Sunday, 13 November 2011


This just came upon me. Out of nowhere I found myself writing.


And when evening meanders through the streets
And twilight deceives the glass shielded eye.
The era comes forward with imitation warmth
Speak to me of greens and reds and golds
All shades of winter’s colour
Tell me your truth where you meet the hard earth
And humble it in your presence.

Our synthetic lives bear no resemblance to the prophet
When did our clothes nurse us through the night?
When did our feet feel the cold and harsh dust?
Or the mire of yesterday’s burst?

That I was birthed in times of comfort
That I came forth knowing no poverty
That I sleep in deep covers
Praise be to the evolution we inspire

As evening meanders through the streets
And winters cold lulls nature to sleep
My lullaby remains in the modernity of England
And the knowing that many know a different winter
Tell me your truth where you meet the desert
Humble me in your poverty and need
Our era the same, the experience not.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Woodland Walk

Once a week we take Harry the dog to the park for a woodland walk. Other walks consist of speed for exercise but the woodland walk is always my partner Pat and I strolling while Harry gets a good run around. As the year has progressed we’ve watched the walk change colour. As summer has turned to autumn the leaves have been falling. Gold and browns of different shades laying all around. That wonderful sound of crackling leaves under foot confirms that the seasons have turned and the year is growing old.
How many autumns have I experienced? Why was today so different?
As Harry jogged ahead, my eyes took in a new colour on the ground. Pat noticed it too and said “Sham, have you noticed? Look at the ground. Red leaves! Isn’t it beautiful?”
I verbally agreed in some kind of drab fashion but I was already absorbed in it. The path and surrounding area was so strikingly majestic and yet the feeling it imposed on me was not one of cold dignified alienation but one of such an embracing warmth that I won’t deny I considered scooping up an armful to take home.
Autumn can be such a heavy time when surrounded by the end of the annual glow of summer and trees become bare and enfolded in an invisible solitude. The dying of the beauty we adored in the warm hazy months of the mid-year can easily bring to the heart a desire to die with it, not in a physical sense but in the way we close ourselves in around the warmth of radiators and fires, making the outside world a mental wilderness during it’s time of re-energising.
Those red leaves connected to me. They told me of life. They reminded me that colour is superficial and unimportant and that autumn sings of a cycle. Nature is not dying, she is merely going to sleep, wrapping herself in her coat of brown and gold and red to recharge her batteries ready for the bursting forth of spring. The image is no different than one of me snuggling under the duvet to unwind, calming the events of the day and sleeping so that I’m ready for the day to come.
Although the ‘day’ of the year moves slower than my own cycle of re-energising, it is just as beautiful and peaceful and I viewed its peaceful enfolding today.
I can now look forward to the vigour of awakening on that woodland walk. The sudden burst of nature’s morning is only a sleep away.
What a wonderful world we live in, if only we paid more attention to the beauty in which we live.
My trust in the artistic stroke of the Divine Spirit is ever renewed.


Friday, 28 October 2011


When I was interviewed for Ministry training I was told I would be a different person by the time they had finished with me. Gosh! It sounded a bit scary!
Here I am, half way through the first semester and, having been scared to death of being in a college environment and my own ability, I have found a world that oozes the very subject I have adored for more than a quarter of a century. Here I am, a person that is so opposite to the me of twenty five years ago. Here I am, absorbing every moment of college and home life and learning to read myself in a way that most people would find totally frightening. Here I am! If this is me now, I’m intrigued to know what the person they will change me into will be like.
I don’t walk this path alone. I’ve been issued with a mentor to take all my personal problems and concerns to and I’ve been blessed with being issued with someone who I know I can trust and is calm and gentle enough to get through to me with balanced conversation. I’ve started the course at the same time as someone I have known for some time and get on well with. The other student also helped to organise me in the first few weeks when I was over-whelmed with the amount of information I was snowed under with, we make a great supportive duo.
There are many others in the complex system that know more about the vocation I have chosen than I yet do. These people are there, in contact but waiting. Ministry is a lonely and stressful career choice and I am aware of the path that lies ahead even though I’m aware I’m not experienced enough to really know how much it will burden my soul in the years to come. Now, is when I am being taught to unburden. The price of sanity lies with being able to turn to others and that’s something I’ve never been good at in the past, much to my cost.
Here I am, at the beginning of a new chapter in my life and so full that I wish I could scoop up everyone and everything I love into my arms and hold it tight. I feel like I’m finally doing something I love and learning to do something so very special .............. giving something back, helping, loving, supporting and dedicating myself to others. Even though I know I’ve failed so dreadfully at this in the past (although there have been wonderful times too). All my past hurts and failings have helped me learn how NOT to do things and now I’m learning how to do things well.
The wonders of life, of living, of being in a world where just making a miniscule difference seems worth it. Bring it on!!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A New Path

