Recorded Sunday Services

 

ONLINE SUNDAY WORSHIP

Today I have uploaded the first of what will be a weekly act of worship which I will record in one of our churches, complete with music. On this occasion I was very pleased to have Alfie McClelland with me to provide some musical accompaniment in a short service at Clough Church.

We now have our own dedicated YouTube Channel entitled ‘Downpatrick, Ballee & Clough NSP Churches’, although it will include services recorded at Dunmurry and Banbridge as well.

Sunday Worship, 22nd March 2020

Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

22nd March 2020

Conducted by Rev Dr David Steers

Edited by Jack Steers

Organist: Alfie McClelland

Reading: Psalm 137 v.1-6.

Hymns:

All people that on earth do dwell

Hymns of Faith and Freedom: 1

(Tune: Old 100th)

The King of love my shepherd is

Hymns of Faith and Freedom: 87

(Tune: Dominus Regit Me)

 

 

Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Reflections

Today is St Patrick’s Day (17th March) but it comes in the midst of our growing awareness of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Among other things it looks like this virus is going to put the normal operation of churches out of action. Earlier today the Church of England announced the suspension of its Sunday services and a number of other denominations in Britain and Ireland have since followed suit. In their letter the Archbishops of Canterbury and York talk of putting less emphasis on weekly worship and more emphasis on giving daily prayers and support to those around us. I am sure this is a model that others will take up and although we face a lot of difficulties there are ways we can develop new forms of ministry that reach out to people and provide meaningful support in these testing times.

I uploaded a video to our new You Tube channel reflecting on this situation:

 

Over the weekend before St Patrick’s Day, in our Downpatrick Church, we had to take down the venerable old horse chestnut that stood at the back of the church. Sadly it was rotten in many places and was becoming a danger. Its age has been estimated at 300 years, so it is probably as old as the church itself. You can see the growth rings in the side view of the trunk telling us of the changing patterns of growth in each different year. It had surveyed the world through rebellion, industrial revolution, famine, two world wars and all the countless human experiences that have gone on in the church, as well as provide generations of children with conkers. We will now have to consider planting new trees to replace it.

Tree 02

Tree 01

Remembering Tom Banham

On Saturday, 30th November I was honoured to be asked to lead the service and give the address at the Memorial Service for the Rev Tom Banham at First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast. Tom was the minister of First Church from 1975 until his retirement in 1993 and was senior minister from then until his death in August 2019.

IMG_1951

With Rev Simon Henning and Rev Robert McKee (Photo: Mark Adair)

It was a very impressive service indeed with contributions from Rev Simon Henning, Dr Pamela Topping, the church secretary, who read So Many Different Lengths of Time by Brian Patten, and Mark Adair who spoke warmly of his memories of Tom and read Praise of a Man by Norman McCaig.

Memorial Service

The service was particularly notable for its musical contributions under the leadership of the church’s Director of Music, Richard Yarr. Tanya Houghton, the newly appointed Musician in Residence, played two pieces on the harp and the eight Banham Scholars gave their first ever public performance. The organist was Nigel McClintock.

IMG_1947

Tanya Houghton with the Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)

Before he died Tom endowed the church to enable them to establish a choral scholarship scheme for the church. As a result a group of choral scholars have been formed who, it is planned, will sing once a month at Rosemary Street, as well as on special occasions, and will undertake outreach projects on the church’s behalf. The congregation has named them the Banham Scholars in Tom’s memory.

IMG_1949

The Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)

The musical programme in the service comprised pieces which reflected Tom’s own musical interests and some of his favourite pieces:

Church Choir & Banham Scholars: Beethoven – Creation’s Hymn

Tanya Houghton (harp), Musician in Residence, First Church –

Puccini: O Mio Babbino Caro, from Gianni Schicchi (with soprano Mary McCabe)

Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana

Banham Scholars –

Rutter: The Lord Bless You And Keep You

Handel: Hallelujah Chorus, from Messiah

The Banham Scholars are eight professional singers: two Sopranos: Mary McCabe and Katie Lyons; two Altos: Dawn Burns and Sarah Richmond; two Tenors: Owen Lucas and Mark Tilley; and two Basses: James Cooper and Adam Reaney.

IMG_1950

The Church Choir and the Banham Scholars (Photo: Mark Adair)

The hymns were Love divine, all loves excelling, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended and Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.

The whole occasion was such a fitting tribute to someone who was a major figure in his denomination for so long and who made such a great contribution to society through his ministry and leadership.

