Western Union News

The President’s Newsletter
No. 2

This is an occasional newsletter that I may write and distribute from time to time during my Presidency of the Western Union of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
I hope to circulate it to church secretaries and to members of WU Council.
I hope that church committees will consider some of my ideas
and act upon them as appropriate.

Executive Summary:
            The topics marked * may require action by your congregation’s committee.
            0. News item re our former WU Secretary, Anne Ashley.
            1. Current outline programme for Rev Maria Pap’s visit.
*          Appeal for more weekday congregational events for Rev Maria Pap
*          Appeal for more accommodation offers            
*          Appeal for more information on Local Radio stations, and local Newspapers

*          2. Worship Studies Course:  Appeal for more participants

*          3. GA participation and expenses:  Making use of Gift Aid.

            4. Burial Grounds

            5. Other news

0.  News item re Anne Ashley.
          I would like to extend the sympathy and best wishes of the Western Union Council to our former Secretary, Anne Ashley, upon the death of her daughter, Lynn.   As many of you will know, Anne Ashley was our very effective Secretary for many years until she resigned in haste to look after her daughter, Lynn, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.  I have great admiration for the care with which Anne and her family looked after Lynn.  Very occasionally we saw them together at WU events or occasions.
            Sheila Evans, of Plymouth, conducted the funeral service on 18th February.

1.  Outline Programme for Rev Maria Pap’s Visit
            Wed 16th July               Due to arrive at Luton Airport 7.45 am

            Sat   19th July   noon-4pm         (Offered) Western Union Welcome event at Sidmouth
            Sun 20th July  11 am   Service at Taunton
            Sun 27th July  11 am   Service at Plymouth
            Sun  3rd Aug   10.30 am  Service at Trowbridge
                                   6 pm    Service at Unitarian Meeting Bristol
            Mon 4th Aug to Fri 8th Aug:  daughter Abigail attending “Five Days Ago” at Hucklow
            Sun 10th Aug  11 am  Service at Bridport.
Here are some edited comments taken from an Email that Maria sent to me
which shows that some serious thinking is going into the preparation for this visit:

- the role of women ( ministers and laics) in the Church is a good topic - especially as I was one of the first women to be ordained
- a talk about the structure of the Church and the decision making is  another good topic
- I would suggest as another topic the history of the relationship between our Churches - it is important to learn not just about our church and faith but about our ongoing relationship- its history and perhaps its future
- for the presentations and discussion the topics you suggested are worthwhile- we could add  our forms of worship, our organizations ( Youth group, Women `s Association, Ministers`s Association, our high-schools etc.) and the presence of HUC in the ICUU and IARF
My concern is the topics for the services -  the History of the HUC could be just one address-. One should be about our theology- our form of Christianity and its place in the Christian world, one about our Unitarian message and one about the present of our denomination and expectations for the future.  We have just published a booklet with prayers and sermons- Words of worship from the Transylvanian Unitarians.
If you think about publishing the addresses in a booklet then I have to prepare them in advance- which would be a good thing.

*        Non-Sunday Events for Rev Maria Pap
          I would like to appeal to all our congregations to consider whether they have any weekday events or activities, or perhaps specially arranged meetings, to which they might invite Rev Maria Pap.  If you consider arranging some special event, either for fund raising, or to attract the general public in your area to your church, or just for your members, then I am sure that Maria will be able to offer to present an illustrated talk about both the scenic and the Unitarian attractions of Transylvania.   At present only Sidmouth has offered some non-Sunday events with two suggestions in addition to offering to host the WU Welcoming event.

*        More Accommodation offers, please
            I would like to appeal for more offers of hospitality and accommodation for Rev Maria Pap and her husband and 17-year old daughter, Abigail.  If necessary, the offer could be for Laszlo and Maria to stay at one location and their daughter in some other reasonably nearby location.  Preferably the offers might be for 2 or 3 nights.  We need offers to fill 28 nights in all.   At present we have offers for about 10 nights apart from the accommodation that my wife and I can offer, which, as a fall back, can be available throughout their visit, and we hope they will spend at least a few nights with us.
            Offers of accommodation need not be tied to the Church Services I have listed.  If the offers are flexible enough, they might conveniently fill some gap between two other offers and still produce a reasonable tour for Maria and her family.  Also they would like to visit and be shown all our churches, not just the ones that she is taking services in.

