Author: Director RE

Sharing Our Faith grant received for our Hogwarts Summer Camp

Thank you to the Canadian Unitarian Council

I am pleased to announce that our Harry and UU Summer Theatre Camp has received a generous grant in the amount of $3,000 from the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Sharing Our Faith Fund. This grant will help us hire camp staff at a fair compensation rate, provide an excellent student-counsellor ratio, and insure affordability for Vancouver families. Check out our summer camp web page for more details.

Sharing Our Faith

The Sharing Our Faith program provides funds for congregational initiatives which enhance ministry, aid congregational projects and outreach, and enhance the Unitarian Universalist movement in Canada. Once a year, congregations are encouraged to hold a “Sharing Our Faith” worship service focused on the UU faith in Canada, with a special collection for the Sharing Our Faith fund. The fund consists of these monies, often supplemented by a Foundation Fund administered by the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. The funds are allocated in the form of grants to congregations for growth projects and initiatives.

Your Support

Part of the grant asks for a show of faith from us in supporting our own initiative. You can help families with limited financial resources attend our engaging and unique program by donating to our Campership Fund.

A campership may include before and after care, public transportation, and lunch if requested. Applications will be processed on an ongoing, first-come, first-served basis as long as funds are available. A deposit in good faith of an affordable amount is requested to hold a spot.

Donate to Campership Fund

Donations to our Campership Fund are tax deductible and ensure that all children are able to attend camp with us, regardless of their family’s financial situation. Click the link above to send a secure donation by credit or debit card. Cheque donations to the Unitarian Church of Vancouver with “HP Summer Camp Donation” in the memo can be submitted using the Sunday morning donation envelopes or mailed to:

Unitarian Church of Vancouver
Attn: HP Summer Camp
949 West 49th Ave
Vancouver, BC V5Z 2T1

 

Registration Open for Harry and UU Summer Camp!

Another year at Hogwarts

I am excited to announce that plans are rolling for a 2nd year at Hogwarts. August 12-16 will see Hewett Centre once again transformed into the Great Hall and Hogwarts classrooms.

Visit our Summer Camp page to register now to hold your spot in the 2019 Hogwarts West experience. Harry and UU summer camp is theatre in action for kids ages 7-12. There are volunteer leadership opportunities for youth ages 13+ with a Red Cross first aid certificate.

What we do

This year our social justice focus will centre around water inspired by the national Canadian Unitarian Ripple Effect project. We will identify two local water issues for the children to explore and learn about Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. The DA Creators will create a theatre as social action piece to fight our Horcrux. It becomes a week of living theatre, social justice, and a unique summer camp experience for Vancouver children and youth. (more…)

Solidarity with Christchurch

Dear UCV members and friends:

Most of us know by now that there was a deadly assault on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  We cannot imagine the grief and loss.  I feel devastated and angry.

I urge all of us to think, with gratitude, of the relative peace and safety we enjoy gathering and worshipping together.  May we also be mindful that Muslim children, men and women are our sisters and brothers.  An attack on them at worship for Friday prayers, is very much an attack on us and all people of good will who value a diverse and free society.

I attended Friday prayers at the Jamia Mosque on 8th Avenue to witness and extend our solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Rev. Steven Epperson

There will be a prayer vigil tonight, Friday, March 15th, 7:30 pm at the Al-Jamia Mosque in Vancouver. All UU’s are encouraged to participate in solidarity and support.

From the Canadian Unitarian Council

The world weeps with the news of senseless violence and death, and hold in our hearts the victims and families of the New Zealand mosque shooting. Violence of this kind fueled by hatred and fear cannot be allowed to exist. We choose to respond with love and refuse to respond with more violence.

In the face of our grief, we pledge ourselves anew to act with compassion. Holding true to the inherent worth and dignity of each being, we are moved to respond with kindness and empathy when faced with ignorance and bigotry.

Unitarians will show up beside our Muslim colleagues and siblings. We embrace expressions of religion which champion inclusion and cooperation among all faiths. We will continue to work towards a world where our interdependence is manifested through love and justice.

