Unitarian President 2016Mrs Dorothy (Dot) Hewerdine has been elected as President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches for the year 2016/17. She is a member of both Chorley Unitarian Chapel and Padiham Unitarians.

Dot was born into a Unitarian family attending the Hunslet Unitarian Church, Leeds, until its closure in 1966.  Her family travelled the 20 miles from their home in Knaresborough several times a week to participate in numerous activities both social and reflective.  It was a time of community church going when many of the members lived in close proximity to the church.  

As a young teenager, she became involved in the Yorkshire Region Unitarian Young People’s League, later becoming involved in the National UYPL with many visits to the Unitarian Retreat Centre at Great Hucklow in Derbyshire.  She greatly valued the opportunity to develop national contacts, deepen her understanding of Unitarian values and gain confidence in her own ability to take on leadership roles.

Over recent years she has been involved in many ways with development and training of lay leaders and Ministers. She completed an MSc in Change Agent Skills and Strategies, funded by the Hibbert and Thornton Trusts, and played a very significant part in the creation and leadership of the Development Skills Training Programme in the 1990s.  This programme was open to both lay people and Ministers on the roll.  She is currently involved with the Ministry in the Making annual seminars sponsored by The Hibbert Trust, and has been exploring ways to run a similar programme for local lay leaders. She is a member of the committee of the Unitarian College, Manchester. She served as a member of the Executive Committee of the General Assembly.

Talking about religious life today Dot says:

“Modern life pressures have changed the way many Unitarians are able to contribute to congregational life, but I have always been an advocate of looking at ways to explore how we can make our liberal religion relevant and available to all people.  I want my grandchildren and their children to be able to explore their religious beliefs and spiritual life in a caring and trusting community as I was able to do and to let those beliefs and values inform and influence the adults they will become and the influence they will have on their world.

My own children benefitted greatly from their involvement in the Youth programme from a very young age.  They credit their experiences there with enabling them to relate to others in an empathetic way reaching a greater understanding of human nature.

One of my much used quotes is that of the Ripple effect.  In his book, The Tao of Leadership, John Heider summarises this in this way: “Remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward.  So be sure that your influence is both potent and wholesome.”  I believe that we do have the potential to begin ripples both potent and wholesome as we have in past centuries.  We must find ways to continue to start these ripples, knowing that we can never know how far they will spread or who they will touch, but with faith in their power to transform lives and communities for the better.   ”

In her Presidential acceptance speech, Dot said: “I am honoured to be nominated by the General Assembly Executive Committee as GA President for 2016/2017. I feel it is a great privilege to serve the General Assembly in this role at a time when ‘A Vision for the Future’ is being discussed quite widely and ways are being sought to become what ‘We want to be.’ ”