Sunday, 31 January 2010

Hymn Sandwich and Liturgies

Very little on my website is not mine, but one item just uploaded is not. In 1981 a Unitarian minister at Bournemouth called Rev. Duncan McGuffie gave a lecture at the Unitarian General Assembly on the development of the hymn sandwich and other liturgies especially relating to Unitarianism. As a neat summary it cannot be bettered, and relates to what I am doing at present, so rather than using it to rewrite an article (and perhaps picking up a few fragments elsewhere to add) I've simply reproduced it. There aren't any copyright notices on the booklet. So I have reproduced it in full and it makes it plain it is his work, and the Rev. Keith Gilley added a foreword. Incidentally the Rev. Duncan McGuffie is now an Anglican priest at Clavering in Essex, a place not far from Ugley, where a conservative evangelical Anglican blog is produced.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Blair's Lap of (Dis)Honour

What was galling about the Blair evidence was that at the end he was running around the track with a flag held high. In the afternoon in particular he just became more and more smooth, with a spray of flak about 2010. That 'threat of the future' is not evidence at the time but rehearsed spin.

An issue is arising and not yet picked up by the news broadcasts in full, and that is that the interpretation of UN Resolution 1441 is wrong, that it was a peace leaning resolution and not an ambiguous resolution that allowed for war. There is also a lack of specialist engaging with Iran and Iraq, never mind the weak group-think around intelligence also over emphasised by a man who "believed" too much and lacked evidence. The outcome of the post-invasion chaos showed naivity: a lack of a proper risk assessment.

Some questions of legality seemed persistent, but for the most part Blair was not challenged. There is a 'Jimmy Young' school of questioning that allows a person to say what they want, and they end up hanging themselves with their own rope. This he did at the end, in his display of arrogance and lack of regret. There is a suggestion that he might come back, if this 2010 material is taken as evidence (of what: after all, this is focusing on government decision making processes). If the report ends up being a whitewash, then it will be consistent with much questioning where points of conflict of evidence are left open, where statements go unchallenged; on the other hand, the statements expose themselves and they could be pointed out sharply in any report.

The cartoon was drawn from the feed to the BBC News website, and it makes him too young but perhaps also a figure more slight. I always took Tony Blair not to be a strong leader, but a weak one, hiding behind Bush, and hobnobbing with economic figures of power, but in government he surrounded himself with a sort of kitchen cabinet with one to one discussions from others more than proper collective government in order to get matters through. His huge strength is rhetoric and argument: a retention of detail but the ability to represent. And that's why at the end of his appearance he was doing a lap of (dis)honour.

When You Don't Rate

We've talked about this, my friends and me, before, but it comes with some force when it happens to yourself. Many months ago a person representing Southern Electric came to the door and signed me up for electricity and gas on a cheaper tariff and a quarterly payment. Then I heard nothing, and nothing, but I knew I had hefty credit with Eon, that is they owed me a stash in apparent overpayment from my regular payments. I wanted my hands on that money.

Facing some hefty expenses soon, I decided to act. First I rang Eon: am I still their customer? Yes. The operative then said my credit balance was even 50% higher than I knew. But they had no actual readings, it was all estimates. So during the call I made readings and then discovered that the Eon estimates had been considerably less than use. The result is there is no stash of cash. Whilst the gas meter can be read outdoors, they can't get to the electric meter and I've apparently not answered the door since 2008 to a meter reader. But what of this transfer? I'm sure I sent readings to Southern Electric.

I waited ages for Southern Electric to answer: that matters. I then discovered for myself what friends have said. I failed a test. What test was I put to that I had failed, I asked. I had to wait again for someone else to speak. This failure was confirmed: I had failed their equivalent of a credit test; they could send out a form for me to fill in. Yes, I said I'd failed a test because they had no data to go on. I have never had any credit with anyone: I have never borrowed from any bank, building society or company. So I failed the test. Bills have always been paid on time.

I then said I would short-cut this matter. I no longer wanted to sign up to their company. That was it. Though, apparently, if they press the transfer, it cannot be resisted, but I am contacted. So I'll just carry on.

What's happened is I've been paying about the right amount for the power (gas, electricity) used, but the ongoing estimate was too low. Well, since 2008 bills have shot up, but with an apparent stash they haven't increased my payments. This winter the fuel has been used heavily, but I have managed on about 50% of waking time for heating: in other words I get cold and in the evening the heating comes on and I tend to stay awake into much of the night. It might explain some very late or early blog entries. At the moment (16:36) there has been no heating on and won't be for hours, and I'm listening to Tony Blair in his groove and deflecting answers by mistimings and introducing matters not even of evidence, e.g. a nonsense repeated about 2010. All well rehearsed, of course, and not just to remind him of the data.

Tough Going

Producing new liturgical material is quite difficult. When looking at material from various faiths, to produce the essence of what is said and applicable elsewhere, there is a danger of 'doing violence' to the original whilst making it more universal. But that has always been the case.

The idea is to produce liturgies that people can use at a moment's notice. The first service is 'traditional Unitarian', but the problem here is that much that is traditional carries beliefs most Unitarians no longer express. So it is more a traditional feel, a sort of generation of transcendence. Some material can be rescued and used again, without any manipulation, because it has already happened, whereas others are done here and now.

Harry Youlden was an Ethical Church Lecturer in Liverpool. He created a liturgical book, a secularised and modernised set of pieces based on the Book of Common Prayer. The Unitarians did the same, often, but whereas they have somewhat grown old, much of Harry Youlden's material is still usable (though I did edit some myself when I first discovered it at Unitarian College between 1989 and 1990). Here is one piece by him:

Life be Beautiful as by Ethical Church Lecturer Harry Youlden:

The strain upraise of joy and praise:
Life be beautiful.

In the vision of the new day, let the ransomed people say:
Life be beautiful.

They who have left the gloom of ancient creed; they in this song of songs shall lead:
Life be beautiful.

They who in peace with all do dwell; all trustful souls the chorus swell:
Life be beautiful.

By the love that cheers the lost who call; by the grace that saves weak feet that fall:
Life be beautiful.

By lofty aims that banish fear; by simple hearts and deeds sincere:
Life be beautiful.

Ye floods and oceans billows, ye storms and winters snow; ye days of cloudless beauty, hoar frost and summer glow; ye groves that wave in spring, and glorious forests sing:
Life be beautiful.

(After Youlden, H., section of 'The Strain Upraise', Manual of Ethical Devotion, 1914, 97-9)

One I have done myself is from the Sikh faith. This involves removing and replacing references to Nanak (such as by 'Teacher') and some re-ordering of the text. Here is one:

We ask the Holy and life-sustaining: what do we know?
The drop of water is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the drop.
The day is in the night and the night is in the day. The same is true of heat and cold.
The male is in the female and the female is in the male.
The soul is the Light and the Light is the soul.
Who understands these?
Who knows but the Teacher of the Divine.
The word is concentration, and in concentration there is knowledge. The one who meditates on the knowledge can understand.
The Teacher sacrifices this understanding to those who meditate into the Holy.

