Past Services

Some of these talks are given in full on our blog and are available for use by others. Please acknowledge the author and our Fellowship.

Services Archive


22 January, Rev. Geoff Usher : “Nostalgia”.
We may hold and cherish our memories. We may even view the past through rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia. But we cannot return to the past. We cannot re-create the past.
There is a danger in trying to wish that everything could be “just like it was in the good old days” – which of course weren’t always really so good.

29 January, Colin Whatmough:  “Globalisation and Morality”
Should the bottom line in economics change from ‘Profit,  People, Planet’ to ‘People, Planet, Profit’ or even ‘Planet, People, Profit’.

5 February, Sandy Biar: “Harnessing nationalism for good: the upside of global nationalistic sentiment.”

19 February, Helen Whatmough: “Post Truth / Post Fact”
Is vocabulary usage / meaning being distorted and/or changed leading to confusion of meaning? Are we all complicit in confusing reality and truth in a post-truth era?

26 February, Rev. Daniel Jantos: “Patterns of liberation and constraint.”
Theology has historically been for the purpose of liberation. Various ones like the Buddha and Jesus offered people a framework of understanding that provided relief from oppression or suffering or isolation. “What we hope for is always better than what we know.” The function of theology has changed. The current purpose of Theology today seems to be mostly frameworks of constraint. What is right and what is wrong? Who belongs and who does not? So what would constitute a contemporary theology of liberation?

5 March, Carolyn Donnelly & Barbara O’Brien: “Remembering Leonard Cohen.”
Recalling his music and his life. Communal input invited.

12 March, No service.

19 March, Martin Horlacher: “What Would Confucius Do?”
“One of the most important philosophers of the ancient world, the sayings and ideas of Confucius have had a powerful influence on the Eastern world, as well as the Western one. But how does his philosophy apply to life today?”

26 March, Rev. Geoff Usher: “Two Travel Stories”
Two different stories connected only by the theme of travelling, and the people one can meet on the way. What sort of impression do we leave with the people who happen to meet us as we travel life’s journey?

2 April,  Rev. Geoff Usher: “What Other Church?
Unitarians are among the few who do not claim that they alone possess the truth about God / nature / the universe / life.
What unites Unitarians is the value they set on the freedom to explore religious issues, the freedom to follow the dictates of reason and conscience, the freedom from the real or perceived constraints of creeds and dogmatic formulas.  At the same time, they generally have strongly held common values and principles.

9 April,            No  meeting.

16 April,            No meeting.

23 April,  Jan Tendys:  “The Sensible Centre—Is that Us?”
In ancient Greek philosophy, the “golden mean” is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.
Can we apply this to some modern conundrums?

30 April, Martin Horlacher: “Control-Alt–right”
The so-called “alternative right’ have risen to prominence lately, especially in the United States. But is this new form of ultra conservative nationalism to be taken seriously?  Indeed, is it even “new”? And just what kind of influence is it having on political thought both American and international?

7 May, Max Lawson: “Charles Dickens: Liberal Christianity and Unitarianism.”

14 May, No service.

21 May, Rev. Geoff Usher: “Alone Together.”
We talk about ourselves, as Unitarians, being an assortment of worshippers, with different backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, different personal theologies. A statement like “All are welcome here” implies this sort of variety. Given such variety, what binds us together as members of our congregation, and within the Unitarian movement?

28 May, Martin Horlacher: “Holy Days and Holidays.”
With the recent March for Science in the United States and elsewhere, it’s worth asking why we as a nation have to have holidays thrust upon us that are religious in nature. Why aren’t we celebrating Moon-Landing Day by giving each other chocolate moons, or venerating Jonas Salk’s birthday as Polio Vaccine Day?

4 June, Ruby Willis: “Colouring Outside the Lines.”
A look at why we tend to stick to the path of least resistance in our behaviours both large and small, with an emphasis on the work of Michel Foucault.

11 June, No service.

18 June, Colin Whatmough: “How the West is Losing.”
And how will the West, especially the US, respond?

25 June, Dr. Max Lawson: “The Spiritual Quest of D.H.Lawrence.”
Christianity had a great influence upon D.H.Lawrence but he did not consider himself a Christian. Max will explain this complexity.

