Monday 28 February 2011

A Conversation

This is an unedited - except for the names and the surroundings (and the pictures were not present) - of a Facebook chat between Rachel and me that launched from here and lasted for over an hour:

Re-vis.e Re-form: BBC piccies Clergy fashion

Comments were already present, likening Rachel's modelled clothing to Star Trek designs (I've now done my appropriate drawing), and I came in with:

Adrian John Worsfold Presumably if you see a cohabiting couple you can say, "Engage."

Rachel Marszalek :-)

Adrian John Worsfold 'The Lord be with you'
'And also be with you'
'Make it so.'

Rachel: :-) :-)

Adrian: The resurrected Jesus arrives at the point of his departure having said goodbye to his frends; he then said, "Beam me up Scotty." (Now you are not going to smile at that are you?)

Adrian: Or perhaps when you lead worship your opening word can be, "Energise."

Rachel: Is that not what they say during Unitarian worship? As opposed to 'Come Holy Spirit'

Adrian: No no. We say, "Relax."

Rachel: ahh - all a bit too calm for me...

Adrian: Well, you want to travel at many times the speed of light.

Rachel: you not ever miss that whole 'Holy Spirit falling on you thing'?

Adrian: Never fell on me.

Rachel: Are you sure?

Rachel: ...filled with the Spirit?

Adrian: Yes. I am one of those the neo-Calvinists and the Calvinists think were left out.

Rachel:'s never too late you know

Rachel: I was a Christian....and then a 'Spirit-filled Christian' and life is LIFE now!!!

Adrian: No, these things are for an eternity. They are in the Book.

Rachel: eh?

Adrian: The damned and the saved are prewritten.

Rachel: ...oh flip - how about God wanting to reconcile all ...etc etc

Rachel: you need to be filled with the Spirit and then...well God knows...

Adrian: No, there are those in and those out.

Rachel: No way...

Adrian: What are you? Even the Arminians believe that the Book has been written from the beginning of eternity. It's not universalism you know.

Rachel: ...what with your brains ...and then he fills your heart...and then you lead this supernatural life...and all fear is gone etc etc

Rachel: I am just talking about Jesus wanting to fill his children with his Holy Spirit...

Adrian: What fear? I'm not afraid. I am quite stoical. There are those in and those out. I am quite happy about that.

Rachel: I am praying for you right now...

Adrian: Oh I think you might be talking about a Jewish rabbi there. That's a little different.

Rachel: Holy Sp is falling on me

Adrian: People have prayed for me since before I was born.

Rachel: ...that 's great

Rachel: hold your hands out and receive....

Adrian: There's that song - he ain't heavy he's my brother.

Rachel: yeah....and

Adrian: What is there a dinner lady nearby?

Rachel: the H Sp right there

Adrian: I admit I'm feeling hungry and want me dinner.

Rachel: ...oh Jesus satisfies ...

Rachel: living bread etc etc

Adrian: I must admit, this is a first. Well there was one chap who wanted me to be with him while he opened his Bible...

Adrian: Fresh bread. I forgot to buy some.

Rachel: ...God has been calling you home for years...

Adrian: They've just provided one! It is a Unitarian linked charity!

Rachel: ...he's laughing with you, I reckon, loves your sense of humour but also knows it's a bit of a barrier you put up because you know he is near

Rachel: ...he's mighty powerful

Rachel: I am still praying ...all sorts of angel words...

Adrian: Am I sat in the psychologist's chair?

Rachel: good

Rachel: God's Holy Spirit flows through the internet too, of course

Adrian: People with white coats and white collars

Adrian: Rachel, you don't get it!

Rachel: white collars - could be good...

Rachel: ..go on - tell me

Adrian: Could be if I could clean them better.

Rachel: ..what do I not get?

Adrian: What to tell you? I don't believe it. It is something that has been constructed.

Rachel: Oh no oh no oh no

Rachel: God is very very real

Rachel: and life can be changed

Adrian: No, it doesn't stack up. It is cultural, created, made: what works is far more human centred. It is about us.

Rachel: and he has a plan for us all and it is very beautiful and there is this fulfillment like nothing else

Rachel: yes God makes it about us ...because he loves us so much ...wants us to be so happy ...dwell with with with us

Adrian: No, you are making a fantasy. Life has to be as it is, the value in it is what there is. It is about Nietzsche's Yes to life.

Adrian: God, if God is anything, is about truth, and truth is both hard, bitter and good. It is grounded in where we stand, were we find ourselves - in the actuality of our narrative if you like that sort of talk.

Rachel: Life life yes - in all it's abundance - forget the whole after-life thing - who cares? Eternal life begins multicolour...more than five sense...more than 3D, do you not want to live a life like that?

Adrian: I absolutely don't care about eternity or any such thing. I care about now, the now, the other people around me and further. I care about them. I'm a humanist after all.

Rachel: yes of course, gritty and broken times and suffering but sweetness and glory and a knowing deep inside that it's all alright

Adrian: Yes but they are together. It is not like fantasy island after a rough sea trip.

Rachel: Yes but God cares about this NOW, this LIFE, these people all around us but we can not help these people all around us like God can THROUGH us

Adrian: Well that's very good then.

Rachel: No - it's all mixed

Adrian: But we are the people who throw the leavers and pull the strings.

Rachel: ...but it's what you already think but more .... much more

Rachel: ...but we do not have to be

Adrian: Of course it is what I think? What do you think? I bet you think what you are saying.

Rachel: there is a supernatural energy...supernatural joy...supernatural love

Rachel: I know what I experience - call me a bit Schleiermachen...the bible then backs it up ...I became a Spirit-filled Christian all the other way around - things happened and then I checked the Bible ...and those things were there so i asked for more

Adrian: No - that's fantasy island again. Hand waving illusionism. I find value in what we are, where we are, as it is - in the narratives we have, and that function - not some vast escapism and emotion that adds not a bit to the reality.

Rachel: It's not escape - it's's what enables me to do stuff I could not do without God

Adrian: I've read all the same stuff as you, and done the same work, if in a different order. I've been in the Pentecostal, the Anglo-Catholic. I'm made of the stuff you more or less can see.

Rachel: minister to people whom I would otherwise be scared of.. a bit..take risks

Adrian: Well, good - some people get airborn by blasting out a lot of fuel.

Rachel: ...but it's not self-generated

Adrian: Well there are ministers and ministers with all sorts of approaches - and yes some people are scary.

Adrian: I think you'll find that biology and culture comes from us.

Rachel: it's all inside something bigger that we have come to call God

Adrian: Never done this before. There must be tens of comments now for the world to view.

Rachel: indeed - Holy Spirit inspired

Adrian: We have come to call it God. Reminds me of a hymn.