Derived from the Rag Ramkali, Adi Granth, 878

Sometimes such rearranging is not possible. Other times it is unnecessary. The 'traditional' approach allows for a basic theism at least, most of the time, with hints of an interventionist God or active Spirit. Mystical material is often best left alone, as with this Muslim material:

Seven heavens God made: first Paradise.
Next the gate of eternity, the third the house of peace,
The fourth Felicity, the fifth the home of golden light.
The sixth the garden of delight, the seventh the
Footstool of the Throne. And each and every one
Sphere above sphere, and treasure over treasure,
The great decree of God made for reward and pleasure.
Saith the perspicuous Book: 'Look up to heaven! look!
Dost thou see fault or flaw, in that vast vault,
Spangled with silvery lamps of night,
Or gilded with glad light
Of sunrise, or of sunset, or warm noon?
Rounded He well the moon?
Kindled He wisely the red lord of day?
Look twice! Look thrice, and say?'
Thy weak gaze fails:
Eyesight is drowned in yon abyss of blue:
Ye see the glory but ye see not through:
God's greatness veils
Its greatness by its greatness - all that wonder
Lieth the lowest of the heavens under,
Beyond which angels view
God and God’s miqhty works, asunder:
The thronged clouds whisper of it when they thunder.
Allah Kabir, in silence we
Meditate on Thy majesty!

Arnold, E. (trans.) (1954), Pearls of Faith, Lahore: Orientalis, 80-1. The above is a commentary on the ninety nine Beautiful Names of God by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE) after he became a Sufi mystic in 1096 CE.

The task is to get these into a service structure, more like the old liturgy books Unitarians used than a hymn sandwich. The 'moderate' service will have a hymn sandwich. The 'radical' service will be as non-theist as possible. I may then have a Christian service, a Pagan service and an Eastern service. It just takes so very long to do! Although the above are placed, I realise I need to go back and check for typing and punctuation errors.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bring Jack Straw Back

An update: they are indeed bringing him back, as said on the Itchy, Scratchy and Brillo Pad Show earlier.

Of course I take advantage of watching the ongoing Iraq Inquiry. I am ambiguous whether they are asking sufficient punchy questions - like they didn't ask Jack Straw last week why he didn't resign as Foreign Secretary when he was so against the invasion. If he had resigned it would have stopped the war (surely a good outcome for his opinion) but would have led the government to fall (so the continuation of the government was more important than death and destruction in Iraq). But it now seems that Jack Straw told a fabrication of the whole evidence in his huffing and puffing through the inquiry and trying to make his own case. He never said what we learnt today: that both main legal officers said the invasion was illegal: one of whom, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, retired (or would have resigned), and the other who didn't, the senior law officer in the Foreign Office Sir Michael Wood. So the politician rejected the united legal advice of the department; furthermore the Attorney General, the government senior law officer, was against the war until giving his advice at the last minute while the troops were gathering. We need to learn if he was leaned upon.

These drawings were done looking at the BBC News Channel on television and going at speed, having to wait while the camera returned to questioners.

Old Liturgies - Another One

I am starting a project to produce a set of liturgies that anyone can use at a moment's notice in the Hull Unitarian Church. As a background to this, I am looking at existing constructions (again; I have done this many times) and therefore have uploaded one to my website.

The 1932 Orders of Worship was the last, full scale, denomination-wide liturgical book to be produced, but it strikes me now as impossible to use neat. Yet I remember Mansfield using it in the late 1980s (a place where my preached theology received the cold shoulder). Most churches simply moved to the hymn sandwich and now variation is experimentation, more New Age than old liturgy.

Still, the Seventh Service is of historical interest because it stretches back to two services in 1879, and at that time the use of "through Jesus Christ" was removed. That phrase was still compatible with Unitarianism, because in those days the Trinity had a strict meaning, but by the nineteenth century broader Free Christian Unitarians had learnt from German biblical critics that Jesus pointed away from himself to God's action and the Kingdom of God and thus a revision was necessary. Martineau's liturgy was more conserving than his theology, because it was meant through its poetical and symbolic nature to generate a spiritual atmosphere.

I thought I would add this one in particular to those derived from 1917.

Monday, 25 January 2010

How the West Was Won

This is my greatest, widest margin, online Scrabble victory ever played via Facebook (Click on board display below for full size)...

Jill HINGED 30
Adrian ED EDIBLES 66
Jill SMOG 21
Jill JA AR PI JAP 48
Adrian HURLEY 22
Jill LED LOTH 18
Adrian ZIRCON 39
Jill OY ONE 11
Adrian NETTY 32
Adrian YE ETWEE 29
Jill CIVET 13
Adrian SQuIRM 72
Jill DARING 14
Adrian FE FORKED 57
Jill GADS 24
Adrian DO AW RED OWE 27
Jill REX XU 38
Adrian OR OM COON 24
Jill BOY UN BUN 15
Adrian AS fILARIA 73
Jill -9
Adrian +9
Game Ended
Jill 248 Adrian 523
Margin of victory 275

Jill is the daughter of a chap I know and he is now at Wakefield Unitarians, previously of Hull, who still comes back to Hull at times to take services.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Difference at Micro-Level

It's not usual, and I won't normally do it, and it wouldn't be balanced and all revealing if I did, but I will comment on the Unitarian church this morning. I'm particularly pleased that an Iranian couple came back to the church today three weeks after attending the service I took. They had been looking for a mosque, and in between I'd found out where it is. Someone also attending knew more: that there are two. Of course we said where the mosques can be found, and you do so even if the people leave for good. I remember when I first attended and then saying, after a 'trial period', "Bye," how generous the people were at that moment. It is one reason why I went back. Also today, another brand new face, and she ended by saying "Thank you for making me feel so welcome." That has to be a good thing.

Lord Carey can write his negative material about antithetical values and other people. Our friends - for that's what they are - joined in with the hymns and the content. We share, and we converse. This is how we can get on: we learn. And if we can make people feel welcome at the micro level, to receive and pass on something, then we are going to get a lot more right higher up.

It is such newspaper articles that ought to end up in ghettoes, in the ghettoes of the waste paper bin. Let's build bridges and let's join hands.

Unitarians get criticised for 'thin' or 'slim' beliefs. That's right in so far as there isn't the clutter, the postmodern barnacles that grow on top of other postmodern barnacles (whatever we might still say about having narratives and living out stories). But the values are there, and expressed: that is, thought through and expressed in direct language. If Unitarians can attract a broad constituency by such manner then that's very good.

