Home of liberal religion and free-thought in Cambridge since 1904
The church on Emmanuel Road is a beautiful small building inspired by Wren’s chapel at Pembroke College. It dates from 1927. The church, and its handsome hall, common room, kitchen and office (built 1923), is home to a modern, progressive, free-thinking and
We do this by offering people opportunities for personal, intellectual and spiritual growth within a welcoming, supportive, conversational community that attempts always to be kindly, lively, open-minded and truthful.
Here there is only one orthodoxy, namely, a love of truth that is a sincere desire to understand how the world is and our place in it.
Foundation of the Cambridge Unitarian Church
The Cambridge congregation was not formally founded until 1904 following a series of lectures on The Historical Jesus and the Theological Christ by the Unitarian scholar and lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford, J. Estlin Carpenter (1844-1927).
It met first of all in the rooms of F. J. M. Stratton (1881-1960) on Downing Street. Stratton was the Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge from 1928 to 1947. In 1923, the present church hall was built and was in use as the church until the construction of the present building in 1927. Both the hall and the church were designed by Ronald Potter Jones FRIBA (1876-1965) and his architectural ideas concerning church building can be found in his book Nonconformist Church Architecture (Lindsey Press, London, 1914). An important Cambridge figure in the congregation during the 1960s and 70s was Lord McNair of Gleniffer F.B.A. (1885-1975) who became Professor of Law at Cambridge and who was also
Early Unitarians in Cambridge
Influential people in Cambridge who adopted a Unitarian viewpoint include:
John Milton (1608-1674): a member of Christ’s College was an English poet and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell and an advocate of religious toleration.
Sir Isaac Newton, F.R.S. (1642-1727): whose unorthodox religious views were known to his friends and are clearly stated in his posthumously published religious writings.
William Whiston (1667-1752): who succeeded Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.
Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808): a Fellow of St. John’s and later Vicar of Catterick who, in 1774, resigned his living to become minister of the first openly avowed Unitarian congregation in England at Essex Street in London.
William Frend (1757-1841): a mathematician and Fellow of Jesus who resigned his living as Vicar of Madingley in 1787 when he became a Unitarian.
Richard Porson (1759-1808): a Fellow of Trinity who showed that the verse 1 John 5:7 concerning the three heavenly witnesses (which was considered to be a text proving the doctrine of the Trinity) was a very late addition to the text.
Where does the name “Unitarian” come from?
Our roots lie in the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Poland and Hungary. At that time, Protestant Christians claimed the right to read the Bible in their own languages and to interpret it for themselves. Some who did so found that it spoke of one God, without qualification. This did not square with the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which says that God consists of three “persons”. Because our forebears believed God to be a “unity” rather than a “trinity” they became known as “Unitarians”.
Does “Unitarian” have the same meaning today
Unitarians are less likely to argue about such strictly theological issues today. We now place much more stress on the importance of freedom of thought and liberty of conscience in matters of faith. However, in a variety of different ways, we continue to affirm the basic insight expressed by one of our forebears, George de Benneville (1703–1793) who said:
The inner spirit makes us feel that behind every appearance of diversity there is an interdependent unity of all things. Let us, therefore, preach the universal and everlasting gospel of boundless, universal love for the entire human race, without exception, and for each one in particular.
For the most part that which unites, which holds everything together in its astonishing diversity, is what many Unitarians mean today if and when they chose to speak of God.
Are Unitarians Christians?
As to whether any
From the earliest days of the
Also, there are also those who simply do not base their belief system on the Christian tradition. Some of these define their position as
Given this, here we
In this sense, many Unitarians are Christians. And we also