The Northern Unitarian Association is over 170 years old, but what is it and what does it do – and why should you join?
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (the umbrella body for Unitarians in the UK) divides the UK up into 16 districts. Each district has an association, most of which formed in the 19th century, and which exist to promote Unitarianism in their district, and provide support for congregations within the district. The Northern region is bordered by the Yorkshire Unitarian Union and the North & East Lancashire Unitarian Mission to the south and west, and the Scottish region to the north. The NUA has its roots in the “Newcastle and North of England Unitarian Tract and Missionary Society”, which was founded in 1845. It later became the “North of English Unitarian Christian Association” in 1850, then the “Northumberland and Durham Unitarian Association”, and later being known as simply “The Northern Unitarian Association”.
Why do we have a Northern Unitarian Association?
The NUA exists to
- Promote Unitarian principles and values, in accordance with the Objects of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, in the North of England
- Facilitate the joining together in fellowship of Unitarian churches, fellowships and individual Unitarians situated within Northern region area.
- Grant aid to Unitarian churches and fellowships in need of assistance within the Northern Region.
Recently the NUA held several discussions on its purpose, and the consensus was that the NUA should increasingly focus on supporting Unitarians in the Northern Region who have no local congregation, or are unable to get to one due to their personal circumstances. We will also provide information and support to anyone wanting to set up a Unitarian church or fellowship in the region. The NUA is also needed to administer the financial legacies of congregations within the district which have been wound up.
Are church members automatically NUA members?
At present, no. A member can be either: a) an entire church or fellowship, b) any individual Unitarian in the region who wishes to become a subscribing member. Happily, it is easy to join the NUA by letting the NUA Secretary (currently Hazel Warhurst at Stockton) know that you wish to join, and paying a small annual subscription fee, currently the princely sum of £2. You can also talk to your church’s representative. At Newcastle upon Tyne this is currently Louise Reeve.
What do I get out of membership?
When people take out membership of the NUA, it helps the NUA’s work of supporting and promoting Unitarianism in the Northern Region, including being able to access funding to attend Unitarian courses (such as “Build Your Own Theology” and the Local Leadership training). It also builds closer links between churches, fellowships and individual Unitarians in the Northern Region, including at the annual Whitby trip!
What happens at the NUA AGM?
The NUA AGM alternates between the two churches; in 2017 it will be hosted by Stockton Unitarians. The AGM takes place during the morning of the weekend, but we aim to make it much more than this, opening with a short ceremony, and sharing lunch immediately after the AGM. The afternoon sees a discussion of the year’s achievements, our goals for the coming year, and a talk by a leading Unitarian; this year it will be Rev. Charles van den Broeder, current Unitarian President.
Can anyone attend an NUA meeting?
Any church member may attend an NUA meeting as an observer, and you are welcome to do so. If you’d like to do this, please let a member of the NUA committee know prior to the meeting. (It helps us make sure we’ve got enough chairs in the room and copies of the agenda!) We will endeavour to put write-ups into the church calendars.
How does it work?
The decision-making body of the NUA is the Executive Committee, which meets at least twice a year in February and June. This consists of:
- the three Officers (President, Secretary and Treasurer)
- two representatives for each member church or fellowship, and
- the Minister or Lay Pastor of each member church or fellowship (if applicable).
The Executive Committee is responsible to the Annual General Meeting of all NUA members, which happens in September or October each year at the NUA Weekend. In 2017, this will be held at Stockton on 7 October 2017. All NUA members, and non-members who are interested in the work of the NUA, are invited to attend.
How is the NUA financed?
It receives income from two trust funds set up after the sale of the former Sunderland and Carlisle Unitarian churches, from its investments and from individual and church subscriptions. This is enough to enable the NUA to pay for its delegate to the GA meetings and make grants for various purposes. Currently it helps young Unitarians in the north east to attend Unitarian Youth Programme events and gives annual grants to several Unitarian causes and occasional appeals. The District also contributed 1/3 of the cost of the recent Growth Initiative. Past practice has also been for the NUA to give stipend grants to any member church employing a minister.
Is it just the Newcastle and Stockton churches?
No, although they are currently the only Unitarian churches in the northern region. There have been more previously; we may hope that there will be other northern Unitarian congregations in the future. The NUA is the association for all Unitarians in the Northern region, and we hope that in the future we will be able to focus more on supporting everyone, not only those who attend church.
Many thanks to Hazel Warhurst, David Warhurst, and Mike Tomlin for their help writing this.