A Brexit Reflection

I have had a growing unease for a while.

In most times and cases it was temporary and local, but still the words accompanying it were hurtful.

You see I am an immigrant.

I moved to the UK over 12 years ago, and am currently working toward citizenship here in the UK. I work, pay taxes, contribute to British society. I love living here, not just because I love my partner, but I truly love the UK, all bits of it, from the Scottish highlands to the Isle of Wright, from the Norfolk broads to the Welsh valleys. I love living here, getting to know the people and the countryside.

Even if I became a citizen I still would be an immigrant.

Over the years I have put up with the occasional anti american BS comment. Even from people I respect, even from church leaders. I smile and move on. Correct them where I can, as well as recognise where their comments come from.

I am an immigrant, and a guest in this country. I respect that.

But I am still American, there are people I care deeply for in the US and I will always care for them and as such I will not be silent nor let them go.

That has been the dance I do here, a dance I think most immigrants do, love and loyalty for more than one country, proud of the heritage and gifts that we get to participate in.

Some times it is uncomfortable, but liveable.

That is until the rhetoric of Brexit…..

The words these leaving politicians speak are similar to many a cab driver I have ridden with….and when I point out that I am an immigrant, I get the standard, it’s not about you, you are okay, it’s them……

Yet, they don’t hear their words,
they don’t feel the hate within their words.

Today may be a day of classifying good and bad immigrants, but it is a easy and slippery slope to all immigrants as bad. In their rhetoric it is present.

I am in a state of unease.

Brexit words and rhetoric are simply,
you are not welcomed here,
you’re gifts and help are not welcomed here,
go away.

I fear for the UK.

I fear for my life,


“I simply do not feel welcomed in my new home country.”

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CSI Miami: a reflection on Police violence      #BlackLivesMatter

Several years ago, the big thing was to label, rank and rate music according to it’s graphic imagery. Much like the ratings for film and cinema.

This, of course, was a conservative reaction to Rap music, which contain highly visceral lyrics about what these young men would do to the police, if they could. Instead of waiting for it to blow out in the industry, these political figures, by the way both Republican and Democratic Parties were involved, wanted to force this expression out.
 I just want you to hold that thought in your head.

Last night, after a full week of holiday in Ireland, we were watching television. As it happens one of the channels we tend to watch has this pattern of early evening shows always being the same show all week long. I suspect they show them until they run out. One year it was Friends for a full hour, then something else. Another was “That 70’s Show”, so you get the idea. This year it is “CSI Miami” followed by “Cowboy Builders”. A Cowboy builder is a builder who takes your money to do a major project and does it half arsed, or with as minimal work possible. It is a big problem in the UK. But that is not what my reflections are about, it is just information to explain the show.

My partner and I used to be big fans of the CSI franchises. Our main one was the original show set in Las Vegas, but we did watched the others. More of Miami than of New York, but we did watch them. Early on with Miami we found ourselves annoyed with various ways the plot and character development was being done, especially as compared with CSI. We stuck with the show, possibly due to lack of anything else on at that time or night or even a sense of loyalty to a program. That was up until about two or three seasons before it was cancelled. We simply stopped watching, and really within that year we stopped watching all of the CSIs.  

So this week, so far into our Irish holidays, we have been watching CSI Miami, because at 7pm there is nothing else on to watch, or that we are willing to watch. A lot of soaps abound, and in fact so is CSI Miami. But that is a different conversation.

I had suspected that the series we are watching was the one series in which we stopped watching the show altogether. Last nights episode confirmed that suspicion of mine. It also highlighted my then growing unease with the show, or dislike of the show.

My partner just never took to David Careuso as an actor. We called him the “ginger whinger”. Sorry to all my redhead friends for that comment, but it was how we saw his performances. As for CSI Miami we both felt that the storylines were too fantastical, unbelievable and basically minimal. In a way it was the worse sort of science fiction imaginable. They would get a case in the morning and have it solved, with the crime scene evidence fully collected, with complete DNA or other blood tests by mid afternoon. The characters are two dimensional, not fully explored or developed. Whereas CSI, while still having some of that fantastical timeline, did seem to give a more nuanced and believable timeline to the case with characters who were more fully developed.

Basically CSI was able to convince us as an audience to suspend our disbelief better than the writers of CSI Miami were able to do.

