[Updated and revised; this will also contribute to a webpage for my Unitarianism in 2016.]
I have resigned as Magazine Writer and Compiler for Hull Unitarian Church. It is not because I did not want to volunteer to do the tasks involved, and indeed had every reason to continue because I had set up ways and means to do them that now will be redundant. I wrote material, designed pages, put the material together with focus on facing pages and lead pages, and made a booklet of interest to a broad range of people with some success. But I did a lot of background resource making, rather as with the music, and this will now be lost. I'll complete the magazine if it is edited through with my software, but then that is it.
The email that stopped it was a straw that broke the camel's back. Although I misunderstood it, the misunderstanding is probable. Nowhere did I write what someone has reported that I stated: that someone made contact and caused a meeting is interesting in itself - and it was rapid.
The bad judgment I made was that I went through the processes of making the effort I'd done - 24 pages - into a single file, looked at the lossless size reduction, and made it into booklet form, using my software processes. The mistake was calling it Not the Hull Unitarian Magazine with explanation and putting it online, including content not my own. So now I accept the that the only product of the magazine is at completion.
I can explain the problem I have had regarding the weight already that was on the camel's back by reference to something else I decided I would not even begin.
Months before I suggested I would transfer my one-time Theology Course give at Barton Anglicans to the Creative Learning Centre that is Rev. Dr. Ralph Catts' initiative using the Hull Unitarians' building. My proposal is that the theology course would be ecumenical and comprehensive if tending to the radical and critical Christian theology with an appeal to religious professionals and the already interested. It would not be Unitarian as such. I wrote some extra material on Rowan Williams and others that have in recent times created a distinctive British theology. This is two sessions, and introduces the others. Others would also be adapted. I'm not sure how viable is 'the market'.
However, the Pastor - Ralph -wants these to be on a Sunday afternoon. If there is to be no charge at the door, and no rent of the premises, he has to manage the sessions. And in managing them, he wants them to be as discussion groups and clearly accessible to the congregation as well as others. He wants to Unitarianise them, in effect. He keeps asking me for my proposals and I said I will not offer any.
So what this involves is rewriting my stance, my presentation. He will tell me that my ideas are too complex and not understood. The Unitarian references in my intended material are co-incidental: I had these in when I led the group at Barton Anglicans. I would add James Luther Adams into my presentation, but I take the view that his theology simply does not stand up to scrutiny. I also think he is relatively unimportant, and derivative in a number of ineffective ways.
The Pastor, without particular ideological connection to JLA, nevertheless has used him as important and along the way. He might be so in the United States, but he is also run-out there regarding relevance. And JLA was then and we are now.
The actual agenda I think is with the notion that people gather on principles of spiritual friendship out of which beliefs emerge. It is this 'spiritual not religious' trend, as if history starts again. So much has been stated. So there still is history, but that's about it. What matters is community. Activities are communal, suited to who turns up, generated.
My view is that religion and Church are institutional. Beliefs and stances are advertised; people who have views and beliefs and stances that sufficiently overlap with this and each other gather in this place rather than another. The people they gather with are not necessarily their friends, but hopefully these people put more effort in to fellowship than they would in the workplace.
It is as if my approach, which I do share with others, has somewhat come to a kind of end-point. I (I have been told this) represent "old thinking" - and also my reading is somewhat a few decades old. The minister is the radical now.
But for me, being a radical implies roots, and memory, and institutions have a nasty (or good) way of reminding one that they still exist. They transmit cultures: ways of talking and understanding. Overturn these at your peril. This remains so even among the few; it is remarkable that it does.
If I call the approach instead being expressed 'Findhorn Unitarianism'. This is not a put-down but rather as describing an amalgam, but not even equal in combination. It is rather that Unitarianism provides the space, and the semi-Pagan semi-Buddhist 'Findhorn' is the content. This is because things have changed and necessity means a new approach.
Hull also has been badly behaved in the past with various contentious issues, so there must be a new landscape (it is said).
I'm keen to learn from different experiences and indeed to graft one on to another, but this is so much more a change of direction. But even if I am wrong about this, I am right that my writing contributions are to be bent into the mould of something I am not offering.
This is how I consider that my recent writing has been viewed for other framing. First, that Leonard Chamberlain was a leading member of a Church that became the Unitarians, and that beliefs change because the universe changes in its explosion of knowledge, especially recently. Leonard Chamberlain had a vision and social justice conscience that we share, via our changes in outlook. That the Presbyterian-Unitarian line is continuous, even intentional. Chamberlain put his wealth to good use with concern for the poor. He fought for liberty to worship and supported our ministry.