A dream opened my heart and bared my soul naked
The path commenced at my feet and disappeared to a far-off hill
My going forward suddenly blocked
He stood miles high, a face beyond view
I knew this stranger

“Why do you fear?” The voice deep and dominating
Conscious of the weight I felt within “I am so small”.
The voice was silent but my heart heard
“Is the seed less important than the flower?
Does the field mouse bow to the elephant?”

Birds flew from the depths of my being
My weight carried in their flight of freedom
My path cleared
With deep breath I placed a foot in front

The smell of sweet grass in my nostrils
The path welcoming
I set my glance towards the hill
I will meet him again, but not this day.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Angels - the art of extinguishing demons

How can anyone consider a rapist or murderer as an angel?

Surely, we are all moved to consider angels to be those who guide us through the bad things in life. Angels are supposed to be our saviours in time of need. Angels are told in stories to be messengers of God bringing news and tidings that will give us hope for the future. Angels are goodies ......... aren’t they?

If the suggestion of those we refer to as evil being angels makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, perhaps you should read Appreciating Angels: Sarah’s Story by Sally Asling. It was a book that has certainly changed my opinion regarding my own past and many, who have had difficult lives, may find it quite medicinal to read.

It’s a very bitter pill to swallow when there is a very ‘close to home’ feel to the situations portrayed in the book and the possibility that our own ghosts and those that cause us hurt, pain and suffering are handed a title that we hold in such high esteem. Even when the heart pulls us towards forgiveness for the sake of our own beliefs, some things can be too painful to release from the grasp of anger.

I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason. This book has provided me with the understanding I was missing to unlock the chains of yesterday. I only bought it because it was cheap on Kindle and yet it has changed my life. I know I’m sounding a bit over the top but it really did make me consider my past differently, especially as I have only very recently pulled myself out of a sticky and painful time. I have come to terms with, not just recent problems but, more importantly, past ghosts that have overshadowed my life.

Over the last four of five months I’ve been clearing out emotional debris. We all have times when our personal circumstances seem to gather a lot of burdens that are hard to shed and before we managed to tackle the first one another has appeared. My most recent experience had been a constant build up over several years. With the burdens now lifted or at least become easier to accept, putting the pieces of life back into their rightful places takes a little time. While we go through the black parts of life we rarely appreciate what we’re gaining. Here, at the other end of the tunnel, I look back and see how the pieces of the puzzle all fitted together and recognise the importance of people who hurt me as part of the path that would lead me back into the sunshine.

I’m soon to begin intense training towards Ministry. I promise, there is no halo over my head, and I can assure there never will be. I would love to become the perfect Minister, level headed, full of wisdom and spiritual calm and nothing but love for all my fellow human beings no matter who or what they are, but it ain’t gonna happen. I can only hope to keep working at being that perfect Minister in the hope that I will get as close to perfection as humanly possible.

It’s always been so easy for me to talk to others, in a pastoral situation, with calm and understanding and be able to guide them towards other perspectives, but I have to admit that I have never been able to commit the same wisdom to my own problems. Being a very feeling person, I seem to absorb a lot and not know how to respond even when innocence is the conclusion. My past has led me to accept whatever accusation is thrown and lay silent hoping that life itself will be my proof, but has seldom been my retribution. Some choose to carry burdens of guilt and misery for their pain. Some choose to point fingers of anger or even hatred towards those involved with their hurt. Some choose to point the finger of blame and ignore their own importance in situations. Some do all of these and more. I have, innocently believed that, things will work themselves out for the better. I used to believe that patience was all that was required and often, painfully, waited for animosity to extinguish itself and peace reign supreme. I was waiting for the ‘goodie’ Angel to appear and make things right. How innocent am I?

It’s quite normal for us to want our lives to be full of sunshine and joy. Hurt, pain, heartache, grief and sadness are all the bits we’d rather avoid. Few of us are expert at handling the negative things that happen and even fewer are talented enough to recognise the need and reason for their occurrence. We can only ever reach for the stars, our feet will always remain on terra firma.