That said, my growing annoyance with the show, and all the franchises, was what I would call the propaganda component. Or the mythological side of it. Or psychological awareness and grander image of national self identity.

First out, basic rule in all of the franchises were that main characters were to some extent “good looking”, the beautiful people of the world. They also were uniformly straight. Very little LGBTQ characters or even story lines, really I cannot think of any, I know there was at least one, in any of the series which is surprising when these shows were in effect happening in Cities with large LGBTQ populations. So this should have been a component of at least less than 10% of the cases. Also when explored statistically it is people of colour and LGBTQs are more likely to be the victims of serious crimes. That should show up at least once in a while in a series about criminal investigations. Yet, really in all these shows the victims / bodies that the CSI teams were examining and processing were by and large caucasian with a wealthy bank account. In most of the cases they were one of the beautiful people. These victims were realistically or statistically less likely to be a victim when you examine the evidence about violent crime.

A few years ago when I was being driven to Heathrow by a cab driver we got onto a conversation about this series, and I eventually remarked if I believed what I saw on the CSIs I would not travel to the US because that show says A) the US is not a safe place to visit and B) white people are always being killed or targets of violence. Even the situation where European tourists were being targeted in Florida never really made it onto the show. But I digress.

CSI (Vegas) early on had one character who was a male, afro-american, good looking member of the team. At some point they killed him off. Maybe he wanted to leave the show. Others also wanted to leave the show and they were caucasian. These members of the original cast team were able to leave to something else, and thus come back to the show if they wanted or appear for a guest spot. CSI Miami, did kill off one of it’s caucasian main characters only to have him reappear as a ghost who helped the undefined Latino member solve a case. By the way this character is never defined as being Cuban or Puerto Rican, but we know he is latin. So in the end his cultural background which would be a resource to him, especially in Miami, is not a part of his character. In CSI Miami there is a second squad member who helps the main characters process information and materials, but he is always secondary. He is African american, and a large lad. They show him solving things with his intellect, but also in a way that….well he comes across as the stereotypical sidekick, who is helpful but who also is a bit of a goof, basic comic relief material. This seems to be happening in several of these type of mystery shows, yet in the other shows I have observed that several of the assistants to the protagonist are all “goofy” in their own way, so it doesn’t stand out like this character in CSI Miami does.

In watching this show this past week, by the second episode that we watched I was aware of my annoyances from before……that is the overhyped patriotic nationalisms that underlay everything. The easy acceptance of the rightness in using violence as the only step in solving a crime by the police. The CSIs are always pulling their guns and killing someone without being questioned about their use of extreme measures. They, men and women, display an arrogance and judgmentalism toward any person in the investigation, whether an innocent owner of property which is the crime scene, or a suspect, and most of all someone who stands convicted. This flies in face of the standard assumption of US jurisprudence which I was taught as a child: “innocent until proven guilty.” These shows are maybe more truthful in that their attitude is “guilty and we will prove it.” In all of the course of action the show and the characters display a preachy-ness. They pontificate about law and justice, while at the same time displaying actions that are illegal and unjust. Over all of this, or even underneath it all is the attitude that the USA can do no wrong, it’s military adventures and invasions were proper and right even when done allow because after all the US is the only one that knows right from wrong. Within this is the equal attitude that the use of violence by anyone in authority is always right and thus acceptable…..after all you must be guilty if they pulled you over, or arrested you, or even shot and killed you.

Well I suspect that you are getting my point.

The fact is as I watched last night’s show, and all of this attitude was being expressed. Oh and last night in a list of characters who were guilty in a white middle class man’s murder, it was the black man that pulled the trigger and shot the white man. The two white men were co conspirators in that they helped to cover up the murder. This event happened while in space so the message was white people are not even safe from black violence even in space.

As I lay upon the sofa pondering the show, I immediately linked it to the rash, preponderance of police on black crime that is sweeping the US. I wonder how many of those policemen watch shows like CSI Miami, and the myriad others that have this same attitude and think it gives them the right to shoot first and ask questions later mentality. Or allows them to think that it is perfectly acceptable to violently force an african american / black woman onto ground for a minor traffic violation. Or physically assault an african american / black teenager for doing what all teenagers do, sass talk back to an adult. I do realise that in both cases I just mentioned the real crime was that the victim was black period. In a place where black people are not allowed.

