Unitarians have always held social justice to be a central principle of faith, as evidenced by some of those who espoused Unitarian values, both here and in America. They include Elizabeth Gaskell, whose husband was Unitarian Minister at Cross Street Chapel in central Manchester, Samuel Greg, who founded Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Beatrix Potter, Joseph Priestley, the 'father of chemistry,' and Sir Tim Berners Lee, pioneer of the world wide web.
The MDA's work in this respect falls under the auspices of the Manchester Domestic Mission Society Trust. This was founded in 1833 to assist in the Ministry to the Poor of Manchester. A missioner was employed to visit the poor in their homes and later missions and Sunday schools were set up in Miles Platting, Rochdale Road, Hulme and other parts of the city. All these properties have since been sold.
The Society was started by Unitarians worshipping at Cross Street Chapel in the city centre and although the fund were raised almost exclusively by Unitarians, the mission has always been multi-denominational.
Its objects remain those of the Trust Fund of 1870: "the diffusion of religious and other elevating influences by ministry amongst the poor in Manchester in such wise that no denominational or sectarian name or test shall at any time be introduced to the management of the Trust." The MDA took over in 1981 and the Trust is registered with the Charity Commission, No 253233.
Grants may be available for projects within the MDA area that work to assist or improve the lives of the disadvantaged. A full report on the activities of the report should be given to the MDA and accounts submitted for scrutiny.
Supporting the congregations
The Manchester District Association supports its congregations in a variety of ways. Its free service of regular surveys and reports on chapel properties, together with routine maintenance, obviates the need for expensive repairs. Grants are available and the MDA can also establish property values for insurance or development potential.
As a Trust Corporation the MDA is able to offer Trusteeship of chapels which have insufficient members or expertise to provide their own Trustees. Among those who have taken advantage of this facility are: Oldham Unitarian Church; Chorlton Unitarians; Dunham Road Chapel, Altrincham; Hale Chapel, Hale Barns; Queen's Road Free Church, Urmston; Chorley Unitarian Chapel. It acts as custodian Trustee for Rivington chapel and is the sole Trustee of the Provincial Assembly of Lancashire and Cheshire. It is a Trustee of Cross Street Chapel, Manchester and King Edward Street Chapel, Macclesfield.