But there is something mysterious. I've been at that church at different periods. I've known different atmospheres, and know that now there is a positive one. The mystery is that with such an atmosphere, a bounce takes place, when you think such was no more than an internal condition. The truth is that a liberal congregation can turn itself around and grow (and do so consistently - we have examples up and down the country) once a congregation gets itself into the mindset to do this. It needs generosity and flexibility, openness and warmth. It's funny how these things can lead to change: positive values expressed positively.

The big difference these days is the Internet. Unitarianism was largely a secret. Twenty years ago you could chart its decline onward to extinction because no one knew anything about it. No one realised the power of ready information. Now you can find out all about it, right down to the local level, with a few key presses. Unitarianism is no longer hidden: there is a liberal Church. But then a congregation has to do the management work and build itself as a concerning fellowship. It has to take risks: the website where I go is the concern of a new member (and that's a very good idea: my view has always been, too, that the quicker someone takes a service the better, because then they are expressing themselves and engaging in dialogue). As an individual, you then learn about the history of the denomination, and you absorb that into your own personal history too.

I'm a free floater, and ecumenically minded. I may end up going to the mosque myself for a visit: why not? Incidentally, one of the good things about the re-emergence of Yusuf Islam back into singing is to be able to hear the lyrics past and present and realise that they have direct spiritual impact. He made a very good concert shown a number of times last year on the BBC.

I am now engaging on a small project: to produce some liturgies that a person can come in and just do, so that in any emergency a service can just be produced. The business of producing a service from scratch is a very time consuming one. It baffles me when in an Anglican service someone fumbles and bumbles when it is all laid out and done in advance, with the exception of the sermon. Try to do it all, and then try to do it 'professionally'! It is not easy. I shall try to produce a choice of services: traditional, moderate, radical, Christian, Eastern, Pagan, maybe also Christian sacramental, Pagan sacramental (that is, more symbolic). I might even try something Muslim based too, compatible with the arrangement of the church on the Sunday. When done, I'll make them available for anyone, online of course, and perhaps that might attract a few more people - because a service only happens when it is done in a community, and then those values can be realised.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Halo of Torchlights

In a halo of light provided by his own wind-up torchlights, the Rev. A. Frame Reader has made a proposal to bring forward the Kingdom of God. He said:

It is utterly unrealistic and verbose, but I want to show that people who get robbed are really not on going to the police and courts, and just think how much we can give to charity if burglars and the burgled could only just get together and sort out their difficulties. Eventually I want to extend the scheme to all crime.

In the glow of his own light, the Rev. Reader's proposal is to have meetings set up with tea and bickies where burglars and the burgled can come to some agreement and therefore not involve the police or the criminal justice system. Once established, this would allow deep financial cuts to take place into the police force and the money could be redirected to charities, and go to such places where people are dying of hunger or live near volcanoes.

The scheme would then be extended to cover all forms of crime, again the disputes tackled by having meetings between victims and perpetrators. Once all areas are covered, the police force could be completely disbanded, and all courts closed down. He added:

Indeed, most of the insurance system will also close down. That must be a good thing. Of course boilers would still go bang but such as car insurance would be completely unnecessary. We would simply offer one another a sign of peace.

Rev. A. Frame Reader remains a member of The Episcopal Church but ran away to Canada where he is busy writing many essays, the latest being co-written with the Rev. Cranberry Huffpuff called Theo-idiocy: An Evangelical Approach.

In Depth

The In Depth Group met last Tuesday. This was to pause and discuss where we had been and where we were going. There was a general view that Doctrine Commissions of the Church of England and the many essays had been ad hoc, variable and minor, and my original idea to use the focii of Commissions to wind up the point about failure of liberal theology in Anglican controversies was unnecessary. With no formal paper there is instead a limited account of the drift of the discussion.

So next up is Thomism and other inherited traditionalisms, in the expected change of direction. They will still be examined critically. Because the paper on John Robinson included reference to his opposition to Thomism, and the discussion addressed whether he properly represented it, there is a limited account of that discussion and its direction.

There is also a gap plugged in 2008 when there was a strong discussion: it was the last session before the Theology Course as such began and I'd simply neglected it.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

God of Patterned Chaos

I'm a bit slow at the moment. My entry at the Daily Episcopalian at Episcopal Café can be read. Being a bit late, I see some comments and rather like the first comment (scroll down) and can respond myself.

Of course the science is itself a narrative but it is a narrative based on maths and experiment and produces a working explanation for how the world operates, and really, theology, which explains nothing in such a sense, can be based on dealing with that and re-employing its own concepts.

Obviously I think Murdoch Matthew's comment further down has hit the nail on the head. I'm sorry not to respond there: it is that every time I try to enter a comment I get nowhere.

Cyber-Attacked: Is It Worth It?

One of the duties of the day with the blog is to check for comments. I only do it into the day and so it can't usually facilitate fast and furious conversation. We've all heard about Google in China, its rotten self-censorship and now its cyber attacks. It seems clear now that this blog is under a form of cyber attack, as indeed is my website (and has been for some time).

For some reason, one blog entry receives persistent comment in non-standard and unreadable comments, and after an entry I'll check for comments and find yet again that the one entry has had someone or some thing send unreadable comments. It's no big deal just to tick it and press reject, and do so being careful to keep any legitimate comments. So whoever or whatever is doing this is just wasting their time and being a moderate nuisance.

My website keeps a response page that builds in a kind of feedback form. To fill this in needs a form of effort, and does not come with any prospect on submitting other than being seen by me. Now, I check emails two ways. I check for titles and names on the server, at which point I wipe out most without even looking at them. It is a much more effective way of handling spam than relying on a slow junk mail system after downloading all emails. Now I cannot tell a good website feedback from a bad one that way, but a double click produces a safe text version of an email download, and then the merest glimpse can show whether it is a real feedback or advertising. I must admit, it does baffle me that someone goes to the effort to put in an advert for something I can tell instantly is a form of spam and therefore about which I read no further. I have no idea what they are selling, or otherwise trying to get me to download and wreck my machine, but after that glimpse the message is destroyed back on the server, the text view having been safe.

Both of these are mild irritants, and utterly futile. It must be more effort for them - presumably the attacks are far wider than just my blog and website - that these are worth. In my case nothing is read beyond the least needed for identification, and nothing of such gets through.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Good Grief - Good for Grief

This is getting worrying and pleasing. I've actually found comment from an Anglican about Haiti and about faith in general with which I completely agree. And he happens to be the most local of Anglican bishops.

Independent living sounds attractive and is a good slogan until the snow comes, or the normality of life is interrupted for whatever reason – then family, friends and neighbours become essential features to our survival. What price independence in the face of an earthquake such has been experienced in Haiti?

Of course true community is really built upon 'faith' – believing in and trusting in others. One of the great challenges of our age is to recover that sense of faith within our communities, so that we can work together not just in the exceptional times of need, but in the normality of the everyday. Faith is a casualty of excessive independence, for faith is rooted in the humility of accepting that we cannot make it through life on our own. Without faith in others, how will we cope when the cold realities of life break through the illusion that we can ever be independent?

Yes, faith is trust, a kind of aware-dependency, and that is the faith that becomes relevant in times of strife and crisis but also in the everyday - building relationships (that also prepare for times of crisis).

I've put my cartoon of Erika up because she should be pleased (not with the cartoon, but with d'bishop and should help her attachment to Anglicanism).

Monday, 18 January 2010

Liberal Theology and The-idiocy

A communicant Anglican cook the Unitarian service I attended on Sunday, and again the numbers are bumping up again after a troubling period of decline. It's amazing how things get sorted out, or a new purpose gets employed, and then an up curve does take place.

The Anglican we heard loves the swinging of the incense and such in the home church, but is frustrated at the lack of intellectual stimulation at home base. She likes the title of In Depth for the Anglican church in Barton's setting for intellectual stimulation, and might make approaches to set up such a small group where she lives. I said she can, of course, use (or reuse) any of the material now stored on my website that I have used in presentations. She has some sideways views: the Eucharist service, she said, "is basically Mithraism," which is an interesting thought. I know what she means but we can't reduce all sacrificial services from one locality to a single causal structure.

She further complains that sermons these days are so timid, and a lay reader who did connect was under such pressure that training ceased and there was no more from him.

I have two responses (and of course she gains intellectual stimulation by preaching to Unitarians, where pretty much anything ought to be able to be said): first, that much preaching, because it is hampered by 'promises' to some bishop, becomes something that stays in its own world view or becomes 'historically confined'. There might be an ethical message for the moment we live in, but the rest seems remote and removed. For example, the New Testament 'sign' of water into wine just read about is that of instant transformation, such as also reported of St. Paul, and thus the ritual of the Eucharist ought to have fermented wine, that is symbolic of transformation, though we all probably are inch at a time types when it comes to being on a journey of faith... All this makes sense, but what sense? It makes sense within a closed circle. What about, for example, how people live their lives: what examples are there of transformations? And if there are, what choices or impacts are there of these? Try the earthquake in Haiti, for example.

My 'intellectual presentations' to In Depth have charted examples of the failure of liberal theology in Anglicanism, not because liberal theology has failed, but simply because it is not allowed as fully legitimate, feels it so, and holds in on itself. When it has broken free thanks to some individuals, it comes against the impossibility of the structures to absorb it. To be fair, these structures have changed, and interpretations today (for example of the Trinity) that seem legitimate now would have been picked up in the past as unacceptable.

Today the situation seems to be in reverse. There is a sectarianism of the Anglican Church taking place. The borders are coming in. It is its reaction to pluralism and to the secular, to ordinary explanations that cut across its own.

A perfect example has been seen in the the-idiocy of comments about Haiti and its tragedy. It's the usual 'Why God doesn't intervene?' thing, or the keeping silence while God works out his purposes, and all that. Instead of building theology on the science of self-generating patterns and chaos, that such as the economy, plate tectonics, the weather and the environment are based upon, it is yet again a reworking of a pre-Newtonian interventionist nonsense, and one that encourages superstition.

Now we know why they hold to this nonsense, because at the heart of it is the belief that 'God sent his Son'. Well, until such a view is abandoned, as part of that pre-Newtonian (never mind contemporary) view, then the rest will always be a form of internal talk. And liberal theology as so often practised is as trapped as the more confused and even disgusting expressions of pity seen recently.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Church Calendar

The St. Mary's Barton-upon-Humber Worship Calendar is updated. The idea is to keep the mouseover display as simple as possible, and worshippers should then check the notices. But it shows graphically what days the dates drop on for 2010.

Meanwhile, as theodicy appears more and more like idiocy, I've written a piece for Episcopal Café about self-organising patterns and chaos together following the history of discovering these as outlined by Professor Jim Al-Khalili on BBC 4 recently. Earthquakes, the economy and weather are all examples. He will be interviewing Rowan Williams soon, which should be fun. As Al-Khalili's account rather challenges any sort of orthodoxy or intervening God, and especially criticises a deistic God too (because expressly simplicity leads to complexity and intelligence, not deistic intelligence setting simple conditions for the result of complexity and intelligence), my piece will therefore contradict Episcopalian orthodox beliefs too, if published (and if not, it will come here). For me God is the meaning of it all, not some interventionist agent. There are lessons in Al-Khalili's history for the treatment of gay people and about holding to dogma - the damage done to science.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

That Pirates' Eucharist Discovered

It was recently asserted by the Archbishop of Anglicanism's Pastoral Visitors to Canada that The Episcopal Church in the United States is sliding into a morass of heresy and liturgical fancy, including such as a Pirates' Liturgy. The discovered (X marked the spot) Pirates' Eucharistic Prayer A (and beyond) is reproduced below. The liturgy is used in caves and churches of TEC along the American coast and in the Caribbean. Reproducing this will prove conclusively that TEC is fully orthodox in its use.

The Pirates' Mass is carried out by a priest (or minister in other Protestant denominations) as Captain in good or dodgy order and with a parrot trained at theological college on his or her shoulder, or alongside should the Parrot be the curate. The proper standing position for the priest is on one leg with a stick on the opposite side; any blessing is carried out in the usual way with the hand, and with the parrot by one wing, but the priest may want to genuflect by bending forwards and raising his or her stick, and the parrot should flap his or her real or stuck on wings at appropriate moments. The Crew includes the Captain and the Parrot.

Note on some terminology. Cosmic Beard or just Beard - God, Sail is Lord. The rest should be obvious. Much terminology remains inherited as sexist but women pirates can say it just as much.

Pirates' Eucharistic Prayer A

Captain: The Sail shall be yours, me shipmates, me hearties!
Crew: And yours indeed too, Cap'n.
Parrot: Let's get on with it, let's get on with it.
Crew: Aye aye, Parrot; aye aye!

Captain: Let's give thanks to the great Sail our Cosmic Beard.
Crew: We raise them up and we stretch, we do.
Parrot: That's what it's all about, what it's all about.
Crew: Aye ay, Parrot; aye aye!

Captain: Aye aye, me shipmates,
It's right all right,
And our duty and our joyousness
Wherever we are, on sea or land,
To give our Cosmic Beard thanks an' all that.
Parrot: White and whiskery, up in them clouds:
Everywhere the ship sails, big an' strong!
Captain: That's right, Parrot:
Going through the Sail, through Gingerbeard himself.