In all of these reflections I think that the thing that saddens me the most is the thought that in all of these unacceptable incidents of Police crime against Black persons is that I am surprised that there are not more of these incidents happening.

I weep for the land of my birth.

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Way Too Much Clutter

Over the past year I have had a growing awareness…..
 This may be due to my continued development as a Minister

           or to my intentional study of Spiritual Direction

           or to my work with a Spiritual Director

           or maybe all of the above plus many more insights.

I have allowed way too much clutter to fill up my life.

         Items I view online…

                     comment, postings and even “hissy fits” of social media connections….

                     Television being ON even when there is nothing worth watching….

                     pieces of paper that have grown into mounds of paper….

I have, out of my boredom, allowed for too much to clutter my life.


My Spiritual Director suggested as I am trying to establish balance in my life, a more intentional spiritual life, practice, centring, etc…that I clear away one of my cluttered spaces and establish a new worship area in my home for myself.

I already have one in my bedroom, but to access it I need to stand and thus it has become a time of spiritual glances, not really very reflective.

Then one afternoon, in a moment, something happened that reminded me that my clutter just wasn’t material, or simply a lot of stuff…..it was also what I was allowing to speak to my soul via social media, internet searches, television and radio. I was allowing various interests of mine, or even not my own, to clutter my soul and heart.  

It needed to stop or become very much lessened.

So I have embarked on a new point of spiritual life and growth.

One that is a continuance of the formation and discernment of the spirit within my life as both a person of faith and spirituality and as a person who is called to the set apart ministry.

Even in this I have things which clutter, but I don’t feel so bad about them….

Such as my tag of being a “Non-conformist dissenting Minister of the Anabaptist perspective”.

Because some of this is needed understanding, and much is hubris.

In all of this, in the midst of so much clutter, both spiritual and of stuff, I have ministered, cared for others, worked at developing those ministerial connections and relationships, and yes even touched a few souls along the way…..


It amazes me, that the Divine can speak through and still use my voice, in the midst of so much clutter.

“Gracious One, clear the chaos and the clutter from my heart, mind and soul.”  

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Open Letter to Serena Williams

Dear Serena,

What a privilege to be in Centre Court Wimbledon this past Saturday. What a moment of struggle, respect and triumph (for both you and Garbine) to be present for. Thank you.

I have watched you play for over the past decade, and have consistently been impressed, awed and inspired by you, and I will add your sister Venus here as well. But I am speaking to you. 

 Thank you so very much for the way you have not bowed to the games of the haters. Unfortunately I have read way too much hateful, spiteful, racist things directed at you. As one who happens to be a white male, may I offer my sorrow and apologies for such despicable and racist words and behaviours directed toward you.

I do believe that you show the best of what it means for us to be human, and again this past Saturday in watching your respectful praise of your opponent, and your clear headedness in the face of such racist hate, I know that to be true. I find myself inspired by you and wanting to do better in the ways that I interact with others.  

Again thank you so much for all that you are, do and strive to be.

It was a pleasure to be present for such a well fought match, and especially to listen to your exuberance and gratitude.  

Many good wishes and blessings to you as you continue to strive for all that you can be in your life and living. I also add these good thoughts especially for the US Open.

Again Thank you.


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4 July 2015 Tidal Change and Pride

I don’t post much on my social media sites, it may be my Luddite side showing, and I always promise to do better, but don’t, but I also have determined over the past two years not to respond to what I think are horrid comments by friends.

Consequences from this are: I am in contact with members of my biological family, reconnected to men and women that I studied alongside in University (it is one now) and Seminary, as well as those that I served alongside in Brethren Volunteer Service. It also means that I have evangelistic vegan friends who post all sorts of stuff, Conservative political friends, Fundamentalist Charismatic friends, as well as mainstream Christian friends, and then Unitarians, Universalists, as well as people of colour from the developing parts of our world, and many gay and lesbian and transgendered friends and allies……none of whom I would want to cut out of my life. So regardless of your opinions and postings I choose not to block and by and large not to respond.

