Saturday, October 8, 2011

Louise Rogers

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up, I wish to thank Dalyn Montgomery for his very interesting interview last week. Thank you so much for sharing with us Dalyn!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Louise Rogers. Louise is a Unitarian and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Louise Rogers's Introduction:

I am a Unitarian and am a member of Staffordshire’s Unitarian community which meets at the Newcastle-under-Lyme Meeting House. Born and raised in London, I am a middle-aged woman with an 18-year old daughter living in rural North Staffordshire. I work mainly for charities on organisational development and mentoring staff to achieve organisational change. I write two blogs – one on governance for Unitarian communities and one of developing spiritual community. I lead the occasional service and do a lot on communications, internal and external. I am a board member of the National Unitarian Fellowship. I like to write, listen to music, watch films and eat.

1) What religion do you practice?
Unitarianism although the title of the national organisation is the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
Convert although that’s not a term we would use. I grew up in an atheist family. I was always interested in religion – I guess at times I would have described myself as an atheist and at times an agnostic. I have been a Unitarian for 12 years now. It is an open faith – you walk through the door and attend a few services and you either stay or you don’t. If you stay then at some point you realise that you have morphed into a Unitarian without really noticing it

3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
There are differences in belief but not in terms of strict observance because we do not have a creed or any rules to follow. Some Unitarians would describe themselves as for example Free Christians, some as humanist, some as Earth Spirit/Pagan Unitarians. Not all Unitarians believe in God.

4) Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I know what I am not – I would not describe myself as a free Christian or an Earth Spirit/Pagan Unitarian. I like the word Unitarian, plain and simple. I will take ideas from a variety of places including the Bible and Pagan thought and from other religions, poetry, writing, arts etc. However I am very involved and spend a lot of time doing things for my local community and a bit for the national one. So I am heavily involved and highly committed.

5) What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
We each have our personal ideas, there is not one which we all subscribe to. I suspect that whilst some may believe in heaven, few will believe in hell.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
Not sure that I believe in heaven but I certainly don’t believe that believers are saved and the rest of us aren’t. Don’t really understand the concept of salvation.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I am a pragmatist and like to think of myself as a free-thinker. I believe in social justice and equality of opportunity. I believe that our own consciences are the prime deciders on spiritual and faith matters. I believe in an evolving and emerging spiritual life as we grow and change. I believe that our goal is to be the best ‘me’ that we can be. I believe that to be spiritual in community can be a wonderful experience. I believe that we each only see a small fraction of whatever is the divine and we need to listen to others to expand our own understanding. I believe that there are many ways to live a good life. So that all makes me fit well with Unitarianism.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
We don’t have them exclusively for Unitarianism. We tend to celebrate Christian festivals but some also celebrate Pagan festivals and those of other faiths. Most of our celebrations involve some worship (in the sense of recognising the worth and value of all life), some celebration and singing, lighting our chalice, community time together and food – we do seem to celebrate everything by sharing food together. We also like to mark personal milestones together.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Of course! Of other faiths and of none. Often you don’t know what faith another person has. Fear comes from ignorance – it is difficult to fear that which you are familiar with. It is only through dialogue and deep respect for each other that we can build a strong and cohesive society.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Yes. We have done some inter-faith work. I have been to Pagan Festivals and Christian services.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I find the burka hard to get my head round. Our sexuality is part of who we are – and beauty is a joy to behold. I am not sure how hiding yourself behind a veil is empowering. It just seems to be hiding. But if that’s how some women choose to dress then I don’t think it is for me to say otherwise. It is a debate that I am still having in my head.

There are two issues I think about Shariah Law. The first is whether it should supersede the law of any country which I don’t think is appropriate. The second thing that is levelled at it is that it is anti-women. I think from discussions with people who know more than me on these things that there are some excellent parts and I guess a lot is down to interpretation and who is doing the judging.

We should keep these debates going. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Yes, our first woman minister in the UK was in 1904. Women have always been active. In 1672 two local women had their houses registered for worship when Presbyterians (the forerunners of many Unitarian congregations) were not allowed to meet in a worship space.

We also have openly gay ministers – men and women. We believe that the things that you have to have to become a Unitarian minister are the qualities that make a good minister – we are in all things pragmatic – and thankfully so. We also support a range of equality issues.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
No – although our organist would say that we always make him wash up!

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
It helps me to be a little bolder – to try to be on the side of right rather than convenience because I think about what others have given up for my religious freedom. As a national faith community we support gay marriage.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
The issue is not about her religion or that of her intended spouse but about what that religion adds or detracts from their lives. I would be very unhappy if she entered the world of religious fundamentalism – whatever the religion. For me religion should not be fixed but expansive, growing as you grow. Also religion should foster love not hate.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
If I believed in hell and judgement then I would think that we would be judged by our deeds and not what we professed to believe. It is relatively easy to believe but so much more difficult to do the right thing and be compassionate at all times. If there is a God and that God is vengeful then I don’t really want to associate myself with that God. If there is a God and that God is loving then I would ask, ‘Does hell exist?’

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
No Unitarian in UK would claim to speak for all Unitarians – we are much too diverse a bunch. What I would agree with is the right to say what they thought, as long as it was said with kindness and with the best of intentions. We must never close down public debate and as a faith community must be open and transparent.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
No. But not everyone likes the Unitarian faith. Some say it’s too easy and we make it up as we go along. Not sure why being too easy is a bad thing and if we base things on our own consciences, well it will seem like we are making it up. I think that you can only believe what you believe – you can’t make yourself believe things. So I think that there is an inherent honesty in Unitarianism. Not everyone thinks that.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Never! The religious experience is not just about spirituality but is also about membership of a community. Religious people are people in spiritual community. Being a part of a strong faith community adds value to my life every day.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Not always but then I wouldn’t want it to. Sometimes we need to be challenged and taken out of our comfort zones. But ultimately it completes me – when I was not connected to any faith community I felt OK but felt that something was missing. Now I feel complete.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Don’t know and don’t much care. There are so many things that are unknowable and I am happy to keep them that way. There are too many knowable things that I haven’t a clue about so will work on those first.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading these comments from Louise, with whom I am proud and privileged to share a faith community. I would love to answer these questions myself (maybe tomorrow I will!) to give my answers as a Unitarian Pagan - or Pagan Unitarian! Watch this space!