Why the world needs to be more Unitarian

Posted: 15th May 2024

As the only Unitarian school in the UK, Channing has close links with Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel in Hampstead. Their Minister, Reverend Kate Dean, talked to us recently in assembly about what being a Unitarian means. She shared that Unitarians were at the forefront of the campaign to change the law so that same sex couples could marry. You would expect Unitarians to be open and tolerant, so there was some surprise when the campaign wasn’t supported by everyone. But, Rev Kate went on, “We like to say ‘we need not think alike to love alike’ and we have to accept that we’re not always going to agree on everything, however uncomfortable that can feel sometimes. It doesn’t mean that we don’t like or even love each other any more. It just means we sometimes have to agree to disagree, and do it respectfully.”

This freedom to question, to challenge and to be curious is at the heart of our Unitarian ethos at Channing. The key is to help children understand the true meaning of ‘tolerance’ when we talk about kindness, respect and tolerance at school. Rev Kate’s thoughts on this really resonated with me: “We are really lucky to be living in a time and place where we are able to express our opinions freely. But with this freedom comes responsibility. We are responsible for our actions and our words. If we start from a place of kindness, even when we disagree, we can find ways to co-exist, to live together. This is what it means to be tolerant. This is what it means to practise acceptance…When you encounter someone for the first time, it’s a natural instinct to notice what’s different about them – whether that’s physical appearance, accent or something that they say. We can make that path of friendship smoother when we recognise the similarities rather than focussing on the differences. When we seek out the common ground, it is going to make someone feel much more comfortable than pointing out differences, othering them.

“We are living in times where our society is being increasingly divided. Holding a particular view or political opinion seems to draw a line which is difficult to cross. We have lost the shades of grey and we must try to work harder to find that common ground. In those moments perhaps we should be asking, where is God, or if you prefer, goodness, in this conversation or situation? Perhaps that is the way in which we can find the highest power of goodness to help navigate the distance between us.”

Reverend Kate Dean is Minister of Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead

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