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Monton Unitarians embrace Salford Pride

30 June 2022 at 09:50

Rev. Anna Jarvis, minister of Monton Unitarian Church in Greater Manchester, made a bold statement at Salford Pride earlier this month, decked out in full rainbow gear with a large sign saying simple: “Free Mum Hugs”. Anna, who is herself a mother, wanted to offer hugs to Pride attendees to give out a message that “whoever and wherever you are, know that you are a precious, cherished, wonderful human being – and you are loved.”

Lots of people came in for a hug – and Anna and her congregation members staffing the Unitarian stall had a fantastic day. Their stall offered, amongst other things, the opportunity to write a name on a prayer tree. A total of 61 names were added, which were then read out in the church’s special Pride service the following day, where the congregation celebrated “the uniqueness of every human being, and pledged to continue working towards justice for all in the continued battle against discrimination.”

The post Monton Unitarians embrace Salford Pride appeared first on The Unitarians.

Unitarian ministry student hosts discussion at Queer Festival

30 June 2022 at 07:45

Earlier this month Shana Parvin Begum, who is training for the ministry at Unitarian College, hosted a campfire discussion on faith, sexuality and gender diversity at the UK’s first wellbeing festival for queer, questioning, curious women and those who are non-binary. The ‘Out & Wild Festival’ took place in Pembrokeshire in June. Shana’s gathering offered the space to talk about religion and LGBTQ experiences and bring two often conflicting topics together in a safe place. Click here to find out more about ‘Out & Wild Festival’.

The post Unitarian ministry student hosts discussion at Queer Festival appeared first on The Unitarians.

Veteran campaigner and Unitarian minister Rev. Cen Llwyd dies, age 70

23 June 2022 at 05:40

We are sorry to announce the death of the Reverend Cen Llwyd earlier this month, at the age of 70. From 1976, Cen served as minister at various times to seven Unitarian chapels in Camarthen, Cribyn, Alltyblaca, Cellan, Ciliau Aeron, Felinfach and Llanwnnen, before retiring in 2020. As well as his work as a minister, Cen was well known in Wales and beyond as a passionate Welsh-language campaigner and pacifist. He was a longtime activist in both Cymdeithas yr Iaith and the campaign for nuclear disarmament.

Elin Jones MS, Llywydd of the Senedd (speaker of the Welsh parliament) said: “He gave his life and soul to the Welsh language and to Wales. And for his community and his belief with tenacity of principle and a wicked sense of humour.” You can read tributes to Cen in the Cambrian News, North Wales Live, and BBC Cymru.

The funeral will be held on Saturday 25 June at 2.30pm at Capel y Fadfa, Talgarreg, Ceredigion. Our condolences go to Cen’s widow Enfys and daughters Gwenllian and Heledd.

The post Veteran campaigner and Unitarian minister Rev. Cen Llwyd dies, age 70 appeared first on The Unitarians.

New Unity says farewell to Rev Andy Pakula after 16 years

8 June 2022 at 10:54

One the largest Unitarian congregations in the UK, New Unity in Islington and Newington Green, London, has been saying farewell to its longtime minister, Rev. Andy Pakula. During his sixteen year ministry, the church grew from one of the smallest Unitarian congregations into a thriving, vibrant and energetic community, describing themselves as a “non-religious church.” New Unity have appointed a new minister, Rev. CJ McGregor, to succeed Andy. You can read more from Rev. Andy and his congregants in this article in the local press. We wish Andy a very happy retirement in Scotland!

Image: Rev. Andy Pakula with Emily Thornberry MP at his farewell party.

The post New Unity says farewell to Rev Andy Pakula after 16 years appeared first on The Unitarians.

Bolton Bank Street Chapel holds final service after 160 years

20 May 2022 at 08:41

The historic Bank Street Chapel in Bolton, Lancashire, held its final service on Sunday 14 May after 160 years of serving the local community. With an ageing congregation and a large historic building to maintain, members of Bank Street took the decision to close and will attend other local Unitarian chapels.

Mayor of Bolton Cllr. Linda Thomas took part in the service, and said: “I thought it was going to be such a sad occasion. People have been worshipping in that building for 160 years. But it was a celebration… unfortunately, things come to an end and things change and people have to move on, and they’ll find another area to worship and do their good work.”

Read the full story in The Bolton News here.

The post Bolton Bank Street Chapel holds final service after 160 years appeared first on The Unitarians.

Nagyajta fortified Unitarian church in Transylvania beautifully restored

20 May 2022 at 05:37

The fortified Unitarian church in Nagyajta,Transylvania, Romania, built between 1360-80, has been painstakingly restored thanks to 1.1 million euros of funding from the European Union and 443,000 euros from the Hungarian government.

Follow this link to see beautiful photos of the exterior and interior of the church.

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Jay Blades visits Unitarian church, exploring legacy of slavery

13 May 2022 at 11:37

TV presenter Jay Blades spent time at Newington Green Unitarian Church (New Unity) as part of his recent Channel 5 documentary ‘No Place Like Home’, exploring the Newington Green area of London where Jay grew up.

Best known as the presenter of The Repair Shop, furniture restorer Jay Blades spent time at Newington Green Unitarian Church with historian Katie Donnington, learning about the historical links between the area and the slave trade. The church’s congregation included people who benefitted from slavery, as well as leading radical anti-slavery campaigners like Anna Letitia Barbauld.

You can watch the programme, broadcast on Channel 5 earlier this month, online here (from 24 minutes in to 33 minutes).

The post Jay Blades visits Unitarian church, exploring legacy of slavery appeared first on The Unitarians.

Liverpool couple who made history with first civil partnership in church celebrate 10th anniversary

11 May 2022 at 11:26

Congratulations to Kieran Bohan and Warren Hartley on the tenth anniversary of their ground-breaking civil partnership ceremony, which took place on 6 May 2012 at Ullet Road Unitarian Church, Liverpool.

Unitarians were pioneers in the campaign for civil partnerships, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ+ equality – find out more here.

Read the story of Kieran and Warren’s civil partnership in this Liverpool Post article (6 May 2022).

Photo: Simply Perfection Photography / Carl Crozier

The post Liverpool couple who made history with first civil partnership in church celebrate 10th anniversary appeared first on The Unitarians.

New Book: Why Are We Here?

3 May 2022 at 07:31

We are delighted to announce that following its launch at the Unitarian Annual Meetings, our new book Why Are We Here? Discerning our Unitarian Mission in an Upturned World is now available to buy. This latest title from the Lindsey Press was commissioned by Dr. Jane Blackall, with contributions from Shana Parvin Begum, Rev. Dr. Rory Castle Jones, Rev. Jo James and Rev. Kate Brady McKenna, and a foreword by our Chief Officer Elizabeth Slade.

The book is a radical exploration of the ways in which the landscape of “doing church” has changed, especially during the Covid pandemic. Five contributors, all of whom are serving or aspiring Unitarian ministers, draw on their own experiences to consider how Unitarian communities can flex and adapt in turbulent times while remaining true to their religious roots. Their chapters are a selection of talks given at the 2021 Summer School at Great Hucklow, addressing a wide range of challenges, from the impacts of climate change on our planet to invisible types of social discrimination, both within and beyond church congregations. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection and discussion. Lindsey Press, 2022, ISBN: 978-0-85319-096-7, Softback, RRP £5.00. 

You can buy the book online from all major retailers, including Waterstones, Amazon and others. Or, if you would prefer to make your purchase directly from Unitarian HQ, please ring +44 (020) 7240 2384.

The post New Book: Why Are We Here? appeared first on The Unitarians.

Unitarians oppose NHS privatisation

29 April 2022 at 08:13

At the Annual Meetings of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches held on 19-21 April 2022 in Birmingham, delegates voted in favour of a motion calling on the UK and devolved governments to make a renewed commitment to a well-funded NHS and to abandon plans and practices which divert public resources to private healthcare companies.

Chief Officer Liz Slade said: “The NHS is rightly a source of great pride for many people in Britain, and I’m glad that as a movement we are speaking out against the privatisation of our health service. My previous career was in the health sector, working with the NHS and with health systems in many other countries, and I know that while our NHS may not be perfect, the moral principles for which it stands, and the impact it has on the overall health of our society are worth protecting. While we as a movement look to create spiritual health, we know that the NHS’s role in serving people’s physical and mental health needs is essential for everyone’s overall wellbeing.”

The full text of the resolution is as follows:

“That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches supports a well-funded NHS, free at the point of use and considers that the increased use of the private sector in delivery of NHS healthcare, benefitting shareholders at the expense of patients, is ethically reprehensible. We therefore call on the UK Government to make a renewed commitment to a well-funded NHS free at the point of use and to abandon plans and practices which further divert public resources to private healthcare companies.”

The post Unitarians oppose NHS privatisation appeared first on The Unitarians.

Unitarians raise £4k for Ukraine during Annual Meetings

27 April 2022 at 10:04

At the Annual Meetings of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches held last week in Birmingham a collection was taken for Ukraine, raising over £4,000. These funds will now be donated to the Red Cross Appeal to help the people of Ukraine as they face the horrors of war. You can support the appeal here.

The post Unitarians raise £4k for Ukraine during Annual Meetings appeared first on The Unitarians.

Unitarians vote to affirm transgender rights

26 April 2022 at 09:24

At the Annual Meetings of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches held on 19-21 April 2022 in Birmingham, delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to reaffirm transgender people’s rights and to support the adoption of a self-declaration model for gender recognition.

The motion was debated, with a number of transgender Unitarians speaking passionately in favour, as well as careful and compassionate voices speaking against it, raising concerns about elements of the motion. An overwhelming majority of delegates voted in favour of the motion, which was passed and received with applause and emotion in the hall.

Chief Officer Liz Slade said “Unitarian congregations have long been places that allow and encourage individuals to explore and express their true nature, offering belonging and acceptance. I’m proud that as a movement we have now formally expressed our support of trans people. My hope is that as a society we can move beyond the oppositional and divisive ways in which trans issues are often discussed, and I hope Unitarians can play our own small part in that.”

Unitarians have long been advocates for LGBTQ+ equality, dating back to the 1960s (find out more here). Today, Unitarians are the leading faith group in the UK offering same-sex marriage ceremonies and campaign for equal rights and justice for transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer people. There are 160 Unitarian churches, chapels and meeting houses in Britain.

The full text of the resolution is as follows:

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches:
a) Affirms with joy that each person’s understanding and statement of their own gender identity is a matter of conscience;
b) Affirms that transgender rights are human rights;
c) Joins the British Medical Association, the Trades Union Congress and others in civil society in urging the adoption of a self-declaration model for gender recognition by the UK and devolved governments; and
d) Requests that the Chief Officer lobby for this model in response to UK or devolved government consultations and on any other suitable occasion
.

If you would like further information about this story, please get in touch with us.

The post Unitarians vote to affirm transgender rights appeared first on The Unitarians.

Annual Report 2021 published

12 April 2022 at 07:53

The Annual Report of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches for 2021 has now been published, ahead of our Annual Meetings in Birmingham next week. Inside you can find out what we’ve been doing as a movement, with reports from our President, Chief Officer, trustees and much, much more. Click here to read it in full.

