1. Executive Committee Key Messages 12 February 2016
1. From Vision to Action – “The Next Steps”
The Executive Committee followed up its detailed discussion in January on the outcomes of the “From Vision to Action” one-day conference in Sheffield during November with an agreement on the final text of “The Next Steps” document. This will be presented at this year's Annual Meetings. The eight-page booklet will be circulated as part of the February Mailing from Essex Hall to give congregations and ministers time to consider its contents. It outlines the key issues that have been identified for action and sets out the next steps which, if approved, will form the basis for more detailed planning by the Executive Committee.
2. Stipend Review Committee Report
The report of the Stipend Review Committee meeting of 18 January 2016 was accepted by the Executive Committee for presentation to the Annual Meetings. The Stipend Committee recommends a 4% uplift in stipends as a further step towards parity with the Baptists and would like to receive views on the setting of a new target of reaching the level of the Congregational Federation. They also initiated work on the level of the manse allowance; particularly the London and District differential.
3. General Assembly Roll of Ministers and Lay Pastors
The following were approved for Ministry training:
• Mark Hutchinson to be trained for the ministry based at Unitarian College, Manchester, over 2 years.
• Duncan Voice to be trained for the ministry based at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, over 2 years.
• Lewis Connolly to be trained for inclusion on the Roll under route 3 iii of the Policy on Ministers from another Denomination or Religious Movement with his studies managed by Harris Manchester College, Oxford and a probationary ministry to be obtained through the Ministerial Vacancy system.
4. Sustainability of Buildings
The Chief Officer reported on exploratory discussions with Historic England about a possible joint project on the long term sustainability of our buildings. Although these are at an early stage and no decisions have been reached as yet, they do offer an opportunity to step back and look at how our chapel and church buildings can more usefully contribute to the achievement of our Vision.
5. Unitarian College Manchester (UCM)
A presentation was received from Rachel Skelton, Project Manager, on UCM’s Ministry Training Project. She drew attention to developments at Luther King House and the benefits of being in partnership with other Colleges. UCM was seeking to broaden its role to meet the learning needs of the wider Unitarian and Free Christian community and would be involving a whole range of stakeholders in its deliberations. Her presentation to the EC was part of this broader engagement process.
6. National Youth Programme Update
Rev John Harley, Youth Programme Co-ordinator, reported on the challenges facing the National Youth Programme and focussed on some of the issues to be addressed if the Programme was to be expanded. It was unclear if a recent fall in numbers for some events was a one-off or a future pattern. The promotion of the Programme needed to be improved with more use of social media to reach young people; particularly those from families outside the Unitarian Movement. Greater administrative and IT support was required. There were currently 15 active youth leaders and it was hoped to make the training conference an annual event. The development of campus ministry and improved provision for young adults at the Annual Meetings were highlighted.
7. Annual Meetings 2016
A positive report was received on preparations for the forthcoming Annual Meetings to take place in Birmingham from 30 March to 2 April. The Annual Meetings Panel are already working on plans for 2017.
2. Refugee Support
We know that some congregations are organising and working with others in support of refugees. Philip Colfox has agreed to gather information on what is taking place across the Unitarian Movement and to explore how we might help each other. Please forward the name and email of any local contacts to Philip Colfox.
3. Unitarian Music Society Annual Conference
The Annual Conference of the Unitarian Music Society will take place from Friday 5 – Monday 8 August 2016 at The Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow.
Calling singers and instrumentalists of all abilities! Join other music lovers for a stimulating weekend experience - an opportunity for learning, sharing and enjoyment.
This year the Society’s ‘major work’ will be Purcell’s short opera "Dido and Aeneas.” Learned and performed over the weekend it will just be one of many musical activities in our varied programme. Instrumental groups, madrigals, ‘lighter’ singing and recorders (including a session for beginners) are on the programme alongside illustrated talks on a number of subjects. We will also be helping to produce a UKunitarianTV programme about hymn writers and their hymns.
There really will be something for everyone as well as time for rest and relaxation for those who want to take some time out!
UMS warmly welcomes non-members to the conference. In particular, young instrumentalists and singers are very welcome with subsidies available to those in full-time education. But hurry as places are limited and the conference is already well subscribed.
For all enquires please contact Helen Merritt or call her on 0151 625 5488.
Unitarian Music Society
4. Financial Support available to Attend Young Adult Events
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) conference will take place in the Netherlands from 17-22 July 2016 and welcomes young people (21-35 year olds).
Would you like to attend this event? If so there is funding to pay for the whole conference fee and we can help you with your travel. There will be a young people’s programme including leadership building, workshops and social time. Full details are available at the ICUU website.
Young people can apply to John Harley for the whole conference fee of £260. This will come from the M. Humphreys Winder Fund and if you need help with travel, the Marie Rosenberg travel fund can give you a grant.
The OPUS conference takes place in the USA this summer and if you are interested in attending please contact Sarah Atkinson for the dates and venue. Young people (18-25 year olds) can apply for the whole conference fee to be paid from the M. Humphreys Winder Fund and should contact John Harley. Also contact John to apply to the Marie Rosenberg travel fund for help with flights.
Rev John Harley
5. Media Coverage
Induction Service for Rev Lewis Rees held at Nottage Baptist Chapel (Barry Gem, 25 January 2016)
Bank Street Unitarian Chapel and Walmsley Unitarian Chapel have licences to host same sex marriages (The Bolton News, 26 January 2016). A similar piece appeared in “This is Lancashire.co.uk”
The Chief Officer was one of signatories of an Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Education “Public Call to retain free school religious discrimination limit”
Denton New Chapel’s announcement that they would perform baptisms for transgender people generated national coverage in:
Brighton Science Festival at Brighton Unitarian Church (Argus, 8 February 2016)
Seven Stone Weight Loss Answers Minister’s Prayers (Hale, Altrincham and Sale Independent, 10 February 2016)
On 28 January 2016 the Chief Officer attended a debate at the British Academy, the UK's premier body for humanities and the social sciences, on the role of "Faith" with the intriguing question "Who cares if Britain is not a Christian country?" One of the speakers called the Unitarians the “awkward squad!” and Derek was called to ask the last question. For more information and a link to a video of the event see the Chief Officer’s Blog item.