Wonderfully enjoyable Training Day on Weddings

On Saturday 1st April, eight participants came together from the Midlands and farther afield, to learn how to conduct a Unitarian Wedding. The day was led by Rev. Martin Whitell, District Minister of the London & South East District & Provincial Assembly. The handouts were marvellous – so very useful for the future – but the best bit came in the afternoon, when we all got to practice “marrying” each other, both as men and women, and as same-sex couples. Martin took the photo below, in which Gavin Lloyd is “marrying” Rev. Sue Woolley to Debra Burbery of Shrewsbury. By the time we had all had a go at being celebrant, we felt much more confident about the whole process.

Our hearty thanks to Martin for a splendid and informative day.

Celebrating High Tides and Low Tides at the District AGM

Saturday 25th March saw nearly 40 Unitarians from across the District meeting at Kingswood Meeting House to take part in the 151st Annual General Meeting of the Midland Unitarian Association.

The business meeting was over in just under an hour, and included a special presentation to our dedicated Treasurer, Mr. Sandy Ellis, to mark his 34 years of service to the District. Our new President is Ms. Diane Rutter, of Kingswood, and our new Vice-President is Ms. Angela Maher, of Birmingham UNM. We also gave thanks to outgoing President, Mrs. Jane Couper of Evesham.

Business over, we came together in the Kingswood schoolroom to enjoy an excellent buffet lunch, laid on by Jill Bowie and her helpers. Then it was time to re-convene, for the new President’s service, and to listen to our Guest Speaker, Rev. Danny Crosby, minister of the Altrincham and Urmston congregations in the North West.

Diane spoke about life in terms of high tides and low tides, varying between times of activity and involvement, and times of quietness and reflection. Life and ministry are sometimes brilliant, sometimes the reverse, but mostly about getting through the ordinary days every day. She shared a time of stillness and reflection by Simon John Barlow, which was about the holiness of ordinary days, and concluded with a hymn which she said could be the anthem for Unitarianism in the Midlands: no. 42 in the purple book Remember the past, work in the present to ensure the future.

Danny’s talk was about how Love changes everything, and will be published in full in the May issue of MU Now.¬† His theme was that impermanence is the energy and beauty of life, and that the spiritual life is about being awake to the wonders of life. There are both wonderful and painful moments, and everything is in change.

He commented that we seem to be living in more fearful times at present, to have lost faith with each other. But lots of people still look at life with loving eyes. He said that Love was equally as strong as fear. Taking up Diane’s metaphor of tides, he explained that love and fear are like two forces pushing and pulling at our lives, and that we as Unitarians need to have faith in life, and try to live it in love. He concluded by asking those present to keep journeying on to new awakenings, and to live out of love, rather than fear.

All in all, it was a rich and enjoyable day.

Participants discover How Unitarians Do Communion

Seventeen participants from seven MUA congregations enjoyed a rich day of sharing and learning at Kingswood Meeting House on Saturday 4th March. In the four sessions, led respectively by Sue Woolley, Cressida Pryor, Diane Rutter, and Simon Hall, we learned about Flower Communion, Earth Spirit Communion, Free Christian Communion, and Water Communion.

What made the day so special was that not only did the session leaders explain the background to each type of communion ritual, we also had the chance to participate in them. The weather was kind, and the Earth Spirit Communion session could take place outside, which added a whole extra dimension to it.

There was also time for questions and comments, and everyone learned something new. Grateful thanks to all the session leaders, and to the participants, for being so open-minded and open-hearted.

Key Messages from MUA EC meeting 21/01/2017

  1. Inviting User Groups to Services: the congregation at Coventry have invited groups using their building to special services, such as Harvest and Christmas. They commend the idea to other congregations, as it improves the relationship between congregation and users.
  2. Spring Training Day 2017: the topic will be How Unitarians do Communion; it is taking place on 4th March, at Kingswood. Secretaries have been sent a flyer for this event, and it is advertised on this website.
  3. The Northampton congregation is in the process of applying for registration for weddings and same-sex weddings.

Key Messages from MUA Executive Committee October Meeting

[my apologies for the late posting of these, due to an oversight]

1. Cotswold Group Ministry: Rev. Dr. Rob Whiteman starts his ministry with the Cotswold Group on Saturday 1st October.

2. MUA Annual General Meeting: the date for the 2017 AGM was set for Saturday 25th March, at Kingswood. Rev. Danny Crosby is to be our Guest Speaker.

3. Sabbatical: Rev. Sue Woolley had circulated a paper, requesting that she be granted a 10-week sabbatical from July – September 2017. This was approved unanimously by the committee, subject to the addition of a week 11, because she is intending to work during week 8.