Rachel: ...beautiful

Adrian: Now you are turning it around again. See, I think we invented God.

Rachel: see, all this stuff in your head...

Rachel: there for a reason

Adrian: All the stuff in your head, and those Christians of whom you approve.

Rachel: you're fascination with all things spiritual...there for a reason...people centred...

Adrian: That's like that sign on the road coming back. 50 for a reason it said. But not what reason.

Rachel: approve eh? don't get it

Rachel: ...God just speaking to you through everything...

Adrian: Well it doesn't go unnoticed that your Christianity is rather different from some of your colleagues with whom I share blogging.

Rachel: ...the way he made wonder about him and the people who have given their lives to him

Adrian: I think I operate my own mouth. If God speaks through me he must be a bit confused.

Rachel: speaking To you -

Adrian: God didn't make me. I am the product of evolution, of several past human species too.

Rachel: indeed - they are compatible

Adrian: He's not on the phone.

Rachel: ...if only...

Rachel: I know and we learn how to listen and it's not easy

Adrian: What is compatible? A random environmental sifting process without plan and God making a human? Not really.

Adrian: You're talking! Listening is different.

Rachel: ..we are never going to 'get it' - not's way beyond us...we do not need to know

Rachel: yes God gave me a big mouth...

Adrian: I told you. I'm in the Book of the damned.

Rachel: you most certainly are not

Adrian: Now don't divert to drawing and painting, Rachel.

Rachel: God thinks you're fab

Adrian: For goodness sake, are you a universalist?

Adrian: I think God is fab. That's mutual. Are you a universalist?

Rachel: God's desire is to be in communication and communion with every single thing in this cosmos - I don;'t care for the theories...

Adrian: So God is universalist - it is only shorthand for a longer sentence.

Rachel: doesn't matter what you call it

Rachel: labels are destructive ...God is beyond and yet near

Rachel: ...through the Holy Spirit

Adrian: If God is universalist, then God is plural, and if God is plural, then it becomes like pantheistic, and panetheistic is like atheistic - theories about and reflective!

Adrian: You are theorising again (and we have been around this circuit - that's a theoretical circuit, not a Methodist one).

Rachel: It's just so simple- he wants to get to know us - doesn't matter where we have come from...

Adrian: It's not simple: you've been at college a long time now.

Rachel: but there's no clever theology here just relationship...with God through the spirit

Adrian: You can simplify it, but you are bagged with assumptions.

Adrian: No, it is very clever theology and packed with assumptions.

Rachel: but they are not assumptions...God is real..we can know him through his Spirit..end of...

Rachel: I picked up all the baggage later, the clever, academic stuff

Adrian: Then I disagree. Now would you be a Unitarian and agree to disagree? I rather doubt it. You want me to accept your version. I don't.

Adrian: I know you picked the bag up.

Rachel: God is God and no matter how long humanity tries to work him out it will all boil down to the simplicity of saying yes

Adrian: Yes to life.

Rachel:'s a crazy thing that happens - the Spirit and you just want everyone to know

Rachel: Yes to life - AGREED

Adrian: You are giving out a specific type of theology. You have colleagues who are very different. I am different in my outlook.

Rachel: Life in abundance - oh yes!

Adrian: Now we have found something we agree upon.

Rachel: I am simple

Adrian: Life as it is. I'm often regarded as simple, close up.

Rachel: I do not analyse the people I love, write books about them, argue about their character, I just get on with loving them

Adrian: That isn't agreement but close - that you are simple and I am simple.

Rachel: ...same with God

Rachel: Yes to life, yes to simplicity

Adrian: I like the direct approach too. But I also want people to develop where they are, and not to something else.

Rachel: but yes to the Holy Spirit and everything is maximised

Adrian: Well, so long as they are not doing harm to self or others.

Rachel: indeed - God wants us to be the very best versions of ourselves that is possible

Adrian: No, we disagree now. The Holy Spirit stuff can lead us off to fantasy land again.

Rachel: in some ways - yes, but there is still more to it than that...where does the power come from to not do harm to self and others

Rachel: fantasy...just an empowered life

Rachel: all those good plans and purposes but fueled

Adrian: I've no idea what God wants, if God wants anything or can. I want the best for people, but then I am not God. So that's only a small matter.

Adrian: I get power from eating.

Rachel: God wants you want the best for peope

Adrian: Fuel is like bunging something in my microwaves (I have two).

Rachel: of course ...but there's a different kind of eating - all those food images in the bible have got to be there for a reason

Adrian: I'm glad you've found out what God wants. I don't know.

Adrian: Oh yes, the symbolism of the meal - Judaism and Christianity.

Rachel: oh i only wonder ...I can not say I know

Rachel: I feel my way just like the rest of us

Rachel: ...but yes, the relationship - I know

Adrian: Oh Rachel, you are backtracking. I thought you were certain about what God wanted for me and others - all others I am now assuming.

Rachel: I can not actually know what God wants for sure just like I can not know what my best friend wants from one minute to the next

Rachel: but there are things that are in-keeping with his character...

Adrian: Don't tell me this conversation has been a waste of time?

Adrian: You don't know for sure what God is saying but you know his character?

Rachel: God wants you to know him better - this I know

Rachel: draw you closer...hang on - I am trying to listen and pray at the same time

Adrian: So you know so much then. Well I always like to get to know people better, when they talk to me. But I said about this at the beginning.

Rachel: ...

Adrian: Rachel, I admire you (some way it's a woman thing!) for multitasking

Rachel: trying to listen to God for you

Adrian: Was that a pause for your praying?

Rachel: I just have all these words

Rachel: no one here to interpret

Rachel: yes

Adrian: Now this is getting absurd. Do you think that God who won't speak to me directly will speak to you about me?

Adrian: So God is not speaking to you or is using a language you do not understand?

Rachel: I do not know - people have heard from God for me

Adrian: I did tell you.

Rachel: I saw a green garage door ...

Adrian: Personally I prefer direct communication. Second hand stuff usually is wrong somewhere.

Rachel: do not know what that is all about

Rachel: well it's all mixed

Adrian: A green garage door? Struth. Not this house then, or the last.

Rachel: two weeks ago I saw a vision of my future lounge

Adrian: Now this is getting interesting. Are you a medium?

Rachel: and then returning home - house in email inbox - was my lounge - future house

Adrian: I'm waiting with fascination.

Rachel: people said I would have a role - saw a synod thing - 24 hrs later phoned for indaba New York

Adrian: Well that must have been fascinating even frightening.

Rachel: it's glorious

Adrian: Yes, you be a high flyer. You do come across very clearly.