*        More information needed about local radio stations and newspapers.
          In order to give the visit as much publicity as possible, we are interested in trying to arrange interviews on local radio, preferably in the week before her service in that area, and the same with publicity in local newspapers.  We need more local knowledge about these matters.  If there someone in your congregation, or maybe your congregation’s publicity officer, who listens to the local radio, can they suggest the best programme slots that might agree to interview Maria, or provide ‘What’s On’ publicity about local events?   There is a local BBC Radio Station in every county, and probably also some independent local radio stations, but it is not so easy to discover how best to get them to mention our activities.   We also need names, addresses or email addresses, for local newspapers in order that we can send them ‘Press Releases’ about Maria’a activities in good time to get them put in the appropriate edition of each paper.  Ideas for other publicity techniques and opportunities are welcome.

2.   Worship Studies Course:  More participants, please!
            At Western Union request for more training courses to be presented in the West Country, rather than far away, the Worship Studies Course has beeen arranged to be held at the Unitarian Chapel in Bridgwater.  The three parts of it take place on Saturdays 15th March, 26th April and 24th May.  Full details are on the Flyer and Application Form attached to this Newsletter.  The total cost is £39 per person.  The organizers of the course would like to have at least 12 participants.  At the last count they are still below this number.  Is your congregation sending at least one person on this course?  Applications, please, if possible by 28th February.  This date is so that the organizers can arrange to have the right number of sets of course materials available for each participant.  If you miss this deadline, they might be able to squeeze in an extra participant of two, but they would prefer to know sooner.

3. GA Participation and Expenses:  Make use of Gift Aid.
            I believe some congregations feel the cost of sending a delegate to the GA meetings is rather high at £378 for full participation, and so, perhaps, offer to fund only a part of this, and ask if the participant can fund the rest.   If such participants are paying tax at the basic rate (20%) or even the higher rate, then a good way to do this is to donate your part of the cost to your church under Gift Aid, and then get the church to pay the whole fee.  In this way your contribution costs you 20% less.   The same can be done for travel expenses to and from the GA.  If you donate a suitable sum to the church and the church pays your travel expenses, then effectively they can cost you 20% less.    The same is also true for claiming travel expenses, as a church representative, when attending WU Council Meetings.  Rather than not claim them, why not claim them and donate a suitable sum under Gift Aid to the WU?
            These remarks are not aimed at those who need to claim travel expenses for attending the GA or WU Council Meetings, but at those who do not claim such expenses, who, if they did claim expenses and then donated 80% or more of the expenses to their church or the WU under Gift Aid, would benefit both themselves and their church or the WU.

4. Burial Grounds
            I heard recently on the radio that a Trust has acquired the Dissenters Burial Ground in Exeter, which is in a very poor state, and is hoping to restore it.  This sounds to be the sort of activity which some of our Unitarian members in Exeter would be playing an active role in, if we had any Unitarian members in Exeter.  As most of you know our Unitarian Chapel in Exeter closed about 20 years ago and is now a pub/restaurant.   I believe that between us, we know of two or three individual Unitarians in Exeter, but at present none with the energy and enthusiasm to restart a Fellowship there.   A pity, because I think Exeter, with its University, is a place where I would like there to be an active Unitarian group.

            As some of you know, there is another Burial Ground at Gulliford (half-way between Exeter and Exmouth) which is apparently also theoretically controlled and run by a small trust, which I believe may have been in continuous existence since about 1895.

            When I find enough time and energy, I am trying to gather more details about these trusts.   These two burial grounds (there may even be others) are curious relics of our past, which clearly some people (although they may not be Unitarians) consider important enough to try to preserve them.  Although the WU has decided it wants to spend its available money and resources on the future and not the past, I think we should be aware of these burial grounds and of the work of the Trusts that are attempting to look after them.

5. Other News
            We are pleased to a new fellowship has been established at Glastonbury, and that there is a new Facebook Page which has some activity on it.  Anthony Loveys would like to start a new fellowship in Cornwall, and would be pleased to hear of further people with Unitarian connections who now live in Cornwall.

This Newsletter is written by and distributed at the request of the President of the Western Union of Unitarian and Free Christian churches who is:
            Martin Fieldhouse, Pyrenmount, Parsons Way, Winscombe BS25 1 BU
            Tel: 01934 842273     Email: pyrenmount@btopenworld.com
His supporting committee (for the Transylvanian Link Visit) consists of
            Philip Colfox                email:  Philip@colfox.eu 

and      Anthony Loveys          email:  Anthony_loveys@yahoo.co.uk

This is an occasional newsletter that I may write and distribute from time to time during my Presidency of the Western Union of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
I hope to circulate it to church secretaries and to members of WU Council.
I hope that church committees will consider some of my ideas
and act upon them as appropriate.

