Some of our talks are given in full on our blog and are available for use by others. Please acknowledge the author and our Fellowship.
22nd May, Rev Geoff Usher, “Truth: Variation, Deviation, Interpretation”
British Unitarian minister Francis Terry often felt drawn to see how much of religion he could sum up in a single phrase. The attempt may help to bring some matters into a clearer light by the very attempt to focus on something specific and essential. One such phrase which appealed to him was that: religion is a journey, taken in trust, towards an unknown destination.
Religion is a process of learning. It is – or it should be – an active, dynamic process. If it is dynamic, rather than static, then it will be a continuing and a changing thing, so attempts to provide a rigid, immutable definition must always fail.
15th May, Rev Geoff Usher, “What a Piece of Work Is?”
Some women feel excluded by language of worship which portrays God only as father and people only as men.
The issue of exclusive, sexist language is important. It is not trivial. So, what are we to do?
1st May, Rev Geoff Usher, “Fourteen Decades after Darwin”
Charles Darwin died on the 19th of Aril, 1882. He did not invent the concept of evolution. There were many people before him, Christians and Non-Chistians, who held ideas of evolution in some form. What Darwin did was to present a theory explaining evolution through natural selection, and to present it on the basis of a solid sub-structure of observed fact.
The great philosopher of Darwinism was Herbert Spencer ( 1820 – 1903) who defined evolution as “a transformation of an indefinite incoherent homogeneity into a definite coherent heterogeneity, this being accomplished through a long series of differentiations and integrations.”
3rd April, Martin Horlacher , “A Sensitivity to Ephemera”
In the Japanese literary tradition, there exists a concept known as “mono no aware” – which can be translated as “an empathy toward things”, or, perhaps more appropriately, “a sensitivity to ephemera”. It is essentially an idiom for the impermanence of things, as well as both a transient wistfulness at their passing, and a longer, deeper, gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life…and it is a concept all of us would do well to meditate on, and learn from.
27th March, Gabrielle Donovan, “Bela Bartok – Hungarian composer and lover of nature who converted from a Catholic to a Unitarian”
20th March, Rev Rex A. E. Hunt, “Autumn: The Season of Festivals, Harvest… and Leaves”
• Autumn invites us to look for more daily experiences of awe. That feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends one’s understanding of the world. Philosopher Sam Keen coined the term ‘wonderosity’ to describe the combination of wonder and curiosity. Wonder is a natural response to the reports of our senses; we are dazzled by something in the world around us. Curiosity helps us stay open to new experiences, and it takes us to places where we can be amazed.
• To nurture the joy of wonder is to be attuned to the simple beauty of the unexpected.
• In Autumn the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees is a significant feature. Albert Camus wrote: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
6th March, Martin Horlacher , “The Obscenity of Authority”
Authority is typically defined as the legitimate power that one person or group of people hold over others – at least, in the fields of sociology and political science. But, even this definition of the concept is fraught with problems…and it becomes even more problematic in a world in which the very notion of “legitimate power” is arguably more tenuous than ever before in human history.
27th February, Colin Whatmough, “Early Unitarian Transcendentalist scholars: Thoreau”
20th February, Rev Geoff Usher, “Climbing Up the Slippery Slope”
Unitarianism is a religion with its authority grounded in caring relationships – in the reality of life, and not the fantasy of an irrelevant myth; it is a religion which would outwit the torturing demons before they gain ascendance to agonise our souls; a religion that raises life to a living affirmation of creative love. (C.W.McGehee)
6th February, Rev Daniel Jantos, “We are all in this together”
Could it really be that the pandemic has honed our sense of equality and fairness? Some of those who thought the rules didn’t apply to them seem to have not fared well lately. Is this a newish trend? Has the pandemic “levelled the playing field”? Have recent cultural and societal movements built a momentum for equality – even amidst growing inequities? Where is religion in all this? Are the architecture, the rituals and the doctrines of “exception” finding themselves exposed and relegated to spheres of irrelevance in this contemporary imperative of “we are all in this together”?
30th January, Martin Horlacher, “The Shadow Generation”
We all want to live long, full lives. We all want to be happy. We all want to achieve and live out our hopes and dreams and ambitions. And in a country like Australia, though we might not realise it, many of us actually have a chance to do just that, or at least the closest thing possible to it. And yet, what about those of us who don’t have that opportunity…be it in Australia, or elsewhere?
16th January, Rev Geoff Usher, “Morality for Our Time”
Too often faith – the Christian faith – is taken over by fundamentalists and extremists who claim to speak for God, to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian.
We hear a lot about moral values but what ARE moral values? We don’t make them up as we go along – not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of right and wrong, but we need to ensure that it is appropriate to our time.
17th January, Rev Geoff Usher, “Inscribed in the Book of Life”
Sometimes our New Year resolutions produce little successes along the way, but all too often we return to being the same as we were; we slide back to being very much like the character we used to be. We yearn for transformation;wewant a better and more fulfilling life; we pray for serenity, strength and compassion, but nothing seems to happen.
24th January, Gabrielle Donovan, “The History of Early Colonial Music”
When the First Fleet arrived on Australian shores the people landing heard an entirely new sound world from this ancient land. Australia’s First People watched from afar to the regimental music played when Captain Phillip and his regiment came ashore, followed later by the free settlers and convicts. The new arrivals brought with them music and songs from their homeland that soon leaked out across the landscape.
