1. Christmas Message from the President of the General Assembly
Recent diggings have unearthed in what is now Turkey evidence that our hunter-gatherer ancestors joined together in the winter months to worship and celebrate. As they took up farming our ancestors started living in cities. The oldest known city in the world is close to the religious complex in Turkey.
Life in the city was much harder than it was as a hunter-gatherer. It was rife with disease and one’s food supply was very much dependent on the seasons. Yet our ancestors stayed in the cities because of the sense of community. As we know from our part of the world this led to amongst other things, celebrations where worship took place to mark the different seasons of the year. One special celebration was around the 25 December in our calendar to mark the time when the daylight hours began to increase. The early Christian Church leaders decided this date would be perfect for celebrating the birth of Jesus as he was the light of the world.
In my travels around the country I found the old negativity about our future is beginning to fade. Some of us our beginning to believe that there just might be a light at the end of the tunnel. As we gather in our churches, chapels, and fellowships to worship and celebrate we realize that we are in our spiritual home. The spirit of giving is alive and well in our movement not only towards our own religious communities but towards the wider community as well.
Whatever our personal theologies let us join as Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in celebrating this season of Love and Giving.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Rev Charles Vandenbroader
President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
2. Executive Committee Key Messages, 17 November 2017
1. General Assembly President and Vice-President
The Executive Committee is pleased to announce that Joan Cook will be nominated for the position as President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches for the year commencing 7 April 2018 and that Rev Celia Cartwright will be nominated for the position of Vice-President in 2018-19, leading to the Presidency in 2019-2020. We congratulate Joan and Celia and thank them for agreeing to serve.
Joan became a member of St Mark’s Church, Edinburgh, in 1981 and has undertaken many roles within the congregation. She has served on the Executive Committee of the Scottish Unitarian Association, including three years as President, and her national roles include two terms as a member of the Executive Committee.
Celia served as a Lay Leader in Charge and Lay Pastor in Devon and then as a Minister at Padiham (1997-98) Rochdale (1998-2006) and Kendal (2006-16). She is currently national President of the Women’s League, Treasurer of the Unitarian Peace Fellowship and a Tutor on the Worship Studies course.
2. Honorary Membership of the General Assembly
The Executive Committee is pleased to announce that Rev Dr Ann Peart and Alan Ruston will be nominated as Honorary Members of the General Assembly at the Annual Meetings in April 2018 in recognition of their considerable contribution to the Unitarian cause worldwide. Honorary Membership is awarded only to those who have rendered long and highly significant service nationally.
Ann was active as a young person at Hyde Chapel, East Cheshire including leading worship. After training at Manchester College Oxford she served as minister at Lewisham (1986-95) and Gorton, Manchester (1995-2000) and then as Principal of Unitarian College Manchester (2000-09). She has served on many national Unitarian bodies. She completed a PhD on Women and Unitarianism and was President of the General Assembly in 2012-13.
Alan was President of the General Assembly in 2002-03 and has served the national movement in many capacities, including as Chair of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association Incorporated. He has been researching the history of British Unitarianism for nearly fifty years and is a former President of the Unitarian Historical Society.
3. Executive Committee Co-option
The Executive Committee has co-opted Hilda Dumpleton to replace Gwynn Pritchard who resigned in July 2017 due to ill-health. Hilda has been a Lay Preacher in the South East Wales District since 1975 and has served her congregation, Swansea, in many capacities. She was District President in 1993-94 and is a member of the Welsh Department. Hilda will serve until April 2019.
4 Training and Education Development (TED) Project
The Executive Committee was encouraged by the progress report that was presented. The Governance Group had met twice to get the project up-and-running and to ensure that a pilot programme for Ministry training is in place by Autumn 2018. Work had taken place on developing a draft curriculum for the “continuing deepening of the Unitarian life”; with the Competencies for Ministry being reflected in a matrix of skills, behaviours and attitudes. Work is also taking place on mapping lay training courses. An assessment group has been established.
The Governance Group has considered how the new Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) that is to be established will fulfil Charity Commission objectives. It is intended to launch the CIO at the Annual Meetings in April 2018.
