Yet I did read and closely this lecture to Sea of Faith in the Churches on the decline of churchgoing and belief by Dr. Kristin Aune of the University of Derby. This, rather than some intellectualised opinionated politicised twaddle, stays close to the research. That it was delivered to Sea of Faith is neither here nor there.
The next lecture featured by Miles Howarth is also interesting, from a different point of view. An issue for me has been small, dispersed, liberal, sacramental groups and whether they can gain a congregation. There are discussion groups arising all over the place - there are new ones that have been listed on the Progressive Christianity Network website. This extract is about Miles Howarth's experience of setting up a group which is about worship and not just discussion:
Here’s a tiny example of a way forward. In the
area where I now live, my wife and I opted for the DIY approach. Some 30 years ago we became founder members of a small, very informal Unitarian Fellowship. It continues in being, achieving attendances of anything between 6 and 12, twice a month. It’s far from a big achievement but better than nothing and it serves our needs. Its membership ranges from a URC elder to humanists. In many ways it resembles a Chelmsford Group but the difference is that, for most of our members, it’s not an occasional respite from the mainstream churches but it acts as the main focus of our spiritual lives. Why do we come together? What do we do with our time together? Good questions, which we are always asking ourselves. We just plan ahead and make it up as we go along. It’s very participative. Leadership needs to be shared as it makes heavy demands on one’s time and imagination. We get to know each other very well - bringing a good measure of mutual trust, tolerance and dependence. We put together, and then periodically review, affirmations about what we stand for. Most members feel the need to apologise if they can’t come to a meeting. We’ve developed a social dimension. Groups like ours in Seaof Faith Local , and SoF Local Groups, will come and go. They lack the underpinning which a building, a longstanding tradition and a funding base provide. In a sense their flexibility is a strength. One learns to cope with impermanence and to put one’s trust in oneself and in the human spirit. Perhaps a good definition of faith. Chelmsford
I find this quite fascinating: a local effort that brings together those interested who then build faith together and have a fellowship. I wonder if there is a way that such as this can be combined with Independent Sacramental Ministry on liberal lines - or are these two entirely different phenomena?
Meanwhile, here is something coming up on Monday 14th – Wednesday 16th July: A Future for Liberal Christianity?
Ian Bradley and Peter Francis explore doctrine, worship and other issues from a liberal perspective and ask if liberal Christianity has had its day.
Cost: £108 (that is, for those with plenty of money).