President’s Blog 52

 

NEC Meeting Saturday 4th April 2020 via Zoom

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. It is posted on the main SNU website shortly after each NEC meeting and also shared via social media, meaning that it now reaches several thousand people with each new edition. 

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. Given the unprecedented changes to normal living we have all experienced in the last few weeks it was agreed that this meeting of the NEC would only deal with an emergency agenda, making the decisions which were vital to the running of the Union and the support of our members in these difficult times. A further NEC Zoom meeting will be held on Saturday 18th April, which will address the normal agenda.


Continuity Planning - Covid-19

Emergency Powers

Discussion took place around the necessary contingency measures should key members of the NEC or senior management fall ill or become incapacitated. The Officers are responsible for making decisions between NEC meetings and it was agreed that should more than two Officers be unavailable a temporary appointment or co-option would be made from other members of the Board. Each key member of the management team was assigned a deputy to ensure that the operations of the Union continue in any eventuality.

No further changes were envisaged to the constitution at this time but this remains under review as the situation develops.

 


Finance and Investments  

Head Office, the Arthur Findlay College and the Barbanell Centre have all submitted revised budgets for the year and revised cashflows have also been prepared. The Financial Director led the discussion of these documents and the NEC reviewed each area of operation following the changes that have occurred in recent weeks; the necessary steps were agreed to ensure cashflow in the short- to medium-term and the Union has, so the NEC believes, sufficient reserves to weather the storm. Guidance was reported by the President from the Charities SORP Committee around control measures and charity financial reporting, and the necessary changes in the 2019 accounts and Trustees' Report were raised and agreed. It is likely that the Balance Sheet will have to be re-stated following the falls on equity markets, which will have a material effect on the year-end figures. The Board is satisfied that the Union continues to meet the criteria to be a going concern.

 


AFC / Barbanell and Head Office

Arthur Findlay College

The Collegiate Committee have been meeting on a weekly basis to manage the situation with the College and the Centre. It was agreed in March, following the reduction in international air travel and the closure of borders around the world, that the College would close until 9th May and, going forward, the decisions to cancel courses and remain closed would be taken on a weekly basis. It was also agreed that Open Week 2020 would be postponed and it was hoped to organise a similar event later in the year. The Collegiate Committee have agreed a skeleton staff to keep the College operating and secure; this includes reception and the accounts team. All staff will continue to be paid their full salary going forward; however, we would investigate the government's furlough scheme whilst continuing to top up the payments to full salary for all staff.

 


Barbanell Centre 

The Centre is also now effectively closed, though the General Manager is going in to the office every day to be able to respond to student queries and enquiries and ensure the security of the buildings.

 


Head Office

All Head Office staff are now working from home with the exception of the General Manager, who is manning the phones at the office; as such, all office functions continue as normal and members, Churches and the general public can call the office as normal during office hours.

 


Managing Churches and District Councils

Districts

The NEC agreed to hold a Zoom meeting with the Presidents of all Districts on Wednesday 15th April;  this will allow us to update the Districts on the current and ever-changing state of affairs and share good practice between districts as to how best we can act to support our Churches and members at this time.

The Union is aware that many Districts won’t have been able to complete their AGMs but we are investigating the possibility of holding these meetings on-line; this will be discussed further at the meeting in April. Districts that have not completed their AGMs should still seek dispensation from Head Office to hold their meeting outside the requirements of Bye-laws B.

 


Churches

Since the beginning of the outbreak the Union has worked very hard to keep the Churches informed of the necessary things they need to do to operate safely or what steps to take when the Committee had decided to close. A report has been posted on the main SNU website;  this has been updated and promoted via our social media channels and a hard copy has been sent to every Church. When the Government took the decision for Churches to close, this was also shared widely.

 


AGMs

Like the districts, we are aware that many Churches have not yet held their AGMs and they are now unlikely to be able to do so until the lockdown is lifted.

The NEC has agreed a blanket dispensation for all Churches to hold their AGM outside the provisions of the Rules for Churches but, again, each Church is still required to apply to Head Office for dispensation just so we can manage the process effectively. It must be noted that at some stage an AGM must be held and cancelling the AGM completely is not acceptable. The Committee elected at the 2019 AGM remain in office until the meeting takes place and any nominations process held is just held over until things return to normal.

 


Wardens' Reports

Any wardens' reports that have been completed before the lockdown should be returned to Head Office in the normal manner but for any wardens' reports not completed to date the NEC has agreed to remove the requirement for National Wardens to submit a warden's report this year; the procedure will be reinstated as normal in 2021.


 

Church Part Two Returns     

Any Churches that have completed their AGMs before the lockdown should return their Part Two returns to Head Office in the normal manner. We are aware that these forms need usually to be signed by two Church Officers, which may be difficult due to the restrictions of travel; for the 2020 return only it is acceptable for one Officer to sign the form and this needs to be supported by an email to Head Office from another Church Officer to endorse the return.


Reaching out to our Churches

It has been agreed that over the next few weeks a member of the NEC will make telephone contact with the President of every SNU-affiliated Church in the UK. We are very aware that many Church Officers may be self-isolating at home and we feel it important that the Union reach out to our members to support them at this time. Should a Church need help or financial support, then please contact Head Office in the first instance. It has been agreed that we will look on each request for help on a case-by-case basis and the Union will do all it can should a Church be in genuine need.


SNU Trust

We understand that the SNU Trust has written to each of its members again with an offer of help should they have any financial problems during the lockdown period.

 


Managing the Aftermath

The support we are providing now will continue as the outbreak passes and Churches start to think about re-opening to the public and restarting their regular services. It has been agreed that the Union will write a special Service of Thanksgiving, which will be provided freely to the Churches as they plan to return to normal operations.


Events and Meetings

SNU AGM

The SNU has taken advice and guidance from the Charity Commission, Companies House and our professional advisors and the following steps have been agreed:

The AGM due to be held at the Holiday Inn in Norwich is to be cancelled with immediate effect. All deposits and payments received from members to date will be automatically returned; there is no need to apply.

The invitation from Norwich Church to host the AGM will be transferred to the 2021 AGM.

Our constitution requires that we hold an AGM within fifteen months of the last meeting date; we have explored the possibility of cancelling the meeting completely, holding a meeting via the internet, and all these options have been rejected.

We have agreed that for this year, 2020, the AGM of the Spiritualists’ National Union will be held at the Barbanell Centre on Saturday 17th October.

A formal notice and agenda will be circulated in due course, together with a new booking form. The NEC has agreed that the meeting will conclude in one day; there will be no charge to attend the AGM and refreshments and lunch will be provided to everyone in attendance at no cost to the delegates. Anyone requiring accommodation can book via the Barbanell Centre when the booking form is circulated; accommodation and travel expenses to attend the meeting will still be the responsibility of the delegate or the body whom they represent.

The whole timetable for voting, elections and the submission of motions will be moved forward by three months and this will be published in due course.

All nominations made for both the first and second tranche of nominations will stand and there will be no need to re-run the nominations process. The current NEC will remain in office until the close of the AGM on 17th October.

Should the lockdown continue for a long period the Union will take the necessary action to validate credential cards issued for the 2019 electoral year should a Church have been unable to hold its AGM, which will mean their delegates can still attend the meeting and represent the body that has delegated them.

It is hoped that by October it will be possible to hold a physical meeting of members; however, the NEC will keep this situation under review and if it becomes likely that we are unable to hold the meeting in October we will make application to the regulatory authorities to move beyond the provisions of our Memorandum and Articles. We will of course work hard to ensure that members are kept fully informed of developments as decisions are made.

Following the changes to the AGM the planned Ministers Congress which was due to take place on the 17th October will be rescheduled
and this will be communicated with the Ministry as soon as MAC have agreed the arrangements.

 


Wildflower meadow leading to SNU Obelisk at NMA

Peace Walk  

It is with great regret that we have taken the decision to cancel our annual Peace Walk at the National Memorial Arboretum for 2020; this is particularly sad because this was to be the tenth anniversary of the dedication of our Memorial and we had many plans for a very special occasion. We have, of course, to make the well-being and safety of our membership paramount at this time. The NEC would like to pay tribute and give grateful thanks to Keith Parsons and his working party, who have worked so hard to plan this year’s event. We would also like to thank all of the districts and Churches who have planned coaches to support the day. We are confident the event will continue next year and we promise we will pull out all of the stops to create a day to remember for everyone who wishes to take part.

