1. Executive Committee Key Messages 18 and 19 September 2015
1. Nightingale Centre
The Executive Committee (EC) met for these sessions at the Nightingale Centre, the Unitarian retreat and conference centre at Great Hucklow in rural Derbyshire. In their capacity as trustees of the Centre they initially met informally with the Centre Manager, Stella Burney, and members of the Centre’s Management Committee to hear about the progress made at the Centre as well as their exciting plans for the future.
During the EC formal meeting with members of the Management Committee there was an opportunity to explore how both sides could better work together to promote the Vision for the Future that was emerging. All recognised that the Nightingale Centre was an invaluable resource for the Unitarian Movement across the UK which needed to be cherished and supported. It was also recognised that there were opportunities arising for the Centre to become involved in supporting and developing new initiatives as part of the Vision process. The EC thanked the members of the Management Committee, Stella Burney and all the members of staff for their commitment and hard work at the Nightingale Centre which was highly valued by Unitarians throughout the country.
2. Vision Update – “Making Change Happen: From Vision to Action”
The Executive Committee focused primarily on planning for the forthcoming one-day workshop at Upper Chapel, Sheffield on 21 November 2015 – “Making Change Happen: From Vision to Action”. The purpose of the event is to turn the Vision initiative launched at this year's Annual Meetings into a programme of action that will inspire people to become involved in growing and developing Unitarianism in the years to come. Look out for information and invitations which will shortly be circulated. This promises to be the largest gathering of Unitarians outside of the GA Meetings for many years and we need to hear as many new voices and ideas as possible if we are to deliver an action plan that is fit for purpose. A limited number of bursaries will be available to cover the travel costs for those who would not otherwise be able to attend. Applications should be made directly to Derek McAuley.
3. General Assembly Budget 2015/16
A budget for the new financial year which begins on 1 October 2015 was approved. Recognising that many congregations face increasing financial pressures, the Congregational Quota of £35 will remain unchanged from last year. All present recognised that maintaining a stable financial position will be a major challenge for the year ahead.
4. Millennium Fund – closed to new applications
The Executive Committee agreed with immediate effect to close the Millennium Fund to new applications. This was to be able to financially support new growth initiatives for the future that will come out of the forthcoming Vision workshop. In order to do this the remaining funds will be allocated to a special fund to kick-start the Vision Plan and will not be spent on day-to-day activities.
5. 2020 Leadership Team
The Executive Committee approved the appointment of Angela Maher to the 2020 Leadership Team.
6. Widows’ Fund
On 18 February 2008 the General Assembly signed a Deed about the funding of the Ministerial Pension Fund (MPF) whereby it would become the Guarantor of Last Resort to the MPF in defined circumstances. Within the conditions of this Deed, the MPF has a duty of disclosure in the event of a material change of circumstances. The MPF has presented a request to the General Assembly to approve such a material change, namely the acceptance of the assets and liabilities of the Widows’ Fund into the funds of the MPF. In advocating this amalgamation, the MPF Trustees considered that they were proposing a course of action that would protect the long term solvency of the MPF and thus provide its members with greater pension security. The Executive Committee approved the request.
2. Youth Sunday – 7 February 2016 – Animal Magic
Hello all. Just to say that Youth Sunday will be Sunday 7 February 2016. The theme this time will be ‘Animal Magic’. I will be compiling a worship pack to send out to all congregations full of ideas on this theme. If you have any material to share exploring the theme of pets and animals please email it to me. We would like at least one outline of a pet service in there! Or you may have a teddy bear ritual. Any material would be welcome including opening words, prayers, stories, songs etc. As many of you know Youth Sunday is a day on which the Youth Programme encourages congregations to ask some children or young people to take the service or make the worship child-friendly and accessible to all ages. It is also a time to ensure more families are aware of youth events run by the Youth Programme. I will be putting the pack together in October and will send it out, hopefully, in November.
Many thanks for your support
Yours in fellowship
John Harley – Youth Coordinator
3. New Finance Manager at Essex Hall
Welcome to Colin Farey, who has taken up post as Finance Manager with the General Assembly normally working two days a week. He replaces Martin Sarbicki who retired earlier this year.
4. Charging for Single-use Carrier Bags
Obligatory charging for single-use plastic carrier bag begins in England on 5 October 2015 as part of the Government’s policy to reduce waste. Under the policy, a large retailer is required to levy a charge of 5p (+ VAT where the retailer is VAT-registered) for most single-use plastic carrier bags.
A large retailer is defined as a business that “employs 250 or more full-time equivalent employees (in total and not just in retail roles)”. “If you’re a small or medium-sized business you don’t have to charge, but you’re free to do so voluntarily.” Due to our size this will not affect any Unitarian bodies, however, if you currently give away plastic bags with goods e.g. with a fair trade stall, it is something to consider.
5. Media Coverage
Bridport Unitarian Chapel in the Garden “Donations for Refugees flood into Bridport Church” Bridport and Lyme Regis News (16 September 2015)
Rev Peter Hewis had a letter to the editor on buy-to-let published in the Oxford Times (3 September 2015)
Our friends in the North East India Unitarian Union featured in The Shillong Times (19 September 2015)