Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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Be Audacious

Following the closure of Stockport Unitarian Church in 2009, there has been no Unitarian and Free Christian presence in the town - a town of nearly 140,000 people and with access to over 2 million people in Greater Manchester. I have driven past the old church building in Cheadle often, which is now a nursery, and can’t help feel a measure of sadness – whilst recognising it has at least been put to good use.

Of course, there will be some that shrug their shoulders and cite the seemingly inevitable decline of religion in the United Kingdom. Yet if I drive a few minutes more from Cheadle up near the Stockport County Football Club stadium, there is a Buddhist centre currently extending its premises. And if I journey a little further from there into the suburbs of Stockport there is an Anglican church having to put on extra services each Sunday because they are simply too full. Exceptions to the rule maybe, but maybe that’s what being part of a faith community is all about?

Having lived in the area since 2010, and with no Unitarian and Free Christian church nearby, I have found home with the Quakers. Again, this group is bucking the trend, continuing to sustain itself with new members and to act as a force for good in the town, be it providing for a local food bank, helping refugees settle - or simply helping people on a personal level, myself included, retain a sense of foundation, companionship and hope.

I have no intention of leaving the Quakers but I will – alongside a few other Unitarians and Free Christians from the East Cheshire and Greater Manchester area - attempt to re-plant a liberal fellowship in Stockport. The idea is not simply to somehow rehash Stockport Unitarian Church, we instead seek to bring forth a fresh expression.

We have no building, no funds, no hymn books, no organ and so on. We might well fail. But we will at least try! A good friend and Unitarian & Free Christian minister, Bob Pounder, once said you need to be audacious - and if you stumble and fall - be audacious again.

From tomorrow onwards, the fellowship – going under the name of ‘Stockport Free Christians’ – will meet on the 3rd Sunday of every month, using Stockport Friends Meeting House initially as a base before moving to other host churches (as Stockport Quakers plan on rebuilding this year). For more information, please visit www.stockportfreechristians.org.uk. You are most welcome to join with us on this adventure - even if you are miles away, you can connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

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