This newsletter considers three topics
1. Organising and making the most of the Transylvanian Link Project in July/August 2014.
2. Writing up our history for the last 50 years
3. Considering our ideas for the future of Unitarian ministry in the WU area.

The Transylvanian Link Project.

                Most of you will already know that the WU is inviting Rev Maria Pap, with her husband and daughter, to visit us for 4 weeks in July and early August 2014.

                Now is the time to plan this visit in detail.  I would like each of our 13 congregations to discuss what part they wish to play in this visit, and how they are going to make the most of it.

                It needs imagination to plan to make the most of this visit.  So, for a moment, suppose we are enjoying a visit by one of the most important people in the world.  We want to tell as many people as possible about her.  We want to entertain her well, parade her around like royalty, give everyone the opportunity to meet her in person, and the see and hear her in action – whether preaching a sermon, leading a discussion, giving presentations about her church and her country, enjoying a communal picnic or lunch, being interviewed on the local radio, etc. 

                In return, we hope we shall know more about the Hungarian Unitarian Church and the beautiful ‘land beyond the mountains’ (Transylvania), which, although now part of Romania, was formerly part of Hungary.  Hence some people there still speak Hungarian.  The Hungarian Unitarian Church with over 400 years of history, predates and is larger than the British Unitarian Church.  Its Unitarian theology is a little different from ours.  Maybe some people from the Western Union in a later year will be interested in taking a holiday there to see the scenery and to visit some of the historic Unitarian churches there.
                So I suggest that soon after her arrival, we plan a big Western Union party to welcome her and her family, and to enable her to meet some of the people she will be seeing and, perhaps, staying with later in her visit.

                She will have 4 weekends here.  That gives her the opportunity to preach and take morning service in 4 of our churches.   Possibly in one or two cases she may be able to combine this with an afternoon or evening service elsewhere.   It is likely that the 4 Sundays will be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sundays in July 2014 and the 1st Sunday in August.  We need invitations for her to take a service at your church, with preferred Sunday and, if possible with a second or third choice.   It is suggested that in some cases ‘neighbouring churches’ might club together to hold a service at just one church with everyone from ‘neighbouring churches’ making an effort to attend that service.

                For churches where she doesn’t take a service (and even for some where she does) can some alternative activities be offered?   This might take the form of a coffee morning, a lunch, an afternoon meeting, or an evening meeting which she addresses and presents an illustrated talk about the Hungarian Unitarian Churches (‘HUC’), or about Transylvania as a place to visit, or perhaps a discussion meeting to discuss the differences in theology and practice between the HUC and the WU churches.  I expect she may wish to see and photograph every Unitarian place of worship, whether she takes a service there or not.  Meetings might or might not be combined with a meal.   Social evenings, barbecues, outings might also be a possibility.  Can you arrange an interview on the local radio station?  Meetings which she addresses might also be organised as fund-raising events – well advertised, bring your friends, a small admission charge, or perhaps just a request for donations.

                Personally I tentatively think of the WU in 4 areas – Plymouth and Torquay; Bridgwater, Taunton and Cullompton;  Bridport, Crewkerne and Sidmouth;  Bristol, Bath and Trowbridge.  (Circencester gets left out – apologies!)  There are, of course, other ways of grouping churches.  Perhaps Cullompton and Crewkerne would like to swap places?

                I think perhaps Plymouth/Torquay might think in terms of the 2nd or 3rd  Sunday of her visit, rather than the 1st or the last.   Otherwise we can be flexible, but we need to determine the main parameters – that is, the places for the 4 Sunday morning services as soon as practical so that the rest of her programme and the hospitality can be organised.

                In terms of national publicity, it would be an idea to organise articles plus adverts in the Inquirer and the Unitarian about April of next year (before the GA swamps them) saying where she will be taking services (and perhaps other events) and inviting any Unitarians holidaying in the West Country at that time to plan to attend.  We might also try to arrange that at least one of her services is video-recorded for distribution over the internet and on our websites.

                Private Hospitality.  A key requirement is private hospitality.  We need offers to put her up for 2 to 4 nights in conjunction with the services she is taking and other events she is attending.  Putting up 3 people – a married couple and their 17 year-old daughter, may be bit difficult in some cases.  So it might be possible to split with the married couple staying at one house and the daughter elsewhere, not too far away.  The daughter, Abigail, speaks good English.   The night before she takes a service, Rev Pap needs to be staying if possible with someone who will be going to the service.    After an evening event, they should be staying a further night at the place where they stayed the previous night.  In order to organise and finance this visit well, we are very dependent our being able to offer her private hospitality virtually every night.  So we need 8 or more offers!