2 July, Colin Whatmough: “Why Australia is going backwards in Education.”

9 July, No meeting.

16 July, Rev. Daniel Jantos: “Taking Inventory”
Zen master and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, likes to speak and write about “coming home to yourself.” If the analogy holds true, then it’s worth asking about the state of our home place. Does “coming home” provide us with a source of comfort and renewal?  Or, is the home-place cluttered with the stuff that heightens our anxiety’s and fosters habit patterns of obsessiveness? This reflection will hope to provide us a chance to take an inventory of our minds’ and souls’ “home places.”

23 July, Rev. Geoff Usher: “Diversity Without Division.”
American UU minister Mike Young has postulated a hierarchy of responses to diversity, starting with tolerance as a minimum, followed by affirmation, and culminating in a position that cherishes theological diversity as a positive good.  He claims that only where diversity is valued, cherished, and celebrated can the kind of community that keeps us alive and growing be created.

30 July, Dr Max Lawson: “The Spiritual Journey of Christopher Isherwood: from Cabaret to Vedanta.”
Although best known for his Berlin novels and as a gay icon, Christopher Isherwood was also on a spiritual path which included Quaker and Vedanta (Hindu) traditions.

6th August, Martin Horlacher: “Plato and the Philosopher Kings of Ancient Greece”
An examination of the philosopher Plato’s ancient political philosophy, and how it has reverberated through the ages.

13th August, No meeting.

20th August, Rev. Geoff Usher: “The Perfume of the Trampled Flower”
Forgiveness has been described as “the perfume that the trampled flower casts upon the
heel that crushes it.”

27th August, Martin Horlacher: “Existentialism”
As a philosophy and metaphysical theory, existentialism has included individuals as different from each other as Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche, and movements as diverse as atheism and Christianity. This talk will examine what its core ideas are, and how they can apply to today’s world.

3rd September, Rev. Geoff Usher: ” Looking at Life”.

10th September, No meeting.

17th September,   Rev. Rex Hunt:  “Celebrating Earth and Wonder in Early Spring”
There is no good reason to believe that taking nature to heart leaves a person with any fewer spiritual benefits  than taking to heart the teachings of supernaturalist traditions.

24th September, Dr Max Lawson: “Walt Whitman as a spiritual teacher”
Emerson arguably met Whitman 12 times and sent Bronson Alcott and Henry Thoreau to New York to visit Whitman.  They, like Emerson, were greatly impressed with Whitman, not only as a poet but as a prophet. This is the talk that was scheduled for the 3rd September.

1 October, Geoff Usher: “Making Oneself Miserable.”
In the normal sprinkling of a human community, there will be other people doing better than we are in almost any category. By selectively comparing ourselves with them, we can quickly and easily make ourselves feel really inferior. It is not difficult to make yourself miserable.

8 October, No meeting. Markets

15 October, Helen Whatmough,: “Why Reason and Evidence Don’t Change
Our Minds.”
Confirmation bias is the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

22nd October. No Meeting. ANZUAA Conference in Adelaide.

29 October, Martin Horlacher: “The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century
and the Birth of the Modern Mind.”
The Age of Enlightenment brought about a paradigm shift in the sphere of human thought. This talk will examine philosopher AC Grayling’s recent book about this seminal period of history, and its ramifications for today.

5 November, Colin Whatmough: “An Historical Look at Islam.”

12 November, No meeting.

19 November, Morandir Armson: “George Gurdjeiff, guru or fraud?”
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866/1872/1877? – 1949) was a spiritual teacher and mystic, of Armenian descent, who pioneered a method of spiritual development, which he referred to as “the Fourth Way”. Both during his life and after, Gurdjieff has been alternately praised as a great mystical teacher, and scorned as a charlatan. His followers, the Gurdjieffians, have had a wide influence on the New Age movement, but have also been labelled “the strangest religion in history”. This address will seek to examine the truth about Gurdjieff; was he a guru, mystic, and spiritual guide, or was he a base and cynical fraud?

26 November, Rev. Geoff Usher, “175 Years, Channing and Philipps.”
This service will mark the 175 anniversary of two distinguished Unitarian Ministers: William Ellery Channing (USA) and Nathaniel Philipps (UK).

