More than 50 Unitarians from 14 congregations around the Midlands congregated in Shrewsbury Unitarian Church on 29th March, to attend the 148th District AGM. After a half-hour period of networking and refreshments, the assembled participants settled down for the business meeting. This was over in a commendably quick fifty minutes, and was followed by a break before lunch. Many folk took the opportunity to explore Shrewsbury in the warm Spring sunshine, before returning with sharpened appetites for the very delicious lunch, served by members of the Shrewsbury congregation, and produced by their very talented member, Simon Wilde, who is a chef.
At 2.00 pm, we reconvened for a short worship service on the theme of “In this together” by MUA President Ash James. He commented that the breadth of our denomination was its greatest strength as well as its greatest challenge, and that we needed to be clear about the message we were putting out as a denomination, so that, like the John Lewis partnership, we were “never knowingly undersold.”
He then introduced our Guest Speaker, John Naish, of Brighton Unitarians. John is a lifelong Unitarian, an eminent health journalist, and the author of a marvellous book called Enough: Breaking Free From The World Of Excess. In his entertaining and inspirational talk, John preached the doctrine of “practising enoughness in a world of more, more, more.” He explained that instead of forever chasing after the next goal, the next project, the next gadget, we should appreciate what we have and be grateful. And that we should grow our gratitude by appreciating our bounty.
John commented that “gratitude is one of the select number of things in life for which we cannot actually get enough”. Another is spiritual commitment. He argued that we needed to take the time to go deep spiritually, rather than skating over the surface, always trying out the next spiritual practice that promised peace and contentment. He illustrated this by joking: “There would have been little opportunity in 2nd century Nepal to say, ‘Buddhism? Yeah, I’ve been exploring that. Really great, inspirational stuff. But then I wanted to try ‘Shamanic Whirling’, and both those classes are on a Wednesday evening, so …”
He argues that spiritual exploration only bears fruit if we commit to certain practices, and stick with them. And he concluded by saying that “For me, and for many of you, I trust, Unitarianism has provided a central thread, a community, a tradition, and a discipline from within which we can explore the spiritual wisdom of all the world and of all time, in order to develop our own ideas, build our own faith, nurture our consciences, and set our moral compasses.
Unitarianism is enough. … So keep the faith. Keep fast to the heart of your Unitarian practice. For faith is something that sustains us. And it is something which, surely, we can never have enough.”