Personal Assessment in September 1989

Saturday September 16th 1989

This was a report written about me ahead of going into Unitarian College. It was a report on me, the person, after an interview where I was happy to give a full account. The first diary entry was written summarising the copy I was given with quotes, and then there follows a review at the end of the week.

FE's Comments

[When I write I do so in the first person, I convert reports from he to me/ my. However, actual quotes in "quotes" retain the third person.]

[It starts with descriptions of my mother and father's leaving, and about other members of the family and my attitude regarding an inherited condition which means I have accepted not intending to have children].

I have informed myself and been to Tubersous Sclerosis meetings [says the report]. "He has found these difficult because of a gap between the intellectual content and focus and the practical nitty gritty language and needs of those impaired by the condition and their families. This turned out to be the first of a series of ways in which Adrian drew attention to discrepancies between language/ conceptualisation and realities of how people live." s/he calls it a recurrent theme. [In the report] s/he says I speak straight but prefers to keep it relatively private. Little depth, s/he says.

...long friendships with friends. School not happy and no aptitude for study until A Levels [I add the note] *Not quite true. s/he says the influence of a Welsh girl meant I opted for Bangor "but neither the course nor the relationship lasted longer than a few weeks" [In fact it was over].

Then s/he describes the intellectual route but puts me as a member of a transitional Methodist (outside, trans, core, inside) [group] and my discovery that liberal theology wasn't in the churches, these discrepancies in the mainstream Church becoming it. Then s/he describes the religious road, and my Anglicanism serious enough to be confirmed and in the Fellowship of Vocation. "My impression is that Adrian became an insider observer as he had in the Methodist group - never quite a member." An interest in other faiths and Bahais via Hospital Broadcasting Services led to Unitarianism, not a success as it was fluid and amorphous."However, he returned to the Hull church and became - now here I have a problem as I am not sure if it is a participant observer again or a member this time." [I am] very serious certainly about my approach to leading worship and my enquiry but it's open ended resisting prescripture and set constraints. I am aware what it means [restrictions] in the Federation [in which UCM is a part]. So I thought about my position. One theme was the shop front and [versus] the reality of personal organisational life. I can do the intellectuals game but it is palling [?] ... but I need dialogue/ discussion where intellect and genuine involvement happens immediately. I'd benefit [the assessment of me says] from the Principal with continuity, not allowing me to move to the next question before I've confronted the first.

"My speculation is that Adrian is seeking to put his intellectual life in the context of the emotional-cultural life of himself, his family and everyday practical realities and compromises."

I recognised that I had "put his foot down" about CBK (a Federation biblical knowledge course) and though I need more on the bible it is not my home now, but I am aware of continuing ecumenical and interfaith approaches which is a search without traditional boundaries. The Principal's idea of examining texts combines rigour and openness.

Social and Pastoral Theology [at the University] intrigues but there are fears of orthodoxy. The MA suggests relative weariness with pure academics ~ but no bad thing.

I enjoy leading worship and this should be co-ordinated and not ad-hoc. I need to develop skills [s/he reports] in gaining responses and meaning for others. I'm wary about my effect on other Federation students and my questioning which I do not want inhibiting. I look forward to chats with the Principal, but may have to be quiet with others.

My sociology strengthens wariness of institutionalisation. My Ph.D is both a power counter but may raise expectations in new fields - "a proper estimate" [s/he states]. I'm aware of intellectual traditions but my own drive is to an unsettled future. I need Unitarian roots, I can and am acquiring knowledge but less experience of living with Unitarians. [Paraphrase- I need core people to relate to] - mainly the Principal, personal tutorials with him and two to three people as a core, [and] the rough and tumble of other discussion in the [University] Diploma.

S/he regrets we did not explore pastoral and social aspects; I know nothing of religious education and children. My confidence is variable and I am less certain of myself than first seems. This is an appropriate position and needs no defensiveness.

Report went to 2 people.

Weekly Review

All about me

FE made some elementary mistakes with the confidential (to... although I can do what I like with it) report all about me. Well printed, the worst error is that it suggests a chaotic two week relationship with a Welsh girl at Bangor whereas it was more like two years and was over before I got to Manchester. ... It is penetrating stuff, this indeed seeing me possibly in the Hull Unitarians as a participant observer - as s/he regarded me in the Anglicans. Now I'm not sure I'd have said that, but on balance I think she's right. And I said to mum that all sociologists are participant observers of the university and to be told they were is to be seen as normal: basically I said something gets you into a subject in which, for a Ph.D, you have to wrap yourself in, and thus you become a sociologist and that's your bent and a participant observer. That's your outlook. And I don't see how I could ever break the fact that I am a participant observer in anything ~ that's the key to understanding. Otherwise it will dominate you and you become narrow. But the implication is non-commitment, and the point about me not being prescriptive about anything belief-wise does suggest non-commitment, though she stresses just as hard that there is a search for meaning, for what is really going on behind the face.

... There's some stress on this face/ reality duality and that the search will rely on some sense with G [the Principal]. ... That strikes a sensitive note about dependence on other personalities and deeply relating. [There was a contact in the week from the Principal which I comment upon] That's me. But I know G was referring to this because he suddenly came out with attachment to the [my] family and stressed not to have mainstream Christianity as the agenda.

These passages stress that at this time, ex-Anglican, I was in a condition of search, and I had also just completed and been awarded my Ph.D. I was combining sociology and redefining theology - and yet wanted to be ecumenical. It seemed that I would need space and the Principal would help provide it. However, I was soon to discover that this space was not available, this breadth was not available and the Principal's somewhat Buddhist outlook would not be enough in that college and in that locality. This was not a Federation restriction, but Unitarianism in traditional Manchester and Lancashire and Cheshire, and the perception by Unitarianism of the Federation and keeping within some distance of orthodoxy. My strategy became not to mix with the Federation in what it does, but making the space I needed to grow, and yet having good relations on a more pluralist basis with other denominations there, a basis that they seemed to find quite acceptable. I always took the view that their trinitiarian rite of eucharist, the pressure point of the week, was their right, and Unitarians should not grumble for an occasional Unitarian version (not allowed), but make our own provision, being open for others to attend as their ceremony was for us. Furthermore, I was to find radicals, just like or close to me, training in those other denominations. I knew this would be so and was why the ecumenical side was important. I knew that denominations were widely differing coalitions: my Ph.D had said so! Somehow, though, this approach was not pleasing for Unitarian traditionalists still with a turn of the twentieth century view of liberal Christianity. I often found more agreement from fundamentalists and evangelicals!