10 years at New Unity

In ministry, there is never a time when the present and the past do not tug on you. People become comfortable with the way things are...I always think to myself when there are opinions expressed ‘who is speaking for the future? Who is speaking for those who could be transformed by this place and make a better world because of it?’ It is hard to speak for that future when we live with our present needs, but we must.

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What do you know?

The following words have become embedded in our culture thanks to The Matrix:
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

That is the moment when Neo is given the choice of whether he wanted to return to the false virtual reality or face the world as it is. Neo chooses the red pill - chooses to know reality as it is. If he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been much of a film and we would have been left without some amazing special effects and a few sequels that were nowhere near as good as the original. But, was Neo’s choice sensible? Would he have been happier if he had chosen the blue pill and returned to the illusion? Was his world better off released from illusion into a bleak reality?

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Culture: Living in the Salad Bowl

The Golden Rule does not suffice for such a culture. It works well if we are all the same. If we are identical, then you will be happy for me to treated you as I want to be treated. If we are different, for me to use myself as my primary guide to understanding you and your needs is to overlook all our separate journeys and perspectives. To do so also carries the implication that if you are not like me, you should be. 

Instead, a radically accepting and inclusive culture needs what has been called the platinum rule: treat others as they would want to be treated. And this rule is by far the harder one - it is the rule that leads us to connect and learn and understand and grow together.

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Multiculturalism out there and in here

The other kind of multiculturalism is about inclusion. It’s the opposite of enforced sameness.
It’s about making room for people whose cultures are different from the dominant culture of the nation. It’s about acceptance - accepting people as they are. And this, I think, is at the heart of what multiculturalism must mean - whether in a nation or a congregation. Wherever we come from, whoever we are, we are accepted as we are. We are not doused in preservative so we never change or isolated in our little impervious corners - we know that interchange between cultures will make us all the richer - in nations or in congregations.

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Hiroshima & Nagasaki - Culture can kill

Culture matters. When we consider whether we will have a world of conflict or a world of peace, there are many factors, but culture matters.  If we want to live in a world where all human life is valued equally - culture matters.  

When we consider how we treat others in times of disagreement or conflict - whether we will try to understand or lash out - whether we are ready to forgive or seek vengeance - culture matters. Culture is not the only thing that matters, but it is part of the picture. For good and for ill, for peace and for conflict, we are shaped by all our experiences. But culture is a special kind of experience and influence. It is like the air we breathe - it is invisible and it is everywhere. It influences us without our noticing. It is part of us whether we recognise it or not. And if we don’t recognise it is there, culture has more power over us.

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Whose Culture?

The dominant culture of a community tends to be invisible to many of its members. It is invisible especially to the people whose personal cultural norms fit. They don’t feel any disconnect or clash with their values or ways of being, so they don’t see there is a culture at all.

The future of New Unity depends on us asking ourselves hard and perhaps uncomfortable questions about who we are, who we are for, what we want to achieve, and who we are willing to leave out.

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My Muslim Culture

Two days ago, I learned that Abdul Sattar Edhi had died at the age of 88. If you don’t know who he is, I strongly urge you to find out more about him. Edhi spent close to six decades singlehandedly building Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation, and to date his foundation has saved and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of the country’s most vulnerable citizens through his ambulance service, nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, maternity wards, morgues, homes for the elderly, women's shelters, rehabilitation centres and soup kitchens... for all my narcissistic talk on identity politics and the mechanics of assimilation in my own experience, I bring this up because Edhi’s example is the answer I’d like to give to the question of what my Islam is; selfless, defiant and compassionate. (QS)

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Got Culture

Got Culture

We have a culture. Some of us fit into the culture perfectly - so much so that we may not notice it exists. Others find they have to contort themselves a bit or a lot tofit. Some of you may feel you need to put on a particular mask when you come here. You may sense that you need to put aside their own cultural norms to conform to “the way we do things around here”?

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just is, but it is important that we are aware of it. It’s important that we examine the part of our culture that lies beneath the surface and understand the impact of that culture.

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Surviving Orlando

I wish I could tell you that the path of love is a certain and rapid route to understanding and that with a little more love, flowers will replace guns and bombs everywhere and everyone will get along. We know that’s not true.

But we also know that killing or even demeaning our enemies is not and has never been a reliable path to understanding and tolerance. It provides an outlet for our fury. It may have an effect in the short term. But it leads to even more anger, resentment, and polarisation in the long run. “Us” and “them” become more entrenched, more foreign to one another, and more certain of the “otherness” of their opponents....our love will not stop killing and terrorism today nor will it eradicate the hatred and anger that fuel it. Whilst we can not change today with a snap of our fingers, our love can change the future. Our commitment to compassion and understanding can change the way our children and their children will relate to one another. Our actions today determine the shape of the world in which our children and our children’s children will live.

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Leading from Health

A lot of the thinking for the healthy leadership concepts grew out of what therapists learned when they worked with families. Often, they found that when they worked with one family member who appeared to be the ill one - the patient - it was not effective. But when they worked with the whole family unit, there was a big change in the so-called patient. 

The behaviour of the family unit was much more than could be expected by looking at the individuals separately. The complex ways those different individuals interacted was what created the overall behaviour. And that behaviour might lead to one person - the patient - carrying all the illness for the rest. 

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Ramadan: Practice makes Progress

What we do can change how we think. We might imagine that the only way to change our actions is to change how we think and feel. But it’s been proven true that the reverse is also true. For example, smiling can make you feel happier, a confident pose can make you feel more confident, and generous acts can make you more generous... as Aristotle put it, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

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