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The Tao of Pooh

An address by the President of the Unitarian Church of SA, Jennie Dyster, recorded on Sunday, 12th August, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. Jenny uses A.A. Milne's character, "Winnie the Pooh" to show the virtue found in simplicity and spontaneity - as distinct from complexity and artifice. Jenny whimsically applies the Taoist "Principle of the Uncarved Block" to Pooh - that "bear of (supposedly) very little brain". She concludes that when we discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later we'll discover the ability to enjoy the simple, the quiet, the natural, the plain - and the virtue to be found in unpretentiousness.

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The Civil Thing

An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 29th July, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. In this address, Rob laments the rise of incivility and outlines the reasons for it. He refers to the science of brain physiology and especially the primitive "flight or fight" part of the human brain - the amygdala which we share with the reptiles. This explains why we are often so slow to respond effectively to incivility - what Rob refers to as the "amygdala hijack". How do we stay cool in the midst of conflict? Where might we find models of dignity, lucidity, civility in an increasingly uncivil age? If incivility is the enslavement of the reptilian part of our brain - the amygdala - Is it possible - Rob asks - for each of us to control our propensity to incivility in the midst of conflict? He uses the example of Elin Errson, a courageous 21 year-old Swedish student protesting against the deportation of a young Afghani refugee, to show how this can be done. See the link at - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/25/swedish-student-plane-protest-stops-mans-deportation-afghanistan.

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Idols and Icons

An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 29th July, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. In this address, Rob reflects on  the iconography to be found in places of worship around the world - sometimes venerated, prayed to, decorated, kissed, danced to, and offered sacrificial giving. In contrast, non-conformist traditions - Quaker, Congregationalist, Unitarian - seem "cleansed" of iconography. But are they? He cites examples of Unitarian icons that risk becoming idolatry - even the Ministry itself! Rob also warns of the many icons and idols abounding in our wider society and urges caution whenever our icons risk morphing into idolatry - to entrap and enslave us.

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Chance

An address by a member of our church, Charlie Madden - recorded on Sunday, 22nd July, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. Charlie commences this address which he calls "Chance" by defining Chance as an unexpected event, a risk, an opportunity, or probability of an outcome happening. Charlie cites examples of three basic kinds of chance: - the chance that we have complete control, no control or some control - i.e.  the chance that we can influence an outcome. It's this third type of chance that Charlie focusses on in addressing effective action for climate change. Decision-making based on evidence-based science is the key to meaningful action on climate change. It is through our informed choices - in personal dcision-making, in joining an action group to apply collective pressure on government and "big business" and who we choose as our political leaders which will give us our best chance of meaningful action on climate change.

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The Ship of Theseus

An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 15th July, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. Rob reflects on the inevitability of Change within our church and our attidudes to Change. He uses a classical analogy: the Ship of Theseus and the futile attempts by the Athenians to use it as his "lasting" memorial. In venerating the past, 'Loss aversion' to institutional change becomes idolatry.
So it is with human institutions - and our Church - which will inevitably evolve into something new. Time past is contained in time present. Our attitudes to change will be critical in how we - as a Church - are to shape our future  and chart a way forward.

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An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 8th July, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. Within the context of the immensity of the universe, Rob explores how we humans - according to the Fermi paradox are - each of us, individually - an incredibly rare, unique and precious, individual starship of star-matter. He suggests how - especially when the going gets tough - it's abstract, non material things like Justice, Contentment, and Love, especially Agape Love that shape our lives and give them meaning.

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With reference to the challenge of Jesus for us to become "fishers of women and men",  Rob uses the analogy of "a ship of fools" - smug in their comfortable, self-satisfaction  - sailing on an idyllic sea. Are we a ship's company prepared to watch foundering souls drown - rather than risk the challenges of rescuing them?
 
Rob poses the question "Why are we so unknown"? - when far from being a fringe movement, we are representative of mainstream liberal values and behaviours, rational, cvompassionate, willing to envision, model and build a better world of justice and peace - where no soul is left un-moored and foundering - for all of us were once foundering souls rescued by this community.
 
Rob leaves us with a choice of direction - to remain smug, content, self-satisfied - chasing our personal vision of what we, individually want our church to be - a "ship of fools" - or to reach out - united as a Unitarian community - to meet the needs of those whose lives will be enriched by what we can offer them?
 
Rob's address was followed with a "branding jam" session that explored ways in which our Community might plot a course that best reaches out to others and avoids foundering on reefs hidden under the "sea of complacency".
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An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 24th June, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. This week we are encouraged towards a more compassionate narrative for those we are frequently urged to judge. Rob examines how a consumer-oriented society frequently blames the poor and unemployed for their poverty. Rob is supported by guest speakers, Pas Forgione of the Anti-Poverty Network of SA and Tracey who advocate an increase in the Newstart Allowance which has been 'flat-lined' by successive Australian governments since 1994. Together, they provide eloquent testimony about what it is like to try to live on the Newstart Allowance - well below the poverty line. Tracey also describes from personal experience what it's like to be blamed by others for being poor.

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An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 17th June, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. In the third of our Month of Discernment addresses: "Judge Not - Shifting from Judgement to Compassion", Rob explores the chasm that so often exists between judgement and compassion - between the humane values we espouse and our actions which seem to fall well short of these values. This included a buzz session on how our (pre-) judgements of certain "others" may get in the way of living a fully compassionate life.

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An address by the Minister, Rev. Rob MacPherson - recorded on Sunday, 10th June, 2018 in the Unitarian Meeting House in Adelaide. Rob emphasises the importance of free-will and self-determination as preconditions for spiritual growth. Spiritual practice is grounded in Metacognition - "thinking about our thinking" - and Neuroplasticity where spiritual practice can quickly become ingrained neural pathways leading to change. Bigotry and  prejudice can be overcome once people have an opportunity to share each other's life stories/experiences - to "walk awhile in each other's mocassins". Rob cites the unlikely alliance and friendship that formed between Iain Paisley, head of the Ulster Unionists and Martin McGuinness the head of Sinn Féin - once they had shared each other's stories.
Listeners to this podcast will also have glimpses of the hymns, music, sharing of joys and concerns and spiritual practices that comprise a Unitarian Universalist Service - including a buzz session where we share the things that we are most judgmental about - which point to our vulnerabilities but also point the way towards spritual growth within ourselves and within our spiritual community.

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