“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

Monday, 18 November 2013

Why I Am A Unitarian

There are two ways of explaining why I am a Unitarian - how I became one, and why I have remained one for the past 35 years.

In the first instance, I blame my father! When I was a teenager, it was our family's custom to eat one meal a week all together, Sunday dinner. (The rest of the week he was working late, and we ate earlier, with Mum). During this meal, we would talk about life, the universe, and everything, and it was a treasured and precious part of my life.

One Sunday evening, the conversation turned to Christianity, and I started to sound off about some of the Christian doctrines or beliefs that I couldn't understand or was unhappy about (e.g. the Trinity or the Atonement, or original sin). Dad explained that there was an alternative to mainstream Christianity, which allowed each individual to follow their own reason and conscience, and did not require you to suspend disbelief. He gave me a copy of Alfred Hall's book Beliefs of a Unitarian, and by the time I had read the first two pages, I realised that I was home. The whole book had a profound effect on me, and still does.

Thirty-five years later, I am still a Unitarian, because I find it utterly satisfying as a religious path. It has allowed me to find out about and explore different religious belief systems and traditions, and to take from them the elements that "speak to my condition", to use a Quakerly phrase. Within a Unitarian framework, I have been able to forge my own unique system of beliefs and values, on the basis of which I can live my life, trying to be the best Sue Woolley I can be. And I can be open to new revelations and insights - Unitarianism is not a closed faith. And that is so precious.

My Unitarianism has been influenced by writers who follow many religious paths or none  - Unitarians such as Alfred Hall, Cliff Reed, Philip Hewett and Forrest Church, not to mention some of my fellow ministers; Quakers, Pagans, and an eclectic mix of others, including John O'Donohue, Lionel Blue, Rachel Naomi Remen, Karen Armstrong, Marcus Aurelius, Lao Tse, Vera Brittain and Philip Pullman.

Unitarianism gives me the perfect freedom to work out what gives my life meaning, and a safe and welcoming and enquiring community in which to do the working out. What could be better?

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