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-March 2021 Edition -


From the Editor:  
Spring  - Aspirations & Realisations of  Hope & Joy 

Since walking is one of activities allowed during the COVID-19 lock down, I am doing more of it.

While walking would not be my preferred exercise activity I do enjoy it. In the past several weeks walking has provided me with the opportunity to observe the subtle, but progressive, creeping of spring.

I am drawn to feeling that nature itself is modelling resilience over the cold and darkness of winter.  The incremental daily lessons on my walking path wear through my own 
obstinance and obtuseness to proved me with greater sense of hope and the ability to believe that I recognise better options and possibilities in the coming months.

I hope that all of you are being refreshed by spring in some way that is special to you.

Peace, and blessings
Neal Dunnigan, Editor

From the Minister:  
Spring  - Aspirations & Realisations of  Hope & Joy 

It was perhaps fitting that the Government chose Easter Week to bring some ray of hope for the weeks and months ahead, though like the events commemorated at easter, caveats need to be attached. The news that we can travel within our county bounds is indeed welcome, I love where I live but frankly, need a change of scenery! The most significant news was that those who will have been fully vaccinated will be able to meet indoors. It is good news for the elderly, many of whom have been starved of meaningful social contact with family and friends. This is perhaps the sign of the emergence of real hope as offered by the roll out of the vaccine.

In terms of a return to “ in person” worship at church, the date pencilled in is May 4th and it is written in pencil. The one thing we know about Covid-19 is that it is unpredictable and that its spread is dependent on our behaviour. This date for the opening of churches is by no means set in stone, it is reliant on falling daily case numbers and a continued drop in those being hospitalized as a result of this disease. As I write, hospital numbers have fallen below 300 ad there are 65 people in ICU’s. It is important that these are not just seen as statistics, numbers on a page. These are people, some of them very seriously ill, all with loved ones, family and friends.

Although May 4th is as I said the planned date for return, that doesn’t mean that we will be rushing back on that date, all things being equal, that would be the plan but, in this church, we have always put the well being and safety of our people first and a date on calendar will not change that. A return to church for the next while will be cautious and will still involve all of the public health measures that are in place now and that will be the case until we are all vaccinated.

Over the past year or so, we have grown our on-line presence and as we plan a return to church, the prevailing wisdom is that on-line worship is here to stay and that is certainly the case with us, with “ in person” and “on-line” worship running side by side and being very interactive. As I write, we are working on ways to improve our on-line worship, to make it more interactive with the “in person” congregation.
Easter is time of hope and transformation, it is a time begin a new, to soak up the freshness of Spring and ready our selves for the bright Summer days that lie ahead. The end is now in sight, it is up to each of us to keep a steady hand on the plough and steer a straight and narrow furrow.

As your minister can I urge each of you to be the hope, to thank you for your support over the past year and whatever Easter may mean to you, may you enjoy it.

Rev Mike


This is What our Friends and Members Said About Us

Our sincere thanks to the 27 individuals who participated in our survey.
Here is what we learned about ourselves...

Who We Are

One remarkable finding was how survey respondents self-identify. More than half of the respondents describe themselves as friends and among those identifying as members, a significant number attest to having multiple church memberships.

We attribute this response to the "open" ethos of Cork Unitarian Church and the outward facing nature of our ministries. It also speaks to the fact that much of the relevance of our church lies in the way we, both individually and collectively, relate to the larger community through it.

We asked the members to share the importance of spirituality in their lives.

They also shared the importance of Cork Unitarian Church in their lives. 

Our respondents tend to have a high affinity toward their own spirituality.  We also saw that the church plays an important role for them in addressing that spirituality.  We did have some non-member friends answer this as an optional question. As we might expect, for them the church was not as important a place to meet spiritual needs as it is with self-identifying members.

We then asked the members about their style of participation.

The survey respondents show an affinity to our traditional in-person events. This was expected as it reflects the church's traditional approach to community.  Perhaps more surprising was the low response on financial support (37.5) and volunteering (25%).  We might have assumed that these would be perceives as universal characteristics of "membership", but perhaps they are not seen that way. This is certainly an area for further investigation and understanding.

Vision - Our Aspirations

There was great agreement on the vision. Interestingly enough, this was the one item where our friends were slightly (about 20%) more positive than our members. Also note that the respondents are not quite as positive about others' perceptions of the vision as they are with their own personal identification with the vision.


Mission - Operationalising Our Vision

There was great agreement on the mission statement. There was no significant difference in perceptions between our friends and our members. Again, the respondents are not quite as positive about others' perceptions of the mission as they are with their own personal identification with the mission.

Values - What We Hold In Common

There was great agreement on the values statements. There was no significant difference in perceptions between our friends and our members. Again, the respondents are not quite as positive about others' perceptions of the values as they are with their own personal identification with the values.


