In her Service on July 1st Kath Forder’s again welcomed a new member, Camila Garces-Bovett. Camila was unable to make the June Service, but has worked hard picking our brains for answers to a wide range of questions about Unitarian thinking and practice. More sadly we remembered Jean Whittam and her family. Jean had died peacefully the day before. Kath’s Service, close to American Independence Day, recalled Thomas Jefferson, author of the so-called Jefferson Bible ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth’. Jefferson was one of the authors of the American Declaration of Independence, with it’s famous sentence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Jefferson took enormous liberties when writing ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth’. While it was completed in 1820 and shared with like-minded friends he refused to allow it to be published in his lifetime. Unsurprisingly the theme of the Service was freedom of conscience and the welfare of the community.
David Taylor gave the opening Reflection at our Swindon meeting on July 15th. His theme was the beauty and wonder of the natural world with several readings from Rejoice Together. Miles Howarth then introduced a discussion of the Rev Dr Paul Rasor’s Keynote address to this year’s Unitarian GA Meetings ‘Religion without Certainty in Uncertain Times’. Miles distilled some of the key challenges to liberal religious people that Dr Rasor highlighted. The no holds barred competition which is a growing feature of society, the rise of extreme nationalism with its disregard of minorities, and the erosion of truth and honesty through excessive reliance on trust in one’s own prejudices. Miles pointed out that the values in the Unitarian Object generally pointed in the opposite direction: the worth and dignity of all, freedom of conscience, service to humanity and the interdependence and unity of all existence. Liberals needed to be aware of their own tendency to excessive individualism. However their drive to create communities of inclusion rather than exclusion helped to limit this. Miles also mentioned the talk at the GA by John Lloyd on Fake News. This talk again highlighted the need for us to search out the truth from the welter of information available to us and this generated a lively useful exchange.