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-June 2021 Edition -


From the Editor:  

To a great extent Cork is now open for "business" - the business of every day life.  Almost one and one half million people in Ireland have already had their first Covid-19 vaccination and over a half million have received their second jab. Incrementally, the Covid-19  restrictions have been lifting and we have an increased ability to go about with fewer constraints.  While the disease is still with us, and the increased threat of the impending Delta variant looms large, the situation now appears within the ability of our healthcare system to contain and manage. 

Since the last issue of this newsletter, we have seen Cork Unitarian Church open for weekly on-site worship services.

Of course Unitarian openness is not so much about access to a physical location. Our continued on-line streaming of our services is an openness beyond our physical church doors. Even more is our Unitarian openness of beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. 

In keeping with that, let me openly  say that the Unitarian Echoes is open to your thoughts and contributions for articles in upcoming editions.  Yes, we do call ourselves a newsletter. And that is true because we do publish content which is topical and timely. However, let's be open and not restrict ourselves to only church current events. If you have or want to suggest content that is more of a reflective nature than it is current, we would be glad to hear about it.

Peace, and blessings
Neal Dunnigan, Editor

From the Minister:  
Spring  - Aspirations & Realisations of  Hope & Joy 

Isn’t it great to see our country opening up, to begin to bask in that light that not so long ago was at the end of the tunnel. People are out and about and the streets of our towns and cities have been transformed into giant outdoor restaurants and coffee shops. It has added an almost “ continental” feel to life in Ireland bar of course the consistency of the weather! We are all glad to be out and about, I suspect, never before has a coffee in the sun meant so much! Amid our pleasure and perhaps even mild euphoria, we still have exercise a degree of caution, we still need to “ mask up” , keep our distance and wash our hands in order to continue the good work we have done to date, the herculean effort most of us have put in.

As we emerge from the clouds of Covid, it is worthwhile to remember that every day as we get the news of so far decreasing or at least fairly low and stable infection numbers, a figure that seems to go unnoticed are the numbers in ICU. As I write, the number is 13 and by comparison that is a low figure, but it is still 13 people seriously ill, it is 13 families who are concerned, worried, probably frantic and feeling the one feeling we all hate, helplessness. So, the next time you see or hear the daily figures, you might keep those who are ill and their carers in your thoughts and prayers.

Last Sunday ( June 20th) our first reading at church was read by Murty Kelleher, a long- time member of our congregation. Murty read from a book called Homeless Moments, a book he contributed seven poems too. The book is published by Cork City Libraries in partnership with Ó Bhéal press and Focus Ireland. It is a wonderful and deeply touching collection of poems and prose. In the poem My Home, Murty writes;

 I am so happy I have a home.

As I look on the streets to people who have no place to go

I get so sad and say, that could have been me.

As we emerge from Covid, as our lives begin to return to some sort of normal, another reminder.

( Rev ) Mike O’ Sullivan, Minister

Brian Cluer

Brian Cluer is a long-standing, active member of the Cork Unitarian Church community.   He is the Honorary Lifetime Chairman of the Management Committee.  The Unitarian Echoes has asked Brian to share some of his insights with us.

UE: Tell us a bit about your background?  I understand that you have done quite a few different things, both near and far.

BC: I was born and raised in Derry City, where I remained for the first few years of my life, being brought up by my maternal grandmother/grandfather and two maiden aunts. My parents moved to England some years before I was born.  In those days, it was often the custom to give a child to Grandma to bring up. (I never forgave my parents for doing it.)  They finally reclaimed me at the age of seven -- I was driving Grandma and the aunts crazy.  I completed my education at the London College of Communications and got my first job with the London Daily Express as a proofreader.   Despite having one of the best-paid jobs in the country, I was not happy for very long.  Working evenings cramped my social life and I could see that technology was going to change the newspaper business.  So I went to the U.S. and started a new life.

I worked in the publishing industry for the next thirty fascinating years.  The industry was on the cusp of enormous technical changes and my training put me in the enviable position of being part of those changes.   Ink had been put on paper the same way for 500 years.  It took us ten years, using computers, to change all that.  In the second ten years, we digitised the whole communications process, "capturing keystrokes" at the source and making them available across a wide range of media.  Heady stuff!

Despite my wanderings, I remained Irish at the core of my being.  I had bought a holiday home in Tipperary while living in the States and I used to fly over when I got the chance.  So on taking early retirement, I came “home”.  I took up teaching for a few years, hosted a radio show on Tipp Midwest radio, took up acting and generally made a nuisance of myself by asking awkward questions.

