In May Mark’s Service explored with us what helped us to feel ‘held’ in a supportive way, individually and as a congregation. This opened up some frank and helpful ideas.
The theme of our May meeting in Swindon was Freedom, Reason and Tolerance’. The wonderfully varied readings in David Taylor’s opening Reflection were a good introduction to our discussion. Jean Macmaster told the story of the three sieves (Is it true? Is it good? Is it necessary?) Might the sieves that we use to test ideas be dictated by the conditions of the time? We agreed that freedom, reason and tolerance were secular values. Nowadays groups that have very different objectives and beliefs from one another use these same values to support their conflicting aims eg. how RE is taught in schools or LGBT rights. Appealing to freedom of belief as grounds for a law to protect people from simply being offended seemed to go too far. Reason alone is no guarantee that actions would have good results, and could ignore emotional needs. Tolerance is commonly used in contradictory ways. While in earlier centuries Freedom, Reason and Tolerance would have highlighted distinctive characteristics of the Unitarian approach, we thought the Principles of the American Unitarian Universalist Association now carry a clearer message.