This past week in our last session of Year One of training to become Spiritual Directors, we shared an item that meant something to us. One of my colleagues created a beautiful Icon-like icon depicting his year and growing awareness of his calling to be a Spiritual Director, another shared her design for her soon to be new Tattoo, again it depicted this awareness. I have drawn and made a dislefink (PA Dutch hex symbol) which really stands as a physical item of blessing and hope. It was in my design and looks more like a goose, chicken stylised zone than as a finch (what the dislefink is based upon).  

As my time to share with this group came and as I opened my mouth, instead of speaking of the meaning of my art work I spoke of the pride I had this week about the United States.

These things brought pride to me, 

It was nice to feel some pride in my home country, something that has long been missing, and for good reasons missing and in many ways still are missing……

SO……I recognise that these things represent a change and paradoxically that nothing has really changed.

Still, with all of that…..

I was proud,

because a congregation in South Carolina, spoke of love and forgiveness instead of their rightfully understood anger at a white man who murdered their friends and family in a time of worship.

because out of this many conservative, redneck, southern Republican politicians have begun to realise that the Confederate Battle Flag is nothing but a symbol of hatred and insult to their neighbours in their home states and towns and should come down.

because a very Conservative Justice on SCOTUS dared to cross the aisle and write a very pro decision for ACA (coded Obama care) which basically said this is the law, get over it.

because SCOTUS ruled for Marriage Equality, not gay rights, but equal protection for all couples under the legal codes of that contract called marriage.

because on the following Saturday, as I marched with fellow Unitarians in London Pride, we were behind the massive entry titled US Embassy. I don’t recall any other prides where they were so prominent or even present.

I am still proud of my home nation, and equally dismayed at the vitrolic responses from vocal “Christians”.

They assume that no Christian could support or welcome members from the LGBTQetc communities. Let along that many of us would chose to be disciples of the One called Jesus the anointed.  

The fact is that this group has over the years, and decades have vilified, bore false witness, claimed that LGBTQetc are the cause for all the ills of the US, that we have no control over our passions, etc., and they have also suggested that the LGBTQetc communities be imprisoned in concentration camps.

and now We, LGBTQetc, are apparently going out and burning Afro American / Black churches in a concerted attempt to attack Christianity. That our statements of self awareness and acceptance, basically saying this is who we are and that we will live our lives as we see fit and we don’t care for how you misinterpret the bible, is somehow now hate speech. Even the Rainbow flag used also by many peace organisations is in fact a flag of hatred for Christianity. That it stands for nothing but hatred for Christianity. No pride, not a symbol by which a diverse collection of people may be able to come together under. Not even a symbol of hatred for religion or even ideologies. Nope it is only Christianity under attack by this symbol.

I find this all kind of amusing, well really amusing, laughable…..but

it is also extremely painful.

I grew up in Fundamentalistic Christianity, my parents taught me the basics of my ever evolving faith and spirituality. The fact that I never felt abused within this very abusive form of religion is due to them. They placed relationship to God and to each other, as well as to other humans over adherence to doctrine, or narrow interpretations of Biblical materials.  

They taught me to take seriously the Bible as well as to use the intelligence that God gave me.

I am who I am due to that very grounding that they provided.

 And I thank God for them.

They distrusted the mixture of Religion and Politics. Of Evangelists, many of whom they personally knew and worked alongside in ministry, who were out to create empires in their names. They saw participation in the political system as important but not to impose their doctrine or understandings, but simply to support what would make for good governance for all persons within the USA. They saw a clear separation of duties and responsibilities for the church or religion and the state.

Throughout their lives that basic understanding never changed.

My dad tended to vote republican and my mom tended to vote democrat. Both supported and prayed for who ever was in office regardless of the party affiliations.

My dad never left his affiliation with a Fundamentalist Baptist church,

My mom never left her affiliation with a Pentecostal Charismatic church.

And my brother and I were allowed to explore what our faith and life would be.

I explored the bible, and found myself within the Mennonite fold, moved laterally to the Church of the Brethren, both of which are out of the Anabaptist movements of Europe and Christianity. Both of which have a high sense that we are called to create community. A community where all find welcome and are a part of God’s intentional family. Both of which have failed at this basic understanding of themselves, though are showing signs that they are starting to realise this part of their particular charism. 

I am now with the Unitarians, as they best reflect my Christian perspective and ever growing faith and experience of the Divine.

