7 February 2024
We were thrilled to attend a fascinating session in the ongoing series of Unitarian – Hindu Connections, featuring Manjula Sood MBE – member of our congregation. The event, held online on Wednesday, 7 February at 7:30 pm, offered valuable insights into how Hindu Dharma and Unitarianism have influenced her journey in public service.
Manjula Sood’s story is one of remarkable dedication and community spirit. Arriving in the United Kingdom in 1970, she quickly became an integral part of Leicester. Her path to public service took a poignant turn after the passing of her husband, Paul Sood, a respected figure in British politics. Following in his footsteps, Manjula entered politics, winning the by-election for her husband’s former seat as a local Councillor. Later she was elected as the first Asian female Lord Mayor of any city in the United Kingdom in May 2008.
Throughout her journey, Manjula has embodied the values of Hindu Dharma and Unitarianism, blending spirituality with a deep sense of duty to her community. Her leadership, grounded in compassion and inclusivity, serves as an inspiration to us all. We extend our sincere appreciation to Manjula Sood for sharing her inspiring story, and we eagerly anticipate further discussions on the intersections of Unitarianism and Hindu Dharma in future sessions.
28 January 2024
After the service, on the last Sunday in January, we met in the Garden Room for a shared Burns Lunch. This event has become an annual tradition with its origins traceable back to the time when brother and sister Charles Mackintosh and Morag Jones, who were born and bred in Scotland, started attending Great Meeting and introduced it to the Chapel calendar.
Stuart treated us to ceremonial readings by Robbie Burns and used his fearsome looking dagger to make the first cut into the haggis. We all appreciated his fine Scottish accent and the sense of drama and occasion he brought to the proceedings.
Thanks to all those who helped make it such a tasty meal and relaxed, enjoyable occasion.
17 January 2024
The 4th session of ‘Faith in Focus’ featuring our minister, Arek, has been an insightful exploration of Unitarianism. Hosted by the Leicester Dialogue Society, the “Faith in Focus” events aim to foster interreligious understanding and appreciation among a diverse audience. Arek explained the origins and development of Unitarianism, and provided insights into our structures, practices and values today. He also spoke about the role Leicester Unitarians played in the history of our city, and shared his own life journey that led him to joining a Unitarian congregation and eventually becoming a Unitarian minister.
The talk successfully contributed to the broader dialogue on faith, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect and harmony within the community, both in Leicester and on the national scale. The Leicester Dialogue Society continues to play a pivotal role in building bridges between different faiths, facilitating meaningful conversations, and nurturing a spirit of unity within the community.
We are pleased to announce that our weekly Coffee Mornings have been added to the online map of Places of Welcome after having met the “5 Ps” of Places of Welcome required for an official recognition:
Place: An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week.
People: Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers.
Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another.
Provision: Offering free refreshments and basic local information.
Participation: Every person will bring talents, experiences and skills that they may be willing to share locally.
Our Thursday Coffee Mornings are usually held in the Garden Room, although on nice days over Summer we prefer to gather outside in our garden to enjoy the peaceful city oasis in dappled shade of over 150 years old plane trees. Our Coffee Mornings are open to all: people of all faiths, all ages, all ethnicities, all genders. The doors open at 11am. You can pop in at any time and stay for as little or as long as you wish.
Additionally, we offer free meditation / reflection gatherings at 1pm in the adjacent room.
After wrapping up the first Sunday service of the year, 13 of us chose to stay behind a little longer to combat the January blues with a board games afternoon, transforming the Garden Room into a hub of laughter and camaraderie.
The selection of games was as diverse as the group itself, with a generous supply provided by Arek, Jude, and Gabi. From the ever-popular Ticket to Ride to the wordplay excitement of Scrabble, the strategic challenges of Qwirkle and Onitama, the undercover intrigue of Codenames, the quilt-building strategy in Patchwork —there was no shortage of entertainment.
As the dice rolled and cards were played, an impromptu “bring-and-share” lunch unfolded. Recognizing that conquering board games on an empty stomach was a challenge too great, the group rallied together, creating a light and delightful feast.
The joy of this gathering prompted discussions about making it a recurring event. Plans are already in motion for the next gathering scheduled for Sunday, February 4th — a monthly tradition in the making, uniting the church community in laughter, games, and shared snacks.
