The End of What Has Been

The beginning of something new?

At our meeting on September 1, we made the decision to wind the group up in its present form. Thanks are due to Art and Barbara for their part in organizing services, in ensuring that post-meeting snacks were always provided, and for attending to other administrative tasks. Meetings in recent months have been too sparsely attended to justify the effort involved in organizing them.

If anyone has ideas on what form a new group that might attract new members might take, please do get in contact. Possibilities that I have wondered about include Sunday afternoon meeting (very possibly, the current premises could be available), moving to a book discussion format, or moving to a more general discussion group format. If you have ideas on a way ahead, please do contact me.

The only remaining functioning Unitarian/UU group in New Zealand is the Auckland church, which is doing just fine. Both the Christchurch and the Blenheim groups have ceased meeting in the recent past.

A call for fresh blood and new ideas

For 11 years from 1958 to 1969, Nancy Fox was the driving force behind the NZ Unitarian Association publication ‘Motive’. I knew her as a member of the Auckland church. Here are her comments about what the Auckland church meant to her:

As institutions and organizations, not just churches . . . the people who run them, unless they are constantly renewed with fresh blood, become less flexible, less able to meet change constructively, more likely to appeal to the letter instead of the spirit, and to fall back on precedent. . .

I have been a Unitarian for twenty-five years. This church was a home for my spirit when it was homeless. . . . But over the years I have seen successive waves of innovative newcomers come and fall away, because they were not made welcome, they were sometimes actively discouraged. I have seen successive ministers beating their heads against negative attitudes . . .

[Auckland Unitarian Church: News and Views for December 1979]

I see the freedom of mind that Unitarian and UU groups offer to those who join them as a precious gift. It should not easily be lost.

Sun Sept 1: Let’s teach religion

We plan to meet at 10.30am in Ace Rooms, first floor, James Smith Building (corner of Cuba St and Manners St). Just to the right of the entrance to Rebel Sport, either take the stairs up, or turn right and take the lift.

We will listen to Daniel Dennett’s TED video:

“Philosopher Dan Dennett calls for religion — all religion — to be taught in schools, so we can understand its nature as a natural phenomenon. Then he takes on The Purpose-Driven Life, disputing its claim that, to be moral, one must deny evolution.”

From Rev Dennis McCarty

[In the] spirit of love, harmony, and remembrance, we stand too often divided, too often set apart from one another in heedless ways. We seek to be compassionate but our vision may be clouded or distracted. We too often go forward, day by day, and look without seeing.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

May we work to heal the divisions which separate earth’s children, one from another. May we peer through the mists of deception which hide and deny violence, mists enclosing those who suffer. May we not allow the misuse of our fellow souls to hide in broad daylight.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

When we see the afflicted–however they may be afflicted–may we not shrink away. May we not blame suffering on the one who suffers. May we be courageous enough to perceive suffering and compassionate enough to attend to the voices of those who suffer.  

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

When we see prejudice, when we hear evil speaking, when we witness the rough hand or the scathing word laid upon the helpless or innocent, may we resolve to work toward unity and justice.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

May we not turn away from the wounded head of the abused. May we not accept the twisted reasoning by which the oppressor declares himself the victim.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

Let our gratitude for good fortune in our lives lead us not to complacency but to awareness, awareness of those whose lives are shadowed by abuse or neglect, May we not ignore signs of deceit or denial that hide brutality.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE

In all things, may those who suffer ever be able to approach us: find a kindly ear and supporting hand. May we witness for love and justice at every level of relationship. May we nurture a keen eye and a strong and loving heart for any who fear the hurtful rod, the cutting voice, the uneven hand, the chain of oppression, great or small.

MAY WE REACH OUT IN HONESTY AND LOVE.