“As we look to the future, let us appreciate our current unique opportunity. In our denomination, districts and churches, as we assess the after-effects of lockdown, as we must, we can adopt innovations, introduce improvements, embrace changes – without feeling unduly tied to the past.” – Anne Mills, President

“We see part of our responsibility as leaders for the GA to take some leaps of faith too. We are not in a time societally or as a Movement to rely on tried and trusted playbooks; yes, we must learn from what has gone before, but recognise that today’s circumstances are new.” – Liz Slade, Chief Officer

The post Annual Report 2021 published appeared first on The Unitarians.

How To Be Wrong

4 April 2022 at 12:08

It’s hard to make change happen without learning from what hasn’t worked. That’s why our Chief Officer Liz Slade has taken part in the Ratio network’s project around making mistakes and learning from them. The project has resulted in a publication, ‘How To Be Wrong’, which is now available to download here.

The post How To Be Wrong appeared first on The Unitarians.

Unitarians join other churches in Ukraine Embassy vigil

4 April 2022 at 10:46

Rev. Jim Corrigall (pictured front row, second from left) represented the Unitarians at an ‘Act of Witness’ in West London on Sunday 3 April, called by British churches in support of Ukraine.

After a vigil outside the Ukrainian embassy, church leaders gathered nearby at the statue of King Volodymyr, who established Christianity in Ukraine 1000 years ago. Those taking part included the Greek Orthodox Archbishop in the UK, the Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Methodists, Welsh non-conformists, and several Anglican bishops. 

The event was organised by Christian Aid and supported by Churches Together and other groups. The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches was a founder member of Christian Aid in 1945.

Unitarians have been organising appeals, fundraisers and vigils in support of Ukraine since the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022. You can support Ukraine through the DEC Appeal here.

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Liz Slade in The Guardian: Religion is here to stay – but it must evolve to meet our needs

4 April 2022 at 06:18

Unitarian Chief Officer Liz Slade has written in The Guardian about the need for religion to evolve. You can read her article on The Guardian’s website, or below:

“Robin Dunbar’s article (The big idea: do we still need religion?, 28 March) outlines the scientifically measurable benefits of religion. After two years of the pandemic, when our collective physical health has been prioritised, it is now time to focus on these benefits to our spiritual health.

Though Dunbar states that religion is not going anywhere, most congregations have been shrinking for decades. Most churches in Britain today would be flabbergasted if 150 people turned up on Sundays. In order to offer community that works for most people, churches must evolve.

The benefits of religion that Dunbar explains – community cohesion, greater trust, greater happiness – will be vital as we crawl out of the pandemic, and if we are to navigate the climate crisis.

Evolution is part of the DNA of Unitarian churches, which are open to wisdom from all sources, and practise free inquiry into faith and belief, rather than all conforming to a single doctrine.

Religion is here to stay – but we must adapt it to what is needed and what works for us right now. Unitarians don’t have that finished version yet – but anyone joining us can be part of creating it.”
Liz Slade
Chief officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

The post Liz Slade in The Guardian: Religion is here to stay – but it must evolve to meet our needs appeared first on The Unitarians.

Mansfield Unitarians help Ukrainian refugees

23 March 2022 at 11:54

Photo: Students with Rev. Maria Pap (Mansfield and Ashfield Chad newspaper)

Mansfield Unitarians in Nottinghamshire have organised a large-scale operation to gather supplies for Ukrainian refugees, with local students joining Rev. Maria Pap and her congregation in an operation to gather much-needed items including food, drink, medical supplies and pet food. Like many of our congregations across the country, Mansfield Unitarians felt compelled to do something to help the people of Ukraine in their hour of need.

Thanking students for their efforts, church member Pauline Smith said they had been: “totally overwhelmed by their response and the enthusiasm and willingness they showed.”

Read the full story in the local press here.

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New ministry tutor appointed at Harris Manchester College Oxford

11 March 2022 at 11:20

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Rev. Dr. Claire MacDonald as Tutor in Ministerial Studies at Harris Manchester College Oxford, which was founded in the eighteenth-century by Unitarians and today is one of two colleges which train people for the Unitarian ministry in the UK, along with Unitarian College.

Rev. Claire says: “I am thrilled to have been appointed as the new Unitarian ministry tutor at HMCO. It is the college where I trained as a minister and a place whose commitment to inclusion and diversity is matched by its commitment to creativity and innovation. It’s wonderful to feel that I too will be part of shaping its future. It will also be an honour to share new possibilities for ministry education with colleagues at Unitarian College.

Radical collaborative, spiritually rich, approaches to education have been part of our long history as Unitarians and I look forward to being part of developing life-long learning for lay leaders and communities as well as present and future ministers. As we say at Lewisham Unity, it’s where sacred meets social.”

Professor Jane Shaw, Principal of Harris Manchester College, says: “Claire MacDonald’s dynamic vision for ministry is very much in tune with the college’s longstanding commitment to educational innovation and inclusion, and her wide-ranging background and gifts in the arts will be greatly valued by colleagues and students. We all very much look forward to welcoming her to the college and working with her.”

Unitarian Chief Officer Liz Slade says: “Rev. Claire McDonald’s appointment as Tutor marks the start of an exciting new chapter in our movement’s long relationship with Harris Manchester College. In this time of great societal change and uncertainty, the role of ministers in serving the spiritual health of communities is more important than ever, and we know that the future of ministry will look different to its past.

I know that Claire’s thoughtful and creative approach in collaborating with colleagues at Harris Manchester College, and at Unitarian College, as well as partners beyond our Unitarian movement and outside the traditional borders of faith communities will help us to ensure that Unitarian ministers are equipped to serve the congregations of the future.”

Unitarian ministers serve their communities by supporting their spiritual health. They do this by hosting the inspiration and togetherness of services and gatherings, sharing wisdom reflecting their own theology while holding space for learning and reflection from other perspectives; they help build connections between members of a congregation, and with partners in the wider community; they provide pastoral care, as well as encouragement and challenge; they help their congregation to serve their community and the wider world, and work towards making a more just and loving society.

Anyone interested in knowing more about leadership in the Unitarian movement is encouraged to read more on our website, attend a Ministry Inquiry Session, or get in touch with Simon Bland (Ministry & Congregational Support Officer).

The post New ministry tutor appointed at Harris Manchester College Oxford appeared first on The Unitarians.

Forgotten Women of Wakefield rediscovered by local Unitarians

7 March 2022 at 05:50

Wakefield Unitarians in West Yorkshire have been running a project to discover and share the stories of the forgotten women of their community, including: Ann Hurst, a newspaper proprietor who campaigned for the abolition of slavery; Clara Clarkson, an early suffragist and Unitarian who rejected social conventions around class and gender; and botanical artist Eliza Gleadall.

Image: Sarah Cobham of the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project (Photographer: John Clifton, Yorkshire Post)

Read more about this project in the Yorkshire Post.

Find out more about the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project by visiting their website.

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Unitarians join faith leaders urging MPs to approve changes to Policing Bill

2 March 2022 at 10:18

Leading Unitarians have signed a joint faith and belief letter to MPs ahead of final votes on the Policing Bill.

The letter asks MPs to support the Lords’ amendments to Part 3 of the bill, including removing the ability to put noise limits on protests.

It urges MPs to speak out against measures that remain unchanged in the bill, particularly those that will disproportionately affect marginalised communities. 

Chief Officer Liz Slade and seven Unitarian ministers signed the letter alongside 80 other faith and belief representatives.

Full text of letter and list of signatories

The post Unitarians join faith leaders urging MPs to approve changes to Policing Bill appeared first on The Unitarians.

Solidarity with Ukraine

2 March 2022 at 05:24

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

We condemn the unjustifiable attack on Ukraine and call for an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces and for an immediate ceasefire. 

We urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to offer whatever humanitarian aid is possible to prevent catastrophe in the region. 

Safe corridors for the passage of civilian refugees are now an urgent priority and we urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to offer safe haven and refuge to those fleeing this war. 

Warfare creates terrible suffering, reinforces social inequality and causes incalculable environmental damage. We resolve to prioritise peace and peacemaking in our Unitarian worship and culture.

This statement was issued by the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches on 2 March 2022.

A message from our President, Anne Mills:

“As President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, I endorse the sentiments of horror, apprehension, and fear aroused by the recent Russian attack on Ukraine. On behalf of us all, I send messages of solidarity, sympathy and support to the people of this war-torn country; we are thinking of them and praying for them, in their need; and we are glad that their neighbouring countries are freely offering them help and care, in their suffering. Many of our chapels are organising vigils, which we may join, either in person or in spirit, and I know that our prayers will bring encouragement and reassurance to Ukraine. Please remember that we may be able to help, tangibly, by donating funds; Unitarians have long supported the Red Cross as a way of providing relief in disasters, raising over £115,000 in the last ten years, and you can donate online to support humanitarian work in Ukraine here. Let us all help, in whatever ways we can; no contribution is too small or insignificant. Thank you for your empathy, your efforts – and your hopes.

With very best wishes,

Anne.” 

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Rev. Melda talks leeks, St. David and Welshness on Songs of Praise

1 March 2022 at 11:50

Rev. Melda Grantham appeared on BBC Songs of Praise this Sunday for their St. David’s Day special, explaining how the leek became a symbol of Welshness. Melda met up with presenter James Lusted at a leek farm on the Gower peninsula, near Swansea.

Melda is a Unitarian minister in Ceredigion, Wales, and works as the Secretary of Unitarians Wales, as well as our Weddings Lead.

You can watch the programme in full on BBC i-player here (from 14 minutes in)

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Coventry Unitarians register for same-sex marriage

23 February 2022 at 06:32

Congratulations to Coventry Unitarians, who have successfully registered their Meeting House to be able to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Unitarian Meeting House is one of only two places of worship in Coventry offering same-sex marriage ceremonies, along with the United Reformed Church. Since the law was changed in 2014 to allow churches to offer same-sex weddings, over two thirds of Unitarian churches, chapels and meeting houses have successfully registered to do so.

Click here to find out more about same-sex weddings in Unitarian places of worship.

Click here to search for your nearest Unitarian congregation registered for same-sex marriage.

Click here to find out more about Unitarian LGBT+ History.

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Three new students begin Unitarian ministry training

8 February 2022 at 10:17

We are delighted to announce that three candidates have been accepted for Unitarian ministerial training in 2022. Robert Foreman, Hannah Stephenson and Francis Elliot Wright will be studying at Unitarian College for their training.

Rev Sarah Tinker, Chair of the Interview Panel said: “Interview Panel members were glad to once again hold interviews for ministry training at Harris Manchester College in Oxford. We recognise the commitment and hard work that have brought candidates to this stage and wish them all the very best for the years of study ahead of them.”

All three new students recently met with Unitarian College staff for a 24 hour orientation retreat at The Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow. At this gathering, students were given a training overview and an individualised learning plan was begun.

Training will consist of a blend of Unitarian College residentials, study of academic theology, congregation-based placements, online modules and other courses.

Helen Mason, Director of Unitarian College said: “Unitarian college is delighted to welcome Francis, Hannah and Rob to our student body and we look forward to walking with them as they embark on their ministry journeys.”

Rev Ant Howe, Ministry Tutor of Unitarian College, who will have primary responsibility for coordinating training said: “I am excited to welcome three excellent and talented new students who will – in time – become valued colleagues. I look forward to working with all three over the next few years as Unitarian College helps them prepare for professional Ministry within the Unitarian & Free Christian Churches. It is a particular joy to me that all three of our new Ministry students have previously undertaken lay training courses with Unitarian College and have now chosen to return to us for our Ministry Training programme.”