UE: What brought you to Cork?

 BC: A woman.  I’ll say no more.

UE: What is your faith story and how did you come to Unitarianism?

BC:  I have spent my life seeking the truth and have not found it – yet.  But Unitarianism found me and taught me that the journey is as important as the destination.  After all – maybe there is no destination.

UE: Some people might wonder why independent thinkers need to bother with a church at all.  What do you see as the relevance of the Unitarian Church in contemporary Ireland?

BC: Independent thinkers don’t need a church building to test spiritual ideas.  We use far too many words that prop up the old notions of religion. "Church" is one of them.  You don’t need a building.  The only true church is the one between your ears.  We Unitarians need to be concerned about the human spirit and helping people embrace their spiritualities.   It won't appeal to everyone, but we could do a lot better getting the message out to those who would be receptive.

Let's do it.


Susan Crowley (The Next Step)

The Next Step ( ) supports people who may have experienced mental or emotional setbacks by providing a community setting for peer companionship and self expression through creative arts. Typical activities include arts, crafts, yoga, drama, woodwork, singing, poetry, writing, and a place to drop in for a cuppa and a chat. 

The Next Step utilises Cork Unitarian facilities for their weekday on-site programs. This is more than a simple commercial space arrangement. The Unitarian, NextStep, and sometimes others, are sharing a multipurpose space and are essentially a community within the Princes Street location. While the Next Step operates independently from the Unitarian Church, there is a strong affinity based on shared values and a long standing overlap between Next Step services users / volunteers and congregation members.

The Unitarian Echoes reached out to The Next Step's Program Co-ordinator, Susan Crowley, for this interview.

UE: Susan, share with us a bit about your background.

SC: Hi Neal, Born and raised in Cork. I am a mum of 3 boys , a wife, daughter, sister, niece, friend, colleague etc. I have always been involved in mental health in some way or other throughout my life. I’m very passionate about helping people help and enable themselves when it comes to their mental health. I have had personal close up encounters with the affects of mental ill health when my late father took his own life in 2002. It was a very tough time for me and my family.

I have always had a fascination with exploring the workings of the mind, our thoughts, beliefs, patterns and neurology etc., I discovered mindfulness and began teaching classes in 2012, practicing and teaching this has changed my life. 

I have completed a 2 yr Masters of Science in Mindfulness Based Well-being in UCC this year.   I teach all ages in the community, primary schools, secondary schools and those in workplaces all about stress reduction MBSR and cognitive therapy MBCT a programme developed by Prof. Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979 in University Massachusetts to help chronically ill patients improve their lives. I run my own business teaching and facilitating workshops on building resilience with your mind aswell as teaching teens techniques to help with exams and children in primary school, life skills on building emotional and body\mind awareness through fun. 

UE: What are some of the ways that you have been active in community services in Cork?

SC: I work with GROW Community Mental Health for the last 6 yrs where I am an administrator and fundraiser up to recently. I deliver classes to both members and staff on” building resilience” and “stress reduction skills” at our Regional and National conference weekends away for members. A Grow group is a 12 step programme to enable people to change their lives through positive steps in these 2 hours session held once per week in different locations throughout Ireland. 

I have been a volunteer with AWARE a number of years ago where I was trained to facilitate the AWARE Life Skills online 8 week programme. 

UE: What is your role at the Next Step?

SC: I am working with the Next step since 2018 where I began as administrator. In 2020 The Next Step merged with Cork Mental Health. In March 2020 last I applied for the Role of  Program Co-ordinator and was successful in obtaining the position where I began the role in Sept 2020.

UE: What is the history of the Next Step and how did it come to use the Unitarian space? 

SC: A casual meeting over coffee sometime in the Autumn of 2009, many more meetings, discussions of options, and a search for funds culminated on 27th April 2011 in a 2 hour art class, one day a week for 10 weeks at the Camden Palace Hotel community art centre, led by professional artist Charlotte Donovan and funded by City Hall.

It went well, all 10 participants seemed to like it. Many said that it became a focal point of their week, something to look forward to. The Next Step was up and running.

Developing over the years:

We have gradually increased the scope of activities provided. By September 2012 we were operating 2 days a week, including one ‘self managed’ day (less costly!). Over time we managed to secure the necessary funding to add further activities including wood-craft, creative writing, mindfulness, singing, dance, yoga, knitting and crafts to the point where we now operate 5 days a week. In 2015 the Camden Palace Hotel arts centre closed. We were fortunate to be able to relocate to the Unitarian Church in the city centre.

