Friday, 17 January 2020

Towards a quieter future

In December we had an excellent discussion about our glorious past and our current energy levels. And we decided to go for a quieter future.

We have no schedule of meetings for 2020, and no plans to create one.

There was a lot of agreement among the mince pies that afternoon. We were united in thinking that Sea of Faith Leicester has had a splendid decade or more of thought-provoking and horizon-expanding meetings.

They began when our first convener, Allan, floated the idea of a regular meeting for existing members of the network. He offered a series of options and, perhaps surprisingly, most respondents chose Saturday afternoon. Perhaps because of that, we’ve always attracted attenders from around the county, and from as far as Rutland. We also resisted getting stuck in a “second Saturday of the month” calendarial rut. We met when it suited us and, importantly, when it suited our visiting speakers. Allan’s network of contacts provided an excellent stream of those.

We kept the flexibility over meetings when, in January 2013, we moved from the Secular Hall to another historically fascinating Leicester venue, the Great Meeting. We never actually met regularly. Monthly would have been too frequent; bi-monthly not frequent enough. So we had no fixed pattern, and fell into arranging dates at the beginning of each year—always keeping the option of rejigging them depending on speakers’ availability. 

When we had no speaker planned, we perfected our relaxed, open-mic style sessions. Everyone was encouraged, if they wished, to bring something to the party—a video clip, a magazine article (often from Sofia), a book they were reading or just a quotation they’d come across. As a result of such triggers we had varied and wide-ranging discussions, and some new ideas to follow up.

Regular members also stepped in to lead sessions, presenting a longer video for discussion, or a poetry session. We also had excellent “My Journey” sessions, where one of the regular group simply spoke about their current beliefs, attitudes and habits, what brought them there and where they saw the future. Some of these were really moving, as well as revealing varieties of understanding and exploration.

 It takes a lot of people to create and sustain such a vibrant group for so long. So a warm thank you to everyone, including our many speakers and those who attended and contributed, by speaking up, or simply by listening and being part of the welcoming and appreciative audience that our speakers so valued. Thanks too to the various people who facilitated meetings, introducing speakers and maintaining order when required. We never had a formal chair, happy to rotate the role among a small handful of people, depending on the topic and the speaker. We also want to thank our hosts at the Great Meeting, especially Arthur and Annie who made us so welcome.

Special thanks must go to our “post holders”. Since our move Janet, as secretary, has been the driving force, the energy behind making it all happen. She was very well assisted by George, our treasurer and Joy, our head of catering. She had support from a planning group who met between meetings for coffee and helped with tricky decisions or organisational details.

Where now?

A quieter future doesn’t mean we are disappearing. We are a network, and will remain so. Individual members will see each other at Sea of Faith events, and other local events—some of which we may try to advertise here.

We hope to arrange occasional week-day gatherings too, perhaps coffee or lunch in Leicester for those available during the day. We will arrange these through email, another way that the group intends to remain in contact.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

December meeting: Saturday 14 December 2019

Time and change

What comes next?

We have had some wonderful meetings over the ten years, and more, that the current Leicester group of the Sea of Faith Network has been active.

Our excellent organisers have worked behind the scenes to deliver a great mix of speakers and discussion topics. We’ve shared many hours of enjoyable argument and insights.

But things are changing. According to Plato, Heraclitus was fond of saying, πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει. Everything changes and nothing stands still. This is as true now as it was then. Which arguably undermines his point. (We could talk about this.)

Across the network, membership is decreasing, along with attendance levels. The energies and availability of the organisers are likewise reducing. Leicester is not immune from this trend. There is doubt about the viability of the group in its current form.

On the list of possible scenarios for the future are:


  • a managed decline
  • a disorderly decline
  • a triumphant finale
  • a last-minute rescue.

  • It has been a brilliant decade and more, with very many memorable speakers, videos and discussions.

    We intend to celebrate that, with a mince pie or two, at the meeting. But it is also up to us, collectively, to decide what we do.

    Please come, whatever your past connection with the group, to add your voice, or to listen to the options. Above all, come to enjoy our end-of-year gathering. It may also be the end of an era.

    Everyone welcome—existing fans, newcomers and the simply curious.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 14 December 2019 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.

    Monday, 9 September 2019

    September meeting: Saturday 28 September 2019

    Is that all there is?

    Sea of Faith annual conferences do not end when the final whistle blows. Fans and players disperse, but the ideas, arguments and shared experiences reverberate around the mind, stimulating new insights and areas for exploration.

