R.E.S.P.E.C.T Adventures in the Unitarian Church… and beyond … in Westminster

There is a school of thought that believes that we have the right to say and do anything anywhere. I am in trouble with the Unitarian Church because at a service ten days ago (that I was holding) I got into a conversation with a mother whose young child clearly did not want to be in the church, and who could blame him? It was a lovely sunny day and the child was making a lot of noise, and yelling that he wanted ‘a wee’ while his parents tried to amuse him with lots of toys and appeals for quiet, which he understandably ignored. People seated around the family looked ready to scream, but unable to do so, because a church is not a good place to scream. When I spoke to the mother about the disruption, she became huffy and asked if I wanted the family to leave… and I checked-in to my inner self. I looked briefly at the congregation, a quiet peaceful group of people who were going to listen to an address about spirit and music, who would later be meditating in near silence, and decided that ‘yes, I wanted them to leave’.

Because of my carefully considered decision I have become a pariah in the Unitarian church, and have been seriously admonished. And so… it came to be… that I was asked why I showed no remorse… and I leave the answer up to you.

The idea that a sacred space is always suitable and open to everyone is not sensible. Some places of worship need quiet to honour and respect a sacred moment and the need for peace and others do not. When we hold the interfaith service on the 24thNovember the church will be full of yelling and singing and reciting kids having a great time and being generally part of the action. I love them. It is their space then — a space for a great mix of people of all ethnicities, faiths, families, ages and ideas. Even the children that come to see their siblings will be happy, because the space honours them all. This is about respect. Respect to know what is right at the right time. 

The other night we all sat around the box watching Jacob Rees Mogg sprawling across a bench in the House of Commons in the most ludicrous way. It was no different from PM Johnson putting his foot on a fine table in the office of the French President for a picture opportunity. It was no different from the PM shouting abuse and children’s playground language at the opposition… language ready to be used and re-used in the tabloid press. This is about inappropriate behaviour, an understanding of what is right in the right place. This is about the difference between children and adults, and I respect both, in the right place at the right time… because I am both. But it is up to adults to identify what is appropriate in order to honour time, place, and moment and the needs of other human beings.

As we sat in front of the box, screaming at the slouching Rees Mogg, our much-loved member of parliament – Caroline Lucas – stood up and voiced everything that had gone through our minds, and more. She reminded us that Rees Mogg’s body language sent out a message – it spoke of boredom… and the unwritten agenda was lack of respect. Respect is needed… right now, and the ability to identify when it should be used is almost as important as expressing it. Respect is not a word that the leadership of this country understands… and this is a shame, because we all know what it is… and we respect respect. Respect is very closely related to love… and lack of it defies language.