Derby Unitarians

Unitarianism- an introduction

Jim Corrigall takes us through the birth of Unitarianism and the beliefs it holds dear.

Jim Corrigall
Jim Corrigall
Jim Corrigall is communications consultant to the Unitarians in Britain, a post he took up in June 2007, after 17 years as a journalist at BBC World Service. He was born and educated in South Africa, coming to Britain in 1974. He was an anti-apartheid campaigner for many years. Jim became a Unitarian four years ago, and is chair of the congregation at Golders Green Unitarians.

The Unitarian faith had its roots in the Protestant Reformation of 16th Century Europe. At that time, Protestant Christians claimed the right to read the Bible in their own languages and to interpret it for themselves.

Some who did so found that the Bible spoke of one God, without qualification. This did not accord with the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which says that God consists of three 'persons' ('Father, Son and Holy Spirit'). These dissenters from orthodoxy believed God to be a 'unity' rather than a 'trinity', and thus they became known as 'Unitarians'. They believed that Jesus was human rather than divine, but that his life and work revealed the divinity and high potential inherent in each person.

Unitarianism has developed since that time and has been influenced by universalist and humanist understandings of faith and philosophy. Today Unitarianism is best described as a liberal, non-dogmatic faith, open to the insights and wisdom of all the world's religions and to the rich heritage of the arts, sciences and humanities.

We do not demand that people wishing to join us should subscribe to any creed or dogma. Ours is a very 'broad church'. We are proud to have as members, those who describe themselves as liberal and radical Christians; as humanists and agnostics; as well as Buddhists and liberal Jews, Muslims and Hindus. We also have followers of earth-centred spirituality, and members of no specific faith who find in community their highest aspirations.

So what do Unitarians believe? Unitarians are a community who take their religion, or their spirituality, liberally. That is to say, we hold that people have the right to believe what their own life-experience tells them is true; what the promptings of their own conscience say is right.

We believe that each person's spiritual or intuitive experience deserves respect; that everyone's deep reflection and reasoning on religious and ethical questions should be taken seriously.

Unitarians form a movement that tries to put these affirmations into practice. Our local religious communities offer a setting where people can worship, explore, and share faith together in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect. We are bound together by our common values of tolerance, compassion, reason and honesty.

We have 180 independent congregations based in chapels, churches and meeting houses across the British isles. There is also a National Unitarian Fellowship for people not near a congregation. Further details can be found on www.unitarian.org.uk

This article is reprinted here with permission from Jim Corrigall, and it was first published on the New Statesman website, in the Blog section: "The Faith Column". Jim also asked that we acknowlege his use of material from Rev Cliff Reed's book: "Unitarian? What's That?".