“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, 22 March 2013

Nothing New Under the Sun

The Teacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes famously laments that "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This was brought home to me this week, when I read the following words:

"Our movement has lost power and helpfulness through our recent disinclination to speak frankly with each other on the subject of religion. We hesitate to let our closest friends see the depth of our convictions, and we show great reserve in religious matters in our own households. This, no doubt, is due to our wholesome fear of cant and to our conviction that prayer at its highest is an inward movement of the soul to God. We rightly distrust those who can speak with ease on any occasion concerning the deepest experiences of the soul, and lay bare to the public gaze the secrets which the heart learns in private communion with God. We dread to be artificial and insincere, and we shrink from methods which appear to turn faith into an exciting and popular pastime. But surely we lose a vast part of the help religion can bring us, if we hide the best side of our nature from those we love.

... We have no common rites, ceremonies or dogmas, which seem to make a simple beginning in fellowship for earnest souls in other Churches. Yet we have a spiritual faith which has taken the form of definite convictions in our minds and which can furnish the necessary means of communication with others who belong to the same home and the same Church.

We must surrender our excessive individualism and make our faith a social force. We must abandon our reserve and speak with the frankness and openness to our friends and to each other concerning our message." (emphasis mine)

For me this is a fair summary of where Unitarianism is at the moment. And yet, it was written nearly 100 years ago, in 1922, by Alfred Hall, in the now little-known Aspects of Modern Unitarianism, which I discovered languishing in the Vestry cupboard in one of our Midlands churches.

As then, so now, our challenge is to make our faith a social force and to speak with frankness and openness concerning the wonderful message of Unitarianism.

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