Rev Tom Banham 1971

Rev Tom Banham 1929 – 2019

Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy

Minister, Ballycarry and Raloo 1971 – 1975

Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Belfast 1975 – 1993, senior minister 1993 – 2019

(Picture taken in 1971)

 

Faith and Freedom, Autumn and Winter 2019

FAITH AND FREEDOM, AUTUMN AND WINTER 2019 (Volume 72, Part 2) issue 189 is now available

Articles include:

T.E. Lawrence and God by Howard Oliver

An engrossing study of the evolution of the religious thought of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), of one of the most enigmatic and complicated public figures of the twentieth century. (See above image of the memorial plaque to T. E. Lawrence, unveiled at the Oxford High School for Boys by Winston Churchill, 3rd October, 1936.)

 

The Story of Silent Night by Andrew Page

The true story of the transmission and translation of the famous carol Silent Night, uncovering its three ‘lost’ verses and giving an entirely new and faithful translation of the hymn first sung at the bicentenary service held last year in Cairo Street Unitarian Chapel Warrington..

 

Romantic Religion by Tim Clancy

What do we mean by God and how do we understand God. “In so far as we recognize God’s loving recognition of us, we come to participate ever more intimately and ever more fully in God’s own power, the power of being itself. In this way God can be said to actively relate to us without determining us.”

 

Barbara Ward and this Journal: ‘Faith and Freedom’ by Dan C. West

The writings of the late Barbara Ward which share similarities of ethos as well as of name with the journal.

 

In the Interim by Sue Norton

Exploring being in the interim.

 

Books reviewed:

Liberal faith beyond Utopian dreams

43602055._SY475_

Nancy McDonald Ladd, After the Good News: Progressive Faith Beyond Optimism, Skinner House Books, Boston 2019, pp 159, ISBN 978-1-55896-828-8.  $16.00 pbk.

Reviewed by Jim Corrigall

 

The 1960s – a new spirituality for a new world

9780198827009

Sam Brewitt-Taylor, Christian Radicalism in the Church of England and the Invention of the British Sixties, 1957-1970; The Hope of a World Transformed, Oxford University Press, 2018 pp 272, ISBN 978-0-19-882700-9, £65, hbk.

Reviewed by Marcus Braybrooke

 

Climate Crisis – essential reading

Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, Pelican (2018), pp 465, ISBN: 978-0-241-28088-1, £8.99

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, Allen Lane (2019), pp 310, ISBN: 978-0-241-35521-3, £20.00

James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, Allen Lane (2019), pp 139, ISBN:  978-0-241-39936-1, £14.99

Reviewed by David A. Williams

 

Unitarians and Biblical revision

9780567673473

Alan H. Cadwallader The politics of the Revised Version: a tale of two New Testament revision companies, T & T Clark, 2019, pp. 224, ISBN: 978-0567673466, £85 hbk.

Reviewed by Andrew M. Hill

 

Clerical corruption in the Vatican

9781472966186

Frederic Martel trans. Shaun Whiteside, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Bloomsbury, London, 2019, pp.570. ISBN 978-1472966148, £25, hbk.

Reviewed by Frank Walker

 

An annual subscription costs £15 (postage included). Contact the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.  DN21 4GA.

It’s also possible to pay via PayPal via clicking here.

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

Rev Tom Banham – An Appreciation

The Rev Tom Banham died suddenly, but peacefully, on Wednesday, 14 August. His funeral took place at Roselawn Crematorium on Monday, 20 August. I gave the address and reproduce it here as my tribute to someone who achieved so much in his ministry and who was also a great friend.

‘He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose;
for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord.’

Some verses from the book of Acts which sum up something of Tom Banham, the faithful minister. Tom passed away on Wednesday, quite suddenly but also very peacefully in the Somme Nursing Home where he had settled quite comfortably. Tom was in his 91st year but as interested and intellectually involved in his church, his denomination and the world of theology as he always had been. Indeed two of the topics for debate brought to the Synod last June had originated with issues directly raised by Tom.

Tom served this denomination, his presbytery and his churches with tremendous loyalty and devotion over the best part of 50 years. In fact so much of the shape and form of our Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church life was formed by Tom’s vision and endeavour. Tom was a minister, a theologian, an educator, a pastor, a liturgist. Innovative, dynamic and creative he achieved so much. For many of us here today Tom was also a friend, a colleague, a guide, a mentor. For everyone in our churches he was someone who played a key role on so many levels for decades. Typical of Tom he wanted his funeral to be conducted with a minimum of fuss. To be honest, given his achievements, no one deserves more fuss than Tom, but that isn’t the way he would have wanted it.

