Monday, 27 April 2009

Clean Up Network Telecommunications!

A slightly surreal exchange between me and my flatmate!:-
Flatmate: Where have you been this afternoon Scott?
Me: Up at my Church.
Flatmate: On Saturday? Doing What?
Me: Mostly looking at pornography.
I was really inspired by the Doll's House seminar. A great deal of effort was put in by the organisers on an issue they clearly cared about. I have felt it is high time someone acknowledged that there has been something of a post-feminist backlash, amongst members of my own generation. However, as soon as anyone (let alone a religious group) complains about images of women in the media, they invite comparison with the likes of Mary Whitehouse (pictured). No pro-feminist would want to become the unwitting ally of the Taleban.
But I think it is important to differentiate reactionary panics about moral decline ( like this,%20etc.. ) from the progressive case that needs to be made against mysogyny in mainstream culture. One of Anne and Appleseed's resources was the following:
Whilst they are multifaceted social issues, the mass media has some part to play in the explosion of demand for cosmetic surgery, incidence of eating disorders and depressive illness. The shocking truth is that with the internet, the debate about pornography has gone beyond the 1980s protests against page 3. There is a less "benign" side that is a potential cause of violence against women.
The Social Action Committee is still open to ideas on what might be done, but I would suggest the following for starters.
A fitting tribute to our own Mary Wollstonecraft!

Sing for your life

Over the weekend, I was reminded of how much I love singing. Rosslyn Hill choir starts up again this Wednesday 29 April (for more info contact RHUC) and even though sometimes I have to drag myself there after the working day, I always feel a million times better afterwards. It seems that there is some academic evidence on the health-giving benefits of singing. But more than that, I know I feel more alive when I sing. I am also looking forward to meeting other Urban Unitarians on Tuesday 28 April. So this week, I will celebrating spirituality through voices of discussion and music. Posted by Kate.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Slow Down London

One of the wonderful things about going to Rosslyn Hill Chapel is the feeling of slowing down and re-setting of the soul that comes after a service. I don't know if it's the same for you, but I find that achieving 'slowness' is one of the greatest spiritual challenges I face in my daily life, cluttered by emails and high-speed thoughts which are usually trivial and time-consuming. If you are interested, over the next couple of weeks (April 24-May 3) there will be a festival on precisely this topic organized by Slow Down London . It will include lectures, free yoga and meditation classes, crafts as well as a Slow Food Market to sample some local and traditionally sourced foods. Otherwise let's just remind ourselves to look up at the buildings and the people when we are rushing for that tube station, to stop and consider the loved ones in our lives and to remember that they won't always be there, to marvel at the power and strength of our bodies while they are still young, to dance and look up at the stars...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Dolls House - images of women

Being out of town for a few days and coming back to London makes me appreciate how people come in all shapes and sizes. And after trip to the gym showing impossibly beautiful girls on MTV, it seems like just the right time for RHUC's Anne and Appleseed to run their workshop 'The Dolls House - images of women'. This free session will look at how images of women are shaped by the media. It's at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel on Saturday 25th April and is open to everyone (even men!). Check out the details on page 6 of the April bulletin or contact RHUC.

Experiments With Light

I went along to a workshop with my Quaker friends (small "f") on Saturday. It was based on the idea of how the early Quakers practiced searching for the light of truth by experimentation. There was a six stage guided meditation that essentially accomplised the following:
1) Relax body and mind
2) Using a receptive state to bring out the real concerns of life.
3) Focussing on one issue that troubles you.
4) Asking why it is like that.
5) Welcoming any answers that emerge.
6) Feeling different as a result.
Most people found this particularly useful and in some cases felt physically healed. In secular terms it bears much resemblance to what can be accomplished by cognitive therapy, but there is something spiritual about trusting an insight that comes from this kind of introspection. I think I now know something of what my Quaker friends mean when they speak of the "leadings of the light".

Thursday, 16 April 2009

A retreat?

We have been thinking of going on a spiritual retreat somewhere outside of London. Perhaps one of these places might be worth thinking about? They have the benefit of being only an hour away from London...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Up North

The Easter day service in Manchester centred on an annecdote about a young evangelical Christian whose life centred around his "personal relationship with Jesus". Whilst this usually rings alarm bells for people with a Unitarian view of the historical Jesus, there are perhaps parallels with the Buddhist concept of the "inner guru". It is a way of thinking that chimes with the following passage from Elliot's the Waste Land. It alludes to the psychological phenonenon of seeing a third person in survival situations, as well as Luke xxiv.13-16.

Who is the third who walks always beside you,

When I count, there are only you and I together,

But when I look ahead up the white road,

There is always another one walking beside you,

Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded,

I do not know whether a man or a woman,

- But who is that on the other side of you?

Friday, 10 April 2009


Kate's post made me think of one of my favorite Rainer Maria Rilke poems, Initiation

Wilderness on our doorstep

Andrew Motion, who is about to step down as Poet Laureate, was the special guest on BBC Radio 4's Book Club programme. A reader asked him about his poem The Ash Tree and they discussed the afinity that some children have with trees. You can listen to the programme here.
I also feel a soul-settling calmness around trees which I trace to my childhood. So it was sad to hear so many kids these days are wrapped up in 'cotton wool' and not able to explore nature. Read how Natural England is 'releasing children into the wild' here. For those living in or near Hampstead, the wilderness is on our doorstep. This picture was taken just by Hampstead Heath Overground station with Hampstead Heath itself a short walk away. This week I'll be looking for the spiritual amongst the trees.
Posted by Kate.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Go Placidly Amid the Noise and the Haste

As the sun makes an effort to burst through the clouds, I'm thankful for the coming of Spring. I often find the spiritual in nature and I'm enjoying the daffodils that I planted in the burial ground opposite my flat. I can just about see them through my kitchen window so it feels like my own little patch of garden.

In the rush of urban living, I take comfort from the Desiderata, a poem written by Max Erhmann in the 1920s.

It's not always easy to remember the spiritual but the daffodils help...

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

Read the full poem here. Posted by Kate.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Unitarian Musical

I was looking on the internet and discovered that a Unitarian Universalist Chapel in the USA had made a comedy musical about the life of their chapel. Some of the recurring themes and characters seem alarmingly familiar! Here is my favourite, featuring a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major General.

It takes a refreshingly honest look at that thorny issue of giving that can occasionally perplex a well intentioned new member. Perhaps we should write to them and ask for a copy of the libretto.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 Prayer

This has been adapted from the 'Put People First' Ecumenical Service.

'We stand in prayer as the global economic crisis casts a shadow over the peoples of the earth. In a world as closely connected as ours, each of our actions affects the whole. We are sorry when we have failed to act beyond our narrow interests. We seek to live as a community and care for others, especially the vulnerable and the poor among us.

As the G20 meet, we ask for wisdom from the leaders of the world. Where nations have pushed their agendas on others; we ask that becomes partnership and love. Where people have lived lives disconnected from their human family in other countries; bring solidarity and compassion. May we see the dawning of a new world, a world of justice, mercy and humility.Help us transform our lives so we find light in darkness, seek solidarity with our human family and in our emptiness recover wholeness from our brokenness.

With hope for a better world.'