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Showing posts from May, 2006

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 urban ar

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 need


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


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 presenters

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 the pas


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 overall

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.&


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.