You will sometimes hear the phrase “church member” being used. This means anyone who has taken out membership of the church, as defined in our constitution. This article sets out what this means and how you can join.
Like many churches, the Newcastle Unitarian Church has a set of “Church Rules”, originally established in 1972 and sometimes called the “little blue book”. The church rules are effectively the church’s constitution, setting out our purpose as a church, and our organisational structure. This includes how people can become members.
How do you become a member?
Anyone aged over 18 can become a member of the church if they ask either the Church Secretary or Church Treasurer if they can become one, if the church’s Management Committee agrees to accept them, and if they agree to regularly contribute to the church’s funds. Since people usually become members after attending the church for a period of time, they are usually already contributing at the weekly collection during services, and acceptance is generally a formality. There is currently no minimum requirement for the contribution, as we do not want anyone’s personal circumstances to prevent them from becoming a member.
When and why do people become members?
The Church Rules state that becoming a member means “entering into fellowship with other members of the church”. Usually the decision to become a church member is a way of affirming someone’s commitment to being a Unitarian and being part of the Newcastle Unitarian Church. It is also a way of becoming more involved in the running of the church, as membership confers the right to vote during elections to the church’s management committee, and on decisions made at congregational meetings (such as the recent special meeting about the future of our building). Church members can represent the Newcastle church at the annual UK Unitarian General Assembly, and can stand for election to the management committee should they wish to.
Do other churches do this?
Yes. All other Unitarian churches and fellowship also have membership systems. Each year they report to the General Assembly (the national organisation for UK Unitarians) how many members they have, and pay a “quota payment” of £35 per member to the General Assembly. This helps to sustain the national movement and ensure they can keep providing us with support.
Do I have to become a member to keep coming to the church?
No. Everyone is welcome to attend, and it is not necessary to be a member to do so – it’s a personal choice, not a requirement. People may attend for many years and contribute a great deal to the life of the church without becoming members.
Is there a ceremony?
There is no single formal Unitarian ceremony for becoming a member, but many Unitarian churches like to mark the occasion as something to celebrate. Recently we have adopted the wording of the Unitarian Universalist new member ceremony (https://www.uua.org/worship/words/ceremony/184716.shtml) for these occasions, although if someone prefers to become a member without a public ceremony, the church respects their choice.