Unitarian ministers serve their communities by supporting their spiritual health. They do this by hosting the inspiration and togetherness of services and gatherings, sharing wisdom reflecting their own theology while holding space for learning and reflection from other perspectives; they help build connections between members of a congregation, and with partners in the wider community; they provide pastoral care, as well as encouragement and challenge; they help their congregation to serve their community and the wider world, and work towards making a more just and loving society.

Anyone interested in knowing more about leadership in our movement is encouraged to read more on our website, attend a Ministry Inquiry Session, or get in touch with Simon Bland (Ministry & Congregational Support Officer).

The post Three new students begin Unitarian ministry training appeared first on The Unitarians.

Marking LGBT+ History Month

2 February 2022 at 11:47

Unitarians are marking LGBT+ History Month with special services and events throughout February. Unitarians have a long history of campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people’s equality and inclusion and have the largest number of churches offering same-sex marriage of any denomination in the UK. Below you can find a timeline of Unitarian LGBT+ history and useful resources.

Many of our congregations are currently holding special events under the umbrella ‘A Celebration Of Love’ between 25 January and 14 February, the respective days of two patron saints of love, St. Dwynwen and St. Valentine. As part of this, one Welsh Unitarian minister appeared on Welsh television with his husband to talk about LGBT+ inclusion in the church.

UNITARIAN LGBT+ RESOURCES

Find out more about same-sex marriage ceremonies in Unitarian churches, chapels and meeting houses.

Download an LGBT+ Pride Chalice Logo, created by Rosslyn Hill Chapel Unitarians, Hampstead

Video: Unitarians at London Pride (2016)

‘Where We Stand’ LGBT+ Leaflet (2010)

‘We are proud to be an LGBT+ inclusive church’ social media images for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

UNITARIAN LGBT+ TIMELINE

Some important dates in the story of LGBT+ inclusion in the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches:

  • 1984 – The General Assembly passed a resolution on ‘Homosexuality’ in favour of the age of consent being the same for homosexuals and heterosexuals.
  • 1993 – “Celebrating Life: a book of special services in the Unitarian and Free Christian tradition” included a section on the blessing of a same-sex partnership. It was recognised with an Institute of Social Inventions Award.
  • 2000 – The General Assembly passed a resolution on ‘Sexual Equality’ against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and called on the government to outlaw such discrimination, and a second resolution calling for repeal of the infamous Section 28 legislation that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities.

If you have more information, photos, memories or resources to share about Unitarian LGBT+ History, please get in touch.

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Buddhism or biscuits? From toy designer to a Hampstead Unitarian minister

28 January 2022 at 11:28

“Reverend Kate Dean has really fulfilled her mission of creating an inclusive and thriving community spirit offering something for everyone which comes at a most prescient time in our lives. It’s inspiring to meet someone with such a passion for people and helping others. A true local hero.”

Rev. Kate Dean, minister of Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel in Hampstead, London, was interviewed by Russell Bentley for the ‘Hampstead & Highgate Express’ local newspaper. She tells her unique story from a childhood choice between biscuits and Buddhism, through her career as a toy designer, before becoming a Unitarian minister. You can read the full piece here.

Photo credit: Russell Bentley

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Pioneering Northern Ireland minister Rev. Lena Cockcroft celebrates 40 years of ministry

26 January 2022 at 06:41

Rev. Lena Cockcroft has been celebrating 40 years since being ordained the first female minister in our sister organisation, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (NSPCI). Rev. Cockcroft was ordained in 1982 and has served as minister to Cairncastle & Glenarm (1982-2016), Ballymoney (1982-97), Downpatrick (1999-2003), Dunmurry (2012-14), and Holywood (2019-20). Now retired, she has been enjoying celebrations within the NSPCI to mark the anniversary.

The denomination will be holding a Service of Thanksgiving and Reflection celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the ordination of Rev. Lena Cockcroft, and 40 years of women being ordained into the NSPCI as ministers of religion. This service will be held at The Travel Lodge in the grounds of The Lodge Hotel in Coleraine at 4pm on Sunday 6 March 2022. Click here for more information.

Rev. Cockcroft also spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about her life in ministry. You can read the article (behind a paywall) here.

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LGBT+ Welsh Unitarians talk faith, love and sexuality for St Dwynwen’s Day

25 January 2022 at 12:31

Welsh LGBT+ Unitarians Rev. Rory Castle Jones and his husband Rhys talked to Welsh-language TV channel S4C’s ‘Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canmol’ this Sunday for the programme’s ‘Love’ special, ahead of the St Dwynwen’s Day (the Welsh patron saint of love) on 25 January.

Rory and Rhys spoke to about their own journey of faith, getting married at Gellionnen Unitarian Chapel near Pontardawe (one of the first in Wales to offer same-sex marriage), and Rory becoming a Unitarian minister last year. Rhys spoke about having to leave another denomination because of homophobia and the couple explained to viewers how Unitarians have led the way in LGBT+ inclusion and same-sex marriage.

You can watch the programme on BBC i-player (with English subtitles available) here (from 16 minutes in).

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Adapting to change in a non-hierarchical church – Liz Slade

19 January 2022 at 11:12

Our Chief Officer, Liz Slade, reflects on two recent articles in The Church Times and The Economist in her latest blog post looking at church, change, and culture.

“These pieces help reassure me of what we’ve been exploring at Unitarian HQ – that our central strategy needs first and foremost to be about supporting local leaders; building the capacity that will mean they can be responsive to the needs of their local communities, and tune in to the vision of the congregation for how they want to serve those needs. Rather than a top-down plan, it’s using the resources of the centre to fill the tanks of the local congregations…”

Read the blog in full here.

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Unitarians organise Malvern Festival of Ideas

12 January 2022 at 06:45

Image: Festival founder Andrew Webb (Evesham Unitarians) with members of the organising team Siân Evans and Laura Davies (Gellionnen Unitarian Chapel)

Unitarians are taking the lead in the organisation of renowned Malvern Festival of Ideas, a multidisciplinary festival of ideas that takes place in Malvern, Worcestershire. It is a themed weekend of talks, discussion and activities.

The founder and organiser of the festival is Andrew Webb of Evesham Unitarians and Unitarian youth group Malvern Transformers. In 2021, Andrew was put in touch with another Unitarian group, #Blessed at Gellionnen Chapel in south Wales, through our Youth Officer, Gavin Howell. From this initial contact, two members of #Blessed, which is for 16-25 year olds, have joined the organising team of Malvern Festival. Laura Davies and Siân Evans said: “we are having so much fun and learning a lot in helping to organise the festival – and working with Andrew is great. It’s brilliant to have Unitarians collaborating and we’ve developed new friendships and connections between South Wales and Malvern.”

You can watch a video about the festival, featuring Laura and Siân, here.

You can find out more about Malvern Festival of Ideas here.

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York Unitarians to celebrate 350 years

11 January 2022 at 13:52

York Unitarians are to celebrate their 350th anniversary this year, having served the city since 1672. Celebrations will centre on their Grade II listed chapel in the historic St. Saviourgate street in York city centre. York Unitarian’s minister, Rev. Stephanie Bisby, who was appointed in January 2021, said:

“It’s very exciting – and a little humbling – to be marking such a significant anniversary. Looking back makes us very aware of our place in history, and the legacy of free thinking that we aim to uphold.

Thinking about what the next 350 years might bring encourages us to look at our priorities in a different way as we try to imagine the ways in which the world might change in that time, and how we as a spiritual community might contribute to the changes we’d like to see in the world, such as by participating in social justice campaigns, learning to care better for the environment, and continuing to provide a positive and inspiring place for people to meet and join in worship.”

Read the full story in the York Press here.

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Making Congregational Connections

11 January 2022 at 13:41

Our new Congregational Connections Lead, Lizzie Kingston-Harrison, talks about her first two months in the role – and what she’s been up to building connections between our congregations and supporting new, innovative projects in the Unitarian movement. You can watch the video here. Lizzie says: “Thank you to everyone who has been in touch sharing ideas, resources, connections and inspiration. If you are interested in finding out more about the projects mentioned here, please email me.”

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Rev Goronwy Evans MBE stokes memories with new book

7 January 2022 at 06:00

Rev. Goronwy Evans, retired minister of Brondeifi Unitarian Chapel in Lampeter, Ceredigion, has launched his tenth book, ‘Procio’r Cof’ – Stoking the Memory. The book was written during lockdown and reflects on his life and ministry in west Wales, including his childhood in rural Ceredigion, fifty years of Unitarian ministry, and extensive charity work with Children In Need and Cancer Research. In the 2021 New Year’s Honours List, Rev. Evans was awarded an MBE for services to charity and to the community in Lampeter. You can read more in the local press here.

Procio’r Cof is published by Y Lolfa, and is available now priced £9.99.

Photo: Rev. Goronwy Evans presenting a copy of his book to the mayor of Lampeter, Cllr. Selwyn Walters.

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Pretoria Pit Disaster remembered

5 January 2022 at 12:02

Rev. Lynne Readett, retired Unitarian minister, led a ceremony attended by over 100 people to remember the 344 miners who lost their lives in the tragic Pretoria Pit Disaster in Lancashire in December 1910. The moving ceremony was attended by former miners, local people, politicians and civic figures. You can read more about the ceremony and the history of the disaster here.

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Unitarian Dog Nativity goes viral

5 January 2022 at 07:00

In case you missed it, a Welsh Unitarian chapel’s dog nativity video went viral on Christmas Eve, appearing across social media, the press and TV – including on BBC Breakfast.

Speaking to the BBC about the video – which featured Three Wise Whippets and the infant Jesus played by a pug puppy called Margaret – Rev. Rory Castle Jones of Gellionnen Chapel near Pontardawe said: “We wanted to just make people smile, see and hear the Christmas Story again – but in a way they probably hadn’t heard it before.”

You can a BBC News report with clips of the video here.

You can watch the video in full on Gellionnen Chapel’s Facebook page here.

You can read more about this story in articles from BBC News, Wales Online and the Daily Mail.

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Harris Manchester College Oxford seeks new ministry tutor

23 December 2021 at 07:09

Harris Manchester College seeks to appoint a Tutor in Ministerial Studies, for a fixed term of three years, beginning in September 2022. Applications are invited from ministers on the roll of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. Click here to download the job description and information about how to apply. Deadline 31 January 2022.

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A Christmas Message from our President

14 December 2021 at 05:44

After an unpredictable and challenging year, our President Anne Mills, offers this Christmas message.

At this time, last year, I was preparing a Christmas service for one of my local Unitarian chapels; the weather was extremely cold and wet; daylight-hours were perceptibly shorter; and the number of Covid cases was soaring, despite the first vaccinations being rolled out. It was difficult to keep our spirits high, especially when the promised festive respite was reduced, at the last moment, from five days to just  Christmas Day. Christmas 2020 would be different, we said; there would be other years when we could celebrate under more usual circumstances.

With this in mind, my “Christmas with a Twist” Service contained a tribute to a chapel-member who had recently died, and Happy 70th Birthday wishes to another member, for whom we sang the time-honoured tune (into our masks, of course); and, instead of the Bible’s version of the Nativity, I compiled a parallel piece from “The Book of God”, by Walter Wangerin. Surprisingly, everything fitted together well, and enough traditional elements were retained to satisfy the congregation. However, now that “next year” is almost upon us, what awaits us, as we head towards 2022? Covid has not disappeared from our lives, and this seems unlikely to happen, despite the great strides made by medical science to deal with the pandemic-conditions which have, unfortunately, dominated our lives for so long. 