The simple fact is, those that have been the most vocal for Christianity and what God demands, actually have shown they have no idea about who Jesus is, nor of what Christians are called to be. They are known by their actions, not by their professions. And what is missing is in fact love. How can one love God while hating their neighbour? The letters of John ask this, and fairly much say that Love is key, is the expression of Divine intent and presence.  

Now I know that many of those “Christians” claim they are speaking the truth in love, but their words show no love, the long history of misinformation show no love, and the fact that in the past few months, when realising they would lose the SCOTUS decision began this “gay pride is Hate speech against Christians” and equally the fear mongering about what would happen show not an once of Love. By the way all of the fears of what will happen has not happened in the other countries that now and for a longer period had some form of Marriage Equality.

It is Love which shows our true connections to the Divine Spirit. I learned this at the feet of my parents, at the feet of my Mennonite and Dunkard Brethren professors, at the feet of my tutors and colleagues at the London Centre for Spirituality (CoE). I also experienced it when gathered with others around the towel and basin as we remembered Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

“IF I, your teacher, do this to you……”

There is a saying that is attributed to one of the earliest Unitarians: Francis David of Transylvania….

“We need not think alike to love alike.”

My parents taught me that by their example, it is a shame that more “Christians” haven’t figured it out yet.

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Celebrating the Earth: Theological Reflections on Earth Day 2013

Earth Day pledge
— U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program

“We join with the Earth and with each other.

To bring new life to the land
To restore the waters
To refresh the air

We join with the Earth and with each other.

To renew the forests
To care for the plants
To protect the creatures

We join with the Earth and with each other.

To celebrate the seas
To rejoice in the sunlight
To sing the song of the stars

We join with the Earth and with each other.

To recreate the human community
To promote justice and peace
To remember our children

We join with the Earth and with each other.

We join together as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery: for the healing of the Earth and the renewal of all life.”

“Celebrating the Earth”
Theological Reflections for Earth Day

I remember the first earth day, We had spent several classes studying ecological issues, the photo of earth rise was heavily present in these sessions. I remember the excitement we had for doing something for the environment, and then I got home. Was met with silence, and my older brother dismissing it as a batch of communist or hippie dippie propaganda.

Yet over the years it has stayed with me. Just as did Arbor Day, when we actually in school went out and planted trees in and around our school.

Where I grew up in western Kansas trees were vitally important. In that region as one would drive along you would find straight rows of trees. Framing the farmland.

These were planted in order to save the land, and along with changes in ways of farming, these helped to stop the dust bowl of the 1930s in the US.

Much of the land in the Amazon is becoming desert due to the loss of the forest, companies trying to turn it into grazing land for cheeper beef, or to mine it for gold, or well I am sure you can fill in the rest. But it comes down to deforestation and that action in turn, turns the land into unusable desert. Harming the ecosystem.

I grew up the grandchild of farmers, in a farming community, in a region with deep ties into agribusiness. I was nurtured by a church that had a farming ethos, a deep sense of being connected to the land. Not a connection for control but getting close to the mythological sense of being one with the land. Maybe being in harmony with the land is nearer the point.

It all speaks to me, still does even while I have lived within Urban environs for most of my life now, I still feel that connection.

Now I will admit I am not much of a gardener. I like plants that take care of themselves that don’t require my attention other than the occasional watering or feeding. I like plants that are forgiving of my attempts to do some occasional pruning and shaping. But mostly I like plants that do kinda turn into weeds.

Always remembering that weeds are basically flowers growing in the wrong places.

It is a funny connection to the world around me that I still feel, and I still want to on days like earth day to go out and plant a tree or a rose, or some form of perennial. It does my soul some good.

We all feel a connection to world around us.

It may or may not lead to us being gardeners, but we still connect. We talk about the weather, we moan when it all goes awry, we remark on the various points of beauty we see. Roses seem to play an important role in all of this. We also trill at the sound of birdsong, or of butterflies and bees.

There is a connection with the world around us, no longer the myth of dominating the land but of caring for the land, living or trying to live in harmony with all that is around us.

For many this is a religious, or spiritual connection.

As I have mentioned before, the tradition in which I was raised, saw and taught the value of the land as a faith based ideal. It didn’t always translate into all the farmers I knew in those churches, and I would say in some cases these farmer actually joined the church for other reasons, but were not really raised with the ethos of the tradition.

