Chichester Humanists is a local branch of West Sussex Humanists and represents the interests of the non-religious residents in and around Chichester.

Each month we discuss issues concerning religion and belief, ethics, equality, human rights and science, including current events.

We liase with Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council on matters concerning equality of religion and belief, and monitor Council activities, including proposals for new "faith" schools.

We are keen to campaign on behalf of non-religious residents who feel disadvantaged because of their beliefs, e.g. access to a community school, discrimination at work or through the delivery of local services.

We organise events and displays, invite prominent speakers, and give talks to local organisations, including schools and colleges.

We meet once a month in Muchos Nachos140 Whyke Rd, Chichester PO19 8HT (tel: 01243 785 009)

Meetings are from 7.30pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Instead of membership subscriptions, there is a £3 entrance charge for meetings with speakers (usual concessions).

If you would like to meet some local freethinkers and have a chat, please come along and join us at the next meeting. Look out for the poster above.

For more details, email Julian.

Being freethinkers there are many things secular humanists will not agree on, but there are some matters on which we do take a firm and unanimous stand. We do not condone prejudice of any sort. Nor do we hate religious people. Such views are entirely contrary to any humanist philosophy and we reserve the right to exclude any person promoting them.

Worthing Unitarians talk to Chichester Humanists 19th August 2013


Our speakers were Rev Jane Barton and Rev Peter Roberts, both Unitarian ministers in Worthing. Peter gave us a brief history of Unitarianism, which was a reaction to the Trinitarianism (belief in the Trinity) that began in the 4th century.

Following the Reformation and freedom of thought, the name Unitarianism appeared around 1600. The Unitarian movement took off during the Enlightenment of the 18th century, with the first Unitarian church appearing in London in 1774. By 1813 Unitarianism was finally tolerated but to this day they are not included in Christian circles, including UK Churches Together.

In contrast with the major religions, there are no set rituals, books or great historical figures. Althought there is a head office, there is no imposition of authority. The general assembly may pass on information to local chuches about issues such as same sex marriage, assisted suicide, etc. there is no coercion.

Ministers are trained at one of three colleges in Oxford, Manchester and Wales. There are about 4000 Unitarians in the UK compared to 160 000 in the USA with gay people adding to their numbers. Peter and Jane explained that Unitarianism is not as popular as other religions because many people want to be told what to do. The Worthing fellowship is quite small now due to the age of members.

Unitarians don't have to be Christian or even religious. Churches vary greatly across the country, with more strictly Christian churches in the North. Peter's local group has a wide range of members including Muslims, Humanists etc, which poses a challenge for his services. As he says "Not everyone will buy everything." Because of the varied congregations, ministers remain neutral, not proselytising their personal beliefs.

Churches usually have a variety of different religious symbols. Peter uses the local Quaker building. Hymns use the same music as Christian ones but with different words. Readings may be from Ralph Waldo Emerson from the 1830s. There's no kneeling and members vary in their conduct, e.g. some may pray, close their eyes, etc.

Peter and Jane explained that the role of a minister is to help people find their way along a spiritual path, to find something that sustains them through hardship. Some people move on to Buddhism, others may return to their original religion. They are both able to marry people in the chapel. Services must have some religious text or origin. Children are not baptised.

Questions from members revealed more about Unitarians and their beliefs. They consider religion to be a man-made contruct that tries to relate to something higher than self. Some say there is a God, some not. There is no theory of creation or God. What matters are relationships and how a person behaves. Issues such as euthanasia and abortion are individual matters.

Unitarians differ from Quakers in several ways. Quakers are members of UK Churches Together. They are more active socially and act for peace. Their meetings are silent with no music. There is a strict hierarchy with elders and area meetings. They assume the existence of a Christian God.

Unitarians can be socially active, e.g. a Water Aid project in Africa but this is more on an individual basis. Jane has worked in a hospice.

We thanked Jane and Peter for sharing their experiences and presenting all sides of Unitarianism in an interesting and personal way.

You can read about the Unitarian visit to Horsham Humanists here to get a further insight into the Unitarian movement.


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