Recently, I have been re-reading “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens; although this moral Victorian tale was written more than 170 years ago, its comments on quality of life remain relevant today. Ebenezer Scrooge, of “Bah, Humbug!” fame, is tight-fisted and materialistic, especially where the festive season, charitableness, and generosity of spirit are concerned; it is made clear that he is despised and scorned for his behaviour, loved by no-one, and avoided by many. Scrooge is visited by three spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, and, as a result, begins to realise that happiness and wealth do not necessarily sit comfortably together, and that those who achieve the greatest richness of spirit do so through their ability to appreciate what they have, rather than dwelling on what they have not, and by concentrating their hearts on what brings joy, cheer, and contentment to themselves and others. Scrooge’s transformation is swift and powerful; he remembers happier times in his life, and shrinks from the hard heart he has cultivated; his desire to make amends is almost instantaneous, to the benefit of his nephew’s family, and of Tiny Tim’s, too.

And what can we learn from Scrooge, as we approach Christmas, 2021? It is tempting to judge our own happiness by how much we spend on presents, and on food and drink, especially at this season of the year; maybe we should ask ourselves how satisfied and fulfilled we feel, having dashed round the shops, returning bad-tempered, exhausted and penniless from such expeditions; maybe we should wonder how much others appreciate our actions? A year ago, we bemoaned the fact that we were unable to devote quality-time to our families; now, we have the opportunity to do so, to take pleasure in simply being with them, enjoying their company, rather than spending money on them. There is a great deal for us all to appreciate, including a roof over our heads, our health, our nearest and dearest, our freedom, and the chance to exist in a country at peace. 

If we feel that the periods of lockdown and isolation we have recently experienced have altered us, we should consider whether we ought to introduce changes into our personal lives. Could we, like Scrooge, become more compassionate? Could our New Year’s Resolutions centre around changes to the benefit our own well-being, or that of others? We might decide that a house-move – possibly a relocation – would suit us, or that supporting a preferred charity would help those less fortunate than ourselves; we might determine how best to encourage desperately-needed climate-changes, as we try to save this poor planet of ours. Whatever decisions we make, if we abide by the true values of the Christmas tradition, we will surely find our hearts lighter and our lives enriched.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Christmas-period filled with love, blessings, joy and peace, and a New Year in which good health will abound, and hope will bring whatever our hearts most desire.

With warmest wishes,

Anne

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Cork Library uncovers story of African-Irish Unitarian woman 200 years ago

3 December 2021 at 11:57

Librarians in the Irish city of Cork have uncovered an unusual baptism record of an African woman in the city’s Unitarian Church from 1816. Catherine McDonald was forcibly taken at the age of nine from her homeland of Aboo in Western Africa to Berbice (present-day Guyana) is South America. Aged thirty and by then a free woman, Catherine chose to be baptised at Cork Unitarian Church in 1816.

Sharing the story of ‘An Unusual Cork Baptism’ on the Cork Library Facebook page, they wrote:

“Here we have a unique historical document belonging to Cork’s Unitarian Congregation. Their church dates from 1717 and is the oldest place of continuous worship in the city. It is located on Princes Street in the city centre, recessed a little from the street, and was already long established when this baptism took place there on an October Sunday in 1816. All of 205 years ago. What’s so special about that you may wonder? Another baby, another baptism. Well, this was no baby, baby, this was the baptism of an adult and the full record reads:

“October 27th. Catherine McDonald. A free Negro woman from Berbice in South America, who at the age of nine years had been carried away from her own country, Aboo in Western Africa. Now aged thirty was baptized immediately after Morning Service in the desk of our meeting house by her own particular desire after due instruction”.

Berbice is now encompassed by the modern country of Guyana in the north-west of the South American continent, and Aboo relates to a region incorporated by current day Ghana. What became of Catherine? One wonders.”

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Welcoming our new Weddings Lead, Rev. Melda Grantham

26 November 2021 at 07:58

We are delighted to announced that Rev. Melda Grantham has taken up the new role of Weddings Lead at the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. This new post has been made possible by a generous bequest left to the General Assembly by Rev Jay Deacon, Unitarian Universalist minister.

Rev. Melda Grantham will be supporting Unitarian and Free Christian congregations who wish to conduct more and better weddings, to build sustainable capacity to do so, while also raising the profile of our unique wedding offer at the local and national level. You can find out more about Unitarian weddings here.

With many weddings having been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with the Unitarians representing a large proportion of the places of worship where same sex couples can marry in England and Wales, there is a gap that we are well placed to fill. Our ability to offer couples the opportunity to shape their ceremony to reflect their beliefs and commitments means that we can serve the many couples who would not find what they need in other places of worship. Weddings can also bring in revenue for congregations, and there are plenty of opportunities for members of the congregation to get involved in supporting the wedding, thereby building capacity.

Melda, who has conducted thousands of weddings during a 25 year career as a Superintendent Registrar, is very excited about her new role, and can’t wait to start working with other Unitarians who are as passionate about weddings as she is. “Weddings are joyous occasions, and it is always a privilege to be given the opportunity to help couples to make their day a special and memorable one. It’s also a valuable outreach opportunity as people who would not normally visit our chapels are welcomed in.

“I hope that many congregations will consider being part of our very first nationwide ‘Celebration of Love’ which will take place between 25 January and 14 February 2022, and in the meantime I’d like to ask everybody to complete the survey that I sent out so that we can make sure that the support we offer is what people really need. If you have any ideas that you would like to discuss, then please do get in touch with me.”

Find out more about our staff team here.

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Unitarians take part in ‘Religions For Peace’ interfaith event

26 November 2021 at 06:02

The Unitarians took part in a Religions For Peace – Interfaith Youth Network event last Saturday in London, visiting various places of worship including London Buddhist Centre and St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. We were represented at the event by Gavin Howell, our Youth Officer. Those taking part included Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Muslims, and others, as well as representatives from various faith-based charities and social action groups. You can find out more about Religions For Peace – Interfaith Youth Network here.

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President Anne Mills reflects on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph

19 November 2021 at 05:10

“I had been reminded most forcibly, as I always am, at this time of year, of the sacrifices made so that we, today, can live in relative peace, freedom and security.”

On Remembrance Sunday we were represented by our President, Anne Mills, at the Cenotaph in London. Here, Anne reflects on the experience:

“November 14th saw me in London, at The Cenotaph, in Whitehall, to represent the Unitarian denomination – a great honour and a memorable and moving occasion for me.

A new, amalgamated, department organised the event and decided not to offer plus-1 invitations to VIP guests and not to provide refreshments afterwards. I was disappointed by the change, as I had hoped that my husband Roger might have been able to share the experience, in return for all the support he has given me during the past two and a half years.

Travel arrangements to Whitehall caused problems in many quarters; my driver put me down near Admiralty Arch and left me to fend for myself. I was eventually rescued by Bob, to whom I shall remain eternally grateful – I’m sure his senior responsibilities do not include looking after lost old ladies!

Once inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Department building, the faith leaders congregated in a corridor, ready to take their places, when the time came. I found the other leaders very pleasant, and we all chatted easily. Some of the politicians gave us a smile and a greeting, as they passed us. I was interested to see what tall, broad, powerful men John Major, Tony Blair and Lindsay Hoyle are; Rishi Sunak and Sadiq Khan, by contrast, are both short and slight, but no less impressive.

The faith leaders who had attended the Service on other occasions were kind enough to pass on the benefit of their experience (where to look to see the Royals queuing up, and remembering to look up at the cameras, once we stepped outside). We were stewarded into place, according to the numbers chalked on the ground, and, before we knew it, the Service had begun, with a gun-salute before and after the impressive two minutes of absolute silence. The television-broadcast almost certainly gives better coverage in terms of an overview of the event, and, since returning home, I have enjoyed watching what I was unable to see live!

Once we regained the F and CD premises, the faith-leaders prepared to leave – but not before some of us managed a group photograph, outside 10 Downing Street, taken by an on-duty policeman. Later, in the early afternoon, Roger and I went back to the Cenotaph, to view all the wreaths there and to take our official photographs of them, and me. I was approached by, and gave an interview to, a French journalist, who is based in London, but works for the French media; she seemed concerned, mostly, about the Queen’s state of health, which is currently giving cause for concern and speculation.

We rounded off our afternoon by visiting the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey; in the grounds, more than 100,000 poppies and crosses, representing those who had lost their lives, have been planted by volunteers – a moving sight and a fitting close to a day on which I had been reminded most forcibly, as I always am, at this time of year, of the sacrifices made so that we, today, can live in relative peace, freedom and security.

Both before and after the Service, I received many messages of goodwill and support from fellow-Unitarians across the country, all of which I greatly appreciated.” 

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Hampstead Unitarians host Interfaith Workshop to explore dialogue between religions

17 November 2021 at 06:15

On 14 November, to mark the beginning of the annual Interfaith Week, an afternoon workshop was held at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, in Hampstead.

It featured three speakers from different religions backgrounds:

Hindu Unitarian Indra Sikdar spoke about the diverse origins of the Hindu faith and its pluralistic approach which teaches that there are ‘many ways to God’.

The Muslim musician and academic Julia Ayesha posed questions about what people of faith need to do in order to prepare themselves for the ultimate ideal and aspiration of living in unity.

Daniel Pashaie, of the local Baha’i community, spoke about the independent investigation of truth, which is one of the fundamental teachings of the Baha’i faith. He asked the group: ‘What are some truths that are common to all religions and how can we use them to foster unity among the peoples of the world?’

Rev Kate Dean, minister of Rosslyn Hill Chapel, led the workshop with her colleague Rev Michael Allured of Golders Green Unitarians. Speaking after the event, she said: ‘It was an honour to bring together such a diverse group who were so attentive and took part in very deep and rich discussions on the subject. Interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding are so important and, I believe, can set us on the path to peace. We invite anyone who would like to join us as we continue this work to come along on Sunday 16th January, when our morning service at 11am will be led by myself and Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem to mark the Baha’I festival of World Religion Day. Afterwards, there will be one-hour discussion on the themes of the service.

Daniel shared a quotation from the Ruhi Institute, based on Baha’i Writings, which seemed to sum up what we were trying to do with this event: “We must be lovers of light, no matter from what lamp it appears. We must be lovers of the rose no matter in what garden it blooms. We must be seekers of truth, no matter from what source it comes. Attachment to one lamp can prevent us from appreciating the light when it shines in another. In seeking the truth, we must rid ourselves of preconceived notions and give up our prejudices. If our cup is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life.”’

Photo: (L-R) Julia Ayesha, Indra Sikdar, Daniel Pashaie, taken by Rev. Kate Dean

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Bridport Unitarians ordain new minister, Rev. Elizabeth Harley

5 November 2021 at 07:36

On Sunday 3 October, Bridport Unitarians ordained their new minister Rev. Elizabeth Harley at The Chapel In The Garden, Bridport, Dorset. Elizabeth recently completed her ministry training with Unitarian College and has served as Bridport Unitarians’ ‘Lay Person In Charge’ for 8 years. Speaking about her ordination, Rev. Harley said:

“There have been Unitarians in Bridport for over 350 years so it felt like a piece of history to be welcomed as the first Unitarian woman to be Minister at the chapel. Interestingly, there have been Unitarian women Ministers in the UK since 1904 but Bridport somehow missed out.

Ministry training with Unitarian College has been a really wonderful opportunity to deepen my faith and to get to know this congregation even better. Even during Covid we organised Zoom services but it means so much to me to have this service here in the Chapel, with so many of my family, friends and members of the congregation here to share this day with me.”