Tom was one of those people who had tremendous depth. He wasn’t just a leading minister in Northern Ireland throughout the period of the Troubles and beyond, although that would be enough to deservedly win the admiration of everyone. Tom had two consecutive high achieving careers – the first, of course, as an officer in the Royal Navy.

Tom was born in Devon and I think felt the call of the sea from an early age. He went to the Royal Naval College and was trained as an Engineer as he embarked upon his service in the Navy. Tom joined the Navy at a time when you really did see the world and he visited so many places in the course of his naval service. Tom kept pictures on his wall of all the ships he had served on but was unsentimental about the past. His medals and ceremonial sword were donated to the Royal Naval Association some years ago to be auctioned for service charities. He often lamented though that he seemed to have outlived so many of his comrades from the service. As an engineering officer Tom reached the senior rank of Lieutenant Commander bringing a highly specialised technical knowledge to the management of ships.

Tom was someone who was always keen to contribute to society, to make a difference to those in need. He had a long-time association with Scouting and it was this that brought him towards the ministry. As his time in the Navy was drawing to a close Tom was running the Sea Scouts in Bristol which was based at Lewin’s Mead Chapel, a famous and then very large dissenting congregation in the city. Through this association he felt called to the ministry and after around 20 years in the Navy went to the Unitarian College in Manchester to train for the ministry, studying theology at Manchester University leading to the award of the degree of Bachelor of Divinity by the University of London. In those days most of the students were young men, Tom was older and much more experienced, yet everyone who was a student in Manchester in those days remembers him with tremendous affection as a friend.

Had circumstances been only slightly different Tom might well have returned to Bristol to minister but instead Tom was called to Northern Ireland, to be minister of Ballycarry and Raloo churches. So commenced a connection that was to dominate the rest of his life, as a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian church minister.

Tom was ordained by the Presbytery of Antrim in September 1971 and valued his membership of that ancient body. He was clerk for eight years and moderator on a number of occasions. And we can see here what an impact Tom had on the structure of the denomination. He found the method of visitation of congregations to be cumbersome and in need of reform. He straight away set about reconstituting the method of visitation by the presbytery, now basing it on four separate commissions. And so it was that the Presbytery of Antrim, and then the other presbyteries in the denomination, had a new more efficient system of visitation. It was based, Tom always liked to say, on the system used by the Navy for inspecting battleships.

Tom was well respected and very happy in county Antrim but after four years he received a call for a new sphere of work, to First Church, Belfast, the congregation with which he was to be associated for the rest of his life. In 1975 this was a very challenging settlement indeed. The previous minister had been killed in a tragic road accident, the Troubles were at their height, the city centre was under considerable pressure, and the church itself had been badly damaged in a bomb attack; the windows were smashed and the eighteenth-century ceiling lay on the floor. The late Tom Moore, who was such a stalwart member of First Church and a good friend of Tom’s, once said to me that without Tom he didn’t think there would be a First Church today. Tom was the right man in the right place at the right time and under his leadership the Church was resurrected and able to flourish once more.

Both when he was minister and later, when he had retired, Tom could be found every Wednesday morning in Rosemary Street, along with his band of co-workers. Tom was a scholar and a fine preacher and a thinker but he was also an immensely practical person and if there were jobs to be done about the premises Tom would take them on himself. And when the work on the premises was completed there were always books to catalogue in the church library and the index to compile for the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian magazine. Tom was a voracious reader, the arrival of the Postscript catalogue meant more books needed to be bought, many of which he later donated to Rosemary Street. Even in recent times when his health began to decline Tom was, thankfully, still able to read and in the Nursing Home he got to work grappling with the finer points of the theology of Paul Tillich.

So Tom was a minister and a theologian. He was also an educator. He was involved in education both outside the church and inside. He was a governor and ultimately the chairman of the board of governors of Malvern School in Belfast for many years. One major educational contribution he made to the denomination was the creation of the Academic Training Board. With Tom’s vision and energy this body was established for the denomination and for years it provided training and educational courses first of all for ministers but then later for lay people, preachers, church officers and so on. It became an invaluable and essential part of denominational life. Tom devised many of the early courses himself and others followed in his footsteps developing this body for a great many years.