To demonstrate solidarity and support, we encourage UUs across Canada to participate in vigils in their local communities.

– From the CUC Board President and Vice President, CUC Executive Director and the UU Ministers of Canada

Mystery Pals – They’re Back!

Make a Friend at Church

Back after an amazing 2018 launch: create connections across generations!

The mystery only lasts a little while, but the friendship can be much longer.

Sign-up to be a Pal to someone older or younger than yourself—we would love to have everyone involved and will match any pair from different generations (roughly 20 years apart). To facilitate anonymity, each pair will be identified by a Canadian Civil Rights Activist  with a corresponding “mailbox” envelope in the Hewett Centre Hall.

Celebrate May 5th after the service with a Mystery Reveal Party.

(more…)

Kiersten’s Blog: Smiles Build Community

How do we welcome children and youth?

by Kiersten Moore

We have vibrant children’s programs going on at that are engaging for families and should be continued in one form or another. Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation; Coming of Age; Our Whole Lives; Cosmology explorations; Spirit Play, garden time, etc., as well as peer community building among our children and youth. But what draws the most families in attendance are our special events: the ancestor shrine, pageants, wassail, everybody’s birthday, the services with children directly involved, and ritual celebrations.

The number of children who come to the children’s program on Sunday regularly has increased this year and involves 11 to 12 families, 21 children. However, we serve 50 to 60 children over the course of a year, including visitors; those who attend off and on; and members whose children do not connect with “Sunday School”. For every child who engages with our Sunday morning program, there are two for whom it doesn’t work either for them or their family as a whole. How do we serve these families?

It’s been hard to retain young people into the high school years and beyond in the absence of direct peer friendships. This is partly due to intense scheduling and many demands on teens and parents. I maintain that the absence of teens in our pews demonstrates youth do not feel connected to our services, that they haven’t found a place within adult worship or the larger congregation. Even when youth group is strong, few youths have come to worship at 11 am, even though that time was set specifically with teens in mind back in 2005, and youth group meets after lunch. How do we engage more fully with our youth and young adults?

We engage our young people best by establishing whole congregation worship from an early age. Connie Goodbread, congregational life staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association Southern Region, says, “Unitarian Universalism is all we teach. The congregation is the curriculum.”

Children learn by doing and by observing from a very young age.
If we do not include children fully within our worship services we implicitly teach them that worship in the sanctuary is not for them, at least not past the first 10 or 15 minutes. If their only place of belonging is the Religious Exploration gatherings, how can we expect them to come back after they graduate? What do they have to come back for?”

The biggest challenge to engaging children and adults in faith topics at the same time is the culture shift required to make it happen successfully. It takes work and commitment. There are many examples of UU congregations and other denominations worshipping all together that we can draw from.

Enjoying some aspects of worship more than others is tied to the person, not the age.
There are adults for whom the sermon topic makes their decision on which Sundays to attend, but it is important to acknowledge that we have adult members in our congregation who do not come for the sermon, but are fulfilled each Sunday by other aspects of worship. The sermon is not the be-all and end-all to worship.

Some children love music and singing; others the story or the chalice lighting.

Some children like silent meditation, others are bored by it—this is the same for adults. We teach how to be in the sanctuary together by modeling, by quietly answering children’s questions, and by quietly drawing their attention to the rituals and interpreting what people are saying. We teach them they are valued by accepting their child noises as they learn to be in community.

I see three areas to concentrate on improving:

There are worship design considerations.

Designing worship for multiple intelligences (language, aesthetic, interpersonal, kinesthetic, etc.) helps many people of all ages connect with the aspects of worship that speak to them the most.
We should always strive to make our sermons and whole worship accessible. When we design good worship aimed at engaging a diversity of people—even if they aren’t currently in our pews—we end up with worship for a diversity of ages, abilities, backgrounds, and personalities. We move closer to the beloved community we want to be.

There are physical space issues to address when welcoming whole families to be together in worship.

We want to make it easy and welcoming for both parents and children. This means addressing seating, pews, floor seating, and safe, inviting space for young children to wiggle.
Children will be most engaged when at the front of the sanctuary, right in with the action, where they can see more than the back of our pews and heads; where their need for some movement is accommodated.

