“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

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Being Present

It is nearly 2013, and the joys, excitements, fears and trepidations of a new year beckon. There are things I'm looking forward to, and things I'm decidedly not. So I turn to Ralph Waldo Emerson, for some challenging yet reassuring advice on how to live this next year:

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. No man has learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is doomsday. Today is a king in disguise. Today always looks mean to the thoughtless, in the face of a uniform experience that all good and great and happy actions are made up precisely of these blank todays.

Let us not be so deceived; let us unmask the king as he passes! He only is rich who owns the day, and no-one owns the day who allows it to be involved with worry, fret and anxiety.

You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubht crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays."

Friday, 21 December 2012

The True Meaning of Christmas

Yesterday a beautiful card came in the post from a fellow Unitarian. He had bought it from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the words really hit home:

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart."
The words are by Howard Thurman, an African-American minister, civil rights activist and author, who in his time met Gandhi and influenced Martin Luther King Jr and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
In the midst of all the glitter and tinsel, over-indulgence and commercialism that is popular Christmas today, I am going to carry the inspiration of these words with me, and try to act on them.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Inclusivity and Identity

One of my favourite ways to pass the time on long car journeys is to listen to a Great Course. These audio CDs are produced by the Teaching Company, and cover many fascinating topics. The one I am listening to at the moment is The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era, which is taught by Professor Brad S. Gregory of Stanford University.

I was listening idly to a lecture about the Mennonites on my journey home yesterday, when he said something which really caught my attention: "Too much inclusivity threatens to dilute our identity." and that part of being a member of any denomination is being in "community with others who share the same commitments."


It really made me wonder - Unitarians are proud of our inclusive attitude -  "All are welcome here" says the hymn - but are we taking it too far? One of our central tenets is that of freedom of belief - we don't believe that every Unitarian should sign up to a statement of belief in order to become a member. Cliff Reed writes in Unitarian? What's That? "shared values and a shared religious approach are a surer basis for unity than theological propositions." And I would agree with that statement wholeheartedly.

Nevertheless, I think that our individualistic approach to the spiritual journey does have its dangers. It is somewhat problematic for Unitarians to articulate what "we" believe as a denomination - every Unitarian can explain what they as individuals believe, but it is difficult (and even perceived as improper) to speak for others. But I believe that it is a problem that we need to face - unless we can articulate clearly what we believe, how can we attract other like-minded people into our churches and chapels?

Perhaps each congregation should try to put down on paper some basic statement of the beliefs and values that they have in common that can go onto their website, so that outsiders will understand what we stand for, what our identity as Unitarians is, and will be able to judge whether Unitarianism is for them.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Wonder of Sight

This morning I had to leave very early, at 7.00 am, to get to a meeting. Boy, oh boy, I am so glad that I did. The journey over was amazing.

I started out in the darkness, with my headlights picking out the frosty branches of the trees. As I travelled on, through Yeats' "night and the light and the half light" the world turned from a monochrome pre-dawn grey through the palest peaches and apricots as the sun came up. Every individual twig on every individual tree was thrown into sharp relief by the magical light of the early morning sun, and the colours were fabulous - every shade of brown and gold and grey and green you could imagine. I felt like I was driving through a landscape painting.

I feel so very blessed to have been awake to the beauty around me.