Farewell to the returning mariner

Once again, my apologies for the lateness of this notice.

We arranged at our meeting on 14th October to have a meeting on Wednesday 25th November, and it was to have been with a speaker from Oxford Mindfulness.

I rang and emailed them, but received no reply -- until this morning, when I received an email apologising and regretting that they couldn't send anyone for that meeting. I've suggested that someone might contact them later to see whether there is anything else we could do together.

However, I'd already been thinking, and suggest that we stick to the date, but make it just a farewell for me, as I sail back to Loughborough where the boat was first launched on the Sea of Faith!

So -- a party at the Friends Meeting House 43A St Giles, 
2.00 pm next Wednesday (25th November). 
Please come and bring anyone you would like to.
It would be helpful if you let me know, but come anyway.



Sea of Faith in Oxford
‘exploring and promoting religious faith as a human creation’

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Mischa Scorer, a new member of this local group of the Sea of Faith Network, 
has directed and produced over 150 documentary and arts films, many for television, 
including the 13-part series ‘The Long Search’ for the BBC,
 and (recently) ‘Searching for Peace in the Middle East’.

At our next meeting we will watch and discuss his documentary 
on Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Sufi mystic, entitled ‘The Way of the Heart’. 
The whole programme is available on DVD.

This is a rather special event, 
and we welcome anyone from other groups who might like to join us.

Thursday 22nd October
2-00 pm to 3-30 pm
at the Friends Meeting House 43 St Giles

David Paterson 07557 522 914


The result of a doodle poll for a consultation about the future of the Sea of Faith Oxford local group, was that the most popular date and time was
2 pm on Wednesday 9th September. 
We decided to meet at the Friends Meeting House 43 St Giles

You are warmly invited to this consultation, of course, whether or not you contributed to the doodle poll.

What I hope we shall do is ask ourselves the questions:
Do we want the local group to continue?
What do we see as its purpose?
Should we be trying to attract any particular group or groups (eg students, local churches, faith groups, anything else you might think of)?
How would we like it to meet -- where? how often? with a programme? for discussions? to study a book? invite speakers?
Or something completely different?
Any ideas about day conferences or anything like that?
Co-operation with other local groups?
Invitations to speakers from the Network?
And perhaps many other questions I haven't thought of.

Whether you can come or not, please send us your views, or suggestions of questions we should be asking.

But please come if you can. If it's convenient to do so, let me know whether you are coming, but come anyway.

My own feeling is that attitudes are changing at the moment in many different ways -- social, religious and political -- and that Sea of Faith ideas are very relevant to some of these issues.
This means that there is a lot to think about; and a lot of changes are possible. We have a better chance of being heard now than we have for a long time



The Future of this local group

Sea of Faith in Oxford
Trinity Term 2015

We met on Wednesday 20th May, 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm in the Library of the Friends Meeting House.
David Paterson announced that he will be leaving Oxford to return to Loughborough on 30th June, and there was a far-reaching discussion about what form the local group might take from then on. Sea of Faith in Oxford’s large mailing list will be asked their views. We felt that it was an opportunity to re-evaluate the role played by the local group, and we hope to get a wider range of opinions.
Please will you think about:
whether you are still interested in the continuation of this local group;
what its aims and objectives might be.

We could then try to make a decision about whether to continue, though probably in a new way, or disband, perhaps by amalgamating with the North Oxford group or the Progressive Christianity Network in Abingdon……

or something completely different. Or just die and wait for a new resurrection.

Would you please email me with your views as soon as possible……………
07557 522 914
………and in any case, come to
COSMOS Wednesday 3rd June
The second meeting for this term is a performance of a poem for four voices by Michael Pickering. Michael and his wife Outi, Katy Jennison and David Paterson are the readers., who have very much enjoyed rehearsing it. Michael will answer questions, and welcomes discussion after the performance.

It is a remarkable juxtaposition of the mythologies of various traditional cultures with the scientific story of the history of the Cosmos, and it is powerfully emotive.

We think it may appeal to quite a wide audience, in the areas of poetry, science, anthropology and religious studies, and have therefore booked
Friends Meeting House, 43 St Giles
2-00 pm to 3-30 pm
The reading will be followed by a discussion and refreshments
Please invite anyone you think might be interested. All are welcome

Further details from David Paterson, by email or at 07557 522 914


Sea of Faith in Oxford
The Sea of Faith Network is a national organisation which seeks to “explore and promote religious faith as a human creation”. We have no creeds or dogmas, but we do believe that religions represent an important part of human experience.
The local group meets on Wednesdays at the Friends Meeting House, 43 St Giles, Oxford, from 2.00pm to 3.30pm in Oxford term-time.  

The second meeting in Trinity term was on Wednesday 28th May:
Graham Richards on Overlooked Faults in Creationism:
Graham spoke about the essential cross-purposes between material science and Creationism or Intelligent Design, the one exploring the mechanism and processes governing the physical world, the other trying to find human meaning in an apparently totally indifferent universe.

During the Long Vacation

Would you like to meet somewhere on a Monday afternoon for a quiet get-together? I suggest 31st August or 14th September. Would anyone like to offer a venue?
Gretta Vosper  (Canadian ‘Minister, author, atheist’) visits Oxford at the Friends Meeting House on the evening of 26th September, and all day on Saturday 27th, with a service on Sunday morning 28th in Somerville College Chapel .
          Her British tour, organised by the Progressive Christianity Network, starts on Wednesday 19th September in London.   Her website www.grettavosper.ca  is well worth a visit.
          More details on  the Sea of Faith website www.sofn.org.uk, and on the Progressive Christianity website www.pcnbritain.org.uk, where you can book on line.
          Please book early if possible to enable us to cater well.