There are expectation issues.

Many of us have a personal expectation of comfort free from distraction. This expectation comes from a place of privilege. Why is a child talking more disturbing than an adult’s cough or sneeze? They’re close to the same volume.We must develop an expectation to welcome and support children and parents.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor stated to his synagogue when concerns about child noise were raised: “A sanctuary is not a sanctuary from children. It is a sanctuary we’ve built for our children, and their children after them.” As a parent I personally find managing my toddler’s behavior in worship involves distinct levels of stress depending on whether people around us are frowning or smiling. Imagine which facial expressions put a parent at ease and which encourage them to leave. Smiles build community.

I encourage you to read more on this subject from Kim Sweeney, the author of The Death of Sunday School and the Future of Faith Formation, who has a very thorough list of resources on Whole Congregation Worship at her website: www.courageousfaithconsulting.org

Worshipping together does take work and intention, I hope we are up for the challenge!

If Sunday School isn’t for everyone … What is?

Success! 16 newly trained Our Whole Lives Facilitators!

January 11th, eleven Unitarians from Vancouver Island, Washington, Alberta, and Saskatchewan joined four members from Vancouver Unitarians and a member of the Surrey Sikh community to learn the ins and outs of teaching sexuality education to teenage youth. Led by Reverends Samaya Oakley and Christopher Wulff it was an engaging weekend full of insights, questions, challenges, curiosity, laughter, and inspiration.

Nine out-of-town participants were hosted by Vancouver Unitarian members; dinners were provided, potluck style, by members along with the Saturday Messy Church multigen-family event.  The Our Whole Lives (O.W.L.) trainees remarked that they were so well taken care of, the weekend felt like a vacation—which means a lot when you are spending 20 hours in class!

Our Whole Lives?

Our Whole Lives sexuality education was written in the late 1990’s jointly between the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. It is considered by some to be one of the best things we offer as a faith; an invaluable opportunity across the lifespan to reclaim what is sometimes cheapened, diminished, or abused as an integral and life-giving facet of our whole self. Workshop series have been written for children beginning at age 5, tweens, teens, young adults, adults, and older adults.

Oprah had this to say about the Adult workshop offerings back in 2009:

“With memories of mortifying class discussions led by the gym teacher, what grown-up
in her right mind would sign on for another round of sex ed? Turns out, lots of them!
Only this time, the lessons are intimate, the questions are provocative, and the
homework is electrifying.” Oprah about OWL program, July 2009.

I am so pleased that we were able to offer this training opportunity to continue the good work of complete and comprehensive sexuality education across Canada. The success of this event is a testimony to the warmth and hospitality of our members—thank you to everyone who contributed, large and small!

Current OWL Offerings

We are wrapping up registration this week for this Spring’s offering of the junior high O.W.L. workshop series, check out the details here on our website.

South Fraser Unitarians are offering the Adult O.W.L. aimed at ages 30-55 as a 3-workshop series one Saturday a month, beginning February 9thcheck out their registration details here.

 

Kids, Youth, and Justice

What are UCV kids doing with Social and Environmental Justice?  

Justice work is integral to Unitarian Universalism; for many of us justice work—whether social or environmental—is spiritual work. When we take a good look at living the seven principles, we find that they call us to act for justice, equity, compassion, and democracy and we are called to take interdependence seriously.   

We bring these values of justice, equity, compassion, and democracy into our children and youth programs through stories, games, activities, discussion, and outdoor explorations. Our upper elementary students worked with the CUC’s Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation Reflection Guide last year. We are looking for more opportunities to build relationship and learn about our indigenous neighbors. The Harry and UU Summer Theatre camp group chose to focus on “Waste” as the Horcrux (societal ill) they would fight, and we brought the Zero Waste Challenge to class in October under the theme of “Abundance.” We are continuing the challenge this month with “Courage.”  

The UCV Youth Group is currently exploring a focus for an Environmental Justice action project. Zero Waste and fighting the pipeline expansion are top of their list. Stay tuned for more information from our Youth! 