This, however, is my view based on a lot of engagement with a variety of material. There is indeed a Presbyterian-Unitarian line, and we get a Puritan echo (layers of chain of meaning) from it, but it is as more discontinuous than continuous. We do not share Chamberlain's outlook, or anything like it, and indeed hardly understand it. He was an extremist even before his time in the outlook of Queen Elizabeth I. His view is about the saved pre-ordained, whatever one did, but made evident in a testimony of works about irresistible grace. Arminianism was a later development, of preordained knowledge by God of people making a holy effort. We don't get that either. In my view Presbyterian Churches forced to be independent early on (and stayed that way) somewhat lost the plot, and declined.
Yes, Arminianism connects with Christian universalism, because God may save all who eventually see the light through all time, but not Arianism, and certainly not Unitarianism.
Ministers preached changing ideas, but with social and economic change came a materialist, rationalist, Unitarianism affected by European ideas that in effect planted itself in Presbyterian churches. People who were well off (the trustees for sure) where the ministers were left to it allowed a vacuum of Arminianism to be filled. With a consideration of sober rationality, some jumped straight from Calvinism to Unitarianism. And then that started to evolve, into an argument between a less Puritan more Presbyterian-parish outlook affected by Romanticism and biblical criticism, and a more Puritan style less parish denominationalism of biblicists.
My interest spread to how it all started: Edward inving in theologians to universities, they going and experiencing Protestant pure rule during Mary's repression, their return with Elizabeth I but she warning James VI in Scotland about the Puritan sects, for the Presbyterians to then succeed in Scotland. Thus in Holy Trinity Hull during the Commonwealth period the Presbyterians worshipped in the Nave and the Independents in the Chancel, removed 1669, well after the Restoration, and nowhere to go. But in 1672, with the very beginnings of toleration, the Presbyterians formed two congregations in Blackfriargate and elsewhere, and then in 1680 came to Bowl Alley Lane as one, and then built a chapel over ten years later after the Toleration Act and a change of royal regime. These were different people.
But it is important that we do not confuse the continuation we see and narrative of looking back, with the realities of individuals and stances looking forward into blank space. It is also important that in going back historical imagination - empathy - is involved rather than seeing things as, for example, similar to our 'social justice'. The provisions of Chamberlain went to the godly poor, people who might also be saved, and whilst they did not have to be Presbyterian or Puritan, they did have to have some testimony of works as evidence of salvation by God.
Later on, we see the difference between Leonard Chamberlain or a Joseph Pease making money in a fixed mercantilist setting and his grandson Joseph Robinson Pease making money as an out and out capitalist. This latter chap was also the one who set up an octagonal chapel in Hull, deliberately a European ecclesiastical design that would still show themselves as distinct from the Church of England. We need to see - imagine - the difference between a Chamberlain and the Rowley Puritans Chamberlain so admired wanting liberty for themselves but not others (evidentially by the Puritans' authoritarian religious communism) and later the liberals who wanted liberty to break the old feudal regime and let in a kind of free trade libertarianism.
So I am not going to be framed into representing a view I do not hold, either in the magazine or in theology.
Plus in practical terms my agenda was that the magazine would be on time (then one every two months) and with relevant and varied content. I would never have concentrated on Chamberlain and since, nor on a following theme for Christmas of poetry. Nor has the magazine been on time. The minister is very busy and the magazine gets delayed and delayed. I get on with it, but his hands on editing forces me to wait and wait.
As a result of resigning, the ministerial workload has gone up a bit more, due to the managed 'vision' rather than a more decentred delegation. I have said that the Pastor needs someone who 1) shares his outlook, is 2)intelligent and not "intellectual" and 3) has some experience in putting a magazine together. As it happens, as I write, and even among a tiny few, there is a person who can do this (and experience of Microsoft Publisher), assuming attendance and longer term commitment.
The probability is that the monthly Newsletter becomes the only communication: I always thought that having that and the magazine running alongside each other would finish one of them, as the magazine did lose its news function. But in fact the reason for my resignation is ideological and about outlook.
Which shows that, however small, and however supposedly about plurality, groups splinter. Ministers create following and lose people: usually beneficial. I shall counter my potential loss by continuing with the music (I have always left choices to the preachers who only then leave any choices to me) and trying to suggest a low cost practical improvement to the building.