less than 20% go to church, what is that telling us? It is telling us most Britons don't dislike 'God' or 'Jesus' - though they may not have orthodox intepretations of what they are. But I think most people are deeply distrustful of 'church.' I think people are distrustful of institutions that they see as wielding power (bishops in the House of Lords) hierarchical (bishops in general) and interested in lining their own pockets and keeping people in their place. In short people are interested in a church-less God, and Unitarianism is offering a God-less church. Our message, then, should not be 'you don't have to believe in God to come here' - but 'we do church differently.' What needs redeeming is not people&

The shocking truth #1

Here's the shocking truth about growth, people: We don't need better advertising. We don't need to get in the papers more. We don't need better PR. All that stuff is good, but it's not enough. All that stuff will get more visitors. But guess what? We already have enough visitors. I've never been to a Unitarian church that didn't get several visitors a month. All we need to grow is to turn visitors into members. If every visitor I have seen come to my church in the last year had become a regular attender the Sunday morning attendance would have doubled. For a starters we need to be more welcoming and better at introducing and integrating people into our community. But more that that, we need to seriously look at the 'product' we offer, because I don't think people are interested in singing dirgy hymns and receiving bland messages. I'm not interested in it, and I'm going to be a minister.

I believe this:

The follower of Jesus is to discover and then promote the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom has two tenses: it is already here, in each one of us; and it is still to come, when God's goodness becomes a universal norm. We are to live now 'as if' the Kingdom of God were already fulfilled. Sydney Bailey, 1993 Quaker Faith and Practice, 24.57

Last night

Last as I was going to bed, I turned the radio on to listen to James Whale on TalkSport . I've listened to him for years, since back when it was called Talk Radio. If you don't take him too seriously then it's a lot of fun. Last night they had someone on from the Evangelical Alliance and also someone from the National Secular Society . They were talking about various things, and to be fair both of them were perfectly nice and reasonable. It just saddens me that these are the two alternatives presented to the world, as if there is nothing in between. I was listening in bed with the light off. After midnight I felt the a little spiritual push to go down stairs and ring up the station and engage with this EA guy. I went downstairs and thought about it for a while. But then chickened out and just wrote an email. This morning I found out the email had bounced back. I feel increasingly pushed to ring up radio stations and give the Good News of Unitarianism like this, but I get

Unitarian scriptures

This is what I decided at church on Sunday: I can't listen to poems. If someone is reading a poem in church, I can't tell you anything about the poem two minutes later. I just can't pay attention to poems in the slightest. I drift off as soon as someone starts reading. I get nothing out of a poem in church. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm not a poem person. But I think this brings up a couple of issues. First the issue of readings used in worship. What is scriptural for Unitarians? When I heard that Unitarians didn't just use the Bible in worship I was excited at the prospect of hearing from the Qur'an or the Bhagavad Gita or Julian of Norwich every week. I was most disappointed, and have continued to be disappointed by the predminance of poems about flowers and such, rather than world religions and mystical texts. Secondly in general I can't listen to a lot of stuff in church. My mind wanders most of the time. This is why when I am leading worship I ha

Christianity... is COOL!

I love this photo, though I don't think I look very good in it. I'm kind of red faced, and I think I look really young. I have longer hair and a bit of a sort of a beard at the moment. The photo was taken at Come to the Feast 2004 , in Tampa. Florida. It was an ecumencial NCCUSA young adult ministry conference. I was helping to clear up at the end of the conference and so I picked up this cross that was being returned to a local church. One of the conference organisers, who was an Episcopal priest, said, 'I gotta get a picture of this - a Unitarian carrying a cross.' and so he took this. It was like a year later when I was browsing a website about the conference that I found this picture posted online and downloaded it for myself. It makes me smile. By the way, I stuck a knife in that thumb once and nearly lost it, so I'm lucky to be able to do that.

The northenest Unitarian church

God bless Leslie McKeown. She had a vision and she went for it. She's now opened the Haughlands Unitarian Retreat and the Hollandstoon Unitarian Chapel in the Orkney Isles. I could be cynical about the prospects for a Unitarian community on an isolated Scottish island, but I'm not going to be. We need more visionaries, more risk-taking, more dreams realised. Start Unitarian communities. Create them on remote Scottish islands, create them in tower blocks, create them in villages, create them in your house. More of this please. Much more of this.

