Saturday, 24 April 2010


Posted by Ash.

At last, the election dawns and with it the expectation of up to five years of `change`, `difference` or `renewal`, depending upon your perspective upon these things. Whilst it`s perfectly possible to be cynical about the intentions of politicians and others who affect our lives in various ways, what about our own roles within our own areas of `influence`, be that within our families, friendship groups, jobs,or volunteering ? What is our strategy for the next five years ? Have we fully considered the impact of decisions we are making now ? Are we sure that our best intentions will result in best outcomes ?

This has certainly been exorcising our minds at New Meeting. How are we best placed to serve our community ? Are we making best use of the resources we have? What do we need to do to continue our own `growth and renewal` ?

As you can imagine much discussion has focussed upon how best to cater for the heart and mind, body and soul. Central to that debate has been the issue of professional spiritual leadership. Now for those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with the Unitarian and Free Christian movement, you may be suprised to learn that (unpaid!)`lay leadership` is a significant factor in many of our congregations. Services are often led by such individuals, even where there are also full or part-time Ministers at the church. This tradition emanates, in a sense, from our liberal traditions, as well as from necessity, and is one that we generally all welcome. Lay leadership can be extremely effective, is `of the people` if you like, and as much a part of Unitarianism as the bricks and mortar of the buildings.

That said, our own discussions have led (most of) us to conclude that professional and effective `Ministerial` leadership is a necessary pre-requisite for enduring growth. Logic dictates that such individuals, as long as they are the right `fit` for the congregation and the community and have the necessary support, will stimulate ongoing, consistent and appropriate growth. We have seen this for ourselves over the last five years, through the guidance and leadership of our own excellent Minister, Ann Latham.

Are there enough Ministers out there though to lead such work, should ever we need to advertise as such in the future? The answer at present is clearly a resounding no. A very small number are in training, and there are not enough existing ones to `go around`. Add to that the daunting financial task that faces a congregation wishing to support a ministerial contract plus the lack of `central` funding , and it becomes easy to see that a potential crisis awaits !

There has been lots of talk in the Unitarian movement at large about this subject. A recent Midland Unitarian Association event ( in Birmingham and The General Assembly ( in Nottingham focussed upon these very issues. Both were addressed by Andy Pakula, Minister from the thriving community of Newington Green and Islington Unitarians ( in London. If ever anyone needed a demonstration of the impact that professional ministerial leadership can have, this was it !

We remain optimistic about any future challenges that we may face in this regard. As Andy Pakula has intimated, in the short-term Ministers may need to be `shared`between congregations, or even enticed from abroad on an overseas `sabbatical `, for example from the States. Whatever happens, we shall be pro-active in our approach to this matter and supportive of any measures that lead to an essential resurgence in Ministerial training here in the UK.

On a lighter note, and talking of `growth` (vegetables that is and not just spiritual !) we are delighted with the recent `re-discovery` of the garden at the rear of New Meeting. This area has been a `wilderness` for many years. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of `main man` Edward it`s starting to be re-claimed. Still early days, but the plan is to grow produce for sale from our stall at the front of Church, with all proceeds to Charity. This represents another opportunity to involve our community in `doing` things, and eventually we hope will also provide a place of calm and tranquility that all can share.

And to think that this wonderful resource was there, staring us in the face all along. All that was needed was the right person and the right set of circumstances to come along. Maybe there`s a message for us all in this?

Edward fearlessly taming the `wilderness`.

Is that a Greenhouse about to appear against our boundary wall ? Prior to this activity we didn`t really take much note of our boundary wall. All we could see was a mass of `Ivy`. Still quite a bit of work to do ?