1. President’s Statement On Christchurch Attacks – 15 March 2019
The events at the Al-Noor and Linwood Mosques this morning have shocked us all. Our hearts go out to the communities of the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques. We mourn those who were killed and hold them in our hearts.
We hold the lives of those who were injured, and all those grieving and traumatised by these events, in our prayers. When men, women, and children are attacked while at prayer all people of faith feel attacked. We share their shock, their feelings of horror.
Attacks such as these are becoming more frequent, but we cannot allow that to affect our response. If we start to see these attacks as events which happen on a regular basis and cease to be appalled at their wicked destruction of lives, of communities and their sense of security, we destroy our own humanity.
Joan M.M. Cook
President, General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches
2. Last Chance To Book Your Place – GA Annual Meetings 2019
Bookings are closing at 5pm on 19 March for the General Assembly Annual Meetings, which will be held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole on 16-18 April 2019. Join hundreds of Unitarians from across Britain for worship, socialising, learning, relaxation, and shaping our future.
This is our first 3-day Meetings, and it will be packed with interesting and useful activities. A full standard booking is only £268 (less if you are sharing a room) though unfortunately the £50 late booking fee is now in place.
Those aged 17-39 are eligible for a young person’s grant covering 90% of the cost (excluding the late fee).
Book your place before 19 March, or miss out!
For more information, please go to the Annual Meetings 2019 website
3. Executive Committee Elections
Voting papers for elections to the Executive Committee were sent out to congregational secretaries on 18 February and voting opened on 25 February. The five-week election period ends on 31 March, so make sure you get your ballots sent in soon. The full result will be announced on 1 April and the new Executive Committee will take up office at the and of the GA Annual Meetings.
4. Explore Churches
Have you added your chapel, church, or meeting house to the ‘Explore Churches’ website yet? It’s a great way to help people find you and many Unitarian congregations are already signed up.
5. Authorised Persons Newsletter
For the attention of all authorised persons, please see the latest Authorised Persons Newsletter (#9) from the General Register Office website. The newsletter includes information about immigration, quarterly marriage returns, certificate fees, facts and figures, and best practice.
6. Retirement of Chief Officer Derek McAuley
The following message comes from Marion Baker, Executive Committee Convenor, and Joan Cook, General Assembly President:
You will be aware that Derek McAuley is retiring from his post of Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches on 30 April 2019. Derek gave over a year's advance notice to enable the EC to undertake a thorough review and recruitment process, following which Liz Slade was selected as the next Chief Officer. There will be a six-week handover period with Liz Slade, Chief Officer designate, when Derek will share his extensive knowledge and experience of the denomination and its wider connections.
Derek has been Chief Officer for over nine years. During this time he has worked alongside four Executive Committee Convenors and numerous Executive Committee members. He has been a visible ambassador for the General Assembly making alliances with leaders of many other faiths. A notable achievement was campaigning and working with The Quakers and other concerned parties to lobby the Westminster Parliament for Equal Marriage. Internally he has improved and streamlined the General Assembly governance processes, and built a strong team of committed staff.
Derek retires knowing he has been instrumental in leaving the General Assembly in good shape.
The General Assembly President and the Executive Committee invite you to show your appreciation of Derek's work by contributing to a Testimonial Fund, which will be presented to him at the General Assembly Meetings in Birmingham on Thursday 18 April 2019.
There will be an opportunity at the General Assembly Meetings to say your farewells, or to pop into Essex Hall for Derek's Farewell Reception on the afternoon of Monday 29 April 2019.
Please send cheques by Monday 1 April 2019 made out to “The General Assembly of Unitarian & FCC” with ‘Derek McAuley Testimonial’ written on the back of the cheque, to Unitarian Headquarters, Essex Hall, 1 Essex Street, LONDON, WC2R 3HY. If you would like a remittance acknowledgement email, please also write your email address on the back of the cheque.
7. New Director for Unitarian College
The Board of Unitarian College is delighted to announce the appointment of Helen Mason BA, MSc to the post of Director.
Helen is a lifelong Unitarian with a thirty-year career in Further and Higher Education. For the past seventeen years, Helen has been a senior leader at City College, Southampton working with both adult and younger students to develop their careers and improve their life chances.
