God is not only interested in religion

The words at the top of this page are by Marcus Braybrooke. They are a distillation of a longer quotation from William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944) quoted in Marcus’s book Peace in Our Hearts, Peace in our World:

It is a great mistake to suppose that God

is interested only, or even, primarily in religion.

Religion is more than doing things a certain way, it is about the way we live our lives. Consequently faith is supposed to find its conclusion in the way we live. We are reminded of this in the Letter of James:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

James ch.2 v.14-17

How we live and how we interact with the world is a measure of how far the Kingdom of God is being constructed.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:

No work that is done in God’s name

And dedicated to God is small.

A scavenger who works in God’s service shares equal distinction

With a king who uses his gifts in God’s name.

This is the theme of today’s online service. Filmed in Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church Alfie McClelland plays the organ and Elsie Nelson gives the reading. The hymns played are Thou Whose Almighty Word (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 173) and Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah (‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’ 326).

The service can be seen here:

Sunday Worship Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Faith and Freedom, Spring and Summer 2020

The Spring and Summer issue 2020 of Faith and Freedom, (Volume 73, Part 1) issue 190 is now available.

Articles include:

Sacred Stories by MARGOT STEVENSON

In Sacred Stories Margot Stevenson explores the intersection between individual stories of the sacred and the canonical stories of religious traditions. Building on six real-life stories she examines how religious convictions, spiritual experiences cannot be reduced to formulas or dogmatic positions. Unpacking the story of Pentecost in the book of Acts she shows how rather than being a foundation story for a rigid hierarchical understanding of a monolithic church it has often been an inspiration for movements for individual freedom and social equality in widely different settings. Using this as a basis she argues for democratic model of spiritual engagement.

Civility in Public Life – can it be restored? by Rabbi Baroness JULIA NEUBERGER

Rabbi Julia Neuberger delivered the Vincent Strudwick lecture on Religion in Public Life in Oxford in November 2019, just before the British general election. In it she tackles the timely question – which dominated public life just a few short months ago – of whether civility in public life could be restored. With lockdown and the coronavirus this issue has slipped off the national radar for the time being but there is no doubt that once we return to some semblance of normality it will return to the fore. Rabbi Neuberger counters the coarsening of public debate and the frequent abuse and threat of violence that many in the public eye face with the Jewish tradition of Derech Eretz, ‘the way of the earth’, following ways of courtesy rooted in but not dependent on religious practice.

The Sovereignty of Good and the Kingdom of God – a view from the hospital waiting-room by FRANK WALKER

In the Sovereignty of Good and the Kingdom of God – a view from the hospital waiting-room the Rev Frank Walker gives a very personal and moving account of his response to his late wife’s cancer diagnosis and ties that in to the care given by John Bayley to his wife Iris Murdoch who wrote ‘The Sovereignty of Good’ and suffered severely with Alzheimer’s disease towards the end of her life. In such human responses to tragedy Frank finds ‘the Good’, something not far from the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual modelling with the Findhorn Foundation by RALPH CATTS

Ralph Catts considers spirituality as the means of making meaning in life and providing the framework for social action and finds synergy within the practices of the Findhorn Foundation and Unitarian communities. Working from the experiences of groups of Unitarians who participated in the communal spiritual life of the Findhorn Foundation in 2018 he examines whether this has influenced their spirituality as part of Unitarian communities and finds that Findhorn Unitarian Experience Week allows for spiritual modelling within a permanent spiritual community while being enriched by input from a sympathetic although distinct spiritual tradition.

Images of Gertrude von Petzold by DAVID STEERS

The editor looks at images of the Rev Gertrude von Petzold, the first woman minister of an organised denomination in Britain who began her ministry in Leicester in 1904. Her entry into the ministry created an opportunity for photographers to do something that had never been done before – to photograph a woman minister. One particular photograph gained great fame and was widely used (see above) but other representations were also considered which are discussed in this short article, complete with illustrations, including the striking cover of this issue.

This article – complete with additional illustrations – can also be read online on this blog. Click here to read it.

 

Books reviewed:

Both Here, and Beyond

Stephen Lingwood, Seeking Paradise: A Unitarian Mission For Our Times, Lindsey Press, London 2020, pp 142, ISBN 978-085319-094-3. £10.00 pbk.

