Edition 37

 

NEC Meeting Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd December 2017

The President's Blog was established with the aim of keeping members fully updated about the work of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and developments which affect the Union and the wider movement.

Much of the work of the NEC is by its very nature confidential but every effort will be made to keep members fully apprised wherever appropriate.

 


Rules for Churches 2017

Finally, after much delay, the new edition of the Rules for Churches was issued on 1st December 2017. A copy will be sent free of charge to every Church, together with the Part 1 Annual Return form. The Union reminds Churches that they are required to buy a copy for each member of the Committee and to have a supply for any members who require a copy. The cost per copy will be held at £1.00 plus p&p and an order form is included in the circulation. All Churches should use the new edition of the Rules for Churches on receipt and it has been registered with the Charity Commission from December 1st.

An electronic copy of the new Rules is also available in the members' section of the SNU website. The new edition is now produced in the A4 format to bring it in line with other Union publications and also to make reading the Rules a little easier on the eye.

 


Annual Returns Part 1

These have now gone out to all Churches and the Union requests Church Committees to ensure that they are returned in a timely manner, together with the remittance of capitation fees. For those Churches signed up to pay by direct debit payments will be made from their accounts on 1st February and to get accurate payments the Part 1 Return needs to be returned by 7th January 2018.

 


New SNU Website

The new SNU website has been up and running now for a while; to date we have received 73,000 page views and 12,255 unique visitors (29% returning visitors and 71% new visitors) and, overall, members' response has been very positive. The Google analytics facility on the new site means we can manage the site and the traffic to it in a much more efficient manner. It must be noted that the site is an ongoing work in progress and new material will be constantly added as the site is developed. The new site for SNUi and the Barbanell Centre is also operating well and our thanks go to all involved in these developments for their efforts.

 


SNU Today

Feedback from the latest issue has been very positive and Alv Hirst, the Communications Director, is currently drawing together copy for the February edition. Any members who would like to make a submission can send this via Head Office.

 


New Application Form for Church Membership

The General Purposes Committee has revamped the form for application for Church membership and this will be available from Head Office in hardcopy form very shortly.

 


Useful Policy Documents for SNU Churches

It is hoped in the early part of 2018 to issue a document which will contain useful policies for use at Church level.  These will include a Conflict of Interest policy, an Expense policy, a Health and Safety policy, Guidance on Risk Assessment within a Church and for external events, and a Data Protection Policy.

 


Prevention of Fraud within Churches

It is sad to report that some SNU Churches are still experiencing instances of fraud by members of the Church; the Union will always seek to support the Church in these cases and the police will also be involved should evidence of fraud be determined. There are steps that can be taken by Church Committees to avoid or minimise the risk from fraudulent activity and Church Committees are reminded that following the Rules for Churches will always help the Church to avoid such situations. Regular reports from the Treasurer of Church finances, the provision of bank balances at all Committee meetings, effective control of authorisations for all accounts on behalf of the Church, and robust Conflict of Interest policies to protect members of the Committee are but a few examples of steps that can be taken. With this in mind the Union has produced a new guidance paper, which will be circulated in the New Year; should Churches need any further assistance in these matters or should they have suspicions, then in the first instance contact should be made with Head Office, which will do all it can to help.


 

Inter Faith Network (IFN)

At the last meeting of the IFN a presentation was made regarding the new Register for Religion Media Centre. This initiative is based on the successful Science Media Centre established some years ago and aims to provide the media with a current resource and point of contact. Sadly, all too often the media get the basics of coverage of religion wrong and there is generally ignorance of faith issues and religious literacy. The centre aims to be a one-stop shop to provide facts, information and comment on religious issues. In time it will also provide training and a database of commentators available for the media to contact. The SNU fully supports this important initiative and the Union will play a full and active part in the new Media Centre, which launches in early December.

 

Some SNU Churches took part in celebrating Interfaith Week in early November and a service was held at the Arthur Findlay College as part of Jackie Wright's course The Awakening Mind, with many of the students taking part and reflecting six different religions in the service through the sharing of words and prayer. The Union also posted throughout the week on Facebook and Twitter to support the IFN and its members around the UK. It is hoped that as this annual event moves from strength to strength more SNU Churches will become involved. The Muslim religion holds an annual ‘Visit my Mosque Day’; is this not something that SNU Churches could do to open their doors to a wider community and help to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about Spiritualism as a world religion?

 


VAT Review

Based on a recommendation of the Finance Committee, Price Bailey, our auditors, will be engaged in the New Year to undertake a full review of our VAT process; the Union has a large liability for irreclaimable VAT each year and the aim is to seek ways in which this can be reduced to the benefit of the Charity.

