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Hackney non-religious church raises funds to keep its radical past alive despite Covid-19 shutdown

PUBLISHED: 14:30 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:19 29 April 2020

New Unity atheist minister Andy Pakula at a Sunday Gathering before the lockdown. Picture: New Unity

New Unity atheist minister Andy Pakula at a Sunday Gathering before the lockdown. Picture: New Unity

New Unity

A Hackney non-religious church raised almost £20,000 to help it survive the Covid-19 lockdown after appealing for donations at a virtual Sunday Gathering.

Virtual Gatherings have replaced the usual Sunday Gatherings at the non-reigious church. Picture:  M.R DuranVirtual Gatherings have replaced the usual Sunday Gatherings at the non-reigious church. Picture: M.R Duran

New Unity started emergency fundraising on March 22 to help keep its basic operations running and the non-religious church was overwhelmed with the community response which followed.

It raised £18, 235 from 49 individual donors within a few days.

Andy Pakula, atheist minister at New Unity, said: ”The generosity of New Unity and the wider community over the last few days has been huge, and we’re thrilled to have received so many generous individual donations in such a short space of time.”

The church relies on income from renting out it’s building on Upper Street to groups hosting classes and events like weddings.

A new app launched today gives listeners the chance to follow in the footsteps of Mary Wollstonecraft from the comfort and safety of their living room. Picture:  Jess EbsworthA new app launched today gives listeners the chance to follow in the footsteps of Mary Wollstonecraft from the comfort and safety of their living room. Picture: Jess Ebsworth

This income usually covers around 80% of New Unity’s operating costs – but since social distancing was introduced, that’s been cut to zero.

The minister said: “From the maintenance of our centuries-old Newington Green Meeting House to our programme of urgent and pressing social justice campaigns, we have a lot of costs. With each new donation it becomes a little bit easier to celebrate our radical past and guarantee the sustainability of our plans for the future.”

The Meeting House was set to have a grand re-opening on April 16 but has had to post-pone its plans indefinitely due to Covid-19.

With support from the National Lottery New Unity has helped to uncover its building’s fascinating history of radical social reform.

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Feminist icon Mary Wollstonecroft moved to Newington Green at the age of 25 and was a member of the meeting house formerly known as Newington Green Unitarian Church in the 1700s.

The building has carried on being a valuable site for rational debate, dissent and activism for centuries.

New Unity is still celebrating Mary’s birthday this year online on April 27 despite postponing its celebration event until 2021.

They hope readers will join them by sharing a birthday message on twitter @NGMeetingHouse or facebook @NGDissenters throughout the day.

The feminist pioneer’s 261st birthday has also been celebrated with the launch of an app which gives people the chance to follow in her footsteps and learn about the impact Mary had on women’s rights and the world today.

The app lets users explore local heritage and was created by Professor Anna Birch and Newington Green based feminist theatre company Scary Little Girls - it gives listeners the chance to find out more about Mary Wollstonecraft’s legacy from the comfort of their sofa.

The app and website hold a selection of resources and podcasts to take you on a guided walk of Newington Green N1, stopping off at Mildmay Social Club, Newington Green, Newington Green Primary School and finally The Lady Mildmay pub, hearing works and writing from feminist icons such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Maya Angelou, Virginia Woolf, Michelle Obama and more.

To check out the app click here.

To donate to New Unity click here.

or the latest coronavirus news from Hackney and across London follow our live blog here, visit our corona virus page, or join our Facebook group here.

Or to find more groups, networks and organisations like this in Hackney providing support during the Coronavirus lockdown visit our There With You Essential List.


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