Our churches, centres, their committees and volunteers, are the beating heart of the SNU and Spiritualist movement. In this new series, we will be visiting and showcasing the wonderful work, excellent achievements and inspiring stories happening across the Union.

For this special, one-off instalment for Volunteers' Week 2023, Head of Communications, Kyle, takes a look at how volunteers form the heart of SNU Spiritualism at every level, and give thanks for their wonderful, selfless service...

“The Union is consciously pushing itself onto a more professional and modern footing. The past twelve months alone have seen professionals recruited into positions such as my own, as well as governance, property, administration and other areas where entirely new positions have been created, in recognition of the modern needs of a national organisation.”

Words of my own, that I find myself reading back as part of an interview I was kindly invited to participate in, for the upcoming June issue of Psychic News.

I sit absorbing my own comments as we see out what has been an extraordinarily busy May. From the external celebrations and distractions of the King’s Coronation and what has felt at times like a perpetual state of ‘Bank Holidaying’, through to our own Union-specific busyness of Open Week at the Arthur Findlay College, the tail end of AGM season for our Churches and District Councils and, of course, our own upcoming annual Peace Walk and Union AGM, with all their associated nebulas of meetings, coordination and planning, it feels like an appropriate moment to pause, reflect and also look ahead.

There’s no doubt that the Union is in a state of change and evolution. As I was pleased to point out to our friends at Psychic News, the creation of new roles, along with the adoption of dedicated, role-specific employees to put the Union on a more contemporary and professional footing, is indeed an exciting and forward-thinking process that I am truly proud to be a part of.

And yet, for all of this change, evolution and progression, and for all of the experience and perspective that trained professionals can (and do) bring to the Union, I sit writing this on the eve of what I believe is one of the most important and resonant weeks in our calendar.

“The ship of SNU Spiritualism is kept afloat on a sea of goodwill, selflessness and generosity..."

Curiously, it is not a week that is in any way unique to Spiritualism or the SNU, but rather one internationally recognised and celebrated.

Still, there is something particularly important and resonant in how this is a week that, for all of our professional reconfiguring and improvements, is a time to give thanks and recognition to those who truly keep this movement and Union alive.

I speak, of course, about Volunteers’ Week.

The official Volunteers’ Week website (www.volunteersweek.org) says of those it celebrates, “Volunteers are always active at the heart of every UK community,” and we know that this couldn’t be more true of the Spiritualist movement.

From the officers who keep our District Councils running, to the fantastic, dedicated committee members who run and maintain our churches and centres, who themselves are of course kept afloat by an army of cleaners, flower arrangers, musicians etc., and the support of friends, members and dedicated congregations. There are the tireless efforts of our fantastic body of Healers, the examples and guidance of our teachers, and those who help all the myriad cogs and gears of the Union engine turning.

The ship of SNU Spiritualism is kept afloat on a sea of goodwill, selflessness and generosity, and in many more diverse and numerous ways than an article even ten times the length of this one could ever quite do justice to.

Shining a light of thanks...: From rennovations to celebrations, warm banks to award wins, despite being in its relative infancy, this SNU Spotlight series has already seen first-hand some of the incredible, inspiring work that the volunteers of SNU Spiritualism are doing (images © Derby Central Spiritualist Church, Newmarket Pioneer Centre, Kyle Pedley).

“Our members and churches are the beating heart of our movement,” SNU President, Minister Jackie Wright says, echoing a sentiment that has become something of a governing principle of hers since her election to the role, last July.

“Without the dedication, spirit and, in many cases, sacrifices, of our wonderful volunteers, it simply wouldn’t exist.

"Our gratitude and thanks to them is in no way confined to just this one single week, but it is still a wonderful time to celebrate and recognise their contributions.”

In April, we asked members a simple yet profound question on the Union’s social media channels:

What do you find most rewarding about volunteering for your church?

The breadth and warmth of answers practically all showcased the same indelible sense of pride and community spirit that seems to underpin so much of the ‘why’ when it comes to volunteering within Modern Spiritualism. Many answers also draw attention to the the rewarding sense of fostering an environment for mediumship and communication from Spirit.

