This year's GA meetings were the usual rich mix of plenary meetings, fringe meetings and workshops, and wonderful worship. They are a time for catching up with old friends, for meeting new ones, and for gaining new insights into the way our denomination survives and thrives.
Generally, (I have to confess) I find the Plenary (or business) meetings fairly tedious. As a minister and voting member of the Assembly, I attend them all, but listening to reports from various worthy Unitarian bodies is not my idea of fun or even interesting, most of the time. I know they are necessary, and vital parts of the General Assembly's work as a democratic body, and I don't see any other way of doing it, but, it's not generally riveting listening.
But this year, in the packs we had been given on arrival, was a 48-page document called A Vision for Our Future. There had been a Vision Day at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel back in September 2014, which I had attended, and which had produced some exciting ideas. Robert Ince, who is Convenor of the Executive Committee, presented this document to the Assembly, as part of the Executive Committee's Annual Report.
And it is really, really rich. The ideas of the Vision Day participants have been collated under three headings: "We want to be ....", "We must ....", and "To do this, we need to ....". They are included below. And then the EC has commissioned nineteen articles, by various Unitarian luminaries, both ministerial and lay, giving their "takes" on these ideas. Many of these have already been published, in either The Inquirer or The Unitarian. But seeing them altogether in one place really adds to their impact, in my opinion. Each one of them is inspirational. Together, they are a clarion call for action.
"We want to be ......
- A faith that matters
- A reflection of the world's complexity, bound together by our many different views
- A spiritual feast for each person to bring and share ideas and experience
- A promoter of social justice for all, listening and responding to the needs of others
- There for everyone
We must ......
- Tell the world we're here
- Be understood by the public
- Connect to people everywhere
- Serve our communities
- Develop personal leadership
- Be religiously literate
- Provide Ministry that enables ministry
- Prepare for our children's future
To do this, we need to ......
- Harness our energy
- Use our resources to the full
- Embrace new technology
- Acknowledge contribution and success
- Empower individuals
- Make change happen"
In the introduction to the document, Robert Ince writes: "This vision, though created with a view to the Unitarian Movement nationally, applies just as easily to Districts and congregations. ... it can become a uniting factor in our search for a better future. We all hope that it will serve to inspire those many individuals who love our Movement so deeply to join together in serving by whatever means they are able."
Let us, in the District Associations and the congregations, resolve to not just read this document and nod our heads approvingly, and then do nothing. Let us Do Something about this. Read the articles, discuss them amongst ourselves, and then decide what we can do to make the ideas in them a reality.