Socrates used to tell his students that he knew nothing and in knowing that was itself wisdom. In such a complicated world I can see the wisdom of his words.

Trying to understand how a loving God would send such heartache and pain in order for us to become the person we need to be is quite a big step. This is definitely a time to review what we expect, from The Divine, that we were never promised. This is time for us to work out what is reality and what are our own expectations blown into something called normality.

Life is a very painful path but pain is, very definitely, close to pleasure. As we walk along the paths of our lives we would be naive to really expect endless sunshine. The patterns of nature and the weather she subjects the land to, should be our lesson as to how our lives should be.

So as for the Angels in our lives. It’s not easy to accept but I have to agree that I would not be the person I am had it not been for the dreadful things that have happened in my life. Those I have long felt unable to come to terms with are, amazingly, the very people that pushed me towards being the person I am today. The process doesn’t end, every hurt has it’s reason and directs us towards a place where our experience is needed.

So I guess I have to accept that those who are called evil are the angels that are sent to mould us into the people we need to be in order to follow the road that awaits us. We may not like the analogy but something has to ensure that we are in the right place at the right time to be the people we need to be. Sometimes, we have to be in a dark place in order for us to be the salvation of another further down the path.

Divine Spirit,
Bless all those who mould our lives and our thinking.
Bless the gentle and the aggressive
Bless the lost and the found
Bless those who offend and those who are offended
Bring all your mystery and wonder to the table and let us feel life in total and not just in the ways of hope and imagination.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Precious is the pain of the heart

One of my favourite spiritual writers has to be Khalil Gibran. I have quite a selection of his works, some of which are so deep and intricate that I don’t understand the point he’s making but the vast majority truly speak to my spirituality. His most popular work, The Prophet, is, to me, a true manual of life. Anyone who hasn’t read his work, I would urge you to fill this gap in your being.

My own place of worship, New Chapel, Denton, has a bimonthly newsletter which is carefully and lovingly put together by one of the Chapel members. There is, more often than not, a selection of poetry in each issue and the latest edition has an entire centre piece dedicated to some wonderful works. Amongst the selection in the latest issue there is a piece by Khalil Gibran that I have not come across before. On reading it, yet again, as usually happens with his work, my spirit danced in agreement of his words. It is such a beautiful piece that I would like to share it with you.

A Tear and A Smile

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes to flow from my every part turn into laughter.
I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.

A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding of life’s secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and to be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.
A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.
I would rather that I died in yearning and longing than that I live weary and despairing.

I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the depths of my spirit, for I have seen those who are satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and longing, and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.

With evening’s coming the flower folds her petals and sleeps, embracing her longing.
At morning’s approach she opens her lips to meet the sun’s kisses.

The life of a flower is longing and fulfilment.
A tear and a smile.

The waters of the sea become vapour and rise and come together and are cloud.
And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping to the fields and joins with brooks and rivers to return to the sea, its home.
The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.

And so does the spirit become separated from the greater spirit to move in the world of matter and pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow and the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death and return whence it came.
To the ocean of love and beauty – to God.

These are certainly words for the heart to hold in consideration when life deals its ration of pain and despondency, they are also words to hold close when our path is filled with joy, so that we remember how precious all the moments of our lives truly are.

Thank you to Keith Hinds for putting these words into print for me to read and absorb.

May the Divine unfold in our lives in all its forms and colours and may we learn to see our own moulding in every manifestation of life.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Broken and Grown

Last night I felt like a broken woman but from the experience I’ve learnt a lot.

When we got our dog Harry, I was aware that we had taken on a lot of hard work. He had been mistreated and was bound to have been affected by his past experiences. We took on the responsibility knowing that there was no history or information on his life to use as a guide and that it was extremely important that we didn’t give up as we would then add to his problems. With all the good intentions in the world and a full love of animals we brought him home.

His first week with us was not the way we’d planned. Within 48 hours we had found out that his neutering was infected and that he should never have been released to us. We willingly paid for his treatment to correct the problem but was told that until his infection had been identified we should not introduce him to the cats. We knew the longer we went without them meeting the harder it would be but we wanted to protect all our animals and so we adhered.

Poor Harry spent the first 10 days with a bucket collar on. Not good for his street-cred LOL.

