midland unitarian association events
Visit to St. Fagan's - Saturday July 6th 2013
Click image to view larger or here to download PDF
MUA Autumn Training Day: Gathering for Growth
Course Leader: Rev. Ant Howe
When: Saturday 21st September 2013
Where: Kingswood Meeting House, Hollywood, Worcs B47 5DQ
Times: 10.00 am - 4.15 pm (coffee/tea from 9.30am)
Cost: FREE to MUA participants; £10 to others
Further details from Sue Woolley firstname.lastname@example.org
midland unitarian association news
MUA Executive Committee meeting Key Messages (18/5/13)
1. Three new members were welcomed onto the Committee: Rev. Jeffrey Bowes (Coventry), Mr. David Heppingstall (Banbury) and Mr. Ian Kirby (Kidderminster).
2. MU Now deadline the deadline for the Summer 2013 issue is 11th July, and the theme is Freedom of Belief, but other articles of local interest are always welcome. Contributions to Rev. Sue Woolley please (contact details below)
3. St.Fagan's Trip deadline: is 22nd June. Please send numbers to Ash James (contact details below)
4. MUA Annual Lunch date provisionally fixed for Saturday 26th October, at Kingswood. More details to follow!
5. 2014 General Assembly meetings are being held in our District, at Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire. The Committee has been asked to organise the Celebration slot on the evening of Monday 14th April; to organise a Quiet Room; and to ask for volunteers to help give out welcome packs. If you are interested in getting involved with any of this, please contact Rev. Sue Woolley (contact details below)
6. 2020 Congregational Development Programme: the deadline for initial Expressions of Interest is 28th June. Please see the 2020 website http://www.2020unitarian.org for more information, or contact MUA President Ash James.
Ash James: tel: 01384-374007 e-mail: email@example.com
Sue Woolley: tel: 01604-870746 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MUA Annual General Meeting at Kidderminster (6/4/13)
Over 50 Unitarians from 14 MUA congregations attended the 147th Annual General Meeting of the Midland Unitarian Association at New Meeting Kidderminster on Saturday 6th April. Mr. Ash James of Kidderminster was elected as the new President, with Mrs. Jane Couper of Evesham becoming Vice-President. Mrs. Bronwen Taylor of Shrewsbury became Immediate Past President, and Rev. Sue Woolley and Mr. Sandy Ellis of Evesham continued in their roles as Secretary and Treasurer respectively - Mr. Ellis for his 31st consecutive year! We said farewell to three retiring members of the Committee - Rev. Peter Hewis, Rev. Ant Howe and Mr. Andrew Rosser, and welcomed three new members: Rev. Jeffrey Bowes of Coventry, Mr. David Heppingstall of Banbury, and Mr. Ian Kirby of Kidderminster.
After a splendid buffet lunch laid on by the Kidderminster congregation in the adjoining church hall, we came back into the church for the afternoon proceedings. Our new President, Mr. Ash James, led a short worship service with the theme 'Let love continue long'. This was followed by our guest speaker, Rev. Rob Gregson, Director of Simple Gifts, the Unitarian Centre for Social Action in Bethnal Green. This will be fully reported in the April 2013 issue of MU Now.
Writing Worship Material: MUA of Lay Preachers & Worship Leaders Spring Training Day (16/3/13)
Nine of us gathered at Unitarian New Meeting Church, Birmingham, to learn how to and to experience writing our own prayers. The workshop was led by Rev. Andrew Hill, who guided us through the whole process. By the end of the day, all of us had produced a 140-character 'Tweet prayer', some opening words, some closing words, a prayer around the theme of a service, and our own versions of the Lord's Prayer. The quality of the prayers produced was amazing, and they are posted on the Personal Reflection page of this website, under Freedom of Belief.
Rev. Sue Woolley's Service of Welcome and Induction (2/3/13)
Over 80 people from the Midlands and further afield, including the Mayor of Banbury, gathered at Banbury Town Hall on Saturday 2nd March, to participate in a joyous service of Welcome and Induction for Rev. Sue Woolley. The service was led by Rev. Alex Bradley, with Rev. Peter Hewis doing the charge to the minister and Rev. Ant Howe doing the charge to the congregation. Mrs. Alison Thursfield brought greetings from the General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches, Mr. Sandy Ellis brought greetings from the Midland Unitarian Association and Rev. Gillian Peel brought greetings from the Unitarian Ministerial Fellowship. Jack Thomas read the chalice lighting words, and Doris Worrall lit the chalice. All the congregation joined in a covenant ceremony with Sue as the central part of the service. After the service, everyone enjoyed some splendid refreshments. We hope that this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful ministry for Sue and for the Fellowship.
