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Feb 2017 Edition 30

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The Presidents Blog | Feb 2017 | 30th Edition


NEC Meeting Friday 10th February to Sunday 12th 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.

Relaunch of Arthur Findlay Centre

Finally, after much preparation, the Arthur Findlay Centre in Stafford has been relaunched as the Barbanell Conference Centre. Maurice Barbanell is without doubt a modern-day pioneer of Spiritualism as the founder editor of Psychic News, a well-respected author of no less than twenty books, a propagandist who travelled the country speaking on Spiritualism, and, of course, the trance medium for Silver Birch. A special evening was conducted by Minister David Bruton, President of the SNU, with Roy Stemman, Editor of Psychic News, as the guest speaker. The event was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Stafford, members of the National Executive Committee, representatives of five District Councils, members of Stafford Church, which is based at the Centre, and the JV Trust Trustees. Roy talked about his time working with Barbanell as a young reporter and charted the history of the newspaper from 1932 to the present day. Tony Ortzen, Editor of Two Worlds and a former editor of P.N., was unable to attend but sent a special tribute also remembering his time working with Barbanell at Psychic News. After the formal part of the evening guests moved to the adjoining bar for a buffet and refreshments. A new logo has been agreed and new signage will shortly be installed at the Centre, together with two new websites to reflect both the spiritual work through courses and also the commercial side of the operation which sees other charities use the facilities in addition to other business users.

 A special caricature was commissioned from Bristol artist Ian Lloyd, which will hang in the Centre to remind visitors of ‘Barbie’, as Barbanell became known.


















Head Office, Redwoods
Following recent changes in staffing we welcome Jenny Hyatt, who has joined us on a temporary contract following the departure of Kate Antenbring. The new General Manager, Rachael Loukes, is working hard with the team to ensure that Head Office provides the necessary support to our Churches and members alike.

Rules for Churches 2017/2019
The latest edition of the Rules for Churches was lodged with the Charity Commission for approval early in December; we have received a response and a range of further enquiries from them concerning additional information they require. A response to these enquiries was submitted this week and it is hoped we will be able to publish the new Rules for Churches early in the spring, subject, of course, to full approval.

SNU Website
Alv Hirst has produced a detailed map of the current SNU website, which illustrates how long overdue the provision of a modern and user-friendly site is. The SNU will enter talks with its internet providers and web designers with a view to commissioning work this year.

District Council Accounts Package
Finally, the development work on this is coming to an end and it is hoped to send an electronic version of the package before the end of February to enable DC Treasurers to start the new financial year using the new system. Head Office is aiming to provide full support to each DC should any errors or glitches occur.

Mileage Rate
The NEC discussed recent increases in the cost of petrol, which has seen over a 20% increase in price at the pump since late last year, based on a stronger oil price and weaker sterling on the money markets. It was agreed to increase the SNU mileage rate to 40p per mile from 1st March; this rate is for SNU use only, though it is provided as a guide to District Councils and Churches should they wish to adopt it.

Following the review of our stockbrokers which was conducted late last year with a bridal parade of no less than four different companies it has been agreed to appoint Brewin Dolphin as the SNU’s sole broker. We have worked with Brewin Dolphin over a number of years and, based on the Finance Committee's recommendation, we will review our risk profile and investment policy with a view to maximising the overall return on our investments whilst ensuring that our exposure to any segment of the market is limited in a responsible way.

Union's Solicitors
The NEC have agreed to conduct a similar exercise with its solicitors as it has done with the stockbrokers to ensure we continue to enjoy the best advice and service at a cost-effective rate.

Members from Abroad
We continue to increase our overseas membership base and with this in mind we are concerned that some people whose first language is not English are having problems with the application process. Work is underway to translate all key membership forms and literature into Dutch, Italian and German, with other languages to follow as demand dictates.

We are also exploring the possibility of creating versions of the new Spiritual Guidance cards, firstly in Italian, to provide useful tools to support students of Spiritualism in other countries. The Seven Principles
Minister Barry Oates has just written a new book, ’A 21st-Century View of the Seven Principles of Spiritualism’, with his views on developing the Principles for our modern age; this will be published shortly and will be available from Head Office or the on-line shop.

New Service Cards
A completely new set of 48 service cards for use with Healing is currently under development and it is hoped these will be issued in time for Open Week at the Arthur Findlay College in early May.

