UNI-NEWS 163rd Issue 21st March 2016

1. GA Office Closure

Please note that the GA Office at Essex Hall will be closed from 5.00pm on Thursday 24 March until 10.00am on Tuesday 5 April 2016 for the Easter Break followed by the Annual Meetings. 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 0750 763 1285.  Please note this is an emergency number only and will only be checked periodically.

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer

2. Co-option of One Member of Executive Committee 

The Executive Committee is seeking applications for one member to be co-opted to fill the vacant position following the resignation of a member. The co-opted member will serve from July 2016 until the end of the Annual Meetings in 2017. The same criteria for an election nomination process will apply, except that individuals may self-nominate.

Applications are sought from Full, Honorary and Associate Members of the General Assembly and quota-paying members of constituent congregations. 

Requirements for Executive Committee membership

Applicants should:

•Demonstrate 3 years active commitment to the Unitarian community

•Be in sympathy with the Objects of the General Assembly

•Be eligible to stand in accordance with legal requirements

Essential Requirements

(1) Experience in one or other of the following:

•An officer or member of a congregational/district governing body.

•An officer or member of a committee of an affiliated body.

•An officer or member of a charity trustee body or similar e.g. voluntary organisations such as a sports club or parent teacher association.

•As a Minister, Lay Pastor, Approved Lay Leader or Lay Person in Charge of a Unitarian congregation

(2) Good understanding of the Unitarian community

(3) Confidentiality

Applicants may submit the application form and declaration electronically to Derek McAuley, General Assembly Chief Officer. If this is the case the signed declaration form must however be submitted in hard copy. Applications must be received by 5.00pm on Wednesday 4 May 2016 to enable consideration by the Executive Committee at its meeting on 13/14 May 2016. For further information about the role and for application forms please contact Derek McAuley on 020 7240 2384 or by email. 

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer

3. Electoral Panel – Members Sought

The term of office of members of the Executive Committee concludes in April 2017 and therefore arrangements for managing the elections that will take place are required. The elections are overseen by an Electoral Panel of three members appointed by the Executive Committee. They are assisted by the Chief Officer and Essex Hall staff and an external company in making the actual arrangements.  

We are seeking three members to serve until the completion of the Electoral process. The commitment will be over the next year and involve occasional meeting although most work will be done by email. Experience of elections and administrative processes would be useful along with knowledge of the wider Unitarian and Free Christian movement. Being respected and well-known in Unitarian circles will, of course, help inspire confidence on the process. If you are interested please contact Derek McAuley, Chief Officer for a discussion.

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer 

4. Ministry Inquiry Day

Would you like to know more about training as a Unitarian and Free Christian Minister and about working with our congregations?

This summer the Ministry Strategy Group will be holding an Inquiry Day for people who are at an early stage of considering this possibility as well as for those who are almost ready to make an application for training. There will be opportunities to meet our tutors and recent graduates.

Venue:  Leicester Great Meeting House, LE1 4SX

Date: Friday 29 July 2016

Time: 11am for 11.30 start – 3.30pm finish

Booking deadline: 22 July - advance booking is essential.

For more information and to book, please email Mary-Jean Hennis  or phone her on 020 7240 2384

Ministry Strategy Group


5. EU Referendum Guidance – Advice from Churches Legislative Advisory Service

The Charity Commission has issued regulatory guidance for charities that may be considering public involvement in the debate leading up to the European Union referendum on 23 June 2016.

The guidance begins by pointing out that charities should not engage in political activity in connection with the EU referendum unless they can demonstrate that they comply with the terms of the Commission’s guidance, Speaking out: guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities (CC9), on Charities, Elections and Referendums, and the regulatory guidance itself. Trustees must be satisfied that such activity is a proper way to support the delivery of the charity’s purposes and is in the best interests of the charity (which, I would suggest in passing, is highly unlikely in the case of CLAS members). Crucially:

“Engaging in political activity on the EU referendum carries reputational risks for your charity and you must consider how you can avoid them. This means that if you decide to be involved in the referendum, you must be completely transparent about your reasons for deciding to be involved, ensuring that your decisions are justifiable within charity law and that the charity maintains its political neutrality as set out in CC9. You must be alert to the risk of being perceived to be aligned with a political party or with any particular organised campaign on either side of the argument, and consider carefully how you can avoid this. Any referendum related activity may attract adverse comment. Trustees must consider the possibility of this when making their decisions and be prepared to defend their decision to intervene. Failure to be able to do so could lead to regulatory action.”

What is more likely is that CLAS members may hold impartial hustings for the pro- and anti- factions to present their views. On that, the guidance is silent, except to point out that any decision about engagement with the referendum campaign must be properly considered and duly recorded:

“As trustees you should keep a written record of your decisions. You can find further information on making decisions in the Commission’s guidance It’s your decision: charity trustees and decision making (CC 27). The minutes should record:

•how the action agreed furthers and supports your charitable purposes

•the basis on which you have decided that the activity is in the best interests of your charity and within its charitable objects

•the risks involved that you have identified and how you will avoid them within charity law

•any conflicts of interest that you have identified and how you propose to deal with them.”