                Finance.   We want to keep the costs to churches as low as possible.  As already stated, offers of private hospitality will be important to keep other costs as low as possible.  Rev Pap will be not be paid any fee as such for her overall visit.  She will be making the visit in her holidays.  However, she is entitled by EU law to work in the UK during her visit as a self-employed minister.  So this means she can be paid the normal fee for a minister taking one of our services – namely £45 plus travel expenses.  I expect her to be paid this £45 fee, preferably in cash against a receipt, for each service she takes.  I think it would be appropriate to offer her a similar fee if she gives an illustrated talk.  This will enable her to earn perhaps £300 to £400 (in total) during her visit to help to fund the personal expenses of her and her family.  This is only a modest amount, little more than pocket money!  I originally hoped we might be able to offer her at least twice as much.  As for the travel expenses, we hope that where she takes a service travel expenses of £45 or more might be offered and paid into the funds covering her visit.

                The main other expenses will be the airfares, the hire of a car for 4 weeks, fuel for the car, insurance and one night at Luton airport prior to her departure early the following morning. She has to be at the airport at about 6.30 am to catch the early morning flight.  I am hoping these expenses will be covered mainly by two or three grants from trust funds.  We have offers of two grants so far, but more (or donations) would be welcome.  I am also relying on some contribution to the car fuel costs from the travel expenses mentioned in the previous paragraph.

                There are direct daily flights from Kolozsvar (Cluj) to Luton by a company called Wizz Air.  Tickets tend to have the lowest prices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
                So our main idea is that Rev Pap and her family will fly in perhaps on Wed 9th July 2014 and will fly back exactly 28 days later.

                The flights arrive in Luton at 7.45 am each day and the return flight leaves at 8.30 am each day.  With such an early morning flight, they will need to stay in Luton, probably at an airport hotel, in order to leave early the following morning.  Also, either at the beginning or end of their trip Rev Pap would quite like to stay a night or two in Oxford (where she studied for a time in the 1990s) in order to show Oxford to her husband and daughter.

                Action: Please see that the Officers of your congregation (and where practical the whole committee) consider what your congregation can offer to arrange or organise to enhance this visit, and whether any offers for private hospitality might be forthcoming.  Then report back ideas, suggestions, and offers to me or a member of our small organising committee so that the main programme can be planned.

Writing up our history for the last 50 years

                In 1835, Jerome Murch, then minister at our Trim Street Chapel Bath, published a volume with a title "A History of the Presbyterian & General Baptist Churches in the West of England".   Basically one chapter was devoted to each church and covered its history from its formation until about 1835.  This is a very useful reference book.  There are still a few copies in private circulation, and several copies in Dr Williams Library in London.

                I think it is about time that we considered compiling a more recent history of our congregations in the Western Union.   A start would be for each congregation, which does not already have their more recent history written up, to consider whether any member might write a substantial essay (of say 12 to 20 pages or so) about the history of their congregation in the last 50 years or so – perhaps even since 1945.  Much of this may be within the memory of the oldest members of the congregation, with further details in committee or AGM minutes and perhaps in materials collected by some member or members of the congregation.

                One of our members in Bridgwater recently died, who was baptised in our church over 80 years ago and attended much of the time since.  It is a pity we did not quiz her in more detail about events she remembered from many years back.

                This history idea does not have the urgency of the other items in this newsletter, but I thought it would be a good idea to mention it, in the hope that in due course this seed of an idea will bear fruit.

Considering our ideas for the future of Unitarian ministry in the WU area

                This is an important topic.  We would like as many members of the WU as possible to come to Cullompton on 7th December 2013 (shortly!) to discuss this matter from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm.      This discussion will follow the WU Council meeting which will be held in Cullompton at our Unitarian Chapel there in Pound Square in the morning.  This is then followed (at approx. 12.45 -1.30) by a ‘bring your own’ picnic lunch.  Drinks (Tea, Coffee, etc) will be provided.

                Returning to discussing the topic: We know that Bristol, Plymouth, Bridport are all considering whether they can afford a part-time, or even a full-time, professional minister, and might like financial or other support from WU funds or from other trust funds.  Also it would seem that other congregations or individuals have, or may have, ideas about how ministry might be afforded or funded by having perhaps a District Minister rather than one tied to one or more congregations.

                I hope that, at this meeting, all views can be aired in a friendly manner so that as many as possible can know about and understand each others’ points of view.  Possibly some good ideas will emerge which might attract general support.

                I am sure it will be an important meeting.  So please make every effort to ensure that as many as possible attend it  -  principally to listen to the various points of view, but, where appropriate, also to put your own idea or point of view.