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Showing posts from 2007


I don't write too much about my personal life on this blog. I don't really want to include all the ins and outs of my own personal life and the lives of friends and family in a completely public medium. Nevertheless major things in my life I don't mind sharing. So I thought I'd share the belated news that I've become an uncle this year. Not without difficulties, and very premature, my nephew Daniel was born into the world in August. He's doing very well now, and today I bought a big Christmas present for him. Isn't he lovely?

What's the difference between a Pentecostalist and a Unitarian?

No, it's not a joke, but a theological reflection. This just sparked off from reading a Unitarian prayer calling on 'the Spirit of Life to be with us.' It's the kind of phrase I would often say in a prayer too. But how much do we mean this? It seems to me that one of the characteristics of the Spirit, as expressed in the Christian tradition, is that it 'blows where it will.' The Spirit has a wild, dangerous side. It can push us in uncomfortable directions, transform us, knock us down. So what is the difference between what a Pentecostalist means by the Spirit, and what a Unitarian means? It seems to me that we Unitarians are in daner of domesticating the spirit. Our soft humanism/minimalist theism tends to see the Spirit as something safe and comfortable. No doubt it can be, but how would we feel if the Spirit started pushing us out of our comfort zones? Perhaps a relevant theological distinction is not whether one says 'God/Spirit' or not, but ra

It's amazing what you find in second hand books

So I just bought a second hand book from the college library, Jesus the Jew by Geza Vermes. And what do I find inside the covers of the book? Bits of paper from 1977. One was a letter that wasn't that interesting, and the other was an order form for gay porn magazines with 'new year' 1977 offers listed ('A Taste of Beefcake' anyone?). Slightly bizzare, but somehow it doesn't suprise me. Perhaps this has come from the theological library of a Anglo-catholic queen somewhere. (I wonder if my blog will get more hits now I've put the words 'gay porn' in it?)

Teddy bears

After the Sudan teddy bear storm last week, it's possible another controversy might erupt in the Unitarian world. A long term student at Unitarian College Manchester is a teddy bear called Theophilus, named after one of the founders of British Unitarianism, Theophilus Lindsey. I hope this doesn't upset reactionary Unitarians. Look out for the protests. The smaller bear is called Barth and sings 'Jesus loves me, this I know, cos the Bible tells me so.'

Blasphemy update

So it looks like the Blasphemy Law is dead in the water as a private prosecution against the BBC has failed in the High Court. Here's the links from Ekklesia. 'Blasphemy law must go' says Christian thinktank Lord Carey backs call for an end to the blasphemy law Christians and Humanists welcome High Court’s decision on blasphemy Rethinking hate speech, blasphemy and free expression

Hark! What are those angels singing?

I find myself a bit confused with the editorial decisions of those who created Hymns for Living when it comes to carols. Number 90, Hark the Herald Angels misses out 'offspring of a virgin's womb' 'born that man no more may die' but keeps in 'Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail the incarnate Deity'. That seems rather trinitarian to me; I can't sing that. I think I'm going to just take the traditional version and use verses 1 and 3. Later: On closer inspection I've worked out the decision is related to two lines. The editors decided that 'Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/ Hail the incarnate Deity' was preferable to 'Mild he lays his glory by/ Born that we no more may die'. I disagree. I'm including the latter line.

How can a carol service be missional?

I'm putting together a carol service for my church. I'd love this to be an outreach to the local community. That's what the congregation wants. But I'm mulling over how to make this a missional event. When we expect people to come to a carol service are we working from Christendom assumptions - assuming everyone is basically Christian and so will want (and be able) to sing carols? Are we relying on the Christian cultural remnants hanging around society? Is it a bad thing if we are? How much longer are those remnants going to hang around? Or are we moving into a society where people are as likely to go to church at Christmas as go to a Mosque at Eid? Is this a time for Unitarians to paint themselves as Christians to draw upon the Christian themes in culture? Or should a Unitarian carol service look distinctively different from the carol service that you would get in the Anglican service down the road? How can a carol service be missional?

Me and Jesus: Episode 8

'Jesus is not a proposition to be believed, nor an outward figure to be seen and adored but simply a spirit to be loved, a spirit of obedience to God that must be incorporated into our spiritual being.' Keshub Chunder Sen, nineteenth century leader of the Brahmo Samaj I suppose I'm growing into a place where I can more comfortably identify as Christian. What I really want, what I've really been waiting for is to be 'convicted,' to have some kind of a definite moment of decision that sets a direction for my spritual path. I've been waiting for an 'ah ha!' moment when I'm sure that this is right for me. But perhaps there is something important about making a commitment without this 'conversion' moment. Perhaps today in postmodern Britain covinction is frowned upon, and for good reasons. Perhaps I can be faithful while being unconvinced, perhaps I can be committed while being critical, perhaps I can believe while doubting. Perhaps I nee

Polish Anabaptist Unitarianism

If you're interested in re-engaging with the radical Anabaptist roots of Unitarianism to provide models for a stronger, evangelical radical Unitarian movement for Post-Christendom (like me), then you might be interested in this . If you're not, then you'd probably find it a bit boring.

