Joined: 17 Nov 2006
|Posted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 9:54 am Post subject: Faith without foundations wil fail.
|Address Nov 4th Park Lane
The established church celebrated All Saints day on Thursday, 1st of November. It is a recognition of all the saints of the church. In the Catholic Church it is a holy day of obligation. It was also an opportunity for the church to clear the mouth after the very unchurch festival of Halloween.
For children Halloween is a wonderful scary time to dress up as witches or skeletons and go out to trick or treat the neighbours.
It is another import from America of course and a boon for all the providers of scary costumes, false blood and cobwebs. Did anyone receive a Hallowe’en card? I wonder what they say, ‘Happy Fright Day,’
Hallowe’en has been developed from something quite ancient and quite different, the pagan festival of Samhain. It was a festival of the ld country dwellers. Some people say that it went to America with the migrants and morphed into Halloween
I like Samhain because it is a festival to honour our ancestors and to particularly remember those people special to us who have passed away during the last twelve months.
The Unitarian Earth Spirit Group that I run in Bolton met on Wednesday. We sat and talked about our special people. Some in the group brought photographs, others mementos. It makes you feel close when you handle some object which they treasured in their lives.
It is also an opportunity to deal with some aspects of grief.
It makes us aware too of ourselves as individuals but with a family history. The modern world is all about just individualism. Looking after yourself, making your own way in life, and often the modern political talk is that if people found a job all the unhappiness and poverty and all the physical and emotional problems would disappear. They say that We have to stand alone and work hard, etc.
But it is not quite like that. When you think of who you are, you should be remembering those ancestors. It is we who carry their genes forward. We have their features, we have their emotional characteristics sometimes. Families look at a new born child and will say how they look like one of the parents or relatives, an uncle, an aunt or a grandparent.
And we can be aware too that we pass those genes on to our children and grandchildren. We live as a short mark on a family timeline that stretches far behind us and way out in front of us.
I like to think we are like the relay runner, carrying the family baton and passing it on to the following generation, celebrating and also improving as we go.
If you have ever sat in on a christening I have done, you will know that I like to talk to the parents about the responsibility they have for their child, particularly in the way they love and cherish their child. The readings are about how the child learns to speak by mimicking the way they speak, and picks up their mannerisms and gestures. And it is the way they love and cherish their child that is such a strong influence.
We tell them that one day their child will be grown and discover love for another person. The way they love and cherish that person will be based on the experience of love they have received from the parent. And it will be strong enough to resist the influences of a world where there is little love, or where love doesn’t seem to matter or is mocked.
The long family line passes on more than physical characteristics and mannerisms. They carry a spiritual thread with them too. A thread that is of higher qualities - honesty, justice, fairness, the urge to be proud of who you are and where you have come from.
And what goes for a family, also goes for a community, whether it is a professional organisation or a group or a regiment, or a church.
It is interesting how those spiritual qualities are recognised. Usually they are recognised in physical forms. Look how many organisations have inspiring mottos, some families do. The Prince of Wales has ‘Ich Dene’, I serve. One of my old regiments has the motto, ‘Daring in all things’, which is what we were supposed to be.
I suppose many mottos have been a bit demeaned since every organisation these days has to have a motto or strap line. They might say, ‘Working for the benefit of all’, and we probably know that actually they aren’t.
In the Regiment we also have our flags and standards and the band, and the ritual dipping of flags and stacking of drums on special occasions. They are all symbols of belonging and having the same high values of bravery and looking out for one another as comrades.
In a recent book review I read, it said that symbols and rituals have been part of communities since time immemorial, and especially in religious groups. Christians can find such emotion in the symbol of the cross or the ritual of the mass. Symbols and rituals join the faithful together, just as the ritual of praying towards Mecca unites all Muslims. The Hindu community at this time are busy celebrating Divali, the Festival of light. Their religion is their culture and their culture is their religion and both are rich with Symbols and rituals. They will be decorating their temples with flowers and pictures made of seeds and leaves, rather like our Derbyshire well dressing ceremonies. They celebrate the great stories of their faith, the legends and mythologies of people and gods.
Unitarians of course pride themselves of having only one ritual, the lighting of the chalice at the beginning of worship or meetings. Unitarians pride themselves on the strength of reason as being the basis of their religion. There aren’t many rituals or symbols that can be associated with reason.
What we forget sometimes is that like a family, Unitarians also have a timeline. There are characteristics of our faith that have been carried down the years and which we hopefully will bequeath to our future generations.
We have great characters on our Unitarian timeline but rather sadly we don’t seem to celebrate any of them.
Last month was it that the Inquirer, the oldest non conformist newspaper made a big fuss about the four hundredth anniversary of the Diet of Torda. But do we have a Diet of Torda day in our annual calendar? No.
Do we have an annual Salters Hall Day? The three hundredth anniversary of a meeting of ministers in a London who decided they did not have to accept the Doctrine of the Trinity as a test of faith. They said Scripture was the authority for the Christian faith.
Michael Servetus is another we sometimes talk about. He had the distinction of being burnt at the stake by the Protestants and burnt in effigy by the Catholics. Do we celebrate him or teach our children about him?
And there are those famous discarded Unitarian founders, Belsham, Theophilus Lyndsey and Joseph Priestley, or Theologians like William Ellery Channing and James Martineau, such strong influences on our history, or Norbert Capek creator of the Flower Communion Service, one of our few rituals.
If we don’t celebrate the great events and the great people from our family history how can we expect anyone outside our churches to know anything about us, if we don’t really know ourselves.
And if we do celebrate our history and our ancestors it also helps us to understand ourselves as a spiritual community and why we see ourselves as Independent spiritual individuals. It is all in our history and we are carrying it forward to the new generations of Unitarians.
If we acknowledge and celebrate our history, we have something to offer the world and we can explain ourselves to those who are seeking a faith like the one we belong to. And in acknowledging and celebrating our history and our characters we have a faith to be proud of.
Just like families there is a spiritual thread that runs through this Unitarian Movement. I think that over the years we have lost touch with it, and it is one reason why we feel we are drifting today.
At this All Souls time I would like to see the soul of our Unitarian Movement rediscovered. Faith without foundation will fail.