Newsletter April and May 2016

“For everyone born a place at the table,

For everyone born clean water and bread,

A shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,

For everyone born a star overhead...

And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy,

Yes God will delight, when we are creators of justice... 

...justice and joy!”

Verse 1 and Chorus from no.36 in the Unitarian purple Hymn Book 'Sing your Faith'.

From the desk...
...a place at the table.

Dear All,

This year at the GA Annual meetings carried a message for all, and it's one that reminds us all very prominently however it may speak to us. As usual there were all the usual business meetings, accounts and the general nitty gritty of all the issues we discuss in our own congregations, how we look to include all within the movement as a whole.

What is particularly important is the need for us all to play a role, however small, as its all the small elements that bring us together as a whole Unitarian family. How we welcome the explorer, and one another. There we were all joined together as one. How we look to the future and feed from the feast of the spirit; there is so much to hold onto.

It was great to see so many together all alike working to the cause and mission as we have done for so many years already. Recognising the efforts of all is a very important from the foundation and sure rock of what we continue to believe. I felt this was demonstrated with a variety of talks and engaging subjects. We looked at the vision, race relations, values, honesty and integrity. There were talks by a trans-gendered woman about her journey, and Islamic woman about cultural education and practice and an Anglican priest who spoke of the use of films that carry the message of the bible. To name a few.

We can all too easily get used to doing just the little bit we do, and staying safe in that; which usually means, music, flowers, tea and coffee making, service taking, Sunday schooling, roles of office, keeping the website, ministering, being all parts of ministry. What stands out though is the work of the GA as a whole, which we all contribute to the wider roles beyond, as they work in all callings to charity and hospitality; as beacons of inspiration to so many known and unknown to us.

As well as the message that says 'a place at the table', it also says a place for shelter to those who come to open hearts. We are doing so well and all we are able. As we look to the future of this next GA year and the work of Dorothy Hewerdine who has taken the baton from John Clifford as president, I hope we can all look forward to the our rewards of the wider spirit and that within ourselves, as we keep a place at the table for the year ahead.

We have this great gift we can share in such capacity. As we all work to keep the spirit of belief tangible. Though we may face troubled times, we shall not stand alone; but stand as many, as roots hold us close and wings set us free.

I hope for us to be able to do this as the spirit moves us. Maybe we want to be more, but we are all we can be for now. Amen.

With care, love and blessings to all that is and can be good.

Yours with warm wishes, and a place at our table where all will be welcomed and equal.

Karl Stewart.

Bristol Unitarians.

Frenchay News

Frenchay Chapel will be holding a General Knowledge Quiz on Friday 11th May at 7.30pm. Tickets will be £6.00 and available soon from Marie 01454853829 and Diane 01179566963.

Refreshments to be included but donations of savory snacks would be much appreciated. This event will be in aid of the Frenchay Windows Fund.

Diane would like to thank all those who came to the Meditation Day run by Richard Bober at Frenchay Chapel on Saturday 19th March. This was attended by 17 people and was very successful. We are so lucky that Richard is prepared to come down from London to set up this event for us and he takes no payment or expenses for the day. This has become a twice yearly event and the next session will be on Saturday 29th October.

Next Craft afternoon is Wednesday 13th April at 2pm and we will be covering a clothes hanger.

On Saturday 23rd April Lindy will be officiating at a baby blessing.

On Saturday 30th April Lindy will be officiating at a wedding on Frenchay Common (in Chapel if wet).

Sunday 8th May Frenchay's AGM after our normal service.

Tuesday 10th May at 7.30pm Group AGM at Frenchay.

Wednesday 18th May Open Morning from 11am for Christian Aid - Bacon and Sausage Sandwiches will be on sale as well as tea and coffee.

Wednesday 18th May from 2pm Craft Afternoon - making a coaster with washi tape.

Friday 11th May at 7.30pm Marie's General Knowledge Quiz.

(Please note that Frenchay will not be holding any Congregational Meetings until the AGM on Sunday 8th May.)