Waste of time?

How much preaching is a sheer waste of time? We pray, we study, we reflect, we craft a sermon, we illustrate it with stories, we deliver it with passion and integrity – but it has very little impact on those who listen to it. They are too polite to say so usually, but it did not really engage their attention, address their concerns or affect their lives. Some give up after a few weeks or several years and leave our churches. How many of the thousand people a week who have left British churches in the 1980s and 1990s did so because they were bored by our sermons? Others remain and listen to perhaps 100 sermons a year, but with what result? Stuart Murray Williams

It's an exciting day when you get lovely new books delivered

Spiritual signs in Chorlton

I took these wandering around Chorlton today, it's interesting that spiritual language makes it into so many commercial business signs.

Me and Jesus (and Christ): Episode 7

When I speak of Christ I don’t think of a Second Person of the Trinity, at least not as old theologians did, and some still do; instead I think, I feel, about a spirit of anointing, what the Greek word Christ refers to, about a spirit of blessing that is so powerful in its revolutionary vulnerable way, power-with not power-over, cooperation not competition and content and conquest... that this spirit could not be silenced and destroyed by evil and death, but lived on and grew in community more life affirming. I think of Christ as a parable itself, and believe it is stronger, theologically for it. Ron Robinson It's funny how things turn around. After years of trying to reject Christ and follow Jesus, right now I find myself turning more to Christ. Jesus was a historical fallible person. I cannot follow him in a mechanical way. For example was Jesus, maybe just a little bit, racist, sexist, homophobic? There are all kinds of historical arguments we could have about this, but I t

The Language of Reverends

This is something I've been mulling over recently, and the preaching of Bill Darlison (might take a while to load, but worth listening to, as always) has prompted me to say it out loud. Bill says, 'Clergy titles are wonderfully ironic in the light of Christ's teaching.... this is all ballony!... Even Unitarians are not free from it. Why do we covert the title Reverend? We really should have nothing to do with this stuff.' I've got to say I agree with him. Titles are awkward things for all of us I think. Are women Miss, Ms, Mrs - why do they have to be anything? Why does it matter to anyone what anyone's marital status is? Is there actually any function to any title, other than for people to think that they are better than others? But in the religious life especially I am suspicious of titles. I'm increasingly Anabaptist these days and think that the testimony of equality is deeply important. That's not to say that there isn't a place for lead

How far we've come

Did anyone else catch the 50 year old interview with John Wolfenden on BBC 4? Tuesday is the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report which recommended the decriminalisation of male homosexuality. The report's recommendations weren't followed until 10 years later though. It's fascinating and scary to see the language in which the conversations took place. The assumptions behind the conversations are just amazing. The conversation were along the lines of,'We're not saying we morally agree with this perversion, only that we don't think this perversion should be illegal when other perversions aren't.' That wasn't that long ago. Lest we forget.

Me and Jesus: Episode 6

Sometimes Jesus can feel like an abusive spouse. He says the most lovely things sometimes, and other times he says the most horrible things. And I struggle with what is central and what is peripheral, what is permanent, and what is transient, whether there is enough there to keep me in the relationship and whether I can find a way to ignore (or deal in some way) with the rest. If I took my analogy seriously then I should be saying to myself: Get out! Get out of that abusive relationship and don't look back! And so many of us, so many of us Unitarians have done exactly that: liberated ourselves from an abusive religious relationship. And it hurts so much to look back because it was difficult, and now we're free. And we only want to talk about it to say how glad we are to be rid of it, and to make insulting comments to Jesus to keep him at arms length. But as much as Jesus (and/or the tradition) hurts me, it also hurts me when someone makes those snide comments. 'Hey, that

Missional liberalism

This is the problem, I think, with liberal religion. What it seeks to do is to maintain a space between conservative religion on the one hand and secularism on the other. But in fact it spends too much time concerning itself with conservativism and not enough time dealing with secularism. I worry that Unitarnianism in the West had a parasitic relationship with conservative religion. Where conservative religion is strong, as in the United States, Unitarianism does well scooping up a certain percentage who rebel against conservative religion, because it is refreshingly different. But where secularism is strong, as in the United Kingdom, it fails utterly as a powerful religious force. Unitarianism too often seeks to answer the question - why belong to this faith community as opposed to another faith commmunity? But too little seeks to answer the question - why belong to any faith community at all? We have no idea how faith development works as a transition from unchurched to liberal c

Kick-ass chalice

OK, this is a bit geeky-liturgical talk, sorry, but hey. After my previous post about looking for a kick-ass chalice I was on the look out in Taize for something and found what I think is pretty cool. It's a chalice that's actually a chailce. A chalice, along with a plate that could be used for communion. Plus an oil lamp that can be placed on top of the chalice giving - a flaming chalice. It's not designed to do that, but it works pretty well. I haven't lit it yet, I suppose I need to get some oil. I'm not really sure how oil lamps work. I may set myself alight. But - it's good, isn't it?