Tom was a liturgist too. The version of the communion service which he devised has been used by many of us in the ministry since and elements of it were later published in Andrew Hill’s Celebrating Life and it was published in full in European Perspectives on Communion in 2001. A couple of years later Tom edited for publication European Perspectives on Baptism in the same series.

Tom was also strongly ecumenical in all his work, most notably serving as the secretary of the Department of Theological Questions of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, the body which brought the Catholic and Protestant churches together. Here Tom held his own with the leading theologians in Ireland and was soon on first-name terms with Cardinals, Bishops and Moderators of all denominations. Indeed he had many friends across the denominations. Tom effectively wrote the DTQ’s paper on the church in modern society and was disappointed when narrow spirits prevented its publication. For a long time Ireland had some of the most sophisticated top-level ecumenical bodies in the British Isles, but what it lacked, particularly during the Troubles was much grass-roots ecumenical contact. Not so for Tom. As a parish minister Tom was keen to work on a cross-community basis. He was a member of the Eclectic Fraternal, which brought all sides together, and in his church he maintained the close connection between Rosemary Street, St Mary’s and St George’s which bore fruit particularly in the joint Christmas Carol services held between the three churches in Rosemary Street every year when Tom was minister. The importance of such events, particularly during the years of the Troubles, cannot be overestimated.

But Tom also loved music and he found in that a way to bring people together, particularly to celebrate God’s love in a broad and joyful way. For the denomination this meant the Choirs’ Festival which Tom set up and which alternated between All Souls’ and Rosemary Street, great gatherings of choirs large and small from all over the denomination singing praises together as well as their own favourite pieces. Tom greatly enjoyed and valued the musical tradition in First Church and right up to this year was helping to see this flourish.

Tom was throughout his life always kind and generous. Sue and myself and our children all have reason to know this, as do many here. It was part of Tom’s nature to be generous. And it extended far and wide. As a pastoral visiting minister Tom would call on those who were elderly or infirm or lonely. But he didn’t just bring prayers and support to those he visited. If he saw situations that needed practical resolution he would return armed with his tool box, and shelves would be fixed, pictures hung up and other items knocked into shape.

In Belfast Tom ran for a great many years what was then called the handicapped Scouts. Tom put in many hours – organising events, transporting young people to different occasions, working with young people with disabilities and doing so much good across the communities all against a background of civil upheaval. But such work was typical of Tom, done quietly without fanfare but so important and appreciated by those he worked with.

Tom believed in the importance of inter-faith dialogue and understanding and was one of the founders of the Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum. I know his presence and counsel was much valued in that body.

Based on his understanding of the history of this denomination and his knowledge of the development of its witness Tom had a vision of how to make his church most effective and most true to its calling as a liberal Christian community. Tom always had an eye for the practical solution or identified a need to devise a new structure when necessary. So something as simple and useful as the Aide Memoire for the denomination was created by Tom – and physically put together by him and his co-workers for many years. The Sunday School Games was his brainchild too and for many years he participated and led in that. Tom helped at every level of this event and once was sitting acting as scribe for a team in the under 5 section of the quiz. In one round the children were asked ‘Who was swallowed by a whale’. Four small faces all looked blank until one turned to Tom and answered brightly ‘Pinocchio’. Tom felt he had no choice but to nod and dutifully write down the answer, for Pinocchio certainly was swallowed by a whale.

On top of all this Tom found time to do even more. He was secretary or chair or convenor or treasurer of many different committees and bodies. And though he was primarily minister first of all of Ballycarry and Raloo and later of First Church he was minister in charge of a great many other churches over the years, that is the minister during a vacancy, bringing pastoral care and help to many other congregations. I don’t think I could prepare an adequate list of the many churches he helped over the last fifty years. But many people will have memories of Tom coming to their church all over the country at different times.

It was a big upheaval for Tom to give up his home on the Cliftonville Road but it was a necessary move and he felt very comfortable in the Somme Nursing Home. At the time of his move I arranged for his papers to be sent to Harris Manchester College, Oxford to be stored there. It took three enormous boxes to carry them and the College had to buy additional archive boxes to store them in but it means so much of Tom’s working life – in the church, in the presbytery, in the denomination, in the DTQ, in ecumenical and inter-faith bodies is preserved for the future.