We were pleased to welcome back Leicester Musical Memory Box to the chapel on 11th December to lead their dementia – friendly carol concert and singalong. It was a joyful and informal occasion, made merrier by tonnes of mince pies that added a touch of sweetness to the festivities! Kyle and Christina from Musical Memory Box led us through some of the best-known carols and winter songs: from “Hark the Herald” to “Let is Snow”, accompanied by our own Robin Lister.
The Lord Mayor, Dr. Susan Barton, graced us with her presence and shared a short but heartfelt Christmas message. Our Minister, Arek Malecki, brought a unique twist to the celebration by highlighting the fascinating fact that the first song performed by humans in outer space was none other than “Jingle Bells,” written by a Unitarian.
Can’t wait to do it all over again? Round two at St. Anne’s Church at Western Park on Tuesday 19th December at 2pm.
On 18/11/2023 we held the induction service of our new minister – Rev Arek Malecki. Arek has been with us since June, and is well-settled in his role now, so in some sense the service might have felt like a formality to fulfil. A significant formality, nonetheless.
The service, led by Rev. Ant Howe (senior tutor at the Unitarian College) and Rev. Winnie Gordon (minister at Birmingham New Meeting Unitarian Chapel) was attended by the Lord Mayor of Leicester – Dr Susan Barton, the City Mayor – Sir Peter Soulsby, the president of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches – Mr Vince McCully, representatives of neighbouring and befriended faith groups, and Unitarians from far and wide.
In the service, which was made special by the Great Meeting Music Team led by Mr David Kent, the congregation and the minister exchanged promises to each other and expressed the will to work together to offer a shared, meaningful Unitarian ministry in Leicester.
We would like to wish our Minister, and ourselves, a long and fruitful ministry together.
This year’s annual Heritage Open Week ran from September 8th to 17th and we are very grateful to all those who volunteered their time so that the Chapel was open to visitors throughout the entire period. In total 130 people dropped in, most of whom took up the offer of had a guided tour of the Chapel. This year the beauty of the Chapel was enhanced by an exhibition of paintings by local artist Kendrick Snodin.
In the ‘Town’ section of the show Kendrick aims to “express and envisage our City as a 21st Century Metropolis”. The works forming the ‘Country’ aspect of the presentation, whilst still fully expressive in their rendering, look to develop the importance of our county in both subject matter and inspiration. Kendrick’s artworks were displayed on the window sills alongside hymnals opened on words to complement the art.
On the Thursday evening of Heritage Week Mike gave an illustrated talk entitled “Mystery of the Roof”. He drew on extensive research into the architecture of non-conformist Chapels together with practical knowledge acquired during his period as lead for the Chapel’s restoration project to present a fascinating insight into Great Meeting’s unique and innovative design. He conjured up the challenge posed by acquiring, transporting and hoisting into place the two huge (9 metre long)! beams that enable our beautiful ceiling; the audience left full of awe for the people who conceived the project and the architects, master carpenters and workmen who implemented their vision.
The annual Tea in the Garden event was held on 9th September, in the midst of Heritage Open Days.
The steady stream of friends and visitor who joined us were treated to two excellent sets of jazz standards by the Great Meeting Four, an ensemble consisting of Huw on electric key board, Robin on alto sax, George Dunseth on bass and Matt Lacey on drums. The garden was cool and shady and everyone naturally gravitated there, to sit under the trees, listen to the music and enjoy refreshments in the peaceful setting.
Do you also sometimes feel like we are the best kept secret in town? How many Leicesterians are aware that our chapel was the first place of worship in the city registered for solemnisation of same-sex marriages? How well-known is our rich history of support for LGBT+ rights, including the fact that Unitarians were one of the very first religious groups campaigning for Equal Marriage?
A group from the Great Meeting Chapel decided that it’s time to do something about it, as they took the church out of the building to march in Leicester Pride shoulder to shoulder with other affirming religious groups.
Pride is a protest. Pride is a public declara- tion of our values of inclusivity and acceptance of LGBT+ people – something we constantly speak about in our own circles, but sometimes fail to be vocal about. Probably because for many of us the principles of acceptance are just obvious. We are hoping to march again in the next year’s Pride.
To find out more about the Unitarian History of campaign for LGBT+ rights click here: LGBT+ Unitarian Voices Timeline