Key Messages from the MUA Executive Committee 18th May 2019

  1. The Charity Commission is introducing a new Declaration of Eligibility for Trustees, which all trustees of registered charities will be required to complete. MUA Treasurer, Mr Sandy Ellis will be circulating a document about this in the near future.
  2. From this meeting, grants to the two Unitarian ministerial training colleges will be paid pro rata, according to the number of students attending in that academic year.

Raising our Voices in Worship

This year’s Spring Training Day, on 11th May at Unitarian New Meeting in Birmingham, was on the theme ‘Music in Worship. Rev Ant Howe, minister at Kingswood and Ministry Tutor of Unitarian College, led most of it.

We started with a general session on music in worship, which included singing several hymns. We were lucky that there were several strong singers among the 13 participants. Then Ant led us in a Taize style service, which was wonderful.

After lunch, Rev Danny Crosby and Sue Blackshaw came and gave us the experience of a fabulous Singing Meditation, accompanied by hand-drums. The day finished with a ‘putting it all together’ session, and yes, we sang again.

It was a wonderfully rich and enjoyable day, and we are most grateful to Ant, Danny and Sue for leading it for us.

Buffet-style Asparagus Lunch a success

Last Wednesday, 8th May, the Warwickshire and Neighbouring Counties Monthly Meeting of Protestant Dissenting Ministers held their annual Asparagus Service and Lunch, at Oat Street Chapel in Evesham. This lunch has been held annually since the beginning of the 19th century. This year, over forty Unitarians from around the District gathered to celebrate its beginnings, and to listen to an excellent service on the theme ‘Tending space within earth’s garden’ by Rev Peter Hewis. We also enjoyed asparagus soup, an excellent buffet-style main course, and a choice between chocolate fudge cake and fruit salad for dessert, all provided by Jill Bowie.

Photo by Peter Forder

Why do we do this? To quote Maureen Butler, a member at Oat Street,

“It all began in 1782 when the dissenting ministers gathered at West Bromwich Presbyterian Old Meeting and resolved to meet monthly in order to promote and encourage ‘an earnest and active interest in all matters reflecting religious liberty… particularly in matters affecting equal rights of all denominations before the law.’

At that time, it was strictly illegal for non-conformist ministers to gather to discuss seemingly ‘heretical’ ideas but, embellished with delicious seasonal asparagus, the May meetings started to be held at Oat Street Chapel, where gathering under the guise of an asparagus lunch provided the perfect smokescreen. … In those days, Evesham was a real ‘hot-bed of heresy’…”

Our Ministers’ Meeting still meets four times a year, one of which is the Asparagus Lunch. We traditionally invite the President of the General Assembly to do the toast

“To civil and religious liberty, the world over.”

This year’s President, Rev Celia Cartwright, reminded us that the battle for civil and religious liberty was far from over. She concluded her speech with the words, “When, in a moment, we rise to offer this toast, may it mean more than an echo of our past. Let it mean that we hold in our hearts all those who suffer beneath unjust civil and religious laws that their suffering may cease. Let us hold in our hearts all those who impose unjust civil and religious laws; let us hold in our hearts all those who strive for peace in our world, which can only come when in truth our desire for civil and religious liberty the world over has come to pass. May our hearts be open, that we too might not forget that in our lives our goal must be to strive for the rights of all persons to civil and religious liberty.”

Rev Celia Cartwright with Ministers’ Meeting Secretary, Rev Sue Woolley

MUA AGM at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church

Nearly 40 Unitarians from around the Midlands gathered at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church on Saturday 30th March, for the MUA’s Annual General Meeting. Our new President, for the years 2019 – 21, is Angela Maher, of Unitarian New Meeting Church, Birmingham.

After the business meeting and a delicious buffet lunch (organised by the SUC congregation) we enjoyed a thought-provoking service by Angela on the theme of loving our neighbour, which was complemented by our Guest Speaker, Karen Hanley, Parliamentary liaison person for Unitarians. Karen and her husband, Peter, got us all on our feet, moving into small groups to discuss past General Assembly resolutions we were passionate about, and to decide what we wanted to do about those issues, moving forward.

It was a rich and enjoyable day.