The dumbest thing about American Unitarian Univeralism

I'm glad Peacebang started blogging about this cos I was about to, and now it's like I'm joining in with a conversation rather than doing a big rant and having a go at Americans (though that is always fun ;-)). Why the hell do American (or is it just in New England??) UU churches take, like a quarter of the year off? In the summer they close. They CLOSE!! A church, closing. It's so bloody weird and wrong. Where does it come from? Why? Why? Why? Why do people need church less in the summer? Where are people supposed to go? Where is the Divine supposed to go? My church in Boston didn't close exactly, but moved to the smaller upstairs chapel, but the minister still had all that time off. Now I've spent most of my life around teachers and priests, both jobs where people think people don't put many hours in, when in fact they put in loads ('you only work Sunday mornings/9 to 3.25'). Teachers work hard and need their long holidays. Ministers work hard

A personal God

Amongst all the God-language stuff, Peacebang says this: I don't have a personal God in the way that all this LORD stuff would suggest, but I certainly do believe in some impersonal force of moral imperative, by whatever name. I have said many times and in many places that my own sense of what God might be wavers and changes and gets lost on many days. Which is kinda interesting. Whereas I wouldn't really argue for using the word 'Lord' for the Divine, I do experience God as personal. As much as I know it's not rational, and not fashionable, God does feel like something that I can communicate with like a Friend. At times I've really tried just to experience Oneness and Silence but what comes out of the silence is a something. A something communicating love, compassion and humour. There are times (usually when I've been reading theology) when I despair that there is too much to understand about Life and Religion, that I'll never be able to understand

Barriers to faith

I get excited by the emerging church movement. I'm glad there's a group of Christians who are radically rethinking Christianity for a new generation. Different worship, a different approach to the way of doing Christianity. It's all good. However in some way it is going to fail if it doesn't take into account a few big issues. There's some things that have changed, and no incarnation of Christianity is going to be successful unless it deals with these changes. 1. Gender and sexuality. Our understanding of both gender and sexuality have dramatically changed in the last few generations in British/western society. I don't think the Church of England (easy to criticise I know, but hey) realises how irrelevant it sounds as it debates how much it want to discriminate against women or sexual minorities . They are debating something that is essential not an issue anymore in secular society. The ethical issue has essentially already been decided in the larger society.

The Silence of Reverence

This is inspired by the conversation over at Peacebang . I decided to post here rather than put another comment into a big conversation. I don't think the answer, fundamentally, is to put the word 'God' into the principles/purposes/covenant of the American UUA. In the UK, we do have the word 'God' in the General Assembly Object, but this doesn't really make a difference to anything. The First Source, as currently defined by the UUA, is this: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life. The answer, in my humble opinion, is to take this statement seriously. Whether you say the above or 'direct experience of God' is not the issue. The issue is whether you really do live and worship as if a source of your life and faith is direct experience of ___. Direct experience, not preaching about it, not discussing it, exp

Taking back the Word

Here's something fantastic about Unitarianism: we're reingaging with the Bible. But not only that, we're offering an alternative way of interpreting the Bible. When I listen to Bill Darlison in Dublin or Robert Hardies in Washington, D.C. I hear Unitarians engaging with the Bible, and offering intepretations of biblical stories based on allegory rather than literalism. Insteading of seeing stories as literal and historical these people are showing how stories can be metaphors for spiritual truths. This is offering the world a different way of engaging with the Bible. And restoring a practice that was very much used in the early Christian church. Previously Unitarians would have been embarrassed by stories like Jesus walking on water, and would try to explain them away or edit them out ( a la Thomas Jefferson). But today we're seeing these stories as deeply important and worth engaging in. This offers a real alternative to fundamentalism, which is something to be cel

The British Seven Principles?

Here's a statement of 'Unitarian Ethos' just produced by the new directly elected Executive Committee: OUR UNITARIAN ETHOS We Unitarians and Free Christians are united by our ethos and values. We aspire to create a loving, caring, religious community within which we: · Value people in their diversity and uniqueness · Encourage freedom of thought and speech · Support spiritual exploration · Create celebratory worship · Advocate justice, liberty, honesty, integrity, peace and love Hence we strive to: · Make the best of the life we have · Be democratic in our practice · Celebrate life in its many forms · Respect people whose beliefs and attitudes are different from our own Hmm, at the moment my thought is 'slightly better than the Object.' Anyone else have any thoughts? By the way, today I brought by tickets to Greenbelt . Yay!