The following may be omitted if there is a proper preface:

For he lives and is the treasure,
An' he was the way the sea and lands were made!
And we look just like Whitebeard up in them clouds.
Parrot: We all do, we all do.
Captain: We all do indeed, including you Parrot.

An', aye, through Gingerbeard, you freed us from the slavery of the authorities.
Born of a woman, how else, and drowned after walking the plank and being chomped by the shark,
And then he appeared again.
Parrot: On Treasure Island.
Captain: And now he's up there on one o' them clouds.

Through Gingerbeard you sent us
All the fighting and drinking and lovin' energy.
Parrot: And made us just like you are.
Captain: He did.

Therefore, with them sea-deities we dream about,
And all them hearties up in the sky,
We proclaim you, Whitebeard,
Forever praising you and singing [saying] along:
Parrot: Sing along now, sing along now! [Speak now, speak now!]

Crew: Holy, Holy. Holy Sail,
Beard of power and mighty,
You're all over the sky and land, you are!
Parrot: Yes you are!
Captain: Aye aye aye aye!
Parrot: Aye aye aye aye!
Crew: Aye aye aye aye aye!

Captain: You can accept our praises, ol' Whitebeard,
Through our Master Gingerbeard,
As we follow his examples and obey his commands...
Parrot: Yes we do.
Captain: An' grant that by the winds of the Bluebeard,
These delivered edible Pieces of Eight and drinkable Rum
May be Gingerbeard's own mind and body parts.

Who in the same night as the Navy was visited,
Took some Pieces of Eight and said, "Thanks Whitebeard."
He gave them around to his shipmates and said,
"Put them in your pockets, these that I'm giving to you,
And remember me."

In the same way, just after that,
He took a tankard and gave you thanks, Whitebeard,
An' full o' Rum he sent it round the table, saying,
"Drink this, and don't anyone not drink this,
And remember me."

Parrot: That's what happened, that's what happened it did.

Captain: Therefore, Ol' Whitebeard,
We do remember Gingerbeard's generosity of himself, like,
Made once walking off the plank,
And being visited by the shark.
We proclaim his mighty reappearance together again,
On Treasure Island.
Parrot: And up he went from there too.
Captain: That he did, Parrot, up into the sky.
An' we look for new a new bountiful sea and that Treasure Island everywhere.
An' with these Pieces of Eight and this Tankard,
We remember Gingerbeard all right.
Parrot: We do, we do.

Crew: Gingerbeard drowned,
Gingerbeard reappeared,
He's gonna come back one day on one big ship.

Captain: So, Whitebeard, accept through our great Gingerbeard,
This our own little walking of thanks and praise;
An' as we eat and rink these treasures,
Under your beautiful cloudy presence,
Renew us by Bluebeard,
Give us lots of love an' that...
Parrot: Without being namby pamby!
Captain: And unite us with Gingerbeard, before he's even back:
Gingerbeard our Great Sail.

Through him, alongside him, and with him,
Through Bluebeard all around as one,
With all yer shipmates up in them clouds,
We do worship you, Ol' Whitebeard
In shanties of everlasting joys and praises.

Crew: Hoo hay up she rises,
Hoo hay up she rises,
Hoo hay up she rises,
Every now and always!

Crew: Ol' Whitebeard up there -
That's the best name we can give 'ee -
Treasures will come,
What thee want done,
On sea and land, like up in them clouds.
Give us loads, every day,
Allow us what we done wrong,
Parrot: As we do or at least should.
Crew: That's right, Parrot.
Stop our eyes bulging,
But take us away from naughty things;
For the cloudy place, the wallop,
And the big tasty are yours.
Parrot only: They are.
Crew: Now and always, they are,
So it be.

Captain: I toss these Pieces of Eight
So we can all have some.
Crew: Though we are many, we are all together
'Cause we all get it more or less at once.

Captain: Plank walker:
You took away the bad things.
Parrot: Glug glug they went.
Crew: Be merciful.

Captain: Plank walker:
You took away the bad things.
Parrot: Glug glug they went.
Crew: Be merciful.

Captain: Plank walker:
You took away the bad things.
Parrot: Glug glug they went.
Crew: Make us goodies inside.

Captain: Me shipmates, me hearties, come to where lies the treasure!
Receive Our Sail Gingerbeard's body and mind
Which he handed over to you
And was bitten by the shark making the red-surfaced sea.
Eat and drink
That all that was for you;
Feed on him, me hearties,
With your faith.
Parrot: And don't forget to pray thanks, don't forget to pray thanks.

After the priest/ minister has unwrapped his chocolate money and eaten it, and given a bit to the parrot, and had a swig, the crew come forward in orderly fashion, unwrap the chocolate money and eat it, and then drink a swig of rum from the tankard. Methodists and some Protestants might like to hand out several little tankards. Sad sorts might like to try grape juice.

Crew: Almighty Righty Beard,
Thanks for the dish
Of the body and mind of Gingerbeard;
An' through him we offer our minds and bodies.
Parrot: We do.
Crew: So now it's time to cast out again into the big wide yonder,
With Bluebeard giving us a push,
To live and plunder
To your praise and glory.
So it be.
Parrot: Amen, Amen indeed.

The Core of the Matter

The Bishop of Grimsby David Rossdale offers his sermon given at a funeral of a priest, Ed Core, who died recently. I did not know the man; I have only attended a few services recently where his name has been read among remembering the recently died. He was, incidentally, gay with a partner although the published sermon does not mention this.

The sermon, given on 9 January at a church I walked past yesterday (13 January), has interested me on other grounds. There are phrases and part assertions that I found agreeable.

...he was about 'new beginnings' and 'new beginnings' are the stuff of relationships.

This reminded me of my recent service at the Hull Unitarians - old beginnings and new beginnings - and allows the concept to be developed in a slightly different direction. My sermon on 3 January was about coming into a new relationship with that church and about first impressions and perceptions, and working around both religious and the now more standard secular meaning of Epiphany.

Then there is some more that is agreeable:

An essential feature to relationships therefore has to be faith - a belief in the other, a two-way process of engagement which lays claim to the future. ...We discover that good relationships are more concerned with who we are becoming, than with who we have been.

I think this is the basis of faith: faith not as doctrines or beliefs, but faith as trust, and as what you do after saying sorry and actually going on afterwards (and with some thanks).

I find that we make the Christian faith very complicated by wrapping it in formulas and practice, yet in truth the Christian faith is very simple - it is about a God who wants to make and sustain relationships with us - with you and me.

Naturally I'd want to agree with this sentiment (I'd have to reword it: the meaning of God is in the making and sustaining of relationships), but then, in the end, I cannot agree with the formulas and the practice involved that follow on after simply saying "it is about a God".

