Alastair McIntosh delivering his lecture at Rawtenstall (John Hewerdine)

More than 70 people came to Rawtenstall Unitarian Church in Lancashire on Saturday 23rd March to hear the eminent ecologist and writer Alastair McIntosh deliver a rousing address on the question: Does Christianity still matter, and if so, why?, the final lecture in a series considering ‘The Future of Faith’.

Under the title, 'Towards Third Millennium Christianity: Activism, Non-Violence and the Mystical Imperative', the lecturer led his audience through the often-violent history of two millennia of Christianity, with learned asides into other faiths.  

A Quaker and radical pacifist, Alastair McIntosh argued that if we are to rescue Christianity from what he called ‘the fear-driven dynamics of violence and domination’, we need to address the ostensible ‘divine violence’ of theories of the cross, of doctrines of salvation.   Only then will it be possible, he argued, to open up a credible Christian theology for this Third Millennium. 

In a wide-ranging talk, the speaker attempted to do precisely this … concluding with a deeply-felt meditation on the meaning of the cross -- could we have been missing its real significance all along?    His talk was profound, moving and provocative in turn.

Workshops for group discussion followed, then questions to a Panel consisting of: Alastair McIntosh, Rev Dr Shannon Ledbetter (an Anglican priest and theologian now working with the Unitarians) and Dr Ben Dandelion (a Quaker theologian). The event was chaired by Rev Jim Corrigall, minister to the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, which organised this lecture series together with Pendle Hill Quakers and the Progressive Christianity Network.  

NOTE: The full text of the lecture is to be published in the coming issue of the Unitarian theological journal 'Faith and Freedom', due out at end of April 2019. To subscribe, contact Business Manager Nigel Clark at: 16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, DN21 4GA.   (Annual subscription in the UK is £15).

Participants at the most recent Interfaith service at Rawtenstall
Participants at the most recent Interfaith service at Rawtenstall

 

The tragic and senseless shootings in Christ Church, New Zealand are to be comprehensively condemned for the acts of terrorism that they are.  They represent a growing trend of Islamaphobia, Anti-Semitism and general intolerance of the other.

 

The Lancashire Collaborative Ministry is a group of Unitarian churches dedicated to social justice and has a history of positive interfaith connections.  The LCM asserts we must all stand together as human beings created for love of our neighbours not hate.  Our purpose is not to tear apart and break down, but to build up and live together in peace.  Our humanity is united through our respective faiths and our desire for true fellowship.  No act of violence can be justified by a political or religious manifesto.

 

It is only when we walk together and advocate justice and show mercy to each other that we are fully human. Our friendship and living together in peace must be based on acceptance of the other.   Those who would frighten and break down society have no place in our communities.  It is only by doing things together that we can show that positive action can overcome destructive acts.  Rev’d Dr Shannon Ledbetter, Social Justice Minister LCM, says, “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of the mosque shootings in Christ Church.  No words can bring those people back we can only try to move forward renewing our efforts to break down barriers and to build relationships”.

 

Rawtenstall Unitarian Church has started a bi-monthly interfaith service with representatives from the different faith communities.  We are learning about each other's traditions during an informal service and then socialising while we share a meal together. The next gathering is Sunday the 16th of June at 5:00 at the Rawtenstall Unitarian Church on Bank Street.

 

The church will also be hosting a ‘Faith Question Time’ on Friday the 10th of May at 5pm where you are invited to ask that question which has always puzzled you about religion.  Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen will be our moderator and will be joined by a panel of representatives from different faiths. He says, “Violence is to be condemned in all of its forms and we remember especially at this time our Muslim neighbours.  I hope that this opportunity to express our questions to a panel of experts will foster understanding and build friendships”.

 

Help us to be a positive force in honouring what unites us as humans and to appreciate what makes us unique. Come join us.

 

Note: The Lancashire Collaborative Ministry consists of the Unitarian churches in Padiham, Chorley and Rawtenstall and is focussed on developing social justice and interfaith projects.

 

Lighter moment during Panel discussion at Rawtenstall (l. to r.): Shannon Ledbetter, Paul Rasor, Ben Dandelion and Jim Corrigall. [Photo: Jenny Jacobs ]

People of faith need to develop ‘theologies of resistance’ if they want to counter the rise of anti-liberal ideologies in the world today.  This was the view of Dr Paul Rasor in a lecture to a lively, 50-strong audience at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church and Unity Centre on 6th October. 

The lecture was the first in a series on ‘The Future of Faith’ organised jointly by Unitarians of the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry and Pendle Hill Quakers, and supported by the Progressive Christianity Network.  Dr Rasor is an academic theologian currently living in Holland and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister in America.

All who took a lead in the service at Padiham

 

A vibrant Multi-Faith service took place at Padiham Unitarian Chapel on Sunday 28th October, when members of the Jewish and Sufi Muslim communities joined the local congregation for a celebration of faith.

The worship programme included prayers for peace from different traditions, songs from Muslim and Jewish women, as well as Christian hymns.   A theological justification for joint worship was given by Orthodox Rabbi Ariel Abel, who travelled from Liverpool to co-lead the service, with members of his synagogue.

Tribute was paid to the victims of the racist shootings the previous day at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in America, where up to 11members of that congregation were killed by an extreme-right gunman.   A minute’s silence was held in their memory, and candles lit.

Leaders of the joint service included (l. to r.): Rev Shannon Ledbetter, Rev Jim Corrigall and Rabbi Ariel Abel

A central theme of the service at Padiham was ‘The Sanctity of Women in Faith and Community’, and the 70-strong congregation heard talks as well as prayers from Jewish, Christian and Muslim women.   The day ended with a shared meal.      

The Minister at Padiham Unitarian Chapel, Rev Jim Corrigall, said afterwards: ‘We were honoured that Rabbi Ariel Abel and members of his congregation joined us this year … we’ve had successful joint services with Sufi Muslims at our Chapel for the past several years, but this was the first led by three different faiths.’

“People sometimes ask how we can worship together, but our differences are not that great.   Our faiths are known as the three Abrahamic religions (we all come from Abraham), and also the three great Monotheistic faiths (believers in One God).  We showed today, I believe, just how joyous joint worship can be.

Muslim women singing at the service, accompanied by tambourine.

Also playing leading roles in the service were Rev Shannon Ledbetter, an Anglican priest currently working with Padiham Unitarians, Sadia Bashir, a Muslim schoolteacher, and Sufis from the Free Spiritual Centre in Nelson.