Executive Committee Key Messages - 12 and 13 September 2016
1. Training and Education Development Project
"Ministry in all its forms" is a key element of "From Vision to Action: Next Steps" with the aim to ensure the provision of the best possible ministry for congregations. The Executive Committee of the General Assembly (EC) has agreed that we must move with some urgency to develop a modular framework for training, education and professional development that will be accessible by a larger number and variety of people; some of whom may then seek entry into professional Ministry. The need for action now has been emphasised.
This proposal has the full support of the Unitarian College Manchester (UCM) and follows the UCM Residential held in June which drew together many of those active in education and training across the Unitarian Movement. Other key stakeholders, including Harris Manchester College, Oxford as well as those providing lay training and other interested parties will be engaged in the project.
In order to take the project forward, Rachel Skelton will be seconded from UCM to work for the General Assembly for a year from 1 October 2016 as project manager. The plan will be to present a new model to the GA Annual Meetings in April 2017 and then work on implementation. An Advisory Group will be established to steer the project and Rachel will report to the Chief Officer.
2. Nightingale Centre
The Executive Committee was pleased to meet at the Nightingale Centre in Great Hucklow, Derbyshire in light of their responsibilities as Trustees of the Centre, as well as of the General Assembly. Members of the Centre Management Committee joined the EC. They were given a guided tour of the building during which Centre Manager, Stella Burney, described the new improvements and plans for the future. Proposals for the Barleycrofts Cottages, properties owned by the Nightingale Centre, were also outlined. The Management Committee, Centre Manager and all staff were thanked for their contribution to making the Centre such a success. The ways in which the Centre demonstrated Unitarian values in action were highlighted and it was agreed that they could and should be promoted further.
3. Campus Ministry – Cambridge
One of the "From Vision to Action: Next Steps" was to pilot some form of campus ministry initiative. The Executive Committee agreed to support Cambridge Unitarian Church's initiative to establish a University Society in Cambridge University and to match their funding. This will enable the project to continue for one year. A grant of £10,000 has been awarded.
In agreeing the grant it has been emphasised that it would be a pilot project from which there can be learning for others in the Denomination interested in promoting some form of campus ministry. A report will be being produced on the outcomes in the key areas of work which could include a manual for others.
4. General Assembly Budget 2016-2017
The Budget for the year commencing 1 October 2016 was agreed. The congregational quota will remain at £35 per member. The Essex Hall Trust and the British and Foreign Unitarian Association were thanked for their contributions to support the work of the General Assembly. There is a particular need in the year ahead to manage expenditure carefully. We face a number of pressures, but already considerable work has been undertaken by David Joseph, the new Finance Manager, to improve the validity of the underlying assumptions, for which he was thanked.
5. Annual Meetings
The Annual Meetings Panel presented a discussion paper to EC on arrangements for future meetings from 2019 onwards. The increasing cost of the Meetings has been accompanied by growing expectations regarding quality. In thinking about the future it was essential to ensure that all the objectives for the Meetings can be met; doing the formal business required as a charity, providing a programme that will inspire attendees, providing education and training as well as facilitating social interaction and networking.
One proposal would reduce the length of the overall Meetings. It was recognized that the direction, structure and content of the Meetings needed to be widely discussed before any proposals for change were presented for approval. The EC will be guided by the Annual Meetings Panel on how this is taken forward. Andrew Mason was thanked for his work on the discussion paper.
6. Help is at Hand
A report was received from Louise Rogers on updating "Help is at Hand"; the General Assembly's resource for congregational officers. This resource will henceforth be available on the GA website, enabling future updating to be done more easily. This forms one of the "Vision into Action: Next Steps" as part of the "How we organise ourselves" section.
7. What is a Unitarian? Video
The Executive Committee was pleased to hear that the "What is a Unitarian?" video has been viewed 1795 times in the three months since it was placed on YouTube. It is an excellent short introduction to Unitarianism and congregations are encouraged to link to it on their own websites. It is available to view from the homepage of the GA website or on Youtube.