A few years ago Tom gave me his old Book of Occasional Services which is a minister’s book for the conduct of baptisms, weddings and funerals and so on. In one of the annotations which Tom has added he has written:

To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die

I am sure that is true and we will all long remember Tom, as the valued colleague or minister or friend he was to us.

We commend him to God now in glad thanksgiving for having known him and shared in life with him in all its fullness. And I would close with some words from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress:

Then said he, ’I am going to my Father’s, and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.’ When the day that he must go hence, was come, many accompanied him to the river side, into which, as he went, he said, ‘Death where is thy sting?’ and as he went down deeper, he said, ‘Grave where is thy victory?’ So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”

Unitarian Theology

In 2016 and 2018 Faith and Freedom published two well-received supplements based on the Unitarian Theology Conferences organised by Jim Corrigall, Jo James and Stephen Lingwood and held at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester in May 2016 and at Mill HIll Chapel, Leeds in October, 2017. Both are now available for free download from here. Click on the links below to download the booklets.

UTI Cover

Click on this link to download the booklet: Unitarian Theology I

UT2 Cover

Click on this link to download the booklet: Unitarian Theology II

 

Faith and Freedom Number 187

The latest issue of Faith and Freedom (Autumn and Winter 2018, Volume 71 Part 2,  Number 187) is now available.

The front cover has a self-portrait of Edward Lear as the ‘Archbishoprick of Canterbury’ with his cat Foss which relates to Howard Oliver’s article Beyond the Nonsense: Edward Lear and his Writings on Religion and Faith, a rare examination of the religious thought of this unique artist. Other articles include Barrie Needham’s exploration of language, reason and faith in Mysteries Too Deep for Words; Dan C. West’s For Fear of the New, Missing the God of Surprises looks at how we respond religiously to the destructive contemporary challenges that are emerging in society on both sides of the Atlantic; Frank Walker makes a distinction between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ Christianity in What has Christianity ever done for us?; and Peter B. Godfrey recounts his experiences and memories of A Theological Student at Oxford 1953 to 1956.

As always the journal is richly supplied with reviews, including two review articles:

Alastair McIntosh, Poacher’s Pilgrimage – An Island Journey, Birlinn, Edinburgh, March 2018, pp 285, ISBN 9781780274683.  £9.99 Pbk. Reviewed by Jim Corrigall. An insightful evaluation of this book informed by an interview Jim conducted with the author.

Unitarian Theology II. Papers given at the Unitarian Theology Conference, Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds October 2017. Edited by David Steers. (Faith and Freedom, 2018). ISSN 0014-701X. Reviewed by Bob Janis-Dillon who gives a close examination of the supplement which accompanied the Number 186 of Faith and Freedom.

Other books reviewed are:

Derek Guiton A Man that Looks on Glass: Standing up for God in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), FeedARead Publishing, 2015, pp 266. ISBN: 978-1-78610-232-4. Reviewed by Stephen Lingwood.

Rachel Hewitt, A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind, Granta, 2017, pp 560. ISBN 978 1 84708 573 3. Hbk £25. Reviewed by Ernest Baker.

Jane Shaw, Pioneers of Modern Spirituality: The Neglected Anglican Innovators of a ‘Spiritual but not Religious’ Age,  Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2018, pp 117, ISBN 978-0232053286-9. £12.99 pbk. Reviewed by Jim Corrigall.

Mike Aquilina and Grace Aquilina, A History of the Church in 100 Objects, Ave Maria Press/Alban Books. Notre Dame/Edinburgh, 2017, pp 424. ISBN 9781594717505. £20.99 pbk. Reviewed by David Steers.

Simenon Honoré, Education for Humanity, Spirit of the Rainbow, Suite 70, 2, Mount Sion, , Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1UE, pp88, ISBN 978-0-9566767-5-7, PB £5, plus £2 p&p. Reviewed by Peter B. Godfrey.

If you would like to take out an annual subscription please send a cheque for £15 to the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields,
Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough,
Lincolnshire.
DN21 4GA.

Or you can go online and subscribe via PayPal:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

 

Faith and Freedom

Faith and Freedom was able to report on another successful year at the Ministerial Old Students Association and the Annual Meeting of Friends and Honorary Governors held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford on 18th – 20th June. The meetings also marked the retirement of the Principal, Rev Dr Ralph Waller, now Sir Ralph Waller KBE to whom goes warmest congratulations. It was also pleasing to see Rev Dr Peter Godfrey, our Editor Emeritus at the meetings.

