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Congregation Updates 2019

Perth Unitarians

We meet at a grand old turn of the century (1800-1900) Canadian bungalow set amid picturesque surroundings in Nedlands.

Our congregation was founded 20 years ago and our attendance has risen and fallen during this time from 30 to currently 15 people sometimes due to natural attrition by aging and the ebb and flow of current interest of seekers searching for the meaning of life popping in and out but our core group of 8 members still remains the same.

We currently have cut down our meetings to once a month. Rev Peter Ferguson is our minister. Our social justice activities have involved assistance with abused women and legal help and care of people experiencing elder fraud.

We have just experienced a wonderful annual retreat with the monks at the Benedictine monastery in New Norcia with a week-end of 24 degrees during the day. Our next speaker will be Carla van Raay a writer – her notable work, "God's Callgirl" has been included in University programmes

over the years.

Blenheim NZ

The Blenheim group meets monthly with a dwindling but loyal membership of 15 people. We get 10 or so at each meeting, which is held at the Blenheim Croquet Club. Five of the services each year are taken by Derek McCullough, who travels up from Christchurch. The rest of the services are led by members, with the occasional guest speaker.

The social actions of the group were the support of the Muslim community in Christchurch and Blenheim after the March 15 shootings. A community vigil, addressed by the mayor, with local iwi and faith communities attracted nearly half the population.

Tongan students sang and acted as ushers.

Auckland NZ

Our members come from all over the Auckland area to attend worship in a purpose-built building by the first generation of Auckland Unitarians that is 118 years old. We have about 80 members plus several regular attendees who have not yet signed the membership book. Our average Sunday attendance is 35-45. Our largest service is Christmas with 115 attendees. Our demographics are mixed with an increasing number of young adults and families. We have an average of 7 children who attend and RE class after Joys and Concerns.

Most Sundays our minister, Clay Nelson, conducts the service and gives the talk. We have five worship associates who conduct services in his absence. We invite outside speakers from time to time. The most successful means we have of attracting new members which posts video, text and podcasts of our services.

During the last years we have added a projector for worship and Adult RE. Our Peace and Social Justice Committee has truly come to life. We are supportive of the Muslim community, advocated for gun control, supported immigrants, continued our efforts to bring back Indian students we gave sanctuary to. So far, we have brought back four of the twelve by lobbying the government.

Our biggest challenge now is planning for a transition. While out minister has no plans to retire, he is now 70. Having a minister has made a huge difference in our growth. When he came five years ago attendance was about 17. Membership has tripled since then.

We are seeking a younger person with a liberal theological background who our minister can mentor in preparation succeed him.

Brisbane UU Fellowship

I’d like to take a moment to extend my gratitude to our BUUF members present - and a few whom are not - for an outstanding group effort to make this ANZUUA conference happen. We worked to pull this together, and I believe it shows our commitment to an ongoing relationship with each UU congregation in this group!

Side note: Renee Hills was acting President until December 2018, and I began January 2019


We began 2018 with a successful fundraising concert by Elizabeth Smalley, soprano singer and Amy Brinkman-Davis, piano player on the 3rd of March. The initiative for the concert came from visiting UU Amy. The $625 raised was used to replenish the fund we use to invest in KIVA microloans, one of our significant social justice efforts.

Retreat 2018

Thanks to Lynn Kelly for working with Bob Hill to come up with key questions for us to workshop on the theme …. Nurturing our Self, our Fellowship, our Community.

We meet on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month at the Brisbane Theosophical society. our average attendances being 20ish. We are a lay-led service and are fortunate to have a variety of members to keep it unique and personal. This past year we have concentrated on the 7 UU principals. We welcomed a guest speaker Dr. Tanya Smith professor of Anthropology at QUT who led a service and discussion on science and religion! We are also pleased to have retired UU minister Bob Hill make semi-regular appearances.

