Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2014

What are the theological commitments of Unitarianism?

I'm just back from spending a few days with ministry students and probationary ministers for an intense time of residential learning called Ministry in the Making. One of the topics we discussed was whether Unitarianism had any theology beyond personal credos that we all share in common. Or whether it is only values we share. I said I do believe that Unitarianism is a coherent theological tradition very definitely committed to a particular approach to the life of faith and to theology. There is a theology that holds us. Some folks asked for one comment I made to be written down, so for them, and for anyone else interested, here is what I would say we are committed to as Unitarian theology. This is a lot more than I said at the time, but I got going with it. Unitarianism is a theological tradition with commitments. This list could be improved, or put in different ways, but we really are committed to the following theological points: 1. There is a spiritual dimension to rea

Growing Unitarian congregations 2013

More analysis from the Annual Report. 2010 was the first Annual Report to list quota membership numbers, so it's now possible to use this baseline to see what congregations are shrinking (most of them) and which are growing (some of them). Keeping in mind that quota numbers are a poor reflection of the reality of congregations, I still think it's valuable to do a bit of analysis. Three years is also too short a time. Five would be better. Also an increase of 1 or 2 is probably within the margin or error for this kind of thing. But with all this in mind we can see the growth in the following congregations, comparing 2010 and 2013. Congregation Increase in members Change London Islington and Newington Green            22 From 70 to 92 London Golders Green 14 From 41 to 54 Birmingham Hollywood   11 From 48 to 59 Bangor* 8 From 0 to

3,384 or 3,900 and why "visibility" is not the answer

This is a delayed post of the usual post I do about Unitarian membership numbers reported in the Annual Report. The number of Unitarian members reported in the Annual Report is 3384, down 84 people from 3468 last year. A drop of about 2.5%. Here's how the numbers look over the last few years: 2005: 3952 2006: 3754 2007: 3711 2008: 3642 2009: 3658 2010: 3672 2011: 3560 2012: 3468 2013: 3384 Despite a short blip in 2008 to 2010, the numbers continue to fall steadily. In addition to the official numbers this year there was a congregational survey that reveals a few interesting things. One of the outcomes was that the survey suggested that the number of regular people in our communities was more like 3900 regular people in Unitarian congregations. This is hardly surprising as official membership numbers are likely to be smaller than actual numbers for many different reasons. The most interesting thing for me about the survey was the number of visitors. In one month

Resolutions are a terrible way to do social justice

So, how are you doing with your General Assembly resolutions then? What are you, or your congregation doing about… what was it again? Ah yes: Thought for the Day, gold mining in Romania, the Red Cross and books in prisons? Can I ask another question? What are you and your congregation doing about the resolutions passed in 2013? Um, let’s see. It was something about… drug reform was definitely one of them… no I can’t remember the rest. Can you? How about how we’re getting on with the resolutions we passed in 2010? Can you remember any of them? Or the ones we passed in 2000? Can you remember any of them? If, like me, you struggle to think what the issues were a couple of years ago, can I make a suggestion? Can I suggest that our current system is actually not working? Every year I have the faint hope that there will be no motions at all at the Annual Meetings. I think it would be wonderful if we could not talk so much one year and find something more useful to do wi

Truth and Oneness

(I'm writing here just as a notebook basically as my ideas develop, this is not totally thought-through stuff, this is me jotting down some ideas) I don't agree with the assertion that Unitarianism is primarily characterised by a belief in the authority and autonomy of the individual. I tend to think this is a post-modern perversion of what we're really trying to say about the nature of Truth. It is as mistaken to think "my truth cannot be questioned" as it is to think "the Bible's truth cannot be questioned." The foundation of religious liberalism (James Luther Adams expresses this well) is that NO truth is above scrutiny. All truths can be scrutinised and analysed. The trouble is we apply this idea happily to the Authority of the Church or the Authority of Scripture as ideas we have historically rejected from Catholicism and Protestantism respectively - but we refuse to apply the idea TO OURSELVES. We make ourselves Infallible Popes of our own in

The difference between "taking the service" and "leading worship"

"There is a subtle yet profound difference between 'taking the service' and 'leading worship'. The focus on the former is on following the liturgy or order of service. The focus on the latter is on helping people to encounter the presence of God. This is likely to involve an ability to be comfortable with the use of silence  to enable people to hear what God is saying to them. Equally the use of testimonies and stories , in which people share experiences of God's action are likely to be evident. A sense of celebration of the reality of the goodness of God will be present. This is likely to be balanced by an ability, corporately, to engage with the pain and brokenness in the world around. So joy and sorrow, laughter and tears will be in evidence." Robert Warren, The Healthy Churches' Handbook   

Bank Street photos

I'm mainly posting these for a technical reason too boring to go into. By you might enjoy them.