1. Executive Committee Key Messages – February 2015
1. Safeguarding Audit
The Chief Officer reported that only about a quarter of congregations had responded to the Safeguarding Audit with a couple of days remaining before the deadline. This was disappointing although hopefully more returns would be received. It was agreed that the information be collated by district and that the EC district links would raise locally. An overview of the results would be available for the Annual Meetings and be considered at the next EC meeting in May 2015.
2. Millennium Fund
Two grants were awarded by the Executive Committee:
a) Octagon Chapel, Norwich was awarded £6,000 towards the architectural design fees in connection with a major project costing £147,000 to re-develop dilapidated toilets and improve kitchen facilities which will assist in ensuring the Chapel becomes a venue of choice for ceremonies and increases public use of their building.
b) 2020 Congregational Development Programme was awarded £4,780 to fund a series of workshops in districts to disseminate the learnings of the project on congregational growth. Current funding is restricted to specific growth projects in congregations.
3. Executive Committee Membership
The Executive Committee has been tasked with co-opting two members to serve until 2017 to fill the vacancies arising from the recent electoral process which saw only two candidates come forward. They conducted a trustee skills assessment exercise to identify areas of strength and weakness from April 2015. As a result they will look to appoint individuals with skills and knowledge in two areas; a Minister to bring knowledge of faith and spirituality issues and someone with knowledge of campaigning, fund-raising and income generation. An advertisement for these positions will be issued by the Chief Officer, who may be contacted for further information and discussion.
4. Annual Meetings Update
The Chief Officer reported that preparations were in hand for the forthcoming Annual Meetings in Birmingham. There is an exciting programme on celebration, learning and discussion with Unitarians from across the country. We have decided to waive the £50 late booking fee this year. The final deadline for booking is 2 March 2015.
5. Vision Day Follow-up
The Annual Meetings will be an opportunity to learn more about the ongoing work on a Vision for the future of Unitarianism in Britain. A booklet of contributions based on the key themes identified at the Vision Day held last September will be published. The EC discussed their response to these ideas and what the implications were likely to be for the work of the General Assembly as a plan is developed for the next five years.
6. Climate Change Motion
It has become clear that there is unlikely to be a consultation paper on climate change produced for the Annual Meetings as previously announced. This follows the referral back for further consultation of the Motion last year. The Executive Committee will consider how to proceed at its next meeting in May 2015.
17 February 2015
2. Death of Rev Douglas Webster
Rev Douglas Webster died in Australia on 15 February 2015 aged 87. The funeral will be at 1pm on Monday 23 February, at Chandler Funerals, 348 Windsor Street, Richmond NSW 2755 and will be conducted by Rev Geoffrey R Usher. Contact details for his wife Vina are as for Douglas in the Directory or are available from Essex Hall.
3. Nightingale Centre
I am very proud to announce that The Nightingale Centre has been awarded **** 4 star hostel status in the national Quality in Tourism Award Scheme.
4. Fire Safety Regulations
The following have been kindly supplied by Colin Domville, MIFireE, who advises the Methodist Church (and, by extension, CLAS) on fire safety issues. These requirements apply to all churches.
It is nearly 9 years since all churches came under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which came into effect in October 2006. By now, every church should have carried out a fire risk assessment; but there are some churches that may not have completed their Assessment. This is therefore to remind all churches that they should have completed the Assessment and that the Risk Assessment recordings should be updated as necessary.
The Government produced several guides for different types of premises – but not for churches specifically. Because it did not produce a specific guide for church premises, officials suggested that the Methodist Church Property Fire Adviser, Colin Domville, who had represented the Churches Main Committee (now CLAS) on the Stakeholders’ Group that assisted in the preparation of the Government guidance should produce a specific guide: consequently, Fire Risk Assessment Principles for Church Premises was first produced in 2006 – and it is still in force. Do please read it.
It is absolutely essential that every church, after carrying out an initial assessment (which you should have already done), should check each year that all its premises are still satisfactory and that there have been no changes to the building(s) that might affect the safety of the occupants.
Any changes should be recorded. The day-to-day uses made of buildings can change almost imperceptibly over time: the side door you used to leave open during service-time in 2007 might now be kept permanently bolted and double-locked. So check!
The Extinguisher Service National Contract for churches operated by Chubb Fire Ltd, based at Middleton, Manchester, National Account Division is still available at the previous costs of £6 per unit and extends to 31 March 2016. This means that the prices for servicing and supply of new extinguishers will have remained the same since 1994.
Churches should ensure when dealing with a Chubb service engineer that they are on a National Accounts Contract because other Chubb branches’ contracts can be more expensive.
Colin Domville can be consulted on 01704 875 597, or at email@example.com.
5. Magna Carta
Ingrid van Dooren, a member of the Chatham congregation, is organising a conference and workshops in June for the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta. The project is supported by the Magna Carta Trust, the official co-ordinator of the national Magna Carta 800 Years celebrations. She would very much like Unitarians to attend the conference and/or workshops because of the connection with Unitarianism as illustrated in a recent article in The Inquirer. For further information visit Magna Carta 800 website.
6. Humanism and Religious Studies
The Chief Officer was one of the signatories of a letter to The Times on humanism and religious studies which attracted media attention, not least because Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was the lead. Some of the media coverage is below:
British Humanist Association website – full text and list of signatories
BBC News website
Politics Today website
TES Connect website
Christian Today website
Premier Christian Radio website
Schools Week website
Teaching Times website
7. Radio 4 Book of the Week TS Eliot
A recent Radio 4 Book of the Week was from Robert Crawford's biography of T.S. Eliot, whose grandfather was a Unitarian minister and whose family were acquainted with other Unitarian luminaries of the time. Catch up at BBC News website.
8. Message from Quakers in Britain - Quaker Equality Week
I wanted to let you know about Quaker Equality Week. It’s an initiative organised by Quakers in Manchester & Warrington, which Quaker Peace & Social Witness is supporting nationally. We know that some local Quaker meetings are inviting other church and faith groups to join in with local activities and vigils and so I suspect that some of your congregations may be approached about it locally. The week (6-15 March) is an opportunity to run a series of loosely coordinated vigils, events, and other activities designed to raise awareness of the need to tackle economic inequality. The week comes just before the budget announcement on 18 March and obviously in the run up to the election period and we know that several meetings are planning to use it to act as a springboard for Quakers (and others) to have conversations about inequality with MPs, parliamentary candidates and other politicians. We’ve had over fifty meetings say they will do something to date and expect more to come in over the next few weeks. There’s more about it at Quaker.
If you’re interested, and/or you find that some of your local churches are picking it up, please do help us spread the word! We’re likely to stick to a media release and some social media promoting local activities and highlighting why economic inequality is a Quaker concern. If you’re able, a few supportive tweets/retweets/Facebook posts would be great. (In case you don’t know, I’m @PoliticalQuaker, and my colleagues working on this manage @EandEQuaker.)
9. Special Services for 2015
27 – 28 June – General Assembly Weekend and General Assembly Sunday. An opportunity to find out more about the work of the General Assembly and to contribute to the Community Appeal. For material see the worship pack “Being Connected”.
18 October – Interfaith Service for World Peace. For material see the “Unitarian Day of Peace” worship pack.
15 November – GA Charter for Compassion Sunday. For material see the worship pack “Sing in my heart all…the stirring of compassion”.