UMB - Unitarian Meeting Bristol, Brunswick Square, WL - Women’s League, WA - Wedding Anniversary, IM - In Memoriam, tba - to be arranged, tbc - to be confirmed 


SUN 3rd 


Wed 6th Frenchay 7.00 pm. Kundalini Movement Meditation

SUN 10th 

UMB 4.00 pm - Congregational meeting NO SERVICE AT UMB

Wed 13th Frenchay 2.00 - 4.00 pm. Craft afternoon - “Covering a Clothes Hanger” 

SUN 17th 


Mon 18th Frenchay 6 pm Group Meditation - person centred, relax into peacefulness 

SUN 24th 

UMB 5.45 pm. 4th SUNDAY DISCUSSION GROUP TOPIC: Refugees - are they a gift or a problem? 


SUN 1st

UMB 6.00 pm - Mr KARL STEWART 

Mon 2nd Redland Fair 2.00 pm Helpers and contributions for UMB stall welcome. Contact Susan or Sally. 

Wed 4th Frenchay 7.00 pm. Kundalini Movement Meditation

SUN 8th 

FRENCHAY 10.30 am - Ms LESLEY HARRIS Service followed by Frenchay AGM 
UMB 4.00 pm - Congregational meeting NO SERVICE AT UMB 


SUN 15th 


Mon 16th Frenchay 6 pm Group Meditation - person centred, relax into peacefulness 

Wed 18th Frenchay 11.00 am on. Open Morning for Christian Aid - Bacon and Sausage Sandwiches, tea and coffee on sale “ Frenchay 2.00 - 4.00 pm. Craft afternoon “Making a Coaster with Washi Tape” 

Fri 20th Frenchay 7.30 pm General Knowledge Quiz in aid of Frenchay Windows Fund. Tickets £6.00 and available soon from Marie 01454 853829 and Diane 0117 956 6963. Refreshments included, but donations of savoury snacks would be much appreciated.

SUN 22nd 

UMB 5.45 pm. 4th SUNDAY DISCUSSION GROUP TOPIC: What is the real cost of poverty? 

Mon 23rd Frenchay 2.00 pm Initial meeting of new Book Club led by Bernard Omar 

Sat 28th Western Union meeting at Crewkerne church 

SUN 29th 


SUN 5th 

UMB 6.00 pm - Mr PAUL WHEELER 

Sat 11th UMB 11 am - WESTERN UNION AGM

PLEASE NOTE The next ʻCatch up sheetʻ, covering May and June 2016, will be issued on 1st May. Please send articles, details of services, articles and dates of events to both Karl and myself by Wednesday 27th April - at the latest!

Challenged but unbowed –  Thoughts on the Annual Conference

From Paul Wheeler, UMB Delegate

“Our challenge is to energise and inspire those who are prepared to give of themselves in the service of humanity” so says Robert Ince, Convenor of the GA Executive (the steering committee of UK Unitarians) in his foreword to “From Vision to Action – The Next Steps” (UK Unitarians development blueprint).

He also says “in our vision, we seek a personal faith through rational thought, respecting individual conscience. We are inspired to serve humanity, working with others for social justice. We want to encourage spiritual inspiration and engage with all people seeking answers to life’s questions, welcoming new forms of religious expression and collaborating and sharing in a spirit of mutual support.”

In presenting the Vision for adoption by the Conference, Robert recognised that, in common with organised religion generally in the UK, Unitarianism has been in decline in terms of its numerical following. When faced with this Unitarians could shrug in resigned acceptance or, alternatively, shake up and rise to adapt to the challenges of the ever changing culture in which we live.

The “Next Steps” adopted by the Conference to turn the Vision into action include measures to reach outwards and measures to improve ourselves as a movement. For the moment, I will focus on the former.

Step 1 - because of the breadth of spiritual belief and practice encompassed in UK Unitarianism, it can be hard to sum up who we are. So, a comprehensive response will be developed to explain our identity.

Step 2 - we want to encourage and assist spiritual learning by supporting a web based resource with Unitarian College, Manchester and by promoting more Unitarian thought and writing.

