Unitarianism arose in Europe out of the Radical Reformation, Enlightenment, Age of Reason and Scientific Revolution. It emerged to provide a spiritual home for those who upheld reason, progress and democracy, but for whom these were not enough spiritually, and who could no longer find such sustenance in traditional Christianity with its fantastic dogmas, hierarchical structure and reactionary outlook stuck in the Dark Ages.
3. Freedom, Reason & Tolerance
Unitarians recognise that each individual has a faith uniquely their own which it is essential to help them nurture freely without control and undue direction if they are to mature fully as a spiritual being.
Accordingly, Unitarian communities are not just free of the State Church (that is, the Church of England) organisationally and theologically, like all the Free Churches; they are also uniquely free of membership based on belief. Indeed, they could be said to be the truest Free Church, Dissenters and Nonconformists (the other collective names for Free Church groups) on that basis.
Our freedom of belief is, however, complimented by our belief that Reason and Tolerance are equally important in the formation of faith.
4. Traditional & Modern Belief
However sublime, all spiritual concepts, like all religious scriptures, and including even our concepts of God, are human creations.
Based on their ‘reasonable faith’, Unitarians’ traditionally see God as a Unity enlightening all humankind for this life, and possibly (and many of us hope) a next. Jesus is therefore seen as one of the world’s prophets and encouragingly human (if he lives on for some of us), rather than being part of an exclusivist trinitarian godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) that saves only Christians. Unitarians are proud to be called heretics on this account and to recall that it was illegal to profess Unitarianism in England and Wales until 1815. Besides, we are perhaps a little too respected and part of the Establishment these days for some of us.
Today at Brixton Unitarians, we refer to God as the Spirit of Life, guiding and protecting us, connecting us to others and nature, bringing fulfilment and contentment, and supporting our joys and tempering our sorrows. For some of us God is an external reality and Jesus experienced as a Living Lord; but for all of us, God is an inward reality and we seek enlightenment not only in Christianity, but in other world religions, mysticism, and the arts and sciences.
5. Our Unique Spirituality
History and psychology has now long recognised humanity’s need of enlightened spirituality; and the modern mindfulness movement is in many respects Unitarianism in new clothing, in that at its core it offers quality time out for a humanist spiritual practice aimed at personal wholeness and greater kindness and happiness. Indeed, we have a dedicated mindfulness service once a month.
What we offer additionally is: a sacred space, hallowed by the generations; professional guidance (ministry); spiritually stimulating resources from the world’s religions and sublime secular sources for group unpacking and reflection; first-rate live music by our musical director on our grand piano and organ; regular opportunities to get directly involved in social action, not least in our support for the Brixton and Norwood Foodbank; and an inclusive, friendly, supportive community to share with, belong to, and even be a little proud of.
6. Famous Unitarians
Unitarians have been disproportionately represented amongst the great and good over the years. As Rational Dissenters, we have attracted a fair number of scientists, including Newton and Sir Tim Berners Lee (the founder of the free access internet). In the arts, a great number of the English Romantics were from comparatively spiritually free-wheeling Unitarian backgrounds, and American Transcendentalism was almost a completely Unitarian movement. Unitarians were also amongst the Founding Fathers of the USA and several have been US Presidents. And so it goes on …
Let Unitarianism at Brixton Unitarians also do wonders for you and your world!