Reviewed by JIM CORRIGALL. [The full text of Jim’s article can be read on the Faith and Freedom website here]

‘THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK OF UNITARIAN THEOLOGY IN BRITAIN FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS’ – Jim Corrigall

51PKdq8ngyL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

 

The fountain of sweet and bitter water

Ann Peart (ed.), Unitarian Women. A Legacy of Dissent, Lindsey Press, London, 2019, pp 241. ISBN number is: 978-0-85319-092-9. £10 pbk.

Reviewed by MÁRIA PAP.

Unitarian Women

 

‘A time when new life will break through’

Marjorie Dobson, Unravelling the Mysteries, Stainer & Bell, London, 2019, pp 165. ISBN 978-0-85249-959-7. £15.95 ppk.

Reviewed by STEPHANIE BISBY.

B959

 

The Dean of the Interfaith Movement

Helen Hobbin, Afternoon Tea with Mary and Marcus, Braybrooke Press, Abingdon, OX14 3EN,  2019, pp 154, ISBN 978-0-244-96888-5, £12.95.

Reviewed by PETER B. GODFREY.

Mary and Marcus cover

 

The Gospels, spirituality and photography

Peter Brain, The Knowable God, Circle Books, Alresford, 2019, pp 143. ISBN 978 1 78904 £12.99 pbk.

Reviewed by LENA COCKROFT.

N. Micklem, On the Lookout, Matador, Kibworth Beauchamp, 2019 (9, Priory Business Park, Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire LE8 0RX), pp.45. ISBN. 978 1789017 519. £7.99.

Reviewed by LENA COCKROFT.

Philip J. Richter, Spirituality in Photography, Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 2017, pp. 120. ISBN 978-0-232-53293-7. £9.99 pbk.

Reviewed by LENA COCKROFT.

 

Christianismi Restitutio

L. Goldstone, N. Goldstone, Out of the flames, Broadway Books, New York, 2002, pp 368. ISBN: 978–0-7679–0837–5. $24.95.

Reviewed by BARRIE NEEDHAM.

 

Interfaith worship and prayer

Christopher Lewis and Dan Cohn-Sherbok (eds.), Interfaith Worship and Prayer. We Must Pray Together. With a Foreword by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia, 2019, pp.296. ISBN 978 1 78592 120 9. £19.99 pbk.

Reviewed by DAVID STEERS.

Interfaith

 

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

Faith and Freedom Spring and Summer 2019

Faith and Freedom, Spring and Summer (volume 72 part 1) issue 188, is now available.

Articles include:

Towards Third Millennium Christianity Activism, Nonviolence and the Mystical Imperative by Alastair McIntosh

Pic C - Alastair spks at Rawt, 23.3.19 close

Alastair McIntosh lecturing at Rawtenstall. This photo and the one above courtesy of John Hewerdine

Described by the BBC as ‘one of the world’s leading environmental campaigners’ Alastair McIntosh is a pioneer of modern land reform in Scotland and an honorary fellow of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University and an honorary professor at Glasgow University. This is a challenging and far-reaching lecture originally given at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church, Lancashire in March 2019 as part of the ‘Future of Faith’ lecture series organised by Unitarians of the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry and Pendle Hill Quakers, supported by the Progressive Christianity Network.

An Appearance of Francis David: A Chautauqua Performance  by Kevin Murphy, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno

Francis David 01

Ferenc Dávid’s Address to the 1568 Diet of Torda by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch

A Chautauqua Performance is the portrayal of an historical figure talking about their lives and views as if they had just appeared from the past. Through it Dr Murphy gives tremendous insight into the life, sufferings and achievements of this neglected figure of the Transylvanian reformation. 

What do these stones mean to you? by David Steers, editor Faith and Freedom

Toxteth

The cover picture of the new issue of Faith and Freedom. Rural Toxteth in 1821 showing the Ancient Chapel and the view along Park Road, from an original lithograph by Samuel & George Nicholson

A sermon delivered at the 400th anniversary service of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, Liverpool in November 2018. In 1611: At a place called Toxteth Park near Liverpool, there dwelt a wise and Religious People, who being desirous of the good of themselves and their Posterity, intended to erect a School amongst them. A few years later they built a chapel which has continued to be used for worship through four centuries. This sermon celebrates the life and history of the congregation.

International Association for Religious Freedom: Our Vision for the Future

A new statement issued by the International Council, meeting in Tokyo in March 2019.

Plus a collection of fascinating reviews by Marcus Braybrooke, Peter B. Godfrey, Bob Janis-Dillon, Jim Corrigall, David Steers, John W. Nelson.

Books reviewed:

Richard Burridge and Jonathan Sacks (eds), Confronting Religious Violence: A Counter-narrative(SCM Press)

Marcus Braybrooke, Faiths Together for the Future, The story of the World Congress of Faiths and the growing global interfaith movement to heal the world, (Braybrooke Press)

Marcus Braybrooke, Sikhism, A Christian Approach, (Braybrooke Press)

Stan Hazell, A Long Way from Adi Ghehad: Journey of an asylum seeker: Dr Teame Mebrahtu, (Shepheard-Walwyn)

W. Jamieson, A World in Two Minds, Why we must change our thinking to change our future, (Shepheard-Walwyn)

Paul E. Hill, The Urban Myths of Popular Modern Atheism. How Christian Faith Can Be Intelligent, (Christian Alternative)

Robert Llewelyn, Why Pray? (Darton, Longman & Todd)

Dan C. West, Causeway To A Bigger World, (Mountain Arbor Press)

David Steers (ed.), First World War Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, (First Presbyterian [Non-Subscribing] Church, Downpatrick)

Peter C. Humphreys, Four Hundred Years of English Congregational and Welsh Independent Churches in Liverpool (1618-2018), (Kilmainham Congregational Publishing, Dublin)

An annual subscription for each volume (two issues) costs £15.00 (postage included) in the United Kingdom. Single copies can be ordered at a cost of £8.00 each (postage included). Cheques should be made out to Faith and Freedom and sent to the business manager:

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

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

Alternatively you can pay via PayPal by clicking here.

 

Faith and Freedom Number 186

Faith and Freedom (Volume 71 Part 1) Number 186, Spring and Summer 2018 is now ready and will be arriving with subscribers shortly. This issue includes the address delivered by Dávid Gyerő, deputy Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, at the dedication of the Religious Freedom Memorial at Torda in Transylvania, Romania, on 13th January, 2018, that is the 450th anniversary of the promulgation of the Edict of Torda, one of the first expressions of religious toleration in European history. It also includes the full text of Faith Without Certainty in Uncertain Times the Keynote Address given at the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in April by Paul Rasor. This is a highly pertinent examination of the place of liberal religious thought in the current climate. Among his arguments Dr Rasor stresses reason:

 

We live in postmodern times where the idea of freedom of conscience might be twisted in a way that supports not the search for truth, but rather denies the possibility of shared truth. Have we liberals, with our emphasis on freedom of conscience, unwittingly contributed to the problem? How do we respond to this?…I think the answer lies in our emphasis on reason. Reason has always been a central feature of our liberal religious faith. At times we may have over-emphasized reason, but that doesn’t deny its importance. Historically it was the basis on which our forebears challenged outdated dogmas that did not fit with modern science, for example. Reason also plays an important role in our emphasis on the search for truth and meaning in our lives. In the post-truth society, in contrast, there is no room for reason. Instead of supporting our beliefs, reason now becomes a hindrance to them. This development is a threat not only to liberal faith, but to liberal democracy.  

 

Dr Rasor presents his suggestion of ideals and visions for religious liberals as a way towards progress in society.

 

Other articles include Helena Fyfe Thonemann’s examination of David Hume’s essay ‘Of Miracles’ and Professor James C. Coomer’s reflection on Jesus of Nazareth: A Quintessential Humanist:

 

What do we in the twenty-first century know about Jesus of Nazareth?  We only know what his friends said about him. There is no Jesus to know apart from his friends. He comes to us through his friends, or he does not come to us at all. His friends stand between us and him as barriers to the truth, or bearers of the truth… Jesus of Nazareth is quoted as having said that if one wanted to find contentment, one must look within oneself. The existential Jesus is, perhaps, the quintessential humanist.

 

Faith and Freedom is especially noted for the quality of its reviews of the latest books and this issue contains the following reviews:

Vincent Strudwick (with Jane Shaw), The Naked God: Wrestling for a grace-ful humanity.   Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, London, 2017

Rachel Mann, Fierce Imaginings: The Great War, Ritual, Memory and God,  Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, London 2017

both by Jim Corrigall.

