UNI-NEWS 152nd Issue 28th July 2015

1. Executive Committee Key Messages 17 and 18 July 2015 

1. Vision Update – “Making Change Happen” 

The Executive Committee spent some time on Friday morning and most of Saturday morning considering the responses to the Vision document. They were pleased to see high levels of interest in all parts of the country, with many people getting involved and putting forward their views at congregational and district meetings as well as on social media. Some Ministers and worship leaders are using the various articles as the basis for sermons and group discussions. All this activity was welcomed and there is still time over the Summer and early Autumn for further comments to be sent.  

We do not want the Vision document to sit on the shelf! The next stage in the process is therefore to develop together a clear plan of action. So the Executive Committee is arranging an Action Day on Saturday 21 November 2015 at Upper Chapel, Sheffield with the explicit purpose of “Making Change Happen”.  We want to use the day to turn the Vision into a programme of real action for the denomination over the next five years.  

To do this we need to bring together as many as possible of those who have been inspired by the Vision document and want to contribute to its success. In particular we want younger people and those new to the Movement to come along. The Vision will only be a success if it engages with members and attenders at the grassroots as well as those already involved in our structures. 

As soon as arrangements for the event have been finalised, invitations will be issued. However, if you already know you would like to participate, then please contact the Chief Officer directly and let him know. We also hope that bursaries will be available to cover travel costs for those who would not otherwise be able to attend.  

2. New Co-opted Executive Committee members 

Sir Philip Colfox attended his first meeting of the Executive Committee. Rev Lynne Readett sent her apologies due to a pre-arranged commitment, but was able to participate in the discussion of the Vision document on Friday morning via Skype. 

3. Risk Register 

The Executive Committee carried out its annual review of the Risk Register. It was recognised that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults remained the highest risk area facing the Unitarian Movement. So far the response of congregations to this issue has been disappointing and it was agreed that the audit would be repeated in 2016. EC members will be contacting their linked Districts to highlight the serious implications of not following recommended polices.  

The risk assessment process also revealed that, despite successfully increasing the number of new Ministers in recent years, there is a growing number of unfilled vacancies in our churches. Combined with the number of current ministers planning to retire soon, this means that the numbers in training will not be adequate to fill these posts vacated.  

In addition the Executive Committee recognised that falling congregational membership across the UK, as revealed by the recent survey, was likely to lead to unsustainable congregations and greater denominational weakness and decline overall.  

4. Roll of Ministers 

The Recommendations of the Ministry Strategy Group and Interview Panel were approved: 

We are pleased to announce that, having successfully completed their probationary period, the names of Rev Jim Corrigall and Rev Helen Mills have been added to the Roll of Ministers with Full status and that Rev Phil Waldron, having completed the academic requirements of his training, has been admitted to the Roll of Ministers with Probationary status. 

5. Millennium Fund 

Two grants were awarded by the Executive Committee: 

a) The Unitarian Chapel, Bridgwater received £1,000 as a contribution towards the installation of a sound amplification system.

b) The Ministerial Fellowship received £2,500 to arrange a residential retreat over a weekend in early 2016 for those considering ministry. The retreat will provide an opportunity for participants to gain deeper insight into what the role of ministry involves and their own aptitude for it, in a friendly and supportive environment. This will enable candidates to be better prepared before application and interview.  

6. Annual Meetings 2016 

The Annual Meetings Panel reported that arrangements were well in hand for an exciting Annual Meeting in Birmingham from Wednesday 30 March to Saturday 2 April 2016. In addition a venue for 2017 is currently being explored with further site visits planned for August. Look out for more information in the Autumn. It was agreed that Rev Celia Midgley would be proposed to the Meetings as a new member of the Steering Group replacing Rev Dr Ann Peart, who was thanked for serving for the last three years. 

7. Constitutional Review Group 

The Executive Committee agreed to re-establish the Constitutional Review Group. It will review several issues in the current General Assembly Constitution and also what the new Charitable Incorporated Organisation status might have to offer in improving our national governance. The following were appointed and thanked for agreeing to serve; Michael Allured (Golders Green, London) John Bates (New Unity, London), Ann Sinclair (Edinburgh) and Philip White (Kingswood).   

8. Nominating/Volunteering Group 

District Associations will be reminded by their EC link-member that a response to the letter seeking views on a proposed Nominating/Volunteering group would still be welcomed by the Executive Committee. They will only take the plan forward if there is support. In the meantime the request for suggestions for the posts of GA President and GA Vice President for 2016/2017 required consideration across the Movement.  

2.  Media Coverage

Sidmouth Old Meeting – “Church Embraces Equality” First Church in Devon to offer same sex marriage (Sidmouth Herald 26 June 2015).

On 10 July 2015 the historic Hen Gapel Llwynrhydowen in Ceredigion was officially reopened after an extensive restoration programme by Addoldai, the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust. Broadcaster Huw Edwards, Patron of Addoldai Cymru, handed the keys to Rev Wyn Thomas. There was coverage on BBC Wales, BBC Cymru and the Tivy-Side Advertiser (10 July 2015).

Rev Ant Howe from Kingswood Unitarians was quoted responding to offensive remarks by a local pastor about Islam and homosexuality (Birmingham Mail 14 July 23015 and Daily Mirror 14 July 2015). 

Mary Rae, a member at the Octagon Chapel, Norwich has been awarded a British Citizen Award for services to the arts for raising over £150,000 by arranging concerts at the Chapel (Eastern Daily Press 10 July 2015). 

The disruptive effects of the work to exhume the remains of 270 people from the former graveyard in front of Cross Street Chapel as part of the Metrolink works in Manchester featured Rev Cody Coyne (Manchester Evening News 16 July 2015).

 3. Document Library

The Document Library on the General Assembly website is now operational again and has over 200 items including worship packs, out of print worship material, reports and historical books. Please take a look and explore this amazing resource.