UNI-NEWS 175th Issue 13th December 2016

1. Christmas Message from the General Assembly President, Dorothy Hewerdine

Christmas lights are everywhere bringing light and warmth to our short, often grey days.  The shops are full of tempting festive food and gift suggestions for all.  We have survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday - just when did these additional days, encouraging us to spend yet more money, slip into our calendar?  Or maybe, like me this year, those passed by without acknowledgment!

Recently I came across an article written for The New York Times in December 1981 by David W. Dunlap.  It begins:

"It was not a white Christmas, to be sure, dulled as it was to a sort of coastal, oyster gray.  But in certain spots of the city, something shimmered, if only briefly.  For many, the day was bright.

'It's spiritually beautiful,' said Lascell Johnson as he sat down to a chicken dinner prepared by the Salvation Army and served to more than 400 people on West 125th Street. 'It's a good Christmas blessing,' he said, 'another day you can step into the future without giving up.' "

Reading this reminded me of the many different ways we can make dull days 'shimmer' for others, especially at this time of the year.  I know many Unitarians will be doing just that whether by offering a meal, making a phone call, sending a card or simply remembering to ask "How are you?".

I wish you days that 'shimmer' during the coming festive weeks and many days where you step into the future in 2017 with confidence in our liberal religious values and message embodied in words by Rev. Andrew Hill:

"At this festive season
let us all rejoice,
send the world a message
with a common voice.
Let our festive greeting
be that wars shall cease
and that all earth's people
learn to live in peace."

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Dot Hewerdine
General Assembly President 2016-2017

2. Message from Rev David Gyero, President of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)

One question which often comes up in some of the conversations that we all have around the renewal of the ICUU, is why? Why do we need this organisation, why do we need this global service, what is it good for, what difference does this make? There are many answers to this question. One of my favorites comes from the opening sentence in the recent case statement of the international fundraising campaign: “The One Faith Many Flames campaign will contribute to the global Unitarian / UU community by supporting emerging national groups, strengthening existing member organisations, and building the long-term institutional capacity of the ICUU.”

I have another, more personal, but also quite institutional approach on why this group work is important, and needed in so many parts of the world, literally. As a Hungarian Unitarian, I see the most important mission of the ICUU as to strengthen the capacity of its member groups to better serve their congregations and their people at home.

There are many institutions in North America, Europe and elsewhere, which ask for the care and attention of the Unitarian Universalists towards further needs in the world, outside of their continent. Yes, there are enough needs in the Americas and in Western and Eastern Europe, and there are all sorts of social and political and personal needs all over the world. ICUU is unique in paying attention, and focusing support, to the needs and strengths of the Unitarian bodies, the organised communities – because we believe in the meaning of this organised contribution of the groups to the nurturing of their individual members.

If there was no Unitarian organisation in the 16th century in Transylvania, the Hungarian Unitarian faith would have been terminated before the end of the 1570s, and the Eastern European Unitarian Christian theology would be a wonderful dead part of the liberal religious history. If there was no Unitarian sisterhood and brotherhood in the 1800s and the 1900s, the Hungarian and Transylvanian and Czech and Polish brethren would have stayed more isolated, more afraid and more lost amidst persecution and oppression. It was thanks to the contributions of our global international community that the Transylvanian Unitarian Church, and the Hungarian and the Czech too, now has a clearer mission and a more focused service, and is ready to gratefully give back its best to the global community.

I support the mission of the ICUU so that I can stand with the other Unitarian Universalist groups and communities in the world as they grow into a more full capacity of their service. Our presence is needed, more than ever, near Burundi and other countries in Africa, in Mexico and other groups in South America, in Indonesia and other parts of South East Asia, as well as Poland. I am happy to commend the example of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church: as it happened to us, it will happen to others! For me, there is no better way to grow new Unitarian Universalism, or strengthen the weakened ones, than through a locally relevant and safe and healthy community!

ICUU has over 20 years of experience in how to build or encourage these communities – and now has a renewing commitment too for doing that continuously, for the next decades. What we need more is to make sure it has the focused mission, the human and organisational capacity, and the needed resources for doing so!
For further information and to support ICUU see their website.

Rev. Sara Ascher, Executive Director
International Council of Unitarians & Universalists 

3. Message from ICUU - Day of celebration for Religious Freedom

We have received an invitation from the Hungarian Unitarian Church to annually mark 13 January as a day of celebration of Religious Freedom. In 2018 the Unitarian global community is also invited to celebrate, along with our Hungarian Unitarian family, the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda in which King Sigismund proclaimed for the first time the freedom of belief as protected by law. We hope you will join us in the celebrations.

Rev. Sara Ascher, Executive Director
International Council of Unitarians & Universalists 

4. Essex Hall – Holiday Closure

The General Assembly Offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year holiday from Noon on Friday 23 December 2016 until Tuesday 3 January 2017 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 07534 006 860.  Please note this is an emergency number only and will only be checked periodically.

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer

5. Media coverage

Padiham “Padiham Church makes history as first in the area to marry gay couples” (Burnley Express, 1 December 2016)

Good news for Dukinfield “Dukinfield Church receives heritage lottery funds” (Tameside Reporter, 6 December 2016) 

Rev Lewis Connolly of the Unitarian Meeting House in Ipswich gave a reflection of Advent on BBC Radio Suffolk

Harriet Martineau was featured on Radio 4’s “In Our Time” with Melvyn Bragg last week

Derek McAuley
Chief Officer