Marianne Moyaert and Joris Geldhof, Ritual Participation and Interreligious Dialogue: Boundaries, transgressions and Innovations, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2016

by Marcus Braybrooke.

Hans le Grand and Tina Geels, It is all about your search for truth and meaning, not about our belief system: a new perspective for religious liberalism, privately published, Netherlands, 2016.

Mark D. Thompson, Colin Bale and Edward Loane, eds., Celebrating the Reformation: its legacy and continuing relevance, Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, 2017

Wayne Facer, A Vision Splendid: the influential life of William Jellie: a British Unitarian in New Zealand , Blackstone Editions, Toronto, 2017

all by Andrew Hill

A Documentary History of Unitarian Universalism, Volume 1 From the Beginning to 1899, Volume 2 From 1900 to the Present, Edited by Dan McKanan, Skinner House Books, Boston, USA, 2017

Gleanings from the Writing of Nicholas Teape, edited by June Teape, privately published, 2013

both by David Steers

For new subscribers this issue of Faith and Freedom will also be accompanied by a free copy of Unitarian Theology II, the new book containing the papers given at the Unitarian Theology Conference in Leeds in October 2017.

UT2 Cover

 

This offer will be available only while stock lasts. The book contains:

Wrestling, Resisting, Resting – different ways of responding to the Divine voice

by Ant Howe

Models of God and the Meaning of Love

by Jane Blackall

The Unchained Spirit: Kenotic Theology and the Unitarian Epic

by Lewis Connolly

Theology from Women’s Experience

By Ann Peart

Early Unitarians and Islam: revisiting a ‘primary document’

by Justin Meggitt

Dialogues of Faith: An Adamsian Approach to Unitarian Evangelism

by Stephen Lingwood

An annual subscription (two issues) costs £15.00 (postage included) and can be paid online at www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

If you subscribe now the latest issue of Faith and Freedom will be sent to you along with Unitarian Theology II.

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 latest issue and Calendar

FAITH AND FREEDOM, Autumn and Winter issue, (Volume 68, Part 2, Number 181) will be on its way to subscribers very soon. In it you will find:

Finding God in Strangers

John Navone

On Reading the Gospel of Mark with Two Eyes

George Kimmich Beach

Grace and Disgrace: a Social Pilgrimage

Yvonne Joan Craig

The Unitarians of the West and the Brahmo Samajees of the East

at Manchester College, Oxford 1896 –1948 Part II

Victor Lal

Six Months in a Prisoner of War Camp

David Steers

Manchester College, Oxford during the First World War

Evelyn Taylor

A Bible for Neo-Liberals

Barrie Needham

Bridging the Years in Marriage

Sue Norton

As well as reviews by Pat Frankish, Ernest Baker, Peter B. Godfrey, Lena Cockroft and the editor, and a review article by Graham Murphy on Sarah Shaw, The Spirit of Buddhist Meditation, The Sacred Literature Series, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014.

Other books reviewed include

Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, SPCK, London, 2014.

Sam Harris, Waking Up: Searching for spirituality without religion, Bantam Press, London, 2014.

Mária Pap, Hungarian Unitarians in Transylvania, 2015.

Zoltán Fülöp, Emőd Farkas (eds.), Humble in Front of God, Words for Worship from Transylvanian Unitarians, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists/Hungarian Unitarian Ministers’ Association, Kolozsvár 2014

Emma Percy,”What Clergy Do”: especially when it looks like nothing, SPCK, London, 2014.

Marcus Braybrooke, Peace in Our Hearts Peace in Our World a meditation for everyday, Braybrooke Press, 2015.

John Pritchard, The Second Intercessions Handbook, SPCK, London, 2015.

Individual subscribers will also receive a copy of our Faith and Freedom 2016 Calendar. These are free to personal subscribers but extra copies can be ordered at a cost of £5 each, all of which goes to the charity the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund.

If you would like a sneak preview of the Calendar it can be downloaded on the Faith and Freedom website.

If you haven’t taken out a subscription and would like to do so you can also do that from the Faith and Freedom website:

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

The photograph at the top of this page is a picture by Transylvanian photographer Márkó László who has kindly contributed a number of pictures to the 2016 Calendar.