During those first 10 days, Harry began to show his personality. He had obviously not had any discipline or training and so behaved like an excited puppy even down to biting (not viciously) and bouncing over us and the furniture, and chewing everything in sight. He’s a powerful dog with his staffy make-up and with Pat’s disability, I have had to do most of the tugging and absorb most of the biting to try and bring him into line.

Once the bucket collar came off, I thought walks would tire him out so I started a regime of 4 walks a day of no less than 30 minutes. It didn’t help. I believed that God had sent him to us, not just to help him as the infection would have killed him but for him to teach me patience.

The best investment we made was paying for a dog trainer to come and meet Harry and help us to try and get some respect into him.

We’ve had him with us for nearly three weeks now but last night, I was tired, I was behind with writing my service for Sunday and I felt guilty that my lovely cats hadn’t been allowed to roam their own home as if they had done something wrong. I had spent the last 2.5 weeks looking on the bright side and that we would get there in the end but last night, I felt my will break. I felt I couldn’t handle any more and that I would have to break my own rules, do the very thing that I find disgusting in others and take him back. I couldn’t sleep for fear and worry of what he was doing or destroying. I couldn’t get on with anything in the house because he was so unruly. I had hit the bottom.

I got up this morning feeling dreadful, tearful and beaten. When Pat got up I told her I couldn’t take anymore and that I would be returning him back to Cheshire dogs home this afternoon. Problem was that I love him. The idea of letting go of him hurt as much as what we’d been going through and the idea that I’d be doing him damage by taking him back was like a knife.

Thank God we had invested in a dog trainer. A 30 minute phone-call with him early this afternoon laid all our problems to rest. I’m not saying that Harry is any better behaved now than he was this morning but the trainer put some more rules down and even suggested a crate to put him in as a doggie den to give us a rest.

I’ve put the new rules into effect and there is already a marked difference, however, much as I had always thought it cruel to put a dog in a crate, I have to say, not only has it given us time to breathe and let the cats back in the living room to socialise with us, but Harry actually seems to like the crate. The dog trainer did tell us this might be the case as dogs like somewhere they can think of as their own den.

There is no way I intend on sending him back now and both Pat and I are extremely grateful to our fantastic trainer for his support.

I have to say I have learnt so much from the experience of having Harry that I can now see how it’s possible to love someone or something so much but still feel that it would be better to part, and how much the idea of splitting up must hurt. I’m not presuming for a moment that I could ever know what divorce feels like or handing a child over to social services. I’m aware we’re talking about my relationship with a dog, but some experiences are sent in different clothing in order for understanding to be real towards the feelings of others.

I guess God really has sent Harry to us to work on us as much as we have to work on him. Who says things don’t happen for a reason. These lessons could never be learnt in a college.

Harry Tobias, we’ll get there boy 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

New Addition

People seem to find it shocking when I say that I trust an animal more than I would ever trust any human being. The statement seems to bring people to the conclusion that I don’t like people and that isn’t true. Human beings have a tendency for deceit, we all do it. Most, hopefully tell little lies, ones that don’t hurt anyone, but some tell some crackers. Whichever way you look at it, deceit is deceit but we often seem to find an excuse for its use. Animals don’t do deceit, no fibs or lies, they are straight forward in their attitude to people, other animals, any aspect of life. What you see is what you get.

I know that our cats will come to us when they want affection and trying to force it on them is usually tolerated but rarely appreciated. Our degu are only interested if we’re feeding them or giving them a new toy to play with. In both cases, the main thing that really makes the difference is that, despite their sometimes ignorant attitude to us, if another human being comes in the house, the degu hide and so do the cats. The message we get from their behaviour is that we are known, trusted and that they feel safe with us and that’s all I ask of them.

I think I’m probably a sucker for the underdog by way of concern for children and animals. Cruelty to either is just not acceptable. In all honesty cruelty to anyone or any living thing is unacceptable but in the case of children and animals they are so dependent that to abuse them is the lowest of actions and puts bacteria and amoeba in a higher rank of life than the offender.

What is it that brings this subject to mind? Recent events in our home have brought us a new addition.

My partner, Pat, has always been a dog person but she’s been won over with my love of cats and we’ve trundled along on the feline side for the duration of our 9 year relationship. Our dog, Tim, mainly lived with Pat’s parents and so my experience of our canine friends was a little vague. Tim died in 2006 at the age of 15 and although he and I were good friends (I used to play with him while the adults did the boring talking) we couldn’t have him live with us. It would have been cruel, in his old age, to have been taken away from the environment he’d always known and with both Pat and I working full time it just wasn’t an option.

