In October 2018 we welcomed Rev. Claire MacDonald as our half-time minster. Claire says:
‘I was born and grew up in south London and though I spent my teens in Scotland and then lived in Cambridge and after that in Washington DC, when the Lewisham congregation appointed me as their minister I thought I knew where I was coming to. I was both right and wrong. The neighbourhood is familiar and it is changing under our eyes, with new communities, new challenges, new problems and new possibilities. I am excited and privileged to be here now. For me Unitarianism is a meeting place and a means to connect spiritual well-being and social change. Ministers are midwives of the spirit if you like, and what they help to bring about is human flourishing, ways to respond to the question of what it means to be here, to make the best of what we have, to nourish ourselves and those around us, and to leave the place we have lived clean and well cared for. At its simplest spirituality is about a deeper awareness of what it means to be here, and part of that is an awareness that we can’t stay here, we have a very short time of it, and flourishing, loving and taking care are not easy. All of us find it hard, at times.
Unitarianism does what all religion does at its simplest and best — it deepens a sense of joy and community, and it comforts in hard times. It takes the world seriously and works to make it better, and it creates moments of joy and shared understanding as we mark our path through life. It’s a travelling faith, in constant conversation with meaning, finding ways to walk lightly, with kindness and gratitude.
My own path has taken me down many avenues. I began as a Congregationalist as a child, spent a long time outside religion after my mother’s early death, finding in the arts a deep sharing community that could transform lives. Much later I began to come back towards organised religion through an interest in contemplation, in creating new kinds of rites of passage, and through working with people across faiths on social action.
I trained at Harris Manchester College in Oxford and completed an MA in Abrahamic Faiths at Heythrop College in London. I am on the Board of the Unitarian publications team for the Lindsey Press and often take part in and lead groups for the Unitarian Summer School at Great Hucklow in the Peak District. I continue to work in the arts, teaching writing and theatre, giving talks and collaborating with artists. I also connect Unitarian social action with arts work at the Garrett Centre in Bethnal Green where I volunteer at the Unitarian social action project SimpleGifts and where I am also am a Thinker in Residence with the arts organisation LADA (the Live Art Development Agency). Locally I am on the Steering Group for the Lewisham Interfaith Forum.
I see myself as a radical Unitarian, a feminist committed to LGBTQI equality and rights, to social justice and fairness. I am passionately committed to collaboration, co-operation, community, connection and conversation — all the things that enable us to share and to become more than we can be alone, do alone, think alone. We need one another. Our mission at Lewisham Unitarians is just that. We offer a space for connection and we open that space with hospitality to both the social and the sacred.’
Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment,
to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
Peace is all around us - in the world - and in nature
- and within us - in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed.
It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice.
-Touching Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh