People are what make a church community. Glasgow Unitarians aim for unity in diversity and to create a caring community.
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The office bearers at Glasgow Unitarians promote the growth and religious exploration of our community—as well as taking care of the practicalities of running the church.
Roddy Macpherson I was in my late thirties when I became a member in 2001. I had not belonged to a church before: my childhood doubts about the special revelation claimed for Christianity had always stayed with me. I had occasionally enjoyed the process of going to the Church of Scotland services with my family; but I always felt ineligible to join a church. It was when a succession of deaths of family members and friends in the late 1990s shook me terribly that I finally decided to begin to sort out my thinking. I felt such a need for spiritual comfort then, as never before; could I find some in religion; without feeling myself a fraud?
Through the Unitarian method I reached a positive answer to that question. I now find enormous interest in the Bible and enjoy being able to connect with my Christian heritage, without compromising those of my unorthodox views that I still think are probably right. Having already had a fair amount of experience as a public speaker, I was quite soon asked to contribute to Unitarian services. This certainly focussed my mind on a wide range of topics. I feel I have learned a great deal about myself through being a member of the congregation. The friendships formed in this questing community are perhaps the happiest consequence for me of my new willingness to explore spiritual ideas and feelings.
Iain Brown I was brought up in the Church of Scotland, son of a minister and was first a humanist for several years, then nothing at all until I became a Quaker for nineteen years. But I prefer the Unitarian style of worship with music, contemplations, and a theme for the day which allows for the development of an intellectual discourse that makes you think. I would describe myself as a rationalist mystic. The rationalism is turned onto the critical examination of the beliefs and practices of the religions of the world and the mysticism is an underlying awareness of the many possibilities that none of us understand, that go beyond any Judaeo-Christian ideas of ‘God’. I have been leading worship and giving addresses for some 15 years now. We are a fascinating variety of people, experiences and beliefs or no beliefs. But we seem to hold them and exchange them in harmony and people come here and discover what they really believe—and do not believe.
Charlie Dand My parents and grandparents were Unitarians therefore my sister and I were brought up with the freedom of thought encouraged by a Unitarian way of thinking, and although accepting the historic aspects of the Bible and the stories of Jesus as a very influential person of his time, we rejected the idea of the Trinity and the dogma and creed required by several other religions.
I studied architecture, which is one of the most interesting but also the most involved and inclusive profession imaginable, in the procurement of all aspects of design and construction of many different buildings and therefore my thoughts on religious matters personal or worldwide were very limited to news or television journalism. Only when I retired did I find the time to reflect more on joining a congregation of like minds and learning from the many subjects introduced at Sunday services and including broadening my education into several other religious ways of life.
Ruth Gregory I believe in the ethics of Christianity as the way to live life but cannot accept elements of the creed such as Jesus’ virgin birth or his resurrection from death—which are still required for membership of the main Christians churches.
Now I attend a church where inspiration is drawn from many sources and I usually come away with something worthwhile to think about; where I can sing familiar hymn-tunes to words I can agree with; where I have a weekly opportunity to calmly centre myself and reflect on the kind of person I want to be … and where I am in the company of like-minded people. It’s a good place to be.
Janet Briggs I joined this religious society some forty five years ago, when a trauma in my life highlighted my need for a caring community. I found a church that teaches respect for the worth and dignity of every individual, and encourages them to seek out their own answers to the big questions of life.
This Unitarian approach has supported my confidence, informed my understanding and guided my decisions ever since.
Since retiring from paid employment, I have found purpose and fellowship in volunteering to serve it in a variety of ways.
Jim McKenna I am a retired truck driver, and self-taught musician with an enquiring mind. I first heard of Unitarians in a book by Ninian Smart called ‘The Religious Experience of Mankind’. Although the entry was quite small, only a few lines, it set me thinking that perhaps I too was a Unitarian. I had been raised Roman Catholic but had totally abandoned that faith almost as soon a I left school.
Seeing the church notice in the Glasgow Herald each week I plucked up the courage and ‘phoned the number. I was welcomed on the door the following Sunday by the late Florence Stark who led me to the worship room where I instantly felt that this is where I should always have been. The atmosphere of the place, ‘Lark in the Clear’ playing on the organ as I entered was so appealing, and learning of the traditions of Freedom, Reason and Tolerance, the complete absence of dogma, the inclusive, almost tangible feeling of welcome, I decided there and then that I was staying! That was in 1999, and I have been here ever since.
Freedom of Thought is our most important possession after life itself.
Clive Briggs I’m a Unitarian and always have been, although for over forty years I did not know it. I have a faith, that is thought out and logical to the extent my knowledge and experience makes possible. This belief is always open to modification after new experiences. My early years were free of any imposed religious views and in my teens I did a great deal of cycling. This broadened my experience of other people and situations, introduced me to the wonderful world in which we live and broadened my life considerably. As I matured I attended briefly various faith groups and places of worship but found much of their teaching irrelevant, impossible to believe or even at times condone. Really not the place for me.
My Church provides me with opportunity to worship in my own way, listen to other people’s views and understandings and progress my spiritual development. This spiritual development is my own responsibility and grows from a considerable expedites of life and people. I worship in conjunction with a group of other well meaning and open minded friends and fellow travellers on this spiritual journey through life.
Alastair Moodie I discovered Glasgow Unitarians twelve years ago, having been a lifelong and active member of the Church of Scotland. It was very refreshing to experience an approach which is open and inclusive and does not expect or require agreement with a set of beliefs. In fact the Unitarian Church does not have any fixed creed; instead we are committed to broad principles based on reason, conscience and tolerance.
The Jesus of the gospels still fascinates me, but I can only relate to him as a fellow human being who did not possess supernatural or God-like powers. I learned that Unitarians got their name because they did not accept the traditional doctrine of the Trinity (God as Father, Son and Hold Spirit). Jesus belonged to the Jewish faith and as a Jew he would never have claimed to be divine.
In the 21st century I think there is a great need for forms of spirituality that are consistent with our knowledge of the world. I believe that all religions are man-made attempts to make sense of life and death and to find purpose and meaning in our lives. It is dangerous to claim special authority for ancient religious scriptures that belong to different times and situations from the world we know today.
Being a member of the Glasgow Unitarian Church gives me the freedom to choose from the Bible and from many other sources what seems relevant, truthful, inspiring, wise and challenging for responsible, caring and searching people here and now.
Margaret Macintyre McClymont I was brought up in the Church of Scotland. However, for most of my adult life I struggled with its accepted creeds, doctrines and beliefs. Some Church friends told me that they did not believe everything, paid lip service to certain affirmations, and justified it with ‘where’s the harm’. To question, seek, reflect, accept and reject thoughts and ideas in a rational manner was the freedom I sought. Around 15 years ago, two very dear friends, lifetime members of Glasgow Unitarians, persuaded me to ‘come along’ one Sunday. That experience was like a breath of fresh air. Since then I have felt very much part of a group of like minded people, whose differing backgrounds, experiences and talents enrich our community. Without doctrinal restraints, the ability to think freely is so liberating, stimulating and empowering. I particularly value the time allocated each Sunday to engage in quiet reflection and meditation. It has been a long, lonely journey, but I have found my spiritual home. Life is so much the richer.
Rev. John Clifford I’m a former minister of Glasgow Unitarian Church (1975–83), now retired and husband of Barbara Clifford. I was born in the USA, found Universalism there while in secondary school, and after training for the ministry some years later came to Britain, where I was naturalised in Scotland in 1975. For me, religion has an important philosophical aspect but the key base is a community in which personal spiritual development finds expression in practical ethical actions, individual and collective. Glasgow Unitarians comprise a small progressive community with quite a mixture of attitudes and commitments. My personal philosophy is centred in empirical process philosophy, set in a religious mixture of liberal Christianity, Buddhism, and an appreciation of what is sometimes referred to as the web of life. My hobbies include stamp collecting, dancing (particularly Scottish Country Dancing), piping, astronomy, and learning foreign languages to survival level. Barbara and I have five children and eight grandchildren between us and we are greatly enjoying this ‘grandparent’ stage of our lives.
Barry Bell I have been an active member of the Glasgow Unitarian Church since 2006, after finding both my own spirituality and the Unitarian movement.
A former agnostic/borderline atheist with a very clear sense of the divisions inherent (to differing extents) in all religions, I have embraced the second chance and become wholeheartedly involved in this movement which places the individual’s right to find and follow their own spiritual path firmly at its centre. In the process I have come to see and value the positive and uniting aspects which are also to be found within religions.
I am (I think) becoming a better person through having learned to seek out that which is of worth and meaning in the human experience of myself and others, including that reflected within all religious, spiritual, and even secular traditions.
This community helps me do this, which is (for me) the essence of being a Unitarian.
Barbara Clifford I have been a Unitarian since 1975, previously I had attended a Welsh Baptist Chapel and derived from a family with the same background. The change of religion started when my then fiancé and myself decided to marry. Neither of us wished to be wed in the respective churches. We were spending time in Bristol and came across the Unitarian wayside notice outside Oakfield Church, the words read ‘We welcome all Religions’. Subsequently we attended this church where the minister the Reverend Bob Nicholson was preaching. We decided this was for us and we were married in the Church some months later. We liked the friendliness of the people, the Freedom and Tolerance indicated in the Sermons and when we moved to Glasgow, joining the Unitarian Church was a natural process.
I became involved in helping and organising a small Sunday School and I became involved with the Women’s League group and was a member of the Management Committee for several different periods. The ladies were friendly and interesting. Later some of the ladies became good friends. Some years later after a career in Social Work and raising a family, when I returned, I tried to restart the Women’s League group. I am now involved with the League on a District and National level. I have had the privilege of serving as National President of the Women’s League.
Through my Unitarianism I have had the opportunity to meet people from other countries as far afield as India and Australia and Africa.
My Church means friendship, open mindedness and a Church that welcomes all Religions.
Lyanne Mitchell I have been a member of Glasgow Unitarians for roughly 35 years. I found GUC with great relief—I was brought up in the Church of Scotland, but felt the need of a wider, freer faith. I had been ‘editing out’ so much that I could no longer believe … when I first sang the Unitarian hymns, I was amazed and delighted to discover such an open-minded inclusive attitude to religion.
I feel connected to the Creative Spirit through Nature and music. Because we are not tied to a creed, I have been free to ‘evolve’ and mature on my spiritual path and yet, can still feel I belong here. I think of my fellow Glasgow Unitarians as my church family. How much I would have missed if I had not been lucky enough to find them!
Lesley Hart Although Unitarianism run in my family, I was brought up in the Church of Scotland and attended it until I was a young adult. At that stage in my life I found myself at odds with the dogma and creed attached to the Church of Scotland and realised that my own views on Christianity were very different. For many years I rejected all forms of organised religion until, in late middle age, my mind turned to what my mother had told me about Unitarianism. Out of curiosity I attended a Sunday service and almost immediately realised that I had found my spiritual home. The Unitarian Church is inclusive, tolerant and non judgemental. It’s everything I think a Church should be.
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