We can all travel easy with formulas and practices when going through Anglican liturgies, but the boundaries have been coming inwards for some time and I specifically now do not repeat the formulas and I vary my practice inside Anglicanism from others - no longer standing at the Gospel (standing signifies recognising 'presence'), never saying the creed (dogma I do not believe, nor am I a member of the community), staying sat at the Eucharist (standing signifies recognising the coming of 'presence') where I listen but no longer participate. This is because I have decided that although I practice Christianity in such a freelance way, I am not to be considered as a Christian (if I was) and I prefer this to be so.

In fact, relationship wise, the most important words are "also with you". I always say those.

Again I would agree with this below, but I wouldn't go any further than this:

In this sense, faith really isn’t about religion – it is about being human.

However, the suffragan bishop has to go on after this to refer back to the formula. OK, he might also believe it, taken as given, but this is the difference, really: I don't and my approach is a refocus away from a salvation religion about a man to the essentials about what it involves and is about.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Pleasing and Not

I'm pleased that Nick Clegg wants to equalise gay and heterosexual marriages, and force faith schools to have anti-homophobic bullying policies. There are general, social and public equalitarian stances which religions should not effect in the public sphere beyond their ritualistic practices where they might be restrictive. There are zero-sum situations where the restrictive religions simply have to give way, and schools are in the public sphere. He is right to challenge David Cameron of the Conservatives about his actual stance on these matters. Nick Clegg is also right to stand up for a humanitarian stance regarding immigration and asylum, for ethical behaviour and responsibilities in the difficult area of a population largely growing through the birthrate and the issue of it being a market and a labour force.

Unfortunately he put me off with his earlier reducing of commitments to take away tuition fees for Higher Education students, for free care for the elderly and for 20 hours nursery provision a week. He wants to appear to be macho on the economy along with Vince. I think he is missing a sea change in attitudes that the Liberal Democrats had actually foreseen. There is the money for these key resources if we realise that a less greedy and more socially aware country is going to alter its priorities. We have the recession, and we need to think again about basics before we have personal greed. The principles of universal education and lifelong care when needed are progressive and need people do need persuading, but we come down to actualities of eating well, keeping warm, having accommodation and living a decent life. These are foundations for a libertarian society - for social liberalism. If we can generate an economy that supplies these needs, then our economy adds value indeed. It's so much better than waiting for another boom curve of relatively pointless 'hanging out each others' washing' type of economy that we have had and then financed by debt.

I'm quite a robust Liberal Democrat supporter, though local constituency proportions (a Labour/ Conservative marginal) have led me to vote Labour. When Nick Clegg stood up and made his 'can't afford these' speech I just wondered what was the point of voting for them, given that the three political parties are competing on managerial claims, and otherwise differ like Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedlediddle.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Pastoral Visit Report in Full

Here is the full script of the report by Bishops M. Gandiya and G. Bennetts.

Report for the Archbishop of Anglicanism, Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Tree.

We present these findings from our Pastoral Visit held with Canadian bishops.

001 The Canadian Anglican Church is not of one mind with same-sex blessings. The previous General Synod was neither heterosexual nor homosexual on this matter. The next one may be no clearer. The practice of same-sex blessings is tiring and has left the Canadian Church somewhat exhausted. Some people have even run out of energy for the arguing that is characteristic of Anglicanism. It is complex not to say confusing when you come to write a report after so little time of study.

002 At best this situation could lead to internal anarchy. At best it could offer a whole, new, broad based solution to a Christian style of inclusiveness. So it could be a watershed either way. We suggest the use of a crystal ball, or tossing a coin, or using our method of 'sensing' as to the likely outcome. Indeed, as this is like suggesting we are facing a new global ice age or global warming, either of which could be a watershed, or an iceshed, and we suggest that our comments are meaningless and worthless on this matter.

003 One bishop said he wished it would all go away, though we sensed that he may have said he wished we would go away. This might actually might mean the same thing. Nevertheless, despite the weariness, we measured a real desire for mission, by each of us raising a wet finger into the air. The issue of the real decline in numbers of Anglicans in Canada was matched by a virtual sense of enthusiasm for imaginary church growth.

004 Such imaginings could well lead to a vibrant model of the kind of renewed Christian community that has much to teach the wider Church. This could involve more integrated forms of theological education both for ordinands and for laity than actually exist. By implication the vibrancy is not there yet; indeed we sensed a weariness that would have to be overcome.

005 In so many ways the Canadians are not like the people of the United States. Canadians have a mosaic approach to immigration, where Canadians maintain their cultural identities, often continue to operate in their ethnic groups, and develop a commitment to Canadian identity with a loyalty to the Canadian flag. In contrast, American assimilation involves people maintaining their cultural identities, often continuing to operate in their groups, while developing a commitment to an identity as Americans with a loyalty to the flag of the United States. This crucial difference underlies deep seated different attitudes towards Christian orthodoxy, though we as brief visitors (or indeed if here longer) are not sure how.

006 We sensed a strong commitment to ministry among indigenous people and a determination to deliver better. We are not quite sure who the indigenous people are any more. It could mean the natives, but then who are the natives? All we can say is that history is somewhat ambiguous regarding the natives and delivery can be improved, perhaps to an overnight service as standard.

007 Having established the connection between this and orthodoxy, at least one conclusion follows. Canadians really do know what orthodoxy implies, and this has to be contrasted against those south of the border before Mexico way. We noted around the tea and coffee cups the deep commitment to orthodoxy among those bishops who carry out same-sex blessings, and this must be different from trinitarians in the United States who compromise their apparent orthodoxy by carrying out same sex blessings and causing upset throughout the Communion.

008 The potential then, in contrast to the troublesome Episcopalians to the south, is that Canadian Anglicans can offer an encouraging sign that allows for a more obviously Christ-centred approach to issues that currently divide the Communion. This may even have widescale ecumenical benefits. We are really encouraged.

009 As regards the violence inside the Anglican Communion, there is no doubt that Canada punches way above its declining numerical weight. They are not like the Episcopalians from the south, who dodge and weave and use deceptive tactics to try to maintain their place in the competition. The Canadians really do want to play their full part in the ring, and play it well - to maintain their place in the competition. The commitment to the Communion battle springs from a genuine sense of affection for the rules of the game which we found deeply moving and must be contrasted with the cynicism elsewhere.

010 At the same time, the bishops for the boxing ring seemed overly relaxed and relational. This clearly has merits but this user-friendly approach showed a lack of theological depth. The strategy lacks theological first principles and tends to stress pragmatic outcomes, such as winning the argument in the Communion, for example regarding same-sex blessings. On the other hand, there are theological heavyweights, who can pack a punch, and who can argue against same-sex blessings. The issue is whether the right boxers are entered into the right contests.

