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Showing posts from March, 2007

What has happened to the Free Churches?

Here's an interesting article from the former general secretary of the Conference of European Churches about the state of English Free Churches. I too would like to see stronger voices from a variety of Christian communities and the dominance of Anglicanism questioned. I'd also like to see the Free Churches re-engage with their historical commitment for a separation of church and state.

Church planting in historical perspective

Here are the youngest Unitarian communities in Britain, the year they were founded, and how often they meet, which gives some indication of their vitality: 2006 Hollandstoon Unitarian Chapel, Haughland, Shapinsay (weekly services?) (2005?) Charnwood Unitarian Fellowship (monthly services) (2002?) Durham Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) (2000?) Harrogate Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) 1994 Banbury Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) 1993 Bath Unitarian Fellowship (twice a month) 1981 Hyde Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) 1976 Chelmsford Unitarian Fellowship (twice monthly) 1964 Worthing Unitarian Fellowship (weekly) 1963 Unitarian Fellowship of Enfield and St. Albans (three times a month) 1959 Cirencester Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) 1947 Watford Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) Date unknown, but presumably in the late twentieth century: Reading Unitarian Fellowship (monthly) Manx Unitarian Fellowship, Isle of Man (quarterly) Colchester Unitarian Fellowship (eight times per year) E

Why we need Americans, and why it won't work

We need American ministers: here's why it makes sense: The UUA has 1658 ministers and 1039 congregations. Many more ministers than congregations. The British Unitarian General Assembly has 65 active ministers and 180 congregations. Many more congregations than ministers. (The Directory lists 145 ministers, but this includes retired ministers, ministers in the NSPCI and ministers that have now moved to other countries). Looking at these figures it occurs to me: wouldn't it be good if 100 American ministers could come over here? Let's put aside the question of pay for a moment, and let me give the other reason why this wouldn't work (or would create problems). Why this wouldn't work: "I believe... that we are inheritors of a deeply and profoundly spiritual tradition of our own. What is more this tradition is not only uniquely Unitarian Universalist, but also typically American." (Barry Andrews, Thoreau as Spiritual Guide, xiii) How much is Unitarian Univers

Scripture and Creed

I've been learning more about Sikhism. There's a great deal that's very appealing about Sikhism to me, especially as it was originally taught by Guru Nanak, who really wanted to get away from 'isms.' Sikhs reject the idea of creeds. They would say that you can't capture God in one written statement, I'd agree with that. Often Unitarians speak as if being creedless means there is no such thing as shared beliefs. Lots of religions in fact are creedless, possibly most of them. But this doesn't mean that there is no shared theology or scripture, or important shared ideas. You have to have that, you're not a coherent religion without it. It seems to be what Unitarianism needs is not creed but scripture. It is important for me to affirm revelation is not sealed or limited to one book; and I want to reject the idea that the Bible can ever be authority for us. But we do need something that is foundational and scriptural for us. We don't need to define t


Where I study the buzzword is 'context.' I'm studying for a degree in 'contextual theology.' We're always being asked to relate academic study to our work in church and the world. We're asked to think about our context theologically and our theology contextually. I like this approach. I think its quite appropriate and useful for ministerial training. I pass this building everytime I walk to Sainsbury's to do my shopping. It used to be a Unitarian church and now its the home of Manchester Amateur Photographic Society. For me its a gravestone: 'A Unitarian community once lived here 1646 - 1970. Now it is dead.' If I needed it, this serves as a sombre reminder of the context of British Unitarianism. Everything we do and say should be related to this context: the context of decline; the context of gravestone-churches; forgotten brick buildings rotting slowly away at the side of the road. It's irresponsible to act like this isn't happening. I

MPs vote for an elected House of Lords

This week MPs voted for a fully elected second chamber in Parliament. It's not what the government wanted, and not what anyone expected but the vote came out with a clear majority for a 100% democratically elected House of Lords. This vote is 'indicative' not binding on ministers, but it gives a very clear signal. I'd say it's about time. Frankly I find it embarassing that the lower house of the Parliament that runs this country is made up of heredity peers, appointees, and worst of all 26 Church of England bishops. It's a blight on our democracy, and needs reforming. I always find it curious and a bit annoying that in America there is such organisations as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to maintain a separation that is already constitutionally established; whereas in the UK, where there is no separation of church and state, there is no such organisation to campaign to create that separation. One organisation that does want a separatio