 


Focus on Religion
Two events had been planned this year as part of the focus on Religion Initiative, it has been agreed these will both be postponed until 2021 and it is hoped that we will be able to retain the same venues, this will be confirmed once the events have been rescheduled next year. 

Green Summit

Given the lockdown it has been agreed to postpone the Green Summit until 2021 and 2021 will continue as the Year of the Environment. Given the unprecedented circumstances it is widely reported that our lack of ability to travel is having a beneficial effect on greenhouse gases and the environment as a whole. Perhaps, on reflection, this is the silver lining to the sad situation which humanity currently faces; only time will tell.


Meet the NEC 

All the arrangements for Meet the NEC have been deferred until 2021; Head Office will contact the Districts in due course to make fresh arrangements for next year.


The Listening Ear

The Ministers Administration Committee (MAC) are currently working to provide contact details of Ministers who are prepared to take calls from members who need to talk to someone. This initiative will be promoted shortly; we are very conscious of members living alone and isolated who may just need someone to talk with. We are by our very nature as Spiritualists people who enjoy the company of others and this can make the lockdown even more difficult to bear, which could potentially have a detrimental effect upon our mental health. The Union and the Ministry will do all in their power to reach out and support people who need our help and we would encourage our Churches and Districts to adopt the same approach with anyone who is part of the Spiritualist family and beyond.

MAC are also concerned that many families are losing loved ones and if they pass to spirit in hospital family and friends are just not allowed to visit, which can be so hard to bear not to be present when a loved one takes their transition.

We are also aware that many local authorities are taking different approaches to the organisation of funeral services. Some are allowing close family to attend; however, some are ruling that no members of the family can attend, which again we recognise is a very sad situation. Ministers and Officiants will do all they can to help in these situations and perhaps to help the family to organise a suitable Memorial Service when the lockdown finally comes to an end.


Education

I understand that many people are using this opportunity created by the lockdown to enhance their study through SNU education courses. The team continue to work hard to support their students and anyone wishing to enrol on a course should contact Head Office, which will be pleased to help you.

 


Communications

The Communications Director and his team have done an excellent job in supporting the Spiritualist community through social media channels. SNUi now holds a weekly open access service via Zoom at 6.30 p.m. (BST) every Sunday; on Monday evening at 7.00 p.m. the President will hold an audience on line via Zoom, again open access, where he will each week be joined by two prominent members of the Union for a discussion and question-and-answer session on subjects related to Spiritualism. Each Friday, again at 7.00 p.m., a regular Healing service will be held, again on an open access basis. In addition, we are planning some special demonstrations of mediumship which are promoted via SNUi and social media. We also understand that many Churches and some districts are moving their services on-line to maintain the link with their congregations. Should any Church need any support in this work, please contact the Communications Director, Alv Hirst, [email protected] , who will be pleased to help.

 


500 Club

The draw takes place once a quarter and next time it could be you who wins! Contact Redwoods if you are interested in taking part, supporting the Union and potentially winning some great cash prizes. Churches are welcome to take part.

You have to be in it to win it!


Next NEC Meeting

The next NEC meeting will take place via Zoom on Saturday 18th April 2020. The next Council meeting will take place at the Barbanell Centre on Saturday 26th September 2020.


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]


Closing remarks

During these difficult times I would encourage everyone to draw strength from our community; our knowledge and understanding of life beyond this world can be such a comfort in these difficult times. I have no doubt that Spiritualism and the SNU will come through this but perhaps at the point when all the restrictions are removed we all need to take time to reflect on the experience of these last weeks and months and resolve to change the way we live and care for one another in view of the selfless actions of those on the front line, from health workers to shop workers to everyone who has worked tirelessly to help others. Please remember that Healing is such an important part of what we do; if at the time of reading this you are sitting at home feeling bored or useless, perhaps a few moments spent in contemplation and reflection, sending our healing energy to help and support others around the world, might just bring a ray of light into someone’s life when their need is greatest.

Please stay safe and keep well and let's collectively pray for a swift end to this suffering in so many countries around the world.   

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Minister David R. Bruton

President of The Spiritualists' National Union

 


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Previous Blogs 

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 |