 


Trustees Training Day

The Union is conscious of the need to keep its trustees current with all the recent changes in charity legislation and the demands of the role. A day's training and strategic review will take place in the New Year, organised and delivered by Stone King, solicitors.

 


NEC Blue-Sky Meeting

Members of the NEC will meet on 16th December to discuss the future of the Union; a loose agenda has been set, to include: Volunteering within the Union; The Union and how it is perceived; Focus on Religion; Growing the Union; The Role of District Councils; Achievements and Planning for the Future.

 


Church Improvement Grants 

This is a new initiative this year and a further eight Churches have been awarded grants in the second tranche of the scheme; no decision has yet been taken on extending the initiative into 2018 but this will be decided at the next Finance Committee meeting. The Union has to date made grants to fifteen Churches around the country during 2017, totalling nearly £50,000.

 


Exponents Report

The Church Administration Accreditation Scheme CAAS has been reviewed and will now be much more focused on Church administration at the Final Assessment Boards rather than just Chairing, which it is hoped will help train the Church Committee members of the future.

 

The Committee is also recommending that enrolment on all Accreditation schemes now automatically includes enrolment on the Basic Education Course for that particular scheme. This will ensure that students are learning the required knowledge to apply to the practical training they are undertaking. This proposal was agreed by the NEC.

 

Changes have also been made to the procedure followed after DC Healing Accreditation Boards for the paperwork to go directly to the Exponents Committee member responsible for dealing with them, so removing some of the work previously done by Head Office, which was just duplicating work unnecessarily.


 

Final Assessment Boards (FABs)

Details of dates and venues for the 2018 FABS are now available in the membership area of the new SNU website.

 


Solicitors' Bridal Parade

Four firms of solicitors attended the bridal parade held recently by the Union; following the meeting attended by the Officers and the Trust Property Co-ordinator it was agreed to retain our relationship with Stone King and Adams Harrison but to also invite Stanley Tee to undertake a couple of projects for the Union and then to review our position in regard to our legal work going forward.

 


Arthur Findlay College

Planning permission has been granted for upgrading the tutors' accommodation at the Hall; this will include making all rooms ensuite. Work continues on the Museum project and it is hoped to get a final determination of this shortly.

The new AFC website will launch on 1st January 2018; this will see all of the main SNU websites renewed within 2017, which is a testament to the hard work and determination of our staff. The new site will have a modern and user-friendly feel, which we hope will serve the College well in promoting its work around the world.


 

World Congress 2018

To date we have 82 people booked into the World Congress at the AFC; rooms at the Hall are very limited and anyone intending to attend should make and confirm their booking as soon as possible. The Spiritualists' World Council is putting the final touches to the programme for Congress and it promises to provide a historic opportunity to discuss, debate and plan the future of Spiritualism around the world. Because many delegates are travelling from many different countries to attend, this also provides a unique experience in itself; countries planning representation include the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Africa, Italy and Ireland and several other European countries will be sending delegates, an exciting prospect for all involved. Day delegates are also welcome if it is not possible to attend for the three days. Contact the College to book.

 


Barbanell Centre

The planning application for Jarvis House to provide accommodation at the Centre is well underway; it is hoped that this will be determined early in the New Year and on this basis the Union is proceeding to a contract of purchase for the property subject to planning consent being received.

Part of the development of Jarvis House will include installation of a new kitchen at the Centre and we also have plans to resurface the car park and to create a dedicated entrance from Co-operative Street; the resurfacing of the car park will provide greatly improved parking facilities, which is crucial, especially when the Centre is busy.

 


Open University Research Project

The Union has provided a submission to the Research Funding Council to support the grant request of the Open University, which plans to commission a new study on mediumship within Spiritualist Churches.

 


Healing Forum

Following the successful first Healing Awareness Week held in May this year £545.90 has been split between two local charities to help support their work. The charities are the Healing Hands Charity and the Sam Buxton Healing Trust. Our thanks go to all healers throughout the movement who took part and helped to raise these funds; plans for next year's week-long event are well underway.

 


Northampton Spiritualist Church Centenary

The Union is pleased to congratulate Northampton Church on the occasion of its Centenary; a service of Rededication was conducted at the Church in October and we wish the members well as they embark upon their second century.

 


Ministers Administration Committee (MAC)

Following the resignation of Minister Judith Seaman, Minister June English has been appointed as the Chairman of MAC.  The NEC would like to offer its thanks to Judith for her work with MAC over many years; she has without doubt played an integral part in the development of the modern Ministry and really raised the profile of both Ministers and Officiants and their work today.

