An evening out tonight with the vicar of my Home Parish Anglican Church (St Michael & All Angels) Simon Marsh to talk with Jeff, minister of Bramhall’s local Unitarian gathering.
About a month ago I was told that for one of my university assignments I could pick my own topic. Shortly thereafter I heard someone make what I took to be a rather judgemental comment on Unitarianism and their beliefs. That set me into exploring personally a bit of what Unitarians held in their hearts, and decided to take Unitarianism as the subject of my assignment so I could take the time to explore further.
They vary as all denominations do with some thinking one thing and some thinking another, but it was formed in the Reformation when a “Free Christian” Church was needed, where it was ok to be open to thinking and not be forced to hold any particular truth, a non-credal non-judging fellowship. It is no longer so unique as now churches today with Liberal views (since post-enlightenment especially) encourage the same openness to thinking and learning and growing in their lives (though we all still have a way to go of course!).
Tonight’s two-hour conversation felt like so much less as the three of us passionately talked of our visions for the world, what truth and God and life meant to us, celebrating our Liberal loving, that we have been blessed with the gifts of people that did not shout at us to think a certain way but encouraged free-thinking and exploration and discovered our faiths in different places but with the same aura of thankfulness and joy.
In university I’ve discussed with my friends there how we seem to put too much importance into labels, and we should be celebrating ecumenical relationships a great deal more than we do. We worship in slightly different ways and we may believe in different things, but none of us know the ultimate answers. We only know the passion for love and a “communion” of living that drives our hearts and propels us forward into life. Rather than arguing over whether something may be factual or exact (as the early churches for example killed so many over a simple few words of the Nicene Creed) instead we must focus on truth, on what something means.
All are welcome at the table of life to share food and blessing and love as brothers and sisters of humanity.
As the Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in his hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
There is much we can learn from the values that built Unitarianism. May it be so that in the coming years we will forget any prejudices we have and come to peace with one another, whatever you might name the “Thy” Whittier writes of. And when in doubt, as the Archbishop of York Stuart Blanch wrote in The Times in 1982, “Better an adventurous heretic than a numbed conformist.” Read, learn, listen, love, communicate in “communion” with one another, always, in “Thy” peace…