Once again - selflessness and priority of thought, love and compassion for others.

“It is an absolute pleasure to volunteer,” Tina Marie K, Vice President of Wigan Spiritualist Church, explained, “I went to church with my mum from the age of five. [I] always left feeling uplifted.

“To see those happy smiles and happy tears as someone they miss and love comes close, fills my souls and reminds me of how I am super proud to be a Spiritualist.”

Pete Scholefield, President of Barnsley National Spiritualist Church, explained how, for him, “the reward since coming back to this beautiful church is watching the congregation grow with new and old members. Watching their faces as they receive uplifting and inspiring messages of hope, with faith in their hearts.”

As we all know, the efforts of our wonderful volunteers are not confined to the fantastic efforts within our churches and centres, either. Medium Jason Dean Rothwell, who serves churches across the Country, drew attention to how so many of the movement’s volunteers branch out into important and essential community work:

“I honestly feel so inspired by the work of our voluntary leaders; the committee of Totton with their foodbank… the team at Daulby Hill, Liverpool do incredible work, with the help of their congregation, collecting for the women’s refuge and for need children… whilst Boston take what their Church gathers out to the homeless and in need of Manchester. Bringing them food, warm clothes and good old Mancunian warm-heart laughter.

“The living heart of Spiritualism!”

Answers from the heart: The SNU's 'Big Question' for April, as featured on its social media channels, was all about asking what volunteers find rewarding about their service. Some of the numerous heartwarming responses are featured within this article.  

Marian Frost, a member of Stafford Spiritualist Church for what she herself calls ‘many years’, also gives her time and support to events such as the annual Open Week at the Arthur Findlay College.

A seasoned, dedicated volunteer known to so many within the Religion, who has given such much of her life to the betterment of Stafford and the wider Spiritualist movement, said of the Church, and why she volunteers:

“It is a place where all my friends are, and over the years they have shared with me my joys, and also my heartbreaks, as I hopefully have with theirs.

“It’s my warm place to go to whenever I want to, and know that I will always be welcome, and greeted with hugs and a welcoming, loving feeling. Plus, of course, a coffee or tea.

“I am trusted to do the jobs that they ask of me, with no breathing down my neck, and I think that is wonderful for an 85-year old, who most everyday people think are past it!”

And the importance and generosity of those who volunteer is perhaps best encapsulated by a response from Moira Hawkins, to Marian’s warm words:

“You do the best job ever.

“You are the backbone of our church.”

Moving out beyond the SNU’s churches, centres, committees and members, the goodwill and kindness of volunteers keeps even major landmarks and centres within the Union in good stead.

In late 2022 and early 2023, the Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall, one of the most renowned and celebrated international centres of Psychic and Spiritualist study and development, put out a call for volunteers to help tend to and maintain the Hall’s stunning but sizeable grounds. Amongst those who responded and went along to give their time to help manage the beautiful gardens, volunteer Chris Lane spoke of how rewarding and enjoyable he found the experience to be:

“I recently spent a week helping staff with the gardens and grounds at the beautiful Stansted Hall. It was a memorable, fun week, with some physical work thrown in - cutting down brambles, spreading compost on flowers beds, and pruning trees.

Green-fingered generosity: Volunteers Giovanni Marro (Centre, left) and Chris Lane (Centre, right) joined the team at AFC and generously gave weeks of their own time to volunteer to maintain and tend to the beautiful grounds of Stansted Hall (image © AFC). 

“We were very well supervised and looked after by the lovely gardening staff - who must have recognised I’m not used to this sort of work, and ensured that I got my tea breaks!”

Of the change and impact their spell of volunteering had, Lane believes it was notable:

“I feel we really made a difference, and everyone went out of their way to thank us.

“I would certainly recommend the experience to everyone… and I hope to come back, but fitter!”

As such a broad movement that spans across the UK (and, of course, beyond), the instances of inspiring volunteer excellence are far too numerous to ever adequately cover here.

With that being said, what is clear, when looking at and listening to the experiences and perspectives of volunteers from every corner of the movement - from the AFC to District Councils to individual affiliated churches and centres - is that it is all underpinned by some of Spiritualism’s most human and selfless Principles - Personal Responsibility and The Brotherhood of Man coming immediately to mind.

