“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, 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.


1 comment:

  1. I dislike the idea of "liberal religion" or any other programmatic sort: Unitarianism should be free and tolerant religion with commitments to justice and compassion, details to be worked out locally. There is a fine heritage of buildings and tradition, but basically a congregation WORSHIPS together. Ideally, 52 times a year at least. I have now led in 8 different congregations, all different and all spiritual, and it is by united, quality communal worship like theirs that Unitarianism will survive. So sing, pray and worship together and forget the rest.