Rachel: ...did u not get involved in 'waiting on God' prayer, ministering in the power of the H Sp when you were at college or elsewhere?

Adrian: You do have to be careful with visions, don't you?

Rachel: of course - weigh and discern

Adrian: To your question, no.

Rachel: ...this is where it can all be different

Rachel: this is what there is for you

Adrian: I went to the chaplaincy. I was on that side of things. Others went to the Christian Union. They didn't meet.

Rachel: ...this is that LIFE thing we are both into

Adrian: Now you are being all certain again.

Rachel: yes - I know

Rachel: I did not know about these things before

Rachel: a few years ago

Adrian: Yes, life as it is. My approach is more Buddhist you see. It is what there is, what can be calmed, made clearer, cooler (not in the youth sense of cooler).

Rachel: God can literally knock me off my feet

Rachel: ...but all that awesome power

Adrian: Chaplaincy was in the 1980s for a short period.

Adrian: I said I get my power from eating.

Rachel: what about the whole Wimber thing kicking off

Rachel: ...charismatic renewal

Adrian: You see, I am naturalistic. Wimber? Fantasy Island again.

Rachel: ...rediscovering supernatural Christianity?

Rachel: ...that 's what I used to think

Adrian: They don't rediscover, they remake.

Rachel: ...but how could it be - this thing that happens ... it's real...that's why it happens

Adrian: This is what I do think.

Rachel: God moves in waves of outpouring

Adrian: No it doesn't. We have large crowd excitement in all sorts of places and it is no evidence of truth.

Rachel: ...but that's okay - it's what I thought too - but then I said yes

Adrian: Much of that stuff (God TV and the like) is rock music entertainment dressed up in religious garb. Middle class angst relieved once a night.

Rachel: ...but I have been perfectly calm...collected...nearly finished quiet prayers, no fuss, no emotionalism and then BOOM

Rachel: ...that 's what I used to think

Adrian: I don't say yes to that - I ask what is the evidence, what is the research?

Rachel: and people would say speaking in tongues is all emotional hype

Adrian: I go boom sometimes but not in that context.

Rachel: But it's just a normal part of my everyday relationship with God

Adrian: I think it is emotional hype, speaking in tongues.

Rachel: ...but it's just cool, calm - normal

Adrian: Oh you do that. Sorry, wouldn't wish to offend but I maintain my point.

Rachel: ...but I am not all-hyped up now

Rachel: and I pray that way for you

Adrian: Well it can be all sorts of wibbly wobblies, calm and ecstatic. But it is technique - even driving a car subconsciously is technique.

Rachel: I understand a bit of it

Rachel: no not at all

Adrian: Rachel, there must be a thousand more deserving cases for your prayer - you haven't the hours in the day. I recommend sleep.

Rachel: I always knew God could use people in internet church situations

Adrian: Of course if you must, you must, but your parish is quite peculiar and extended.

Rachel: ...some of this conversation has exalted him

Adrian: How do you know?

Rachel: ?

Rachel: oh ...internet evangelism...God told me

Rachel: ...

Rachel: wait up big burst of prayer

Rachel: joy

Rachel: that's how I know

Rachel: in part

Rachel: do you feel the Holy Spirit? Even if you close your eyes - try

Adrian: Phew. I clicked your name by accident and lost the thread. God told you quite a lot.

Rachel: yes

Adrian: No, I pray with my eyes open. I pray and think at the same time.

Adrian: I meditate with a more blank mind.

Rachel: yes eyes open - me too - a lot

Adrian: I have my own methods, you know.

Rachel: ah but God wants us not to clear our minds but just bring everything before him and talk it through with him

Rachel: ...every distraction

Rachel: ...every thought

Rachel: he 'gets' it

Adrian: I stand to sing, I sit to do the rest. Hang on, you know God so well you even know the stage directions?

Rachel: do you

Adrian: No I said, I'm more Buddhist. I believe in the clarity of the mind, if achievable.

Rachel: does he talk back

Rachel: not like talk but communicate

Adrian: God never talks back. I'm not on the phone.

Adrian: No.

Rachel: it's not achievable - not really but that's okay

Rachel: ...he will

Rachel: will feel it, know it

Adrian: Well he's had about twenty five years. Perhaps he was waiting for a telephone operator - you.

Rachel: find him where you expected..he'll talk through people in your life

Adrian: No I mustn't encourage you.

Adrian: He doesn't even talk about me to me never mind about others to me.

Rachel: ...there is something in you that wants to know him better

Adrian: I've been finding out.

Rachel: ...okay...but he will speak THROUGH others to you

Rachel: ...keep praying

Adrian: Well, I went to Great Hucklow. They talked to me. He might have used them. Or perhaps we are all in the Book of the Damned.

Rachel: books about pneumatology

Adrian: I don't pray in that sense.

Adrian: I know. I hate blowing up tyres, including religious ones.

Rachel: no - not in the book of the damned - give that thought to God

Adrian: He can have it. Well, presumably he knew it.

Rachel:'re funny - read Tozer

Rachel: and Ralph Martin

Rachel: Mark Stibbe

Adrian: What is Tozer? Hey, at least you and L*** F***s agree on something - that I am funny.

Rachel: yes...

Adrian: I can read so much.

Adrian: Yes what?

Rachel: she will not read my blog - never mind

Adrian: That's because it is yellow on black. She has perception problems. But she reads mine.

Adrian: And I read hers - a lot.

Rachel: Go back and read those parts of the Bible - like Acts - the filling with the Spirit

Rachel: indeed

Adrian: Are they yellow on black?

Rachel: heheh

Rachel: depends on your Bible

Adrian: I've read all that. You assume I haven't. Plus I attended C of E sometimes five occasions a week and they read out from that book every time.

Rachel: go somewhere where God is on the move...where the people are not so afraid of him

Adrian: They are not afraid of God in Barton - I thought people were supposed to be afraid?

Adrian: Does God move?

Rachel: ...awe, wonder...there are a lot of people who do not say 'yes' to the Holy Spirit though

Rachel: his Spirit does

Rachel: I have seen it

Adrian: It depends what the Holy Spirit is saying, if anything. I don't say yes because the Holy Spirit doesn't speak.

Adrian: You have visualised the Holy Spirit? Like the room of your manse?

Rachel: parting crowds and filling people up and changing them and knocking them over and blowing over them

Rachel: you will have seen it surely

Rachel: and making their faces red

Rachel: or making their faces shiny

Adrian: I've seen that as well, but I have other explanations. I gave one recently. Lot's of individualist angst.

Rachel: or making them laugh

Rachel: or cry

Adrian: Does the Holy Spirit have a flannel?

Rachel: not angst

Rachel: well sometimes

Adrian: Crumbs. I would hate to make someone cry (but I'm not God).

