Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Where Unitarians get their inspiration

And yet more inspiration from Facebook - who would have thought?!

There was a debate about whether people attending Christian services understood much about the finer points of theology and at some point I wrote

I think that people are much more alive to their own personal relationship with God/the divine and much more open to other influences e.g. the TV, books,the radio and the Internet then in times gone by.

A little later I was surfing for another topic and came across the six sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association - here's the explanation and detail ...

Unitarian Universalists place emphasis on spiritual growth and development. Unitarian Universalism is a creedless religion. The Unitarian Universalist Association affirms seven principles: The official statement of Unitarian Universalist principles describes the "sources" upon which current practice is based:

1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
2. 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;
3. Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
6. Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

I would argue a bit with four - because whilst our roots may be Christian and Jewish - there are other roots in other religions and the Golden Rule (treating others as you yourself would want to be treated) can be found in most, if not all, of them.

Which led my to our national website which says something similar but not in one place.  Here it all is ...

We believe that
  • Everyone has the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves.
  • The fundamental tools for doing this are your life experiences, your reflection upon it, your intuitive understanding and the promptings of your own conscience.

And then 

On our personal life journey we are aided and inspired by:
  • The example and spiritual insights of others.
  • Writings deemed 'holy' and 'sacred' by the various faith traditions of humanity.
  • Inherited traditions of critical and philosophical thought.
  • The ongoing creative work of artists, musicians and writers.
  • The scientist's search for knowledge and understanding.

I like the fact that the UK sources include a more egalitarian view of inspiration - it doesn't have to be teachings, religious wisdom or the words of the prophets.  How often are we inspired by our fellow travellers, by simple acts of kindness or an encouraging word? My blog is evidence to the fact that I get a lot of inspiration from words written on Facebook.

When we are in spiritual community sometimes, or perhaps often, it isn't an individual but a group experience which moves and inspires us. Whilst it is always nice to get recognition it is really not important who said what, whether it be a prophet or our next door neighbour.  It is the content of the message and the meaning that we extract from it.

Perhaps each local community could have a go at describing where their inspiration comes from. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Why do I attend my local Unitarian meeting House for services?

Another Facebook inspired posting.

So what are services for?  Whilst they need to be inclusive of new comers they play a significant part in community building for our local community. The traditional view of Christian service, whence we came, is that people go to church to worship God. However as Unitarianism has evolved and morphed is this still the case? Clearly there will be different views on this and mine might not be the same as others - it would be interesting to find out what others thought.

The question asked in the Facebook posting was 'Do we worship God?'  Which I answered, 'Not in a traditional sense'. I then went on to say ...

Everyone has a different view.  I cannot understand a god that is one entity with human feelings and emotions.  So for example I don’t understand the concept of ‘God loves you’ or the idea that god has a gender, female or male. It is all so difficult to understand that I tend to rely on experience – my experience is of an otherness and of a strong need to live a principled life. This is part of my everyday life and I don’t need to go to chapel to connect or to strive towards being a better person. 

However I do need to go to a Unitarian service of a community to which I belong to get a sense that (a) what I believe is OK; (2) there are others who have a similar faith; (3) together we can move forward in our understandings; (4) in doing this it’s fine to change one’s mind; and (5) by creating intimate bonds with others I am challenged to be a better person by being vulnerable, opening myself up to receiving love, and by being strong to giving love – in real and tangible ways.  I also expect to be moved by words and music which embody beauty and the best in human behaviour – I expect to be inspired. At times I just come for an hour of peace or respite from difficult times.

Using the word God and having things such as the Lord’s Prayer do not mean much to me.  But I have learnt that to be an inclusive community we actually have to be inclusive, so we don’t always get what we want.  Respect for that is easy to say but often more difficult to do. 

Not sure that I can add anything more to this.