Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lesbian and Gay Foundation Faithbook

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation have produced a booklet on faith and LGBT, wittily entitled Faithbook.

I was disappointed to see that it does not have a section on Unitarians, just a brief mention on page 43 in the listings section - and we are listed under Christian, which is not entirely accurate. This is a bit sad when we have been LGBT-welcoming since 1970.

Nor is there a section on the Metropolitan Community Church - which is weird when they are a major LGBT church.

I was glad to see it included Wicca (but why no other Pagan traditions?).

New Google tool - what do you love?

What do you love? brings together a variety of Google tools in one place to provide comprehensive information about a topic.

I tried it with the search term Unitarians and it works quite well.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Oldham Unitarians Launch Campaign for Aslyum Seekers

Oldham Unitarians

Members of Oldham Unitarian Chapel have launched a campaign to stop the deportation of two asylum seekers who are currently destitute and fear the consequences of being sent back to their own country.

The launch took place at 12pm on June 12th following the Sunday morning service and included a photo opportunity

The two refugees are: Abdoulaye Diabate from the Ivory Coast and Taha Ghasemi from Iran.

Abdoulaye fled the Ivory Coast after experiencing imprisonment and torture in 2006. His sister was caught up in the violence and raped. He does not know if she is still alive.

Taha Ghasemi is a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party who arrived in the United Kingdom in September 2006 following his imprisonment and torture at the hands of Iranian police and the security forces. As a known supporter of the Kurdish cause in Iran he faces immediate arrest and imprisonment should he be returned to Iran.

The campaign for Abdoulaye and Taha will include petitions, letters to MPs and other activities.

Both Abdoulaye and Taha are regular visitors to the Welcome Project sponsored by Oldham Unity. This voluntary support service for destitute asylum seekers takes place every Thursday at Oldham Baptist Church.

A social event for asylum seekers and their families takes place at Oldham Unitarian Chapel on the last Saturday of each month.

Media Links

Bob Pounder

Source: GA Uni-News

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A questioning blog

Rev Gill from Rochdale has started a blog called Living in the Question. The name comes from a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
'I want to beg you, as much as I can . . . to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves. . . . Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.' -- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I always enjoy reading her pieces in the Rochdale church newsletter, so I am sure that her blog will be equally full of gems!

The title also reminds me of the character George in Room with a View by E M Forster, who paints a question mark on the door of his room. And of the quip about Unitarianism being the religion where all your answers are questioned!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Religious civil partnership consultation

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, writes in the latest issue of GA Uni-News:
The deadline for responses to the Government's consultation paper on civil partnerships on religious premises is 23rd June 2011 and I would urge any congregation or individual wishing to respond to do so by this date.

It is important, even at this stage in the legislative process, for our views to be heard. I shall be submitting a response on behalf of the General Assembly based on our agreed position and general principles of freedom and equality but others will be most welcome.

I had the opportunity to meet with the civil servant conducting the consultation and we talked about the need to ensure that any proposals are practical and can be easily implemented. I indicated that I thought the cost of registration of £1500 for three years was excessive and that the comparison with secular commercial venues was invidious. We do not have the option of recouping the fee from sales of food and alcohol! Indicating the reality of finance for congregations may be useful in this debate.

I have recently also spoken to Stonewall, the organisation who worked closely with Lord Alli to secure the amendment to the Equality Bill to permit religious premises to be registered for civil partnerships. The support that we, with the Quakers and Liberal Jews, gave to the amendment proved very persuasive to parliamentarians in the free votes on this measure. Hopefully my views will influence their response.

We must ensure that this measure is implemented in a way that is effective and practical for our congregations. It is hoped that registrations can begin later this year.

Respond to the consultation paper

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer 

New church websites

Congratulations to the following churches and chapels who now have shiny new websites.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The complexity of marriage law

The subject of marriage and what is legal and what is not is getting increasingly more confusing, especially since a Liberal Jewish synagogue was in the news recently for performing a same-sex marriage (which is recognised by Liberal Judaism but not by the state). Apparently Scotland is just about to begin a process of consultation about same-sex marriage. So here's a list of what is and is not currently legal:

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state):
  • Opposite-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Same-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Opposite-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
The law allows, but there's no mechanism for implementing:
  • Religious civil partnerships (civil partnership ceremonies in a religious building)
Not forbidden by law, but not recognised by the state
  • same-sex blessings in a church / synagogue
  • same-sex marriages in a church / synagogue where the marriage is recognised by the church / synagogue  but not by the state
  • Pagan handfastings (weddings) in England & Wales - both same and opposite sex
  • Pagan same-sex handfastings in Scotland
  • Blessings of polyamorous relationships
Illegal (not permitted by law):
  • Same-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Opposite-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Same-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Marrying more than one person
Another difficulty is that if a transsexual married to a person of the opposite sex to their original sex wants to change their birth certificate to reflect their new sex, they would have to divorce their partner (whereas if same sex marriage were legal, they could stay married).

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state) in Scotland only:
  • Pagan opposite-sex handfastings where the celebrant says the required form of words (the same as for all other legal weddings)
Have I missed anything?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Systems for the hard of hearing

If your chapel or church does not have a proper system for users of hearing aids, or needs to replace its existing one, the best place to go for advice is the RNID, who have a team of researchers reviewing products for deaf and hard of hearing people, including loop systems.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Bill Darlison on Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman
Bolton Unitarians have a video of Rev Bill Darlison talking about Walt Whitman - excellent. They also have videos of Stephen Lingwood's sermons, which are always excellent (he posts them on his blog Reignite too).

Walt Whitman (whilst not a Unitarian) was a key figure in the Transcendentalist movement, which emerged from 19th century Unitarianism.

He was a complex person, believing in the abolition of slavery but disliking the abolitionist movement for its extreme methods, and not believing that African Americans should have the vote.

He is chiefly remembered for his rhythmic poetry, which influenced later poets like Allen Ginsberg, and for his free and celebratory attitude to sexuality, both gay and straight.

By watching the video, you can also find out the connection between Walt Whitman and Bolton.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Compassion and the future of our world

1.00 – 3:30 pm, 2 July 2011

Golders Green Unitarian Church
31 ½ Hoop Lane, London NW11 8BS

The World Congress of Faiths looks forward to having Karen Armstrong as our speaker at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St. Johns Wood Road, London, on the evening of 7 December, 2011.

As a preparatory event, we are co-hosting an afternoon on Karen Armstrong and the Charter for Compassion, 1.00 -3:30 pm, Saturday, 2 July. A representative of the Charter for Compassion is invited to a panel discussing the  charter.

The programme will open with a worship service at 1 pm led by the Rev. Feargus O’Connor.

Rev. Richard Boeke, Chair of the British Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom will give a sermon entitled The freedom to be compassionate, drawing on words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “I cannot afford the luxury of hate.” The panel will follow about 2 pm.

How would you apply Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to Compassion, in your life? Should there be any additions to the Charter such as recommended in this 12 May 2011 resolution of the British Chapter of the IARF:

The Chapter Endorses the Charter for Compassion and Karen Armstrong's book, Twelve Steps to Compassion with the recommendation that there be an additional paragraph on "Compassion for Nature."
The story is told that after God gave Moses Ten Commandments, God realized the need for the 11th Commandment. “Listen.” In like manner, the Charter for Compassion is not complete without compassion for the interdependent web of which we are a part. The Charter for Compassion is largely drawn from the Abrahamic Traditions. The “Reverence for Nature” of the great Eastern Traditions is the great background to all human compassion. In those mystical moments when we are one with the All, we find again the “basic trust” which is the heart of compassion.