Annual Meeting of British Unitarians

By UUA International Resources

The General Assembly ofUnitarian and Free Christian Churches (UK) held its Annual General Meeting at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, England from March 26-29, 2008. Approximately 400 people gathered for the meeting from the UK and abroad, including representatives from Ireland, Transylvania, Uganda, South Africa and the USA.

Highlights of the meeting included:

  • A celebration of the Centenary of the Unitarian Women's League. To commemorate this anniversary the annual John Relly Beard lecture was presented by the Principal of the Unitarian College Manchester – Rev. Ann Peart – on the subject of women’s leadership throughout the history of Unitarianism in the UK. A special worship service celebrating the professional and lay leadership of women was also held, along with a reception. And, a Motion stating,
was unanimously passed as the first item of business for the Assembly.
  • The Chief Executive of the GA, Reverend Steve Dick was officially installed in a “Service of Recognition”.
  • A full day was spent focusing on “Growth and Renewal”. Among the events of the day were the presentation of reflections from a diverse group of Unitarian leaders on the meaning of “Growth” and “Renewal”. The gathered attendees spent two sessions in small groups discussing different aspects of growth and renewal, ranging from “Spirituality” and “Numerical Growth” to “Communications”, and “New Starts”. Attendees were asked to submit specific commitments they could make to this ongoing work.
  • Terrific Workshops were offered during the meeting including an exciting presentation about the progress of the new hymn book commission, a new system for supporting relationships between congregations and ministers designed by the Partnership Support Panel, an International Association of Religious Freedom worship service, an International workshop, and a presentation from the “Future Ministry” working group which is involved with sustaining religious leadership for all congregations.
  • The annual “Anniversary Service” honored the lives of ministers who had died during the past year, ministers who are retiring, and 5 new religious leaders.A stirring sermon was offered by Reverend Art Lester entitled, “Reasonless Hope and Joy”.The service concluded with “Nearer My God to Thee” sung in full voice by all assembled.
  • Two social justice programs that have received wide-spread support from Unitarian congregations in the UK were proposed as resolutions for the GA, and were each overwhelmingly adopted,
    • Regarding Penal Reform:
      This [GA] urges Her Majesty’s Government to focus more fully on strategies for prevention of crime and rehabilitation of offenders and to rely less often on ineffective punishments, such as imprisonment.
    • Regarding Civil Partnerships:
      That this General Assembly, mindful of the need for marriages and civil partnerships to be placed on an equal footing, and the need for full compliance with the spirit of the Human Rights Act, resolves that relevant legislation should be introduced so as to permit ceremonies celebrating civil partnerships to be performed in any place of worship or other premises licensed for the celebration of marriage, with the agreement of the celebrant.

The atmosphere of the gathering was warm and congenial, and a buzz of excitement about the past, present and future of British Unitarianism was stirring.

This General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches congratulates theBritish League of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women on its centenary and marks with gratitude the significant contribution of the League and its members to the life of the Unitarian movement over the past hundred years

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