Rachel: coming out in healing

Adrian: I've come out in spots - I've never come out in healing.

Adrian: You get it that I don't believe it - or your explanation.

Rachel: but glory and peace and joy like nothing else and God wants us to have this - we are too PC all this 'oh no - I must not - it's all a bit indulgent- stuff because out of the overflow of all that love and glory the planet gets changed one person at a time and it all spills over to other people

Adrian: Have some fun, by the way - cut this lot out and bung it on your blog. I'll confirm it was all true.

Rachel: maybe

Adrian: I have a PC and it is far from peace and joy. Look, we always indulge. Indulge can be good. It adds to the fun of things.

Rachel: there is no waste in the God economy remember...

Adrian: It's only you and me. You have my permission if you even needed it (and didn't).

Rachel: God wants us to have fun, be happy, all true happiness resides in hik

Rachel: him

Adrian: I think there could be a lot of waste. For example, some people think God creates a lot of disaster to show what is good - that sounds like redundancy to me.

Rachel: Sarah Coakley is great on this front

Rachel: all happiness in God

Rachel: stuff gets messed up ...that's life

Adrian: I reside in my house. My energy comes from food. This is my world. I am a biological blob that eats to survive and then I shall die and be no more.

Adrian: Sarah Coakley is quite interesting.

Rachel: Oh Adrian - you can have eternal life now, NOW!!! :-D

Rachel: and do not worry about the rest - that will all get sorted...

Adrian: I don't want eternal life. I want life, as is, for as long as is, and then goodbye.

Adrian: I don't worry about the rest. I aim not to worry.

Rachel: but that's what eternal life is now...the LIFE but more than the life

Adrian: Life will do.

Rachel: with more beauty

Adrian: You know, this is like a chess match where you still have all your pieces at your end of the board and I have all mine at my end of the board.

Adrian: Life has beauty - the fractal cannot be beaten. The smallest of mathematical relationships produces incredible beauty.

Rachel: indeed - maybe we should call it a night - your Queen and King smiling at my King and Queen...

Rachel: indeed - beauty - God-given

Adrian: Yes, go and copy and paste and tell the world. And I shall go and eat.

Rachel: my prayers

Rachel: /\

Adrian: You are eating in your prayers?

Adrian: Shall I put this on my blog or would you rather I did not. I won't edit out the dialogue?

Rachel: ..probably - Jesus always provides a feast - you are prophetic

Adrian: I'm prophetic? I'm damned if I am!

Adrian: Shall I put this on my blog? Have you gone?

Rachel: I live for Jesus and I do not say anything I would not say in front of Jesus - he is right here in front of me (in a way) as I speak - so all is okay - he knows my motives

Adrian: Good - I'll bung it on mine then, and let's have some reaction.

Adrian: Enjoy your evening and your prayers.

Rachel: Enjoy your food

Adrian: I will. Good night.

Rachel: ...and your prayers - God almightily bless you

Adrian: And let me hope that your God blesses you.

Rachel: Yours too

Rachel: OURS

Adrian: Goodnight dear Rachel.

Rachel: bless you

Different Ordinariate!

This was my effort at a poster using Microsoft Publisher (after more than a decade of not touching it), made while at Great Hucklow (and thanks Louise for telling me about the online means to make it a .PDF and emailing it to my computer).

It is a spoof, as if the Anglican Communion Covenant has been passed and then a load of liberal ministers of the Church of England wish to come out and carry on but in a denomination actually based on diversity, reason, freedom and tolerance in social and theological terms. Some information displayed is just wrong: the Unitarian Headquarters is not found at Great Hucklow, for example.

The serious point is that the Covenant will force the Church of England in particular to self-restrict its own diversity given its international role.

Also arguments made against the Covenant often seem to be proto-Unitarian arguments, that is not unitarian (small u) theology but Unitarian in terms of Bishop Francis David's motto: You do not have to think alike to love alike. And Francis David was a Roman Catholic, then Lutheran, then Calvinist, then Unitarian.

Do Unitarians grow their own? Not much these days. Rev. Bob Wightman (ex-Congregationalist minister) and I were saying no in our pub and other chats. Unitarians come from other denominations: people interested in our churches usually come through their doors having been elsewhere. Unitarians have also taken in denominational sectors - e.g. English Presbyterians (of course), Unitarian Baptists, Cookite Methodists, and then Lindsey and Disney themselves were Anglicans.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Hucklow Weekend

I'm just back from the Unitarian Communication Coordinators Conference at The Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, Derbyshire (SK17 8RH to have a look) which started on Friday afternoon and continued until Sunday afternoon. This is the first time I have seen some Unitarians for many years, and there were a few surprises too for my slow to recognise clockwork mind. So I made some good contacts and friends very quickly.

The first gathering was a pre-session in which we could just work on posters for real or imaginary events. My effort involved using Microsoft Publisher not touched since decades back, and given my other contacts I created a spoof Ordinariate poster for Anglicans after the Covenant. Some of this issue 'over there' was in my conversation for folks 'over here' - especially as we want these same sex partnership blessings in our churches and have a positive view embracing difference of beliefs. Then we had a session on making phantom friends from Angela Maher - a marketing tool about focussing on who would be interested in Unitarianism so that materials target specific ideal types of people rather than vague generalities. Next day we had a session on radio spots and interviewing, from Rev. Bob Wightman, the Unitarian (once Congregationalist) minister who appeared often with Terry Wogan and had his own programme on Radio Tay. Then came how to do press releases from writer of many such Kate Taylor and then rating posters from the very hard working website man James Barry. Afternoon sessions were practical - I went to the radio one because (I think) it overlaps with service taking and other public speaking. The evening brought various efforts to the wider crowd plus a look at the weekend, with Sunday morning having a look forward to this time next year, then worship and then socialising up to lunch. There were also two evenings in the local pub (for those who went) and later chat.

I'll make a number of blog entries from my weekend (I've also a few catching up tasks to do at home - and there are photographs to sort and edit and I am making contact with a few folks at the weekend).

Friday 25 February 2011

Crumbs! When the ACI and the Liberal Agrees

This is my last blog for a few days, so fittingly it's on the subject that is the running issue even for an outside commentator like me.

Modern Church opposes the Covenant of course and is providing more resources, but what of those who might have supported it but now seem to be luke warm?

One of the interesting developments recently has been how much people of the Modern Church end of the argument agree with the first level interpretation of the facts of the matter with people at the evangelical end. The fact that there is this bizarre coming together, despite the complete disagreement on purposes and the future, suggests that the Covenant as a solution is moribund (but can still be passed, can still be damaging - especially within the Church of England).

