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Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

Open Hearts Open Minds

Punishing Children for the Sins of their Parents

A Reflection based on words by Stephen Lingwood, 22nd September 2013

Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die…

But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbour’s wife, does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he practised extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity.

Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.

(Ezekiel 18:1-4, 14-20 (NRSV))

 

There’s a sketch from the comedians Robert Webb and David Mitchell when two men in an office on Monday morning are talking about the weekend’s football. “We thrashed you on Saturday didn’t we? You had it coming. We’re going to trolley you in the league.... I’ll let you off after what we did to you.”

The other man, who isn’t interested in football, replies, “What you did to me? You didn’t do anything to me. Perhaps you’ve mistaken me for a professional footballer. I wasn’t on the pitch, and neither were you.”

But the first man keeps talking about what “we” did to “you.” So the other man says “Remember in the film Indiana Jones when we were fighting the Nazis and we fell off the truck, but managed to get back on and then we found the Ark of the Covenant?”

“That’s not the same,” complains the first man.  

“Yes it is, it’s exactly the same,” says the other man, “It makes as much sense to say “we” beat “you” when watching a football team as is to say “we” defeated the Nazis and found the Ark of the Covenant when watching a film.”

 

That sort of language might be harmless in football fans but there is the potential for real danger here: when we can’t distinguish between individuals and groups. This happens a lot in our language. We say things like “we won the First World War.” Well, no, “we” didn’t.  None of us were there. One hundred years ago one group of muddy young men fought and killed another group of muddy young men, and one group one day decided to surrender. “We” weren’t there at all.

The only reason we would use the term “we” is because we get into a tribalistic way of thinking. Now there’s nothing wrong with people grouping into communities, neighbourhoods, tribes or nations. What causes problems is when we see only tribes – and no longer see individuals. And when we start seeing blame or guilt as applying to a whole group of people, not just individuals.

 

This is how a lot of ancient societies saw it; and this is recorded in the Hebrew Bible. People talk about the Ten Commandments as being a good moral guide. But in the Ten Commandments, as recorded in the book of Exodus, God says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of their parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:5)

Think about that as a moral statement: the guilt of the individual applied to the whole family. So in Exodus God says if you are guilty of something not only will you be punished but also your children, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren will be punished for your sins.

In the book of Samuel God is recorded as saying, 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey' (1 Samuel 15:2-3). Punishment for the whole nation.

This is one of a few passages encouraging genocide in the Hebrew Bible. Encouraging the punishment of children (and even animals!) for the sins of the parents: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

But some centuries later there is a word from the prophet Ezekiel saying, “No, no, no!”

“As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:3)

People often say, “The God of the Old Testament is a violent monster – but we get a God of love in the New Testament.”

But in fact you don’t have to go that far! Within the Hebrew Bible we see a moral evolution. We see different views of God. We see a God of tribal violence slowly replaced with a universal God of compassion and justice. Of course this is not God godself changing, but an evolution of human understanding of the divine. We never understand the full reality of the divine, but often see our own human projections on the divine spirit. Sometimes those projections have to be broken down.

This is a good thing. It is a process of moral progress in which we see more clearly the truth of what it is to be a moral society. Some people always resist this by saying “the Bible says so-and-so” and meaning of course “God says so-and-so.” But that view has to be confronted with the uncomfortable truth that the Bible (not even counting the New Testament, just the within the Hebrew Bible) has God contradict godself in lots of places. The God of the Prophets contradicts of the God of the Law. The old religious view is replaced by a new one.

One of the great moments we see this happening is the book of the prophet Ezekiel. This is one of the great moments of moral insight in western religion: from now on children will not be punished for the sins of their parents. Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. This may seem obvious to us in this century. But it represents a revolutionary new insight in an age of tribalism.

But it’s just obvious to us, right? We wouldn’t see a child imprisoned for the crime of a parent, right? We only punish the guilty individual, right?

Well, that may be true in our criminal justice system, but in the world of international politics and warfare, I wonder if it really is true. Often a politician will say “We must confront this dictator with military force.” But it won’t be the dictator personally who gets attacked – it’s their army, and their people. We talk about attacking Assad or attacking Saddam Hussein, but it’s not them individually we attack – it’s their armies and their civilians.