In case you're interested...

This is pretty much my christology:

DESO will close!

From Speak : SPEAK's campaign to close DESO with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) has succeeded at long last! We warmly welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that he will shut DESO the arms marketing unit funded by public money. SPEAK have been praying and campaigning about this since 2003 and we hope it will mean an end to the wider Government promotion and support of the arms trade that our Counting the Cost arms trade campaign focusses on. Read more in SPEAK's press release and take action with our sample letter. The Prime Minister's announcement said that in future military export promotion will be the responsibility of UK Trade and Investment, the body that supports all UK exports. UKTI reports to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the former Department of Trade & Industry. We will monitor UKTI to make sure that military exports, which form less th


I thought I would go to Taize and read a lot and sit in the church every night praying. I thought I would spend a lot of time sitting quietly in the sun reflecting on the meaning of life. God said to me: You tit, you don't need that. There will be a time for that. What you need is to laugh, to giggle, to meet people, to talk to people, to connect with people. What you need is to make jokes, dance, play games. What you need to do is rap the theme tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Let's Get Ready to Rumble by PJ and Duncan. You need to be yourself and remember that you are a silly person, not at all the serious person you've been trying to be for the last year, maybe more. Do this, and you will understand Incarnation and will receive me. God was right.

Nothing Can Ever...

"Nothing can ever come between us and the love of God, The love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus."

From growth to mission

I'm delighted that the Annual Meetings will focus on growth. I was somewhat disappointed that there was not more talk about it at this year's Annual Meetings. If nothing happened in 08 I would have been asking some loud questions. I don't want the 06 resolution to get forgotten. But it hasn't been. We will focus on growth. Good. However the conversation must be effective. It shouldn't be just how each of us thinks growth might come about, in our opinions, that won't get us anywhere. Nor should it all be about PR. A national advertising campaign would be a huge waste of money right now. And it's starting in the wrong place. Conversations about growth need to draw on the best hard research and theological reflection in religious communities that are growing. Although the explicit concentration on numerical growth in the 06 resolution was necessary, the only way we can achieve growth is if we have a sense of MISSION and even EVANGELISM. We can't do this

Annual Meetings will focus on growth

Worth reproducing in full I think, I'll comment further tomorrow. Unitarians to Focus on Women's Achievement and Growth Next year's annual conference of the Unitarian movement will have two central features: a focus on growth including membership and on the contribution of women, in the centenary year of the Unitarian Women's League. This was decided at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, held at Luther King House in Manchester in mid-July. The 2008 General Assembly annual conference (known as our 'Annual Meetings') will be held at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield from Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th March. The Executive decided that a full day should be devoted to exploring what growth means for our movement and how we might achieve our ambitions in this area. Growth in membership is important but only one of the potential dimensions of growth to be the focus of this gathering. A

Me and Jesus: Episode 5

I deliberately didn't read any Christian books while I was on retreat, though I did have one book of Jesus' words for emergencies. I wanted to try to be with the divine through a window other than Jesus. Inevitably my mind came back to Jesus occasionally. But I did have one insight. I was thinking about what it might mean to be a 'progressive' Christian. I suppose I've been getting caught up in the idea of being a 'follower' of a man limited to one period of history. What could that possibly mean? But I've changed the image. What if, instead of me being a follower of Jesus, I imagine Jesus having pointed in a direction and walked some way in that direction. I have seen the way he walked and am walking in the same direction. What if being a Christian isn't walking behind Jesus, but keeping my eyes on the same point Jesus did, and walking in the same direction as Jesus. Being a Christian is caring about the same things Jesus did. It's not about

Sufi Retreat

So... a few unsytematic reflections on my first Sufi retreat. I love the fact that in one tradition there is a place for silence, for liturgical prayer and for dancing and singing with a guitar. Usually I have to go to different communities to get all those. I didn't like how programmed the retreat was. I would have liked more spare time to get more reading done and reflection. For the first time in my life I was worshipping in a non-Christian, non-Unitarian community. I needed to do that. If only for some perspective. I think my spirituality might be more visual than auditory. I'm not sure chanting words over and over again suits me. There were some lovely people there, though not a great deal of diversity. It was absolutely beautiful all week, I was sunbathing while other parts of the country drowned. I starved myself of Jesus, intentionally, more about that later. There was lots I was critical of, I don't know why that should suprise me. It's the same in any mainline

Speaker wish list

Going through my emails after getting back from Cornwall I got one asking for suggested speakers for next year's Annual Meetings. I think they want someone pretty high profile. Here's my wishlist: Karen Armstrong John Shelby Spong Richard Holloway Marcus Borg Robert Beckford Jim Wallace What's yours?

