Welcome to the New Blog

Welcome to the new blog. You can find old posts and my weekly sermons (though I might put the sermons up here too - they are a kind of blog!) at the church website but quite a few people said that they would value the opportunity to comment so, here goes. I'll kick off with the last posting from the old site called "Conversations with a heretic - A recent podcast for your delectation." Just over the road from the church hall is 2 Victoria Street and the folk who live there have their own podcast. Being curious neighbours I got a call from them and back in March they interviewed me as the local a bona fide Christian heretic. You can find it (and a link to the whole podcast) here.


Andrew Bethune said…
I've been following your previous not-quite-a-blog on the church website, so now I'm looking forward to your future contributions here.

Can I make a comment on the podcast?

Although it is true that Unitarianism began as a variant within Christianity, we have moved on in many many ways since those times. And so has 'mainstream' Christianity.

It seems to me that Unitarianism these days is characterised more as a method of working out one's faith and belief than a coherent set of beliefs.

If we accord people the freedom to explore the meaning of life, God, theology, faith - then we must expect that a wide diversity of opinions will arise. Either we encourage that diversity (not an easy option - but if we are prepared to listen to each other very rewarding) or we hive off into many little separate factions (and even that won't stop new diversities of opinion developing).

I believe that the statement in our General Assembly's website 'God' having 'no single definition' is honest and realistic. It does not prevent any individual Unitarian holding strongly to his or her views, and it could be argued that it implies that each Unitarian has a duty to formulate his or her own view and be willing to express that view.

But does our way of worship actually enable individuals to share their beliefs with others or listen to their views and experiences? Are we too dependent on our ministers, preachers and worship leaders?

I have a couple of suggestions - how much diversity of belief about God is there within Cambridge Unitarian Church? What about allowing people to write down their thoughts and perhaps expain them briefly to the congregation?

The other suggestion is that we should look at the experiences of other churches who have a non credal basis ( e.g. the Quakers)or sit lightly to creeds (e.g. the UCC in America). What can we learn from their experience?
Welcome to the blogosphere Andrew!

I'm not going to get into debates yet! Just saying hello.
Thanks Aviano – it’s good to get some real discussion underway.

I’ll address right now your question about whether “our way of worship actually enable[s] individuals to share their beliefs with others or listen to their views and experiences? Are we too dependent on our ministers, preachers and worship leaders?”

This is a common question to ask in liberal religious circles but is not T. S. Eliot right in observing in “Little Gidding” that in every church “You are not here to verify,/Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity/Or carry report. You are here to kneel/Where prayer has been valid./And prayer is more/Than an order of words, the conscious occupation/Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.”

Within any liberal Christian congregation there are, naturally, many views concerning, shall we say, the detailed nature of God. This is healthy and within the Cambridge congregation (especially after the service in coffee and during the midweek conversations) there is much lively conversation which reveals this diversity. But that diversity is limited (consciously and I think rightly) by our church’s historic covenant which every member signs and which says: “in the love of truth and spirit of Jesus, the members of this church unite for the worship of God and the service of humanity.” In other words there is a shared agreement that the reality and truth of God (in a broadly liberal/radical Christian context) is strongly affirmed in its worship and not understood merely to be one “option” among others to be discussed.

It is important to stress that this does not mean that within this church an atheistic position is not heard and considered, or a Buddhist conception of religion or a Hindu, Islamic understanding of God or whatever is not heard and considered, but it is to say that the local church is there to promote a worship (and understanding) of God that is coherently liberally/radically Christian in a way consistent with our historic affirmation that “God is One” and Jesus is human. If we don’t do that who else will? And, anyway, it is our particular and beautiful gift to the world of faith so why neglect it? It has always seemed to me that the liberalism and openness of a church such as the Cambridge one consists in actively supporting the maintenance of a wider liberal intellectual and social space (in our case the secular state) in which the kind of diversity and discussion you call for is not only allowed but encouraged. In truth of course that open space is actually made available in the various fora that exist outside its worship within the church’s life.

I think the GA’s statement about views on God is good (and one I support) but only when applied to wider society. I think it is bad, destructive and confusing when it is applied within individual churches. As James Luther Adams said when you open a church up to every belief under the sun you may well get “interesting confusion” but it will remain confusion all the same.

The trick, it seems to me, is how to remain able to live a coherent and modern Christian faith that has a non-credal basis and/or one which “sits lightly to creeds.” As you rightly say we do need to ask what we can learn from the Quakers or the United Church of Christ (UCC) on this matter.

But it’s hard, I’ll grant you that!