Meeting with Elizabeth Slade, incoming Chief Officer of the General Assembly

A goodly number of us met the incoming GA Chief Officer, Elizabeth Slade, on Friday 29th March, at Unitarian New Meeting Church in Birmingham. It was a very fruitful and interesting exchange of views – she told us something of her background, and of her hopes for the future. We shared our concerns and joys about Unitarianism.

Liz asked several challenging questions:

  • How do we invite more people into the movement?
  • How do we tell the story of what we stand for and protect the good things we’re already doing, while inviting those people in?
  • How can we share our learning and principles?
  • What can we do differently to help us attract new people?
  • How do we continually shine the light on the positive things and grow from these strengths?
  • And, what do you want us to be remembered for, in 200 years’ time?

I think all of us left UNM feeling inspired and encouraged. We wish Liz all the very best for her tenure as Chief Officer.

Key messages from MUA Executive Committee 26th January 2019

1. MUA Annual General Meeting: this will be held at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church on Saturday 30th March. Guest Speaker: Karen Hanley, Parliamentary liaison person for Unitarians.
2. Spring Training Day: the theme will be ‘Music in Worship’. Course Leaders are Revs Ant Howe and Danny Crosby. At Kingswood on Saturday 16th March.
3. Meet the new Unitarian Chief Officer: members of the Executive Committee will be meeting Elizabeth Slade, the incoming Unitarian Chief Officer, on either 28th or 29th March.

Key Messages of MUA Executive Committee 1st December 2018

  1. MUA Annual General Meeting 2019 will be held at Shrewsbury Unitarian Church on Saturday 30th March. Guest Speaker to be confirmed.
  2. Spring Training Day: the theme will be ‘Music in Worship’. Date to be confirmed.
  3. MU Now: the deadline for the next issue is Friday 4th January. The theme is ‘New year, new hope’. All contributions to Sue Woolley, please.

Putting the Worth into Worship

Twelve of us spent a very enjoyable day at Kingswood on Saturday 10th November, discovering how to ‘put the worth into worship’. This training day was led by Rev. Ant Howe, Kingswood’s minister.

He had asked each participant to bring an “item of personal worth” with them, and after the opening devotions, we sang ‘Bring Flowers to Our Altar’ and brought our items to the table, sharing what they meant to us. Each sharing was followed by a period of silence, and it was a beautiful, meaningful ritual.

We also wrote some original worship material while we were there – I am hoping that this can be shared on the website in the near future.

Our thanks to Ant for a rich and enjoyable day.

Midland Unitarian Association Lunch a success

More than 30 Unitarians gathered at Kingswood Meeting House on Saturday 3rd November, to share food and fellowship, and to listen to our Guest Speaker, Rev. Daniel Costley, who is the minister of five congregations in Kent. His talk was both instructive and entertaining. Here he is in Kingswood’s pulpit (photo by Ant Howe):


After the talk there was a lively question and answer session. Then we adjourned to the schoolroom for lunch. Jill Bowie and her staff did us proud, and everyone enjoyed this Unitarian social occasion.




Malcolm Sadler 1935 – 2018

We are sad to report that Malcolm Sadler, a past President of the Midland Unitarian Association, died in hospital on 17th October. His memorial service was held on Friday 2nd November, at Warwick Chapel, which he served faithfully for more than 50 years. Indeed it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that without Malcolm, Warwick Unitarians would no longer exist, let alone as the thriving congregation they now are.

His memorial service was a joyous occasion. Led by Rev. Ant Howe, who had been his minister at Warwick for the past few years, it included many special memories, and laughter as well as tears. It seemed peculiarly appropriate that the accompanist got stuck in traffic, so that for the first part of the service, Ant had to dash from piano to reading desk, just as Malcolm used to. The service included a tribute from his long-time friend, Peter Sampson, with whom Malcolm collaborated on the production of Let Us Sing, affectionately known as “the pink hymnbook”.

The Warwick congregation laid on a sumptuous spread afterwards for the many attenders – Malcolm was well-known and well-loved in his lifetime. Folk came from as far as Rochdale and Lancaster to pay tribute to him.

His dedication, and gentle, loving presence will be long remembered.