Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Mission Statement

For the past ten months or so we've been working on a process to create a mission statement at my congregation. The process was led my a small group including myself. We began by having a meeting of the Chapel Council when all members tried to come up with a mission statement, then get together with another person and try to come up with a consensus statement between two. Then each pair joined up with another pair, and tried to come up with a consensus, and then again. The idea was to end up with one statement, but with the time available we came to two statements. But none of the statements were thrown away, all the suggestions were kept.

The next step was to work with the whole congregation. During a worship service each person present was asked to come up with just one word, and all of them were collected and read out.

Then all of those words, and the phrases produced by Chapel Council, were considered by our working group one evening. We considered what words were most important, what words were equivalant to other words, and what words weren't appropriate. By the end of the meeting the group had a consensus on the basis of the statement, though the exact phrase was not settled on.

By email the group thrashed out the exact wording and agreed on it to present to Chapel Council. The statement was given to Chapel Council, who approved it with only a slight grammatical amendment.

The draft mission statement was then presented to the congregation, appeared in the Calendar, on every order of service, and on the noticeboard. For about a month or two amendments were welcome from the congregation but none came.

At our Annual General Meeting the mission statement was presented, and needed to be voted in with a two thirds majority to be accepted. No amendments could be put at the Annual General Meeting.

In the end the mission statement passed unanimously.

So now we have our official mission statement. It is:

Our purpose is
to inspire spiritual journeys
engaging with the world
with open hearts and open minds.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unitarian Congregational Membership Numbers

For the first time the Annual Report of the General Assembly had included membership numbers in it's report. I still think it should include the total number of Unitarian congregations and the total composite membership numbers as a matter of policy. The UUA does this as part of it's annual reporting. But this is a step in the right direction.

I think the way the numbers are reported they're probably 18 months out of date by the time they're published. It is possible to compare the 2009 numbers posted by Andy Pakula here

I haven't got time to post the full results here, but I'll list the largest congregations by membership below for interest.

London Hampstead 168 (up 5)
Dean Row 80 (down 4)
Bury 75 (down 6)
Newington Green and Islington (counted as one congregation with two sites) London 70 (up 14)
Eccles 67 (up 3)
Atherton 62 (up 3)
Edinburgh 60 (up 6)
Hinkley 59 (down 5)
Shefield Norfolk Street 58 (up 2)
Bolton Bank Street 58 (up 2)

Now I'm sure there's plenty of inaccuracies in these numbers. For example it's taken me two and a half years to get the membership list anywhere near accurate for my congregation (Bolton Bank Street). So it's actually been very difficult to know whether we are growing or shrinking in membership numbers until now. I'm not quite sure how our reported membership numbers have gone from 56 to 58. My understanding is that our membership is 53, and that's the first time I've been confident that this number in some way reflects reality.

Nevertheless the numbers do give some impressions. Hampstead remains, by far, the largest congregation in the country, but Islington and Newington Green are growing at a fast rate, so may catch up in the next few years.

There is then a cluster of "medium-sized" (for us) congregations who seem reasonably stable. This would include my congregation. And then there's 150 small congregations. And it's difficult to know their health by a quick analysis. And yes, in case any Americans are reading, and not quite getting it, all other congregations in the denomination have a membership of less than 58.

I bang on about numbers because I want us to realise where we are and increase the sense of urgency and hunger for change.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Some thoughts on the 2011 census

This morning my census form arrived in the post. I read through it and had a few thoughts.

I wonder whether I should be English or British?

Ten years ago I remember agonising over whether to list myself as "Christian" in the religion question. Today I am more confortable describing myself as Christian but I will list myself as Unitarian. But it's interesting to note that there is not enough room in the question to write "Unitarian Universalist" so no one could write that if they wanted to.

I shall list my job title as "Unitarian Minister" but the next question "Briefly describe what you do in your main job" I'm going to have to have a think about.

I wonder whether it would be considered illegal to list a same-sex civil partner as your wife/husband if you considered them to be that spiritually and personally?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Rowan Williams on the Relations Between Church and State

Last week I went to a lecture at the University of Manchester by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The lecture was on the relationship of church and state. The link says there will be a video of the lecture available online, but I don't think it's there yet.

It was of the high standard I would expect of Rowan Williams. He talked a lot about Christian witness in the political arena being based on rejecting the "chaos of selfishness" and based on a different vision of generosity, care for the least etc. All of which I entirely agreed with.

But I couldn't let him get away with it without raising my hand at the end and asking how any of that was consistent with 26 Anglican Archbishops sitting as a matter of right and privelege in the state legislature. His answer wasn't entirely satisactory. I wish I could view the video to check what exactly he did say, as I can't really remember, but it seemed to me to be a bit of a fudge. And I'm sure his shoulders shrugged a bit. I concluded that he would have no objection to bishops getting kicked out of the House of Lords. I do really hope this happens this Parliament.