3 December, Martin Horlacher: “A Christmas Gift”

10 December, No meeting


21st January,  Rev Geoff Usher: “Martin Luther Reformer”
On the 31st October, 1517 Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg and sent a copy to the Archbishop with a strongly worded letter of protest about the sale of indulgences. This service commemorating Luther’s life, will mark the 500th anniversary of the sowing of the seed of the Reformation and the Lutheran Church.

28th January,  Colin Whatmough: “Viewing Christianity from a Historical Perspective” 

4 February, Martin HorlacherEnlightenment: Dehellenisation Versus Reason and Rationality”
If the modern Western world owes how far it has come to any one particular historical and cultural tradition, it is that of the Hellenistic civilisation of Ancient Greece. Arguably, it is this tradition that served as the basis for everything that is good in our world today, more than two millennia later. And yet, today, this worldview is under attack – both in the West and in the East – and our world, along with all human civilisation’s achievements, is in danger.

11 February, No meeting

18 February, Rev. Rex Hunt: “Desert, Spinifex, and Lent for Unitarians”
Remembering we too are desert flowers.

25 February, Carolyn Donnelly:  “The significance,  explanation, and philosophical background of Charles Schultz’s loved Peanuts comic strips

4 March, Martin Horlacher: “Tradition: Faith, Power, and the Ties That Bind”
Tradition still has an undeniable hold over much of Western society. But is it for the better…or is a good deal of radical re-thinking required?

11 March, No meeting

18 March, Rev. Geoff Usher: “ The God of the Gaps?”
Modern cosmology—the study of the world around us — has forced many people to consider religious questions in relation to science itself. It seems that the more we discover, the more religious questions we face—particularly questions about the emergence of spirituality in modern cosmologies.

25 March, Rev. John Clifford: “450 years since Torda: memory of a dead horse or reminder for today?”
We’re proud of our history but is it worth more than warm feelings? What can a closer look at Torda show us about tolerance?

1 April, No meeting.

8 April, No meeting.

15 April, Rev. Daniel Jantos: “Rebirths, Renewals and Rennaissance – but what to keep and what to discard?”
We find ourselves in a period of intense technological innovation and change. Some like to think that technology is values neutral. And yet technology is profoundly shaping the way we relate to one another and dictating constructs of personhood and community that must cause us to ask some questions about benefit and harm. Rather than technophobia, this talk invites a chance to review our presumptions about progress and innovation.

22 April, Morandir Armson: “Christus Resurrexit: The Strange Case of Easter.”
Easter is the most holy and important festival of the Christian calendar. Yet the festival
itself is a very strange mixture of biblical references, Mediaeval Catholic traditions, and near-Eastern Paganism. This presentation will focus on the origins of Easter, one of the stranger festivals in the Christian liturgical calendar.

29 April, Colin Whatmough: “Interpretation & Orthodox Corruption of Scripture – from an Historical Perspective”
The New Testament developed as a set of books that Proto-orththodox Christians could use to provide them with Apostolic Authorities for their views against those of other Christian groups designated as Heretics.

6 May, Rev. Geoff Usher: “In What Do We Trust?
When people ask the question: “Do you believe in God?” they usually mean: “Do you believe in MY God?” And usually, if we are to be truthful, the only reply we as Unitarians can give must be: “Probably not.”

13 May, No meeting

20 May, Martin Horlacher: “Chaos & Gaia: The Maccabean Revolt, Hellenistic
Philosophy, and Ideology Against Reason.”
Small stones can cast large ripples. Depending on how you look at it, the Maccabean Revolt of 167 BC was either the triumph of an oppressed people against their oppressors, or a missed opportunity for humanity as a whole to embrace enlightenment. Had Hellenistic philosophy won the day, as opposed to Abrahamic religion, how differently might the last 2,100 years of human history leading up to today have turned out?

27 May, Morandir Armson: “Colourful, Exuberant, and Happy: An Examination of
Religious Festivals.”
The world is full of festivals. You can throw tomatoes, run with bulls, or roll cheeses. Far more interesting, however, are festivals rooted in religious beliefs and cultural observances. They give you a glimpse into the rich human imagination and have a serious side: commemorating the dead, imploring the help of saints or gods, giving hope for a better future. This presentation will examine a number of religious festivals, seeking to find some of their core features.

