Reviews of Magnificent Journey

Rev. Alan Taylor, minister, Unity Temple UU Congregation, Oak Park, IL

In Magnificent Journey, I appreciate Deacon's vision for religion and his exploration of Emerson as activist. The passionate reflections embody a compelling, relevant religious vision that calls people to live with boldness, honesty, and kindness.

Magnificent Journey is compelling, poignant, and prophetic. I so loved hearing a distinct preaching voice testifying to the  meaning and power of .living boldly seeking truth and kindness.  As Rev. Dr. Deacon's successor at Unity Temple, these passion-filled reflections explain so much why this congregation is so thoughtful and open to innovation, particularly working toward social change.

As F. Jay Deacon's successor at Unity Temple, I have long heard about his gift for preaching. This exciting collection of reflections provides the wonderful opportunity to hear this profound, distinct voice so relevant for our times. He brings a pastor's sensitivity with a prophetic call that results in a compelling, exciting vision for progressive religion.


The Advocate, April 6, 2012

Religious fundamentalists insist that their scriptures, their beliefs, are unchanging. But beliefs are meant to evolve, writes F. Jay Deacon in Magnificent Journey: Religion as a Lock on the Past or an Engine of Evolution. Deacon has certainly been through his own evolution: When he was "a teenager bored with the very proper Presbyterian church," he embraced the fundamentalist strain of Christianity at a Billy Graham crusade, then attended an Assemblies of God seminary. His recognition that he was gay eventually led him away from fundamentalism to the largely gay Metropolitan Community Church and finally to the liberal, inclusive Unitarian Universalist Church, where he has been director of the Office of GLBT Concerns; he is now minister for a Unitarian congregation in New Hampshire. His journey has led him to call for a new type of spirituality, one that can help counter homophobia, sexism, war, bigotry, class exploitation, and environmental destruction. "Regression to a primitive past is not the answer," he writes. "Religions must transform, must evolve, now. They must become engines of evolution, not chains binding us to that barbaric worst of what humanity is capable."


Faith and Freedom, Spring and Summer 2012 (65:1)

By Andrew M. Hill

I once spent a damp and dreich Edinburgh day showing Jay Deacon the sights, the sounds and the smells of Scotland's capital city. Two more different people with more different stories you simply could not imagine. Jay, a gay Unitarian Universalist convert with a conservative evangelical background; and me a straight birth right Unitarian of several generations. But pretty soon Jay and I discovered common ground in his appreciation of and his joy in American transcendentalist writers — Emerson and company — writers whose names had been familiar to me since childhood from the authors' names in my British Unitarian hymn book. Also I'm pretty sure that I must have boasted to Jay that it was in Edinburgh's Unitarian church (then in Young street) in 1835 that Emerson made his only known appearance in a British Unitarian pulpit although, if the truth be known, no one seems to have understood what he was talking about

Meantime with [us] is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal one [Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Oversoul]

Jay's book is special — one of the best sort of personal testimony. According to one map Jay's Magnificent Journey is simply an autobiographical narrative: one person's development from childhood dependence to youthful independence and mature inter-dependence — Jay and his dog sitting on the sofa contemplating the world. On another map Jay's magnificent journey is spiritual — a pilgrimage from conservative Presbyterianism by way of biblical Pentecostalism and into the liberal shores of Unitarian Universalism with ministries at churches in Chicago and Massachusetts.

By another map Jay's journey parallels the struggle for marriage equality by same sex couples with the earlier struggle to abolish slavery and bears comparison with the 'Old Testament' prophetical call for justice coupled with stringent words for those non-offending 'Boston Brahmins' who simply sat back and did nothing. So the magnificent journey is never backwards "fixing ancient fears and ignorance as divine law" but always forward facing new evolutionary challenges.

And on another map the magnificent journey is from an understanding of 'we' being over against the evolutionary process and with our religious faith being a "lock on the past" to our religion being an "engine of evolution" and actually part of evolution's process itself.

One of my favourite chapters is simply called Being Dust. Dismissing the Christian notion of glancing backwards towards inherited guilt and ignorance, Jay picks up, instead, on the Jewish notion of turning forwards — as at the festival of Yom Kippur — towards "What We Are. Manifestations of the very Life of the Universe. Magnificent, full of splendid possibility." He quotes Sam Keen reminding us that human life comes from the humus, that brown or black material formed by decomposing vegetable and animal matter. Jay comments "We are a strange amalgam of god and dust" and goes on to quote from Channing's Likeness to God sermon.

One interesting smaller feature of the book, perhaps worth noticing in a British journal, is Jay's love affair with the BBC as a source of less-biased news.


Back to Magnificent Journey