HMCO June 2018 PG NC

Rev Dr Peter Godfrey, Editor Emeritus, and Nigel Clarke, Business Manager, Faith and Freedom

HMCO June 2018 principal

Retiring Principal Sir Ralph Waller, KBE, addresses the Annual Meeting of Friends and Governors

Cover

The cover of the latest issue depicting the inscription at the base of the new religious freedom monument in Torda. ‘No one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, for faith is the gift of God’. Quotation from the Edict of Torda of 1568 inscribed on the new memorial, ‘Ad Astra’ by Liviu Mocan, unveiled at Torda, Transylvania, Romania on 13th January 2018. 

Faith and Freedom: Autumn and Winter 2017

 

Faith and Freedom

Autumn and Winter issue 2017

Volume 70 Part 2. Number 185.

In the latest issue of Faith and Freedom Professor Emily Klenin breaks new ground with an exploration of the writings of David Delta Evans, the Flintshire-born son of a miner who went on to become a Unitarian minister, printer, editor of the Christian Life, novelist and poet in English and Welsh. Emily looks in detail at his 1913 novel Daniel Evelyn, Heretic, which is both a fictionalized account of his childhood and youth and a confession of faith. She draws out the importance of this long-forgotten novel in the religious and social landscape of England and Wales at the time. It’s a fascinating account of a remarkable man who has been long neglected.

Stephen Lingwood develops ‘A Unitarian Theology of Tradition’. He asks “in what sense do we claim religious continuity in a non-creedal tradition that allows the freedom of religious evolution? In what sense is the Unitarianism of the past the same thing as the Unitarianism of the present?” These are important questions for Unitarians to grapple with and drawing on sources such as James Luther Adams, Susan B. Anthony, George Lindbeck and Alasdair MacIntyre and taking scientific method as an analogy he gives a compelling explanation of the way Unitarians can understand their own tradition.

In ‘Manchester College Oxford Old Students Association – The Early Years’ Alan Ruston uncovers the early history of the OSA and describes its birth pangs and early development, concluding with its creation of Faith and Freedom and the encouraging observation: “F&F has proved to be a successful long-lasting journal of mainly intellectual content representing the Unitarian position, which is now in its seventieth year. Its creation can be considered the single most important initiative to have been undertaken by MOSA.”

F&FCover185

Our review section is extensive and wide-ranging. Graham Murphy reviews Diarmaid MacCulloch’s All Things Made, New Writings on the Reformation (Allen Lane/Penguin). It’s an excellent review of a timely and important book, Graham writes: “MacCulloch guides us around rooms of the past, noting progress, noting dystopia, and here and there a glimmer of light: ‘a Declaration in the parish church of a town called Torda, a place which should be more of a centre of pilgrimage than it is’ – Toleration.”

Stephen Lingwood’s incisive review of Frederic Muir’s edited collection Turning Point: essays on a new Unitarian Universalism (Skinner House) draws out the ‘trinity of errors’ identified there, including exceptionalism, an aversion to authority and, especially, individualism. This latter tendency is the root of the philosophy of Samuel Smiles and in his fascinating review of John Hunter’s The Spirit of Self-Help. A Life of Samuel Smiles (Shepheard-Walwyn) Bob Janis-Dillon shows how the sometime attender at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds adapted Emersonian individualism to his ‘Self-Help’ idea, “a mode of thinking we need to challenge if we are to advance as a species”.

Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke, joint president of the World Congress of Faiths, looks at three books that inform on the place of Islam in modern Britain (James Ferguson, Al-Britainnia, My Country: A Journey Through Muslim Britain, Bantam Press; Richard Sudworth, Encountering Islam: Christian Muslim Relations in the Public Square, SCM Press; Rahim Snow, Remember Who You Are, 28 Spiritual Verses from the Holy Quran, Remembrance Studio), an essential starting point for those who wish to open up dialogue and debate in this area. Marcus also provides two reviews of works that deal with Jewish–Christian relations and pluralism – Tony Bayfield (ed.), Deep Calls to Deep: Transforming Conversations between Jews and Christians (SCM Press) and Hans Ucko (ed.), Thanking Together: On Pluralism, Violence, and the Other (Journal of Ecumenical Studies).