5. Management Accounts 2016-17
The Executive Committee received the initial management accounts for the financial year, ending 30 September 2017 and was pleased to be informed that income and expenditure were well under control - producing a balanced position with a reduction in draw-down from the Bowland Trust donation.
The Chief Officer reported that a legacy of £35,000 had recently been received for the unrestricted use of the General Assembly which will support activities in the current financial year.
6. Penal and Social Affairs
The Executive Committee has agreed to the current Penal Affairs Panel widening its role to include social issues. The Panel remains committed to addressing concerns about the penal system but has acknowledged that these challenges often reflect social problems, such as drug misuse. Its title will therefore be changed to the “Penal and Social Affairs Panel”. The Panel will be undertaking a “Social Responsibility Survey” of Unitarian communities and individual Unitarians and will expand its publications, including more articles in “The Inquirer” on its work. Members were thanked for their contribution.
7. Growth and 2020 Congregational Development
Growth is one of the “Next Steps” priorities and Rev Andy Pakula and Aleks Zglinska of the 2020 Leadership Team joined the meeting along with Simon Bland, Ministry and Congregational Support Officer, to consider how the General Assembly might support the growth of the Unitarian movement. All recognised that this was a complex issue requiring a range of steps addressing different impediments to growth. Further work on strategy and implementation is planned.
8. Gábor Kereki Trust
In June 2017 the General Assembly received a legacy from the Estate of Mrs Joan Kereki to establish a Trust in memory of her husband, Rev Gábor Kereki, to benefit ministers and ministerial students from the Hungarian Unitarian Church attending Harris Manchester College, Oxford and Unitarian College Manchester.
Unitarian College Manchester have been working with HMCO to bring a “Sharpe Scholar” to Britain in early 2018 and financial support from the Fund will enable the Rev Dr Enikő Ferenczi to come to England from mid-January 2018 until the General Assembly Annual Meetings, which she will attend. She will also attend FUSE and take opportunities to join worship in Unitarian congregations.
9. Annual Meetings 2018 Video
Come to Staverton Estate for the Annual Meetings in April 2018 – find out more by watching this new video
3. General Assembly Roll of Ministers – Rev Andy Phillips
We are pleased to announce that Rev Andy Phillips, having completed the academic requirements of his training, has been admitted to the Roll of Ministers with Probationary status.
4. Essex Hall – Holiday Closure
The General Assembly Offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year holiday from Noon on Friday 22 December 2017 until Tuesday 2 January 2018 at 10.00am. Messages will not be retrieved from the voicemail service on the GA telephone number until our return. For messages that are of an urgent nature please ring or preferably send a text message to the mobile number 01158882955. Please note this is an emergency number only and will only be checked periodically.
5. Send a Child To Hucklow (SACH)
The latest Annual Report of “Send a Child to Hucklow” is now available to download on their website: www.sendachildtohucklow.org.uk
Send a Child To Hucklow (SACH) have appointed a new Donations Treasurer, Mrs Ruth Taylor. We offer our thanks to the retiring Donations Treasurer, Sue Catts.
Ruth’s contact details are as follows:
Mrs Ruth Taylor
10 Heald Grove
Sarah Benfield has taken over from Rev Peter Hewis as SACH Chairman, thus following in the line of her father and SACH founder Peter Godfrey.
Rev Peter Hewis
6. Service Dates in 2018
When planning services for 2018 please note suggested themes:
14 January – Celebration of 450 years of Religious Freedom with the Edict of Torda
4 February – Youth Sunday to celebrate the contribution of children and young people
8 or 15 April – report back on the General Assembly Annual Meetings
24 June – General Assembly Sunday to improve awareness of the work of the General Assembly
21 October – Interfaith Service for World Peace
7. Reimagining Interfaith Cooperation - Interfaith Conference that will incorporate the Thirty Fifth World Congress of the IARF
We are pleased to finally announce the venue and several other details of the Interfaith Conference that will incorporate the Thirty Fifth World Congress of the IARF: Reimagining Interfaith Cooperation.
