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Showing posts from March, 2008

GA 08 Day Four (Saturday)

Morning communion I suprised myself by actually getting up and going to the morning communion worship. I would have liked to have stayed in bed. But this is usually the only time in a year I take communion in a completely Unitarian setting, and that's important to me. The service was pretty traditional, too traditional for me really. I think a lot of non-Christian Unitarians go to this service so it would be good to show them something really radical one year, instead it rather comfirms the idea that the Christian end of the movement is pretty traditional, which it is. But good not to have a sermon I think, good to show that you can have a service without a sermon. Business meetings Celebrating our congregations, procedural motions and these motions: The government should set up a body that deals with all religious bodies equally since Unitarians and Jews have been thrown out of the Churches Main Committee when it was reorganised. Apparently such an advisory body is beeing set up,

GA 08 Day Three: Growth Day (Friday)

(Not exactly live anymore but still faster than any other news source) This is my continuing coverage of the Annual Meetings, I only report on events I attended. Morning worship Another friend of mine, Csaba Todor, the Sharpe Scholar from Transylvania at Unitarian College, led this worship. He asked me to do a reading, so I had to be there by 7.30. It was good though, he was a very hypnotic way of preaching without notes, really draws you in. Business meetings Reports from Commisions, celebrating our congregations, Motion that Mike Tomlin (former GA Treasurer) be given Honorary Membership. Growth Process This was a sort-of open space technology process in which the whole assembly talked about what we meant by growth and what priorites we wanted to have as a national community to bring about growth and renewal. I think this was a useful process and I hope it got people excited about working for growth, and a lot of people worked hard to organise this process (including myself as I was s

GA 08: Day Two (Thursday)

Business Meetings Nothing too contentious going on. A new innovation via the Denominational Support Commission is to 'celebrate our congregations' through a two minutes slot for one congregation per district. I like to see this kind of thing which should showcase our most successful and innovative congregations, though clearly through the presentations some are more innovate than others. Mortions (in roughly the order they came) And I'm paraphrasing. The General Assembly congratulates the Women's League on its 100th anniversarry. Well duh. Non-contentious. The Ministerial Fellowship is recognised as an affliated body to the General Assembly . Not every minister was in favour of this, I don't think anyone else cared about it very much. We believe prison if often inneffective and encourage other more effective rehabilitation. Another social justice motion that is entirely worthy but entirely ineffective as a way for us to do effective social justice work as a communi

GA 08: Day One (Wednesday)

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you. I have been meaning to blog before now, but I've only got internet properly set up in my room today. I've brought my camera with me, but not the cable to connect it to my computer, so I'll upload photos when I get back home. So I'll try to catch up with my brief coverage: Minister's conference Nothing of interest to report. International worrkshop We had speakers from USA, South Africa and Uganda. The Ugandan speaker, Mark Kiyamba, was most interesting to me, as I already know a fair bit about Unitarianism in the USA (obviously) and a bit about South Africa as well. It really excites me to hear about growing Unitarian communities in Africa. Could it still be possible that the renewal of our faith could come from the third world? Historically Unitarians have been really rubbish at supporting emerging Unitarian communities outside of Euro-America, I really hope that might change. Hymnbook panel The new book should be

GA 08: Preview

All of a sudden GA is upon us! Early because Easter is, it starts on Wednesday. I'm travelling down tomorrow for the Minister's conference. It's being held once more in Hatfield. I shall try to blog live from GA as usual. I'm going to take my laptop down as I think I should be able to get wireless in the room. So blogging should be easy. Watch this space.

Been buried in books for several days

But I've been really enjoying getting into some good ol' theologising.

I'm dreaming of a white... Easter?

Happy Easter from a snowy Manchester.

Unitarian Good Friday

This is a day late, but, hey, I'm busy writing a Unitarian theology of mission, which is hard enough... I don't often put other bits of my writing on here because I think that different media require a different genre of writing. My writing here is different from my sermons, or articles, or theological papers. But the someone said to me that a paper I did for Faith and Freedom should be more widely circulated so I did a briefer version for the Inquirer , which should be out now, though I haven't seen it yet. I thought I'd share the Inquirer article, for those who might be interested. What do we do with Good Friday? Most, if not all, of our Unitarian congregations will celebrate Easter Sunday this year on the 23rd of March. But how many will mark Good Friday? Much fewer, I’m sure. What does this say about us? What does it mean that we generally don’t mark Good Friday in our tradition? Perhaps we wouldn’t know what to say on Good Friday. What is it that Unitaria

The weird world of Google Earth

The BT Tower in Birmingham - what's wrong with this picture?

Both progressive and emerging?

The Sactus1 video has made me think about an issue that's been rolling around in my head for a while: is it possible to be both progressive and emerging? In other words is it possible to be radical in content as well as in style? Look at someone like John Shelby Spong: pretty radical in what he says, yet he still wears the dog-colar and purple shirt of a bishop. He looks entirely like a bishop. Similarly in Unitarian congregations: the theology might be off the wall, heresy of heresy, yet the minister may will still be in a black preaching robe looking terribly formal, there is much resistance if you don't wear a suit (I've experienced it, though it's always been in good humour), we have hymns and organs and pews and everything about our form is terriblly formal and traditional. But go to the congregation where the preacher is in jeans and a T shirt, where there is a jolly informality, or even where there are people with nose-rings and green hair, then the theology,

Loving Jesus?

Jaume, commenting here , makes what I think is a really good point. Would I like Jesus if I met him? I was thinking about this the other day. It was probably during ecumenical worship here in college when I was singing hymns about loving Jesus. There's a certain strain of Christianity, and definitely Christian hymns, that says something along these lines, "Jesus is so great, he loves me so much, he looks after me, I can't believe how much he's done for me." I sort of wonder if we're talking about the same Jesus. The Jesus I find in the Gospels isn't exactly cosy. Sure he has his soft side, but mostly he really challenges me. I think if I wrote a Valentine's card to Jesus he would write back to me saying rude things. I can't imagine the first reaction of the crowds listening to Jesus would be, 'oh, isn't he lovely, I really like him, he's really kind.' He wasn't the kind of person who you loved, he was the kind of person who yo

Growth: priorities

What should be the priorities of the General Assembly if it wants to promote growth? According to Lyle Schaller (Growing Plans, 165-168) the top three priorities should be: 1. Organise new congregations. This is the most effective way to reach people without any church affiliation. Newly organised congregations have a greater rate of growth than any other type of church. 2. Encourage the growth of large congregations. (I'm less convinced of this one because I'm not sure people born after 1975 are as invested in big churches as those born between 1945 and 1975, plus I'm not sure we have what church growth people would call a large congregation) 3. Help congregations assimilate new members. In many congregations as many people drop out of the back door as come into the front door. We need to understand why people leave our congregations as much as why they come to our congregations. Do we need more systematic systems for becoming members? i.e. membership classes, more litu

Do Unitarians believe in the unity of religions?

I've been mulling something over. Peacebang asks if this is the best statement we can make about Unitarian (Universal)ism. I've been thinking about the language used here: different people identify with different beliefs; this is fine because we're non-creedal, and we have principles that unite us. It's a negative way of putting it I think. It seems to suggest to me that beliefs don't matter. You can be a Christian or a Buddhist or a Pagan, but that's secondary, what unites us is our principles, therefore they matter more. Yet how can we say that following Jesus is a secondary thing? How can we say that taking refuge in the dharma of the Buddha is an unimportant thing? These are life-transforming things. These are things that shape the entirity of one's life. And these are exactly the things that I go to church to to talk about, and to practice. So how can these things live side by side in one community? There are three posibilities: one: they cannot, plu

It would be enough

Even if there was no Nicene Creed, I would still be here. Even if he wasn't of one essence with the Father, I would still be here. Even if the Bible is not divinely inspired, I would still be here. Even if there was no Paul, I would still be here. Even if he didn't rise bodily from the dead, I would still be here. Even if he didn't bodily ascend into heaven, I would still be here. Even if he isn't the Only Way, I would still be here. Even if he didn't walk on water, I would still be here. Even if he didn't heal anyone, I would still be here. Even if his mother wasn't a virgin, I would still be here. Even if he wasn't the Messiah, I would still be here. Even if he thought he was the Messiah, and was wrong, I would still be here. Even if he was wrong about a few things, I would still be here. Even if there was nothing of him but the sermon on the plain, a piece of writing describing a way of life filled with divine love, a way of life so radical and yet so