You can read about the ordination in the local newspaper, Bridport & Lyme Regis News.

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Faith leaders unite to rebuke Policing Bill

27 October 2021 at 10:15
  • Letter signed by Board of Deputies of British Jews, Muslim Council of Britain, the Church of England and others, urges government to ‘think again.’
  • Concerns the Bill will have a ‘chilling effect’ on aspects of practicing faith.
  • The Bill is declared ‘unacceptable in a democratic society.’

The Unitarians have joined other religious, faith and belief groups in calling on the Government to rethink the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, set to return to the House of Lords this week. 

In a scathing letter, published in The Independent and online, dozens of leaders, ranging from the Muslim Council of Britain and Board of Deputies of British Jews to the Church of England and Network of Sikh Organisations, warn of the ‘chilling effect’ the Bill could have on ‘millions who put their faith or belief into practice’ and declare it ‘unacceptable in a democratic society.’

Part 3 of the Bill gives the police wide ranging powers to restrict the right to protest, including being able set noise limits. Faith leaders fear this could criminalise a range of religious activities including street preaching and chanting. There is also concern the Bill could lead to disproportionate policing on public acts of worship or prayer vigils as was the case with the Sarah Everard vigil earlier this year.

Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed said: “This Bill threatens to impinge greatly upon our rights to freedom of assembly and expression, as well as the public’s ability to hold the Government to account. It will exacerbate pre-existing disparities in policing and the criminal justice system. These inalienable rights are essential components of any functioning democratic society and must be preserved.”

The Bill passed unamended through the House of Commons despite high-profile critics including former police chiefs and former Prime Minister Theresa May who cautioned Priti Patel on the ‘fine line between being popular and being populist.’ In the House of Lords, the Bill received widespread criticism including from Dr David Walker, the Lord Bishop of Manchester, who compared the noise from a pop concert to a campaign for injustice: ‘Both events may cause nuisance, but it is a strange set of priorities that make it less lawful to protest than to party.’

In signing the letter, the Lord Bishop of Manchester added: “Much in this Bill is both unnecessary and disproportionate. Existing laws already provide adequate remedy for when protests get out of hand, or are likely to lead to violence. This proposed legislation would also allow sweeping discretion for government ministers to define and change its interpretation to suit passing political whim. They will exercise their powers at the expense of ordinary citizens’ rights to make their voices heard. Debate will be stifled and progress prevented on some of the most important and contentious issues of the day.”

A flurry of amendments [265 to date] have been proposed for the Bill with many relating to part 4 on encampments. A national shortage of suitable sites and stopping places means Gypsies and Travellers are left with no places where they are permitted to stop. The Bill would for the first time make such activity a criminal offence and could lead to members of the Gypsy and Traveller having their home seized.

Mia Hasenson-Gross, executive director of René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights said: “This is a critical moment for communities of faith and belief to stand together and secure our rights to public worship and protest in the face of marginalisation. We must not stay silent as our rights to protest are disregarded, and our Gypsy and Traveller friends, with whom we share a history of persecution in Europe, are criminalised and robbed of their culturally nomadic way of life.”


It is hoped that amendments are proposed and approved before the Bill returns to the House of Commons later this year.

Signatories:

  • David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, Church of England
  • Marie van der Zyl, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews
  • Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations UK
  • Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)
  • Jamie Cresswell, Director, Centre for Applied Buddhism
  • Rabbi Leah Jordan, Kehillah North London
  • The Right Reverend Andrew John, Bishop of Bangor and Senior Bishop of the Church in Wales, The Church in Wales
  • Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
  • Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
  • Paul Rochester, General Secretary, Free Churches Group
  • Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church
  • Elizabeth Slade, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
  • Revd Sonia Hicks, President of the Methodist Conference, Methodist Church of Britain
  • Barbara Easton Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church
  • Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain
  • Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications, CAFOD
  • Revd Martin Burrell, Chair, Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma (CNGTR)
  • Olivia Fuchs, Chair, Eco Dharma Network
  • Elizabeth Arif-Fear, Founder and Director, Voice of Salam
  • Sue Claydon , Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
  • Shanon Shah, Director, Faith for the Climate
  • Isobel Ingham-Barrow, Head of Policy, Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND)
  • Naomi Green, Staff, Belfast Islamic Centre
  • Raheel Mohammed, Director, Maslaha
  • Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair, Operation Noah
  • Scot Bower, CEO, CSW
  • Jonathan Herbert, Reverend Canon, Church of England
  • Dr. Narapa Stephen Johnson, Buddhist Chaplain, Buddhist Healthcare Chaplaincy Trust
  • Joseph Mishan, Member of Organising group, Extinction Rebellion Buddhists
  • Graeme Hodge, CEO, All We Can & Y Care International

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Leeds Unitarians hold refugee vigil to protest ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’

26 October 2021 at 07:24

Local organisations in Leeds came together on Friday 22 October for a vigil and gathering at Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel in the city centre to support refugees and asylum seekers, protesting against the government’s new Nationality and Borders Bill.

Rev. Jo James, minister of Mill Hill Chapel, said: “The Refugees and Asylum Seekers Conversation Club (founded in 2016 at Mill Hill Chapel and working towards safely re-starting after lockdown threw the very popular community resource into disarray) organised an ‘Orange Heart’ event as a symbol of compassion for refugees and to oppose the government’s Nationalities and Borders Bill. Mill Hill regular Ann Callarman worked with Leeds Asylum Seekers networks to invite local officials and we were pleased that the Leader and Deputy Leader of the council and Lord Mayor Asghar Khan showed up as well as 30 plus friends and supporters including many refugees. As Liz Slade (Unitarian Chief Officer) was visiting Yorkshire Unitarians this week, she was delighted to join us too. Events like this serve to demonstrate compassion, support and solidarity as well as strengthen individual links and community resilience.”

Volunteer at Leeds Conversation Club and organiser of Friday’s gathering Dot Reed said: “Volunteers at Conversation Club regularly see the misery caused by the Home Office’s current self-declared ‘hostile environment’. We see people living in limbo, sometimes for years on end, unable to work or contribute to society, living in constant fear of deportation back to their countries, from which they fled in fear of their lives.

This Bill’s aim is to make life even harsher for these unfortunate people, including criminalising them simply for the way they arrive in the UK, when often they have no choice. It is inhumane and goes completely against the values of this country.”

You can read more about the event in the Yorkshire Evening Post here.

You can view more photos from the event here.

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Welcoming our new Congregational Connections Lead, Lizzie Kingston Harrison

19 October 2021 at 06:38

We are delighted to welcome Lizzie Kingston Harrison to the General Assembly staff team, in the role of Congregational Connections Lead.

Lizzie will be connecting with individuals and congregations across our movement to help share knowledge and experience, so that more people can benefit from the good practices and innovations that have been developed locally, building on the work done by the previous Congregational Connections Lead, Rev. Bob Janis-Dillon.

Lizzie loves building authentic and meaningful connections with people and creating spaces where ideas can be shared freely and creatively. She cares deeply about Unitarian principles and left her career in teaching to contribute to this loving and vibrant community. Her role is to find new ways to connect our congregations so that we can share resources, serve our communities, and inspire each other. Lizzie’s doctoral thesis is on the eighteenth-century Unitarian dissenter Joseph Priestley, and she has a deep respect for the radical and liberal values on which the movement is founded. Lizzie grew up in Norwich and now lives in Suffolk with her husband and daughters. The beautiful coastal countryside and the grounded and welcoming community at Framlingham Unitarian Meeting House have helped her to find a spiritual home.

Lizzie said: “I am delighted to be the new Congregational Connections Lead and to serve our loving, free-thinking, and inclusive community. My research on the origins of Unitarianism gave me insight into the principles on which the movement is founded and when I started attending services, I was excited to find that those values live on in a compassionate and vibrant way. In this new role, I am so glad to have the opportunity to build fresh and dynamic connections and create new ways for us to share ideas and inspiration.  I am keen to listen and hear your priorities for congregational connection so if you would like to get in touch, please email me.

Find out more about our staff team here.

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Hampstead Unitarian minister calls for more same-sex religious weddings

15 October 2021 at 07:01

Rev Kate Dean of Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, appeared in the Camden New Journal recently to highlight the lack of options in the borough for same sex couples who wish to have a spiritual or religious marriage ceremony. Just 4 out of 86 non-conformist churches in Camden offer same-sex weddings.

“It is so difficult to find places that will allow same-sex couples who want to express their love for each other in a religious setting… In such a diverse borough, it may be that LGBTQ couples do not realise the opportunities that some churches offer” – Rev. Kate Dean

Read the full article which appeared on 30 September 2021.

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Two new ministers from Oxford

6 October 2021 at 10:00

Photo: Rev. Michael Allured, Rev. Alex Bradley (Tutor) & Rev. Robin Hanford

This year, two students have completed their training at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, and been accepted onto the Roll of Ministers. Rev. Michael Allured and Rev. Robin Hanford had their Valediction Service at the College’s chapel in June, with a small congregation of tutors, family and friends present in line with covid-19 guidance. Now, Michael and Robin share some of their feelings about completing their training during the pandemic and their future ministries:

Rev. Michael Allured said:

“I am honoured to become a Unitarian minister and proud to join my husband Feargus on the GA ministerial Roll. Thanks to him and everyone who has encouraged and supported me on a journey that began at Golders Green Unitarians in 1989. To be a minister of religion is a tremendous privilege and I’m deeply conscious of the responsibility that this role carries. I shall do all I can to live up to that honour in the coming years as I walk alongside fellow pilgrims in times of joy and sorrow. May we encourage each other in our continuing explorations and attempts to make sense of life’s ultimate questions and what we are called to do for each other and for this precious and fragile world. It was joyful to share my valedictory service at Harris Manchester College, Oxford  with Rev. Robin Hanford. Robin and I spent a year training together and I missed not joining him for his second year. So although I graduated in 2020 the 12 month wait for my valedictory service because of Covid-19  was worth it to celebrate in person with Robin and his family.”

Rev. Robin Hanford said: “The last few years have been something of a whirlwind! I can still remember my interview at Harris Manchester College, and that feeling of euphoria when I was told that I had been accepted to train for ministry in the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. In fact, it feels like it was only yesterday! That said, a lot of training has been crammed into two years. Training for ministry while living in Harris Manchester College and studying for a University of Oxford Postgraduate Diploma and being President of the college’s Middle Common Room was a very busy but ever such a special and rewarding experience. One of the things I believe to be harder than training for ministry during a pandemic must be training a minister during a global pandemic! I owe huge thanks to all at Harris Manchester College for their support. I am also hugely grateful to the Oxford Unitarian congregation who could not have been more supportive of my student pastorate with them. Sharing a valediction service with Rev. Michael Allured was a very moving experience. Michael has been a huge source of support for me throughout my training. I know that we will continue to support each other as Ministers of Religion as much as we did when we were students.
Congratulations Michael and Robin and all the best for your future ministries!

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Chief Officer discusses assisted dying with medical and faith leaders

6 October 2021 at 09:27

Unitarian Chief Officer Liz Slade has taken part in an online conversation about assisted dying, hosted by Tim Wyatt for Religion Media Centre, with Rabbi Jonathan Romain, founder of Dignity in Dying, Dr Sarah Foot from the Christian Medical Fellowship, and Dr Hina Shahid from the Muslim Doctors Association.

