This week has been an uncommon one for me. I spent the first three days as a guest speaker at the Sea of Faith Conference in Upper Hutt. I was joined by six members or friends of this congregation. The focus was on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The structure was for each of the four keynote addresses to be followed by small group discussions of the questions raised by the talk. Continue reading Reclaiming the Common→
In preparation for this Sunday, when we welcome new members to our congregation, I have been reflecting on what it means to self-identify as a Unitarian and how it has changed. Continue reading Passing the Flame→
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on why, since the age of five, I’ve more often than not been in church on Sundays. Of course, for most of my adult life it has been my vocation. It paid the bills. But in my reflections I’ve wondered, if that was not the case, would I still find myself here almost every Sunday? What need does it fulfil? Continue reading Building A Beloved Community→
Being grounded doesn’t always have the best connotation, especially if you are a teenager being restricted after misbehaviour, but in religious terms it captures the spiritual revolution that is transforming religion. Last week, in discussing the evolution of Unitarianism, I touched on this revolution when I said many of today’s Unitarians are rejecting Kant’s “religion within the bounds of reason alone” as lacking any mystical or spiritual dimension. They are embracing what has been described as “ecstatic naturalism.” They seek an experience that is beyond the capacity of words to describe, except perhaps in poetry and music. Continue reading Being Grounded→
This election year has seriously challenged this Unitarian’s efforts to live out our first principle: “To affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Even during the primaries when I was feeling the Bern, I managed to view Hillary with respect even though I agreed more fully with my candidate’s positions on the issues and trusted him to follow through. I managed to do this even when some Hillary supporters, who are my friends, disparaged him and me for daring not to support her pre-ordained right to be president. I managed this even when it was confirmed that the game was rigged just as Bernie’s supporters had long believed. Of course it was. Those in power have never given it up easily. Continue reading Can Love Trump Hate?→
Even if you have been attending worship here only for a short time you know about the Seven Principles that guide Unitarians in our efforts to live life in an ethical, compassionate and just manner. The banner that lists them is hard to miss in our sanctuary. But even life-long Unitarians are often not aware of the six sources that inform our living faith tradition. They are like wells from which we draw the waters of wisdom and spirituality that give life to our tradition. They include our direct experience of mystery, wisdom from world religions, our Jewish and Christian heritage, reason and science, Earth-centred traditions, and the one that inspires my thoughts on higher education today: “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.” Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Higher Education→
This week in Adult Religious Education I was given a gift—an “Aha” moment. We are looking at “Saving Jesus from Christianity.” This week we asked the question, “Who was Jesus?” There were many answers offered: a wisdom teacher, a prophet, a healer, a mystic, but then one scholar said Jesus was a conversationalist. I had never had that insight before, but he’s right. The gospel is full of conversations Jesus has with a wide variety of people. When I reflect on those conversations he converses with me as well. Continue reading What Is At The Root Of Everything That Is Wrong?→
Tomorrow is the 100th observance of ANZAC Day. The first was one year after 2779 New Zealanders, 8500 Australians, 44,000 from France and Britain and their empires, and 87,000 Turks died at Gallipoli. It is a day of remembrance for those sacrificed on foreign soil for “King and Country.” It is as popular as it ever was. Thousands will rise early to attend the Dawn Parade. They will hear prayers, sing Lest we forget, listen to Laurence Binyon’s fourth verse from his poem For the Fallen:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
I hope a few of those stirred to tears during the playing of The Last Post will also remember those 2600 brave souls who in the face of tremendous public scorn opposed the folly of war. Conscientious objectors paid a high price. They lost their civil rights, including being denied voting rights for 10 years and being barred from working for government or local bodies. At least 273 were imprisoned for failing to serve, some of them Unitarians. Continue reading War against peace hidden in Panama Papers→
One of the few difficulties I’ve had as a refugee from the Northern Hemisphere is celebrating Easter with autumn’s chrysanthemums and not spring’s lilies. It was ingrained into me that Easter had to be a spring holiday. After all, Easter takes its name from the Saxon Mother Goddess, Eostre, which means spring. But recently I read about the northern autumn festival celebrated by Hindus, Divali. It changed my perspective. As with Easter, Divali’s date is determined by the moon. It is a great festival of light—burning candles set floating out on the water along the banks of rivers and candles in people’s homes and in temples, dazzling fireworks, gaily coloured greeting cards, family visits, the giving of gifts. On Divali Eve, Laksmi, the goddess of wealth and fortune is said to ride across the land astride a giant owl just at dusk, scattering her gifts to all who deserve them. To us Divali seems to be a strange admixture of Christmas (lights and gifts), Guy Fawkes (fireworks), and Halloween (flying witches and owls). To the Hindu it is a celebration of the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, of humanity’s never ceasing effort to achieve a true and harmonious relationship to ultimate reality.
Recently Rachel and I were at a wedding breakfast as compensation for my officiating at the wedding. This wasn’t a particularly new experience. I have pronounced at least 500 couples to be husband and wife or wife and wife or husband and husband. The reception is not the most comfortable part of a wedding for me as an introvert. Most of the time the only people I know are the bride and groom and they are a little busy on such occasions to spend time chatting with me. Such occasions are even more challenging for Rachel, also an introvert, who usually only knows me, but ever the supportive partner, she goes so I have someone to talk to. Continue reading Creeds and Deeds: Mixing Religion and Politics→