This is the way our language of war works. We’re told that there is an evil dangerous man, and he must be stopped, confronted, attacked.  This may be true. But war does not attack a person, it attacks a nation, a nation of innocent people.

And that’s what we must never forget. We must not punish children for the sins of their parents. We must not punish a whole tribe or nation for the sins of a few.

The situation in Palestine is one of collective punishment. A whole nation is being punished for the sins of a few terrorists. It is right to condemn acts of violence and terrorism in the strongest terms. It is right to do all that can be done to bring those guilty to justice. But to impose sanctions and restrictions on a whole population is punishing the many for the sins of the few.

A person is not a nation. A person may be guilty, a nation is not.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 there was a choice: either to see those acts as crimes – and to do all that was possible to bring the guilty individuals to justice; or to see those acts as war – with the license to respond in kind against a whole population of people. The western powers decided the latter and so launched the “war on terror.” The language of war enables political leaders to punish children for the sins of their parents. Punish whole nations for the sins of the few.

If we are to be peacemakers – and I believe as people of faith, as Unitarians we are called to be peacemakers, we can start with something very simple. We can start by telling the truth. It’s as simple as that: speaking the plain truth and refusing the innuendo of war language, refusing to speak as if children are the same as parents or as if individuals are the same as nations.

Let us ban from our speech the weasel words of war: “shock and awe” “intervention” “regime change”;  or speaking as if one political leaders is the same as a whole nation. Let us say what war is: killing people, often killing innocent people.

Now that does not close the debate about whether sometimes killing people is the least worse thing to do because it might save other people. But maybe it will make us more reluctant to take such drastic action.

As Unitarians we affirm that all individuals have a sacred spark of the divine within them. Our way is descended from the Prophet Ezekiel that insists the innocent should not be punished for the sins of the guilty; that we do not treat whole tribes or nations the same, but treat each individual with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Peacemaking is hard. But we can begin with seeing each person as a beloved child of God, and speaking the plain truth.

 

"What do Ministers do all day?"

An article by Stephen Lingwood

 

“What do Ministers do all day?” that was the question of one of the workshops run at the Unitarian General Assembly Annual Meetings in April. A short survey had been completed by several ministers and the responses had been added up to make a count-down list of the things ministers spend most of their time doing. The workshop consisted of a “Family Fortunes” style quiz show as contestants tried to guess.

I was inspired by this to try to give you a sense of what I get up to as Minister of Bank Street Unitarian Chapel. Most of you only see me for a few hours a week so you might wonder how I spend my time. I sometimes wonder myself when I think of how the hours have gone by in a day. So I decided to record everything I do in one week. There’s no such thing as a typical working week or working day in this job (one of the reasons why I love it) so another week might look very different – but this is how one week looked. 

Monday

I take our mission statement very seriously when I plan my time as your Minister. My job is to lead us in fulfilling our mission and our calling in the world. “Inspiring spiritual journeys” is the first part of that and to be able to inspire and guide others in their spiritual journeys, I must, of course, make time for my own. So my week began on Monday morning at about 9.15am with a time of prayer, including some devotional reading, followed by meditating for a few moments at the side of the small stream near my home. Some Monday mornings I spend an hour in meditation, but there was no time for that this week as I had to get out to visit my spiritual director. A spiritual director is a kind of a counsellor or a companion for you to talk to about your prayer or spiritual life. My spiritual director is a Catholic woman and lives in Trafford. I visit her once every two months to talk through my prayer life and my relationship with God and Life. It is a very valuable part of my spiritual life and ministry.

After travelling back home and having lunch I sat down at my desk at home to get on with some work. Every week I make a list of tasks that need doing. This week I listed 19 “must do” things and 15 “might do” things in my notebook. These tasks range from making a phone call, finish a book or visiting someone. I then started getting on with them, beginning with reading through my emails. I then spent the afternoon on administrative work, like preparing for meetings, and also some preparation for the funeral I had coming up.

About 5pm I drove into the town centre. I went out for a coffee and did a bit of writing on my laptop in a café in town. I like to vary my place of work quite a lot and often I feel I can do some good reading and writing while in a café. It also helps me feel part of the town centre community. “Engaging with the world” starts with engaging with our neighbourhood, which for us is the town centre.

