Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Service to the Community

An important aspect of our Unitarian identity is what we can offer, what we can offer not only to our own community, but the local and wider communities, of which we are a part.

This is something that perhaps we take for granted, we all nod in agreement; and then proceed to find reasons why we aren't doing anything!

We are too busy with repairing our roof/ struggling to fund our minister/ trying to find new members, but fail to see that many of these problems can be resolved, at least in part, by being more outward looking.

We have a lot to offer, if we would just let it be known to those outwith our congregations. We offer an environment where people can explore their spiritual beliefs within a caring, inclusive, outward looking community; a solid base from which people can explore their own spirituality.

As well as providing our own children with somewhere they can develop, flourish and grow, we can offer young people from our wider communities the same opportunities, those opportunities of regeneration, for the next generation.

How do we do this, how do we provide this 'service to the community'?

We do this by being amongst them, being with them, by being a spiritual home in a secular society. And if they find it difficult to see themselves in our churches, we must provide opportunities for them to see, experience and understand what we are all about, by our activities outwith our Churches.

We can do this in many ways, we can provide amenities for people to meet together with genuine connection, encouraging the use of our buildings by like-minded groups, Amnesty International, Fair Trade, and Mindfulness groups, groups open to all, not exclusively church members.

We can be with people at the important times of their lives, providing rites of passage ceremonies which reflect their needs, their situation, and their beliefs. But it doesn't stop there, we need to be willing and able to continue that involvement, as required, following on from these life changing events. To be seen to be willing to provide somewhere people can find their pathway in an open and dynamic community, and enable them to face life with confidence.

We can welcome, and act as advocates, for people who are marginalised within society, the poor, the homeless, differently abled, LGBT and refugee communities. Those with lifestyles which differ from the mainstream, sex-workers, or members of the travelling communities.

We can use our non-creedal foundations to facilitate discussions between other religious groups, especially those whose faith has become synonymous with fundamentalism, providing a multi¬faith venue in each town.

We should be prepared to take advantage of all opportunities which come our way, to ensure that Unitarianism is something that everybody has heard about, knows about, is there for everyone, and understood by the public. We should respond to letters and articles in newspapers, on the radio, or social media, to speak out against unfair taxes, divisive policies, and government decisions, national or local.

It is the responsibility of all Unitarians to let people know that we are;

a Faith for today, 
a Faith that matters,
a place for roots to grow and wings to fly!

Joan Cook

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100% with Joan.

    We are a faith for today. We have the broadest base possible, are open to everyone no matter what and, most importantly, do not impose dogma or hold beliefs which are incongruent with a rational view of the world. We are capable of being a voice for the down trodden, for the stranger, for the left behind. We have an immense power in our community: we come from all walks of life and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and being part of a liberal faith compels us to act.

    We are a faith that matters. One thing I love about Unitarianism is that we have taken certain ideas to their beautiful extremes. I love that we fully embrace the priest- and prophethood of all, the rational interpretation of holy texts, the openness to all sources of light, a deep reverence for the tapestry of faiths. We accept everyone. We need to be a faith that says ‘yes’ not because we want to be all things to all people but because we know so firmly who we are that we have no fear in saying ‘yes’. We have to know, not just believe, that’s not enough, we have to know we matter.

    We have to want to be a spiritual home. We are not a social club or an ethical society. We are a church. If we can be a spiritual home, we can be each other’s soil and roots, binding together to create a wonderful garden. It need not be a manicured landscaped garden. It can be an over flowing, ebullient garden of the English sort with roses, thorns and all, lavender spilling over the edges and greenery climbing the walls. We are all beautiful, unique children of God and we recognise that in each other. That’s why we can fly.

    Let’s look after our buildings and our ministers but not forget that we all priests and prophets. We should bless our brothers and sisters and the whole world with our open hands and shout out when we see injustice, calling those in authority to account. We should open our doors and drag people in off the streets and show them exactly how we are a liberal and liberating faith. More importantly, show them how we are places of love and community. That is the Unitarian message of service.

    Tristan Jovanovic (member, Kensington Unitarians)