The 2018 UK Unitarian General Assembly – Report

The 2018 UK Unitarians General Assembly took place between 4-8 April in the Staverton Estate Hotel, Daventry. I attended as the representative for the Northern Unitarian Association, with Diana Bebby (representative) and Ben MacLeod attending from the Newcastle Unitarian Church, and several members attending from Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church. Once more, it was great to spend three days in the company of other Unitarians, many of whom I know from last year and from their visiting our church.

The Plenaries

As the church representative, I attended all seven plenary sessions. The plenaries have several purposes: allowing attendees to hear the annual reports of all the various strategy groups (Youth Strategy Group, Visibility Strategy Group, and so forth). Several motions were put to the vote at the plenaries, and I am grateful to the Northern Unitarian Association Management Committee for valuable discussions about which way we wanted to vote. A quick summary of the motions debated is below (other motions related to more procedural matters were passed on a general aye):

 

Motion

no.

Name Comments Results
1 Format of meetings Executive Committee: That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches accepts the changes to the length and format of the Annual Meetings [as set out in report AGM13/18]; and that the General Assembly’s Constitution be amended There shall be a maximum of FOUR ordinary motions accepted for debate by the Assembly. There shall be a maximum of ONE Emergency Motion (except in exceptional circumstances) accepted for debate by the Assembly. Passed
2 Rev. Ann Peart Executive Committee: That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches recognises the considerable

contribution of Rev Dr Ann Peart to Unitarians in the United Kingdom by naming her as an Honorary

Member.

Passed
3 Alan Ruston Executive Committee:  That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches recognises the considerable contribution of Alan Ruston to Unitarians in the United Kingdom by naming him as an Honorary Member Passed
4 Small Congregations Executive Committee:  “2.2 Transitional Arrangements [by=law amendment]: Congregations admitted to membership as at 4 April 2018 under “2.2 Small Congregations” will be recognised as Members of the Assembly with Full voting rights. Passed
5 Equality Trust FOY Society: This General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches … resolves that the General Assembly signifies its support by registering as an affiliate of the Trust and instructs the Executive Committee to make the necessary arrangements to put this into effect as soon as possible after these meetings. Passed
6 New forms of membership Fulwood Old Chapel: “That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches …calls upon the Executive Committee to propose changes to the  Constitution that will allow for new forms of membership to be accepted and will allow for  such members to be represented in the  business of the Assembly.” Referred for further discussion and amendment
7 Impact of Austerity on Women That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches … calls upon all Unitarians and Free Christians to initiate and supporte actions at congregational level to support women in their community

affected by these [austerity] measures through involvement where possible in local community projects and/or raising funds for the same, ask our chief officer to lobby parliament if and when possible for an end to the current austerity measures and take specific collective action to support the above.

Passed
8 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Unitarian Peace Fellowship: This General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches … urges fellow Unitarians and congregations to write to the Prime Minister, MPs and, where appropriate, members of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, to call on the UK Government to abide fully by its legal obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and to express their support for the TPNW and promote awareness of the TPNW in our chapels and local communities and through letters to the press.  

The full details of these motions, and the background to them, are available online, or I can provide a copy. The final session ended with the investiture of our new GA President, Joan Cook from Edinburgh Unitarians.

The Workshops

I found the workshops to be extremely helpful, perhaps the most valuable part of the GA for me personally. They allow attendees a chance to hear from the various strategy groups and UK Unitarian organisations, including the ‘using technology to enhance congregational life’ workshop from Hibbert Trust, taking part in the Findhorn Unitarian Network Workshop, and learning about what is happening with the Inquirer. I also took the opportunity to purchase some new Unitarian books for the church from the well-stocked bookshop, and keep up on the events I was missing via the invaluable “GA Zette” daily news digest, produced by a team of keen young Unitarians.

The Worship and Evening Sessions

Worship sessions consisted of morning worship, the evening sessions, and Peace Vespers at the end of each day. Wednesday evening ended with the opening service – a very entertaining service from the BUYAN young Unitarians – Thursday with the social evening, and Friday with the anniversary service.