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Showing posts from July, 2006

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.