“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 29 June 2012

Give Your Soul Away

At the Wednesday morning service of the MOSA conference, Ann Peart included a lovely reading which really spoke to my condition: Thirty Six by Linda M. Underwood:

All this talk of saving souls.
Souls weren't made to save,
like Sunday clothes that
give out at the seams.

They're made for wear; they
come with lifetime guarantees.
Don't save your soul.
Pour it out like rain on
cracked, parched earth.

Give your soul away, or
pass it like a candle flame.
Sing it out, or
laugh it up the wind.

Souls were made for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,
forgetting hurts.

These men who talk of saving souls!
They have the look of bullies
who blow out candles before
you sing happy birthday,
and want the world to be
in alphabetical order.

I will spend my soul,
playing it out like sticky string
into the world,
so I can catch every
last thing I touch.

Some beautiful ideas here - souls being "made for wear"; coming with "lifetime guarantees". Yes, we should give our souls away, pouring them out "like rain on cracked, parched earth", playing them out "like sticky string into the world". If we only do this, then we can connect with the Divine, and with each other, and with the world. I believe that that is why God gave them to us.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Time of Anticipation

Last Friday, my daughter and I went to our first University Open Day, at Sheffield. It was an exciting day, opening up new possibilities and opportunities for her.

The campus was full of Year 12 students and their parents, all trying to decide whether Sheffield was the university for them. I expect that most of them, like us, will be spending the next few weeks visiting other Universities, to enable them to make an informed decision about their futures.

They then have to wait until mid-August, until they get the results of their AS levels, before making final decisions and filling up the dreaded UCAS form.

It's a lot of pressure. Because so many young people now opt to go to University, competition for places is fierce - if you want to get onto a popular course at a respected university, you will probably be expected to get three As at A2 - a big ask in anybody's money. Most universities do not do interviews any more, so the students are judged purely on their grades and on their Personal Statements.

My thoughts and prayers are with my daughter in this time of waiting, and with all her fellow students, whose lives are going to be fundamentally shaped by what happens in the next few months.
May they survive with their self-esteem intact, and may they find a course they will find fulfilling and exciting.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Future of Unitarianism

In a keynote speech to the FOY Society seminar in 1997, Miles Howarth said:

"If we can get the fundamentals right, then there will be enough people who are inspired, involved and active so they provide the money, the ways and the means ... We must be in the business of impact and success and growth."

This begs the question: "What are the fundamentals?" I think that this is the issue that our General Assembly needs to be concentrating on - to provide a clear, simple to understand exposition of the fundamentals of Unitarianism, so that new people will be attracted into our movement, and will stay.

Six years ago, in June 2006, the Executive Committee circulated a statement entitled Our Unitarian Ethos, which I believe was a step in the right direction. In comparison with the wordy 2001 GA Object, it is snappy, easily understood, and interesting. It reads:

"We Unitarians and Free Christians are united by our ethos and values. We aspire to create a loving, caring, religious community within which we:
  • value people in their diversity and uniqueness
  • encourage freedom of thought and speech
  • support spiritual exploration
  • create celebratory worship
  • advocate justice, liberty, honesty, integrity, peace and love
Hence we strive to:
  • make the best of the life we have
  •  be democratic in our practice
  • celebrate life in its many forms
  • respect people whose beliefs and attitudes are different from our own."
This statement, with which I think the vast majority of Unitarians would agree, needs publicising widely. It sums up the underlying values of present day British Unitarianism. We all need to work together to save our precious "uncommon denomination" from extinction. Let us use our heads and hearts, our reason and imagination, and turn our movement around. In the words of Earl Holt:

"We remember this day those who have gone before us here, who laboured not for themselves alone, but with a vision of building for the future a world better than they had known. Inspire in us also a like vision, that we too may labour for things beyond ourselves, that our lives may be dedicated to high purposes and grand horizons. Make us unafraid of hopes and dreams; release us from cynicism and despair. Teach us to be realistic about our limitations but never to lose hope in our potential to transcend them."

May it be so.