3 June, Martin Horlacher: “Identities: The Other and Us”
We all want and need to be part of a “group” – it’s one of the most fundamental aspects of human nature, our need to have an identity. And yet, all too often, it’s so incredibly easy to go along with pack mentality – “groupthink” – instead of using critical thought and our own individual reasoning. What is needed, arguably, is more of a balance of both, particularly in today’s volatile world.

10 June, No meeting.

17 June, Rev. Geoff Usher: “Keeping Our Chalice Alight”
The Flaming chalice—or the chalice and Flame—has become the internationally recognised and adopted symbol of our Unitarian—or Unitarian Universalist—faith. The lighting of our chalice normally constitutes an important part of the opening minutes of our worship services, although it remains free of any single, set ritual or formula.

24 June, Helen Whatmough: “Trust in Our Everyday Life”

1 July, Rev Rex Hunt, “No one Says Much Good of Winter: Seasons and Self.”
Seasons and self.

8 July, Kirribilli markets. No meeting

15 July, Ginna Hastings & Max Lawson, “Robert Louis Stevenson: Presbyterian Pirate”
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, traveller of the south seas, couldn’t escape his Scottish Presbyterian background. This talk will tell of this fascinating man and discuss his book Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

22 July,Morandir Armson, Colourful, Exuberant, and Happy: An Examination of  Religious Festivals
The world is full of festivals. You can throw tomatoes, run with bulls, or roll cheeses. Far more interesting, however, are festivals rooted in religious beliefs and cultural observances. They give you a glimpse into the rich human imagination and have a serious side: commemorating the dead, imploring the help of saints or gods, giving hope for a better future. This presentation will examine a number of religious festivals, seeking to find some of their core features.

29 July, Rev. Geoff Usher, “A radical and Optimistic Heresy.”
Many observers of contemporary society have noted that we are in a period of cultural warfare. Christian fundamentalists and other conservatives are waging a fierce battle against what they perceive to be the evils of liberalism. This is not the first time such a struggle has occurred. At a similar time of deep aocietal conflict over two centuries ago, Universalism arose in America as a radical and optimistic Christian heresy in response to the grim doctrines of eighteenth century Calvinistic Puritanism.

5 August, Martin Horlacher, “The Greek Way.”
In her 1930 masterpiece “The Greek Way”, American author Edith Hamilton demonstrates how the spirit of the Golden Age of Greece, in the fifth century BC, spurred the men and women of that time and place on to achievements that were unparalleled in the ancient world. Be it through the works of Homer, Sophocles and Euripides, the philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, or the treatises of Xenophon on civilised living, it is the ancient Greeks who arguably came closest to building what might be called the pinnacle of Western civilisation. As Hamilton herself puts it, “The Greeks were the first intellectualists. In a world where the irrational had played the chief role, they came forward as the protagonists of the mind.” There is much we can learn from them today.

12 August, No Service

19 August, Rev. Geoff Usher, “Change.”
Change is the unchangeable law of the universe. It is the only thing that is constant. Indeed, to be constant in nature would be inconstancy. And to blind oneself to change is not to halt it.

26 August, Morandir Armson, “Masonry – Facts and Fallacies.”
The Masonic brotherhood has existed since at least the 16th Century. Ever since the 18th Century, a number of troubling rumours, wild accusations, and bizarre conspiracy theories have swirled around Freemasonry and Freemasons. This presentation will seek to dispel these rumours, explain the truth about Freemasonry, and seek to portray the Masonic brotherhood as it really is – sometimes bizarre, sometimes mundane, but always of interest.

2 September, Dr Max Lawson: “Cervantes’ Don Quixote reconsidered.”
Idealism in a crazy world.

9 September, No meeting.

16 September, Martin Horlacher: “On Virtue: Honesty, Integrity, Ethics and Empathy.”
How do we define right and wrong, particularly in today’s ultra-complicated world? It’s not an easy question to answer, and one that numerous philosophers have been puzzling over for millennia. Consequentialism, virtue ethics, deontology…ends, means, intent…which matters most?
And, arguably most importantly, where does the concept of empathy fit into it?