MUA Annual Lunch at Kingswood (3/11/12)
This enjoyable Unitarian occasion took place at Kingswood Meeting House on Saturday 3rd November 2012. 34 Unitarians from 13 MUA congregations assembled to hear the Convenor of the General Assembly's Executive Committee, Rev. Martin Whitell, speak about the EC and answer questions, before adjourning to the schoolroom for a delicious lunch. Hazel Reynolds was there, and writes:
"Jill Hudson & I represented theBirminghamcongregation at this annual event. We hold the formal part of the meeting before lunch so after morning coffee we go to the Church where the welcoming devotions were led by Kingswood Minister, Rev Ant Howe. The MUA Vice President, Ash James, introduced the guest speaker Rev. Martin Whitell, the Convenor of the National Executive Committee. He gave a very entertaining address on the various ways he would like to see Unitarianism grow. Afterwards he invited our suggestions. There was a general consensus that we would like to create a greater visibility, particularly for young people & people in contact with them, such as teachers.
We then moved to the Church Hall for lunch. We were offered a choice of a main course and a dessert which had been ably prepared by Jill Bowie, who is closely associated with theKingswood congregation. The whole event was most enjoyable. Any member of aMidlandUnitarianAssociationChurch can attend so next year let's see more even more folk!"
Paths to Inner Peace Taster Workshop at Kingswood (20/10/12)
Twelve people from seven congregations round the Midlands attended the Autumn Training Day. This time it was slightly different, less of a training day and more of a taster workshop for different spiritual practices. It was led by Rev. Sue Woolley, District Minister, and Rev. Gillian Peel, minister of Rochdale Unitarians. The first session was Journalling and Discussion around the words Peace, Violence and Non-violence. Then Gillian Peel introduced the group to a simple breath meditation, and an exciting music and chanting meditation. This was followed by an introduction to a Sabbath practice, by Sue Woolley, which she had learned about at Summer School in 2011. After lunch, participants were introduced to Merle Feld's Write for Your Life practice, and the day finished with an opportunity to try the noble art of Zendoodling, led by Gillian Peel. It was a very hands-on day, and participants left with a lot of food for thought, and some ideas to try out at home.
Coventry Congregation celebrate 350 years of witness and 75 years in their Church (22/07/12)
The Great Meeting House Unitarian Church was filled to capacity on the afternoon of 22nd July, when Unitarians from all over the Midlands, members of organisations who use the building, and the Lord Mayor of Coventry joined the congregation to celebrate the 350th year of the congregation's life, and its' 75th year in the church on Holyhead Road.
Following some welcome words by Rev. Jeffrey Bowes, greetings were offered by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Tim Sawdon, Rev. Sue Woolley, from the Midland Unitarian Association, Mrs. Nicola Harwood, headteacher of the Richard Lee Primary School (which was named after the Unitarian minister who was in post at the time of the move to the new building) and Ms. Kay Dyer, ecumenical officer of Churches Together in Coventry and Warwickshire.
The service was conducted by Rev. Peter Hewis, who is one of the Coventry Trustees, and the address was given by Rev. Peter Godfrey, who had attended Sunday School at the church as a boy.The well-chosen readings, hymns and prayers celebrated the life of the congregation and illustrated Unitarian ideals and values. The address was on the theme of abundant life; after sharing some of the congregation's history, Rev. Peter Godfrey's message was one of the importance of living a good quality of life, full of wonder, awe and compassion.
After the service, the company adjourned to the Heaviside Hall, where there was a display of art work and photography by members of the Coventry Art Guild and Coventry Photographic Society, both of whom use the Hall during the week. While we enjoyed a wonderful spread laid on by Ruth Bowes and her helpers, we listened to a medley of Gilbert and Sullivan songs, beautifully performed by the Savoy Opera Group, who also use the Hall.
It was a joyful and fitting celebration of 350 years of Unitarian witness in Coventry.
Barbara and Ken Russell celebrate their Diamond Wedding (15/07/12)
On Sunday 15th July, a large group of family and friends gathered at Old Meeting House Dudley to celebrate the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Barbara and Ken Russell. The service was conducted by Rev. Penny Johnson, who had been Barbara and Ken's bridesmaid sixty years before. Following a welcome to the congregation by Sandy Ellis, Clerk to the Dudley Trustees, the readings included Psalm 16, because their "lines have fallen in pleasant places", a recipe for sixty years of happiness written by Barbara herself, and two short pieces, one from Winnie the Pooh and one by George Eliot. The hymns included one written especially for the occasion by Barbara. After the service, the congregation enjoyed some time to share and reminisce, together with some lovely refreshments, including a special cake, which the happy couple cut.
District Facilitator added to GA Roll of Ministers (11/07/12)
Sue Woolley, our District Facilitator, has been added to the GA Roll of Ministers with probationary status. She is currently minister of the Banbury Unitarian Fellowship, in addition to her District role.