Dot Hewerdine, Chair of the Board of Unitarian College said “we are delighted to appoint Helen to run and manage Unitarian College. She was chosen from amongst a strong field, but her deep commitment to Unitarian values, her wide knowledge of the denomination and her vision for the new College, combined with her extensive educational experience, meant we were unanimous in agreeing she was the right candidate for the post.”
Helen said “I am so honoured and excited to have been offered the post of Director of Unitarian College. I can see the tremendous potential the College has for developing our own people to lead our denomination going forward.
This is a timely opportunity to support Unitarianism in tackling the challenges of becoming a growing, attractive and vibrant home for people of faith in the twenty first century. I can’t wait to get started.”
Helen will take up her post on 7 April 2019 and will lead the launch of Unitarian College at the GA Meetings in Birmingham. Helen can be contacted by email.
8. Statement By The Faith Workers Branch Of Unite The Union
The Executive Committee of the GA has agreed to an annual consultation with the Unitarian and Free Christian Association (UFCA) of the Faith Workers Branch of Unite the Union.
An initial meeting was held with the Convenor of the Executive Committee and Officers of the GA and representatives of the UFCA on October 15 2018, and all present felt that the discussions had been positive and that there was a shared commitment to improving employment practices within the General Assembly.
The Executive Committee has agreed that office holders and lay employees of Unitarian chapels and other structures should be made aware that through the Faith Workers Branch they have a trade union that will represent them and provide support and assistance in employment-related matters. This includes a free Helpline for all members. An application for membership can be made on-line using the Faith Workers Branch web page.
In order to be linked up with the Unitarian and Free Christian Association, once membership is processed by Unite and a membership number is issued, members are asked to contact the convenor of the UFCA, Revd Jim Corrigall.
With the help of Unite officers, a recommended contract for employment of lay workers has been prepared by the UFCA. Congregational office holders can obtain a copy of this union - recommended contract from the UFCA. The GA is taking this matter forward and will be obtaining independent advice from the GA’s HR advisers and employment lawyers.
The UFCA has also prepared advice on distinguishing contractors from employees and chapels and districts should be aware of HMRC advice that all persons employed in a ministry role are deemed employees, not contractors, by HMRC, whether or not they are recognised as Ministers by the UK General Assembly. The GA has recognised the need for advice to chapels on this matter and would be issuing guidance reinforcing the need to advise/consult the HMRC about chapel positions/jobs.
Further information on the UFCA advice can be obtained from Revd Ralph Catts.
Revd Jim Corrigall, Convenor UFCA
9. In The News
A round up of national and local press coverage over the past month.
‘All schools should encourage respect and LGBT acceptance’ (11.2.2019) – The Guardian
‘Educationists and religion and belief leaders warn of increased bullying if LGBT guidance is diluted’ (12.2.2019) – Politics.co.uk
‘Professor launches new book on Iolo, Cowbridge’s most famous son’ (13.2.19) – The Glamorgan GEM
‘How Samuel Courtauld helped the British fall in love with French art’ (17.2.2019) – The Telegraph
‘The eight Leeds gems you might walk right past’ – (20.2.2019) Yorkshire Evening Post
‘Historic place of worship in Ipswich welcomes new minister’ – (24.2.2019) Ipswich Star
‘Meet the Yorkshire group fighting for blue plaque parity for men and women’ (27.2.2019) – Yorkshire Post
‘Chapel will ‘last long into the future’ (28.2.2019) – Sheffield Telegraph (print only)
‘Doncaster set for its first gay church wedding’ – (4.3.2019) Doncaster Today
‘'Hated' road-narrowing plans delayed after stand-off with protesters’ – (6.3.2019) Bristol Post
‘Blackburn People’s Choir set for charity Padiham Unitarian Chapel gig’ – (7.3.19) Burnley Express
‘Illness, suicide and murder - why homeless and rough sleepers in Leeds and UK are dying’ (11.3.19) –Yorkshire Evening Post
‘James Emerson Tennent: A figure of real political substance and an advocate of civic unionism’ (11.3.19) – Belfast Newsletter
‘Historic Newington Green Meeting House shuts for a year as work begins on £1.8m revamp’ (11.3.19) – Hackney Citizen
‘How Bolton marks its unique bond with Great American poet Walt Whitman’ (13.3.19) – The Bolton News