Jane Couper: tel: 01386-839458 e-mail: janecouper@hotmail.co.uk
Sue Woolley: tel: 01604-870746; e-mail: revsuewoolley@gmail.com

Midlands Unitarians enjoy a convivial meal & stimulating talk (29/10/16)

Forty Unitarians from all over the Midlands and beyond (we had two visitors, from Hinckley and Cardiff) came together at Kingswood Meeting House this Saturday for the MUA Annual Lunch. This year our guest speaker was Patricia Earle, of the Women’s Federation for World Peace. Patricia spoke to us for an hour, sharing her passion for peace and reconciliation, and stories of how, from a very small beginning, she now hosts regular meetings for between 100 and 150 women of all faiths, in her own twice-extended home.
Topics at these meetings are many and varied, from raising awareness of the different conflicts going on in the world, through various issues pertaining to women, such as domestic violence, trafficking, breakdowns in families, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. She provides a safe and sacred space in which women of all races and cultures and faiths can share from the heart. It was inspirational to hear her speak.

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We then moved to the Schoolroom for the traditional, and delicious, Lunch. Jill Bowie and her assistants had performed their usual miracles, and provided us all with a tasty meal, catering for all tastes. It was an opportunity to share food together, and to spend time in conversation, getting to know Unitarians from other congregations around the Midlands. It was a most enjoyable occasion.

Autumn Training Day on Engagement Groups a success

Eleven Unitarians from six congregations gathered at Kingswood Meeting House on a sunny Saturday in October, to learn what Engagement Groups are about, and how to facilitate one. The course was led by Sue Woolley and Alison Thursfield. In the morning, participants were given a whistle-stop tour of engagements groups, covering why there is a check-in and check-out, and opening and closing devotions; why are engagement groups special; what sort of ground rules are needed if folk are to share deeply and openly in an atmosphere of trust; how to listen well; and a little about the role of the facilitator in holding and controlling the group.
Then, after a brief break for lunch, participants were divided into two groups, and enjoyed an actual engagement group experience, facilitated by Sue and Alison.
At the end of the day those present had a much clearer idea of what engagement groups are about, and why small group ministry can be so important in our congregations.

MUA Visit to Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Chapel

On Saturday 24th September, about 50 Unitarians from congregations around the Midlands made their various ways up to Quarry Bank Mill, in Cheshire. The traffic on the way up was atrocious, which meant the whole party did not meet up until later on.

My husband and I arrived about quarter to twelve, and found a few hardy souls waiting for us. Having heard that the coach containing most of the other visitors was going to be delayed, we decided to go ahead with the tour of the Mill.

It was fascinating – we were able to see how every stage of the cloth making process had worked, from the arrival of the bales of raw cotton, to the production of the finished, machine-woven cloth. Also, the changes that mechanisation had brought. The National Trust guides who were doing the demonstrations were very knowledgeable, and Michaela Heppingstall from Banbury, who has much experience of the textile industry, was able to tell us many interesting things about the current situation, all over the world.

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Loom & mechanised spinning (images by David Heppingstall)

After a very hasty refreshment break, we met up with the rest of the party at the beautiful little chapel which Unitarian Samuel Greg had built for his workers in Styal village in 1823. We were not surprised to hear that it is a very popular venue for weddings – they have about forty a year.

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(stock image: geograph.org.uk)
We were warmly welcomed by Rev. Alex Bradley, and several of the Styal congregation, who had all kindly given up their Saturday afternoons to be our hosts. Alex led a short worship service about building community and helping each other out, which was very well received. Then we adjourned to the church hall, to enjoy the warm hospitality of the Styal congregation. Not only was there tea and coffee, but also a delicious array of home-baked cakes – Styal member Beryl had been busy all week.

The visit concluded with a short tour of Styal village, which had been built for the workers by the Greg family. This was led by Ruth Taylor, another member of the congregation, who is also one of the official Mill guides. MUA Treasurer Sandy Ellis was thrilled to see a row of cottages, one of which had been the birthplace of his grandmother, Fanny Henshall.
Fortunately, the journey home was rather less arduous, and we were able to reflect on a most interesting & enjoyable day. SW

Key Messages – July 2016

  1. The MUA Annual Lunch will be taking place on Saturday 29th October, at Kingswood, with guest speaker Patricia Earl. All are welcome. Notices will be going out to Secretaries of congregations next month.

2. The Autumn Training Day, on the topic Engaging with Unitarianism: A Workshop on Engagement Groups and Sharing Our Ethos will be taking place on Saturday 15th October, at Kingswood, from 10.00 am to 4.15 pm. It will be facilitated by Rev. Sue Woolley, and MUA Past President Mrs. Alison Thursfield. All are welcome. Flyer going out with August Bits & Pieces.

Jane Couper: tel: 01386-839458 e-mail: janecouper@hotmail.co.uk

Sue Woolley: tel: 01604-870746; e-mail: revsuewoolley@gmail.com