011 We also wish to include some brown nosing to add ballast to this Report. Archbishop O. Feather Hill is a huge asset to the Church. He really is top diggy dog. We were simply amazed at the similarity between him and Archbishop Rowan Tree, the Archbishop of Anglicanism. However, we understand that this comparison might undermine Archbishop Hill, so we have left this to the end. Nevertheless O. Feather Hill presides with humility, sensitivity and passion, all of which is problematic objectively but here is suggested subjectively.

012 Consequently, we recommend from our sensings with such admittedly subjective praise and criticism throughout that we try to get the praise-worthy Canadian Anglicans to sign the Covenant, and try to limit our losses to the nuisance Episcopalians to the south and use them as scapegoats. We have attempted by our visit to reduce the sense of shared interests and alliance between these North Americans that unfortunately share the same continent, and we did not venture outside of Canada to the land of obvious excesses. We are grateful to the Archbishop of Anglicanism for asking us to put aside any actual conflict-resolution skills we may possess in the pursuit of this Report to further the institutional cause of a Sitting Committee run Anglican Communion, serving the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates Meeting and the many bishops like ourselves and those we talked to in Canada but not in the United States.

Pastoral Visitors Bishops Mahatma Gandiya and Gordon Bennetts

Monday, 11 January 2010

Andglicanism Defined

John Sackme, the Bishop of Imp, has written on how the Pope has made a "genuine and generous offer" intending to undermine the Church in England by initiating an Ordinariate for right wing Anglicans. The bishop thinks that this bolt-hole may want to be embraced by some and not embraced by others, but if they could leave it might rebalance the Church back towards a theology like his own. It might even lead to a name-change for the Church of both Catholicism and Reformation.

Writing in the diocesan magazine, CrossedImp, using a kind of make-believe reporting style, the bishop states that the Pope's Finger only strengthens the definition of Anglicanism:

Anglicanism cannot be a hermetically sealed Catholicism only Church, and those who think the Reformation was a mistake might just be in the wrong Church. Nor can Anglicanism be a purely Protestant Church that knox Catholicism as one long session of heresy, because there are Churches existing like that and if you are that way inclined you might as well be in one of them. No: the And in between is very important for Anglicanism and whoever might be left behind. In fact we might even go on to call it Andglicanism (!), to make a distinction between that and an Anglican Ordinariate which is Catholic only as well as any other extraordinariate that could be Protestant only.

Bishop Sackme went on to say that in Andglicanism you can be a little bit of this and a little bit of that, with more of one or the other, so long as you keep the 'And' in the recipe:

The Andglican cake has both nuts in it and icing on top, and some people prefer to be more nutty and others more icy. And this is absolutely necessary to avoid fundamentalist and exclusivist tendencies. That's why I am an Affirming Catholic, which is a sort of liberal, and an Affirming Evangelical, which is also a sort of liberal, and on top of these a Confirmed Liberal - though did I mention I was also a Bit Conservative, especially when I say nothing in the face of current ethical issues sweeping Andglicanism and which rot away what ethical core it once possessed?

The bishop, who appears prominently and frequently in every issue, said that the very real inherited wealth of the imagined undivided Church needs to be informed by the poverty of Reformed insight so that the faith can be Fresh Expressioned to every generation, "although we often emphasise only a part of the Reformed tradition," he said, "and changes can be somewhat surface level and unchanging in both tradition and changefulness."

And we can be witty in sourcing a comment from the heremetically sealed Church too, because, as Pope John Paul said in Help!: the future Church should not only be Mother and Father but also Son and Daughter, because sons and daughters learn from their parents, and so as long as in our Church the entire family is involved - Mother and Father, Son and Daughter - then we get both a family outing and learning pilgrimage to both Walsingham and St. Andrews at the same time.

"That's Andglicanwang," said the Bishop:

And we need to do difference differently, at least different from the other ones who do difference their own way. Our way is distinctively different, but has nothing exclusive to itself, and thus we have Andglicanism. It is how we get over disasters, dislocations and divisions, additions, attractions and anarchisms, multiplications, marginalities and magnificats, subtractions, seasonings and Sackme.

He went on, full of enthusiasm:

We can forget plainsong and polyphony, which is found in an exclusive Church like Catholicism, and the throaty warblings found in Protestantism, but instead learn how to hum two tunes at once with completely different words. If you hear a choir like that, you know it's either a complete mess or bloody fantastic.

He still carried on:

Why is it both Knox and Mary then? Well because doing both we get the kind of muddle that gives space, space to include what is normally excluded, even from both, and this leads to compassion, dialogue and a state of disagreement. Disagreement is very important, especially when people disagree with me, and that leads to the further quality, the ability to maintain silence. However, this must be both silence and noise, because to exclude one without the other is not a drawing in or charitable acceptance nor the exclusion of sin, and I'm not sure where I am now.

So in terms of having a little bit of silence and a little bit of noise, or more of one and less of the other, I shall opt for silence again now that I have been a bit noisy and lost my way in explaining what the hell I was going on about. But do let us give thanks for the Pope's Finger, for being both an interfering git and a most useful and helpful individual when it comes to clarifying Andglicanism as I shall now think of this Church.

On Examinations and Text

For a while now I have intended to write a booklet piece, also suitable (when heavily edited) for display boards, about school examinations and whether they have become easier for a local museum. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get hold of old and new school examination papers across different subjects and at various levels to make any sort of comparison (I do have some old examination papers - like Sociology and Politics - of my own!). Having left this for so long, I have now gone for second best, and written a simpler piece with information widely available about the history of school examinations. It is in the Learning Area of the Pluralist Website in the Thinking On Teaching and Lecturing section.

On a totally different subject I have just made an extra download into Irfan View plug ins that has facilitated reading text directly off an image into a separate window for copying and pasting. If you run the NoteTab text processor at the same time in the background with its pasteboard running (toggles with CONTROL+SHIFT+P), then an image with text elements in can be read off one by one in Irfan View into actual text and a quick sweep with CONTROL+C for each text block dumps it into the NoteTab page automatically without looking. This is very useful indeed!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Not Sunday

The weather forecast of those biting easterly winds and snow showers, the reality of ungritted roads and the day, and the fact that the service taker was to come from Sheffield, means that there is no service on Sunday 10 January at Hull Unitarian Church. A week later the service taker comes from Wakefield. By then one hopes that the warm air sitting in the Atlantic finally reaches these parts, even if that means one final mother of all snow storms and then a lot of thawed water! Something of which to look forward.


I looked at the DN19 weather online and it said 4 degrees, which means thawing, and indeed this morning here it was raining.

