UNI-NEWS 194th Issue 27th March 2018

1. Youth Co-ordinator/Safeguarding Lead for General Assembly 

We are pleased to announce that Gavin Howell has been appointed as Youth Co-ordinator/ Safeguarding Lead for the General Assembly, to succeed Rev John Harley. 

Gavin, aged 32, is currently Deputy Director Learning Support and Nurture Teacher at Framingham Earl High School in Norwich. He was educated at Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast, Northern Ireland and was awarded a BA in Modern History and Politics at QUB, a MA in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, followed by a PGCE in primary teaching. He has taught in both primary and secondary schools. His current role involved the establishment of a brand new centre for students with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs.  As a teacher he has had extensive training in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe.

Gavin is also currently Chairperson of the Octagon Unitarian Chapel in Norwich and has been heavily involved in major developments at the Chapel including supporting the Sunday Club in delivering their religious education programme. He has a passion for social justice.

Lorna Barry, Chair of the Youth Panel said “I am really excited by our appointment of Gavin. He has an infectious personality that I think our children, young people and parent/carers will be drawn to.  From his professional experience in schools and in particular his work with young people in a Nurture Unit environment, he brings in-depth knowledge of dealing with and exploring the development of their personal, social and emotional needs which will complement and aid development of the work already being carried out by our team of Youth Leaders. Along with the stakeholders work that is currently being undertaken by the panel, Gavin is bubbling with new ideas and I feel that together the future of the Youth Programme looks very exciting."

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer said “Gavin will bring his experience and knowledge but also his passion to the National Youth Programme. The staff at Essex Hall and myself look forward to working with him during his induction period. It will be a time of change which will bring new opportunities."

Gavin said: “I am extremely excited and humbled by the prospect of serving our community. It’s the dream job! We have some tremendously gifted young people and I can’t wait to work with Derek, the Youth Panel and every one of our member congregations in ensuring they achieve their full potential.”    

The date that Gavin will take up the position has not yet been decided, however, as a teacher he will have to complete the Summer term and his intention is then to reduce his hours in his current employment.

Derek McAuley

Chief Officer


2. General Assembly Roll of Ministers

We are pleased to announce that Rev Lewis Connolly has been admitted to the General Assembly Roll of Ministers with Probationary status. 

Derek McAuley

Chief Officer


3. Reimaging Interfaith - Reminder

Reimagining Interfaith is an event focusing on skill-building, networking, and organising for grassroot activists and interfaith peacebuilders from around the world. It takes place from 29 July to 1 August 2018 in Washington DC. The IARF will hold its Congress during the event. For further information, see https://www.reimagineinterfaith.org/

Derek McAuley

Chief Officer


4. Essay Award 2018 – World Congress of Faiths

The World Congress of Faiths invites students to submit entries for its 2018 Essay Award. 

The title of the essay is “Can interfaith dialogue achieve any lasting value for society?” The text should be approximately 3,000 words, and aim to: answer the question in part by drawing on own or observed experience, particularly the relationship between dialogue and action; make some reference to the literature on the topic and engage in analysis and state a clear conclusion.

The winner will receive £300 in cash and publication of their winning entry in Interreligious Insight. The Award will be made at the annual Younghusband Lecture, date and venue to be announced, but normally held in London in November. The winner and no more than six runners up will be invited to tea with the speakers and Trustees on the same day. All entrants will be granted free membership of the World Congress of Faiths for a year and free entry to the Younghusband Lecture.

Entrants must be undergraduate or postgraduate students of a UK university at the time of submission.

For further information and how to submit, see  http://www.worldfaiths.org/2018-essay-award/

All enquiries should be addressed to Jenny Kartupelis (Email: jenny@worldfaiths.org)

World Congress of Faiths


5. Foy Conference – Day Visitors Welcome

The Foy Conference at Great Hucklow is nearly sold out for residential delegates, but we would love to welcome adults and families as day visitors on Saturday 5th May - contact Joan Partington (Email: coljopartington@gmail.com) for the price, timetable and booking form.

Our theme is Stories; we have a Youth Programme leader running sessions for primary-school aged children alongside the main workshops. 

Day arrivals are welcome from 9AM onwards. We're having a short walk at 9.30, with the official welcome and main programme starting at 11AM.

Please feel free to pass this on to any Unitarians you think might be interested!  

Jennifer Rowland, Conference leader


6. Media coverage

Rev Wyn Thomas presented the Welsh current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar on S4C on the experience of being gay in Wales.  English subtitles are available. It will only be available for 15 more days.


Chief Officer, Derek McAuley joined religious leaders, parliamentarians, education experts, and public figures in signing an open letter calling on Education Secretary to keep the faith school admissions cap.

“We represent a diverse range of educational, religious, political, academic, and other stakeholders from across British society, and our views on the merits or otherwise of faith schools are diverse too. However, we are all in agreement that our state schools, of whatever character, should be open, inclusive, diverse, and integrated, and never exclusive, monocultural, or segregated.

The Government rightly identifies the promotion of mutual understanding and tolerance for those of different religions and beliefs as one of the most important roles for schools. As we are all aware, children are blind to the differences and immune to the prejudices that so often divide society. The duty of the education system, therefore, should not be to highlight and entrench such differences in the eyes and minds of young people, but to emphasise instead the common values that we all share.

Removing the 50% cap on religious selection at faith-based free schools runs entirely counter to this ambition. It is difficult to bring to mind a more divisive policy, or one more deleterious to social cohesion and respect, than one which allows schools to label children at the start of their lives with certain beliefs and then divide them up on that basis.  

The Department for Education is yet to respond formally to its consultation on these proposals – opposed by 80% of the public, including 67% of Catholics and 71% of Christians overall. All the evidence shows categorically that the cap has achieved its stated aim. It is not too late to maintain it.”

See the letter printed in the Telegraph:


For further information and list of signatories


Bury St Edmunds “Celebration of rare baroque meeting house” (Bury Free Press, 11 March 2018)


Cambridge Unitarian Church “Sarah Darling brings a touch of Nashville sunshine to a cold Cambridge night” (Cambridge Independent, 18 March 2018) 


New Unity, Newington Green “Mary Wollstonecraft: the “first Feminist”” (Islington Now, 18 March 2018)


Derek McAuley

Chief Officer