31st January, Colin Whatmough, “The US – World Power in the Balance -Part 2”
7th February, Rev Geoff Usher, ” Points of Contact”
It is interesting that most poems related to jazz tend to be about what the poet Ira Sadoff called “the dearth of air… between our ribs and lungs”: the unfair feeling that separates us from whatever it is that grounds and makes us whole. Our religious life is – or should be , can be – about that: about filling that dearth of air between the ribs and lungs that results from religious isolation.
21st February, Martin Horlacher, “The Culture of Victimhood”
We all feel put upon and persecuted from time to time – some of us a lot more than others. But what happens when a victim mentality becomes a pathological condition…not only individually, but culturally?
28th February, Rev. Daniel Jantos, “A Religion That Matters”
Its about time that religion began to stand for something that mattered to contemporaries and especially those yearning for relief from inequity, lack of purpose and meaningfully addressing the real issues of our time. Martin Hagglund, and others like him, are getting bolder in describing what that could look like. This reflection will give some attention to the way Martin Luther King Junior’s focus shifted towards to end of his short life; things he would only speak about in secret. Well, its not a secret anymore.
7th March, martin Horlacher, “A Reasonable Lunatic?: The “Intellectual” We Might Just Deserve”
Ever heard of Jordan Peterson? A Canadian clinical psychologist and YouTube personality, he has received widespread attention in the last decade for his outspoken – and controversial – views on political and cultural issues. And yet, his popularity may in fact be the sign of a deeply impoverished intellectual landscape.
28th March, Rev. Geoff Usher, “Of Sheep and Fishing”
Church leaders must challenge the moral values of those who want to build their own empires of greed, wealth and power by exploiting the poor or flouting the law. It is part of a minister’s job to head out into deep water, to explore new areas, to extend boundaries, to speak up on matters of public/moral/spiritual concern, to face the storms that may arise, and to help steer his or her congregation through turbulent waters.
18th April, Gabrielle Donovan, “Music and the First World War”
The outbreak of war in 1914 was an inspiration for many songwriters, lyricists, professional singers and musicians and resulted in a huge body of works devoted to wartime themes. Music was found to be a very useful means to encourage men to enlist, with uplifting music of bands farewelling troops. Music was a comfort for families left at home, and for troops on their way and during long hours of training before being sent to the front lines. When morale was low either on long marches or in the heat of action, troops were spurred by song, lifting men’s hearts out of all the sense of death, then honouring the sacrifice of fellow men fallen in the line of duty.
2nd May, Rev. Geoff Usher, “Ethical Habits”
The Decalogue ( The Ten Commandments) stands as a great monument in ethical history. Although most of them are negative, we can also understand that every moral “thou shalt not” echoes a moral affirmation. The admonition against killing reflects the sanctitiy of human life. Although we no longer execute adulterers, the marriage covenant is still to be taken seriously. While we are not supposed to steal, the larger value is justice.
16th May, Rev Rex Hunt, “Beginnings… While Dancing Among the Wild Lilies”
Most religious traditions, past and present, have a story, or a collection of stories they tell regarding the nature of the universe, the evolution of the Earth and of life, and the destiny of humans in this context.
In this Address I very briefly introduce three ‘creation’ stories from various traditions: A Maori Creation myth, Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, and the Hebrew Creation myth. All have attempted to say something about the origin and evolution of the universe as a whole as they wrestled with the question: ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’
Then suggest the modern story of ‘beginnings’ sparks a sense of wonder with time tracing back almost 14 billion-years, and distances beyond what we can imagine.
23rd May, Colin Whatmough, “Population, Climate Change and World Hunger”
With its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Unitarianism has enlarged its spiritual scope over the years. It is a liberal religion — that is, a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We also try to fathom the political and social problems of our age.
6th June, Martin Horlacher,“Justice as Fairness: An Analysis of the Ideas of John Rawls”
An American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition, John Rawls wrote many important dissertations, and is still regarded by many as one of the most influential political thinkers of the 20th century. His theory of “justice as fairness” recommends basic equal rights, equality of opportunity, and promotion of the interests of the least advantaged members of society.
27th June, Rev Geoff. Usher, “In the Wake of Waco”
The Waco siege, also known as the Waco massacre, was the law enforcement siege of the compound that belonged to the religious sect Branch Davidians. It was carried out by the U.S. federal government, Texas state law enforcement, and the U.S. military, between February 28 and April 19, 1993.
( Lockdown in NSW)
28th November, Rev Geoff Usher, “Unitarians and Dying with Dignity”
All other Australian states have legislated for Voluntary Assisted Dying, but the New South Wales Parliament continues to prevaricate because of religious extremists, and despite the support of more than 80% of the population for it. As Unitarians, we understand death within a spiritual context. What that means in terms of belief will vary from person to person, but Unitarians generally have a pretty open and realistic attitude to death. We accept its reality and its inevitability. and we generally support freedom of choice in secular matters as well as in religious matters, so there is a general lot of support for the individual’s right to make choices about the manner of dying and to reject unnecessary medical intervention in cases of terminal illness.