Finally home

I left the west coast of Cornwall at 10.30am on Saturday morning. I didn't get home until 5pm today (Monday). The flooding meant I could not get north of Bristol. Luckily I had hospitable friends in Wiltshire that put me up for two nights. Tired now. Blogging later.

Go West (Life is Peaceful There)

I'm about to head off to the westernest, westernest tip of this great island for a retreat on the coast of Cornwall. It's a long way down. But it'll be good to go back to Cornwall, where my grandfather came from, I haven't been there for over 10 years. See you later.

Change of policy?

With a new Prime Minister in place are we seeing a significant change in the direction of the government? A change for the better? A couple of really positive things: It looks like the government proposal to build a super casino in East Manchester have been shelved . This seems like a good idea as I'm should it would have created problem gambling in a deprived area. More importantly than that are the rumours that DESO, the government funded department that works for arms companies, might be closed down. There have been campaigns for this to happen for a long time, so it'll be a great victory if this happens. Is this a sign of a more moral government? Let's hope so. Let's hope it translates to foreign policy.


I've just received an email inviting me to a workshop for menopausal lesbian and bi women at the health centre I used to volunteer in in Boston. How many reasons are there that that email wasn't appropriate for me?

Jews and Unitarians dropped from Churches Main Committee

The Times reported today that Jews, Unitarians, Christian Scientists, and Seventh Day Adventists are being dropped from the Churches Main Committee. This is not the same thing as Churches Together. I can understand the reasons for being exluded from Churches Together, but this body deals with non-theological things like tax, charity law and child-protection where clearly it is much better to work together. Well done to Steve Dick, and presumably the new communications consultant, for getting a good quote in there which manages to give a good sense of what Unitarians stand for. We seem to have a good relationship going with the Times now. We just need to develop that kind of relationship with the Guardian to get some coverage in there.

Growing on the frontier

Some thoughts from watching American GA. Some opening words from someone about Portland got me thinking. Someone was talking about the establishment of the city of Portland followed by the first Unitarian church there 20 years later. It got me thinking about the value of that American expansion in terms of church planting. As the population went west, there was a need for new churches because there were new cities. This gives an institutional memory for church planting. There was a need for it, so it was done. In Britain, that could never happen. I suppose there was some church planting in the British Empire - in Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, but then we've lost those institutional memories as those countries and churches became more independent. In the workshop about why liberal churches are growing the speaker said that the youngest churches grow the fastest, the oldest East coast churches are more in decline. The problem in Britain is that most of our congreg

How/Where can you get a kick-ass flaming chalice?

How can you get a flaming chalice that actually is a flaming chalice? Most of the time we have a chalice (sort of) with a candle stuck in it. But the symbol isn't a chalice with a candle in it, it's a chalice with a flame in it. How can you get a chalice where there is a big flame, not just a candle flame, like the one in the Service of the Living Tradition ? What substance can you use to get a three-inch flame? I wouldn't want a chalice as big as the one at the Service of the Living Tradition, but I think the flame should be that big. I've always found the candle a bit pathetic. Well, actually I've got used to it now. But when I started worshipping with Unitarians I thought it could be a bit pathetic. Maybe it's just the pyromaniac (or the Zoroastrian) in me but I just think a big old flame would be really cool. Any ideas?

Is worship listening?

Four in the afternoon I'm pottering around tidying my living room and doing some ironing. I pop American GA on my computer and get the morning worship (it's 8am there). I'm only half listening to it and watching it but phew. Phew! Two long sermons for an 8am worship service? How utterly exhausting. I'm not saying anything about the quality of the sermons, they were very good from what I heard, but two sermons at 8am?! I was exhausted and it was 4 in the afternoon for me I'd had a long sleep in on my day off. The last thing I would want at that time of day would be to get talked at for half an hour, that's what the whole conference is full of. I'd want something sustaining and engaging a different bit of my brain than the rest of the day would be engaging. I'd want some quietness and song, some yoga or some tai chi or something. Two sermons? Oi.