I know that the Anglican Communion Institute is a few men, a dog and a website, but then aren't we all? It's rather about the arguments produced. Even I agree with some of the points Philip Turner makes in his Communion on the Verge of a Breakdown: What Then Shall We Do?

Up to a dozen Primates who come from the most populous areas of the Anglican Communion refused to attend. They did so because the Archbishop of Canterbury, ignoring his pledge that there would be "consequences" resulting from the actions of The Episcopal Church (TEC), insisted nonetheless on inviting its Presiding Bishop.

This is right, as far as it goes: that there was a moment of actions mean consequences and now this seems not to be the case. Then there is this:

From an ecclesiological perspective, the meeting itself proved vacuous, producing little more than points gathered on newsprint by a facilitor.

When people discuss at a meeting why they come to the meeting, you know things are going wrong. It is the desperate stage of naval gazing. So it becomes interesting that there can be this sort of agreement. What of this then?

Sadly, as things now stand, the Archbishop of Canterbury has lost his ability to serve as an effective symbol and focus for the unity of Anglicans.

Presumably this is not the case for those who went to the Dublin Primates' Meeting, but it could be for many more across the spectrum. Now Philip Turner regards these present as a 'rump' (it is not so clear cut: some were present who he'd include in his Global South "opposition") but leaves a difficulty that the opposition - those who were not present - is divided, apparently. There are to parties and the first has:

...what I will call a "relational" view of church unity. When disputed matters arise, they favor mechanisms that will help the provinces to "recognize" whether a disputed innovation within a Province is or is not in accord with the witness of Holy Scripture. The other party has a more "confessional" view of communion.

This seems to be factually about right too. In terms of strategy, for him the danger is that:

...they will further divide and in so doing offer no effective alternative to the rump communion over which the Archbishop of Canterbury now presides.

His road to unity (for them) is for the two to do more theology on communion, for at present they are limited to tactical practice:

It appears that the dissidents from both north and south of the equator have decided to play the game on terms set by the liberal leadership of the Instruments. They have rightly resisted the change in moral practice TEC has undertaken, but they have neither exposed the shallow nature of the theology behind these changes nor proposed a more robust alternative.

I wouldn't know about this, because there is plenty of theology to be developed that leads to the inclusion of various classes and types of people in their relationships that evangelicals would exclude. Still, be as that may as a solid disagreement, there is a question to ask in general:

What do Anglicans mean when they say they belong to a communion of churches? What content do Anglicans give this word?

There is the argument for a confederal (and it is not federal - federal means a strong centre!) arrangement of churches that allows for a friendship and relational communion and gives the flexibility for the 'Holy Spirit' to work. Personally I can't comment on that, as I think it is a 'God on our side' argument, but flexibility does allow for innovation and change.

There is, of course, a rich literature on the notion of Communion. The writings of John Zizioulas and Jean Tillard have exerted enormous influence on the ecumenical discussions Anglicans have had with Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

May be this is so, or not, and is or is not applicable to Anglicans, but again it can be agreed that:

In short, those in dissent have, like their opponents, abandoned theological work and given themselves to political strategies.

So in the end he thinks it is up to the Global South to do the work on Communion, and on the basis of numbers he, a Westerner, is glad to take a back seat.

Where there really is disagreement is the assumption by Philip Turner that this is all there is and this has some permanence.

Rather, it could still be the case that this Primates' Meeting was just the most recent example of the ducking and diving strategy of Rowan Williams: this time trying to get the Western Churches to sign up to his beloved Covenant. He is sort of saying, 'Look, here is an example of relational getting together that does not involve disciplining and restriction!'

Well, we've been in zigzag land before. Next year, or the one after, it could all be very different again: that once again actions have consequences.

There does seem to be very little theology in this at all. The man at the top is the most politicised: he keeps dribbling the ball and people either side seem temporarily impressed or deflated. But if the 'rump' has a memory that can reach to about six months, it might recall its own deflation. The fact that the liberal voice now remains anti-covenant is a testimony to the extent that the boss is no longer trusted, that to keep undermining those who'd once support you is, in the end, to lose them.

This is now happening on the evangelical side. The problem is, the boss might still get the Covenant into the goal mouth, and this is remains the most likely outcome in the Church of England at least. Again, a short memory is needed. The laity in the current General Synod were set up as soon as they walked through the door, so that House will pass it, and the bishops will, so it is only the House of Clergy that might reach a majority the other way and actually sink the thing.

The Covenant process is getting more distrusted and redundant by the day, and yet as a piece of text to act upon could still be quite a disaster, and just look at the recently released Study Guide as to the assumptions behind how it has impact - on every church in the land and believer called Anglican.

Doesn't include me, however, as I am just a Terror Blogger these days on such an issue.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Root Bridge - Ever Seen One?

Sitting here with music on and flashing lights, and bored looking for jobs, I'll break my own rules and post simply to pass on to a different post - all about a bridge over a river formed by tree roots and it is in North East India in the area where there are many village Unitarian churches. The churches co-ordinated by my friend from the past (in Manchester, at Unitarian College) Helpme Mohrmen.

The West Needs to Change Too

One thing the revolutions in Arab States indicate is that nothing lasts forever. Those who think they are secure find that they are not so secure after all. This includes Muslim countries, repressive regimes and the West too.

My view of the Muslim based States is something like this. They think they ought to be socially, economically and ethically ahead of the West, because after all they have the apparent absolute text of Islam, basically religion itself considered to be begun at the beginning of time.

At one time, of course, Islamic States were ahead of the Christian 'West' in terms of learning and toleration. But these States clericalised and the broad and confident sweep of learning was lost. As the Christian world emerged out of its dark ages, so to speak, it started to synthesise the essential Pagan philosophies and Christian views so far, particularly with Aquinas. Much later the Reformation of States and Churches led towards a new plurality of institutions (Eastern Europe was the first tolerant area given its place in the left wing of the Reformation, assisted by its genesis being on the borderland of the Muslim area) that was slowly to become toleration within States, especially helped by the Enlightenment and a shift away from religious discourse as legitimisers of States.

In terms of naked power, early last century old and new in the West fought itself and dragged in colonials and connected, the result being the collapse of the Caliphate and from then on nothing but humiliation or failure across Muslim areas: colonial States with imposed State boundaries gave way to reactive nationalisms and ideological parties in control, plus the insertion and humiliation of the Israeli State right in their area and its subsidised ability to look after itself and do repression in occupied lands.

Maybe, just maybe, Arab States can become more democratic and responsive to their peoples (there's no inherent reason why not!). Tyrants like Gaddafi are exposed, and the young people of Iran rather like the Western life that so many see on their education abroad and would have removed the corrupted defensive theocracy (after all, we had one such regular attender at our Unitarian church, something she could not do at home).

