I owe a debt of thanks to the Rev. Dr. Leonard Smith, principal of the Unitarian College Manchester, for responding to my appeal to buy a copy of the old Orders of Worship “for use in Unitarian and Free Christian congregations” by sending me a copy as a gift.
It is a small volume a 1944 reprint of the 1932 edition with a familiar feel to anyone (left) who has experience using the Services of Religion attached to the front of the 1937 Hymns of the Spirit. (1937)
The bulk of the book is eight forms of service that, with experience, could be used morning or evening for short devotions or full services. In my quick survey, I discovered some nice touches, like appointed introductions to the collects (that may be used in lieu of an extemporaneous pastoral prayer) and a bidding for silent prayer and a small blessing to “dismount” from the silence. This one, for intance, is from the sixth service:
Grant us, Lord, we pray thee, day by day the joy of true living, that we who seek thy service may ever find thy peace. Amen.
There are a couple of litanies, and “acts of devotion” plus a proper service for Easter and Christmas Day, the latter of which I’ll comb of ideas this year.
Looking to the UK, I can suspend my division between the Universalists and the Unitarians because what few institutional remnants of the Universalists were completely absorbed by the latter. The last Universalist-named church has been gone a half-century. More on that later.
I was struck (again) by how secular London is, and yet how Christianity, through the Establishment, has almost been grandfathered in. The Remembrance Sunday celebrations as I experienced them were deeply moving, but there was something about them that dissatisfied me as a Christian, even as I was able to accept them by proxy into my own patriotic feelings as an American.
So, I’m not quite sure what to make of the 2001 Census statistics (link) that show 71.6% identifying as Christian. (Muslims come next, at 2.7%.)
Of the 59.2 million residents of the United Kingdom, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 are Unitarian, and another 3,716 in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, according to a listing in Reformed Online. (The numbers aren’t clear enough to factor out the two churches in the Republic of Ireland.)
If we assume a reasonable sum between the two denominations is 8,500, then we’re talking a thin .014% of population (that is, one seventieth of a percent) compared to the current approximate) .08% “shareholding” of the UUA in the United States.
That, and looking at the website of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches it is clear that many churches don’t have a minister (but want one) and cannot or do not worship every week.
Some tough facts.
Time flies, blog entries grow stale, and unless new entries are made, Movable Type will empty the blog in what seems to be a very short time. I’ve noticed that most [Unitarian | Universalist] blogs are a bit spare this week.
So, back to Matthew Gatheringwater’s blog. [Defunct; quite a loss.] He refers to English Unitarian Elizabeth Gaskell.
Her church is pastored today by the Rev. Alex Bradley, also the Honorary Secretary of the Unitarian Christian Association, mentioned heretofore, and they have a church website [gone].
It is a small fellowship.
Good word today: the Unitarian Christian Association, the British counterpart to the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, has gone online, and in quite an attractive way.
See http://www.unitarianchristian.org.uk/. [2009. New site.]
I particularly like the entry about the Annual Meeting of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches [GAUFCC link], and my one regret it that I now have no compelling reason to take the Unitarian Christian Herald in its surface-delivered paper edition.