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 Unitarian Universalism - Free Church or heretical Christians?

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Pat R
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PostSubject: Unitarian Universalism - Free Church or heretical Christians?   Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:11 pm


UNITARIAN AND UNIVERSALISM

Do you know what Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Louisa May Alcott, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell and Tim Berners Lee (creator of the world wide web) all have in common? The answer is they are all Unitarians.
How I first heard of the Unitarian Church
I'd never heard of the Unitarian Church, until the subject came up during a conversation I had with the vicar of the local church. My ex-husband decided to become a born again Christian for a while. Though I didn't share his desire, as his wife, I respected my partner's right to follow whatever spiritual pathway he chose. This often brought me into contact with my ex-husband's vicar. I once asked this vicar why, if they all believed in Jesus Christ and God, were there so many different types of Christians? He explained to me some of the different views held by various different Christian movements. As an after-thought he mentioned the Unitarians, but then added they were looked on as 'heretics' by many Christians. Over the centuries, many Unitarians had been persecuted by the church. This intrigued me so I decided to find out more about Unitarians.
Because the local vicar knew I was a spiritualist and I used Tarot, he felt duty bound to try and convert me every time we came into contact with one another. I once remember having the following conversation with him, "Instead of seeing me as a spiritualist, or tarot card reader, why can't you just see me as another woman who believes in God? Whenever I look at you I see the man standing there, not the 'dog collar you wear." He then asked, "What if your beliefs are wrong, Pat? I fear for your spiritual well-being." My reply was; "I love God, the same God you worship, so when I die whatever He chooses to do with me, I'll accept it. God will choose to either let me into what Christians call Heaven (and I call the Spirit World), or He'll choose to throw me into oblivion. When I die, I really don't believe what religion I've followed will make any difference to that decision, the only thing that will, is how I've lived my life - whether I've helped people or hurt them, and I believe that's true for us all, no matter what faith or belief system we belong too.'
I then went on to ask if he liked jazz or opera music, he said he really loved jazz, but didn't like opera. My reply was as follows: "There we differ again because I dislike jazz and really love opera. Jazz and opera are both music, some people prefer one type while others choose to like another. I feel religion and spiritual beliefs are like that too. Different spiritual pathways have lots of things in common, respect for Mother Earth, Nature (and for each other) is a belief that's shared by all spiritual seekers. You've chosen Christianity as your pathway, while I've chosen Spiritualism. I don't say my choice is right and yours is wrong, or mine is a better choice than yours (or any other person's), I simply ask that you respect my choice, as I respect yours. I believe we all have the right to choose our own religion or spiritual pathway. Though you or I may not necessarily agree with some of the things others believe in, I feel we should respect their right to choose to believe in them." Without realising it, I'd just made a statement all Unitarians and Universalists would agree with. I discovered this, 3 months later, when I visited a Unitarian Chapel for the very first time.
I'd now like to share my Unitarian experiences with you:
As this movement allows scope for a very wide range of beliefs and doubts, when I first attended Westgate Unitarian Chapel, Wakefield, in the mid 1990's, I found I was made really welcome even though I told everyone I was a practicing Spiritualist. As well as members from other Christian backgrounds (ie Methodists, I found one member was a practicing Pagan, another was a Catholic and another was a Sikh.
The Pastor of Wakefield Unitarian Chapel, at that time, had once trained to be a Catholic priest. However, on the day he was due to be ordained in Rome, Bill decided to walk away from Catholicism after seeing a Vatican guardsman ill-treat a vagrant. Bill had been sitting outside the Vatican awaiting his time of ordination. He looked around at the splendour of the Vatican and felt he couldn't be part of a religion that had all that wealth, yet allowed poor people to be treated in that way. Bill abandoned Catholicism, but he didn't abandon his desire to serve God and his fellow man. Instead of a priest, he became a teacher of Religious Education in schools and also taught courses about World Faiths in Adult Ed centres. Bill met his wife when she enrolled as a student on one of his courses.
While I was attending the Unitarian church, Bill gave a series of talks about many world religions. He invited a Jew, a Sikh and a Hindu to give talks about their beliefs. Bill brought in beautiful Native American Indian and Aboriginal drawings and photos of some Tibetan Buddhist mandelas (Tibetan monks spend hours creating beautiful intricate diagrams using different coloured sands, yet when completed, these are then destroyed as a sign that everything in life is transient). Bill discovered Unitarianism while travelling through USA writing his book 'The Gospel and the Zodiac - The Secret Truth about Jesus'. He soon came to really like and enjoy the Unitarian open attitude to other beliefs, so he decided to train and become a Unitarian Pastor.
Bill studied astrology (his book explains St Mark's Gospel is the only gospel which includes Zodiacal signs contained in parables etc in the order they appear in the Zodiac. He offered to prepare an Astrological natal chart for me. In exchange, I did Bill a Tarot reading. (Not many readers can say they've done a reading for a member of the clergy - can they?)
I found Bill's addresses really interesting, very relevant to life today, and mentally stimulating. He was the one who first introduced me to one of my favourite books, 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl. Bill used material from this book in an address he wrote based on suffering (Viktor Frankl was once a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz). I found this address very moving and it had a profound effect on me. When I told Bill this after the service, he very kindly gave me his own copy of this book. After every service members would sit together and discuss what they thought of the Pastor's address, ie whether we agreed or disagreed with the content of it, if not, why not? Everyone was free to air their views without fear of condemnation or reproach.
Bill knew I was a spiritualist and I'd given philosophy many times during spiritualist services, so he kindly invited me to participate in his services. In 1992, I did an address for Rememberance Sunday for him. He also knew I enjoyed creative writing, as I met Bill at the time when I was writing my children's stories. Not only did I write these and other stories, I also wrote other pieces including one called 'Not my Way but Yahweh!' (One Christian's point of view on the subject of the Trinity). I believe this piece was 'spiritually inspired' because I'm not a Christian myself. Yahweh is the Jewish word for 'God'. Bill asked if he could have a copy because he was doing a thesis on the Trinity. I was happy to give him this. I often found things I'd been writing about, or thinking about, would often be mentioned in Bill's Sunday addresses. It was as if we were on the same 'spiritual wavelength' at times.
Westgate Unitarian Church is one of the oldest churches in Wakefield, but it now has a very tiny congregation. Bill got offered a position in a Unitarian church in Ireland which had a far larger congregation, so he decided to accept. A few months after Bill left, I had to stop going to the Unitarian Church because my mother needed more of my time. Though I've never gone back since, I really enjoyed the time I spent within this movement. I love their liberal approach and agree with most of their beliefs and principles. Here are some of the things I like about Unitarianism. (If you are interested in finding out more, I've posted a link at the bottom of this article).
Everyone is free to search for the meaning in life in a responsible way and reach their own conclusions.
In 1904, Unitarians were the first church in Britain to accept women as ministers, they support equal rights for gay people and welcome gays and lesbians in their ministry.
Unitarians use gender-inclusive language in their worship. Unitarian vicars (or pastors) use material drawn from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions in their services, because Unitarians maintain no book, institution or individual has the monopoly on truth. Addresses may include items taken from a newspaper, a bible or Koran, Buddhism, Judaism, Native American Indian (or other indigenous people's) teachings as well as Celtic beliefs.
They believe in constructive tolerance and openness towards the sincerely-held beliefs of others. I was told 'Unitarians may not necessarily agree with everything others believe in, but they will fight for their right to believe in these things (as long as their beliefs harm no-one) which is basically what I'd said to the local vicar.
Unitarians, particularly in USA and other parts of the world, like to also be known as Universalists. Christian Universalists believe in Jesus but Unitarian Universalists don't necessarily follow Christian teachings. Some Unitarian ministers are Christians but other ministers come from very different backgrounds. These may range from Secular Humanist, Buddhism to Neo-Paganism.
Unitarians/Universalists believe that 'deeds speak louder than words' (something I wholeheartedly agree with), they believe religion should make a difference to the world, so many are active workers in social justice and commuity work.
Seven Principles Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote are:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
3. Acception of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth within their congregations.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within their congregations and in society at large.
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
7. Repect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian societies and networks include the Unitarian Earth Spirit Network (this affirms a pagan spiritual perspective as being fully compatible with a quest for self-knowledge and ultimate meaning) and the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies (USPS). As a spiritualist and medium, this society was of particular interest to me. More so, when I found out several members of this Unitarian society also belonged to the Churches Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. This was the society my spirit helper Frances Banks had once belonged too. When I found this out, this confirmed my belief that Spirit had led me to find out more about Unitarian/Universalism.
If you'd like to know more about the Unitarian Church, please use this link.
http://www.unitarian.org.uk/about1.htm




