It was an all day job at the Yorkshire Unitarian Union meeting on Saturday, with examples of people who'd come a long way in the snow (Skipton) and those who didn't, and didn't come from relatively near either. A morning discussion on prayer in worship (though I did about impossible readings, however impressive the reading - I picked on the intellectual constipation of Catherine Pickstock who was writing about liturgy in my example. I was quite impressed with North Lincolnshire-living, Doncaster-attending, Jim's reworking and generalised Lord's Prayer, which he contrasted with a purist reworking of apparent original meaning. Jim Stearn and I clash, but contrary to common view I quite like his intensity and I genuinely thought he was on to something here, though I had a go at him for trying to find an enemy in a 'secular' humanist if no one else. What he did was try to retain the rhythm while extend the meaning to be inclusive and broader in scope.
Begetter of life in every creature,
In thy dimensionless domain,
Be thy revered and blessed teacher;
May thy harmonious peace obtain,
Right actions shape a better future
And our daily needs sustain.
From the poison of guilt may we be free
Through the power of mutual charity.
Guide us safely along thy ways,
Renew us, today and all our days.
Spirit of life, while our hearts unlearn
All the creeds that wrong Thy name
Still let our hallowed chalice burn
With our faith's undying flame.
The latter bit is a Unitarian identity tagged on, which actually can be used on its own.
Jim himself has managed to read all of James Martineau's The Seat of Authority, written in pure Victorian. This was towards an MA, and he was keen to show me that Martineau was a Kant individualist rather than a Hegel man. But, I asked, while agreeing, what if Martineau's actual result was a Hegel like progression? And for me this radical individualism (as the seat of authority) has to be combined with the Martineau the liturgist who employed an evolved behind-the-times more-beliefs-than-he-had collective liturgy that had the effect of crashing one into the other. You end up with a first postmodernism of this collective utterance while it's all individualist.
These days service takers almost write it from the beginning every time; indeed one old (rather good) publication on service taking said don't assume that because it is from a book that a prayer must be better than your own. And what of service books to reduce the effort - that they create copyright problems? This has been easily solved when I have produced them (as I have been) (also for emergency service taking) by simply writing everything yourself from scratch.
What I talked about was liturgical principles, going from one end of the service to the other, and the order involved as a kind of journey.
Jim mentioned to me something I'd not heard about, that if 20 start up what is that if 20 close? He was referring to an extended discussion at the more business meeting of the YUU in the afternoon. The scheme is 20-20 or such, and I'm one of those who'll look at it further. There is this new scheme of money gathering that, when it reaches £100,000 (as it nearly has), will start to deal in either nearly defunct or new congregations assuming a plan and demographics worked out, for substantial payments. But a district had made a big investment to this, on the basis that the £100,000 input (which it seems it must be) comes to its district. That seems to me to say that others in other districts that don't lay on such a restriction will end up subsidising those that invest a chunk that do lay on a restriction - but of course a lot of these funds do come with restrictions. And money isn't exactly the problem. As Jim also said to me, when you become a Unitarian you attach yourself to managing a lot of money. I just wonder about all this: for me, congregations grow as a result of social movements and our (market) relationship with other churches. Inclusion and identity matter now, and other churches have made a bad fist of this, and the Unitarians done rather well and known. So let's see if a number of congregations "bounce", which is when the clique in charge that held it back gives up, or genuinely new people come along and act as a seed for more that causes a congregation bobbing along the bottom to recover.
The 20-20 approach is one that brings into issue the question of planning your future, and what was once known (but never happened) as Development Ministry. The YUU has been considering having a YUU-wide minister, one that would train others in church ministry - a "bishop" as I put it.
We also discussed motions to the General Assembly, like the animals one that seemed like 'how can you oppose this?' when its specifics mean there is more to it, and plenty in the Assisted Dying motion for a Church position that may well not get the approval that might be assumed.