Utopian bisexuality

I wonder what is the reticence for so many people to identify as bisexual. I must admit I find it puzzling and a little bit disturbing. I'm reading Carter Heyward right now, and really loving her writing, but I've just come across some words of hers about this. First she talks about her 'attraction to women as well as to men.' She says 'bisexual' might be an OK 'box' for this but then says, The problem with bisexuality in my life (and I can speak only for myself) is that it has been grounded too much in my utopian fantasy of the way things ought to be and too little in the more modest recognition of myself as a participant in this society at this time in this world, in which I have both a concrete desire for personal intimacy with someone else and a responsibility to participate in, and witness to, the destruction of unjust social structures - specifically, the heterosexual box... It has been my experience that to live now as bisexual is to live some

It must be summer

My last essays are handed in, and I have one more Sunday left at my Placement Church. It must be summer. It's nearly Wimbledon and Glastonbury . This week the lunchtime episode of Neighbours are off so I'll probably spend my lunchtimes watching American GA online. This probably makes me a bit of a nerd. So I should get two months without any preaching. But I'll keep pretty busy. I'm going to: One Christian(ish) conference One Sufi retreat One Christian pilgrimage One Unitarian summer school One minister's conference Plus I need to: Write one paper on Unitarianism and Hinduism Chase up the copyright on my book And if I have time, start on my dissertation And: Take driving lessons Help make sure there's a Unitarian presence at Manchester Pride And try to visit some friends and family Plus I got to decide if I want to identify as Christian.

"Bollocks to Blair" and other worrying things

So the G8 have made some sort of an agreement on climate change . They will 'consider' reducing greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2050. The thing is I had a meeting with someone from Friends of the Earth last night and he told me that the most up-to-date science shows we need to reduce by at least 80% by 2050. Being positive this country is leading the way with the Climate Change Bill . This could be a good piece of legislation if it's made strong enough. I'm continually depressed and angry about this country's support for the undemocratic, unislamic and extremist Saudi Arabia and its corrupt arms deals with BAE . How can the government shut down an investigation into corruption in the name of 'security.' Why aren't we more angry about this? And about the erosion of our freedoms in this country? I'm watching a programme right now about the reductions of freedoms of speech under anti-terrorism legislation. Most worrying (after poor old Walter Wolfgan

What right do I have to speak?

This is a question that anybody standing up to deliver a sermon must ask themselves. Why am I so clever and wise that I get to talk at you while the rest of you have to stay quiet and listen to me? I don't think preaching should be, 'You know I was thinking the other day...' nor should it be a journalistic opinion piece on the events of the world. Sure, everyday life and our reflection on it can be revelatory. I completely believe that. But if that is the case then why should only one person be speaking? If our own reflection on life is where authority comes from then we should have something similar to the Quakers when all can stand up and deliver our thoughts. I don't see why two or three years at a theological college should qualify someone to stand up and dominate the conversation for 10, 20, 30 minutes. See my own life and yours are full of revelation, sure. But there were some folks who really got to some religious truth, they discovered some amazing truths and

Double vision

And now for something completely different. Saturday night. 10pm. Graham Norton and Andrew Lloyd Webber are on BBC1 and BBC2 at the same time. How weird is that? Later: On the plus side, there was a rollerskatting Jesus.

The Unitarian website

This is well overdue, and Scott Wells has got there before me a few weeks ago, but I wanted to comment on the new GA website. Scott can comment more on the technical side than me, so please see his comments. Sigh. At GA 05 we were shown a website that looked much more impressive. Apparently this was scrapped because it was too expensive to set up and maintain. Sigh. I can understand this decision. There's always a choice about what to spend money on. And I don't think an amazing website is necessarily the most important thing in the world. But it is important. And with all the hype and a long wait I was hoping for something more. The Methodist Church has just got a new website that I've had a glance at. This includes an online labyrinth and a place for discussion of issues. OK fine, we're smaller than the Methodists. But I have to say that the wesbite of the National Unitarian Fellowship is better than the GA website. The 300 member (ish I think) postal fellowship

Me and Jesus: Episode 4

Here's my methodology for my religious search: 1. I'm doing a Jefferson and cutting and pasting the Gospels (much easier on a computer). I'm not deleting anything yet. I'm just starting with what I get - the Golden Rule and then building up from there. One step at a time. 2. I'm looking for what others have written. So far I have found This from Peacebang (Victoria Weinstein) And this from Philocrites (Chris Walton) Worth reading.