In January of this year member Kathleen Mahoney spearheaded a trial children’s program which lasted approximately 6 months. This attracted other families and has continued to gain interest. We are currently revaluating the impact - and how to successfully continue the service.

We enjoy fellowship on our “5th Sunday” outings. To name a few: Last year a group travelled to Toowoomba to visit Jed and Claudia Perkins and enjoy the annual flower show there. More recently Dr Smith and her partner LuLu opened their home in Mt. Nathan to us, for a potluck lunch with up close and personal wild bird feeding!

We have also rekindled covenant groups …. With an organic and sustainable supper group. This group meets monthly in the members’ homes where we share food, exchange recipes and discuss ideas for purchasing local and organic.

Fellow UU Nan Klieber from Honolulu, was passing through Brisbane and planned with Renee Hills to discuss the OWL program and the possibility of training facilitators. Thank you, Renee, for opening your home for our meeting. We had 7 interested women and after much discussions agreed to run an Adult OWL program. We commenced in June and are led by UU member Dr. Sherie Johns and has 10 participants.

We continue to donate to KIVA microloans and currently support 2 Filipino girls in high school with financial contributions for their schooling.

Lisa Constantino, President

Spirit of Life, Sydney

Greetings to all at the ANZUUA conference from Sydney, Spirit of Life Fellowship. SOL have been functioning for over 15 years, meeting 3 out of 4 Sunday mornings a month at "The Gallery" the upstairs area of the Kirribilli neighbourhood centre, an historic, gracious, early sandstone heritage building. Refreshments and friendly conversations follow. Parking is always a problem. We travel to attend from north of Gosford, to south of Wollongong, northwest of Dural and some areas of the northern beaches! It must be worth the effort to get there!

Our numbers average between 10 to 20, we can also resonate with Perth Unitarian’s fluctuating attendance numbers for the same reasons, however it's very interesting and uplifting to meet with the steady flow of visitors, that look us up via our excellent website or Facebook entry which finds us, luckily! We are privileged to have 2 ordained Unitarian ministers and as well, 2 retired progressives, thought provoking, Uniting Church ministers as members of our group who all occasionally contribute to the speaker’s roster. There are quite a variety of speakers with topics which often "stretch our grey matter" i.e.: "Hippies for Yahweh, Apostles for Aquarius" with some members wearing their hippie attire and sharing the nostalgia, "Stoicism - life in the moment, dissecting happiness and personal ethics from Hellenistic philosophy", "Examining the life and works of Unitarian Norwegian composer and activist, Edward Greig", "Celebrating Earth Day, pay attention!" "Exploring Sikhism" …to name a few! Most topics are based on one or more of the 7 Principles of U.U. Often there is an opportunity for Q&A group participation afterwards. With having such diverse content in our speakers’ programme, we do appreciate that it is great to have an opportunity to "recharge our batteries" and to “think outside the square."

The “Kiva" programme is an opportunity to lend to farmers, collectives and others of third world countries and is our ongoing social justice project. It is sad to acknowledge that some of our senior members cannot attend meetings any more due to frailty and health issues, also the passing of Barbara Gray and Max Lawson, both spirited past members of our fellowship. Best wishes for happy and memorable experiences at the conference this weekend.

Carolyn Donnelly

1st Unitarian, Melbourne

We are in Melbourne, meeting at the Melbourne Multicultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth Street. People generally come from Melbourne and its suburbs to attend; although we are a rather small group.

We have about 12 paid members and starting in 2019, are meeting twice a month. The first Sunday is a discussion group from 10:30 – 12:00 and the 3rd Sunday is our Service, from 2:00 – 3:30 pm. We have been subscribing to “Faith Rocket” since October of last year, which is where our program of events comes from. Faith Rocket also posts to our Facebook page on our behalf. This works well for us as we do not have a minister.

We regularly attend the Palm Sunday March for Refugees in Melbourne, and often will attend other social justice events as well. Last year we held a Thanksgiving dinner celebration at the home of one of the committee members and this year, a picnic in a park in North Eastern Melbourne at Easter.