After finishing my coffee I went back to the Chapel and began to shift chairs in the hall to set up for the district meeting that evening. Other people began arriving and we started to set out the refreshments and prepare for the meeting. The district meeting was longer than usual and after clearing up afterwards I got home about 10pm.

Tuesday

Tuesday began once again with prayer at about 9.15am. Then I got on with some answering emails and funeral preparation. At noon I went into town and went for a swim. It doesn’t happen every week but I like my week to have a proper balance of exercising my spirit, my mind and my body. So it’s good to make some time for physical exercise when I get the chance. After the swim I was in another town centre café for lunch and reading. Reading is an important part of ministry to keep up with important research, to fed the spirit, and to find material for worship. This lunchtime I was reading a book called “Why Liberal Churches are Growing.”

Popping back into Chapel I chatted with the Women’s League as they were meeting that day. I did a bit of work in the Vestry, as I do on a Tuesday, with the door open, chatting to anyone who wanted to pop in for a quick chat or a more serious conversation. Later in the afternoon I had a long conversation with the national coordinator of the schools Fair Admissions campaign, to get some advice on starting a local campaigning group – more engaging with the world.

I left Chapel about 6.30 and drove home for dinner. I did a bit more work in the evening and finished working about 9.30pm.

Wednesday

Wednesday I began about 9.20am with a time of prayer. In term time I am usually at the University of Bolton in my role as chaplain on a Wednesday. This takes up about three hours of the day. But term had finished by this week in the summer, and so I didn’t need to go in, which was lucky as I had a funeral to conduct at lunchtime. I also usually like to do some pastoral visits on a Wednesday, but had no time to do any this day.

After some last-minute preparation for the funeral I got to Overdale Crematorium and conducted the funeral at 11.45am. In many ways funerals are the most difficult but also the most rewarding part of ministry. Holding a family through the process of saying goodbye to a loved one is both daunting and also a huge privilege. It is also emotionally and spiritually exhausting. After the funeral I went to do my weekly “big shop” (the time I do this in the week varies) and then went home and took a long lunch to recover.

In the afternoon I got back to work. I didn’t have a service to prepare this week but I did have a Junior Church class to prepare instead. I also needed to prepare to lead the “Twelve Steps to Spiritual Health” group. These tasks and other admin stuff kept me working till about 10pm.

Thursday

I skipped my time of prayer. I don’t like to but sometimes I’m running too late. I drove into Brunch at Chapel and spent the morning chatting to various folks there. The afternoon I got on with various bits of work in Chapel. I wasn’t leading the service on Sunday but there was still the order of service and notices to print, and a story to prepare.

Thursdays are long days for me as I stay in Chapel all day and all evening. At 8pm I led the “be” worship, then afterwards chatted to people, tidied up the Chapel and then went home. I got home at about 9.15pm.

Friday – is my day off.

Saturday

Saturday morning was an early start as I needed to get to Sheffield by 10am. I was attending a conference on “Progressive Church: Reconceiving Christian Community” led by Martyn Percy (the editor of the Why Liberal Churches are Growing book I had been reading). This was a programme run by St Mark’s Centre for Progressive Christianity. It’s important for me to keep up with developments in theology and other subjects to keep my preaching and my ministry fresh. It was a good conference but a long day.

Sunday

Sunday is usually an early start to carefully make sure I have my service fully prepared. This day was slightly different as I didn’t have a service – but with doing Junior Church there were even more things I needed to make sure I had – worksheets, craft resources, visual aids. I get to Chapel at 10am every Sunday to make sure everything is as it should be.

So I sat in for the beginning of the service (led by the Women’s League) then I went out with the children to teach the Junior Church, then it’s coffee time, then I’m running the “Twelve Steps to Spiritual Health” group. I finally got home at about 2.15pm for my lunch.

After lunch I did a few extra bits – and tried to tidy up my home study a bit. I also spent a bit of time updating our website – something I hadn’t done for several weeks.

