Our annual Fellowship Service is always held in October; here’s why we hold it, when it started, and what it means to us.
When did it start and why do we hold it in October?
The Fellowship Service is held on the Sunday nearest the fifth of October (although on occasion it may be moved to avoid clashing with the Northern Unitarian Association AGM, which is also held during the first half of October). The reason for this date is that 5 October 1919 was the start of the long ministry at Newcastle upon Tyne Unitarians by Rev. Herbert Barnes. Since then, the Fellowship Service has been held on or around that date. It is, in effect, the church’s Annual Reunion, in which members past and present, and those with a long-standing relationship to the church, are invited to attend a special service to celebrate our fellowship.
It occurs on this particular date because this is the anniversary of the beginning of the Rev. Herbert Barnes’ long ministry at the church, on 5 October 1919, as is shown in the Calendar entry shown above, from 1947. Acting Church Secretary, Maurice Large, observes that “You will see that Herbert Barnes makes clear that it is his anniversary which has become known as Fellowship”. As such, in this decade we are approaching the 100th Fellowship Service!
What is it about?
“There is this constant coming into and going out of every church. That is the history of all churches. I have been, and the Church of the Divine Unity has been particularly blessed in this – that more have stayed in than gone out. Our love for each other, our respect and admiration of each other, has deepened with the passing of the years.”
Rev. Herbert Barnes, October 1947.
The principle of the service is to celebrate the fellowship shared by all who attend our church and lead worship there. This includes the following events, which may take place during the service as appropriate:
- welcoming members into the fellowship of the congregation
- welcoming junior members into full adult membership
- acknowledging any members who have passed away in the previous 12 months and who have been duly recorded in the Robinson Book of Memorials.
For this reason we traditionally make an extra effort to invite all members past and present, including our fellow members of the Northern Unitarian Association and Stockton congregation. We celebrate by hosting lunch at the church following the service.
“The spirit in my heart as I approach my Anniversary Sunday is gratitude for friends. Let the Week End of October 5th be one of glad reunion, with thanksgiving for the past and courage for the future.”