*A unique Grade One listed building *A resource for the community
*A thoughtful, inclusive congregation exploring faith & meaning in Life with honesty & respect
In an age of confusion and uncertainty, everybody needs a calming space to reflect – maybe not somewhere you are tied by theological formulas but where you can take time for yourself, always aware too that we humans are not meant for isolation but rather to build bonds of mutual support and friendship. It’s a human impulse to seek a community of hope, especially at tough times, and to want to feel connection to a group that chimes in with our own worldview.
Let’s admit it – what we call ‘religion’ is full of seemingly troubling words; ‘religion’ itself is one, as is ‘ritual’, and ‘worship’ is another. Sadly these days, the real sense of these expressions seems almost lost in misunderstanding and controversy; but by casting aside what lies behind these words could it be we lose far more than we gain? One of the best ways our innate hunger for meaning and connection can begin to be satisfied is through a simple gathering of free souls, in a way that requires no loss of integrity from us. Meeting regularly with a friend in the local pub, is surely a ‘ritual’ – not to mention supporting a sports team! Furthermore, the 19th century American essayist and Unitarian, Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that everybody ‘worships’ something or other. Perhaps then the imagined divide between so-called ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ people is not as neat and clear cut as we habitually think.
In our evolving Unitarian tradition, public ‘worship’ refers to gathering together in order to celebrate, nurture and strengthen those worthwhile realities we value most – loving human relationships, democratic principles, wisdom from many cultures, Mother Earth, and Nature in its awe and beauty. While for some Unitarians worship is best-expressed in God-language, others prefer more humanistic terms; we consciously make space for both outlooks, and more besides.
Our regular services in Bury are at 3pm on the first and third Sundays of every month. Anyone is welcome to share the beauty and peace of the Meeting House by trying out one of these ‘gatherings’ (our preferred word). We look forward to seeing you!
Our minister is the Reverend Matthew Smith; he began as minister with us and at Framlingham in October 2014. With qualifications in various talking therapies as well as ministry, Matthew is keen to explore the overlaps between a liberal faith and psychological insights, personal transformation and working for a fairer society.
The Meeting House is a venue for personalised wedding ceremonies with our minister as celebrant, including for same-sex couples; the building is also available for the reception afterwards. Naming ceremonies for infants and children are likewise on offer. The minister conducts personalised funerals on request focusing on a celebration of the life of the deceased, intended to provide support and comfort for those most directly affected.
We are looking for ways to create new spaces for spiritual growth and also civil (and civic!) conversation in Bury St Edmunds. The congregation has social meet ups, and we host regional Unitarian gatherings from time to time.
In 2016, a Friends body for the Meeting House was established. Might you be interested to join? Find out more information here: http://www.hireunitarianmeetinghouse.org.uk/friends.html
In 1968 Unitarian Trustees set about the task of restoration of our historic building (built in 1717), which had fallen into a poor state, and this long process was duly completed in 1991. From the start it was envisaged by the Trustees that this might lead to some form of public use of the building. In co-operation with English Heritage, the Trustees sought to maintain the historical and architectural integrity of the building. English Heritage recognised, in their own words, that “The meeting house is of national importance”. The restoration was completed in three stages, the roof in 1975/76, the building exterior in 1988/90 and the interior in 1990/91.
The Meeting House is happily used by local people and groups for many purposes including lunches, choir rehearsals, concerts, theatre, history lectures, and AGMs of local organisations. If room hire is your interest, your enquiries are best directed to [email protected], where the bookings diary is held and you will get the information you need on times, prices and conditions.