Last year, while discussing my future ministry training I asked Pat if we could have a dog if I qualified. It didn’t take much for her to say yes. I haven’t even started my training yet but we’ve got the dog.

A couple of weeks ago, and without going into too much detail, a family member asked us if we would have their dog as they had ceased interest since the birth of their baby. We said yes, after all, that way we could be sure he’d go to a good home and he’s a lovely dog. We certainly weren’t expecting the ‘kick-off’ in the family that followed and we had to retract our offer in order to keep some kind of peace. When you’ve had your expectations built up and then deflated so suddenly it can make you change previously sound plans. A couple of times since, Pat has mentioned about us getting a dog, I think she was looking forward to having a canine friend around again. Sunday afternoon, just over a week ago, I asked her if she wanted to go and have a look at the dogs at the local dogs home.

Cheshire Dogs Home is smaller than I had expected but the tragedy of these innocent lives is frustrating to say the very least. Easily 95% of the dogs were Staff or Pitbull breed, which made me wonder if this meant that some people had decided it would be some kind of status symbol which they found also needed looking after and had changed their minds.

Pat fell in love with a beautiful white and tan chap, sitting quietly at the back of the pen. We had a walk round with him and he seemed to very much like us. This was when I was won over. He was so loving and affectionate that I couldn’t help but find myself wanting to take him home. The following day, we went back and adopted him.

These dogs come with little, if any, reliable history and so adopting one is a big responsibility because it means taking on possible problems and mental health issues which have been incurred during their lives. It has to be a decision to do as much as possible to ensure that you do not add to the animals problems and try and give them a stable and loving environment to recuperate from the past and have hope in the future.

Our new addition came to us with an infection which had not been picked up by the home and has displayed behaviours that certainly need checking. I can tell, for a while at least, he’s going to be hard work, but I can also see what a wonderful companion and friend he will make to both of us for seeing him through. We’ll all gain from the experience.

Harry is a cross between a whippet and a Staffordshire terrier. He’s a very strong dog and pulls my arm out of its socket taking him for a walk. The work starts here and that’s fine.

Humanity is truly the most aggressive and dangerous of all animals. If we didn’t cause so much suffering animal homes would not be required. I sadly see so many comparisons between how we treat animals and how we treat children and the comparisons are not always pleasant.

We all come from the same force of life. We are all part of the one divine entity. We are all from the same family and our common parent is God or whatever force you believe in.

Divine Spirit,
Grant us the patience and determination to live with all your creation in harmony and peace.
When our motivation begins to lumber, grant us the grace to ensure the marks we leave on this life are not those that scar the heart of another.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Let the Youth lead our movement

Well, I’ve done it at last!

I’ve been leading worship for nearly 5 years and kept to the hymn sandwich used at every chapel I’ve been to. Opening words, hymn, prayer, reading, hymn etc, etc, etc. I’ve known that the younger generation have been crying out for something more spiritual, something that speaks to them but I’ve done as I was told and done what was expected of me by older congregations who see no reason to change what to them ‘has always worked’.

A couple of years ago I sat through worship prepared by young people and was completely mesmerised by the depth of their spirituality which spoke to my heart in ways Sunday worship rarely achieved. I could see clearer than ever how behind the times our chapels are. How do you get the young into our places of worship when their needs are so different from the older generations?

I’ve wanted to lead a new style of worship ever since those young people showed me how wonderful it could be. Today I did it. My guinea pigs were the wonderful congregation at Chorlton Chapel who are already used to involving all sorts of different things in their worship. Chorlton have long been doing what other chapels refuse to even attempt, they are a Minister’s dream come true and they provide the blue print to our spiritual future. I guess it was a little cowardly of me to make my first attempt at new worship at such an already open chapel but you have to start somewhere and I figured I’d get a much more constructive feedback from people used to doing new things.

There was no sermon/address, the old ‘Order of Service’ was thrown out. The congregation joined in with two prayers, four hymns (from our modern and upbeat purple hymn book ‘Sing your Faith’) and a discussion on Spiritual places and what speaks to our own spirituality. I felt wonderful afterwards and the congregation seemed to think I’d done well too which is what really matters.

If only I could find a way of introducing this style to the other chapels who are so afraid of change.

One of the Unitarian youth leaders is thinking of starting a completely new service for our younger people rather than them keep having to wait for their spirituality to matter at Sunday Worship. She asked me, among many others, for ideas and whether we would be able to help. I don’t know if she reads this blog but if she or one of the other youth leaders does, I’ve already said I’ll help but I’d like to add the following:-
‘Get it going girl, I’m hungry for it. This new style of worship is so much more fulfilling I don’t just want to be involved ......... I NEED TO BE INVOLVED’

To all church goers .............. young people can teach us a spirituality we never even dreamed of. Make them your leaders. We should be learning from them and not the other way round.

I think I’ve caught the bug and I don’t want to find the cure 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Annual Meetings 2011

Going to the Annual General Assembly meetings is a major part of my year. Not only do I have the opportunity of helping to plan for the way forward in voting and opinion sharing, I also get to hear about new ideas for worship and the future of Unitarianism in all its forms.

There are various Societies and panels that exist within our movement which range from beliefs such as Christianity, Earth Spirit, Psychic and Universalist as well as those which carry the banner of our Social Justice side such as Women’s League, Peace Fellowship, International Association for Religious Freedom and loads of others. We’re a hard working bunch.

I usually attend the meetings as a delegate so have to attend the business meetings as well and as much as these are important, they can also be laborious and tiring. A lot of information has to be absorbed and there are always opinions which need to be aired. It’s still nice to be part of it.

Even though all the meetings and workshops are important and mostly enjoyable, these are only part of the reason for my attendance. The most important part and the part which I find most fulfilling is being with other Unitarians.

I always return from the meetings with a feeling best described ‘as if I’ve just swallowed a chill pill’. It’s so spiritually nourishing to be able to spend time with like minded people who have the same reverence and respect for worship and a love of humankind.

I should be able to find such nourishment at my own chapel but, as I’m sure other worship leaders will agree, there is always the hurdle of being the leader. On the rare Sundays when I’m not leading worship I try to attend another chapel just to be part of the congregation and have my batteries recharged. Perhaps it’s because such opportunities are so rare that I find the three days spent at the General Assembly meetings so refreshing.

At home, I used to be able to use our conservatory as a Peace Room and did find it helped in calming my spirit, but we’re going through a lot of work on the house at the moment and, once again, rubbish has been put in the conservatory and workmen with dirty boots seem to be passing in and out so much that its spiritual feel has been lost and once we’re all clear again I’ll need to get a friend to cleanse the room again to make it suitable for prayer. Perhaps I’m just a fussy beggar who hasn’t bothered to try and find a way round the hurdles of life. I’ve probably gone off at a tangent here ........ typical!

Whatever has been going on in my life around this time of year, I’ve always found the GA Meetings enjoyable and nourishing. Guess I’ll have to wait another year for that same flame of inspiration, or I could find a way to keep it burning in my day to day life. I think the latter sounds better, a year seems a long, long, long way away.

Smiles and blessings.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Don't label me!

I guess it’s because Christianity is still considered to be the State Religion, that when you tell people you attend church or chapel you automatically gain the label of ‘Christian’. The expectation is that you believe in Jesus as the son of God, that all the stories in the Bible are considered to be truth and that you’ll quote from it at the earliest opportunity. People get wary of what they should or shouldn’t say in your presence and, the best one by far, apologise for their own lack of belief in the Hebrew/Christian scriptures.


Sorry for shouting but sometimes you have to get these things off your chest.

Perhaps my denomination should stop calling their places of worship by titles usually associated with Christianity. Some call themselves Meeting Houses, this title then gives a Quakerish flavour to the imagination. Difficult to know how to solve the problem and in reality, why should we change how we refer to the buildings in which we communicate with our spirituality and whatever force of life we believe in. It isn’t really that long ago that Unitarianism was very much a purely Christian denomination and, therefore, the title we gain today was once a correct assumption.

21st century Unitarianism has embraced so much that the reference to Christianity is now an assumption that has more chance of being wrong than right. It is such an expectation that a religions movement should have creeds and doctrine which are believed and adhered to by all of its followers that trying to explain we are different is sometimes more difficult and complicated than I or anyone else has the ability to explain.

Only yesterday I shocked someone by telling them that we have atheist ministers. I could tell by the look on the man’s face that he couldn’t get his head round that one (quite amusing really).

