Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Executive Committee's Thoughts

The Executive Committee has spent considerable time reading through the various pieces. This is a summary of phrases that struck the EC as important together with thoughts and comments that came to mind in our discussions.

Our identity

If we are to be a faith that matters to both society and to the individual, we should recognise that we are first and foremost a faith community; social action, whilst part of who we are, is not our primary purpose. Our communities should be places where the imagination can be fed, where our deepest instincts can be satisfied, where our sense of transcendent otherness can be explored. Yet we understand the need for people to be inspired to express their faith practically.

We also see a need to re-establish an identity, a unique spiritual position. No creed does not mean no belief!

We are a reflection of the world's complexity, where the various strands that make up our Unitarian religious perspective, (Christian, Theist, Pagan, Buddhist, Mystic, Agnostic amongst others) are our great strength.

We understand the desire to and the value of sharing our time and our thoughts, not just for an hour
on a Sunday but at other times and in other ways as a means of strengthening our communities.

We recognise the importance of giving something of ourselves for the benefit of our community. We learn about one another, and the more we learn about each other, the stronger the bond is between us.

What is now needed is for us to find new ways of being together and this is where the giving comes in. We need to give our time. We need to be willing to add at least another hour to the time we come together in church, as a church. To build new communities in the future, we are going to have to be prepared to change and move away from the classic Sunday Service.

We aspire to be there for everyone who shares our values, to create a place for everyone, but many of us are happy in our own little comfort zone. We have a long way to go to become an all-inclusive community. This means change - so be prepared to be uncomfortable!

We do social justice and social action because this is inherent in who we are - a deep theological claim is made on each of us within our congregation to hone our communal conscience as well. In truth though, many who feel that they are social activists feel more comfortable paying others to roll their sleeves up and get involved.

We need to consider how we might symbolise our identity and express the essence of who we are through our rituals.

The role of the Minister is to enable the ministry of the congregation. The dynamics within congregations should process moral sensitivity among members in ways that lead to specific commitments to action based on their skills and interests.

What are we going to do in the future?

We do not want to be a proselytizing religion, but we do need to announce our presence; to tell people what we stand for. We should not be worried if people are upset by this. We need to get out, rather than expect people to come in. There is a great opportunity now for outreach using electronic media, recognising that communication is a complex area with new risks if not handled well.

The Internet has reduced the cost of connecting to people and them with us - it has changed the rules! We need to overcome the fear of some of the Internet and get the younger people to help the older generation to embrace the new opportunities. Yet we must keep those who struggle with electronic media as active members of our community.

We are here to minister to the wider community. We should learn to be more adventurous with our resources: Money, buildings and people. They should all be net contributors to our activities. Each of us should establish a covenant with our community to agree what we will give. We need to accept the need for more live giving and make it a reality by asking 'What could we do if we gave more?'

Children and young people should feel part of our supportive community. We should encourage them to speak the truth. They look for alternatives to our "hymn sandwich" culture and we should search for ways to bridge the gap between their ways of expression and traditional / classical expressions, whilst recognising the value that that the 'hymn sandwich' provides for many people.

Leadership can be expressed in many different ways, including servant leadership. Training can help in leadership and we have in some of our congregations people with skills and knowledge of leadership; we have people skilled in working with volunteers and we have people who work in education and training. We need to encourage these people to step forward and help develop others. There are many opportunities for us to develop religious literacy in other communities and through national programmes.

For us to thrive in an increasingly global world, we recognise our interconnectedness to people everywhere, but our focus will remain primarily within the UK. We still have problems understanding who we are and how we wish to be perceived. Although many have a clear idea of who they are as a person, more work needs to be done to develop a shared idea of who we are as a community. This should be far more friendly and accessible than our General Assembly charitable Object.

We must harness our energy by understanding who we are as communities and what we can offer to the world outside. It begins with opening our eyes and ears, by taking a good look around us and by listening to the voices of inspiration both near and far. This will include using all forms of media, including social media. This is likely to attract new people and new money but will make our communities more lively and creative in any case.


  1. The St. Albans Fellowship members clearly endorse this message from the Vision:
    “we are first and foremost a faith community. Social action is NOT our primary purpose. Our communities should be places where
    • The imagination can be fed
    • Our deepest instincts can be satisfied
    • Our sense of transcendent otherness can be explored.”

    also Rev Tony McNeile (p. 43)
    “we need focus on meeting the spiritual needs of the modern individual”

    It’s the main, life-sustaining, “why-to” in the Vision.
    Our personal spiritual development is the very heart of what we are here for.
    Meeting the call to us from our ‘Imagination’, ‘our deepest instincts’ and ‘our sense of transcendent otherness’ sums it up well.

    One of us suggested that another why-to be added to the Vision: "The pursuit of world community cohesion through inquiry and questioning".

  2. The Executive (p. 5) also invites Unitarians
    “to consider how we might symbolise our identity through our rituals”.

    At St. Albans, this evoked comments such as “I’m not a great lover of ritual” and “I’m disillusioned with the ritual of the C of E”. Our people value being enabled to think, reflect, and feel, [see our response to Bill Darlison] rather than ‘bells and smells’.