We are a volunteer run organisation, we have no paid staff. We do pay facilitators to run most activities but some are facilitated by volunteers, people who initially came as participants. We are a registered charity. We have adopted the ‘Governance Code’ for voluntary organisations. We believe in openness and transparency and regularly consult with participants.

We have been fortunate in receiving adequate funding over the years. We now get 50% from the HSE and a further 15% from small weekly contributions from participants. The balance has come from a variety of sources. (Taken from the Website )

UE: How has Next Step responded to the COVID-19 pandemic constraints? 

SC: We moved all our classes online almost immediately when the pandemic hit. We also started a chat line to help keep our members connected through these very tough times, this was managed by myself and members who volunteered throughout the pandemic. We applied for a grant to get some tablets/laptops to give to some of our members and got them training to help set them up for this online move to zoom. We also had reach out calls during the pandemic to check in on members from time to time and have a bit of a chat. 

UE: What are some of your aspirations in returning to on-site programming at the Unitarian?

SC: I look forward to the day we can all come together in The Next Step face to face in the Unitarian church again when its safe to do so. I aspire to hearing the chatter of our members being creative, having a cuppa and enjoying the space that it is- full of hope, learning and friendship and most of all companionship keeping each other company we have all missed so much, while enjoying the different activities on offer. 


Our New Church Website

Welcome to the new website of Cork Unitarian Church - It is the same location, but with a new look and feel. Our old website served us well in its initial role as an electronic business card. However, the church's needs have expanded and the platform that the old site was using lacked the flexibility and capabilities to take us forward.

The church's ministry development team identified four emerging considerations that helped shape the new web site:

  • Our commitment to our on-line ministries, even as we return to in person activities as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
  • Our need to have a concise and clear message about our church, its people, and what we stand for
  • Our need to address the fact that we have both local church members and church members who are remote
  • Recognition that in addition to our church members, we service a much larger community of diverse people whom we hold in fellowship

The church's needs were laid out and then compared to hundreds of church web sites particularly those of small and medium size Unitarian churches to help determine current best practices. Also examined were a number of church web templates which offered a set of customisable, but out of the box options.

 The site was designed and built by church members Neal Dunnigan and Virginia Giglio. Both of them have extensive previous corporate experience in web design and have won awards for design clarity and organisation of information.

While the new web site does a lot for us, we are staying with Facebook as our social media platform. A good way to think of it is that most of our interactive and realtime content will be on Facebook and much of our more stable reference information will be on the web site. An analogy would be to think of our Facebook page as if it were a newspaper and think of our website as if it were a magazine. 


Some of the Changes

There is a big behind-the-scenes change in that the web site has been re-platformed to run on WordPress. WordPress is an open source technology currently used by an estimated 64 million web sites - that is 36.9% of all internet web sites. This provided us with a lot of flexibility and options for the future.

Functionally, some of the highlights are:

  • The new site is optimised for smart phone use, but still looks good on a laptop or desktop computer.
  • We have refined and enhanced our messaging about Unitarians in general and us in particular
  • We have a new church calendar with improved capabilities over the Facebook calendar.
  • We have current information in terms of notices, events, and messages from the minister.
  • There is even a Unitarian humour section where we can laugh at ourselves.

Your Feedback

We hope you enjoy the new look. However, we are not satisfied with simply hoping. We actually want to hear from you. To that end, we have created a very short survey that we invite you to complete to give us your feedback on the new website. The survey can be accessed at this link:

Best regards,
The Ministry Development Team

Prayer Circle

How would you send a prayer request to the Prayer Circle?

  • Anyone wanting to ask for a prayer can send an E-Mail to: (this information is also on our church web site and Facebook page).
  • The request will be distributed once to the entire Circle at the next Prayer Circle mailout opportunity.
  • Please repeat your request as necessary and please send news of answered prayer.
  • There is no need to go into detail or name full names - remember, the email will go out far and wide. Please be wise in protecting your own and others' anonymity. 
  • If you have a need that is so personal you wish not to give any detail at all, that's fine. Just write that you request prayer for a special intention. Remember, God knows the details.

Would you like to join the Prayer Circle and pray for others?

  • Simply register as a Prayer Circle member by clicking here:
  • After you have joined, you will be on a mailing list and receive regular posts with prayer requests.
  • It will be your responsibility to keep private anything you learn from a prayer request out of respect.  Do not redistribute or forward the list.


Be a Part of All of Our 
Ministries Through Your Financial Contribution

Here is the link to make that kind of blessing: 
Thank you for your support and generosity.
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