Step 3 - we will look to engage with the community outside the church on today’s issues and increase our collaboration with other liked-minded organisations.

Step 4 - a plan is to be developed to take what Unitarianism has to offer on to university campuses.

Step 5 - support will be given to the development of new congregations.

Of course, these measures are going to need some time to put in place and will be of varying relevance to Unitarians in Bristol. However, it is important that we keep a watch on how they develop and draw on the support they could provide for us locally.

In Bristol’s current situation without a Minister it is easy to slip into thinking that if we found a Minister everything would suddenly be better. Hearing about the work of the 2020 group, which focuses on congregational development, reinforced my view that this is a mistaken line of thought. If we recruit a Minister, we should be able to tell that person, in clear terms, what we want them to do. That does not mean providing them with a list of tasks (although that would need to be done as well), it means telling them what we as Unitarians in Bristol see as our shared purpose. Understandably, with our current small band of regular attenders, we have concentrated our efforts on “keeping the show on the road”. But, it seems to me that whether or not we recruit a Minister, it would help to give some time to discussing and agreeing what we want to achieve.

Reflections on the Unitarian General Assembly Meetings, 2016

Mark Stewart

Karl and I were very lucky to be able to attend the GA meetings with an 80% discount, because we're (just about) still under 40. This is something the GA has been able to do this year thanks to a generous donation.

For the second year running the GA was held at the Birmingham Metropole Hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham. It was 3 days packed full of business meetings, workshops, food, and socialising.

Being at the GA really makes you feel like you're a part of a movement which is dynamic and exciting. Having been going to GA's and Summer Schools for several years now, we have been able to make friends with Unitarians from across the UK, and each time we attend a national event such as this, we get to deepen these friendships and meet new people. This is the most fun and exciting part about the GA for me. It feels like you're a part of a big national Unitarian family. It was lovely to be around so many people who share a similar outlook on life, in terms of religious enquiry, social action, and the inviolability of human dignity.

Some of my highlights of the GA have already been mentioned by Karl and Paul. Another highlight for me was attending the Unitarian Earth Spirit Network meeting. This meeting talked about the history of Neo-Pagan ideas and earth-centred spirituality, which are growing in popularity within the Unitarian movement, to the point today where Earth-Spirit observances and rituals have naturally integrated themselves into much of our Unitarian worship. We discussed the 'Wheel of the Year': the ancient celebrations which fall on the solstices, equinoxes and festivals days in between, and how many Unitarians congregations acknowledge these.

On the second night of the GA there was a social evening with a live band playing Motown, soul and disco classics. From the first song everyone swarmed onto the dance floor, and we were all there right till the band's closing number, dancing and singing along. This was the best part of the GA for me. There are so many uninhibited dancers amongst the national Unitarian movement. It was so great so see everyone not being embarrassed to get up and just have fun.

Karl and I also took part in two choirs while at the GA. The first was small choir set up for the Welcome Service on the first evening. And the second was a much larger choir, which sang two pieces at the Anniversary Service on the third evening. All the pieces were in 4 part harmony, which was challenging, but I think we pulled it off.

Part of the GA meetings involves the bringing of 'motions' from groups or congregations within the Unitarian movement, asking the GA to vote to adopt a unified stance on certain issues. Two motions in particular pricked my conscience: the first was to do with pledging to support the Clara Barton Red Cross helping refugees coming from Syria, and the second was about doing more about climate change. Raising awareness is a key part in making change happen. If the messages we heard on these subjects can ripple out into the world from the GA, then person by person hearts and minds can be changed. I do believe this is possible. In fact I believe this is the only way in which true change is possible.

Next year the GA will once again be held at the Birmingham Metropole Hilton. The best part about the venue for me is the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, which you get to use for free. We sneaked out twice to use these facilities. It does seem a bit of an extravagance to hold our meetings in such a grand setting, but apparently it was slightly cheaper than holding the meetings on a university campus, and staying in halls of residence, which is what has been done before. I would recommend to anyone going to the GA next year!

Dancing at GA Social on second night of proceedings. Photo by Rev. Nicky Jenkins