More than 30 Unitarians from 11 congregations around the District assembled at Unitarian New Meeting Church in Birmingham for the District’s 152nd Annual General Meeting.
Following a commendably brief business meeting, followed by an even briefer AGM of the Midland Unitarian Association of Lay Preachers & Service Leaders, both in the church itself, during which we welcome one new member to the Executive Committee, we adjourned to the Priestley Room and enjoyed a delicious cold buffet lunch, which had been laid on by the congregation of UNM. It was a chance to catch up with old friends, and to make new ones.
At 1.45, we moved back into the church for a short Presidential Service, led by MUA President, Ms. Diane Rutter. She took privilege and exclusion as her theme, and reminded us that until 1813, Unitarians were the “have-nots”, who were not allowed to meet together in worship. She then spoke of the need to support refugees – today’s “have-nots”.
She then introduced our Guest Speaker, Stephen Lingwood, pioneer minister of Cardiff Unitarians. He gave us a fascinating talk about his new post at Cardiff – which is 1/3 for the congregation, and 2/3 doing Unitarian evangelism – sharing the good news about our Unitarian faith. He stated that our mission is to address the current spiritual crisis, which is causing the climate crisis, by inviting people into relationship with self, neighbours, community, the Earth and God. And to encourage a deep connection with the interdependent web of all existence – we are all one.
He explained that as Unitarians are a liberal religious movement, we acknowledge that revelation is not sealed, and that there is always more truth to be discovered. Our practice should be dialogue, rather than monologue – not just about the individual spiritual journey. His current ministry is about building relationships and having conversations, about being alongside people where they are.
He argued that spirituality is about becoming more human, each in our own unique way, by making discoveries through faith and trust. He said that one part of the greater mission should be to make a more loving, just world which will enable us to work on the climate crisis. We need to combine activism and spirituality.
He concluded by saying that if we can build beloved community, we can build paradise. It is about entering into dialogue, respecting the dignity of the individual and their right to say no, building relationships over time, and also part of a larger mission to work towards justice and peace.