Unitarian and Free Christian
Peace Fellowship (UPF)

Peace Vigil, photo by John Hewerdine



Ramsay MacDonald a passionate Unitarian preacher

Rev Tom McCready of Doncaster Unitarians has been doing a lot of research about the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. Before he became Labour Prime Minister, he was a passionate Unitarian preacher, leading more than 500 services. Rev McCready has uncovered an important cache of documents in Ramsgate and Margate Archive, entitled 'The Unitarian Prayers and Sermons of Ramsay MacDonald.' Twenty-five complete or near complete sermons with copious pages of notes and prayers, all handwritten, and all presented here. And all relating to his period as leader of the Ramsgate and Margate Unitarian Circle of Religious Fellowship. The link is here: www.revtom.co.uk/ramsay-mac-research and Tom has kindly allowed the Unitarian Peace Fellowship access to them.

Unitarian Peace Fellowship celebrates its Centenary

At this year's General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches Annual Meetings, the Peace Fellowship conducted the Opening Celebrations, to celebrate our centenary. Founded in the darkest days of World War One, we have continued to witness for peace for a hundred years.

One of the things we shared during the Celebrations was a wonderful manifesto for Peace, written by Stanley A. Mellor and William Piggott. It included the following profession of belief:

  1. Peace depends on Freedom, spiritual, economic, political and social: Peace and Freedom go together. It is not a question of individuals and nations saying 'We will not do this or that', but of determining 'We will do this: we will be that.'
    No mere physical victory of one portion of humanity over another will or can produce the positive spiritual determination necessary to a better way.

  2. Freedom demands, as a minimum in social change, the following things:

    1. That the present economic conditions of life, which admittedly deny to the majority of humankind (mankind) the opportunity for real physical, intellectual, and spiritual development, shall be removed, and new conditions found.
    2. That service of the common good shall be substituted for the pursuit of private profit as the object of industrial activity.
    3. That direct responsibility for the welfare of the community, in industry and in citizenship, shall be extended to all members of the community alike.
    4. That women shall be emancipated completely from religious, social and legislative subjection.
    5. That barriers of wealth and privilege shall be removed.
    6. That the principle of equality of opportunity shall receive practical application all round.

    These demands involve not simply reformation of our social and industrial system, but radical reconstruction. They are, further, logically implied by any acceptance of the command to love our neighbours, apart from any question of our individual duty towards God.

  3. Freedom demands, as a minimum, from the individual, the ceaseless effort to purify the inward life and character, to practise the Christian virtues of goodwill, forgiveness, sympathy, justice, generosity, kindness, to their full extent, to get rid of hatred, ill will, and selfishness completely, and to give oneself in utter devotion to the only two possible worthy lines of human activity, purification of the inner heart and emancipation of the world from the bondage of ignorance, injustice, cruelty and inequality.

We also used Alan Ruston's marvellous article from the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, which has recently been made into a podcast:


and is also available on the Faith and Freedom website: www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/pdfs/1ST WORLD WAR001.pdf

Unitarian Peace Fellowship at General Assembly meetings, Nottingham, April 2013

The Peace Fellowship's first responsibility at every General Assembly meeting is to lead Peace Vespers, following the Opening Ceremony. This year, these were beautifully led by former Secretary of the Fellowship, Rev. Chris Goacher, and included some singing, accompanied by his auto-harp.

The next morning, Mrs. Christina Smith of Belper Unitarians proposed a motion for a Unitarian Peace Day on the third Sunday in October, which was seconded by UPF Secretary, Rev. Sue Woolley. It was passed by a firm majority. One of the items in it asked the Peace Fellowship to produce a Worship Pack to support this, and we will be working with the Facilitation Services Action Group of the Local Leadership Strategy Group to do this.

Our traditional 'slot' at the GA meetings was taken up by our Annual General Meeting, during which several exciting things happened. Our long-time Chair, Mrs. Joan Norton, had stood down several weeks ago, and the meeting was chaired by Mrs. Joyce Ashworth, who paid tribute to her predecessor, and agreed to be elected as Chair for one year only. Mrs. Carol Chilton also left the Committee for personal reasons. But we are pleased to announce two new Committee members: Mr. John Philip Carter, Lay Person In Charge at Lewisham Unitarians, Secretary of the London & District Provincial Assembly and a ministry student at Harris Manchester College Oxford; and Mrs. Christina Smith, one of the leaders of Belper Unitarians, and new District Administrator of the East Midlands Unitarians. We are delighted to welcome them both.

No slouch, within 24 hours of the meeting, John Carter had set up a Facebook page for the Fellowship, which, less than a week later, has nearly 50 'likes'. We believe that we need to use the social media to raise the profile of the Unitarian Peace Fellowship, so that we can more effectively witness for Peace.

New vision statement: Rev. Sue Woolley had circulated a draft vision statement to members, prior to the meeting. At the meeting itself, Mrs. Carol Chilton presented an amended version, which was passed by those present. It is now on the home page of our website.


Bruce Kent speaks on World Peace

Bruce Kent & Rev Chris Goacher On Saturday 30th April 2005, Bruce Kent, peace campaigner and vice-President of CND, came to Friar Gate Unitarian Chapel, at the invitation of the minister, Rev. Chris Goacher, and as part of his three-month tour to raise awareness of the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, which was due to begin in New York on 2nd May. Although this was the first theme of his address he included a second "Make Poverty History," demonstrating the relationship between the two issues. Representatives from Fellowship of Reconciliation, World Development Movement and CND were available beforehand to publicise local and national issues to which we might give support.

A CND Petition specifically demanded that: "All Nuclear weapons world-wide be taken, at once, off 'Alert' status and; All Nuclear states start now (as they are legally bound to do) to negotiate, sign and ratify an effective treaty abolishing all nuclear weapons. Bruce Kent pointed out that the first part of the original non-proliferation treaty of 1970, which is renewed every five years, had been more successful in preventing non-nuclear powers developing nuclear weapons than the second part of the treaty, which called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are still 25,000 weapons in the world and although non-nuclear powers push to clarify the treaty the eight nuclear nations still argue that they are necessary as a deterrent. He made three pertinent points;

1. A nuclear deterrent is of no use when fighting a war against those with no territory, i.e. terrorists.

2. There can be no deterrent against accidents.

3. Nuclear weapons do not make for a peaceful world.

A direct link to poverty was shown. Vast amounts of money spent on armaments could be spent on health and education. Whist we in the UK licence the sale of armaments within our own country and build political and economic structure which support peace, we are still the second biggest arms supplier in the world to countries where often people have no rights and no vote. Bruce finally stressed that we must not think war is inevitable, reminding us how war had seemed probable following the break down of apartheid in South Africa but due to the courage and influence of men like Archbishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela war had been averted.

Joan Wilkinson