Language of reverence

At the risk of sounding terribly out of date (this conversation started three years ago in the States)... I never though that the 'language of reverence' conversation applied much to Unitarians in the UK, but now I think it does. I've just been looking again at a post-GA edition of The Inquirer . I've come to the conclusion that there is hardly any religious language in any of the articles reporting on events at GA. There are sometimes vague words like 'spiritual' and 'values' but that's about it. There is no sense of us naming the sacred or even having any sense of connection to the sacred. I sometimes think Unitarians look like a sort of pseudo-religious organisation like the Women's Institute, an organisation that has some connections to religion, sings hymns and may say the occasional prayer, but it does not see religious reality as it's raison d'etre. But we do not exist as an organisation for ourselves, we exist as a manifestation

Identity groups

"Straights and 'bisexuals' should never be admitted into a gay consciousness raising group; otherwise the whole procedure is a sham." Steve Gavin, 1971 At the beginning of gay liberation, a lot of the thinking was about liberating everyone from sexual roles for sexual freedom. During the seventies this shifted into building a gay separatist identity, gay men (and even more so lesbians) wanted to define their own space, excluding 'nonhomosexuals.' The effect of this was to exclude bisexuals leaving them outside the group or forcing them to remain closeted as bisexuals. To some extent this is still true today. I struggle with this. I can understand that there are times when 'I need to be with my people.' A lot of people don't understand this. I know some people struggled with this at the anti-racism/anti-oppression work at Opus last year. Some people couldn't understand the need for identity groups, for people of colour to go off in an identi

Knowing and Unknowing

Is Unitarianism too rational a religion? What does 'reason' mean in anycase? I have never quite understood people putting reason and spirituality at odds. For me they are deeply intertwined. My prayer often gives me insights into ideas. Thinking can often become prayer and prayer can become thinking. Coming to an understanding or creating an idea is a spiritual experience for me. There is revelation in words and ideas, but there is also revelation in silence. We need the words, because they give us insight into the Truth. But we also need the place where we dare not speak the words because we know they cannot possibly approach the Truth. Sometimes I wrestle with ideas, and succeed or fail in coming to an understanding. Sometimes I simply give up trying to understand the reality that is so much beyond me. There are times when I give up, submit, and retreat into my soul. But I find comfort there too. There is something important about falling into the stream and letting it tak

LGCM Action Alert

A message from Richard Kirker, General Secretary URGENT ACTION ALERT Please respond by 5 JUNE to the Government’s Proposals to Outlaw Discrimination on Sexual Orientation Grounds in Access to Goods, Facilities and Services Background The Government’s proposals for banning such discrimination, ‘Getting Equal’, ask whether the public agree that wide-ranging protection should be given against it, how far there should be exceptions (eg for “faith schools” and religious bodies/charities), and how far this protection should extend. The anti-gay and fundamentalist Christian Institute, Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, Association of Christian Teachers, etc. are trying to organise a mass write-in against the purposes of the proposed Regulations and in favour of huge exceptions allegedly to respect the conscience of the individual believer, as well as of religious organisations (including commercial businesses). It is urgent that as many as possible who support LGCM and its aims should wri

Potential for church planting in the UK

In response to Scott Wells' question , here is my analysis that I did a few years ago of the places where there is potential for Unitarian church planting in the UK and Ireland: The largest towns without a Unitarian presence: Fife Sunderland Sefton Walsall (the church closed last year) Rotherham Stoke-on-Trent Salford Barnsley Gateshead Milton Keynes Luton St Helens Swindon High Wycombe Basildon Peterborough Cleethorpes and Grimsby South Tyneside Aylesbury Knowsley Scunthorpe These are all Metropolitan Borough Councils or equivalent with a population of over 150,000 people . If you assume that a population of 150,ooo people could support one Unitarian church, then each of these could support one church, Fife could support two. Manchester does support that many Unitarian churches in relation to its population. There are subtleties, for example Stoke itself does not have a church itself, but Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is technically a different town but effectively the same urba