However, there is nothing permanent about our societies either. I was watching a political discussion of leaders in Ireland, which shows what happens when a country is bust economically. Iceland was the same, after its banks went on a gambling spree as an easy way to make money. The United States is now seriously living beyond its means: it keeps pumping up economic activity by adding to its debt. It is just so economically inefficient at present, if still responsive, on a comparative world scale, and yet finances a vast military that it cannot properly afford. Its imperial power will continue to be checked.

The West created a financial system that thought it could relegate risk to mathematical sophisticated purchasing - but you cannot insure against everything down-turning at once - the belief that you could led to the bloated financial system. And it is in the process of returning. We know that China is forcing down its currency and needs to readjust as it economically develops, as India does, and that is because China is acting as a repressive State with nothing meaningful any more as regards its once commitment to 'socialism'. It is just a state-capitalist repressive regime where it will either give way as its middle class develops or will come to its own probable violent overthrowing.

The capitalist world just isn't working; too often it throws useful resources on the scrapheap, but now it has crashed to a low level stagflation. It is in danger of locking itself into regressive unemploying of resources as a means of regaining financial health - and yet employing such resources means more debt. The whole thing is in a mess, and yet an economy should serve we the people not we the economy. As people react against the cuts, we have our own dangers of repression unless politicians give way.

In the later nineties and noughties the UK had a financially lax economy based on privatising and outsourcing the pursuit of public goods. Let's be clear: public goods are real, beneficial and economically productive, but it still needs a consistent, efficient and sustainable matching of expenditure and income. What we had was a private sector increasingly dependent on the public sector for work, and one financed effectively by debt. There were lots of shiny new buildings (the property market took the bubble the most) and all sorts of public agenda bodies with money to spend. The spending allowed inefficiency. People were employed, but the overall product was less than the cost.

Privatising was never really much more efficient than 'in house', and almost certainly some businesses would have been better off nationalised - such as the railways as one unit, competing against other travel but also offering social and environmental benefits. The problem with privatising was it disguised just how much was actually public sector generated work. This is why the coming cuts directly to the public sector will be devastating. Rather than the private economy becoming a replacement, the private economy will shrink too in a rapid reverse multiplier effect (or division effect?). Already the balanced reductions brought in by the last government are turning into rapid economic slow downs by this government, and the cuts haven't really begun yet.

What we need is an overthrow of capitalism towards something that is more democratic, where people are elected into firms and they are both consumer and community responsive. There needs to be less extravagance and more focus on essentials across the community. We need these communal interventions to be various and multi-level, and to keep the innovation of old liberal capitalism with the concern of the dispersed democratic. Education needs to be fused into all of this: education as long term, critical and liberating. No large, money-turning institution should get away without contributing to the general as well as specific education of the public, and meaningful training (not these rubbishy NVQs) and the State should see education as both a right and obligation.

The banking system needs almost taking over by the State and people in order to be a servant of the involving system, not to continue as an overlord by which all else must shrink and expand according to its bloated ways.

Communism fell, some repressive States are falling too, but the West itself is not exactly in a healthy position. Let's hope we can all democratise further, and have that as a way forward rather than end up fighting for resources and reverting to war again. The European Union has helped avoid war via economic codependence, and it needs to be the power (dealing with its own democratic deficit, as well as devolving powers) to intervene with the business giants to get an economy based on what people want.

This is essentially a religious-ethical vision of change, in that it starts with our humanity and a set of rights and obligations, based on a sustainable economics and management control: I have a lot of time for the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order vision of ethical businesses, for example, which they do at small scale, but has to be at large scale too.

Also Gandhi showed that peaceful protest can work and has longer lasting positive results afterwards. This root and branch change has to come to the West too as we watch people trying to make changes peacefully in Arab States and in Iran.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Not Understood

If I make it to 2050 I will then be 90 and 91 years old. I hope I don't, because I will be decrepid in body and probably in mind too. In the pub tonight (with our one Christian friend of the five; she alternates with her hubby) the usual point was made that I'm of the most active religiously and yet the most atheist. Three were there, one having to go early because of his Altzheimer's suffering mother. My friend thinks there is "something" and the Christian lass said of him, "God is knocking." It is not something she would say to me or about me. She admits she doesn't even understand me, either my views or my stance.

My very long time friend asked me what happens at death. "Utter annihilation," I said, just to be clear. Thus I match their assessment (though my friend who went to his mother would agree with me - it's over once it is over).

The point is that my Christian friend wouldn't even understand most of my co-bloggers and why they express the views that they do. As in previous weeks, they are all of them utterly dismissive of the liberal perspectives, especially in Churches where the expectations are that ministers should be the full deal: believing on the inside and the outside according to the list. On this my "something", Christian and atheistic friends have agreed. My Christian friend, who I'd describe as 'moderate' by behaviour (but she is singular about her beliefs), cannot understand this liberal thing as it might affect her Church or others that are supposed to be alongside it; indeed she has only received information about theological diversity from me. It is a poke in the eye for us liberals and radicals. She has a close churchgoing friend who seems to be very much of this world as well but the beliefs will be straightforward. Her husband is not a churchgoer and respects her but dismisses the package. I might not be the most atheist after all, but it is the contrast between my non-realist religious views and the level of participation that puzzles them.

The point is also that theology has so little reach, and hasn't reached even the one churchgoer among us. She reads standard Methodist and evangelical stuff, when she does.

I'm the driver, so alcohol doesn't pass my lips (I drink pineapple and lemonade). In the car to the well consumed I described my own denomination as filled with awkward individuals, and so described some of the locals, as I have before described a few of the bloggers. So my friend said he would thus fit in my church. Yes. But I don't invite him, nor use language about knocking on his head. Thirty years back a group of Methodists (as it happens - almost all of them in that group have all stopped attending) were knocking on his head and got nowhere, and they wouldn't get anywhere now.

Plus I spoke about how all the major Hull Presbyterian/ Unitarian families have all died out in terms of church participation and being on the self-selecting trust that once exercised absolute power whenever it so wanted. From the earliest days it has left a situation of plenty of money, but all the people now have to be (what I call) 'deconverts' or newcomers. Though I said it doesn't compare with another church, especially after one of four churches in its city ceased and the assets transferred over (a church purchased to become a hall of residence) where they weren't just going to have their own minister but considered having a second for other churches in the region.