In his review of what may be Don Cupitt’s “last and most important book” (Ethics in the Last Days of Humanity, Polebridge Press) Frank Walker lifts about fifteen random insights from the book. These all bear careful reflection. One takes up the theme of Muslim relations (“Western scholars should publish fully critical studies of the origins and the developing theology of the Qur’an and of the hadith”). In another Don Cupitt asserts: “Ordinary people will need a religious discipline like that of the Buddhist sangha to help people to calm their violent passions and to think rationally about how best to live.” It’s difficult not reflect on the plight of Muslims in Myanmar on reading this. But it is an important book concerned, as Frank says, “in the most down-to-earth way” with the end-times.

Faith, hope and healing are the themes of three reviews. Pat Frankish reviews The Enduring Melody (Darton, Longman Todd) by Michael Mayne about one man’s struggle with cancer, “a powerful and painful book, with a thread of reality and hope”. Christian Wiman’s book My bright abyss: meditations of a modern believer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is similarly a tale of a struggle with cancer, in this case that of a poet who tries to make sense of religion and God through his suffering. It is reviewed by Barrie Needham who draws out many profound insights from it. Barrie writes: “Faith which is self-centred does not, according to Wiman, recognise God impinging on this world through love. ‘The only way to ascertain the truth of religious experience: it propels you back towards the world and other people, and not simply more deeply within yourself’.” Andrew Hill also reviews a new book of hymns: Hymns of Hope and Healing: words and music to refresh the church’s ministry of healing (Stainer & Bell), a modern, progressive collection of hymns which covers a subject index of more than 250 topics. Andrew mentions some of them but those listed alphabetically from A to D give an idea of the books radical emphases: “ageing, balance, birth, carers, dementia, DNA, drugs…”

So many of the reviews are about finding and connecting with the divine in one way or another and Jim Corrigall reviews Lorraine Cavanagh’s new book Waiting on the Word: Preaching Sermons that connect people with God (Darton, Longman and Todd). Jim quotes the author “Sermon preparation is a matter of waiting in the pain of others, rather than worrying what we are going to say.” Finally Peter Godfrey reviews Crocodiles do not swim here (Avian House) by John Smith Wilkinson who looks at doctrine, Biblical interpretation and religious understanding from fresh angles.

If you would like to take out an annual subscription to Faith and Freedom you can do so online at http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm or by sending a cheque for £15 to the Business Manager, Nigel Clarke., 16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey, Gainsborough, Lincs, DN21 4GA.

Faith and Freedom 183

 

‘God as mask-wearer’ and the ‘stylish Tillich’

The Autumn and Winter 2016 issue of Faith and Freedom (Volume 69 part 2, Number 183) is now available, featuring a picture of a fourteenth-century carved figure of a pilgrim in Chester Cathedral on its cover. In it leading expert on Welsh poet-priest R.S. Thomas, Professor John McEllhenney, discusses the poet’s annotations of Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology and Theology of Culture. Interpretation of Tillich also features in Plínio de Góes’ examination of the theology of ‘fashionable rebel pastor’ Jay Bakker and his Revolution Church. Jay Bakker is the son of the notorious TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker but rejected their kind of style and developed a different type of church identified as ‘hipster Christianity’. We also carry the full text of Tehmina Kazi’s keynote address to the 2016 Unitarian GA, she is the former Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy and now works for the Cork Equal and Sustainable Communities Alliance. Yvonne Craig, a retired social worker and former JP, gives some careful thought to the question to false accusations of sexual abuse in ‘Blaming, Naming, Shaming and Biblical Justice’. Katharine Parsons discusses ‘God and the Problem of Language’ and Barrie Needham unpacks the novels of Marilynne Robinson. There are also accounts from Alan Ruston and David Wykes of the events marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Dr Daniel Williams

Faith and Freedom is always very strong in its reviews and this issue has Bob Janis-Dillon on refugees and asylum, Maud Robinson on Quaker views of assisted dying, Ernest Baker on Benjamin Franklin in London, Andrew Hill on Bryan Tully’s humanist anthology, and Rosemary Arthur on Bishop John Shelby Spong as well as reviews of Marsilio Ficino, Sue Woolley’s new book, Jennifer Kavanagh’s Simplicity Made Easy and Alan Ruston’s new collection of historical biographies.

Subscribers to this issue in the UK and Ireland also receive a free copy of the published papers given at the Unitarian Theology Conference held at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester in May of this year.

unitarian-theology-cover

 

An annual subscription to Faith and Freedom costs only £15 per annum (for two issues) and is available online at  http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

 

cover