We, all of us here, are all part of the GA, being as it is, made up of the Unitarian Churches and Chapels in Britain, as well as the associated societies, e.g. the Historical, Music, Psychical to name a few. And as for ‘What’s the GA Ever Done for Us?’ this is something that is heard quite often, usually as a joke, but a joke with a bit of a sting behind it. One of the reasons for that is that there are many people who don’t actually know what the GA is, never mind what it does.
Amongst the things the GA does is, it provides information and assistance with a wide range of areas; it provides booklets and pamphlets, advises on matters regarding buildings, governance, legal issues and charity compliance. It promotes development with varied training programmes, ‘Help is at Hand’ for trustees, religious education programmes, and a youth programme. The GA undertakes the supervision of Safeguarding within our movement; assisting congregations to implement Safeguarding policies and dealing with Safeguarding issues, as and when they arise, is also part of the GA role.
It is the GA who plan and deliver our annual meetings every year, and if you have never been to an Annual Meeting, I would encourage you to do so, they are so much more than business meetings, especially when we have the opportunity to share our venue with ‘Comi-Con’ characters! The GA ensures Unitarians are represented locally, nationally and internationally. This usually falls to our President, as well as our most able Chief Officer, Derek McAuley, who works closely with the EC and the team at Essex Hall, Unitarian Headquarters in London, when he isn’t off to Westminster, or being interviewed for some publication!
The work of our Church Councils, management committees, is concerned with our well-being as church communities, as well as that of our wider community: the work of the General Assembly is concerned with the common good, the well-being of our fellow Unitarian communities, and the place of our movement in the greater community. As Kay Millard points out in her essay on Unitarianism and Community any Unitarian group should be an enabling group, and that is what I feel the GA is there to do, to enable our communities and societies in living and preaching Unitarian ideals.
This is an abridged version of Joan Cook’s sermon delivered in Newcastle on GA Sunday 24th June 2018.