Seeking the Spiritual in the City

The labyrinth at Ely Cathedral. Photo sourced from Flikr.com

In recent years, Christians have been increasingly drawn to labyrinth walks and what labyrinths signified in medieval Christianity. The most famous of the medieval labyrinths is found in Chartres in France. More modern labyrinths can be found at Ely and Norwich cathedrals among others. One Unitarian minister even has a pull-out labyrinth on a canvas.  Labyrinths were a form of pilgrimage, or journeying, for those who couldn’t afford to, or who were too ill, to travel to a sacred site. We also know that labyrinths were the place of liturgical rituals by the Christian church, not just for the slow prayerful walks we associate with labyrinths now. Continue reading

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Victoria Weinstein’s “Growing Up May Be The Only Thing That Leads To Growth”: Do British Unitarians Need to Grow Up Too?

A chalice based on the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association of the USA. Many British Unitarian congregations also light a chalice or candle during worship services. Photo from http://visualstpaul.blogspot.co.uk

I was fascinated to read this recent blog post by the American Unitarian Universalist Minister the Revd. Victoria Weinstein on her blog PeaceBang. In a sincere and challenging blog post, Weinstein argues that the Unitarian Universalist (UU) movement needs to become more mature as a community of spiritual seekers, as well as become more receptive to the spiritual needs of newcomers to congregations. Weinstein’s remarks are not uncontroversial: she believes that an over-focus on social justice issues and a reluctance by sections of the UU movement to engage with Christian thought and teaching prevents the movement from attracting and retaining new members.

I first encountered Weinstein’s blog post on a Facebook group for British Unitarians (a link to an open group is here). I’d like to thank Yvonne Aburrow for initially sharing Weinstein’s words and inviting discussion of them. I also recommend all Unitarian readers of this blog to follow the link to PeaceBang here.

What do Weinstein’s words mean for Unitarians in the UK, in our different cultural, and church-political settings? Rather than leave a long comment on Facebook, I’ve typed out some reflections below. Continue reading

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Easter: Resurrection and the Reality of Transformation

Bouquet produced during the Flower Communion Service at Chorlton Unitarian Church, 8 April 2012

This post is a slightly altered version of a homily I gave at Chorlton Unitarian Church on Easter Sunday, 8 April 2012.

It is Easter morning in the garden when the women, including Mary of Magdala, find the empty tomb. John’s Gospel records this: Continue reading

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General Assembly 2012: Day 4

With the fringe meetings over, and the exhibition and book stall packing up, General Assembly treated its by now weary delegates to a final morning of business meetings. Meetings rounded off with closing worship and the ceremonial presidential handover from the Revd Dr Ann Peart, to Lis Dyson-Jones, who (as is customary) served as GA vice-president in the 12 months since the last Annual Meetings.

One thing I am yet to mention on this blog, and one of the most popular features of Annual Meetings is Morning Worship. Each morning, at 7.30am for half an hour, a different act of worship takes place, reflecting the diversity of beliefs and practices in the Unitarian movement. One of these services features a communion ritual, which today was led by the Revd Wyn Thomas and members of the largely Welsh-speaking Unitarian community in south-west Wales.

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General Assembly 2012: Day 3

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Banners of several Unitarian congregations and organisations.

While delegate bop at the “GA disco” at Keele Hall (photographic evidence below!), I’m sitting here to try and make sense of the day’s proceedings before I retire, hopefully to awake tomorrow morning smiley and alert, unlike everyone else – at least that’s the plan.

Today’s business meetings produced their most significant outcome yet. The General Assembly voted almost unanimously in favour of calling on the Westminster and Scottish governments to legislate to allow same-sex marriage, mixed sex civil partnerships, and religious same sex marriage for religious groups who wish to offer it. The final substantive motion was presented after a lot of agonising over wording, and the motion was almost split into two. The resolution means that Unitarians can say what they stand for on a national level – even if not all individual Unitarians agree with it. I was pleased to be able to speak in favour of the motion during the debate and to have contributed to such a positive outcome. Continue reading

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General Assembly 2012: Day 2

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New and retired Ministers and Lay Pastors join preacher the Revd. Celia Cartwright and worship leader the Revd. Chris Goacher on the stage at the Anniversary Service

 

Despite yesterday’s controversies, nothing prepared us for the shock of waking up to snowfall at Keele University campus this morning! It wasn’t sticking, but the snow was a surprise for us, stuck in the hills, relatively isolated from the day’s news and weather reports.

Most of the morning was taken by Business Meetings. Only one of the two scheduled motions was debated, owing to time. A motion asking the GA to petition the government in compulsory non-military National Service had been submitted. Despite an amendment changing it to “non-compulsory,” the motion was rejected by a large majority. I voted against the motion. I wasn’t able to give a speech I’d prepared against the motion, but the motion was submitted on the premise that young people were hanging around in gangs and behaving anti-socially, which I find an unacceptable view. Continue reading

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General Assembly 2012: Day 1

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The Revd. Pwter Owen-Jones speaks at Unitarian Annual Meetings

Welcome to what will (hopefully) be a daily blog from the UK Unitarian Annual Meetings at Keele University in Staffordshire. There will be plenty of micro-blogging going on over the next few days, under the Twitter Hashtag #GAUK. I’m going to try and concentrate on this blog, partly so not to annoy my (mostly non-Unitarian) Twitter followers with constant live tweets! As always, this blog is of my own views and does not represent those of the Unitarian General Assembly.

Tuesday’s proceedings kicked off with the John Relly Beard Lecture, this year with the Revd Peter Owen Jones (pictured), best known for his BBC Series Around the World in 80 Faiths. I was slightly suspicious about what a “media vicar” might have to say, but I was hugely impressed by his insights. Continue reading

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