The existence of the management committee can be readily detected by the presence of sandwiches, hastily scoffed between 12-12.30 on one Sunday every month, before the Committee Members retire to the small meeting room clutching their copies of the agenda. What exactly happens in the small meeting room? Wonder no more!
The Management Committee – the background
The Church of the Divine Unity (to give us our formal name) has two founding documents; the Conveyance of 24 December 1853, and the “Church Rules”, originally established in 1972 and sometimes called the “little blue book”. As well as setting out the conditions for church membership, the Church Rules also sets out how the church should be run, which includes the role of the management committee.
Why do we have a management committee, and what does it do?
According to the Church Rules, “The general management of the affairs of the church shall be under the direction of the committee”. There are two specific roles: Treasurer and Secretary, plus six ordinary membership posts and any co-opted members, and it is required to meet once a month (except in August). “General management of the affairs of the church” in practice means:
- Administering all property, cash, bequests, legacies and investments belonging to the church – essentially, looking after the church’s finances
- Ensuring the organisation meets any legal requirements, such as health and safety
- In the absence of a minister, arranging for people to take the services (“pulpit supply”)
- Generally promoting the church’s three objectives. These are set out in the Preamble in the Blue Book, and can be roughly summarised* as:
- Promoting worship
- Carrying on and promoting the work and principles of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
- Promoting union, sympathy and co-operation among those who reject for themselves and others the imposition of creeds or articles of theological belief as a condition of association in religious fellowship
* The exact wording of the three clauses has been the source of some debate within the church, and (knowing Unitarians) will probably continue to be so in future.
How do you get onto it?
Any member of the church may be nominated for a post on the committee. The formal procedure is:
- One month before the Annual Meeting: members of the church are nominated for Management Committee membership, for any of the positions on the committee. Any member of the church may nominate any other member, with their consent.
- One week before the Annual Meeting: the Secretary sends a notice of meeting to all church members, which includes the nomination list
- At the Annual Meeting: if there are more candidates than posts on the Committee, an election is held. If not, people are appointed unopposed.
What do the members do?
There are three formal posts on the committee. Of these, the Secretary and Treasurer are directly elected at the AGM (the Chair is chosen by the Committee at the first meeting following the AGM).
- Chair: Elected every year at the first Committee meeting following the Annual meeting. Responsible for running meetings – including Committee meetings, Annual meetings, and any special congregational meetings – efficiently, fairly, and in accordance with the rules, so that decisions taken at them are valid.
- Secretary: Responsible for being the “keeper of all books and papers having reference to the business of the Management Committee and congregation”, taking minutes, dealing with correspondence, and generally ensuring that meetings take place, are well-organised, and that resolutions emerging from them are carried out.
- Treasurer: The “custodian of all monies subscribed to or collected in the Church”. Responsible for overseeing the church’s finances, including submitting monthly reports to the management committee, and a full report to the Annual Meeting of all church members. (There are several more specialised rules relating to the disposal and management of specific forms of income and investment, which can be read about in the blue book should you so choose.)
It may be noted that this does not include the position of Minister. The church Minister (when we had one) is allowed to “be a member of sub-committees and may …in an advisory capacity, attend any meetings of the Management Committee”. The Minister’s role would traditionally be to focus upon the church’s spiritual development, and carry out pastoral duties.
The role of ordinary committee members is to consider the issues raised at the meetings, and make decisions in the church’s best interests. They may have a particular interest or project, such as writing the calendar, arranging the pulpit supply, or managing the Facebook page! The committee may also include co-opted members, who are members of the church who have been co-opted onto the committee to represent a particular project or interest.
What gets discussed at meetings?
Pretty much what you might expect! The standard topics are: building-related matters, pulpit supply, the treasurer’s report, activities, publicity and outreach, and upcoming events (also correspondence and any matters arising from the previous meeting). Other recent issues have included the sale of the building, the possibility of the church getting a student pastor, and reports from the General Assembly and Northern Unitarian Association.
Can anyone attend a meeting?
Any church member may attend a management committee meeting as an observer, and you are welcome to do so. If you’d like to do this, please let a member of the committee know prior to the meeting. (It helps us make sure we’ve got enough chairs in the room and copies of the agenda!)
Should I consider being on it?
Yes, if you’d like to contribute to the running of the church, you have an idea about how things can be done, or you’d just like to gain a greater insight into what is needed to keep the church going. You can be on the committee for a year, or for longer, depending on your personal circumstances.