Me and Jesus: Episode 3

This morning in bed I read Matthew chapter 22. First there is a parable about a king inviting people to a feast, the respectable people won't come so the servant invites any old person who happens to be in the street. I sort of get that, the last will be first, the priority of outcasts and stuff. Then one of them gets thrown out because he's not wearing the right clothes. And there's 'weeping and gnashing of teeth.' I don't like it when there's weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus seems to be scaring people to do stuff, which I don't like. Plus I don't really understand what not wearing the right clothes at the feast is supposed to mean. I don't get it. Pay to the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give to God what belongs to God. I think I get that. Some theological argument about resurrection. Who cares? The greatest commandments are love to God and neighbour. I agree with that. An argument about whether the Messiah is David's descen

Me and Jesus: Episode 2

I went to the lunchtime Meeting for Worship at the Manchester Quakers today. Unfortunately my prayers turned to thoughts and frustrations about what I don't understand so I left feeling worse than when I went in. I hate it when that happens. This is where I'm at: This is the conversation I have had, will have and imagine having: You're not a Christian. Yes I am. But you don't believe in the Trinity. I don't think that's what makes someone a Christian, or at least a follower of Jesus. So what makes you a Christian? When I say Christian I mean someone following Jesus, following Jesus' teaching. Didn't Jesus teach that he was divine, and that we should believe in him and his death on the cross for our sins? No, I don't think he did teach that. So what do you think he taught? This is the point I get stuck, what did Jesus teach? The liberal answer I often get is something like: God is love, love God and love neighbour. Which is all v

The Man Who Never Died

This is the story of the Man Who never died: and who proclaimed that he who's born must be re-born; and he who's dead must rise from the state of death. For it is not the nature of man to die, but to live from no-time to no-time. ... Men said to Him:- 'How shall we live?' and He said:- 'By dying to yourselves!' When asked, 'How shall we die?' He said:- 'By being alive to what never dies within you!' He healed the sick, bringing them back to themselves. ... In prayer you say nought to thy Gid, but listen to His SILENCE like the flower opens its heart out to the mystery of the unknown stars. Prayer is a secret dialogue between lovers, where the mind questions in doubt, and the heart answers in faith. 'The Man Who Never Died' by Gopal Singh

The World Can't Wait

Sign this message to G8 leaders here . Dear Angela Merkel and Tony Blair, I am writing as a concerned European citizen to ask that you make this year's G8 Summit and EU Presidency really count for the world's poorest people. During 2007 you have enormous influence on the world stage and the opportunity to make this a decisive year in the fight against global poverty. When you meet with G8 and European heads of state in June, use your influence to: · Deliver the extra debt cancellation and extra aid that was promised in 2005, and more, without imposing harmful conditions · Ensure that international trade deals are just, and help reduce poverty by not forcing poor countries to open their markets to unfair competition or destroying decent work · Provide funds to deliver education, clean water, sanitation, and healthcare for all, including upholding trade rules to provide affordable and quality medicines, and keep your promise that no one should go without treatment fo

Me and Jesus: Episode 1

Sometimes prayer is non-thinking, sometimes full of prayerful thought, where the heart and mind come together in beautiful song. Tonight I've been praying thoughtfully and thinking prayerfully. This is what I've decided: 'A disciple is not above the teacher.' What do I need to decide for Jesus to be my teacher? Do I need to believe he is infallible? No. I only need to acknowledge that my teacher has greater knowledge than me, at least in one particular area. I acknowledge that Jesus has a greater experience of God than I, so he can be my teacher. Which is not to say that I cannot argue with my teacher, or disagree with him. But he does have things to teach me. I know and acknowledge that, so he can be my Teacher and Guide, for now.


Next week I was supposed to be going to a 'Post Christendom' conference with Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia and Stuart Murray but it's been cancelled. Bah. After I was quickly reading Stuart Murray's book (which has a very cool cover) to be able to say something intelligent to him. Ah well. I'm just going to have to read the book as well as the website of the Anabaptist Network which seems pretty good. I'm warming to the idea of identifying as Anabaptist, but I'll have to identify as a Christian to do that. Hey-ho.

Am I a Christian?

I've been struggling with this question for my whole life really. I love God, and I like Jesus, most of the time. I'm certain Jesus wasn't the second person of the Trinity, and that he didn't die to take away my sins (as certain as it's possible to be in matters of faith). Let's just put that to one side. But even if I am talking about the religion of Jesus I have some problems. Not least of which being that that religion was Judaism. Jesus seems quite a distant figure that I only get glances of. Some glances amaze me, some horrify me. I'm happy for Jesus to be a prophet of the past that I can get a lot from, but what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in 2007? I want to be a follower of Jesus, it would make my life clearer in some ways, and I would feel like I belonged in ecumenical settings where I spend a great deal of my time. But I have problems. So I'm going to devote some time this summer to wrestling with this question. And I'd like he

Defend freedom of information

On Friday 18th May, Conservative and Labour MPs voted to exempt Parliament from Freedom of Information laws, creating one law for MPs and Lords and one law for everyone else.The Bill - introduced by a Conservative MP - will now go to the House of Lords, where it can still be stopped from becoming law. Sign the petition against this law here.

