Enlisted by birth, environment and choice, under Jesus' banner - a liberal Christian thought from 1923 by J. Cyril Flower, minister of the Cambridge Memorial Church (Unitarian)

J. Cyril Flower
This afternoon I took some time to re-read some of the things written by J. Cyril Flower who was minister of the Memorial Church (Unitarian) between 1922 and 1931 - the same church where I am minister.

I was doing this because my ministerial review is due next month and this has been a helpful time for me to reflect on both my own ministry and, of course, the kind of ministry experienced by this particular liberal church.

As I have mentioned a couple of times in recent sermons this activity seems to me important because in our own age, we can see clearly that our understanding of in what consists for us reality, our world, is always 'experienced within horizons which are made up of a series of echoes, linguistic resources, messages from the past, messages coming from others, and others beside us such as other cultures' (Gianni Vattimo cited in 'The Weak Thought and its Strength' by Dario Antiseri, Avebury Press, Aldershot 1996 p. 9).

As I have been before, I was struck and encouraged by his words which conclude a chapter simply entitled "Jesus" in a 1923 book entitled "Aspects of Modern Unitarianism", not least of all because I find that I don't really seem to feel any different from him about the matter. I might not have used the martial metaphor he does at one point and nor do I think that I precisely share his metaphysics, but the echo and spirit of his words are still creatively resonating in my own ministry. Anyway, here are Flower's words (which you'll find on p. 105 at the link above):


I confess that I find the laborious attempt to define what is called the "place" of Jesus, or any other great prophet of God, altogether unedifying. It is enough if we follow the light when and where we see it, in whose hands soever be the torch. When I am in Switzerland, worshipping God in the splendour of the snowy mountains, it is of no interest to me that, in India or America, there may be snow-clad mountains which are a few hundred feet loftier. If I am in Switzerland, let me breathe in the beauty of its mountain grandeur, and expand my soul in contemplation of the present symbols of the Infinite and the Eternal: he who is among the Rocky Mountains or in India can do nothing more, and should do nothing less. We live in an atmosphere and a civilization whose best characteristics  are steeped in the influence of Jesus. We are enlisted by birth, environment and choice, under his banner. There are other captains in the one great army of God; but he is ours, and we shall promote the success of the divine campaign for the kingdom of heaven, not by gossiping about the particular features, demeanour, or apparel of the various captains - but by lovingly and faithfully following our own; for all genuine religions are allies, and not enemies. The prophets of God are many, but God is one; and that under whatever banner India, China, England, Palestine may move forward, they may be led by their accepted captain, courageous, faithful, loving their brothers and honouring their leader, to God, should be the aspiration and the prayer of all who are disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.     

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