Wednesday in second week 22nd October at the Friends Meeting House 2 pm.
          John White from OxHum, the Oxford branch of the British Humanist Association. Topic to be announced.
Wednesday in seventh week 26th November. Speaker to be announced.


240A Marston Road, Oxford OX3 0EL 07765 416 801


Article in the Oxford Mail 2014 06 11
Are religions any earthly use?

“Don’t mix politics and religion” say many people. And in a way, they’re right. None of our religions should be allowed advantages: political or cultural power, possessions or wealth, or the ability to impose their beliefs on other people. That’s why a truly secular democratic society is so important.

But if “don’t mix religion and politics” means that a religion should have nothing to do with the welfare of people, nothing to do with health care, proper education, or the way our country is run, or how our nation relates to other nations, then I think it’s nonsense. If a religion isn’t about fair wages, proper distribution of resources, just laws, communities living together in peace, and opportunities for everyone to enjoy life to the full– then that religion is no earthly use. Whatever our religion may be – or if we have none – our ideals must help us to challenge the inequalities, the lies, the self-centredness of our world.

There’s been a lot about politics in the papers and on TV lately – politics is high on the agenda. Lots of different opinions, some very gloomy forecasts, a lot of anger (and fear too, I think). And certainly a lot of apathy – the despairing sort – “it’s no good trying to do anything about it, nothing’s going to make any difference” – or, more specifically “I didn’t vote, because you can’t trust any of them.” But what I’ve noticed is that nearly all the discussions are about “what’s in it for me”, and “what’s best for Britain”. Never mind about other people, never mind about the poor getting poorer while others get very rich; never mind about Europe if it’s not in Britain’s interests; never mind about the rest of the world, people dying from disease and starvation or from violent struggles and the power of armaments. I don’t think immigration is the problem, but a lot of people do. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we must expect that, and welcome the strangers who want to live with us. We can learn a lot from strangers. It’s inequality that’s the problem, so that the most vulnerable in our society pay the price that enables others to be rich.                                       

It has to be admitted that the religions of the world do not have a good track record in history. Too often they have been players in power struggles between their own members, and have shown deep-rooted prejudice against other religions; power struggles similar to the ones which are going on at the moment (some of which do, indeed, have religious causes or undertones). But at the heart of each Faith there is a great hunger for peace and love, forgiveness, justice and hope. And that, I think, is what matters. Lots of people who claim no religious affiliation at all have had this deep longing for the good of everyone, sometimes in protest against the uncaring, warring religions of their time. These people – the ones who seek the common good – are the saviours of the world, regardless of whether they are religious or not. No religion can bring salvation except by working together with all those who care deeply for the future of the human race, and indeed for all living beings.

The religions can contribute their own insights to this task, and can be very important players (perhaps essential), but only by respecting one another and learning from one another. What our present political and economic problems need are people who together, from a variety of religious and non-religious viewpoints, really understand that we can never solve our problems, or even attempt to tackle them, by seeking and serving our own interests. We must learn to care about each other. Any religion or ideology which can inspire people to do this can help save the world.

David Paterson 


With or Without ‘God’
Gretta Vosper UK tour 2014
With Scott Kearns
London:  Bloomsbury 7.30pm Wednesday 24th September
Oxford: Weekend conference Fri 26th – Sun 28th September

Gretta Vosper is minister at the West Hill United Church in Toronto.  She writes of herself as post-theist, though she will agree to wear the label atheist if it starts a conversation.   The subtitles of her two books illustrate where she stands: With or without God: Why the way we live is more important than what we believe and Amen: What prayer can mean in a world beyond belief.
Tour themes. Gretta will be asking what we mean by God and whether the word is past its use-by date.  This will be the theme of her London lecture and the Saturday morning lecture in Oxford.   In Oxford she will go on to explain why a post-theistic church is worth keeping.  She will be assisted at Oxford by her husband, Scott Kearns, who writes non-theistic music and songs.  Together they will rehearse and then lead a non-theistic liturgy on Sunday 28th which will include a message from Gretta.  Gretta’s Friday evening talk in Oxford will be a more informal account of her personal faith journey and how her own congregation has adapted and stayed with her.
Event Information
London lecture on Wed. 24th Sept at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP. 
Before the 7.30 talk we are offering wine and nibbles starting from 6.30pm.  There will be time for questions.                                                                                    Price £10
Oxford conference 26th – 28th Sept.  The main venue is the Quaker Meeting House, 43 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LW.  We have arranged a discounted room rate (double or twin) plus breakfast for two at the Holiday Inn.  The cost is £80 on Friday and £100 on Saturday, with no cancellation fee up to 4pm on 26th September
Friday evening starts with refreshments and registration at 7pm for a 7.30 start.  
Saturday registration starts at 10am for 10.30 start.  Refreshments will be available through the day. We are also aiming to include a light lunch in the price of the ticket.  The day finishes at 4pm.          Prices £6 Friday, £16 Saturday, £20 combined
The Sunday events are in Somerville College Chapel, OX2 6HD, starting at 9.30am with a rehearsal followed by the non-theistic liturgy at 11am and then refreshments in the College gallery bar at noon.  A Sunday collection will be taken to help defray the costs of hiring the chapel and the refreshments afterwards.
There will be a bookstall at both London and Oxford at which signed copies of Gretta Vosper’s books will be available.
For further information
London venue: Alan Race, alan.race@pcnbritain.org.uk, 0208 852 8377
Oxford venue:  David Paterson, davidpaterson130@gmail.com, 07765 416 801 &                             Cliff Marshall. Cliff.marshall@pcnbritain.org.uk, 01235 530480
Ticketing for both events: Andy Vivian, info@pcnbritain.org.uk, 01594 516528
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With or Without ‘God’ booking form
(You can also book online at www.pcnbritain.org.uk)