Focus on Religion (FOR)
Most district councils have now appointed a FOR representative on to their Executive Committees; Jane Barton, OM3, has now produced a toolkit, which will be sent to each district to help it understand and take part in this important initiative for the future development of our movement. The main national event will take place from 23rd March to 2nd April 2018 and will be based somewhere in the North of England; the ten-day event will include two large meetings open to the general public but will also seek to pool the efforts of three districts to create many smaller events and activities within the Churches over the intervening days. It is hoped to launch a special calendar for 2018 which will focus on Spirit in Action and provide weekly images and words of inspiration to support and encourage greater reflection upon our religion. A smaller pilot event is due to take place between 11th and 15th August 2017 within the Northern District, focused in and around Birtley. This will allow us the opportunity to test some of the new formula it is hoped to incorporate within the 2018 meeting. Marketing for the August event will be available shortly.

School Religious Education
Through our membership of the RE Council the Union is looking to make a submission under the Call for Evidence scheme, which it is hoped will feed into the debate regarding the teaching of religion in schools. Julia Almond, through her membership of the Staffordshire SACRE, has managed to get agreement that Spiritualism will be included in the newly-published Staffordshire Agreed Syllabus for RE, allowing Spiritualism to join the other faiths section, on which teachers can draw as part of the wider curriculum.

Healing Awareness Week 1st to 7th May 2017
This is a special event organised by the Healing Forum, of which the SNU is a member, and it aims to raise awareness of Healing within society; full resources will be available to download shortly and a new Facebook page will be established. The week-long event will also raise funds for Healing charities.

The Arthur Findlay College
During the Christmas closedown extensive work has taken place at the College, with yet another set of bedrooms refurbished; this leaves only six rooms awaiting a makeover and the rooms containing toilet pods. Planning permission has been applied for to remove the pods and replace them with modern bathroom facilities. Subject to the necessary permissions it is hoped to undertake this work whilst the College is open when time and occupancy allow. The College has also been deep-cleaned and the kitchen staff have been working hard to develop a whole new menu. The College year got off to a flying start in late January with courses organised by Minister Steven Upton and Andy Byng, which saw 82 students start the New Year; these levels are unprecedented for January courses and it looks as if the College is due to have yet another busy year, buoyed by the value of the pound on foreign exchange markets, making the UK a cost-effective destination for our guests from abroad.

The NEC also gave its consent to conduct a feasibility study to consider a new build on the College estate to house a new home for the Museum, using modern display techniques and technology to enhance the experience of our important and unique collection; it is hoped the building will also provide a new meeting-room and additional workrooms for our students.

Code of Conduct and Healing & the Law
Following a full review and update of these two important documents a copy of each will be supplied free of charge to each healer when they apply for re-registration in April.

New Communities Service Award
The Union is very aware of much of the good work undertaken around the Churches to support their local communities. With this in mind we are launching a new Community Services Award, the application for which will be coming out in the February circulation; once applications have been considered an award will be made at the national AGM in July.

Following the resignation of Ilona Mulock Houwer as Chairman on health grounds Arthur Plumpton OSNU has accepted the role as Chairman of the SNUi Committee; Ms Cathy Tsoukalas has also accepted the position of Vice-Chairman and Ilona will remain on the Committee as an Ordinary Member. The NEC wish Arthur and his new team well as they continue the vital work of SNUi. Membership now stands at 1090 and the website is currently operating 86 sessions per month.

SNU Education Courses
The Education Committee are currently running a pilot scheme for SD1 by removing the word-count for students' course work; this decision will be reviewed at the next Education meeting in March.

The Tutor Reference Guide is currently under review and, following the appointment of several new tutors, this is taking the pressure off the whole system through easing the workload for everyone.

PR Prohibition
The contract with PR Prohibition has been reviewed by the Publicity & Promotions Committee and following a meeting with the Officers of the Union and the company it was agreed not to renew the contract in its present form. We are exploring other options for the provision of PR services in the future.

Support Officers Training Day
A provisional date and venue has been agreed for this important event, which will take place at Cheltenham Church on Saturday 6th May; invitations for the event will go out shortly to Support Officers.

Report Pro-Formas
A new form has been developed for use by Support Officers which it is hoped will serve to provide the NEC with up-to-date and relevant information for each Church under support; it is hoped this will facilitate better decision-making with the aim of providing an effective service to our Churches who are under support.

Annual General Meeting 2017
This year's AGM will take place at the Holiday Inn, Wood Lane, Beechwood, Runcorn, Cheshire WA7 3HA from 14th to 16th July, hosted by the Merseyside & North Wales District Council. Booking forms will be included in the February circulation and prices are broadly the same as for last year's event. Following discussions at last year's meeting the Saturday night Gala Dinner has been dropped and will be replaced with an evening meal and entertainment, which will include a set by Lucinda Drayton of '100,000 Angels' fame; it promises to be a special evening.

500 Club
The latest draw has just taken place, 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 Stansted Hall on 7th, 8th and 9th April. The next National Council meeting will take place at the Barbanell Conference Centre on Saturday 7th October 2017.

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:

Thought for the day:

'Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.'

-Leonardo da Vinci



Minister David Bruton