The congregation of Birmingham Unitarian New Meeting Church commemorated the centenary of the death of eminent Unitarian Joseph Chamberlain, who died on 2nd July 1914, on Sunday 29th June 2014. It really was an impressive occasion. The service started as the official guests (who included representatives from the local mosque, Anglican church and progressive synagogue; from the University, which Chamberlain had been instrumental in founding; from the Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College; Councillor John Cotton, from the City Council; and Martin and Christine Kenrick, who are related to the Chamberlain family).
Unitarians were represented by Mr. Alan Ruston, who gave a fascinating talk about Chamberlain’s life and work; Mrs. Alison Thursfield, who was representing the General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches, Rev. Sue Woolley, who was representing the District, and Rev. Winnie Gordon, as incoming minister of the Unitarian New Meeting congregation. The service was led by Dr. Ralph Catts, as the last act of his student pastorate, which has been a great success.
Following Alan Ruston’s presentation, we were treated to several contributions from students at the Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, who gave short speeches as characters who had been influenced / benefited by Chamberlain. Then Birmingham‘s brand new minister, Rev. Winnie Gordon, led the congregation in an inter-faith prayer, which was followed by a short tribute to Chamberlain by Cllr. John Cotton. The official part of the service concluded with some spirited singing by the Joseph Chamberlain choir, including UNM’s own David Jones and David Gaussen. Then we all moved into the Priestley Room for refreshments, and to look at the very interesting inter-faith display. It was a joyous occasion.