Then I shot out to get to the Pentecost musical “Spirit” at Victoria Hall – I felt it was important to support this as lots of our neighbouring churches in the town are involved. It was a high quality production, and an enjoyable night (even though musicals are not really my thing!). Then home to bed. Another week gone by!

The week

So that was one week. I added up all my hours and I spent my week like this:

Reading, writing, studying and learning: 8 hours

Travelling: 6 hours 40 minutes

Pastoral care and general social contact with the congregation: 5 hours 45 minutes

Dealing with emails and other general administrative tasks: 5 hours 35 minutes

Preparing for and being in meetings: 4 hours 55 minutes

Preparing and leading rites of passage (funerals and weddings): 4 hours 50 minutes

Leading and preparing worship: 4 hours 15 minutes

Leading and preparing religious education (for children and adults): 4 hours 10 minutes

My own spiritual practice and care: 3 hours 5 minutes

Social justice work: 2 hours 5 minutes

Working on the Chapel website: 45 minutes

Work for the Unitarian denomination: 20 minutes

Ecumenical and interfaith work: 15 minutes

Tidying up the Chapel building: 15 minutes

Total: 50 hours 55 minutes 

I managed to tick off 18 of my 19 “must do” tasks and 9 of 15 “might do” tasks – which is pretty good going on most weeks.

In lots of ways this was not a “typical” week. I didn’t have a full service to prepare as I usually do. I had a funeral which is not very common for me. Some weeks I’m doing a lot more work for the wider Unitarian movement. And obviously I don’t go on a course every Saturday. But then, as I say, there’s really no such thing as a typical week.

This is just a little snap-shot of my ministry. I hope it helps you to understand how I spend my time as Minister of Bank Street Unitarian Chapel.

Stephen. {jcomments off}

"August 1914"

A Reflection based on words delivered by Stephen Lingwood, 10th August 2014

Letter from Edward Morgan, the Unitarian Minister of Unity Church, Bolton, to The Bolton Evening News (edited) 3rd August, 1914

Sir, - …. I do not write as a politician but as a minister of religion, and I ask why the British nation should be called upon to help in a war in which we are not concerned and in which any interests of ours would only be hazarded by our participation and protected by our neutrality.

We are told of the hatred and jealousy of Germany. But the history of the past few years proves that Germany would and does value our friendship and recognises that our interests and hers are mutual and our sympathies should be likewise….

There is the question of the Balance of Power. The probabilities are that this doctrine would be best observed by our taking sides with Germany. At any rate it is an iniquitous doctrine. It has cost England hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of money. It has desolated millions of homes and merited the curse of millions of widows and orphans. It has checked progress at home and lost for us the great lead in constitutional liberties abroad. John Bright thanked God that it was dead and buried. He called it a fouler idol than any heathen tribe worshipped. Alas! that the resurrection of such an idol should be fully consummated by a progressive Foreign Minister acting with a Liberal Government. Does our ‘Natural Honour’ demand that our Colonial possessions should be threatened, our hold on India weakened and the millions of poor at home compelled to face misery, starvation and death? Meanwhile our industries are threatened and our food already advances in price. It is not those who have the control who will suffer, it will all be to their social and financial advantage. It is the worker who will suffer and he must listen to his children crying for bread while he stands impotent.

In the name of Christ let us remember the horrors of war; on the battlefield slaughter and pestilence; at home famine, misery and death! Then let us fight or clamour for war or prate of national honour if we will! But let us close our eyes to the despair of the widowed and the stricken and our ears to the cry of the orphaned ; and let us cease to ask the blessing of God upon us and our land, for we shall have ceased to deserve it

– yours etc, Edward Morgan, Unity Church, Bolton.

 

August 1914: one hundred years ago.

Britain declared war on Germany and her allies, entering into the First World War. That experience is now out of living memory and into history.

What was it like to come to this Chapel the next Sunday? Was the war mentioned in the sermon? Was it mentioned in the prayers? What conversations happened amongst the congregation that Sunday? What opinions were expressed? We do not know.

