The 2010 Unitarian Conference (GA) Beard Story
Criticised by his teachers when he was an A-level student for 'having facial hair', our independent minded IT consultant and professional photographer, James Barry, has continued to allow his beard to grow for thirty-three years.
Now James has sacrificed the splendid 15-inch feature to raise funds for the Unitarian movement.
At the Annual Meetings (called the GA in Unitarian circles) in Nottingham in early April he agreed to the beard's being shortened by an inch for every £50 donated. An announcement was made by Lorna Hill with the firm advice that contributions of £10 and over were expected! Within hours £1,788 had been collected with one person offering to double their contribution if the beard was dyed purple before it was cut.
There was nothing for it but to let the whole beard go. On the evening of 10 April after an hour's struggle, first with scissors and then with every razor blade that conference members could muster, every last hair from James' chin was removed.
James' greatest worry was whether his faithful dog Reg would recognise him!
After the shave, James might be feeling down, but light-hearted fellows in the Movement were ready with suggestions for the fate of the fleece. Loft insulation for a three-bedroom house, a mooring rope for a narrow boat, or a new sporran for the Dundee-based retiring president of the General Assembly, the Reverend Bob Wightman.
James Barry, who had been a very inactive member of the Church of England, became a Unitarian fifteen years ago. He liked the ready acceptance and tolerance that he found at Ditchling Old Meeting House and become a committed member of this to his home chapel.
He also serves the wider movement as one of a team of denominational volunteer youth leaders and is currently engaged at Unitarian Headquarters (Essex Hall) as the webmaster and in preparing Uni-News - the internal Unitarian weekly e-bulletin. He is also a director of 'The Inquirer' - the national Unitarian newspaper.
James now has a new problem. He has been booked as the photographer for a wedding in August 2011 and the couple are insisting on the return of the beard!
When gift-aid and a grant from the Bowland Trust (who double money raised for Unitarian causes) was added to the amount raised, the final figure from the event will over £5,000 which will be used for Unitarian youth projects.
What the Papers had to Say