Friday, 16 November 2018

The #Unitarian Offer

(These words were recently delivered at a Unitarian service, by Daniel Costley, Unitarian Minister to congregations in Kent, and published on his blog BENGE, a link to which is at the bottom of our own blog.)

"Robbie Walsh caught my eye with the phrase:  ‘if you can prove it, then it’s not God; it’s something less than God’

This is a position I’ve taken personally for many years.  I too get frustrated that others wish to tell me what I can or can’t feel, what my emotions and intuition tell me exist.  I too get annoyed when, even fellow Ministers, try to explain my personal experiences.

For me, that defeats the whole purpose of my spiritual exploration.  It attempts to negate that glorious freedom I have been given to explore my own response to the world – seen and unseen – and to reflect on how this shapes or troubles me.  What I might change and what I might accept.

For Robbie Walsh, the beauty of God, or, as he puts it, the beauty of connection to the great creating, sustaining, transforming mystery – which you may or may not choose to call God – it is the beauty of the personal connection that provides the proof of something, if proof is needed.

And more importantly, the experience neither confirms nor refutes the ideas and experiences of others.
It just is.

Like all explorers, there is a personal experience that fulfils – the experience of others is interesting, but it does not connect.  We need to find our own link, our own experience, our own fulfilment.

As Unitarians it is our intention to be a beacon of light in the community, to be a community ourselves, ready to embrace new members and fellow travellers on this journey through life. 

We are a community, ready to embrace new members and fellow travellers on this journey through life.

And it is true.  We are here to preserve, maintain, and continue the possibility of sanctuary, safe space, and freedom to explore, to anyone that recognises the importance of personal experience and commitment.  

And that is a big offer.  From a spiritual seeker’s perspective, the provision of space in this way is almost unique.  We have no creed, no expectation of belief, no central spiritual doctrine around which we congregate.  We gather around a flame of freedom, not words of certainty.

Really?  Yes. Really.  And that is the advantage."

Monday, 12 November 2018

Remembering #Unitarians in Ringwood on Armistice Day 11th Nov 2018

We gathered under the Unitarian banner on Sunday 11th November for coffee shop church, and after we had had our contemplative time we fitted in a short business meeting and a social.

One of the freedoms of being a Unitarian group is that we can hallow all that we do, without having to feature a fixed structure or fixed elements into our gatherings, rites and rituals.  So today we included poetry and wordlessness, despite what was a rather noisy environment.  We started, though,  with a short poem by Mark Nepo  that we had picked up from the blog of Danny Crosby, the Unitarian Minister serving Altrincham & Urmston in Cheshire  And then we sat in wordless togetherness for some minutes, absorbing what the poem had meant to us.

I keep looking for one more teacher, only to find that fish learn from water and birds learn from sky.
If you want to learn about the sea, it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion, it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing, it helps to know of suffering.
The strong live in the storm without worshipping the storm.

Mark Nepo

On this special day that marked one hundred years since the ceasefire on Armistice Day, 1918, we also read out and remembered the names of the six Ringwood Unitarians who had died in the First World War.  Their names are painted onto the board still carefully looked after by the Ringwood Meeting House Association, which can be seen in the public exhibition at the Meeting House for the season of remembrance.  The first Unitarian congregation in Ringwood sold the Meeting House in 1976 but we are the second congregation and their natural successors, so it is very fitting that we should remember their fallen.

It seems that one name on the Meeting House board does not currently appear on the town War Memorial and there is research afoot with the relatives to understand why.  If a missing name has now been uncovered then it would be good to rectify that.  How sad that one hundred years has passed since the start of that war yet still we are finding people who had partially been forgotten.

It was moving, too, to be able to observe the two minutes’ silence together, and with everyone else in the coffee shop, the people in the arcade outside, and in the supermarket opposite.  We feel that it is not enough to remember the people who sacrificed everything for us.  We also need to spot any early danger signs of a new slide into world conflict, and to do our part by calling them out and challenging people and nations to live in peace together.

We are now looking forward to our regular gathering in December on 9th December at our new time of 10 a.m. in the Ringwood Meeting House.  After that we will next meet for a social after the Blue Christmas service we will be leading.

The Blue Christmas service will be a quiet contemplative service to make a safe space for those who do not find Christmas an easy time, for whatever reason.  It is open to all, on Sunday 16th December at 4 p.m., also in the Meeting House.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Change of venue and style this month for gathering of #Unitarians in Ringwood on 11 Nov 2018

The next gathering for reverence of Unitarians in Ringwood will be at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday 11 November 2018, at Coffee#1, 14 Meeting House Lane.  This coffee shop is opposite Sainsbury's, and facing the rear door to the Meeting House.

The gathering will be in the style of coffee shop church, with a reading and some moments of wordlessness as an opener, but then taking the form of a thoughtful conversation.  Or two conversations, or three, depending on how many people turn up and how many we can fit around the table.

Come as you are, exactly as you are, but do not expect to leave in quite the same state.