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KirstyM
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PostSubject: Re: Unitarian Universalism - Free Church or heretical Christians?   Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:28 am

Thanks for this Pat - I found it really interesting. I'd also be interested to find out more about Humanism and Quakers if anyone has any knowledge or experience they'd like to share? I like the Quaker attitude to taking action against what they believe is wrong.

Love Kirsty xx
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PostSubject: Glad you enjoyed this, here are more ideas we we have in the pipeline.   Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:21 am

Hi Kirsty :rose:

Glad you found the Unitarian piece interesting. I'd be happy to post something about Quakers and Humanists too, if you'd like that. Also planning to post a piece on Hindu Mysticism and also something on Islamic mystical beliefs too. Just before I answered your reply, I've just emailed manuscript for one of my children's stories to a publishers. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. If I can get my stories accepted, I might not have to find another job. That way I'd have lots more time to spend on the forums, psychic awareness classes and my writing. :rose:

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PostSubject: Re: Unitarian Universalism - Free Church or heretical Christians?   Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:48 am

Everything's crossed Pat!! I've just put on the Euromillions, so you never know, you could have the cash for your retreat as well lol!!

Love Kirsty xx
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PostSubject: Hope you win tonight   Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:51 am

Hi Kirsty,
Reckon you'll have to win lottery and buy me my Sanctuary. If you remember, when you did that ribbon reading for me, you did say I'd never win anything, I'd have to work for anything that came to me, do you know you aren't the first that's told me that? Let's hope you win the lottery and the publishers buy my story, then we'll both be mega-happy. If you haven't already seen this, I've posted a link with Quaker info on it in this section.
It's odd you mentioned earlier you wanted to know about Quakers today as I went to Friends Meeting Room in Wakefield, yesterday and had some spiritual healing. While I was talking to lady who runs it, I mentioned Spiritual Quest and she asked me to email her a link. I asked if she'd like me to mention their healing sessions on here. As they've already got a website set up, I've posted that link in the Quaker post too.

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