More depressing statistics

According to The Unitarian (quoting The Interchange magazine of Southampton, May 2006, page 47) in the twentieth century Unitarian membership declined by 78.8% from an estimated 26,000 in 1900 (making a 5512 membership figure in 2000 by my calculations). This was the highest rate of decline of any denomination apart from the Congregationalists. The comparable figure for the Church of England was 51.4% decline. I think we're about to see this decline translate into more churches closing. A number of churches have managed to remain open with fewer and fewer members but we're now at a stage when even the very few members requires to keep a church going in some state are dying off. As an entirely unscientific guess I would say that of the about 170 churches in Britain, half are going to close in the next 20 years. I always like to shout about these kinds of statistics, not because I want to depress people, but because I think we need to realise the situation we're in. We nee

Cymru

I'm doing a lot of preaching at the moment. Last weekend I visited Wales. On Saturday I visited a lot of the (Welsh speaking) chapels around Lampeter and then visited a Cymanfa (singing festival). On Sunday I preached at Cefncoed and Aberdare. If anyone's interested, my preaching arangements are: 28 May Westgate Chapel Wakefield 4 June Broadway Avenue Church and Russel Street Church, Bradford 11 June Back at Birmingham

Pride?

First and Second Church at Boston Pride 2004 I'm disillusioned and disappointed. I was looking forward to Birmingham Pride. I hadn't realised it was coming up so soon. Birmingham is always the first pride festival of the summer. Unfortunately I realised that I'm preaching in Wakefield on the Sunday so I'll miss that day. Then I remembered that I work on Saturday so I will miss that day too. I looked up the Birmingham Pride website to check details. The more I read of this, the more disillusioned I became. It confirms everything I've come to realise about the queer community in Britain. Firstly, the festival is not free, as it has been in previous years (is this the first year it's done this? I haven't been since 2003). Birmingham was always the only major pride festival that was free. Not any more. Secondly, Pride is organised by the Birmingham Gay Business Partnership. This is what I've come to realise comparing the queer community in the UK to the US.

ICUU Theological Symposium

This looks intersting. I won't be able to go, as I can't afford it and couldn't get the time off work. I might try to go to the next one in 5 years. I'm glad this is happening though, as I really think we need more theological reflection, and it needs to be a global conversation. ICUU Theological Symposium - Kolozsvar, Romania 3-8 July 2006 The ICUU International U-U Theological Symposium, "Liberal Religion for Changing Global Society" is just around the corner, but there is still time to register. Held this year in historic Kolozsvar (Cluj-Napoca) Romania, the center of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church, the Symposium draws U-U theologians, thinkers, and learners from all corners of the globe. Major speakers are the Rev. John Buehrens, former UUA President, talking about how theology shapes us, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, UU theologian, describing "Postmodernity, Globalization, and the Future of Liberal Theology." A dozen other presen

New First Church Website

My old church, First Church in Boston, has finally got a new website, after changing the name (dropping the "and Second") at the last AGM. But even cooler than that, I've made it onto the front page (well, sort off). I am in the group shot on the first page . I'm pretty easy to spot in the middle, up and left from a lady in a yellow hat. I'm wearing a black top with a rainbow chalice, and a white nametag. The picture was taken at Easter 2005.

Called Out

My experiences and musings recently have caused me to think about what my religious community really is - in theology-speak - ecclesiology : the study of 'church.' In an evangelical Christian understanding the community is united by faith in Jesus: and a particular understanding of what that means. In our Unitarian communiy I believe we understand the Divine Mystery as infinitely complex, and can choose to follow whatever spiritual teacher speaks to our condition. Rabbi Jesus remains my primary teacher, but this is not true for all of my fellow Unitarians. So what unites us? What defines our community? What makes our gatherings of conversation and prayer unique? The problem can be that very little unites us. Very little call us out to be different from the surrounding society. Often we can be a mirror, or microcosm, of the surrounding world. We are no different from the world outside. There are advantages to this. We are not limited to a conservative agenda tying us to t

Results

In Birmingham the political scene looks much the same as it was before. There is still no overal control of the council, so a Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition will continue to govern. Up the road from me in Sparkbrook the anti-war Respect Party won its first seat in Birmingham. I also heard that the Green Party did pretty well in Bournville. Most worrying of course is the success of the far right, anti-immigration, racist British National Party. For the first time they put candidates in every ward in Birmingham. The BNP candidate was declared a winner in Kingstanding, but then that result was later decared false, which would mean no BNP candidates won in Birmingham proper. However, in the greater Birmingham area some BNP candidates did win. In Solihull the BNP candidate in Chelmsley Wood beat the Labour candidate by 20 votes. In Solihull the Conservatives hung on to power, with the Lib Dems gaining by one seat. In Sandwell the BNP now have 4 councillors. Labour retain over

Local Elections

Today is election day for 4360 council seats in England. In Birmingham, the biggest metropolitan borough in the country, 41 seats are up for election, that's a third of the council. At the last council election in Birmingham there were a large amount of vote fraud. An election judge said the evidence he heard would 'disgrace a banana republic.' Birmingham city council leader Mike Whitby has asked for police officers to be deployed in wards considered at greatest risk from fraud and intimidation.

More photos from GA

All photos by John Hewerdine and Kathy Faiers.

'Faith Without Certainty' by Paul Rasor - a book review

I must say I was disappointed by this. It is good, it's just not what I expected, or wanted. This book is a survey of liberal theology. It explains what liberal theology is, and then it explains the challenges that it faces in a postmodern age. It's basically a book that lists the things you have to take into account before you begin to do liberal theology today. Mainly the understanding that we are social beings, not autonomous individuals. What I wanted the book to do was to begin to do contructive liberal theology, which it doesn't. What I really want is a theologically coherent answer to the question 'what is Unitarian Universalism?' This book does not even begin to answer that question. Also I'm not sure there is such a thing as 'liberal religion' and 'liberal theology' - at least not a coherent thing. There is liberal Christian theology, and Unitarian theology, but I'm not sure you can be general and simply say 'liberal theology

Doings

I've been out of town for a while. I was in Stoke for a few days then I went to the Foy Society weekend at the Nightingale Centre in Great Hucklow . It was really relaxing to be out in the Peak District, enjoying fresh air, quiet, and nights that are dark without street lights. Good people, good time.

GA: Day Four

Saturday night we finished at the GA Zette Office between 2 and 3am. I wandered back to the accomadation block and found a few people drinking and joined them. I didn't get to bed til past 4am. Sunday I got up around 8am. Had breakfast. Had to get out of the room by 9.30. Business and Installation of Executive Committee The first ever directly elected governing body of the church took office. It was quite a nice ceremony. They transferred the flame from a chalice representing the Council to a chalice representing the new Executive Committee. Peter Soulsby, MP, has been made convener of the committee. It seems a strange sort of dual system we have now. That was my thought as the new EC came in a the same time as the new President, David Dawson. I'm not really sure what the point of the President is. There didn't seem much point in the position before, and there seems even less point now. Ah well. It felt like I was almost the first person to come to GA, and the last p

GA: Day three

Went to bed at a more reasonable hour. About midnight. I got up in time for the 7.30 Communion service in the college chapel. It was pretty good. Business meetings All the motions past. Myah. Can't be bothered to write anything else. Hymnbook working group Singing hymns. Yay! I really hope that they produce one that can replace our current two books as I think both of them leave a lot to be desired. District connections Wigs! Anniversary service I must say I didn't get much at all out of this. Partly it was hot in the theatre hall (it would have been cooler in the cathedral) but it wasn't just that. I don't know I just really couldn't get anything out of it. I've realised that many Unitarians seem to have no sense of God. I'm not talking about humanists. I'm talking about us using the word 'God' yet having no sense that there's any reality behind it. Perhaps I'm not explaining myself well. I hear people mentioning the word

GA: Day Two

Last night I didn't leave the Zette Office til past 3am. Zettes need folding and stuff. Wow it's like being in Press Gang , 'cept less of the early nineties-ness. Business Meeting Got up about 9 and went in late to the first business meeting. I got there in time for the controversial bit. They wanted to change the minimum amount to pay someone for covering a one off service from £32 for lay people and £35 for ministers to £40 for everyone. Nearly all of the ministers complained about this, saying that it this was like saying that any lay person was as qualified as a minister to take a service, which wasn't taking into account all the training that ministers do. This wasn't about money. I could understand where ministers were coming from. We should appreciate ministers and all the work they do, and we often don't. But at the same time I couldn't help think of the Parable of the Workers in the Vinyard (Matthew 20:1 - 16) . If it's fair to pay a ministe