Just War Debate at Kidderminster New Meeting House (10/07/12)
24 people gathered at Kidderminster New Meeting House to hear, and vote on, a debate about the question "Can there ever be a just war?" Sandy Ellis (MUA Treasurer) opened the debate for the motion, His two main arguments were that the leader of any nation has a moral duty to defend its citizens, and that although war is an evil and barbaric thing, it can be justified if it is waged to defeat a greater evil. He went over the standard Just War criteria - that the cause is just, that it has been properly authorised, that there is right intention, that all other means of avoiding conflict have been explored, that it must be winnable, and that the force used is "proportionate". He also mentioned the internationally accepted guidelines about how a war should be fought, for example obeying international conventions, not injuring or killing non-combatants, and looking after prisoners of war. The decision to use force when all else has failed is a choice of the lesser of two evils. He concluded that the only way that evil can triumph is when the good man decides to do nothing.
Then Martin Layton, of Bewdley Quakers, opposed the motion. The main thrust of his argument was that the motives for war are never just; wars are usually started to protect a country's political and economic interests and to get more power. He stated that fear, hatred and revenge have powerful propaganda value, and that atrocities are considered in isolation, apart from root causes, in order to encourage over-simplified responses. He stated that authority is always self-legitimising, and commented on the fact that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council also dominate the international arms trade. War is all atrocity and outrage; it is impossible to contain, and only the victors get to dispense justice. He concluded that war is a business and a crime and must be stopped.
Ian Kirby of Kidderminster seconded the motion. He argued that the just war principles places limits on warfare. He acknowledged that Christians struggle with warfare, but also that we shouldn't be passive in the face of aggression. Civil disobedience only works when there is a framework of law. We can't just sit by and let genocide happen - we need to intervene. He concluded by reiterating the just war principles mentioned above.
Moira Brown (Bewdley Quakers) seconded the opposition to the motion. She mentioned the Quaker Peace Testimony; that it was about deeds not creeds - a way of living. This is based on integrity, patience and love, not by adopting the ways of an oppressor. Justice is achieved not by war, but by peacemaking. She argued that the refusal to go to war is not surrender, and mentioned the two Quaker offices in Geneva and New York, which exist to facilitate dialogue between potential enemies. She concluded that wars create more problems than they solve.
The debate was then thrown open, and after a vigorous question and answer session, the question was put to the vote. Four people voted in favour, 12 against with two abstensions. Interestingly, two people had changed their minds during the course of the evening. We then adjourned for a peaceful chat over tea and coffee in the Pearsall Room.
other unitarian events
other unitarian news
Report of GA Annual Meetings 2012
This year's Annual Meetings of the General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches were held at the University of Keele in Staffordshire. Nearly 20 Unitarians from 11 different MUA congregations were among the 300 or so Unitarians who had gathered from all over the United Kingdom. Winnie Gordon and I were there in our capacity as Ministry Students, so were kept busy counting votes during the plenary sessions. Alison Thursfield was there as a member of the national Executive Committee; Gavin Lloyd led the morning devotions on Good Friday (and was the only speaker who did not need a microphone!) and Angela Maher did a presentation in her role as Chair of the Visibility Strategy Group. And of course it was Lay Pastor of Kidderminster Kath Forder's "moment of glory" as she was formally added to the Roll of Lay Pastors during the Anniversary Service. During the same service, it was good to note that Malcolm's Sadler's retirement as Lay Leader of Banbury was also marked.
The four days of the meetings were the usual mix of business and worship and break-out meetings by all the Unitarian societies, and general good fellowship, which is the joy of being with many Unitarians in one place. Highlights for me included the John Relly Beard Lecture, delivered this year by Rev. Peter Owen-Jones, presenter of Around the World in 80 Faiths, in which he spoke about the importance of realising that we are all on this planet together, humans, animals and plants alike, and that there is a new spirituality emerging, which has at its core a creation-centred identity - "not to be perfect but to strive for wholeness and integration."
Also the keynote speech by Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain (their equivalent of our Chief Officer, Derek McAuley), who spoke movingly about the future of liberal religions from a Quaker perspective. I would guess that most of those present identified strongly with the challenges he spoke about:
- to try to understand what is going on with our membership, in terms of age distribution etc
- being confident about who we are and what we offer and being able to talk about it to others
- how to answer the question "I'm a Quaker [Unitarian] - ask me why" in language accessible to new people
- living up to what we say and believe - putting our faith into action
- how do people know we exist - how to raise visibility
- making sure that people can find us, and that they feel welcome when they do
- being vibrant, effective communities
- recognising the variety of ministries within the Quaker [Unitarian] community - acknowledging what people bring and the service they offer
It was also good to learn a little more about the new Strategic Groups: Ministry, Local Leadership and Visibility, and about a new initiative, which was launched by Rev. Andy Pakula: the 2020 Unitarian Congregational Development Fund, which has grand plans for renewing existing congregations and planting new ones.
The food was good and the fellowship was better - what more could you ask?