[Source: Charity Commission – 7 March]


6. The Priestley Poetry Prize – Strange Attractions: Science and the Sacred

Celebrating a mutual link with scientist and philosopher, Joseph Priestley, both Mill Hill Chapel and The Leeds Library are working in collaboration to initiate a brand new poetry competition.

As a scientist and seeker, Joseph Priestley was able to combine and separate the sacred and the scientific, the rational and the subjective. Priestley saw that science and the sacred can be both together and separate, unified and discrete. “The morning is upon us, and we cannot doubt that the light will increase... Happy are those who contribute to diffuse the pure light ...” Joseph Priestley

The aim of the competition is to contribute to the emerging conversation between religion and science. We invite contributions of new, original, previously unpublished (print, or online) poems which reflect the experience of the relationship between the spiritual and the scientific – their differences and similarities, how each values the other, their co-existence and struggle: their Strange Attraction. The winning entries will be chosen by a panel reflecting the worlds of science and literature and will be led by Chief Judge and writer, Rommi Smith and Rev Jo James of Mill Hill Chapel. The deadline for submissions will be midnight on Monday 20 May 2016. Winning entries, and a selection of shortlisted entries, will form the basis for a published anthology. Winners will be announced at a prize-giving event at Mill Hill Chapel. Poems can be submitted in print, or if performed via MP3, or film to priestleypoetry@gmail.com.


1st Prize Adult (£250), 2nd Prize Adult (£75), 3rd Prize Adult (£50)

1st Prize Secondary (£75), 2nd Prize Secondary (£50), 3rd Prize Secondary (£25)

1st Prize Primary (£75), 2nd Prize Primary (£50), 3rd Prize Primary (£25)

Categories and Entry Fees:

There are 3 categories for entries: Adult, Secondary and Primary. Adult entry fee: £5.00 waged/£3.00 unwaged and concessions (the fee is per poem entered), Primary and Secondary entries: FREE. 

The competition judges will be hosting two workshops for potential entrants: Saturday 9 April 10:00-12:00 with Rommi Smith at the Leeds Library and Sunday 24 April 13:00-15:00 with Rev Jo James at Mill Hill Chapel. Places are limited so please book ahead at: enquiries@theleedslibrary.org.uk or 01132453071

Rev Jo James


7. Third International Convocation of U*U Women and Progressive People of Faith, Asilomar Conference Grounds, CA, 16-19 February 2017

We would love to see UK women there! The theme of the Convocation is “Weaving Global Partnerships…Forging a Just Future Together”. The Convocation will offer community and connection, information and inspiration, as well as motivation and momentum that lead to real action and change! 

I am deeply impressed with the inroads we’ve made and the profound impact they’ve had since our first International Convocation in 2009. We are expecting approximately 500 U*U women – mostly from the U.S. and Canada, but also from Western and Central Europe, Bolivia, Romania, Northeast India, and the Philippines. Please add your special presence to our growing list of attendees. Two of our strong ongoing themes will be Leadership Training and Climate Change initiatives, among other focuses.

An Early Bird registration of $250 is available until 26 June 2016. After that, registration will be $350.  A further discount of $50 is available for women ministers and young adult women. Convocation registration includes access to all presentations and refreshment breaks but does not include lodging, meals, or ticketed events. There will be some scholarship funds available plus we’re encouraging groups to have their members each chip in a small amount in order to support some of their women to attend and bring home unique information to share. Ask a partner church for assistance too!

Meals and accommodations are handled directly by Asilomar Conference Grounds.  Room and full board (double occupancy) is $575.88 per person. 

There are exciting Monterey area pre and post Convocation day tours offered to participants.

For conference and registration details at International Women’s Convocation website.

Sharon Van Duizend 


8. Media Coverage

Brixton Unitarians to hold David Bowie celebration in Effra Road Chapel (Brixton Buzz, 24 February 2016)

Service to remember icon David Bowie is held at Brixton Chapel (South London Press, 1 March 2016)

First Saturday Series at St Saviourgate, Unitarian Chapel,  York (The Press, 4 March 0216)

Review Micklegate Singers (The Press, 12 March 2016)

Aberystwyth - Welcome to the most Europhile Place in Britain” (The Independent, 5 March 2016) refers to the radical Unitarian tradition of Ceredigion and the “Black Spot”.

Saint Sister to Play Dublin Unitarian Church” (State.ie, 8 March 2016)

Setting the Record Straight” (Camden New Journal,  25 February 2016) includes marriage of Ed Fordham and Russell Eagling at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel – the first couple to announce their engagement in “The Times”

Portsmouth Unitarians “We welcome everyone into our Church” (The News, 18 March 2016)

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer