President’s Blog 56

2020 AGM SPECIAL

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Annual General Meeting, 17th October 2020 via the Zoom platform

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. I have extended the Blog to include details of the recently held Annual General Meeting to update members who were unable to attend. This year the 118th AGM was held virtually for the first time via the Zoom platform.

 


Welcome

The President welcomed delegates to Conference, which was making history, as this was the first meeting held virtually online; he then invited Minister Jackie Wright, Vice-President, to give the invocation.

John Blackwood OSNU was invited again to take the Chair, his 20th AGM as Chairman.

 


President’s Address

When we last met together in Annual General Meeting in Glasgow I am sure that not one of us had any comprehension of what lay before us over the next fifteen months bringing us to today, not only for us as Spiritualists but for humanity as a whole. The pandemic has literally changed and touched the lives of everyone on this planet. It is a tribute to the resilience of humanity that against all odds we have found a way to carry on, we have faced the dramatic changes wrought by infection, death, government policy, our personal responsibility to our families and friends whom we love, the physical loss which has touched the lives of thousands of people and the dedication of those on the front line, and, together, we can fight this virus and humanity can once again rise supreme to realise the God-given potential each and every one of us possesses inside.

 

Who would have thought that every SNU Church in the country would have had to close? Who would have thought that the physical contact which is a fundamental part of humanity would be so cruelly taken from us? We cannot escape the fact that as Spiritualists we are great communicators on many levels and our ability to communicate with one another and the spirit cannot be simply snuffed out even by a worldwide pandemic.

 

I am sure there are members in this meeting who have different approaches to the technology which has become integrated into our lives over the last fifty years or so. Some of you may be experiencing a Zoom virtual meeting for the first time; I promise you that we have worked very hard to make today’s experience a positive one and I would like to pay tribute to everyone within the movement who has harnessed this evolving technology in order that we can continue to worship, continue to heal, continue to learn and, of course, continue to communicate with each other.

 

Most will be aware that SNUi, which started just eleven years ago, led the way and from a very early stage in lockdown its regular online service was modified and the doors were thrown open to the world, especially to the many Spiritualists who could no longer visit their own Church. Membership grew in the first month by 320%, such was the demand. The regular weekly programme was remodelled and many leading exponents within the movement came forward and gave their support, all from the safety of their own homes. If we look back over the history of Spiritualism, fellow-Spiritualists have so often been at the cutting edge of societal progress and I think this has been equally true in 2020. Long may it continue; we can never know what the future holds for us but if we are prepared to work together, to innovate and demonstrate truly our individual and collective spirituality, we can and will make a positive change not just for Spiritualism but for our world.

 

Over the last couple of months since early July some of our Churches have taken tentative steps to opening their doors again and welcoming their congregations back to worship. Others have decided, either because of geographical issues or the vulnerability of their committees, to delay opening into the New Year. The message from the Union has been clear and concise throughout: each and every Church must assess its situation and do what is best for its members and its community. We have also worked tirelessly to support the Churches through the lockdown towards reopening by providing clear, concise advice and support in regard to government policy and changes in the law which affect our movement.

 

Very early on my colleagues on the NEC agreed to play their part in an initiative to reach out to every Church in the country and, collectively, over a week or so, we each called by phone the President or an officer of 30-plus Churches. Our message to the Church Presidents was simple: the Union is here to help, Head Office remains open and we are literally at the end of a phone should you need us. I think this was a great initiative and from the feedback we have received without doubt we made an impact with our Churches that I hope we can build upon in the future.

 

Despite the global pandemic the work of the Union has continued apace; over the last few months work has been undertaken to develop the new Rules for Churches 2021, which is awaiting Charity Commission approval prior to issue, study courses have been rewritten from scratch, finally modernising our way to learning in the SNU, and training and testing has moved online to allow our students to continue in their search for knowledge. All credit to our team at Exponents and Education, who have worked tirelessly. Over the next few months and into the new electoral year plans are in place to build on the work in 2019 with the Healing Accreditation Scheme and develop a new way of learning. Student numbers are growing and thanks to the dedication of the Committee and the tutor and assessor team we move forward with no backlog of students waiting for boards; the new courses will, I am certain, support the learning within Spiritualism which is so important to secure the future of our movement for generations to come.

 

I would now like to move to talk about the loss of a friend and colleague. Mark Bradley CSNU returned to the NEC last July as our newly-appointed Financial Director and he had already begun to contribute to shaping the modern Union; the shock of his untimely passing affected many within Spiritualism and, speaking personally, I lost not only a colleague but a friend. I have no doubt Mark is keeping his eye on the Union from the spirit world and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Danny Goodchild, whom Mark had picked personally as a new member of the Finance Committee for agreeing to step forward and take on the role. Mark’s were large shoes to fill but Danny has without doubt brought his own individual touch to the role and I look forward to continue working with him. God bless, Mark, and thank you for all you did in the name of our movement; we will not forget you.

 

As many of you will be aware, 2020 was to be the Year of the Environment and the NEC was working on a range of initiatives so that Spiritualism could play its vital part to secure the future of humanity and save this planet on which we all live. The decision was taken to postpone the Year until 2021 and I am confident there are lessons for us all to take from our recent experiences which will inform some of the choices we make going forward. As far as I am aware, and I of course stand to be corrected, Croydon Church in East London is the first SNU Church to install solar panels; I watch with interest the Church’s experience with this technology and I hope other Churches will explore the possibility of taking this up. If we work together for the benefit of all we are so much stronger than if we stand alone. Please watch this space and, as always, we welcome your ideas and suggestions on how we can respond in a positive way to this challenging global problem facing all humanity.

 

2020 was also the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the Memorial at the National Arboretum at Alrewas and our working party had some wonderful plans as to how we were going to come together to celebrate this anniversary; despite all the arrangements being put on hold this year I am pleased to confirm that the plans remain intact and we look forward to making the eleventh anniversary every bit as special as we planned for the tenth. Please put the date in your diary – Saturday 3rd July 2021; we look forward to welcoming you to a memorable event in the history of Spiritualism and it will be so great to meet physically again with one another.

 

A few weeks ago I visited the Arthur Findlay College; the College, like the Churches, closed its doors in March and remains closed for the foreseeable future. Anyone that has researched Arthur Findlay’s life story will know that during his lifetime living at Stansted Hall he welcomed over thirty thousand house guests; today the College is closed and quiet and despite the fact that the energy of fifty years of learning and working with the spirit remains, it seems so different today from the vibrant, electric atmosphere created by students from around the world, learning about the gifts of the spirit and oftentimes starting their own journeys of spiritual exploration. In early October we completed the sad process of making eighteen members of staff redundant and that was in itself a painful experience with people who have in some cases been part of the Stansted family for many years.

 

Can I say now to avoid any doubt that the Arthur Findlay College will open once again; in the early days the experience may have to be different with a view to keeping our students and staff safe but Arthur’s legacy will simply not be allowed to die. We have come too far and I am equally sure that whenever we restart our courses we will perhaps bring a new dimension to the teaching of Spiritualism, mediumship and development. I fully accept that there have been voices in the movement saying we should have reopened the College weeks ago but the Collegiate Committee have equally worked tirelessly to secure the future; yes, at times we have had to make some difficult decisions but we have done so, secure in the knowledge that we have the full support of the NEC and the majority of our students. When we open, very much like our Churches, we will do so in a safe way for everyone. Open Week 2021 will, it has been decided, be held as a virtual event, with the format of Open Week long established; we simply can see no other way to operate and maintain safety in a Covid-secure environment. This will, I believe, provide the opportunity for people from around the world to experience Open Week, many for the first time; sadly, we won’t be able to meet at the College and I am sure many of us who have been associated with Open Week over many years will miss the experience of Stansted Hall but I am sure the event we will create will be equally as special in its own right and I look forward to welcoming you to join us. Details of arrangements will be made available in the new year.

 

I would like to pay a special tribute to Tanya Smith and Seamus Davies, the General Managers of the College and the Barbanell Centre; they have both worked throughout the lockdown and kept the buildings safe and secure. The Barbanell Centre reopened in July and is gradually, step by step, returning to full operation.    

 

As the Financial Director will report to you later in the meeting, the impact of closing the College will have a big effect on this year’s financial performance; however, the Union has developed a robust reserves policy and with competent financial management we will survive. We have also acted to support many Churches in need with grants to cover their immediate cashflow during closure; should any Church be facing difficulty, Head Office is your first point of contact. We are here to help: all you have to do is call.

 

It is right and proper ,as your President, that I pay tribute to the dedicated team of people who work to enable the Union to function and continue to promote the standards and philosophy of our Spiritualism. Every committee within the Union has continued to meet virtually throughout the lockdown and some committees have actually increased their workload and meetings. We have also kept in close touch with the districts who are the administrative arms of the Union throughout the country and enabled them in turn to support the Churches and members in their area. East and West London, South Wales, North Yorkshire and West Midlands have all held virtual services and meetings, which have helped support the wider community and also played a part in bringing many new people into Spiritualism.

 

I would also like to pay tribute to my fellow officers and the members of the NEC, who have supported me and the Union as together we have navigated these choppy, challenging waters of 2020. My thanks also go to Rachael and the staff at Head Office, who have kept the phones manned and the wheels of the administrative part of the Union turning despite all odds. Our thanks go to our colleagues at the SNU Trust, who have also continued to work throughout the lockdown delivering the necessary financial services to the Union and its Churches. I would also like to thank our Churches around the country and the officers and committees who have kept an eye on the property and stayed in contact with the membership and congregation alike, which will be crucial when the time comes to reopen and start to function along the lines of our proud and strong history within our movement.

 

And so to the future: I am sure we all long to return to normal, whatever that means. I am quietly confident that despite the fact Spiritualism is likely going to have to change, I think it is virtually unthinkable that we will want to abandon our virtual congregations when we return to physical worship but we have to learn the lessons of the last seven months and, as we re-emerge, we can draw fresh insight and inspiration from spirit to mould our religion in a way that it addresses the needs of today. Our message is a potent and supportive message to humanity and we all know it can make such a difference to our lives and the lives of those whom we seek to help and support. There is a theory which states that there is no such thing as chance: there is purpose in all that we experience and through that purpose we grow, become stronger, better experienced and educated, more spiritual in our outlook, kinder and more caring human beings. The pandemic demonstrates for us all that despite our so-called highly-evolved society there are things in this world over which we have little or no control, but never doubt the divine purpose of which we are all part; it pulses through our physical veins and embraces and lifts us when our need is great. And never doubt its reach; it includes all humanity, all nature, all universes, all life. That is the true magic of our journey and, if we are wise and listen to the still small voice within, it will bring depth of understanding, compassion and insight to our lived experience in this world whilst preparing each and every one of us for the life beyond life.

 

You may call it magic, you may call it destiny, you may call it progress, but we know that we do not journey alone, for God is with and within us and we have nothing to fear.

 

Let’s start to build together; let’s look at moving beyond the experience of 2020 and plan for a brighter future. Success depends upon all of us and I believe that, together, we are such a force for good in our world and beyond. Nobody should fall through the cracks in our awareness. Union speaks to us of togetherness, a shared purpose, strength in numbers and just perhaps a new spiritual revelation that will set humanity on a path of growth, enlightenment and a greater insight into how, collectively, we can make things better for all. Don’t set your aspirations low; rather, aim for the highest and carry others with you as you seek to rise to unity with the God-force, the true essence of all life, past, present and future. Time is but a physical illusion; eternity beckons us forward to pastures new and opportunities yet unthought of.

 

Be proud to be a Spiritualist and together let’s build a philosophical understanding of life’s true purpose. We don’t stand alone: the vast wisdom of spirit seeks to broaden our consciousness and provide purpose in all we seek to achieve.

Be proud to be a Spiritualist and together let’s build a philosophical understanding of life’s true purpose. We don’t stand alone: the vast wisdom of spirit seeks to broaden our consciousness and provide purpose in all we seek to achieve.


Declaration of Elections

President

Vice-President

Elective Auditor

Council Member to National Executive Committee

Minister David Bruton declared elected unopposed.

Minister June English declared elected.

Richard Smith declared elected.

Jean Smart declared elected.

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Declaration of Appointments:

Finance Director

Education & Exponents Director

Communications Director

Danny Goodchild was appointed for this year to complete the term of office started by Mark Bradley. Further nominations will be sought in 2021.

Minister Steven Upton.

Alv Hirst.

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Declaration of Members of the Council:

The following are duly elected or appointed Councillors for the coming electoral year:-

East London DC
Keith Parsons
West London DC
Lorraine Gilbert Grey OSNU
East Midlands DC
Minister Myrrha Hibbert
West Midlands DC
Loraine Todd
Northern DC
Minister Lynda Bradley
Manchester DC
Minister Janette Cookson
North Lancs & Cumbria DC
Helen Taylor OSNU
Merseyside & North Wales DC
Jacky Ellis CSNU
Scottish & Irish DC
Caroline Spink
Southern DC
Vacant
South Western DC Minister Marian Bishop
South Wales DC Sandra Jarrold DSNU
North Yorkshire DC Suzanne Coldwell
South Yorkshire DC Jean Smart CSNU
Lyceum Union Minister Jenny Peacock
SNU International Marilyn Marsh
Individual Members Representative        

Marie Lisserman

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Credential Report

Membership Class
Voting Strength
Individual Members
207 x 1

207

Individual Member proxy votes
148 x 1
148
Individual Member proxy to Chair
143 x 1
143
Church Representatives
55 x 5
275
Church Representative proxy votes
41 x 5
205
Church Representative proxy to Chair
36 x 1
180
Pioneer Centre Representatives
1 x 2
2
District Council Representatives
13 x 5
65
Lyceum Union Representative 1 x 5 5
SNUi Representative 1 x 5 5
Total Voting Strength:
1235

Visitors:  7

This is the highest voting strength we have achieved in the recent history of the SNU.

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Motions

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Motion 1:

Re-appointment of auditors requiring a simple majority

That this Annual General Meeting agrees that Messrs Price Bailey LLP be re-appointed as the Union's auditors for the coming year and that their remuneration be fixed by the National Executive Committee.

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National Executive Committee

Proposed by Danny Goodchild CSNU, Finance Director

Seconded from the floor

Voting

For
Against
Members:
640
2
Proxy:
340
   
2
986
4

Motion carried.


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Motion 2:

Special Resolution requiring a three-fourths majority

That this meeting resolves to adopt the Memorandum and Articles of Association as detailed in the Appendix to this motion.

National Executive Committee

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NOTE OF EXPLANATION:

At the 2019 SNU AGM members agreed to support a policy of using gender-neutral language in all documentation issued by the Union and requested the National Executive Committee to present a gender-neutral set of Memorandum and Articles of Association for consideration at the 2020 AGM; this motion implements this request.

The Appendix referred to in this motion is printed on page 10 of this AGM Notice and Agenda booklet.

Proposed by Minister David Bruton

Seconded by Minister Steven Upton

Voting

For
Against
Members:
226
10
Proxy:
338
   
12
564
22

Motion Carried


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Motion 3:

Special Resolution requiring a three-fourths majority

That Article 39, paragraph (1), of the Articles in force at the close of this Annual General Meeting be amended as follows:-

 

(a)  Amend the preamble to read as follows:-

 The following conditions must be fulfilled to render a person eligible for the position of President, Vice-President or Financial Director:-

 

(b)  Amend sub-paragraph (ii) to read as follows:-

(ii)   Full membership of an affiliated body or Pioneer Centre and Individual Membership of the Union, both at the date of nomination and also over a period of not less than ten years immediately prior to the date of nomination.

National Executive Committee

 

NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Amendment (a) imposes the same conditions for eligibility for the position of Financial Director as those for President and Vice-President, thus bringing the qualifications for office of all the Officers of the Union into line with each other.

Amendment (b) brings the membership requirement for all the Officers of the Union into line with that for all other members of the National Executive Committee and reflects the more modern trend of widening eligibility to include Kindred Bodies and Pioneer Centres within the full membership requirements for office within the Union.

 

Proposed by Minister Jackie Wright

Seconded by Minister June English

Voting

For
Against
Members:
245
13
Proxy:
336
   
5
581
18

Motion Carried


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Motion 4:

Special Resolution requiring a three-fourths majority

That the Articles in force at the close of this Annual General Meeting be amended as follows:-

 

(a)  Amend Article 54(4) to read as follows:-

The Union may send a strategic report with supplementary material as set out in sections 426 and 426A of the Act to members instead of or in addition to copies of its full report and accounts. These may be sent by email to an email address notified to the Union by the member. Alternatively, subject to notification to members and their consent, as required by the Act, they may be made available on the Union's website.

 

(b)  Amend Article 56 to read as follows:-

(1)  A notice may be given by the Union to members by addressing it to them at their address as appearing in the register of members, and leaving it thereat or sending it through the post in a prepaid letter or sending it to an email address for the time being notified to the Union by the member as the case may be.

(2)  A notice may be given by the Union to Churches or other bodies by addressing it to their secretaries or other appropriate officers, either by name (as appearing in the Union's register of Churches and other bodies) or by their office, and either at their own address (as appearing in the said register) or at the address of the Church or other body, and leaving it thereat or sending it through the post in a prepaid letter or to an email address for the time being notified to the Union by the secretary or other officer as the case may be.

(3)  Service of any notice to Affiliate Members shall be deemed to have been effected when a single notice addressed to all Affiliate Members within a Church of which they are a member is left thereat or sent thereto through the post in a prepaid letter or sent by email to an email address for the time being notified to the Union by the secretary or other appropriate officer of the Church.

(4)  A notice or requisition to the Union or the National Executive Committee or the chief administrative officer may be given by sending it through the post in a prepaid letter addressed to the registered office of the Union, or by depositing it thereat and obtaining a receipt for it from an executive of the Union, or by sending it by email to an email address for the time being notified by the Union.

(5)  Proof that an envelope containing a notice was properly addressed, prepaid and posted shall be conclusive evidence that the notice was given. Proof that a notice contained in an email was properly sent shall be conclusive evidence that the notice was given. Service of any notice shall be deemed to have been effected when it is left or deposited as aforesaid or at the expiration of forty-eight hours after the letter containing it is posted or, in the case of a notice contained in an email, at the expiration of forty-eight hours after the time it was sent.

(6)  Where appropriate, notice of meetings or the availability of documents may be given by making them available on the Union's website but this is subject to prior notification to members and their consent, as required by the Act.

National Executive Committee

 

NOTE OF EXPLANATION: The existing Articles 54(4) and 56 make reference to the use of electronic communications as an option for the giving of notices by or to the Union;  this motion replaces the terms 'electronically' and 'electronic communications' with 'email', because the former terms are very wide and include modes of communication such as texting, messaging and social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, which are not regarded as appropriate means of giving or receiving notices.

 

Proposed by Minister Steven Upton

Seconded by Jean Smart CSNU

Voting

For
Against
Members:
252
1
Proxy:
340
   
9
592
10

Motion Carried


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Motion 5:

Special Resolution requiring a three-fourths majority

That Article 66, paragraph (p), of the Articles in force at the close of this Annual General Meeting be amended to read as follows:-

 

(p)  National Executive                                 As shown by Article 37.

Committee

The Officers

The President

The Vice-Presidents

The Financial Director

Designated Directors

Ordinary Members

of the National

Executive Committee

Council Member

to the National

Executive Committee

National Executive Committee

 

NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Article 66(p) presently refers to 'The Chairmen of Standing Committees' but Standing Committees were abolished in 2018 and replaced by Designated Directors.

 

Proposed by Minister Alan Rawnsley

Seconded by Pat Seymour OSNU

Voting

For
Against
Members:
252
8
Proxy:
348
   
2
600
10

Motion Carried


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Motion 6:

Special Resolution requiring a three-fourths majority

That Article 66, paragraph (q), of the Articles in force at the close of this Annual General Meeting be amended to read as follows:-

 

(p)  The Council                                             As shown by Article 38.

National Councillors

District Council

National Councillors

Lyceum National

Councillor

SNUi National

Councillor

Individual Members

National Councillor

National Executive Committee

 

NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Article 66(q) presently refers to 'Councillors' and 'Representatives' but these terms were abolished in 2018 and replaced by the term 'National Councillor'.

 

Proposed by Danny Goodchild CSNU

Seconded by Minister Suzanne Gibson-Foy

Voting

For
Against
Members:
223
3
Proxy:
347
   
3
570
6

Motion Carried


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Motion 7:

Ordinary resolution requiring a simple majority

That this Annual General Meeting requests the National Executive Committee to produce for sale badges with 'Volunteer' on them.

Gravesend SC

 

NOTE OF EXPLANATION: Many Churches rely on volunteers and as such this would be a fantastic way of honouring the work they do.

 

Proposed by President, Gravesend Church

Seconded from the floor

Voting

For
Against
Members:
108
177
Proxy:
289
   
43
397
220

Motion Carried


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Date and Venue of Future Meetings

Date and venue of 2021 Annual General Meeting:

24th and 25th July 2021, Holiday Inn, Norwich, hosted by Norwich Church.

 

Date and venue of 2022 Annual General Meeting:

16th and 17th July 2022, venue to be arranged, hosted by the West Midlands District Council. During the meeting a recording of the Annual Awards presentation which was recorded on the 4th October. Minister June English lead Arisen Friends which this year had been extended following the comments of the Almoner at last year’s meeting.

Both of these videos are available to view by following the links below.

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Arisen Friends



Prizes & Awards






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Minister David R. Bruton

President of The Spiritualists' National Union

 


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Previous Blogs 

President's Blog | Edition 55 |

President's Blog | Edition 54 |

President's Blog | Edition 53 |

President's Blog | Edition 52 |

President's Blog | Edition 51 |

President's Blog | Edition 50 |

President's Blog | Edition 49 |

President's Blog | Edition 48 |

President's Blog | AGM19 Special |

President's Blog | Edition 46 |

President's Blog | Edition 45 |

President's Blog | Edition 44 |

President's Blog | Edition 43 |

President's Blog | Edition 42 |

President's Blog | Edition 41 |

President's Blog | AGM18 Special |

President's Blog | Edition 40 |

President's Blog | Edition 39 |

President's Blog | Edition 38 |

President's Blog | Edition 37 |

President's Blog | Edition 36 |

President's Blog | Edition 35 | 

President's Blog | Edition 34 |

President's Blog | Edition 33 |

President's Blog | Edition 32 |

President's Blog | Edition 31  |

President's Blog | Edition 30 |

President's Blog | Edition 29 |

President's Blog | Edition 28 |