“It is all underpinned by some of Spiritualism's most human and selfless Principles - Personal Responsibility and The Brotherhood of Man coming immediately to mind."

And for all of the boundless warmth and kindness that I myself have received since taking up post, and indeed the enthusiasm, ambition and excitement that surrounds each new appointment and role as the Union pivots toward an exciting new professional chapter, there is something indelible, heartening and pure about taking this time to recognise the everyday sacrifices and fellowship of our wonderful volunteers.

Indeed, acknowledging and recognising volunteers as the lifeblood and true facilitators of Modern Spiritualism is something proudly recognised at every level of the SNU structure, including amongst its tutors, officiants, officers and Ministers.

In 2023, the Union launched its first ever ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award, a new programme to specifically recognise and thank volunteer service at both a regional and national level. The winner(s) for 2023 are due to be announced over the course of the coming week.

Speaking specifically of the far-reaching and diverse voluntary work role that underpins the Union’s own Ministry, Miriam Fitzgerald OSNU, Officiant of the SNU, said:

“Like many of the volunteers within the movement, the members of the Ministry play a vital role in leadership and development of the Union, its District Councils and churches. We serve on committees - local, regional and national - all of which is crucial voluntary work.

"In short, we live our religion": Officiant of The Spiritualists' National Union, Miriam Fitzgerald discusses how the Union's Ministry do important, far-reaching work on a predominately voluntary basis (image © Miriam Fitzgerald). 

“By extension, the Ministry contributes and shares, mainly on a voluntary basis, in the leadership of our religion, representing Spiritualism at the highest level.

“In addition, the Ministry endeavours to support our communities through significant life events, and in doing so endeavour to educate those in attendance of the beauty of our Religion.

"Through Pastoral care work, confidential talks and prison visits, we live our Seven Principles, supporting - both individually and collectively - those who may be vulnerable or in need.

“As members of the Ministry, we have dedicated our lives to service. Service of spirit both incarnate and discarnate.

“In short, we live our religion.”

Whether contemplating these broader samples of community outreach and support, pondering even grander concepts such as the greatness of Spirit or the broader, theological considerations of the religion and movement as a whole, right down to something as routine or everyday as unlocking and opening a front door to welcome in regulars and newcomers alike to one of the Union’s churches or centres, the great tapestry of SNU Spiritualism is woven by those who mostly do so without thought of recompense or, in many instances, even thanks.

But on this special week, where we encourage all within the Union and beyond to stop and take time to look around them and see all that is enabled by the efforts of volunteers, we most certainly say a very grand, heartfelt and sincere thanks indeed.

“To every person who has given, and continues to give, be it at a level grand or small, please know that you are seen, and that this week is dedicated to all of you."

To every person who has given, and continues to give, be it at a level grand or small, please know that you are seen, and that this week is dedicated to all of you. Please take time to recognise and celebrate your own generosity, giving and service this week.

For under this banner of service to others, and enrichment of those around us, we are reminded of the wisdom and teachings of Silver Birch, Spirit Guide of renowned teacher, pioneer and trance medium, Maurice Barbanell:

“We are all channels of the Great Spirit. It is a privilege to serve. There is no religion higher than service. Service is the true coin of the Spirit. It is noble to serve. To serve is to enrich the lives of other and your own. To service is to bring comfort to those who think there is nothing left for them in your world.

“It is in service that we find inner peace, tranquility and repose. It is in service that we obtain steadfastness that enables us to have complete confidence in the overruling power, to strive to get closer and closer to the Great Spirit.”

- Article by Kyle Pedley, SNU Head of Communications
first published 1st June 2023

You can learn more about Volunteers' Week 2023 as a nationwide initiative, by visiting their Official Website at www.volunteersweek.org

With thanks to all who contributed towards this article, including the respondents across social media, and those within the Union.

As our 'Spotlight' series continues, we want to hear all about your own church, centre and committee stories, projects and achievements, too!

Get in touch by emailing Kyle Pedley, Head of Communications, at [email protected].