The Unitarian movement voted in 2013 on the issue of assisted dying. In our recognition of the worth and the dignity of all people and their freedom to believe as their consciences dictate, members voted to support the principle that individuals should have the right to seek support for assisted dying in certain circumstances, and that legislation should respect this choice and allow them compassionate assistance without fear of prosecution of anyone involved. Many Unitarians are passionately in favour of a change in the law, while recognising the need to allow a diversity of voices to be considered on this important moral issue. In June 2021, we welcomed the launch of new Religious Alliance for Dignity in Dying.

You can watch the video in full here.

Make your voice heard during the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill by joining this demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament.

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Ipswich Unitarians celebrate reopening of historic Meeting House

5 October 2021 at 11:24

Ipswich Unitarians held a celebration on Saturday 25 September to mark the reopening of Ipswich Meeting House, one of the oldest non-conformist chapels in the country, after the completion of a huge renovation project supported by English Heritage costing £750,000.

Tessa Forsdike, the secretary of the trustees of the Meeting House, said the restoration work should guarantee the future of the building for at least the next 100 years. She said: “This is a very important day for us. It gives us the chance to show off what has happened here and show what makes this such a special place.”

You can watch a video of the celebratory events here.

You can find out more about the renovation project here.

You can read more about this story in the local press here.

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Hale Chapel becomes 100th Unitarian church to register for same-sex weddings

1 October 2021 at 09:45

We are delighted to have reached an important milestone as Hale Chapel in Hale Barns, Cheshire, becomes the 100th Unitarian place of worship to register to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. The chapel’s minister Rev. Jeff Gould conducted their first same-sex wedding in August.

Reflecting on the day, Rev. Gould said: “The congregation of Hale Chapel was delighted to host its first same-sex wedding in the middle of this past August. The couple who celebrated their marriage at the chapel had recently moved into a house that adjoins the chapel’s garden and cemetery.  Their research revealed that a Unitarian house of worship would be the ideal venue for their inter-faith wedding, as one partner is Christian and the other is Jewish. I was delighted to officiate at a ceremony that involved elements of both religious traditions. The congregation is grateful that their first same-sex wedding couple will have a continuing relationship with the chapel, and look forward to welcoming other couples whose profiles reflect the diversity and richness of the local community.”

Unitarians have long supported lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and we are proud to provide marriage ceremonies for all couples. In fact, we were one of the the first churches to offer same-sex marriages. Find out more here.

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Cotswolds Unitarians help deliver peace education to local schoolchildren

22 September 2021 at 07:05

Cotswolds Unitarians are supporting Active Peace Education in local schools, organised by Malvern Quakers. Rosemary Webb (pictured), who co-leads local Unitarian youth group the Malvern Transformers, is delivering the sessions ‘Rights for Kids’, ‘Six Hours to Change the World’ and ‘All Are Welcome’ in local schools, together with Quaker educators. Click here to find out more here.

Photo: Bosbury Primary School

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Blogging @ UCCN

9 November 2013 at 12:13
By: Diane
Led by Louise Rogers, a group of UCCN-ers chose to start blogging.  In Louise's words, this is what we've been doing during the blogging workshop.  And there may soon be a few more blogs out there.

What is a blog?

Blogs, or Web logs, are online journals that are updated frequently, sometimes even daily. An update, (also called an entry or a post) is usually quite short, perhaps just a few sentences, and readers can often respond to an entry online. People who write blogs are commonly called bloggers. Bloggers, tongue in cheek, call themselves and their blogs the blogosphere.
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/writing-a-good-blog.html 

The difference between a blog and a website
Public?
Decide on a topic 
Personal profile
Viewing Unitarian blogs 

What do people like about some of these blogs?


  • Snappy title
  • A title that is understood and if not, an accessible explanation for the title
  • Visually attractive, not too busy, no strong image under the writing, not to detract from the writing. If images attached to posts they should be attractive - copyright-free from  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page and http://creativecommons.org/ 
  • Style - not too much jargon and complex language, accessible style. An open and honest approach, not being too dogmatic.
  • Short pieces like poems which invite the reader to think.

What people don’t like


  • To many visuals, too busy, image beneath the text
  • Posts are too long
  • Too many bees in their bonnets
  • Too much political and religious ranting
  • Overly complex language, jargon and abbreviations that are not common (OK to use common abbreviations like OK and BBC)
  • Too long - not the place for sermons - consider setting up a personal website

Issues


  • Confidentiality, writing about other people
  • Archiving blogs which are not being added to 

For own blog


  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they want to know/what do you want to tell them? Information? Advice? Personal stories?
  • How do they want this - words, pictures, podcasts, video?
  • How often will you blog? Once a week? Once a month?
  • How long will each post be?
  • Will you allow comments and will you respond to these?

Blog and blogposts


  • Your blog will have a title
  • Each post will have a title - titles should offer a benefit, promise news or arouse curiosity.
  • Do not have long, dense paragraphs
  • Perhaps have sub-headings?
  • Bulleted lists
  • Can use contractions like don’t and can’t - this is not an English exam
  • Have an easy style
  • Use the word ‘you’ rather than ‘we’
  • Explore different blog hosting services

Setting up a blog 


  • Google account. To get to your blog sign into your Google account, search fro blogger and your sites will become visible.
  • Privacy setting
  • Lay-out, including gadgets
  • Design
  • Adding content - need to save it but until it is published it will not be viewed
  • Copyright issues
  • Links - use a gadget
  • Polls - use a gadget
  • Email new post alert - gadget
  • Time zone - language and formatting under Settings
  • Can write a post and set the time and date when it will be published 
  • Labels for pages - determine which labels you want and list them under post settings 

Promoting your blog


  • Linking to other sites e.g. UCCN, local congregation, districts
  • Asking sites to link to your blog - as above
  • Facebook and Twitter - can link via Blogger

New book on 18th century dissent

18 October 2012 at 15:20
By: Yewtree

OUT NOW from John Issitt A new novel, Agents of Reason, by John Issitt, explores the life of Jeremiah Joyce, a dissenting minister in the 1790s.

Jeremiah was a London radical. He and his associates gave themselves to the cause of freedom - a cause that was always dangerous and compromised.

When the Bastille fell in 1789, English radicals like Jeremiah saw the promise of freedom, but by early 1793 the French Revolution had turned into madness as Robespierre and the guillotine had produced a blood-bath.

In England the fear that the revolution might spread across the channel provoked reactionary responses and the years of William Pitt’s terror began. Radicals were hunted down. Some found themselves in Botany Bay, others charged with sedition or treason, languishing in Newgate and the Tower.

A simple guide to social media

27 July 2012 at 08:15
By: Yewtree
How to market your brand / book / website on social media:

Set up a Facebook page and/or group where you will post regular news items (from your site and those of other relevant sites). Attract attention to it by posting it in other related Facebook groups (search in Groups for related keywords for your topic). Keep it updated regularly.

Set up a Twitter feed where you will post regular news items (from your site and those of other relevant sites). Attract attention to it by following other similar Twitter accounts (search for related keywords for your topic) and retweet and reply to their tweets. Keep it updated regularly.

Set up a blog where you will post regular blogposts about topical items in your subject area. Attract attention to it by adding other similar blogs to your blogroll (search for related keywords for your topic) and post comments on their blogs. Keep it updated regularly.

If you don't "get" Twitter, there's a remarkably succinct and clear summary of what it is and how it works in today's verdict on the Twitter joke trial. (PDF)

Using HootSuite (a paid service), you can also automatically send your blogposts to Twitter and Facebook.

Recommended reading

9 January 2012 at 16:29
By: Yewtree

You can buy some of these from the UK Unitarian website.

Unitarian Engagement Groups and Small Group Ministry 

Unitarian Engagement Groups - How to start and facilitate groups

Unitarian Christianity 

Unitarian Earth Spirit 

Press coverage of same-sex marriage campaign

5 October 2011 at 12:02
By: Yewtree
Scottish Unitarians participated in a press conference at the offices of the Scottish Youth Parliament in Edinburgh. The Scottish Youth Parliament has been campaigning alongside the Equality Network, LGBT Youth and NUS LGBT Campaign for marriage equality. Leaders and representatives from the Quakers, Liberal Judaism, Unitarians, Metropolitan Community Church and Pagan Federation want the law changed to allow them to preside over same-sex marriages. A 14-week consultation asks if marriage in Scotland should be allowed for homosexual people through a civil or religious ceremony.


Derek McAuley

Sound systems for churches

28 September 2011 at 10:51
By: Yewtree
I recently spotted this article, Sound Systems for Better Sunday Worship in UU World and notice that Oldham Unitarians have just installed a video screen.

I thought it would be a good idea to improve sound systems in our chapels and churches, so I asked if there was a fund to support this.

Apparently the Millennium Fund is still in existence and could be a source of funding support. It does cover “fittings, furniture and equipment following developmental work eg audio loop systems” Any congregation interested in making an application should contact Derek McAuley.

UUCF on Facebook

22 September 2011 at 09:58
By: Yewtree
The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship now has a Facebook page.

It's a great idea to have a Facebook page or group for your affinity group or society - that way, members can link together; you can raise awareness of your group and the issues you care about.

I'm a member of the CUUPs group (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) on Facebook, and it has some quite active discussion topics.

Because people see things in the Facebook feed, having a Facebook page boosts the numbers who are interested in your group - but only if you post things (comments and articles) regularly on your wall.

Find out more about Unitarian societies and UU societies.

Welsh Unitarian Chapels open for European Heritage Days

8 September 2011 at 06:21
By: Yewtree
Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Alma Street, Trecynon, Aberdare
10 Sep 10am talk and walk around three sites in Trecynon

Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Unitarian Chapel, Cefn Coed y Cymer
10 Sep, 2pm-4.30pm; 11 Sep, 2.30pm-7pm (service, 6pm)

Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen, Llandysul, Ceredigion
18 Sep 3pm-6pm (talks and choir; refreshments at Alltyrodyn Arms)

More details and photos of the Welsh churches

Introduction to social media

18 August 2011 at 05:48
By: Yewtree
Report by Sue Woolley

Lifespan Religious Education Conference 2011
Star Island, New Hampshire, 16 – 23 July 2011
Report on Social Media Workshop by Sue Woolley

Thanks to the generosity of the Manchester Academy Trust and the Hibbert Trust, I was able to attend this conference. The basic structure of our own Hucklow Summer School is based on this Unitarian Universalist conference, so many elements were familiar to me: the morning devotions, the daily theme talk, the compulsory morning workshops, optional afternoon activities, and lantern-lit procession to evening worship.

The morning workshop that I attended was led by the dynamic Peter Bowden, who is a “church growth consultant and Unitarian Universalist change agent” (to quote himself) who has dedicated his life to helping UU congregations to understand social media and to use them effectively. His blog (which is well worth looking at) is UU growth. I am writing the workshop up without much comment, as the things he was telling us are just as relevant to Unitarian congregations in the UK as to UU congregations in the US, if not more so.

Read the rest of the report →

Reasonable contrast on web pages

8 August 2011 at 08:25
By: Yewtree
For accessibility reasons, it's best to have high contrast text on a non-patterned background.

However, if you must have a fancy background, or you need a widget to turn off the styling of other people's sites, here's a neat bookmarklet that you can drag to your browser toolbar.

B on W

(via 456 Berea Street)

There are also browser add-ons for accessibility that you can get to help you test the contrast of a page.

