UNI-NEWS 200th Issue 2nd October 2018

1. New Communications Officer starts

We are delighted to announce that Rory Castle Jones has started in his new role as Communications Officer for the General Assembly. Rory is a fairly new Unitarian, based in our South East Wales district, who attended his first Annual Meetings this year. He has come to us from Swansea University, where his job was based around Student Feedback and Communciations. Rory will be working on the GA website, social media and enhancing our general communications. If you would like to get in touch with him, he can be reached at rcastlejones@unitarian.org.uk 

2. Executive Committee Key Messages, 23-25 September 2018

   1. Nightingale Centre
The Executive Committee made its annual visit to the Nightingale Centre as the venue for the September meeting and met with members of the Management Committee and the Centre Manager, Stella Burney. A report was received on the outbreak of Norovirus during Summer School and the measures taken to manage it which ensured the event could take place. All Centre staff were thanked for their positive and compassionate response in difficult circumstances. The Centre has been commended by the local GP and Public Health England for the actions taken.
An update was given on developments relating to the Centre and plans for the future, including additional en suite accommodation. Financially it had been another positive year with Unitarian and other groups who use the Centre expressing great satisfaction with the quality of the service received. The Management Committee and the Centre Manager were thanked for their contribution.

   2. Training and Education Development (TED) Project
The TED Project Governance Group reported on their final meeting held on 15 September 2018 at Essex Hall as the project came to an end. The pilot ministry training programme run by the new Unitarian College had held its first residential with five students involved. Student feedback had been very positive. Rev Ant Howe had been appointed as Ministry Training Tutor and would take up post on 1 January 2019. The application for Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status for the Unitarian College had been submitted to the Charity Commission, whose response was awaited. The substantial commitment of financial resources by the Executive Committee (£140,000 over three years) was welcomed as a clear statement of commitment to growing the number of ministry students in training in order to better meet the needs of local congregations. 

   3. Resignation of Executive Committee member
The resignation of Sheena McKinnon as a result of health issues was received with regret and formal thanks to Sheena were noted for her contribution to the work of the Executive Committee since her co-option.

   4. Next Steps – From Vision to Action
The Executive Committee was able to spend some time reviewing the strategic issues facing the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and the particular role of the General Assembly within the movement. The “Next Steps” priorities were examined in detail to ascertain the current position and identify where energy should be directed. It was recognised that lessons could be learnt even where it had proved difficult to take forward a priority as originally planned. 

   5. Congregational Support
Simon Bland, Ministry and Congregational Support Officer, presented his observations arising from his visits and contacts with congregations and district associations. Congregations tended to be reactive to issues of a ministerial vacancy, finances and buildings. In his work he had focused on how to support congregations to build their capacity, competency and confidence for the future. He felt that only with these resources available would they be prepared to invest in growth, which even then was likely to be slow but hopefully sustained. He thought that small innovations and changes were the most realistic and that sharing good practice, either across a District or on a national basis, on a particular theme would be useful. Simon was thanked for his work, which is shaped by the “Next Steps” priority of building sustainable congregations. 

   6. Budget 2018-19 and Three-Year Plan
The Budget for the new financial year commencing on 1 October 2018 was approved. It was noted that significant expenditure would arise as a result of the appointment process for a new Chief Officer, which would be funded from reserves. The congregational quota would remain for a further year at £35 per member. A three-year plan was also presented to enable the implications of the considerable investment in ministerial education and training (see above item 2.) to be tracked along with other initiatives.

   7. Risk Register
The General Assembly’s risk register was reviewed and updated in line with good governance requirements. Two new risks were added - the impact of the departure of the Chief Officer in April 2019, and the demands arising from the delivery of the new vision for education and training for all.

  8. Consultation 
The Executive Committee agreed to consider at its next meeting in November how it might better consult and engage individual Unitarians, congregations and district associations as it develops its work priorities and programme. 

  9. Nuclear Weapons
At the Annual Meetings it was agreed to send a message of goodwill and solidarity to the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of people who were killed as a result of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. A reply has been received from the latter:
“Last year’s adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and ICAN being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize proves that the majority of people on this earth, including the hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, continue to seek the realisation of a world free of nuclear weapons.
In order to bring this treaty early entry into force and to establish it as an international norm, civil society must continue to raise their voices. As such we are encouraged to learn that your organisation will take such action.
I hope I can ask for your continued cooperation in our peace initiatives. In closing, I extend my best wishes for your continued good health and prosperity.”     

3. Media Coverage

"Gweinidog yn cyfnewid Llambed am Augusta, America" - Coverage of a pulpit exchange for Rev Alun-Wyn Dafis on the BBC Welsh language website.