Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2021

Am I an activist?

  I remember being at some protest outside the Senedd once, and someone introduced me to someone else, and said, "Stephen is an activist." I remember thinking - am I? I don't know. What does it mean to be an activist? Who gets to use that title? Am I an activist because I turn up at a few protests? Or do I have to be one them organising the protest to be an activist? Do I have to lead? Do I have to do the organisational work to be an activist? Because the truth is that since I moved to Cardiff I have kept myself at the periphery of a lot of activist groups. I go to meetings, I hear about things, I turn up at protests, but I have rarely got really fully involved. Why is that? It's not for the reason that I don't have time. I do, in fact. But often I sit in these meetings and protests and think "Is this effective? Is it worthwhile? Is it going to produce something at the end of it all that is worth the effort?" I suppose, coming from the world of church I

Gentle/Radical nominated for the Turner Prize

One of the projects I'm involved in as part of Gentle/Radical is “Doorstep Revolution” a project to collect stories of Riverside during the pandemic. This has been a fascinating and rewarding project. It's such a privilege when people let you into their lives and tell you their stories. One of the themes that has come out of this work is the importance of connection, the connections that have been strained under lockdown, and the connections we want to grow and strengthen in the coming months. This, and other work, has now been recognised with a nomination for the Turner Prize. The following article is from the BBC: The 2021 Turner Prize nominees are, for the first time, made up of collectives who have helped to "inspire social change through art", organisers say. Exhibitions have been largely closed over the past year due to the pandemic. With that in mind, Friday's shortlist contained the names of five groups who continued to work in the community. Prize c

The problem with advocating for future generations and nature

'  "The unborn" are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don't resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don't ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don't need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don't bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It's almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, t

What would a "Buddhist kind of" Christianity look like?

I keep playing with the idea of a "Buddhist kind of" Christianity. This comes from my experience of dynamic Buddhist groups that are thriving and growing in a western context. Sure, those Buddhist groups are never going to grow so that they are the majority (or anywhere near) in a country like Wales. But I have no doubt that they will remain a growing, dynamic, minority.  And so I think - what is it that Buddhists are doing that Christians aren't? And what would it mean if Christians did those things? And yes, generalisations are hard, and Buddhism is a very diverse thing, so I'm really just speaking out of my own experience, rather than from doing an in-depth survey.  This is not a well-thought through list (this blog is really for thoughts-in-progress) but here's what I think a "Buddhist kind of" Christianity would look like: There would be an emphasis on practice. Rather than seeing the point as being attendance at a church, or self-identification as

To slay the demon you have to name the demon

The principle of needing to name a demon before you can kill it is well enshrined in magical folklore, and I know it particularly because the principle was talked about by the author Terry Pratchett.  Naming demons is the first step to slaying them. Names have power. This is magical folklore - that once you name something you have a degree of power over it. You know its truth and that is powerful. There is a deep truth here. The fact that the UK has started naming winter storms shows how this effect works psychologically. If you say "it's going to be windy and rainy tomorrow" it doesn't have the same effect as saying "Storm Denis is coming!" Naming makes something more real, we take it more seriously and we respond to it. This idea has been on my mind as I've been reading This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein.  I've not even got half way through but it's an exhilarating read that I'm thoroughly enjoying. I'm tr

Doorstep Revolution

Here's news of a project I'm involved in (words edited from the Arts Council of Wales website): Gentle/Radical is a Cardiff-based grassroots organisation and they have received £40k in funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to build on and amplify the creativity and contribution seen within communities and across civil society during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The funding, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will enable Gentle/Radical to work within the neighbourhood of Riverside, listening to and sharing different experiences and stories and imagining together, what is possible for the future. The project is called Doorstep Revolution and initiates a hyper-local street-by-street outreach and doorstep engagement programme, aimed at creating a vivid COVID-portrait of one of Wales’ most diverse and rich multicultural neighbourhoods.  The project will establish an outreach and volunteer team who will conduct hundreds of dialogues - socially-distanced doorstep

Meeting the Beloved

Many of us are drawn to that sense of the divine, or the “something more”, but we don't know how to start to explore this, half the time we don't really believe it, and the idea of “prayer” seems silly and childish. But contemplative prayer is a practice that can begin to introduce us to the mysterious "something more" that reaches out to us in love: the Divine, the Beloved, God.  This online event does not try to "sell" you someone else's ideas about God, but will create a space to encounter the Divine for yourself. We will introduce chants, meditation, and contemplative prayer to allow a space to genuinely encounter the God within for ourselves. The last Wednesday of the month for the next five months, at 7.30pm.  24th February 31st March 28th April 26th May 30th June https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82707472167 Meeting ID: 827 0747 2167  Passcode: 674772

Why I now identify as a Universalist

For a while now I've been thinking of myself as more of a Universalist, and less of a Unitarian. The reasons for this are many-layered and evolving, but I thought I would write some of them down.  Firstly I suppose I should say in many ways I am  still a Unitarian. I am a minister of the General Assembly of Unitarian Free Christian Churches. I am not a Trinitarian, and in that strict sense I am still a Unitarian. I am still inspired by a number of aspects of the Unitarian tradition: Channing, American Transcendentalism, Polish Brethren Unitarians, James Luther Adams, James Martineau. And yet I feel Universalism describes my faith better. This is despite the fact that, unlike in the United States, there never was a large organised Universalist denomination in the UK, though there were a smattering of Universalist churches, and some of today's Unitarian churches were originally Universalist (I might be wrong but I think: Brighton, Boston, Glasgow, as well as the congregations of

The death of Mohamud Mohammad Hassan

  I don't have anything wise of clever to say about the death of Mohamud Mohammad Hussan in Cardiff a few days ago. Clearly South Wales Police have a lot of questions to answer. We need truth and justice. For now, I will be trying to pray, holding the rage and the grief of it all. You're welcome to pray with me too.

Meeting the Beloved: A Time of Contemplative Prayer

Meeting the Beloved: A Time of Contemplative Prayer  Tuesday 26th January 7.30pm  Many of us are drawn to that sense of the divine, or the “something more”, but we don't know how to start to explore this, half the time we don't really believe it, and the idea of “prayer” seems silly and childish.  But contemplative prayer is a practice that can begin to introduce us to the mysterious "something more" that reaches out to us in love: the Divine, the Beloved, God.  This online event does not try to "sell" you someone else's ideas about God, but will create a space to encounter the Divine for yourself. We will introduce chants, meditation, and contemplative prayer to allow a space to genuinely encounter the God within for ourselves.  Send a message to s_lingwood@hotmail.com to get the zoom log in for the event.  https://www.facebook.com/events/1036718826804752 

Love your enemies

I'll never forget the time I heard a colleague of mine talking about when he was doing peace work negotiating with loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The one thing he said which struck me was this: that he genuinely found the loyalist terrorists to be nicer people than the peace activists; that within the peace organisations there was more “politics”, more backbiting, more bullying than in the terrorist organisations.  That's always stuck with me because it reminds me that an organisation can have a noble purpose, and yet have totally screwed up interpersonal dynamics. You can belong to an organisation that's purpose is peace, and yet one that acts in an ultimately violent way, even if that's just the violence of words.  This is the danger that is always present for any group of people trying to seek the Beloved Community. Churches can be places of nasty gossip.  Peace organisations can be places where people get bullied.  Climate activist groups can act