I still think that in 2050 when Methodism and the United Reformed Church will be in states of collapse that the Unitarians will still bob along the bottom given that it has a unique selling point, whereas the arguments that made these other denominations will have long since become redundant and their attempts at rationalisation will be failing.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Independence: A Ministry Website

Soon I'll be looking seriously at matters of publicity with a group of people around the UK regarding church matters. Already I am aware that some forms of publicity are more useful than others, for example delivering leaflets through the door can be too much effort for a weak result. The only people who seem to do it now are takeaways, because obviously it has a menu attached. I'm not sure that times of services is an equivalent draw. Leaflets go straight into the bin. But times of services should be prominent on a church website. We assume that a website is found by an enquirer.

Just made into a Facebook friend by his initiative, I am struck by the clarity of Rev. Mark Paris's website. This is the right amount of white space, a good contrast of text and background, and simple and relevant graphics. My only mild criticism is the menu above. Once again, for someone who can be regarded as 'independent' (or attached to a 'looser' Church), who doesn't receive a stipend, a website is surely essential. But so it is for a church that must attract to survive. Such a website is a critically attractive shop window, one that must give the unique selling point and a means of contact. Blogging would therefore be entirely different and probably separated in such circumstances.

Monday 21 February 2011

Plumbing and Pair Bonding

Rachel Marszalek carries on with her marriage discussion, and therefore so do I. For the life of me I cannot comment on her blog (nor on the Changing Attitude one for that matter - both require selecting a profile and no matter what I do the comment is lost). So I have to add comment at the Facebook notification end of things and on that basis these comments were made based on her blog entry and use made of this article recommended by 'ex-gay' Conservative Evangelical, Rev. Peter Ould.

Adrian John Worsfold: Full of assumptions: the article is ignorant about marriage and family in the world, and bodily contact forms a union of two for the sexualities, not only for opposites. The article you use is nonsense.

Rachel Marszalek: I think it is intelligent. The points it makes about the sexual act make sense. By the very designs of our bodies and the consequences of 'right' sex - children ultimately...

It goes on to explore however that children are not the requirement. Some people choose not/ can not have children. That's fine.

Union is different for those who are not opposites, it is not 'one flesh union' - our very anatomies are designed to complement one another.

Adrian John Worsfold: Discuss how our anatomies are so designed regarding say oral sex. Sexual expression is not about plugs and sockets.

Rachel Marszalek: I was not saying that it is about plugs and sockets. It is just that same gender bodies do not fit together. "Discuss how our anatomies are so designed regarding say oral sex-" I reckon you can work that one out.

I want to pick up on By the very designs of our bodies and the consequences of 'right' sex and also our very anatomies are designed to complement one another.

These are statements, are they not, about plumbing. Natural sex follows the design of our bodies and our very anatomies are designed to complement one another. Given that we are not jigsaw pieces, male and female, other than with some of the plumbing, then this 'argument from design' is clearly about plugs and sockets - the plug delivers the sperm and the socket receives it.

The problem here is that is all they actually do.

It is rather like people confuse child making and rearing, couples and families. There are societies, for example, where groups of women in the village bring up children. The men are uninvolved. The young fertile women are available, the men come back from their trips away, have sex, and lose all interest in any of them or the child rearing. The fathers are collective. Other places have one men to many women in marriages, and some mountainous regions of low resources have many men married to one woman in marriages (it keeps the population down - one man always goes to the monastery).

So it is just as legitimate for men to raise children together or women to do so, and in various arrangements, from any 'natural' point of view. There is no natural point of view.

Now as regards the design of bodies, we are supposing that love-bonded relationships lead to sexual expression and arousal, and that sexual expression and arousal leads to love-bonded relationships.

Now the female clitoris is a protrusion from the body, and is stimulated by action upon it or its hood, and one of the best ways is with the tongue. Indeed, the more it is stimulated, the more it protrudes from its hood. Now I guess that male or female can be equally as good at this. Indeed women engaging in a kind of scissor actions are very good at mutual and direct stimulation. Of course there is a G spot inside the female, but then there is equivalent stimulation inside the male anus, put the male penis alone is very inefficient at stimulating that area as well as stimulating the clitoris. Now some people think, yukky, when it comes to the male anus, but then the female vulva shares the removal of urine close to the 'tube' for insertion of a penis for reproduction. The issue then is being safe and separating out the actions. Again there is no natural plumbing for the stimulation of breasts, as they are biologically for feeding. The penis can be stimulated in many ways, and one of the best ways is inside someone's mouth. It might just be after all that one wants to lie together and stroke or lick other areas of skin, or stroke one's hair - and there is nothing of plumbing in that regarding opposites.

Plus, the plumbing can be blocked up and yet these protuding and concealed parts can still be stimulated for sexual expression and bonding. Furthermore, the plumbing is time limited but people can go on making sexual expression until their dying days.

So, when you actually look at the pipework and the different actions, you soon realise that very little is concerned with what is 'natural' at all. For what it is worth, you can reproduce using a syringe, which isn't very 'loving' but even that can be the insignificant bit of all that surrounds the event. As for who is the father, or indeed who is the mother, I refer back to the varieties of families and thus the delivery of sperm and the availability of the egg is the part of reproducing, but sexual expression and society is rather more complex.

We think that pair bonding assists social stability in our kind of individualistic and partly collective societies. In so much as it does, we should then have these symbolised (we communicate into society) and this involves blessings of couples gay and straight quite equally as married or partnered.

(By the way, Rachel is married to a man and I am separated from a woman.)

Terror Blogging

Going back to my post on Punk Blogging, I do completely agree with Madpriest's comment that my posts on the Church of England do not constitute Punk Blogging because I have left that denomination. In fact I'd go further, that in not before having an interest to lose, I was never really a Punk Blogger at any stage.

To be a Punk Blogger you have to a) give your name and not a hide-behind name (so Pluralist is a name because it connects directly to who I am) and b) have some institutional position to lose. You then use your blog in such a way that either the authorities or/ and future interviewers will not be impressed, because you are clearly going outside the boundaries.

Now I am not a Punk Blogger but I could be a Terror Blogger (I've decided to leave off the final three letters; I don't want to confuse GCHQ in Cheltenham). A Terror Blogger is someone who might blow themselves up in the course of their blogging, but mainly prods and harries other bloggers who are likely to be or who are Punk Bloggers.

I'd like to think I'm a nice kind of Terror Blogger. I'm not going to get too personal, and I'm not the sort who tries to knock people off their perches with one good push. It's your decision love, if you wish to stay inside an institution you consistently criticise. On the other hand, blogs are drip drip drip and leave a deposit. There can be a cumulative effect of Terror Blog entries just as there is from Punk Blog entries.

Who Can Fill the Vacancy?

It is no secret that the Hull Unitarian church is looking for a minister, and that there is bizarrely a shortage of ministers or those who have completed training to take up the post. The church has the finance (indeed has recently received more) for this move forward.