Response to Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown makes some interesting points on his blog . Unfortunately he doesn't allow comments, but asks for feedback by email so I've just sent this to him. Dear Andrew, I’ve been reading your blog, which is very interesting and stimulating. It is a shame that it is not on a format like blogster or wordpress (and I don’t really know anything about what’s the best thing) where comments would be possible and debate more easy. In regard to your entry beginning ‘This, then, is my dilemma’ I have a few thoughts that I wanted to share. (I’m also posting this on my blog). I think you bring up some very important points but I have some concerns. Are the two different Unitarianisms really ‘very different’ and entirely incompatible? When Channing preached the ‘Unitarian Christianity’ sermon he divided his thoughts into two sections: the methods used by Unitarians in approaching the Bible and the doctrines that Unitarians believe by approaching the Bible in this way. It seems to me

Government response to petition on blood donation

Here's a petition I signed on the Number 10 website: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Overturn the National Blood Service (NBS) ban stopping Gay and Bi (G&B) Men giving Blood." Details of petition: "Blood in the UK is tested for HIV and Hep B&C before use. The NBS say the record for testing is exceptionally good. Last year patients received three million+ units of blood and blood products, 6 of which were infected with a blood borne infection (or only 1/100th more of a risk if Gay and Bi men were to donate). UN and World Health Organisation position for blood donation is not to discriminate against groups of individuals. HIV is now at its fast growing rate in the heterosexual community. The polices of the NBS are outdated, making decisions as to whether or not your allowed to give blood on how honest you are. Internationally the following countries repealed their life Bans on G&B men giving blood: Italy South Africa Sweden Spain Portugal Rus

Blow the Whistle

I'm really annoyed I can't get to this. Please go if you're in Manchester, and find other ways of keeping up pressure on governments to tackle poverty if you're in the rest of the UK or another G8 nation. Blow The Whistle - Half Time To Halve Poverty Sunday 20th May, 3-4 pm, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester 2007 is the half way mark to the aim of the governments of the world to halve global poverty by 2015. The Blow the Whistle campaign aims to draw attention to the disturbing lack of progress from world leaders in fulfilling their commitments which were made by in 2000. Blowing the Whistle Half Time to Halve Poverty will be a powerful reminder to the UK government that we are as committed to the poor and to justice as we have been during recent years, as expressed in the Make Poverty History campaign, Jubilee 2000, and other high profile campaigns. This can be a powerful reminder a few weeks ahead of the next G8 conference in Germany in June. But to make the big

Me in Taize

The Taize community website have just put up a video about the community that you can watch online. It's a good video that captures the spirit of the place, plus it does feature moi with some rather fetching stubble (Steve from Birmingham if you can't work it out). Worth watching. I'm heading back there this summer. It will be the first time I've been back in 4 years. Except this time I'll be going as an out and proud Unitarian, not as someone tagging on to some Anglicans. That will be an interesting experience I think.


What is the division within Unitarianism? I think it might be simplistic to speak of Christian and non-Christian. A more accurate way I think is to talk about different attitudes towards tradition. Some Unitarians see what has gone before as important, others much less so. Of course us liberals in general have little time for tradition. But I am very much of the opinion that tradition does matter. It's the radical catholic in me. It matters where we've come from, our story so far. We are not bound by that story, but our own story does emerge from that. We need roots. Although often people put the label 'Christian' on me, it's not one I freely use for myself. I may do one day, but I am still of two minds of whether I want to use the label 'Christian' or not. I am still unsure what that might mean. But one thing I am is a traditionalist. I don't want a religion made up yesterday. I don't want something disembodied from its history. Whether we still

Mission Implausible

I'm in the middle of reading this book. A central theme is that modernity and postmodernity in Europe has undermined the 'plausibility' of Christanity so Christians need to build structures that protect and reinforce the plausibility of the Christian story. I've just been mulling over this. My question is this: does following Jesus depend on a worldview? Is Christianity a worldview? My feeling is that it isn't. My feeling is that Jesus didn't come to start a worldview or a religion but to tell the people around him how to live their faith more authentically in a transformed relationship with God. When the Jesus movement later expanded there was the need to build a 'worldview' that successfully married Hebrew and Greek culture. And so a philosophical system was created and so were the creeds. But I don't think Jesus' message is actually tied to that worldview. I think worldviews come and go, and that one is going, or it has already gone. I think

Does anyone know anything about the Development Commission?

Apparently it exist in the late eighties to early nineties. It was meant to 'develop' some volunteer congregations to get them to grow, and apparently there was some talk of developing new churches in towns without a Unitarian presence, but that never happened. But clearly it had some pretty serious funding. The language of 'development' is interesting. I want to smack the label 'evangelism' on this kind of thing. What can be learnt from the successes and failures of this venture?

