'Love can bring us together'

"Unitarians can be humanist or theist, Christian or Hindu, but the actual practice of Unitarianism demands a great deal of tolerance, continued use of reason, and being true to the call to "love the hell out of the world" Unitarian

Unitarianism is an open-minded and individualistic approach to religion that gives scope for a very wide range of beliefs and doubts. We are deilghted to kick-off the first in our interview series with Unitarian Minister Bob Janis-Dillon from St.Helens who was happy to share his story, his beliefs and explore the most difficult, as well as the most rewarding, aspects of his religion....

How long have you followed your religion?

I grew up Unitarian Universalist - very similar to Unitarian, but the American version.
But I did explore other faiths, and none, when I was in college, because I didn't want to be complacent in the faith of my upbringing.

After exploring other faiths, what made you stay a Unitarian?

Unitarianism challenges me to seek the truth in an environment of people who can be very different from me in their theological outlook. But we are united in our dedication to support one another and build a better world. I find the combination of freedom of belief, and the challenge to test that belief in community and improve the world, one that greatly appeals to me. It has shaped my life, and continues to make every day meaningful.

Can anyone be Unitarian?

Yes, theoretically. We welcome a wide variety of theological belief - including people who identify as Christian, Jewish, atheist, humanist, and pagan, among others. We are openly welcoming to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Though we are non-creedal - we don't have a belief test for membership! But people have to be devoted to the free search from truth and meaning, as well as being actively respectful of people who are very different from they are, supportive of congregational and their own spiritual growth, and active in making the world a better place. Most Unitarians will tell you that it's actually quite challenging, though very rewarding!

How has being Unitarian impacted your life?

I find that trying to serve people different from me, and being true to myself, brings me closer to God everyday. God is larger and more sublime than any categories I could put on Her. I'm continually amazed by what God's love is capable of.

What are the most difficult and rewarding aspects of being Unitarian?

The most difficult aspect is probably the continuing call towards progress, and making the world a better place, when sometimes it feels like the world is getting worse (though I'm not convinced that is actually true.)
The most rewarding aspect is when I'm out there, trying to improve the world with other people of many different faith backgrounds. I learn again how wonderful people are, and the power love has to change lives.

I think a lot of people think that Unitarians can believe whatever we want, and so it's "easy" to be a Unitarian. It's true that Unitarians can be humanist or theist, Christian or Hindu, but the actual practice of Unitarianism demands a great deal of tolerance, continued use of reason, and being true to the call to "love the hell out of the world". Admittedly, we don't always do it well - but it's not easy!

Has there ever been a point when you have questioned your faith?

Sure. My theology and view of God has changed a fair amount over the years, even as I've remained Unitarian. Many time it has been hard to square any view of God with the amount of needless suffering in the world.

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

Be true to the most generous love in your heart - the love that's risky, that's challenging, the love where you're scared you might fail but you still feel called to give it a try.

What's the main message you want someone to take away from Interfaith Week?

"We do not have to think alike to love alike", as someone once said. Love can bring us together, even when we differ on quite significant beliefs.

Where can someone find out more information about your faith?

If you would like further information, please contact: marketing@sthelens.gov.uk