 

Following a successful Ministers Congress Weekend it has been agreed to look at a new format for the event; the Committee is aware that it can be quite costly to travel to and attend the full weekend and the NEC have agreed that the Committee look at making this important annual event in the Ministry calendar a single day with a view to saving costs. The 2018 Ministers Congress is due to be held in Sheffield Bold Street Church, South Yorkshire, and further details will be available shortly.

 

Following some research by York University it would appear that nationally 139 Churches of all religions have registered to conduct same-sex marriage services; the Union knows of quite a few SNU Churches which have already registered to provide this service and we feel that our Churches make up a large proportion of the registered Churches, taking account of our size as a religion nationally. The NEC agreed to MAC’s request to try to establish how many Spiritualist Churches had registered.

 


Central Registry for all SNU Publications

It has been agreed that Redwoods will establish a central registry for all new and existing SNU documents and publications; this will allow us to better manage our publications and ensure that regular reviews take place to make sure everything in use is current and up to date.

 

Following work currently underway to review our internal policies all Churches will receive a copy of the necessary policy documents covering Health and Safety and Data Protection, which will ensure that Churches are current and in line with new legislation due to come into force in 2018.

 


Spiritualism and RE in Schools

The Union has made a full submission to the Independent Commission on Religious Education which tackles an important issue within our schools and education in general. Teaching RE encourages pupils to have a more inclusive view of the world and to appreciate that there are many different faiths and religions in the UK alone. It is hoped that the results from this survey will help inform government policy on this important aspect of education going forward.

 


SNU Trust - New Articles and Memorandum

The NEC has been working very closely with the SNU Trust on its new governance document and following several meetings we are pleased to report a very positive outcome working towards an EGM for the Trust in the new year.

 


District Council Accounts

Lesley Gilby at the SNU Trust has been working with District Treasurers to implement the new District Spreadsheet and to date nine out of the fourteen Districts are using the new system well; we are now working towards bringing the other five districts up to speed as we approach the end-of-year audit for Districts.

 


New Guidance from the Charity Commission on Independent Examiners

The NEC has reviewed the latest advice from the Charity Commission and this has been referred to the Finance Committee with a view to creating an advice document suitable for use in Churches.

 


SNUi - New Website

Some members have been experiencing difficulty with the new SNUi website and the Committee are working very hard to iron out any problems; some issues relate to the data migration into Oomi at Head Office but the office is dealing with these promptly.

 

The conference webinar facility of Mega meeting has now been extended to include video and a video test room has been created for the Committee; pending its rollout following successful testing this facility is going to move teaching and learning on SNUi to a whole new and exciting level for the future.

 

We now have increasing numbers of foreign students studying SNU courses; it is hoped shortly to establish for German-speaking members the Healing Accreditation Scheme in German, with all the paperwork associated, fully translated.

We also need either translators or German-speaking assessors to help operate this scheme and if any member has awards and is prepared to help in this important new initiative the Exponents Committee would be pleased to hear from you. You can contact the Committee via Redwoods.

 


The SNU and Twitter

In our first month on Twitter we have tweeted 26 times and we have 61 followers: ‘Move over, Donald Trump.’  We have received 2,000 views on @spirituliastSNU and the @spirit_action has received 6,400 views - early days but we are growing and sharing our message with a whole new audience.


 

Complaints Procedure

The Union is currently in the process of reviewing its internal complaints procedure with a view to streamlining the process and making it more user-friendly; the NEC have agreed that we will issue a new complaints form, which will need to be completed for all complaints to be considered. When published, forms will be available from District Council Secretaries or direct from Redwoods. The Union is also considering providing training for panel members hearing the complaints with a view to improving the process and providing a fair and equitable system for all.

 


500 Club

The latest draw took place recently, with one lucky member scooping a top prize of £500. Any member or Church or non-member wishing to join the scheme with a chance to win some excellent prizes should contact Jane Heatley at the Members Service Centre, Head Office. The odds of winning a prize are 14 to 1, which is better than the National Lottery.

 


Next NEC Meeting

The next NEC meeting will take place at the Barbanell Centre on 9th, 10th and 11th February 2018.  The next Council meeting will take place at the Barbanell Centre on Saturday 3rd February 2018.

 


Have your say

As part of an ongoing policy of openness the NEC would welcome your views; please feel free to email your comments to me at [email protected]

 

On behalf of the NEC I would like to wish all members of the SNU and its Churches a very happy Christmas and a spiritual New Year.

 

 

Thought for the day

‘Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.’

William Jennings Bryan 

space

Minister David Bruton 
President

 


Previous Blogs 

Presidents Blog | Edition 36 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 35 | 

Presidents Blog | Edition 34 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 33 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 32 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 31  |

Presidents Blog | Edition 30 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 29 |

Presidents Blog | Edition 28 |