How to add a favicon to your blog

12 July 2011 at 05:15
By: Yewtree
What's a favicon?
In some browsers, it appears before the web address in the address bar; in others, it appears on the tab where your blog is displayed. It also appears next to the name of your blog if it is listed in someone else's blog-roll.

Making your favicon
You will need a graphics package such as Gimp to do this.

  1. Find or create a square image - usually your logo. 
  2. Reduce it in size to 16 by 16 pixels.
Adding your favicon
  1. Go to the design view in your blog (click on design at the top right)
  2. Just underneath the heading "Add and arrange page elements" it says "favicon". 
  3. Click on the edit link next to favicon
  4. Upload your newly-created square 16 x 16 image

Darling Buds

11 July 2011 at 17:14
By: Yewtree
Darling Buds is the blog of Nelly Hench, from Octagon Unitarian Chapel in Norwich. She blogs about life, spirituality, home education, church services and much more. She is also a fan of Julian of Norwich, it seems.

Sound Systems

11 July 2011 at 08:06
By: Yewtree
Just saw this article in UU World: Sound Systems for Better Sunday Worship

It makes some good points about why proper sound and video systems help with a sense of community and inclusion.

LGBTQI Unitarians

4 July 2011 at 02:13
By: Yewtree
Rainbow, the group for LGBTQI Unitarians, now has a website. It explains why there is a need for such a group, lists forthcoming events, and has a resources page with links to similar groups.

It's great to see this group, though I hope it will soon become a national organisation, as there are LGBTQI people in other regions than London and the South-East. However, they do welcome people from other districts.

Of course, there's nothing to stop LGBTQI people in other districts starting their own groups.

The Gospel and the Zodiac

1 July 2011 at 09:21
By: Yewtree
Oldham Unitarian Chapel

Saturday 9th July, 10.30 a.m. till 3.15 p.m.

Speaker and author: Rev. Bill Darlison, will talk about his book, The Gospel and the Zodiac.

In The Gospel and the Zodiac, Unitarian minister Bill Darlison demonstrates that the Gospel of Mark - considered the primary document of Christianity - is deliberately structured around the signs of the zodiac. Darlison argues that the Gospel was originally an esoteric rather than a historical text, and that its stories were never intended to be interpreted in a literal sense. Rather, they are dramatic representations of stages in spiritual development, and repositories of arcane wisdom.

Light lunch and refreshments available.

All are welcome!

Ring to reserve your place: 0161 339 6740 (preferred) or just turn up.

Location: King Street / Connaught Street, Oldham, OL8 1EB

Details:

10 am arrive for coffee / tea

10.30 am presentation The Gospel and the Zodiac

12.30 pm lunch

Afternoon Session

1.30 pm The Gospel and the Zodiac

2.45 pm questions and discussion

3.15 pm coffee / tea

Close.

If you could bring a copy of the Bible for reference to Mark's gospel it would be helpful to you.

Register for this event

Lesbian and Gay Foundation Faithbook

29 June 2011 at 10:39
By: Yewtree
The Lesbian and Gay Foundation have produced a booklet on faith and LGBT, wittily entitled Faithbook.

I was disappointed to see that it does not have a section on Unitarians, just a brief mention on page 43 in the listings section - and we are listed under Christian, which is not entirely accurate. This is a bit sad when we have been LGBT-welcoming since 1970.

Nor is there a section on the Metropolitan Community Church - which is weird when they are a major LGBT church.

I was glad to see it included Wicca (but why no other Pagan traditions?).

New Google tool - what do you love?

29 June 2011 at 06:03
By: Yewtree
What do you love? brings together a variety of Google tools in one place to provide comprehensive information about a topic.

I tried it with the search term Unitarians and it works quite well.

Oldham Unitarians Launch Campaign for Aslyum Seekers

22 June 2011 at 11:37
By: Yewtree
Oldham Unitarians

Members of Oldham Unitarian Chapel have launched a campaign to stop the deportation of two asylum seekers who are currently destitute and fear the consequences of being sent back to their own country.

The launch took place at 12pm on June 12th following the Sunday morning service and included a photo opportunity

The two refugees are: Abdoulaye Diabate from the Ivory Coast and Taha Ghasemi from Iran.

Abdoulaye fled the Ivory Coast after experiencing imprisonment and torture in 2006. His sister was caught up in the violence and raped. He does not know if she is still alive.

Taha Ghasemi is a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party who arrived in the United Kingdom in September 2006 following his imprisonment and torture at the hands of Iranian police and the security forces. As a known supporter of the Kurdish cause in Iran he faces immediate arrest and imprisonment should he be returned to Iran.

The campaign for Abdoulaye and Taha will include petitions, letters to MPs and other activities.

Both Abdoulaye and Taha are regular visitors to the Welcome Project sponsored by Oldham Unity. This voluntary support service for destitute asylum seekers takes place every Thursday at Oldham Baptist Church.

A social event for asylum seekers and their families takes place at Oldham Unitarian Chapel on the last Saturday of each month.

Media Links



Bob Pounder

Source: GA Uni-News

A questioning blog

14 June 2011 at 12:32
By: Yewtree
Rev Gill from Rochdale has started a blog called Living in the Question. The name comes from a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
'I want to beg you, as much as I can . . . to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves. . . . Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.' -- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I always enjoy reading her pieces in the Rochdale church newsletter, so I am sure that her blog will be equally full of gems!

The title also reminds me of the character George in Room with a View by E M Forster, who paints a question mark on the door of his room. And of the quip about Unitarianism being the religion where all your answers are questioned!

Religious civil partnership consultation

9 June 2011 at 12:38
By: Yewtree
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, writes in the latest issue of GA Uni-News:
The deadline for responses to the Government's consultation paper on civil partnerships on religious premises is 23rd June 2011 and I would urge any congregation or individual wishing to respond to do so by this date.

It is important, even at this stage in the legislative process, for our views to be heard. I shall be submitting a response on behalf of the General Assembly based on our agreed position and general principles of freedom and equality but others will be most welcome.

I had the opportunity to meet with the civil servant conducting the consultation and we talked about the need to ensure that any proposals are practical and can be easily implemented. I indicated that I thought the cost of registration of £1500 for three years was excessive and that the comparison with secular commercial venues was invidious. We do not have the option of recouping the fee from sales of food and alcohol! Indicating the reality of finance for congregations may be useful in this debate.

I have recently also spoken to Stonewall, the organisation who worked closely with Lord Alli to secure the amendment to the Equality Bill to permit religious premises to be registered for civil partnerships. The support that we, with the Quakers and Liberal Jews, gave to the amendment proved very persuasive to parliamentarians in the free votes on this measure. Hopefully my views will influence their response.

We must ensure that this measure is implemented in a way that is effective and practical for our congregations. It is hoped that registrations can begin later this year.

Respond to the consultation paper

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer 

New church websites

9 June 2011 at 12:30
By: Yewtree
Congratulations to the following churches and chapels who now have shiny new websites.


The complexity of marriage law

6 June 2011 at 09:27
By: Yewtree
The subject of marriage and what is legal and what is not is getting increasingly more confusing, especially since a Liberal Jewish synagogue was in the news recently for performing a same-sex marriage (which is recognised by Liberal Judaism but not by the state). Apparently Scotland is just about to begin a process of consultation about same-sex marriage. So here's a list of what is and is not currently legal:

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state):
  • Opposite-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Same-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Opposite-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
The law allows, but there's no mechanism for implementing:
  • Religious civil partnerships (civil partnership ceremonies in a religious building)
Not forbidden by law, but not recognised by the state
  • same-sex blessings in a church / synagogue
  • same-sex marriages in a church / synagogue where the marriage is recognised by the church / synagogue  but not by the state
  • Pagan handfastings (weddings) in England & Wales - both same and opposite sex
  • Pagan same-sex handfastings in Scotland
  • Blessings of polyamorous relationships
Illegal (not permitted by law):
  • Same-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Opposite-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Same-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Marrying more than one person
Another difficulty is that if a transsexual married to a person of the opposite sex to their original sex wants to change their birth certificate to reflect their new sex, they would have to divorce their partner (whereas if same sex marriage were legal, they could stay married).

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state) in Scotland only:
  • Pagan opposite-sex handfastings where the celebrant says the required form of words (the same as for all other legal weddings)
Have I missed anything?

Systems for the hard of hearing

4 June 2011 at 13:10
By: Yewtree
If your chapel or church does not have a proper system for users of hearing aids, or needs to replace its existing one, the best place to go for advice is the RNID, who have a team of researchers reviewing products for deaf and hard of hearing people, including loop systems.

Bill Darlison on Walt Whitman

3 June 2011 at 15:18
By: Yewtree
Walt Whitman
Bolton Unitarians have a video of Rev Bill Darlison talking about Walt Whitman - excellent. They also have videos of Stephen Lingwood's sermons, which are always excellent (he posts them on his blog Reignite too).

Walt Whitman (whilst not a Unitarian) was a key figure in the Transcendentalist movement, which emerged from 19th century Unitarianism.

He was a complex person, believing in the abolition of slavery but disliking the abolitionist movement for its extreme methods, and not believing that African Americans should have the vote.

He is chiefly remembered for his rhythmic poetry, which influenced later poets like Allen Ginsberg, and for his free and celebratory attitude to sexuality, both gay and straight.

By watching the video, you can also find out the connection between Walt Whitman and Bolton.

Compassion and the future of our world

2 June 2011 at 04:22
By: Yewtree
1.00 – 3:30 pm, 2 July 2011

Golders Green Unitarian Church
31 ½ Hoop Lane, London NW11 8BS

The World Congress of Faiths looks forward to having Karen Armstrong as our speaker at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St. Johns Wood Road, London, on the evening of 7 December, 2011.

As a preparatory event, we are co-hosting an afternoon on Karen Armstrong and the Charter for Compassion, 1.00 -3:30 pm, Saturday, 2 July. A representative of the Charter for Compassion is invited to a panel discussing the  charter.

The programme will open with a worship service at 1 pm led by the Rev. Feargus O’Connor.

Rev. Richard Boeke, Chair of the British Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom will give a sermon entitled The freedom to be compassionate, drawing on words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “I cannot afford the luxury of hate.” The panel will follow about 2 pm.

How would you apply Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to Compassion, in your life? Should there be any additions to the Charter such as recommended in this 12 May 2011 resolution of the British Chapter of the IARF:

The Chapter Endorses the Charter for Compassion and Karen Armstrong's book, Twelve Steps to Compassion with the recommendation that there be an additional paragraph on "Compassion for Nature."
The story is told that after God gave Moses Ten Commandments, God realized the need for the 11th Commandment. “Listen.” In like manner, the Charter for Compassion is not complete without compassion for the interdependent web of which we are a part. The Charter for Compassion is largely drawn from the Abrahamic Traditions. The “Reverence for Nature” of the great Eastern Traditions is the great background to all human compassion. In those mystical moments when we are one with the All, we find again the “basic trust” which is the heart of compassion.

Unitarian heritage

30 May 2011 at 08:05
By: Yewtree

Unitarian heritage in London

Pulse magazine has a page about a Unitarian heritage trail in London, which could do with postcodes and Google Maps to make it easier to find the places mentioned; but it's a good article. Sadly the photos which seem to have featured in the original article are not included on the web-page.  The trail includes Newington Green Church, Stratford Church, Hampstead, Bethnal Green Church, Richmond Church, Golders Green Church, Islington, Croydon Unitarian Church, Brixton Church, Lewisham, Kensington, Hackney, the Gravel Pit, the Priestley plaque and statue, Bishopsgate Chapel, Lindsey's Essex Street Chapel, Blackfriars, Stamford Street, South Place Chapel, Conway Hall, Stepney College Chapel, Dingley Place Mission, Putney Church, and Bunhill Fields Cemetery (the Dissenters' burying ground).

