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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Please Note: This site, and the social networking profile pages connected with it, reflect my personal interests & views which do not necessarily represent those of organisations I am affiliated / associated with.

31/03/2014

A Query

I have just spent the past weekend at the Quaker Peace & Social Witness conference. I was asked to attend on behalf of East Cheshire Area Meeting, and despite my reservations, it proved to be a deeply enriching experience. An experience I am still digesting.

It was immensely inspiring to see the practical work of the British Quaker movement - and those they sponsor. As one fellow attendee commented, it was a clear demonstration of 'applied spirituality'.

It was also good, for me personally, to sample the wider Quaker movement beyond the meeting house I attend. I connected with many Friends of various ages and various class backgrounds though noticeably not of various ethnicity / cultural backgrounds - the movement appearing very much 'white' in Britain.

There is so much positive to note - and what follows is equivalent to less than 1%.

During the weekend, following a short period of worship, I found myself in dialogue with a small group of Friends about the African Peacebuilders exhibition - discussing an observation that many were quite clear they had been prompted by God to engage in the groundbreaking, risky action they had undertook to reconcile warring parties. It transpired from this that a member of our group was an out-and-out Daoist - he explained that he had joined in fellowship with Quakers having found no like-minded group in his area and, significantly, because he had experienced an insurmountable linguistic and cultural gap when attending Daoist places of worship.

I see no absolutely no problem with this in itself.

However, as I explained that I too had briefly studied Daoism - and found it complimented my 'Christian roots and core' - the gentleman physically recoiled in surprise, raising his eyebrows and expressing confusion over the idea any connection could be made between Daoism and Christianity. He later recounted a story of evangelical Christians apparently paying people hard cash to come to church and profess their belief in Jesus - this was his only contribution as the group conversation moved  to consider the work of the church on poor estates via food banks and other services.

There is, I believe, a problem in this and it left me feeling a slight unease. How could someone seemingly so at odds with Christianity see themselves integrating with and actively supporting a movement such as the Quakers which has a strong Christian root and core? It is a genuine question rather than one attempting to lead to the view such a person or persons should be rejected. It is an issue, as I have discussed before, that faces churches who highly value inclusion and diversity.

25/03/2014

‘My Testimony’ - by Ferenc Balázs

Jim Corrigall, a Unitarian minister, recently shared on Facebook the following words of Ferenc Balázs - described as his personal credo - as a reflection on the theism versus atheism debates currently taking place between British Unitarians. I have read it several times and it puts beautifully into words much of what I think and feel:

"I believe that this world is not a chain of casual things. I believe that everything has its own purpose. I believe that the world’s nature – predestination, fate, decision, unchangeable will – is to form persons who, with great trust, can feel and know themselves to be integrated parts of the whole world, and act as such. I believe that the world’s purpose keeps working through many small purposes, through the fulfilment of human will, and that each generation and each individual has the task of forging one of the links in the chain.

 I believe in this task, in my separate small purpose. First of all, I want to clean and bring to perfection my own personality, this one dewdrop that mirrors the world. I do not repress any expression of my multi-faceted personality. I live for my body as much as I live for my soul, but I keep trying to harmonise each of my wishes, instincts, and convictions with the highest and most valuable of the characteristics I have developed to this point. And I aim to build the connections of love with others among my brothers and sisters in our community. I have a strong wish to keep peace among us and to build an association for achieving our mutual interests with those with whom I am in close, loving connection.

I believe that if I can fulfil my small purpose in this short life of mine, I will achieve something valuable in itself, and not even death can diminish its meaning.

I believe in human dignity – and when it identifies itself with the world purpose, I believe in the freedom of will.

I believe that the will of my true self is the will that achieves expression in the world purpose, and if I follow the world purpose, I only follow my own will.

And I believe in God: this world is beautiful, great, and wonderful with a happy fate. It is amazing and mysterious, and when I am filled with it, overwhelmed with its infinity, its intimacy raises me, its joy makes me rejoice – then what springs forth from me is: God.

Do not ask what this word really means for me.

It means what swearing means for those in pain, what oh means for those in surprise, what laughter means for the happy. It expresses everything because it says nothing. I do not argue, I do not state, I do not prove. I am not consistent, I give no reasons. I only sigh and cry and rejoice, and I am ecstatic: God.

Religion gives purpose to my life, science helps me reach it, art gives me the opportunity to take pleasure in it. And it is in this life of mine – becoming perfect through all these – where I expect God to reveal Himself.”