Welcoming the General Assembly’s Presidential Team


Pictured: Rev Celia Cartwright, Rev Sue Wolley, and Anne Mills


Welcoming the General Assembly’s Presidential Team

The coronavirus pandemic is revealing the need to do many things differently, including the role of the President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

The Executive Committee are delighted to welcome the formation of a new Presidential Team for this coming year. Rev Celia Cartwright, Anne Mills, and Rev Sue Woolley came up with the proposal to work collaboratively as a team for this year, due to the uncertain and difficult time of pandemic.

Had we been able to go ahead with our Annual Meeting as usual, we would have expected to thank Celia Cartwright for her year of service as President, and welcome Anne Mills as this year’s President, and Sue Woolley as Vice-President. Constitutionally, the President remains in post until the next Annual Meeting. Practically, the three will work together, responding to the needs of the Movement.

The Presidential Team see their primary focus as compassionate communication with the Unitarian and Free Christian Movement, providing a listening ear, and giving messages of support and love to congregations, groups and individuals who are struggling in this time.

In usual years, the GA President would visit congregations and share messages in person, and while this isn’t possible, the Presidential Team are expecting to ‘visit’ and offer messages from a distance, whether that’s attending services via Zoom, sharing a video message, picking up the phone, or popping a card in the post.

We are grateful for the leadership shown by the Presidential Team, and the way they are choosing to collaborate in offering their gifts to the Movement.

You can contact the Team via email.

It's not yet possible to plan when our next Annual Meeting will be, and we hope that it will be possible to do it in April 2021. The current intention is that we will then thank Celia for her service as President, welcome Anne as the new President, and Sue as the new Vice-President – and we will adapt plans as circumstances require.

Here is a special message from Anne, Celia and Sue:

"The new plan, proposed by Celia Cartwright, Anne Mills and Sue Woolley - and this has now been officially agreed with our Chief Officer and the members of the Executive Committee - is that, until April, 2021, the three of us will form a Presidential Team, carrying out, between us, certain duties, and offering as much support and encouragement as we can to all our congregations, both during this difficult time, and as they emerge from lockdown-restrictions and begin to take stock of their various situations. Our Constitution states that Celia must remain as President, until the next Annual Meetings; Anne, therefore, stays as Vice-President, and Sue becomes the Vice-President-Elect. 

During this difficult year, as we face the COVID 19 virus pandemic, nothing is ‘normal’. The ordinary lives of all of us have been curtailed as we self-isolate at home, alone or with partners and family; or serving on the front line, whether we are Doctor, Practitioner, Nurse, or one the many other health-care practitioners who are putting their lives at risk to help us save ours, including the oft-overlooked janitors, porters, cleaners, and those who create meals for patients in hospital.  In amongst this, the closure of our churches and the cancelling of the 2020 General Assembly meetings can seem almost peripheral. But it is a large part of our sense of wholeness and connection. Dealing with this is writing a new rule-book on the hoof, for we have never had a situation like this before. One of the minutiae of this new rule-book is the role of President, Vice President and the out-going President, and, as you can imagine, these have been close to the hearts of Celia Cartwright, Anne Mills and Sue Woolley.

In order to serve our denomination at this time, we have proposed that this strange year is seen as a fallow year, during which we have a Presidential Team. We realise that, during this current time, and when life begins to ‘get back to normal’, there will be a need for contact, communication, and help, from a wide variety of people and places, and we hope to be able to act for and with the great Assembly of Unitarians and Free Christians in the UK and in Ireland.

We cannot see into the future; we have no idea precisely what will be required of us, but  the role we see opening for us is one of responsible communicating with, and finding out how, our congregations are faring during this time, and in the time to come.  We see our role as being in contact with ministers and lay-leaders to support them: passing information, when necessary, to the offices of the GA, and to the EC, keeping us all in contact, being aware, and helping in whatever way we can. And next year, we sincerely hope we can all pick up the reins and begin again, afresh, anew, at our General Assembly Meetings. The rule-book will have been written, and amended, and it will be left for any future time, if a situation like this should ever emerge again.

Wherever the assistance of the Presidential Team is required, it will be available, so we would ask everyone to let us know what they feel they most need; we aim to send out supportive, compassionate messages, regularly, and to communicate by all possible methods; we can offer worship, pastoral care, and visits---or whatever feels most appropriate. We would like to ensure that every single Unitarian feels held and heard; we will be responsive. If you require assistance of any kind, please contact us, initially, by email."