A long time ago I used to listen to sermons which claimed an enormous breadth of belief within the Unitarians because of its non-credal basis, and I used to think this was ridiculous because it sits within a certain place in the sociology of institutional religion. Plus there is a Unitarian subculture that develops and produces forms of argument within the denomination.

So although a minister is never asked what beliefs he or she may have (and it does not discriminate on the basis of sex or sexuality) there is effectively a more or less contained range of beliefs. So much of this is relational and based on what is beyond.

Let's say the mainstream breaks down into conversionist beliefs of fundamentalist, evangelical and charismatic kinds, and then there are traditionalisms (at least one per denomination) that include traditional Protestant and traditional Catholic. Now if we say the first three are by approved persons deciding on interpretations, usually about the Bible and discipline about its use, then the second form is much more about the institution and the sacred. But so is the third form, the bureaucratic, where individuals are important but so long as they occupy their proper place and as such function for the benefit of the organisation (this is, by the way, how to best understand the Anglican Covenant). So what you get then is a kind of negotiation throughout the denomination, and partly with the outside and even Erastianism. The upshot is more moderate, but held, theologies upholding incarnation and resurrection, with reference out to science and other philosophies, and an adoption of more, protective, liturgical symbols without necessarily the equivalent theology (as in liberal Catholicism).

Currently there is more emphasis on boundary drawing and being inward looking, with a reaction against the New Atheists and sexualities from outside. The result is a shift from bureaucratic liberal orthodoxy towards an increasingly institutional evangelical. Traditionalist Catholicism is becoming a Roman and Eastern Orthodox preserve.

At the same time postmodernism amongst the liturgical conservativism produces inverted versions of the above. Radical Orthodoxy is traditionalism in a platonic bubble without objective foundation, and there is a performance related evangelicalism of the text, again with leading figures to stop such being individualistic even if it includes the individualism you get in capitalist ideology. Some of these inverted theologies that maintain orthodoxy are very sophisticated and hardly communicable to the ordinary woman in the pew (although a few get it).

However, the educated specialists of liberal subjectivity and open postmodernism form a theological heterodoxy, a group of people who after training and education and teaching are pretty scientific, social scientific, secular and open ended with their various theologies. They tend to undermine the Church as a sacred inheritance or a stable bureaucracy (the rationality of purple or the presbyteries) because they take on authority to their own publications - and now, even, blogs. We might call these systemic, if they are absorbed and productive: though they might also be regarded as anti-systemic if the Church is becoming more sectarian, sacred and authoritarian by bureaucracy.

Some of these heterodox individuals are in quite a bind: even off the scale regarding the boundaries of belief but still in love with the culture and conditions of the Church they are in. We have seen this recently with the sexuality debate: progressives who wonder whether they should seek ordination in the Church of England and yet some of its individualists under threat still advise them to join up, even as some kind of ballast of defence and towards 'progressive results one day'.

But imagine there is no belief written out, except elsewhere (and rejected), and imagine there is no authority to keep, except what is elsewhere (and rejected). Who is going to populate a 'human relations' type group like this? Such a group is indeed the Unitarian grouping. The answer is the individuals who are like those in the systemic group above, those individualists and heterodox types, and seen as incomplete (as regards the rest in their Churches).

So if a minister where to come to a Unitarian church and start to go in about the saving power of Jesus, it won't be long before such a minister would cheese off the congregation. If God is regularly intervening in history, it will be puzzling to a group who, by and large, reckons that if there is a God it isn't that sort.

It can be that a minister might believe in the incarnation and resurrection, and might believe in Jesus being the first born of creation (classical Arianism), or that Jesus has actual divinity but less divinity than the Father (Reformation Arianism). Indeed I knew of one who thought the Trinity was about right, but who couldn't accept credal details. I never understand why they cannot do what many an Anglican does with the creeds, and that is just ignore the details - if you can more or less hold the scheme together, the details don't matter (they just get debated endlessly and pointlessly - and disagreement is put into shadow or the usual show of duplicity).

All this is not the main bulk of Unitarianism now. Some of it, much of it, retains voluntarily a kind of Christian culture of sorts: by performance, by some prayers, by some hymns, by the demands of architecture even. Most extend beyond that and the direction is a bottom-up 'common sense' religious humanism. It is not very intellectual. Most Unitarianism is pitched around a middle secondary school RE lesson for its level. Most sermons are reflections and there is very little of the supernatural at all, so the liturgical element still drags behind the actual meaning involved.

So a prospective minister ought to be in this ball-park at least. Beyond this you get the extra doses and flavours of greater rationality, of the irrational-spiritual (to make it opposite), and of the different faiths especially from the East, and then the neo-Pagan. There is a sort of territory to explore, and most ministers will explore these territories.

A Unitarian minister then should be something of a shaman, that is who goes out into new territories and investigates (and reports back on) new ideas and spiritual claims, across the liberal-Christian religious-humanist Eastern and neo-Pagan fields. For some, this will be a frequent adventure and may result in a resettlement (a minister who becomes, basically, say, Buddhist in outlook) and then has outings from the new base. Others may stay roughly in the Christian-humanist area with much less obvious pluralism.

Over the years a Unitarian minister will change beliefs and will change style, and this can contribute to changing the local church itself.

This should all be reflected in the services, and a minister must guard jealously the right (and duty) to give these services as he or she decides. Pastoral sensitivity is a duty too, and relating to the group, but a minister is expected to be an autonomous individual.

Beyond this comes the immediate pastoral work, some administration, and making those contacts outside that is to build the congregation (the congregation should be kept 'open' to the outside too). The stress is on a unity that involves difference.

So if any minister is fed up with making promises about beliefs that they don't actually hold, and is stale from liturgical repetition, as well as frustrated by the person-hierarchy that imposes from above, plus the deception generated by the conformist expectations from below, they might consider the vary rare move which is to change denomination.

Very few do, and the reason is because size matters, because the devil you know is better than the one you don't, because of the guilt that you 'should' believe what you don't, in that the conditions of service are like nurse and soft blankets, and because few people mentally can cut the rope. Remember too that in nature the 'parasite' actually wants to be on the host body - it is the host that has to remove the parasite.

It is cold out there and there are few guarantees, though bizarrely one of them seems to be enough money.

Any active minister would be employed but would have plenty of time to do some Unitarian ethos and history courses for a year that would probably be required at denominational level at least.

The picture is of Francis William Newman: he was an evangelical Anglican who had some frightening encounters during foreign mission; back home he went in a liberal direction even via full baptism and ended up being a high up Unitarian, the leading and pioneering English Vegetarian, and a pure theist who preached against the moral superiority of Jesus of Nazareth - something I can do more than a century later within the Unitarians without controversy.