We know that Edward Morgan, Minister of Unity Church, and occasional preacher here at Bank Street expressed his opinion. He wrote that letter to the Bolton Evening News pleading with the nation that it would “In the name of Christ… remember the horrors of war; on the battlefield slaughter and pestilence; at home famine, misery and death! Then let us fight or clamour for war or prate of national honour if we will! But let us close our eyes to the despair of the widowed and the stricken and our ears to the cry of the orphaned; and let us cease to ask the blessing of God upon us and our land, for we shall have ceased to deserve it.”

A prophetic challenge indeed: prophetic in the sense of dangerously going against the grain in society; and prophetic in the sense of predicting just how much slaughter and pestilence the war would create.

I was interested in how the war affected the life of this congregation one hundred years ago, so I began to look through the Chapel Calendar for those first few months of the war. The opinions of the Minister of Bank Street Chapel, the Rev J H Weartherall, are not recorded. He was about to leave Bolton, having accepted an appointment in London. But in the Calendar for October 1914 the following words are recorded under the title “the War”:

“In these days of grave national danger and high duty be it recorded that our congregation has responded eagerly and willingly to the claims that are being made upon the citizens of England. Our members have felt that the service of the civilian in keeping work going, and in standing by the unemployed, is as patriotic as the work of our army and navy. In that service, and in every scheme of kindness and of mercy, our difficulty is not to find workers but only what is best for them to do: the spirit of service and sacrifice is everywhere. At the services on 20th September, the following names were commended to the thoughts and prayers of the congregation, being the names of those members of, or connected with, our chapel or school engaged with His Majesty’s forces on active service. [And then 21 names are recorded]"

In subsequent Chapel Calendars “The War” becomes a regular feature, as the names of those serving in the forces get modified and added to every month. There are changes to Chapel committees as some of their members are away and so needed to be replaced. As the months go by Mr Weatherall leaves the Chapel as its Minister and there is an interregnum. Edward Morgan preaches here some Sundays. Did he give his anti-war message? We don’t know. In the following few months J Cyril Flower is appointed as the new Minister and begins in April 1915.

As the months go by the number of Bank Street members who responded to the call to sign up goes up and up. It seems many Unitarians went along with the opinions of L P Jacks, Principle of Manchester College Oxford who wrote in the Inquirer in 1914, “Under the circumstances one thought alone should dominate us – the Thought of our Duty to the State. All other duties, to God, to humanity and to ourselves are summed up in that.” A contrast indeed to the opinions of Edward Morgan. Nevertheless the number of Bank Street members signed up in the services grew from 20 to 40 to 60 in one year.

In March 1915 the first death from the war is recorded of Robert Myles Heywood. In September 1915 the following notice is recorded: “News was received that Fred Hardman had been killed in action in France on August 9th. From the War Office, however, a report subsequently received states that he was wounded. Bank Street Chapel and School share with Mrs Hardman and her family the anxiety with which further news is awaited.”

A short paragraph that can hardly capture the reality of what it must have been like for that family, for that wife, in limbo, not knowing whether her husband was alive or dead. The next Calendar in October 1915 states: “It is with great sorrow and deep sympathy for Mrs Hardman and her family that we have heard of the confirmation by the War Office of the news of the death in action of Fred Hardman, on Aug. 9th, in France.”

This is just a snapshot, a peek of an insight of the life of this Chapel, this town, this country, one hundred years ago, in the midst of war. By 1918 twenty members of this Chapel had died. Nine thousand two hundred citizens of Bolton had died. Nearly a million British citizens had died. Overall the war killed 37 million people.

And what for?

The words of Edward Morgan echo in my mind: “Let us cease to ask the blessing of God upon us and our land, for we shall have ceased to deserve it.”

I don’t really have any profound or clever things to say about this. Only a sense we should remember, and we should say and pray and shout “never again.”

I went to the Parish Church for the commemoration service last Sunday. And there were many good words said about peace and reconciliation; but at the same time we still sung “I vow to thee my country” and the national anthem. And I can’t help thinking we were engaging in the very nationalism that leads us into war in the first place. There may be very many good moments for patriotism, the last night of the proms, St George’s day: good times to celebrate your country. But when commemorating war it seems to me the very opposite of what we should be doing.

And I have to say that L P Jacks was wrong – damn wrong – in saying “Duty to State” is greater to duty to God and to humanity, and of course to personal conscience.

