Saturday, 17 April 2010


Unitarians don't proselytise. Well, OK, we'd like it if everyone had a liberal and tolerant attitude to diversity of belief, but we want to attract like-minded people. We want to share what we have. We have welcoming liberal spiritual communities where you can be yourself, and explore your spirituality in an atmosphere of openness and mutual support.

Problem is, hardly anyone has heard of us. Fearful of being seen as evangelical, Unitarians have rather been hiding our light under a bushel. But that is changing. It's hard sometimes to get across a more subtle view of religion than is purveyed by fundamentalists and evangelicals, but we are trying.

One example of the effort to encourage like-minded people to join us is a growth initiative created by Andy Pakula, which shows congregations how to be welcoming and to raise their profiles.

Unitarian communities, please sign up for his scheme. He writes:
I am happy to answer any questions posted as comments on the original blog post.

In addition, I will be highlighting online those congregations that have made progress along the steps of the scheme. Congregations, please let me know if and when you have reached any particular level. I will then add you to an online honour roll, which will also help seekers to find the congregations that are keen to have them!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

New President & Vice-President

New President - Neville Kenyon

Friendly and forward-looking Neville Kenyon, a life-long Unitarian who lives in Bury, Lancashire, was installed as the President of the General Assembly for 2010-2011 at the Annual Meetings in Nottingham on 11 April. He is emphasising the openness and flexibility of Unitarianism, and his wish to encourage the quest for spiritual understanding and innovation, by choosing 'Nurture Your Freedom' as his theme.

Both practical and imaginative, Neville has a long history of energetic service to the denomination. He joined the Unitarian Young People's League in the 1950s and was its President in 1961. He has been a member of the General Assembly's Council and served from its inception on the successor body, the Executive Committee, until he was elected Vice-President in 2009. He is passionate about publicising Unitarianism and is a member of the General Assembly's Communications Commission and a Director of the Board of the Inquirer Publishing Company (2004) which produces the Unitarian paper, The Inquirer. He is chairman of the congregation of Bury Unitarian Church. Among his many achievements is the adoption by the General Assembly of a colour-scheme, typography and imagery which gives the Movement a 'consistent identity'. He is a steadfast supporter of any cause he takes up, is unfailingly genial, and, with a flair for selecting silk ties and elegant suits, is very possibly the best-dressed man in the Movement!

Neville recognises that Unitarians are in an ideal position to provide, in the 21st century, a home for those who have a spiritual hunger but are repelled by the creeds and dogmas of more orthodox faith groups. He says "We are in an ideal position, to reflect a growing imperative for a spirituality unfettered by narrow creeds and dogmas." He wants to encourage social networking between the newer members throughout the country. "People come to us from a myriad of backgrounds", he says "but they have all made a journey to find their spiritual home with us. The mutual support provided by networking on the web adds a valuable communication dimension for newcomers stretching beyond their local congregation".

» Read more

New Vice President - Rev Dr Ann Peart

The Reverend Dr Ann Peart, a distinguished Unitarian scholar and leading woman minister was appointed as vice-president of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches at the close of the Denominations Annual Meetings in April 2010 in Nottingham. She is looking forward to visiting Unitarian congregations and other groups both in Britain and overseas. "I am particularly interested" she says, "in exploring what keeps such a diverse collection of groups and individuals together."

» Read more

Monday, 12 April 2010

Unitarian Forty-somethings

There's BUYAN for 18-35 year olds. There are Juniors, Inters, and Seniors. There's the Women's League.

But there's nothing for 40- and 50-somethings. As a group, we may have slightly different needs. We may be rediscovering spirituality and religion after a time away from it. We may have changed our spiritual path recently. Some of us may have kids; some may not. We're all working, so can't join in with activities in the afternoon. And we like pubs.

So I have set up a group on Facebook for Unitarian 36 to 65 year olds (if you fall outside this age group but want to join anyway, you are very welcome).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

What are they Twittering on about?

My presentation from the GA Communications Commission session can now be viewed online.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Blogging from the GA

Well, just found my first spare five minutes to catch my breath during the Unitarian annual meetings in Nottingham.

It's been a great few days, and more yet to come - the official social evening (as opposed to the random socialising between sessions, over tea and coffee, during meals and of course in the bar!).

Wonderful to see so many new members of the Unitarian twibe and the tweeting (#GAUK) is high volume.

Two equally interesting and informative, but very different, presentations at the CommComm slot yesterday. One from Julie Dadson about the Upper Chapel, Sheffield project to raise the profile of church - a lot of work is going on to renovate the exterior of the chapel and the garden to invite more people into the garden and hopefully through the doors. Yvonne Aburrow introduced us all to social media - from the afficionados to the totally uninitiated, all seemed to take something from the session.

Also been to the sessions on the future structure of the annual meetings, the name change (is it already happening organically, does it need to be done formally?), a report from the growth group and two congregations who have grown - from Ant Howe about Kingswood & Warwick Unitarians and from Kate McKenna about The Octagon Unitarian Chapel, Norwich.

OK - enough - must go and get ready to socialise ... apparently to sound of The Beatles!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

CommComm - what we're about

I should be finishing my packing for the annual meetings in Nottingham, which start tomorrow. Instead I seem to have decided it's a good time to add something to the Communications blog ...

These meetings mark the third year of the formation of the Communication Commission, and - in preparing for the report that I'll be making on Saturday morning - I've been looking back at what we've achieved over the last three years. There have been several leaflets, with more in the pipeline, a new travelling display with accompanying poster, the notice board scheme which has resulted in over 40 new notice boards across the country.

The commission (known fondly as CommComm) has as its mission statement, To encourage the growth and development of the Unitarian community by promoting a clear, contemporary Unitarian message via traditional and innovative means, in accordance with liberal values. It addresses matters concerning promotion of and publicity about the Unitarian movement, nationally and locally, and internal and external communication via a range of media.

Current work is wide-ranging.
  • Promotional activities: posters; exploiting new methods of communication (eg this blog); reviewing national advertising and appropriate media; reviewing use of the travelling display which was launched at the 2009 annual meetings.
  • Providing communication expertise and support: advice and support for local congregations; producing press packs about the President and Vice-President; supporting the online worship project being undertaken by the NUF; reviewing internal and external communication strategies.
  • Leaflet development: reviewing the range of leaflets available; reprinting and commissioning new leaflets in liaison with other commmissions and societies.
  • Internal communication: optimising messages and modes of communication.
The team is keen to continue the work. We look forward to getting feedback on some projects and finding out more about what is wanted - then getting sifting through and working out how we might implement all the ideas when we meet again in May.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Kiva microfinance site

I wanted to let you know about Kiva, a non-profit organisation that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe.

You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It's a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone to lift themselves out of poverty.

There are also various Unitarian and UU lending teams, so you can join up with other Unitarians on the site.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ

You may be aware of the controversy over Philip Pullman's new book. The Rev Alex Bradley was quoted in The Independent on Monday 29 March 2010.
The Rev Alex Bradley, of the Unitarian Christian Association, said: "Different people see Jesus in different ways. Everyone to some extent has an image of Him, and writers and artists should be free to form their own interpretation.

"Religious freedom remains indivisible, and freedom of expression remains a core value of democratic civilisation."
Excellent, well said. I blogged about this on my personal blog the other day:
I was talking to some fellow Unitarians on Sunday and we all said how much we are looking forward to reading Philip Pullman's new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, as the ideas in it sound very Unitarian. We also remarked that the Unitarian concept of God is far closer to Dust than to the Authority, since many Unitarians are pantheists or panentheists who believe that the Divine is immanent in the world.