The conference, organized at the initiative of the IARF and the United Universalist Association, our US-based member group, is co-sponsored by such accomplished and well-known partners as the United Religions Initiative, the United Church of Christ, Religions for Peace, the World Congress of Faith, the Interfaith Funders Group and multiple faith communities.
Theme and programme
The programme, prioritizing interfaith relationship building and resource sharing, will feature a keynote panel with Rev. Jennifer Bailey, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Rabbi David Saperstein, and a fourth panelist to be confirmed. There will be five “Program Tracks” of Learning, Training and Skill-Sharing workshops; “Circle Group” meetings in small groups of 8-10 individuals; diverse Worship and Spiritual Focus opportunities. The programme will include the IARF business meeting.
Program Tacks in Development
1.Cultivating Inclusive Communities in the Face of Religious Discrimination.
2.Community Organizing: Initiating and Sustaining Social Change Movements.
3.Staying “Woke”: Recognizing Privilege, Challenging Systemic Oppression.
4.Interfaith Organizing in a Changing Spiritual Landscape.
5.Making A Movement: Building Skills to Bring Interfaith to the Next Level.
Date and venue
The Conference will be held on 29 July – 1 August 2018 in Washington DC, USA, at George Washington University’s Marvin Center.
Costs and accommodation
The registration fee includes programs, local transportation, all meals, and cultural events.
● General: Ranging from $295 (early registration) to $400 (late registration)
● Young Adult (Under 18-35) Registration: $100 (Request information about financial assistance)
● Sunday Only (Keynote Panel/Reception) Registration: $50
● Per Day Registration (Tues or Wednesday): $125
On campus dormitory suites are available with full bathroom, kitchenette, and one bedroom that has four beds. These can be shared by 1 to 4 people. The total cost per person for 3 nights, depending upon the number people sharing the suite is: ● 4 people: $146 ● 3 people: $188 ● 2 people: $276 ● 1 person: $540
Local hotels are also available, ranging from $175 to $225 per night for double rooms.
8. The Jane Barraclough Bursary
A travel and educational bursary of around £500 will be awarded from time to time by the Ministerial Old Students’ Association (MOSA) to Ministers trained firstly at Harris Manchester College, Oxford or secondly at the Unitarian College Manchester and who are on the Roll of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. The award is for the recipient to travel within the United Kingdom or abroad, or to attend a course in furtherance of their education. The fund is handled by the Manchester Academy Trust on behalf of the Ministerial Old Students’ Association and a grant presented during the annual meetings of MOSA for payment at the end of June.
Applications should be made by January 3rd of each year.
Application forms are available from the Reverend Peter Hewis, 1 Little Blenheim, Yarnton, KIDLINGTON, OX5 1LX firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev Peter Hewis
9. Travel with UUs: The Gilded Age Meets Downton Abbey in England, 6 – 14 May 2018
The unique university town of Oxford, with its amazing bookstores, eclectic museums, and historic pubs, is our home for 5 nights. While learning from a Blue Badge English Guide about the Victorian era and the American heiresses who married English aristocracy to save their estates, we visit Highclere Castle and Blenheim Palace. In the Midlands, we visit Althorp House and have High Tea in Leamington Spa. For 2 nights we stay in Ironbridge, the symbol of the industrial revolution in England. A Victorian town shows us how people lived and worked in late 1800s. All of this is wrapped in the bow of Downton Abbey. We enjoy the film sites at Highclere, Basildon Park, the charming Cotswolds, and in London. The itinerary aims to be mindful, informative, and fun.
For more information Contact Beverly Carr: email@example.com
10. Media coverage
Monton Unitarian Church “First ever same-sex marriage in a Salford church goes ahead – despite heating fail” (Manchester Evening News, 30 October 2017”
The Live Arts Development Agency (LADA) have moved into space at the Garrett Centre, former Bethnal Green Unitarian Mission in Mansford Street (a-n News, 9 November 2017)
Research on same sex marriage has revealed the important contribution of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Rev Matthew Smith delivered a Christmas reflection oin BBC Radio Suffolk (10 December 2017) and is found at 39 minutes into the programme
New Unity - “Want to Make the World better but don’t know how?”: Stoke Newington Church launches social justice incubator" (Hackney Citizen, 11 December 2017)