Sunday July 7: The Gift of Not Knowing

We plan to replay this recent Auckland church sermon from Clay Nelson:

https://aucklandunitarian.org.nz/the-gift-of-not-knowing/

The first time I remember reflecting on the counter intuitive idea that not knowing is a gift was while visiting my father in the hospital. He had been there for a while suffering from kidney disease. It had been difficult to watch his decline. . . . On a visit one evening he was more alert and engaged than he had been for some time. We had an amazing conversation about the past, present and future. I left that evening full of hope that we had turned a corner. I returned early in the morning only to learn he had died an hour before my arrival. I was devastated and full of guilt that I had not stayed through the night with him if I had only known. It would take a while but I eventually came to understand not knowing had been a gift. That last conversation would have been very different if I had known. It would have been shaped by death. Instead it was full of life and one of my most treasured memories.
[From Clay’s sermon]

Sunday June 2: Informal meeting

The next (informal) meeting will be held on June 2 at 10.30am in Ace Rooms, first floor, James Smith Building (corner of Cuba St and Manners St). I will bring along some recent, and older, UU literature. This can be a basis for informal discussion, if there is interest. As usual, there will be shared snacks.

Truth can only be found by the human intellect, exercised in perfect freedom, and trained to submit itself to the facts of nature.

Francis Ellingham Abbot (The Index, Volume 11, No. 523, 1 Jan 1880

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

Carl Sagan (1987)

Sunday May 26 — Gratitude (an extra to our usual meetings)

This meeting, organized at late notice, is designed to take advantage of an offer from Shirin Caldwell, who is visiting from Auckland, to demonstrate how a Circle Group might work. Shirin has been involved with several such groups that are associated with the Auckland Church. The Circle Group format can work well for small groups. All are welcome.

Come to 40 Futuna Close, Karori, for 10.30am. If you bring a car, please park by the entrance to the Close. There will be morning tea after the meeting.

Sunday May 5: ANZAC — the other side of the story

The next meeting will be held on May 5 at 10.30am in Ace Rooms, first floor, James Smith Building (corner of Cuba St and Manners St).

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all:

“The sixth Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. Can we continue to say we want ‘world community’? ‘Peace, liberty, and justice for all’? The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?

“As naïve or impossible as the sixth Principle may seem, I’m not willing to give up on it. In the face of our culture’s apathy and fear, I want to imagine and help create a powerful vision of peace by peaceful  means, liberty by liberatory means, justice by just means. I want us to believe—and to live as if we believe—that a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is possible. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.”—Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, in The Seven Principles in Word and Worship, ed. Ellen Brandenburg

We plan to listen to Clay Nelson’s Auckland sermon from Sunday April 8.

“. . . While I’m sure it is only coincidence that they [Easter and ANZAC day] are juxtaposed so closely to each other, it is a helpful reminder of our human condition and our predilection for redemptive violence. For one is a white poppy story and the other a red poppy one. . . .

“The myth that violence redeems is a myth, in the sense that it is untrue. It also goes back to a myth in 4th century BC Babylon. There is something in our human nature that wants it to be true. . . .

“A recent example is “Egg boy”, the young man who egged an anti-Muslim Australian politician. It went viral on the Internet, heralding him as a hero. At first he may have enjoyed the notoriety, but a few days later he acknowledged it was not the right thing to do. It was wrong.

“It is an acknowledgement of a second myth — that some people embody pure evil. Like the myth of redemptive violence, it is untrue. Violence cannot redeem violence, even when people commit acts of despicable violence. When we conquer evil with more violence it may make us feel good, but nothing good comes of it.

ANZAC Day is a celebration of these myths. While the local RSA will argue that the Dawn Parade with all of it militaristic pomp, trappings and Red Poppies concluding with the emotional Last Post is about remembering those who made the supreme sacrifice, it is at a core a perpetuation of these myths, providing only a brief moment of satisfaction where nothing is changed. The White Poppy is an invitation to once again claim a non-violent paradise in the here and now against whatever our temporal desires for violence might crave.”

To listen to the whole talk, go to:

ANZAC — the other side of the story