But that is another part and not the focus of these reflections.

The farmers that I grew up with, that I observed, that really taught me, saw their life and lifestyle as one of caring.

One told me that he did not follow the standard harvest, burn and plow under system favoured by most farmers in the area, because it did more harm than good, and that in just plowing under and allowing the land to rest for a couple of weeks was better and used less chemical treatment. So they only got two crops in, where the other got three, the others had to pay more in fertilisers, and other items. While they still had more profit, what did it profit them in the long run to harm the land.

One seminary friend of mine, wrote her theological thesis on this deep ethos in the church of farming as a calling to be carers or stewards of the land. She spoke of the value that these farmers instilled into what they did. They would buy a plot, that no one else would buy, care for it, clear out all the rocks and develop it into usable and sustainable farm land. They were so well known for doing this that in the rare occasions when the farm came up for sale, it carried a higher price, because it simply was better quality.
This bottom line, financial thinking, was not the reason for the theological development of their practice. It was a benefit of the practice not the reason for it.

The various theological groundings of these farmers were centralised in their Christianity, but one that has in its core a sense of being in relationship with God and with all that is around them. This grouping was pacifist, simple living, hard working, communal churches. They saw their faith and their living as a contract with God. They were called to care for that which they were given, as a part of their wider family. Salvation was being reconciled with one another and with God, that is being brought into healthy relationship with each other it was not a saving from the horrors of the afterlife that we so often hear being preached. In this they saw themselves in relationship with the land and nature around them, it grew out from their core theology of community and reconciliation.

Now we know this was a minority position Christianity, and because of the wider sense of prosperity gospel, that the majority preach, their heresy, and yes it is, which said that God wants us to be wealthy, to use up the land for our greed, not to care for the welfare of others, other than their souls being saved, many have rejected the teachings of the simple Rabbi from Nazareth.

Like Gandhi they say “I like your Christ, but your Christian I do not.”

That is understandable.

One of the ways that many have fought this is that they started to explore what they understood to be the ancient pagan religions. They started to explore ways of connecting to the earth as a divine endeavour. They rediscovered the mystical earth centred spiritualities which calls us to be in harmony with the land and with the elements.

It is an important item to consider, however we identify our spiritual base as human beings, we need to consider, to recognise and to develop our spirituality that sees within it a connection to all that is around us. A sense of the interdependence or web of life in which we are all connected. It may lead you to consider choices you make in your life, the way you eat, the foods you choose, the investments you make, the clothes you buy and wear, even the work that you pursue.

This theology of interconnected relationship calls us to be in harmony with all that surrounds us.

To see the beauty within all that is.

To be a faith that brings us all, human, animal, plants, earth, sea and sky into healthy relationship.

So may it be!


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After a long week at Pre GA Minister Conference and General Assembly I am home, having a long train ride home, trying to use the Wifi on the train, which only worked when stationery at the platform. Wanting to find the information on yesterdays Newcastle v Sunderland match (Sunderland won woo woo) ((which of course was the most important item on the docket yesterday afternoon)).

I didn’t get as much nap-time as I hoped on the trip.

As always the highlights of GA were meeting up with friends, classmates, all seminary students, a young lad named Jack (who adopted me for some reason), our Brother and Sister from the Hungarian Unitarian church. Making plans, comparing notes, getting annoyed together.

Yesterday I wrote about my annoyance with the tribalism of some around the colleges. I still feel it, but I do want to be clear, both schools are doing some great things in their training of those of us seeking ministry positions. And as Nicky pointed out in her response to me, the denomination is working at making training a better system utilising the best of both schools. That work is important for our community if we really want to be able to reach out to those who are looking for a more liberal faith. Or maybe the truth is that what we Unitarians have to offer is a faith community were one is free to express their liberal faith, without fear or worry. There are liberal expressions of faith in most traditions,including some we consider fundamentalist. Of course that variety is more likely to be restrained in ways that the more moderate zones would not be.

All of us are concerned about the quality of ministry training, ministers coming out of said training, and of the congregations. As ministry evolves there are several levels of need, supportive training for helping the occasional lay leader, to more intensive training for persons who are the lay people in charge of a congregation. The point is that all persons in ministry whether lay or trained need support, encouragement, training and professional growth to ensure the very best ministry available for all congregations and individuals.

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