23 September, Rev Rex Hunt: “Revisiting Harvey Cox’s On Not leaving it to the snake”
The creative advance of any generation rests upon the responsiveness of a pitifully small margin of human consciousness. In the mid 1960s a young fresh-faced associate professor at the Divinity School of Harvard University, called Harvey G. Cox, burst onto the theological scene. An American Baptist by birth, and building a reputation as a bit of a radical, he was a frequent contributor of articles to such esteemed publications as The Christian Century, Theology Today, Christianity and Crisis… and Playboy.
Back then it was his first book, ‘The Secular City’, that was getting rave reviews – both positive and negative – from all and sundry.
But it is from one of his lesser known books, called ‘On Not Leaving it to the Snake’, a collection of previously published articles in various publications, that I want to spend a little more time on today.

7 October,  Rev. Daniel Jantos, “Where’s Waldo?”
Sometimes comparisons are not helpful. But given that caution, I am noticing certain gaps in the Australian religious landscape. This is of course just from my own perspective of returning to Australia after having lived in the United States for the past 30 years. I am missing Emerson here. I am missing the influence of what is called in the U.S., “the American Renaissance.” This talk will be an exploration of that movement, Emerson’s thinking and influence, and some reflections and questions about those influences and religious life in Australia.

14 October, No meeting.

21 October, Rev. Geoff Usher, “Toilet paper and Tolerance.”
Religious liberals can too easily fall into the trap of a liberal dogmatism which is merely a left-wing intolerance.  Sometimes we pride ourselves for our openness, tolerance and diversity, when in fact we are prepared to be open and tolerant only provided that other people think the same way as we do.

28 October,  Martin Horlacher, “The Bicameral Mind and the Birth of Modern Human Consciousness.”
In 1976, consciousness researcher and theorist (and Unitarian Universalist) Julian Jaynes published “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”.  In this groundbreaking but highly controversial book, he argued that, prior to about 1,000 BCE, human consciousness existed in a radically different form from today – one in which the human mind was unable to reason and articulate about mental contents through introspection or meta-reflection.  Although a contentious thesis, this idea has found a considerable degree of support in the psychological and philosophical community, and may indeed have some bearing on our own modern age.
4  November,  Colin Whatmough, “The Wisdom of Trying to Understand the lessons of History”
 11 November,  No meeting.  Kirribilli markets
18 November,  Dr Max Lawson, “Proud to be Part of the Human Race: October 1943, the Rescue of the Danish Jews from annihilation.”
25 November,  Helen Whatmough, “Attempting to understand the Appeal of Donald Trump.”
Ethics, politics, psychology.

20 January, Rev Geoff Usher:  “Put Your Mind to a Kinder You.”
Do you make New Year Resolutions?  Do you manage to keep them or do they weaken and give way?  The quest for the best can be a movement away from affection.  It can become a willingness to love only the best we think we can create, rather than the Good that Life has given us.

 3rd February, Carolyn Donnelly: ” Louisa May Alcott.”

Quirky Transcendentalist? Writer, activist, perhaps particularly influenced by the teachings and philosophy of progressive Unitarian scholars of her time.

10th February, No meeting

17th February, Martin Horlacher: “Gaslighting, God and Ancient Greece”
“Gaslighting”, as a psychological term, refers to a manipulative technique often used to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of targeted individuals or groups, in order to deliberately make them question their own memories, perception and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and outright deception, it attempts to destabilise the victim and to delegitimise the victim’s belief in themselves. Although an exceedingly common form of abuse employed in everyday interpersonal relationships, the truth is that it has for so long been the actual basis for the nature of religious belief, particularly in the Abrahamic tradition, with its persistent demands of unquestioning obedience and threats of exclusion and eternal damnation. No doubt, it has existed and done terrible damage in every human society and civilisation that there has ever been – and yet, how does the destructive and undermining influence of Abrahamic religious hypocrisy and duplicity compare to the best and brightest elements of Ancient Greek introspection and intellectualism, particularly on this crucial topic?

Services Archive