One of the annoying aspects of TV weather forecasts these days is that they are dumbed down. Many of us are perfectly capable of reading a pressure chart. You can take one look and see how the scenario is set over the British Isles. Now look at the chart for the next few days and it is clear that the Atlantic low system is coming in, with snow from the SW that is the final transition for this period. And unless there is a high re-establishing itself, that's it. Weather systems establish themselves and then come under attack and eventually weaken. The lows will come in, one after another, unless again the continent produces something that covers these islands. Anyway, I'm not concerned now about a trip out on Wednesday. The forecasters said this weather would last another week, but that does not seem the case.

Who Is He Then and What's the Institution?

I'm something of a peaceful terrorist over at Fulcrum, the evangelical website and forum. I have been likened there to G. K. Chesterton's candid friend in my criticisms of Anglicanism. According to Gilbert K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy:

I venture to say that what is bad in the candid friend is simply that he is not candid. He is keeping something back - his own gloomy pleasure in saying unpleasant things. He has a secret desire to hurt, not merely to help.

It is not so. It is more in regret that I have criticised the drift in Anglicanism towards being narrower in actual doctrine, more bureaucratic and becoming self-destructive on the gay issue, as led into this pit by the current Archbishop of Canterbury. I did have the option of going elsewhere as a principal religious identity, if still rather freelance, and that's what in the end I have done, despite the local situation.

My space is in the borderlands regarding many a religious institution, but the institutions move as much as does an individual. The Anglican Church was a struggle before, but now it is reining in its borders and some of us are clearly on the outside. But I also have positive (as well as negative) things to say about Unitarianism. It was really the case that had I moved to another part of the country, for example, that I would first look at the local Unitarian situation, and indeed this even theoretically applies in the United States.

Having no desire to defend any aspect of Anglican doctrine from the inside, so to speak, I have a certain freedom to point things out that many an liberal Anglican might not in evangelical company, simply because a liberal Anglican wishes to appear a full member of the tribe and 'orthodox'. It is often the liberal bending like this that leads me to be critical of Anglican liberals, though I tend to hold off because they are having a rather difficult time at the moment. And, also, if I, in my remaining input, can contribute towards the destruction of the Anglican Covenant then it will produce the possibility of an Anglicanism far more flexible for my liberal friends in the West. I also think that informal links and contacts are far more likely to prevent a ruthless and unethical Anglicanism in parts of the Third World than is a Covenant, simply because the Covenant is biased towards conserving and more doctrine realised than less. That's why evangelicals and centrist Catholics want it - because it is imperial towards their interests: it attempts to win their arguments not via the argument but via bureaucracy and structures.

Plus it is a good Unitarian stance to be anti-credal, anti a list of rules to impose over one's interpretation, experience, forms of talk.

An evangelical also asked me a question about what Unitarianism does:

Might be worth considering that Jesus Christ's NT teaching shows what denies the Son doesn't have the Father either (as a summary 1 John 2 & 4) and is the spirit of anti-Christ. Isn't that what Unitarianism does?

My reply is to turn this matter around (as I write, this is yet to be added to the thread), because the question involves the wearing of theological blinkers that might not be noticed by the wearer:

The first ideological and theological Unitarians in central Europe and in England and Wales read their Bibles in a literalistic fashion (German Biblical criticism came later) and they could not see the Doctrine of the Trinity. They very much affirmed that Jesus Christ was the Son, as indeed they believed in the miracles and the resurrection. What they did not believe was that the Son was co-equal and co-eternal with God. He was either God's first born of creation, who then proceeded with creation, or, and became more the case, they believed with Paul that Jesus was chosen by God to be the sole mediator of God and means to salvation.

As for later Unitarianism, that was affected by German biblical criticism, as indeed were all denominations, and also by an evolutionary view of liberalism rather than one tied particularly to a theological insight and, in Britain and America, the original merchant class that became a capitalist middle class and all that liberalism implied to them, including a French revolutionary spirit and a Scottish led Enlightenment. The later British Unitarians were rather more 'Anglican' than the earlier denominationalists, though the Americans coming from the Puritans were never quite 'Anglican' because of the division there - with the one exception of Kings Chapel in Boston which was (like Britain's Essex Church) an Anglican into Unitarian development.

So the answer is no, originally, they did not deny the Son because it is you who impose the doctrine of the Trinity on to the Bible whereas they were stricter literalists. Later on it was a case of Unitarianism more honestly dealing with and incorporating German Biblical criticism rather than stretching the meaning of the Trinity so that so many people mean by its use today (an example of God the Trinity being in God's own community) what others would have regarded as loose and heretical.

In other words, where we are at any time is relative to where others are. There is no doubt, and including among evangelicals, that what constitutes acceptable Anglican explanation today would have been regarded as heretical in the past and more confined to Unitarians. What's the same is the attempt by Anglicans to use the same liturgical language, even updated to modern expression, to say these looser interpretations as well as older ones. That's the difference between de jure and de facto - the latter actuality is much the looser and more practical. But when the movement is going the other way, then the people inhabiting the borderlands find that the institution that once might have caught them up is actually receding and looking less likely as a kind of home.

One issue for a church home is a cultural one, and I admit that I am a bit of a cultural Anglican in terms of liturgical aesthetics. But this is hardly enough to warrant a membership ticket. Then there is a question of belief. How does it come down in simplest terms? Here it is for me: that there is a rumour of angels (possibility of transcendence), a need for enchantment in this tedious existence of ours, and a social anthropological function of religion and ritual. As for Christianity, it is a cultural product at each and every stage. It can and often doesn't give insight into the rumour of angels. The rules that academic disciplines established over time - starting in the nineteenth century and building on the Enlightenment - matter, and do severely limit what can be claimed for any man, book or religion, especially one so difficult to penetrate historically, with a community already interpreting and back-projecting according to concepts which are in large part antithetical to the way we think now for explanations both intellectually and practically in the every day.

So for me it is an obvious matter that Jesus is a man and only a man, who lived and died an ordinary biological life, and even the greatest human insights in the world are just that - insights. Even if these insights were 'lived' (and here we stretch the history, and meaning) they can be lived (and have been) by anyone. These insights might well be a hook for the sort of transcendence we might like to think exists, but if there is transcendence it is obviously a far broader thing than the movements and ideas of a man in one time and place. And I am not interested in the cult of an individual.

In the end, if you come to that view you have to then ask an institutional question, and at the very least whether the Anglican institution is appropriate. Probably not, is the answer, because it asks too much for it to give up the cult of that individual. Even if you stretch the interpretation into broad categories (of ideals and intentions, of living, of being) it is still, liturgically, focused on the cult of that individual. And that's the institutional problem once you take the logic to its obvious conclusion. In the end the God issue (realism, non-realism, real absence, via negativa, personalism, high and dry transcendence), however important, is not the issue, but it does all come to rest on the issue of the cult of the individual. Once that is tackled the rest just is a waiting game.