A Vindication of the Rights of Mary has a series of posts about places associated with Mary Wollstonecraft, mostly around Newington Green, where she attended the Unitarian church where Richard Price was minister. There is also a campaign to get a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green, called Mary on the Green.

Unitarian churches in Wales

There's an excellent Unitarian trail with a tour around the Black Spot (Y Smotyn Du), so called because there was such a concentration of Unitarian churches on the map that they formed a single blob.

Unitarian churches in England

Wikipedia has a list of pages about Unitarian churches in England, including:


Humanism's links with Unitarianism

The Humanist heritage website has a list of some Unitarian landmarks and people (mostly those which were connected with the early history of Humanism).

William Johnson Fox (1786-1864)
William Johnson Fox was a religious and political orator, born near Southwold, Suffolk.
He was trained for the Independent ministry, at Homerton College (then in London). He later seceded to the Unitarians, and in 1817 Fox became minister of a nonconformist congregation which subsequently went on to become the non-religious South Place Ethical Society.

Conway Hall, London
Conway Hall at at 37 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, is the home of the South Place Ethical Society and today is a landmark of London’s independent intellectual, political and cultural life.

Leicester Secular Society
By tradition the Leicester Secular Society dates its formation to 1851, although an earlier “Rational Society” branch is mentioned in No.9 of The Movement edited by G. J. Holyoake dated February 10th 1844.

Moncure Daniel Conway
(17 March 1832 – 15 November 1907)
Moncure Daniel Conway was an American abolitionist, Unitarian clergyman, and author.

Ullet Road Unitarian Chapel, Liverpool
The Ullet Road Unitarian Chapel is known as the English ‘cathedral of Unitarianism’. It was built between 1896 and 1898 to a design by the Unitarian architect Thomas Worthington and his son Percy.
Although founded as a non-conformist Christian faith, Unitarianism has historically been characterised by a rationalist and individualist approach to spirituality, which encompasses diverse religious views. In its anti-dogmatism, it has come to include atheist views, particularly under the banner of Unitarian Universalism in the twentieth century.

See also...

Pagans for Archaeology has a list of faith heritage trails

Unitarians in the arts

26 May 2011 at 13:56
By: Yewtree
There are many famous Unitarian poets and writers. Examples include:
  • Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
  • Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
  • e. e. cummings (1894-1962)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
  • Edith Holden (1871-1920)
  • Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
  • Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
  • Kurt Vonnegut
You have to be careful with lists of famous Unitarians, because sometimes they claim people who stopped being Unitarian part-way through their lives (like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Stearns Eliot).

The Poetry Chaikhana recently featured a poem by someone who is not on the usual Unitarian lists: Edmond Bordeaux Székely, although he was the grandson of Sándor Székely, a Transylvanian Unitarian bishop, who was himself a poet, and is buried in Cluj (Kolozsvár).

There are three poems by Edmond Bordeaux Székely at the Poetry Chaikhana site:

Fantastic UU quotes resource

26 May 2011 at 09:45
By: Yewtree
Rev Naomi King has started a tumblr blog with quotes from Unitarian, Universalist, Unitarian Universalist and Brahmo Samaj sources. It's a great place to find pithy quotes for your sermon or address.

Walk of repentance for homophobia

25 May 2011 at 08:09
By: Yewtree
Symon Hill, co-director of Ekklesia (the Christian think-tank) is doing a walk of repentance from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance for his former homophobic attitudes and beliefs.

You can help by turning up to one of his talks and events, or inviting him to stay on his route, or inviting him to speak at your church. If it's not on the route, he can still speak on the issues involved at some time after the walk.

Unitarians have been welcoming LGBT people since 1970, and welcoming LGBT ministers since 1977, but it's wonderful to see other churches doing the same. (Recently the Church of Scotland announced that it will allow LGBT ministers.)

Hopefully Symon's walk will raise awareness in all churches of the need to be inclusive and welcoming of LGBT people. LGBT people have many spiritual gifts and creative talents, so it's downright wrong to exclude us. As Desmond Tutu pointed out, this is an issue akin to apartheid.

Raymond Antrobus on Unitarians

20 May 2011 at 11:00
By: Yewtree
Raymond Antrobus recently visited Stratford Unitarians to read some of his poetry and take part in the service. He shares his experience in this moving article.

It started with a service delivered by a man called Julian.

His presence was gentle, you could feel the kindness in his heart just from the way he stood, smiled and welcomed you as a stranger without looking like he’s trying to work you out. Genuine friendliness is always refreshing when you live in a city.

» Read more

Why Unitarians don't make good news stories

19 May 2011 at 04:33
By: Yewtree
Ekklesia has an article on why the news always shows the bad side of religion - because "News waits for someone to embezzle or kill or seduce another in the name of God." News is essentially driven by high-profile events with negative impact. The fact that Unitarians never make this kind of news is amusingly parodied by Unitarian Jihad.

Feature-writers, on the other hand, get to explore the personal stories in religion - who knew that Southern Baptists engaged in disaster relief, for instance? Or that Wiccan efforts at charitable giving are stymied by bigoted Christians? Or that Unitarian ministers can also be Druids? (Amazing how many journalists don't know the difference between a minister and a vicar.)

If you want to get your more positive stories into the media, it's probably good to find a quirky or personal-interest angle as a hook for journalists.

Chief Officer gives evidence to Parliamentary committee

18 May 2011 at 08:11
By: Yewtree
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, has given evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the poor prospects for LGBT people if faith-based charities are allowed to run public services.
Faith charities delivering public services 'could increase discrimination'
By Kaye Wiggins, Third Sector Online, 16 May 2011

Contracts should be awarded only to groups that have demonstrated commitment to equality, Unitarian body warns Public Administration Select Committee

Giving more responsibility for delivering public services to local faith charities as part of the big society agenda could result in increased discrimination against marginalised groups, according to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, told Third Sector he was concerned that gay and lesbian public sector staff who were moved to local faith charities under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations might face discrimination by other staff at those charities.

His submission to the PASC says: "Non-religious people and those not seen to confirm to the dominant ethos of a religious body, such as being in an unmarried relationship or divorced and being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, could find themselves subject to discrimination.

"Contracts should therefore only be awarded to faith-based organisations that have a public commitment to, and can demonstrate compliance with, the promotion of equality in line with the commitment of recent governments."

Derek has also written about this issue on his own blog:
The "Big Society", a policy much promoted by the Government, and built around social action, public service reform and community empowerment, needs to be inclusive. You cannot have a "Big Society" and then implicitly or explictly exclude and marginalise some groups. Unitarians have long worked to promote social justice and led many initiatives for social improvement. We have never applied religious tests to our work.

We need joined up policies. One risk is that encouraging faith groups to be more active in delivery of public services could in some cases lead to a conflict with equality and diversity policy.

New president on LGBT radio programme

3 May 2011 at 05:34
By: Yewtree

Ann Peart, as newly installed GA president, did a recorded interview yesterday evening for the LGBT programme of BBC Radio Manchester yesterday evening, and much of it was broadcast later the same evening. The interview starts at 36 minutes and lasts just over 10 minutes.
It is available until next Saturday.

Look-alikes

2 May 2011 at 11:52
By: Yewtree
James Martineau
James Middleton (Kate Middleton's brother)

 

Are they by any chance related? Yes they are. James and Kate Middleton are descendants of the Martineaus, a prominent family of Unitarians.

Feed the trainee minister

29 April 2011 at 14:45
By: Yewtree
Rob MacPherson, Unitarian minister-in-training, has started a blog entitled "Will preach for food". There's a wonderful post about religion and humour, which really needed saying. It's also written in a lively and engaging style.

Tomorrow's ministry

27 April 2011 at 14:10
By: Yewtree
A presentation by Zan of Mixtape Communications given to the Unitarian Ministers' Conference.

How to promote your blog

27 April 2011 at 09:24
By: Yewtree
  1. Comment on other bloggers' posts - if your comment is interesting and polite, they might drop by to read your blog
  2. Add other blogs to your blogroll - they may return the favour (but never ask to be added to someone's blogroll, it's really tacky)
  3. Follow other bloggers and add them to your Google Reader
  4. Get yourself added to Unitarian Universalist and Unitarian blog aggregators
  5. Have a Twitter account, link it to HootSuite and have HootSuite update your Twitter and Facebook accounts automatically whenever you publish a new blog-post

New blogger dreams of the ocean

27 April 2011 at 09:15
By: Yewtree
Danny Crosby, minister of Queen's Road, Urmston and Dunham Road, Altrincham, has started a blog, I Dream of the Ocean. He writes eloquently and with an accessible style, so I am looking forward to reading his blog.

Earth Spirit presentation at GA

18 April 2011 at 12:43
By: Yewtree


The full text of the talk

Creative Commons Licence
From Natural Religion to Nature Religion: Pagan and Pantheist tendencies in Unitarianism by Yvonne Aburrow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Mary Wollstonecraft talk

5 April 2011 at 18:29
By: Yewtree
On Sunday 22nd May, after morning service at 11 am in the chapel of Harris Manchester College (Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD), there will be a talk at 1 pm by Lyndall Gordon, the author of Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, concerning the life and times and Unitarian connections of the 18th-century feminist (wife of William Godwin, mother of Mary Shelley, and “the foremother of much modern thinking about education and human rights, as well as about women's rights, female sexuality and the institution of marriage"). Please bring your own sandwich lunch; for directions to the college, consult the Chapel Society website.

Khasi Hills Unitarians have a blog

3 April 2011 at 16:08
By: Yewtree
The North East Indian Unitarian Church has a blog, maintained by H Helpme Mohrmen. It has some lovely photos of the scenery around Shillong, especially the living roots bridge, and accounts of the church's activities in the area, including pictures of a new school.

Shiny new website

4 March 2011 at 06:03
By: Yewtree
Congratulations to Bolton Unitarians on their shiny new website, which has a fresh and modern design. It also has images and videos, a forum, and a news feed.

You can check it out and leave a message in their guest book.

Coast to Coast Walk

3 March 2011 at 13:37
By: Yewtree
Two members of Upper Chapel, Sheffield, Beth Norton and Alan Walker, will be doing a coast-to-coast walk to raise money for the RNLI, NSPCC, and Royal British Legion.

You can donate at the following Just Giving pages:

One blog: doing something

2 March 2011 at 15:14
By: Yewtree
Sue Woolley has set up a new blog, "Still I am one". The title is from a quote by Edward Everett Hale, a 19th century Unitarian minister and writer.
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do."
It's very exciting to see more UK Unitarian bloggers and twitterers, and I look forward to reading Sue's blog.

Another new blog

25 February 2011 at 07:22
By: Yewtree

Rev Daniel Costley, the minister of Sevenoaks Unitarians, has started a blog, and is also adding MP3 podcasts of his sermons.

So far he has blogged about Ascension Day, Harvest, Living in the Now, and Prayer.

It looks as if this will be a really interesting blog.

New Blog for Chief Officer

17 January 2011 at 04:47
By: Yewtree
The Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Derek McAuley, has started a new blog for those who want to know what the Chief Officer has been up to and get an insight into some of the issues facing the Unitarian and Free Christian denomination. Followers might even find out what inspires and occasionally shocks Derek.
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