Election results, in my neighbourhood and beyond

Here are the results in my ward, Rusholme: Abu Chowdhury (Liberal Democrat) 1241 Atiha Chaudry (Labour) 746 Nahella Ashraf (Respect) 535 Penny Collins (Green) 224 Daniel Valentine (Conservative) 190 I don't mind saying that I voted for the LibDem, the sitting councilor, and he won. That's the first time I've voted for a LibDem and they've been successful. I was very aware of the anti-war Respect party campaigning in a very visible way here. Although they came third, they weren't really a threat. I thought they might do better here. I also don't think I've ever lived in a ward where the Conservative came fifth and last. That tells me a lot about the neighbourhood where I've lived for six months. In Manchester overall things stayed pretty much the same, Labour are in power, Liberal Democrats in opposition, there hasn't been a Conservative councilor in 11 years


I've just come out of a long conversation with the guy from British Gas who came to do a safety check on my boiler. The fact that I live within a theological college meant that the conversation got around to faith. We began by talking about the differences between the different denominations represented here at college. This got us around to Unitarianism, and what is stands for. We stood in my kitchen for half an hour talking. He asked me a lot of questions about Unitarianism, and I did my best to answer him. Then he started talking about his own faith. He was Pentecostal. He asked me for a Bible and showed me some proof texts as he talked about his faith and what it meant to him. He talked in an articulate way about what he believed with gusto and confidence. I fully enjoy such conversations, even though I feel inadequate to express my beliefs. I'm sure God is working in such conversations, but I don't always know what result God is working to come out of the encounter

Found! The third British Unitarian blogger

Someone mentioned to me at GA that Andrew Brown, minister of Cambridge Unitarian Church, has a blog, and so I finally looked it up and found it. It's part of the Church's website, with a format that needs an individual click to read each entry, which is a bit annoying. And there is no commenting facility which means which can't get a dialogue going, which is a shame. But I'm glad our number is slowly increasing. Andrew makes three, in addition to me and Matt at Renewed Hope . Cambridge Unitarian Church Minister's Blog .

Time to Re-Brand St George

Happy St George's Day. Here's an article from Ekklesia : The patron saint of the English should be rebranded and St George's Day should become a national day of dissent, a religious think-tank is proposing. The ideas come in a report published ahead of St George's Day, this Monday 23rd April 2007 - and in an article published on Friday in the Church of England Newspaper. In the report published today (Thursday 20th April) entitled; "When the Saints Go Marching Out: Redefining St George" Ekklesia co-directors Jonathan Bartley and Simon Barrow propose that George once again take his place as the 'people's saint'. The report points out that the original story which dates from the 4th century CE told of St George offering hospitality to a refugee, defending the marginalised, and challenging the persecution policy of the Emperor. This image has been distorted, and replaced by one of a dragon slayer who backs the crusades (religious wars). 'Re-bran

I know that guy!

My friend emailed me the other day and ended the message with, 'Have you seen Johndeep on TV?' I hadn't but guessed at the type of programme she was talking about and looked him up, and there he was on Any Dream Will Do on BBC1. I went to school with Johndeep and so have known him many years. I remember the times when I was getting better parts than him in school shows!! He's been in London trying to break into that ol' acting and singing malarkey for a few years now. And now he's got into this. Good luck to him. I missed the first show but this weekend I'm with my parents and my dad had accidentally recorded it from last week so I managed to watch it yesterday. Tonight is the second show, so watch it and vote Johndeep!

An old photo a friend just gave me

Yes, it is me. It was Halloween.

This Thursday in London: Trade Justice Action

From Pressure Works . The European Union is trying to get former colonies to sign up to the new unfair trade agreements and we've only got to the end of the year to put a stop to it. Come out on Thursday 19 April in the biggest trade justice event of 2007 and send a loud and clear message to EU leaders that you: - Say no to unacceptable pressure on developing countries to accept the new unfair trade agreements. - Say no to locking African, Caribbean and Pacific nations into poverty so European companies can carve out bigger profits. - Say no to Europe undermining jobs, healthcare, education and the environment in developing countries. March in London and in cities across the UK and Ireland to demand the EU stops trying to impose these new agreements. The governments of the EU are pushing unfair trade deals on 75 former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). These countries - some of the poorest in the world - are under extreme pressure from Europe as it rushe

GA: Day Four

(Not exactly live anymore, I'm talking about last Friday, but I'm still faster than any other news source, barring the GA Zette, but you have to come along to get that) The last business meeting dealt with the left over motions and the procedural motions, and some more reports. David Dawson gave his address as the retiring President. He said one thing that is worth repeating. He might have said a couple, but I can only remember one now. He recommended we use a different 'brand name' as 'the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches' is rather too long and combersome. I agree entirely. David advocated 'Unitarians in Britain' which is fine. For me I'd want to call us 'The Unitarian Church' or when talking internationally 'The British Unitarian Church.' That's what I've written for my link on the right here. The trouble is of course that some would see it as a rejection of Christianity to drop the word 'Chr