    Our September meeting is a chance for us to revisit ideas from this July’s conference and share new insights. It is not at all necessary to have attended the conference. Or even to stick to its topics. As the editor of Sofia said in introducing the magazine devoted to the conference, “most of the time that theme hovered in the background”. So we can try to provide answers to the central question, “is that all there is?” Or we can focus on another theme that emerged strongly, such as exclusion and inclusion. Or simply drift wherever the tides of discussion take us.

    The talks and discussion are printed in the current issue of Sophia, and include the following which link direct to PDFs:

    From Exclusive to Inclusive: A Journey of Faith by Ernie Rea

    Justice Through the Looking Glass by Stephen Williams


    Everyone welcome—existing fans, newcomers and the simply curious.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 28 September 2019 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.

    Tuesday, 14 May 2019

    May meeting: Saturday 25 May

    In Conversation with Miriam Levene

    We are delighted to be welcoming Miriam Levene, a member and one-time chair of the Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation—“a warm and welcoming community for Jews of all backgrounds”.

    The meeting will be a relaxed conversation over topical issues linked to the Jewish community in Leicester and beyond. We will include some of the history of Neve Shalom, the community whose name means oasis of peace and is a tribute to the village near Jerusalem known as Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam where Jewish and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel live together to create harmony and diversity.

    Miriam describes herself, among other things, as a Jewish mother, grandmother, retired speech & language therapist, sister and “hopefully a good friend”. She and her four brothers were born to parents who met in London having left Germany due to the rise of Hitler. She says her identity as a British Jew, supportive of Israel but valuing the freedom to be critical of it, is central to her. She also enjoys her voluntary work as a "faith practitioner" engaging with those of faith and none.

    It promises to be one more highlight in the excellent series of recent sessions.  

    Everyone welcome—existing fans, newcomers and the simply curious.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 25 May 2019 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.

    Wednesday, 6 March 2019

    March meeting: Saturday 23 March

    How can we study religion?

    Dr Angela Jagger

    There are many things we can do with religion. We can talk about it, for sure. Endlessly. Some people practise it. Some condemn it. But what does it mean to study religion? How do we explore more broadly and deeply while remaining focused, dispassionate and rational?

    To find out we’re asking someone who knows. Dr Angela Jagger is an associate lecturer in religious studies with the Open University. She has a long-standing interest in inter-faith relations and for many years led modules in the MA programme at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester. Her doctorate explored Christian attitudes to other faiths.

    This promises to be a fascinating meeting, bringing together threads that we often touch on in discussion but rarely approach in a systematic and informed way. Prepare for insights.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 23 March 2019 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.

    Friday, 4 January 2019

    January meeting: Saturday 19 January 2019

    An introduction to Wittgenstein

    We are delighted to start our 2019 series with the welcome return of Simon Mapp, long-time Sea of Faith member and current vice chair of the board of trustees. This time Simon will be introducing us to the life and works of Ludwig Wittgenstein—a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Not many people are aware that Wittgenstein came to Manchester in 1908 to study practical aeronautics, before he turned more theoretical.

    Simon promises a basic biographical introduction, with some depth on Wittgenstein’s early work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, rather than the later Philosophical Investigations. (Just so you know where to focus if you fancy some preparatory reading.)

    Should be an excellent, informative session—from propellers to positivism. Everyone welcome—existing fans, newcomers and the simply curious.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 19 January 2019 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.

    Monday, 5 November 2018

    November meeting: Saturday 17 November 2018

    Open meeting, relaxed discussion


    What a year 2018 has been. We’ve had some terrific meetings, thought-provoking speakers, fascinating discussions. Many thanks to all, and in particular to the small group of people who work behind the scenes to make it all happen. Thank you.

    There are more fun and exciting explorations to come. Our final meeting of the year is an open session. Everyone is warmly invited to bring a topic that is of interest to them. It might be stimulated by a book or magazine article, a radio or tv programme, an online video or just a personal thought or memory. Share it with the group, and we’ll discuss it. Very relaxed, wide-ranging and stimulating. We can show videos, play audio and circulate articles. Or just listen and reflect.

    One thing that we are highly likely to be talking about is the inter-faith walk starting at Town Hall Square that happens earlier that day. People who went last year said it was very good. See the panel on the right.

    We will also be discussing our programme for 2019. Things just keep on getting better.

    Everyone welcome—existing fans, newcomers and the simply curious.  

    The Garden Room at Great Meeting Chapel on Saturday 17 November 2018 2.30 - 4.30 pm

    Doors open, with drinks available, from 2.00 pm

    The chapel is at 5 East Bond Street, Leicester, LE1 4SX (just across the road from John Lewis). There is a small (free) car park. A donation of £4 per person covers room hire and other costs.

    For more information, use the contact details on the right. We're very friendly.