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Showing posts from April, 2006

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

Live from GA: Um, end of Day One

There was a Day Zero. ? OK, so it looks like I am getting to a computer and can blog live, from here in the GA Zette office, where lots of little Unitarian journalists are typing away at keyboards round the room and young adults are drinking alcohol. I don't really know what day it is anymore. Well, what did I do today? The John Relly Beard ministerial lecture: by John Parry John Parry's a professor at Luther King House, so will be my teacher next year. He's a United Reform Church minister who's spent some time in India. He offered various reflections on religious pluralism, then spoke on Islam for a while, comparing progressives and fundamentalists. Publications panel: me! and Vernon Marshall. I spoke about my new book. Um, I'll probably blog about that separately at some point. Vernon Marshall spoke about his book about British Unitarianism and world religions, a topic that needed an in-depth study I think. I've been told both books will be out '

Live from GA: Day one

I don't know what I'm doing up this early. Yesterday was pretty long from 6am to 2am. I expect most of my days are going to be like this. I spend Tuesday buying stuff for the conference. Do you know how difficult it is to find a paper bag (or 20) in Birmingham?? I was searching all day. In the end I settled for stealing mushroom bags from Tesco (in fact when I got here someone else had brought much better bags for mail bags). After that I met a mate I haven't seen in a while and we had a few drinks. All this meant that when I got home at 8:30pm I was too tired to pack or reply to emails so went to bed and got up at 6am the next day (yesterday). I dealt with the stuff I needed to and caught a train at 9:05. I got into Chester at 11:30 and found a number of Unitarians hanging around so managed to share a taxi into the college. So we had an afternoon of young-adulty goodness and have begun to plan our worship on Friday night. Some considerable time was also spent in the p


I'm leaving the house in ten minutes to go to GA. I doubt I'll get a chance to blog live (in a American party political conferences kinda a way) but I'll try to record my thoughts in the old fashioned handwritting form while I'm there and write them up 'as live' when I get back. Love.

Happy Easter everyone

Starving for the Bread of Life: the longings of an Anglo Catholic Unitarian

Image from Small Fire Last night, Maundy Thursday, I went to my local Anglican church down the road. I have to go to an Anglican church on Maundy Thursday. The rest of my old faith I can leave behind, but on Maundy Thursday I have to take communion, there has to be footwashing and the has to be the Watch after the service where I can sit and pray with Jesus in Gethsemane. Maundy Thursday is the most Holy Day of my personal spiritual calendar. Not Christmas or Easter or Good Friday, but Maundy Thursday. That night was the last night of Jesus' ministry. After he was arrested it was just an inevitable process to execution. The 'Resurrection', whatever it was, I believe had more to do with Jesus' disciples than Jesus himself. But on Maundy Thursday Jesus concluded his teaching and ministry. As someone who want his faith to be rooted in that teaching and ministry, Maundy Thursday becomes very important. And what did Rabbi Jesus do that night? He ate together with his fri

Evangelism in context

In America, the question is 'which church should I go to?' because everybody goes to church. The answer is, 'Come to ours, because we are less conservative, less dogmatic, because we are not like churches that you dislike.' In Britain, the question is, 'why should I go to any church?' because nobody goes to church. Our answer has to be to say what is good about being religious. What differences being religious makes to our lives. We need to rediscover what is at the foundation of our religious faith. How we are made better people by this thing that we do. We need to say what we are, not what we are not. We need to say being Unitarian makes a difference in our lives. If it does not, then why bother?

Humanist churches

The Ethical Society of St Louis What does it say about human nature in general, and Americans in particular, that there are such things as atheist churches. For most people this would seem like an oxymoron. I'm sure most people in Britain, the general public, and humanists, would consider it really really weird that Americans have atheist/humanist churches. There are humanists organisations in Britain, but I'm sure none of them meet on Sunday morning, have 'sermons' 'leaders' and 'sunday schools.' What does it say about how much Americans love going to church, that even those that are entirely atheists, still go to church? Why is American church-going culture so strong that it survives the complete removal of any metaphysical foundation? Here's a fun party game: listen to an audio sermon online, and see if you can work out if it's a UU church or an Ethical Society. What does it mean if you can't? A lot of questions.

More GA news

If anyone is interested in hearing me speak, or seeing my pretty face, then you'll have two opportunities at GA : I'll be speaking at the Publications Panel slot 15:30 - 16:10 on Thursday 20 April about my book, The Unitarian Life (I think that's the title we've settled on) which will be published... um some time in the future. I'll talk a little about the idea behind the book and hopefully get a dialogue going. It's basically a collection of short bits of Unitarian writing from a broad range of sources. It's an attempt to find a unity amongst our diversity, articulate a kind of a Unitarian community vision with inspirational and thought-provoking readings on all kinds of subjects. The short way of saying it is that it's a Unitarian version of Quaker Faith and Practice. I'll also be at the Foy Society slot at 11:35 - 12:15 on Friday 21 April with a lot of other folks to talk about our trip to Opus 2005 in the summer and the launch of BUYAN.

Motions at GA 2006

Not long till GA now. Here are the motions , and my take on them. 1) FROM THE UNITARIAN CHURCH, STOCKTON-ON-TEES That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches 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 General Assembly 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. Well, this is a good effort. I think we're at the stage that everything we do should be concerned with growth. At this stage we really don't have the luxury of being concerned much with anything else. However, I'm concerned that the outcome of this motion will be that a committee will be set up, meet a bit, then produce a report in three years that will not change any