Our main challenge is to grow our group. It can be hard to maintain members when what some visitors are looking for is simply a larger group with whom to share spiritual gatherings.

Also, to note, committee member Connie Gibbons will be our representative at the conference, with secretary Janine and member, Jenn attending as well. All the very best for a great gathering!

Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church

The Melbourne Church continues to be a centre to attract a wide range of community and other progressive groups. We are working extremely hard to attract younger members and have escalated our efforts in this regard.


This has been re-established and the youth members play an important role in our functioning of the church. The Youth Group regularly takes the Sunday Service and is experimenting with different techniques to lift and improve our services. Members of the Youth Group have been trained as panel operators and are heavily involved in our weekly radio broadcasts of services and activities inside the church. Youth Group members have conducted the services and spoken on various topics at the Sunday service.


Our membership hovers around 120 and we have attracted a significant number of younger members since our last ANZUUA Conference. Sadly, we have lost several older members who have passed away.


Among the special guests to recently address our church we have welcomed Prof Rob Watts from RMIT, Dr Tillman Ruff Nobel Prize Winner, Prof Gillian Triggs former Human Rights Commissioner, Rob Stary Human Rights Lawyer, Julian Burnside QC and Refugee advocate, Hugh De Krestner from the HRLC, Rob De Castella Gold Medallist runner and Lydia Thorpe Indigenous MP.


We held a special NAIDOC week service and had our second Indigenous Art exhibition at the church this year. There were paintings and woven artefacts from Central Australia. We also raised money and donated $2000 to the Queensland Indigenous communities who have been left with a massive legal bill since the loss of their case against the Adani coal mine. We also held the Human Rights Charter Conference which took up a full Sunday at the church including expert speakers and various workshops.


We distribute around 700 Beacons each month to subscribers and supporters as well as the “keeping In Touch Newsletter”. We have also established a Facebook page for our church.

We have a weekly Saturday radio programme which is generally the previous Sunday’s service on Community Radio 3CR. This show outlines current church activities and upcoming speakers and is beamed out across Melbourne and the metropolitan suburbs, as well as to many Victorian country towns.

We retain good relationships with ANZUUA and our representative is a regular contributor to the monthly ANZUUA hook-ups.

We retain fraternal relationships with several the UK Unitarian Churches and Universalist Churches in the USA such as the Kentucky Church. We work with other local mainstream churches in Melbourne on issues such as Peace Human Rights and Homelessness.


Youth Committee, Social Justice, Finance and Maintenance, Critical Thinking, Music and Poetry Committees.


Atheists Society, Refugees Groups (we have a donation collection box for non-perishable foodstuffs which are regularly donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), Peace Groups such as Pax Christi, CICD and IPAN, Budhist Meditation and Dance Group

FINANCES: Despite losing our long-term tenants TEBA we are now leasing part of the building to BUILT a construction company involved in work at the adjacent hospital. We are in a better financial position since the last ANZUUA Conference in part due to improved investment strategies and a bequest from a deceased church supporter.


We have upgraded our church audio visual equipment and are now able to project speaker’s slides onto a large screen at the front of the hall as well as show documentaries and other films to the congregation. We are working to improve our audio production facilities to enhance the weekly radio programme. We provide podcasts and other information on our web page.

Burt Blackburne Vice Chairperson John Gillies Treasurer

Sydney Unitarians NSW

· 51 members, usual attendance is 1/3 of that

· A couple of big events are sponsored each year, including Christmas

· There are 3 ministers in the congregation

· No children’s program

· The musical life of the church is a highlight with many extraordinary musicians participating

· Meditation and other activities are also held at the church

· Spiritual and cultural focus, interfaith inquiry

· Publish Sydney Unitarian News (SUN)

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1 Comment

This is terrific. Thank you, Elaine for posting these updates. How can we get all Australian and NZ UU's to become aware that this information is available and that we can all contribute??

Peace, Lynn

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