There were a number of comments and they fell into three general categories:

1) Messaging - there were just a few questions or comments about how things were said. These are being reviewed, and at least in some cases, adjustments to the vision/mission/values wordings are being considered. Examples included:
  • Clarification around "progressive Christianity"
  • Clarification around "worlds great religions"

2) Conceptual Agreement - a greater number of comments were simply articulations of the scores that responders made in the survey. Examples included:

  • I endorse it.
  • Very much agree with it.
  • It’s perfect and inclusive and welcoming!
  • It is an honest mission statement.
  • The Mission Statement encompasses what I think the Unitarian Church stands for.

3) General Comments - these were reflections of responders interactions with the church. Examples included:

  • We're ALL people - the reason I chose this  church is because it encourages inclusiveness without exception. That to me is an important part distinction 
  • Our Minister; Michael is the key part of the Church-it would not be the same without him.
  • I believe the Cork Unitarian Church is a loving and caring Church to all who wish to attend.

Our Takeaways

We think that the survey results are telling us that:

  • Cork Unitarian Church is generally on the right track in terms of its orientation
  • We can now use the vision/mission/values statements to refine our messaging, particularly on social media (including some of the input from the survey)
  • We can now use the vision/mission/values statements as quality checks for the design of new ministries and in the church's ongoing operational management decisions
  • Our church community is larger than our official definition of "membership"
  • We need to keep listening and asking - and include our friends as well as our members in the conversation

Peace and blessings
Neal Dunnigan, Editor

Who Do You Say We Are?

One item in our survey which attracted a few comments is how we identify as church. What makes Cork Unitarian a church rather than a mosque, temple, or synagog? Are we just a different Christian faith tradition? Can the distinction of our Christian roots be associated with a descriptive word? What word would that be - progressive?, liberal?, open?

However there is no central authority on religious terminology. Descriptive words have a way of being interpretive and contextual.

This dilemma was amusingly featured by the Anglican deacon Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better know as Lewis Carroll, in the book, Through the Looking-Glass:


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." 
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." 
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

For those interested in more background on people’s use of descriptive terms about church, here is an interesting article in the Patheos web site by Baptist theologian and blogger Roger E.Olsen.

The article title is: Who is A “Progressive Christian” and how is that different from “Liberal Christian?”

We did not have reprint rights, but you can read the article directly at the Patheos web site on Olsen’s blog. Here is the link:

Peace and blessings 
Neal Dunnigan, Editor


Trying New Things

Our first Unitarian reflection series:

We recently completed a 6-week reflection series, corresponding with the liturgical season of Lent, and focusing on our perceptions of the life of Jesus. Due to the pandemic, the series was conducted via zoom, so this ministry was new to us in multiple ways.

Perhaps the best way to describe the sessions is not so much to describe what was said, but rather share what the participants said about the sessions. 

Some participant comments:

  • Being able to be honest with like minded people and hearing other peoples views.
  • Hearing  to other people's thoughts ideas and beliefs and experience.I am actually a better listener than i am a talker
  • Listening to other peoples thoughts and reflections. We all participated and no one was rushed when reflecting thoughts and feelings. 
  • The openness of the participants and organisers
  • The opportunity to be honest about my own fluid experience and being able to listen to others that may hold different conclusions but respectfully listen and share.  I found it a place I could learn and even began to feel I was getting to know people I have never met face to face with.
  • It gave me a broader understanding of how others and myself view him.
  • Wonderful to hear all sides of the one story so to speak .Gave me food for thought!
  • I felt able to explore my thoughts and feelings. For me I was able to put words and therefore gain some understanding of my faith. In the future, I would like to think I could be a bit braver and more vulnerable when speaking with others about my beliefs.
  • Confirmed or reinforced my growing appreciation as a real person and pointer to the divine.
  • I wondered would it feel community like and if I would fit in.  I was surprised at how connected I felt.  I am very aware of my own need for spiritual community and that is yet to be worked out.  The effect it had on me was one of connection. 
More to come:

Based on the positive participant experiences, this will be something we will likely do again in the not too distant future. The next topic and other details are yet to be decided, but will be announced in Facebook and at Sunday service. If you have any ideas or suggestions regarding topics or formats, drop a note to Rev Mike.

Prayer Circle

How would you send a prayer request to the Prayer Circle?

  • Anyone wanting to ask for a prayer can send an E-Mail to: (this information is also on our church web site and Facebook page).
  • The request will be distributed once to the entire Circle at the next Prayer Circle mailout opportunity.
  • Please repeat your request as necessary and please send news of answered prayer.
  • There is no need to go into detail or name full names - remember, the email will go out far and wide. Please be wise in protecting your own and others' anonymity. 
  • If you have a need that is so personal you wish not to give any detail at all, that's fine. Just write that you request prayer for a special intention. Remember, God knows the details.

Would you like to join the Prayer Circle and pray for others?

  • Simply register as a Prayer Circle member by clicking here:
  • After you have joined, you will be on a mailing list and receive regular posts with prayer requests.
  • It will be your responsibility to keep private anything you learn from a prayer request out of respect.  Do not redistribute or forward the list.


Be a Part of All of Our 
Ministries Through Your Financial Contribution

Here is the link to make that kind of blessing: 
Thank you for your support and generosity.
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