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Showing posts from February, 2010

Parliament fails children on sex education

The Children, Schools, and Family Bill was passed last night by Parliament. In general this was a good piece of legislation that made Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (which includes sex education) part of the National Curriculum. However an amendmend was added that seriously weakened the bill by allowing tax-payer funded schools with religious foundations to opt out of these requirements. This means that while all other schools are required to teach "balanced" and "accurate" sex education, tax-payer funded faith schools (around a third of all schools in Britain) can choose not to if they believe it contradicts their "religious ethos." The bill as it stood without the amendment already allowed for education that explored and respected different cultural and religious perspectives, and would have already allowed tax-payer funded faith schools to teach their religious views on issues of sexuality. But now the religious ethos can trump all oth

What words do we use to describe our communtiy?

Last month I did an activity with my congregation, Bank Street Unitarian Chapel, about the words we use to describe ourselves. We had a general discussion and then each person voted (with three votes each) on the words or phrases they liked the best. This was concentrated on working out what we think about the words we (or other Unitarian communities) currently use, rather than trying to creatively come up with our own phrases (though one person couldn't resist). The results were pretty interesting: Open hearts, open minds 8 Here let no one be a stranger 7 Founded 1672 6 Unitarian 5 Liberal religious community 4 (Comment: basically Christian as we were born into Christian community) Many beliefs, one faith 4 Everyone welcome 3 Spirituality without conformity 2 We welcome all without discrimination 2 Reason, tolerance, liberty 1 And one person tried to sum it all up by writing: Missing – “worship” “chal

Evangelism and church growth: the same or different?

In the last few years in the Unitarian community there has been a lot of talk of growth. In these conversations there often arises some tensions around growth. Some people are unapologetic about going for growth for growth's sake. They would argue that is it a moral imperative to grow our congregations, that if we are doing things right, if we are healthy and living out our mission, our churches will be growing. "Growth" is the accumulation of a congregation changing the lives of many individuals, and it matters to each of those individuals, so growth matters. This is the philosophy on which Peter Morales was elected as UUA president. At the same time there are those who are a bit reluctant about all this. They are a bit uncomfortable with "marketing" and "sales" philosophy being applied to religion. They don't really think growth should be for growth's sake, but they're not really sure for what's sake it should be. They're kind of

Power 2010

There's less than three months until a General Election, and I'm trying to get a wee bit excited at the prospect, but I really can't. Compared to the last American election, which was already at fever pitch by this point, I just can't get excited by this election. None of the leaders are very exciting. I can't even really think of a debate about the issues that is really exciting. I am a politically-minded person. I will stay up all night to watch the results. I want to be excited by the prospect of an election, but I'm struggling. The prospect of television debates between the leaders for the first time ever is possibly one thing that might make this more interesting. But the scandal of MP's expenses has lead to such a disillusionment with politics in general there seems a strong danger there will be the lowest turnout ever. Perhaps one way to re-engage us all in politics is some grassroots work for reforming our political system. This is the idea of Powe

Growth and Decline

Peter Whitman, in a letter to The Inquirer , has worked out some numbers for Unitarian membership in the UK. I'm not quite sure how he's done it, perhaps it's not difficult if you want to delve through Annual Reports, but I'm glad he has. Once again, I want to know why such numbers are not publically available and discussed at the Annual Meetings. Here's the numbers: 2005: 3952 2006: 3754 2007: 3711 2008: 3642 These are membership numbers for every Unitarian church in Britain. The numbers are dropping by about 100 people a year. If we follow the graph down we will be extinct in 35 years. Seeing as I am due to retire in 38 years this is certainly somewhat worrying. And of course these kind of statistics rarely behave quite so linearly, so it's much more likely that we'd be looking at extinction in something closer to 20 years. I'm convinced this would be a fascinating study for a religious studies academic: what does a dying denominati

"The religion of the future"

As I sit at home this morning, waiting for a delivery of a new power cord for my laptop (the old one is frayed and crackling vaguley when I move it - not good) I thought I'd offer some reflections. I'm thinking about the silliness of liberalism, liberals can be very silly sometimes. Despite trying to be rational and sensible liberals can convince themselves of their own stories through the momentum of their own myths as much as anyone. But when we examine these things we can find their foundations very shaky. One of the myths that religious liberals tell themselves is that we are "the religion of the future." We tell ourselves that society is changing dramatically and that we are so much more in tune with society, and the way things are going that we are bound to become the dominant religion very soon. The trouble is, when you examine this you find that people have been saying this for at least 200 years. Thomas Jefferson was sure that all of America would become U