Isn’t it somewhere near the truth to state that in a well educated society that we now are, more and more are questioning the religious doctrine they would have taken for granted only a few decades ago. There are so many contradictions in the Bible that a rational mind must surely notice unanswered gaps in the teachings laid in front of them.

Karen Armstrong wrote in her book “A case for God” how the homo sapiens of antiquity saw as much importance in mythos (myth) as they did logos (logical thinking). Trying to explain spirituality, the part of us that cannot be analysed, can best be communicated through mythos because it can provide scenarios on which we can reflect and make valuable decisions on meaning and what should be learnt. Myths were never meant to be believed as fact, which explains to me the first five books of the Torah (Old Testament).

Why humanity decided to wrap spirituality in a bunch of rules and present them forcefully to others, I’ll never know. To me, we all think we believe differently and yet those differences all point to the same thing. You can believe in evolution, Hebrew scripture, The Dao, Humanism, The Earth Spirits or any other faith or belief but we all want to learn how to live harmoniously with each other and the world in which we live, it’s just that we all have different ideas of how to achieve it. Differences of opinion provides for more ideas, more paths to consider and more chance of finding the right one .... this is the Unitarian way.

Don’t label me as a Christian! I’m not! Not that there is anything wrong in being Christian, my partner is one, but the assumption of my beliefs is unfair to me as a thinking, feeling human being.

We can’t call our buildings anything other than what they are and they tell of a history we’re quite proud of, but Unitarianism is far more complicated and far more beautiful than a set of creeds or doctrine would ever allow us to be.

Freedom, Reason and Tolerance ............ rock on baby!!!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Automating People

One evening, my partner and I were about to sit down for our evening meal when the phone rang. We have a rule that we do not answer the phone while we are eating so we allowed the call to transfer to the answer machine. The call was from British Gas, unfortunately it was an automated voice message regarding an appointment for our boiler check. Only the day before, my partner had received a similar call regarding a hospital appointment. Press this button if yes, press this button if no, confirm by pressing this button, it’s all so very impersonal.

Children are spending more and more time in the house in front of computer screens and games consoles. Their world is depleting into a world not far off from make-believe.

What has happened to the personal touch?

As someone who ministers to a congregation, human contact is a vital part of us learning how to live together. It’s how we show we care. By showing we care, others see or feel the advantage of caring for each other. By caring for each other we become more willing to sort out problems and disagreements when they occur. By being able to sort out problems we avoid arguments and become a closer community. One step closer to love and harmony.

In our communication with each other, we depend on other things like honesty, forgiveness, understanding but these are often projected in body language more than the words we say.

Every form of communication has become vital to the speed at which we now choose to live our lives. The telephone has become part of our everyday lives and keeps people in touch with each other when there is a distance between them. Of course, the telephone has the advantage of voice, that we can hear from someone’s tone the feeling behind their words.

Email, text, Social networking sites, MSN are all great forms of communication when used correctly.

A colleague recently suggested that pastoral care could be achieved using the internet. After my disagreement he was most ‘put out’. His insistence was down to providing pastoral care by email to someone who lived in another country. I don't deny that, if this person only had my colleague as a point of contact, the emails were probably very much appreciated and the contact helpful. This is not the perfect situation, it can never take the place of a human being’s presence and being able to read compassion and love in someone’s eyes.

That the written word can be so easily misconstrued makes the idea of trying to achieve friendships and other relationships via email a dangerous game and one I have recently found, to my cost, can be abused.

Have we reached the point where the technology we have at our fingertips to make our lives simpler is now being abused and taking the place of the kindly voice, the gentle eyes, the supportive embrace, the compassionate face of a human being.

There is little we can do to change the money saving automated phone-calls, much as I dislike them. Many computer capabilities, including webcams and emails do keep many families in touch with each other when there are thousands of miles that separate them. I can find a lot of good things about technology that I don’t want us to turn our backs on it at all. What I want is for us to remember the value of other human beings in our lives. That your presence in someone’s life has a value beyond anything the wizzkids can dream up. We learn so many skills from each other as well as gaining a spiritual nourishment and bonding when others are close to us. It’s why we are such social animals, we need each other.

At present, our children are destined to face adulthood where they won’t know how to behave with a real human being and will only know communication through the written word. Instead of imagination being bicycle rides and dens, it’ll be the aggressive fighting seen on their games console which they depend on to live out the imagination of others.

Remember the value of humanity.
We live together for good reason.