There will be plenty of time for us to struggle with all these things. But for now, I think it is enough simply to remember: “In the name of Christ let us remember the horrors of war.” And let us remember, with some moments of silence, those who came to this place, who sat in these pews, and whose life was taken from them by the Great War. And when you next look at our war memorial, think of these names, think that they were real people with families, with eccentricities and personalities. They were alive, they were here, and they were killed:

Jack Berry

Philip Joseph Crook

Percy Hart

Fred Lewis

George Hall

Sidney Hall

Fred Hardman

Edmund Taylor

Arthur Walker

Cyril Gerrard Haselden

James Ottewill Ainsworth Crook

Percy Cunliffe Pilling

Richard Bullough

Percy Hutchinson

Harold Clarkson

Tom Brotherton

Charles Mather

John Fletcher

William Lewis

Arthur Stanley Mather

 

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Minister's Message September 2014

  

September’s Theme: Earth

“The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,

and night to night declares knowledge.”

Psalm 19, Hebrew Scriptures

 

From ancient times people have looked to the awesome power and beauty of nature and found a spiritual experience. We know that the divine is not contained in temples but present in every square inch of the universe, and there are times when we feel a sense of the majesty of this world.

Some have seen the earth and the sea and the stars and declared that these things were fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Some would say God speaks in the language of rivers and mountains and forests and we can hear God’s voice, we can experience God, through these things. Some would go further and say that Nature and God are one and the same thing, and that we need to fall down in awe and worship Nature, Mother Earth, Gaia, the web of life of which we are a part.

From the radical sixteenth century theology of Michael Servetus to modern pagan-oriented folks, Unitarians have always seen this immense indwelling of the spirit in our planet the Earth. And science continues to reveal more and more about the world around us.

And yet the Earth is in crisis. Species are continually going extinct, forests are cut down, and as scientists are pointing out to us more and more loudly the climate is changing. And we, humans, are the cause of this. How do we find ways to address this crisis?

How do we find the spiritual resources to live in a way that does not exploit and destroy other living things on earth, and indeed, other humans? It is these questions we will be pondering this month as we take on the theme of “Earth” for services and Junior Church. These are important questions, spiritual questions, and we need to be open to them.

In faith,

Stephen

 

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Minister's Message August 2014

 

One of the (many) things that distinguishes us from our neighbouring Christian churches is that we do not follow the lectionary. The lectionary is a set series of Bible readings for every Sunday, in a three-year cycle. If you speak to an Anglican, they could tell you (if they looked it up) what readings they will be using on 20th November 2016. But our free and liberal tradition gives us the freedom to engage with various topics and readings, as the worship leader discerns what message they want to give week by week.

As with most things, there are advantages and disadvantages with both approaches. For me, following the lectionary would feel incredibly restrictive, and I’m sure it would for our community as a whole. But one of the key advantages of the lectionary is that Sunday school leaders know what Bible stories are coming up and can find lots of resources so that they can teach their lessons on the same stories that adults are hearing in church. Whereas at Bank Street our Junior Church leaders have no idea of the theme of the service before they arrive on Sunday morning.

But there is an approach which could be the best of both worlds. And we’re going to try it out. This autumn we’re going to be piloting a scheme of having “thematic ministry.” What this means is that we will have a monthly theme, which will be explored in worship, and in the Junior Church. As a community, we will all be pondering this theme, both children and adults, and joining in a process of learning together. This has the real advantage in that it helps our Junior Church leaders to plan their time well, knowing what is coming up.

The themes are listed below. We will try this out in the autumn, and review it at the end of the year, and if we decide it’s working, we might keep it going in the life of our community.

I’m looking forward to this experiment, which may help us all in this community, to inspire our spiritual journeys.

In faith,

Stephen

 

September: Earth

Creation stories, creativity, environmentalism, earth-centred religions, animals, plants, water, Harvest service (5th October)

 

October: Identity

Who am I? Who are we? What is our Unitarian identity? Individual, community, children of God, what is our history? What is our purpose?

 

November: Peace

 

World War I, remembrance, peacemaking, nonviolence, loving enemies, the armed forces, conscientious objectors, red poppies and white poppies, interfaith week, silence, meditation {jcomments off}

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