Justice Work Philosophy

My philosophy regarding doing social justice with children and youth is evolving. Sometimes we adults have a passion to bring knowledge and awareness of big issues to our kids; we want to make sure they are culturally, socially, and environmentally aware. I certainly have had this tendency with my own kids. However, I have recently noticed a sense of overwhelm in some of our middle elementary students. There’s a tendency to joke about wrecking the world which seems to be defensive humour in the face of very real problems. Adults are failing to protect the world, how are kids supposed to help? Why should they take on that burden? Where is the hope? 

Erin Leckie, from Be the Change, sent me a 1998 article from Yes! Magazine by David Soebel after I talked to her about kids and hope. I was inspired by Mr. Soebel’s perspective. He has important points to keep in mind as we feel excitement around bringing justice work into our programming with children and youth.   

What Shapes an Activist? 

“If we prematurely ask children to deal with problems beyond their understanding and control, then I think we cut them off from the possible sources of their strength.” 

“… there are healthy ways to foster environmentally aware, empowered students. One way to find the answer is to figure out what contributes to the development of environmental values in adults. What happened in the childhoods of environmentalists to make them grow up with strong ecological values? A handful of studies like this have been conducted, and when Louise Chawla of Kentucky State University reviewed them for her article, “Children’s Concern for the Natural Environment” in Children’s Environment Quarterly, she found a striking pattern. Most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources: “many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.” Not one of the conservationists surveyed explained his or her dedication as a reaction against exposure to an ugly environment.

What a simple solution. No rainforest curriculum, no environmental action, just opportunities to be in the natural world with modeling by a responsible adult.”  –David Soebel, 1998 YES! Magazine 

My takeaway goals for social and environmental justice with children and youth are: 

  1. Early Childhood: foster awe, wonder, and connection with the natural world/real people 
  2. Middle Childhood: Explore wider–neighborhood, city, learn about the world/people 
  3. Early Adolescence and up: Take initiative for Social Action–saving the world 

Within this outline, any idea for action that a child brings up independently is worth exploring and supporting. We believe in our ideas and act on them, that is our 5th principle after all! 

Go well, 

Kiersten E. Moore 

Director of Religious Exploration with Children and Youth 

Annual Ancestor Shrine–October 28th

Origins of Our Tradition

Mary, Catherine, Nancy, Terence, Morgan and Jen first created an Ancestor Shrine with the children’s program back in the fall of 2013. Transforming the meditation room into a place of remembrance at the end of October has become a firm tradition since then. It is something our children remember and connect with over the years.

Please come explore the Ancestor Shrine after Sunday service on October 28th. You may bring a photo or remembrance to leave on the altar if you wish (to be returned the following Sunday), and there will be paper and twine with which to write your own remembrances and hang from the willow branches.

May we remember where we come from, and how the tree of life shows us that truly all that exists on Earth is related. Further back we find that we have evolved from the dust of exploded stars–what great mystery!

Harry Potter’s World at UCV

Magic Arrives…

Harry Potter Camp at Vancouver Unitarian campus was a huge success this summer. How do I know? Mainly because the kids were talking about “next year at Hogwarts” at the end of day one and were still talking about it at the end of the week. They also arrived each day with smiles and excitement bubbling up and together built a real sense of community. They worked through conflict and resolution as well as through games, classes, and creativity.

Sorting Ceremony

We had 20 attendees who came from the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, North Shore Unitarian, and others who were drawn to the “Hogwarts” page on the website. New friendships were formed, and old friendships strengthened.

Theatre in Action

We approached the camp with the intent to create an immersive theatrical experience for the kids from which they could explore real, pertinent, issues and develop their own power, abilities, and agency. The kids reveled in the opportunity to let their imagination of the Hogwarts world come to life, being sorted into Houses, the decoration of the Great Hall, and the re-naming of rooms—Dormitory of Democracy, Room of Retirement, Chamber of Choice. They were initiated into a chapter of Dumbledore’s Army and, through dotmocracy, chose to focus on fighting the Horcrux of Waste. The theme of how to approach zero waste will be carried through our Sunday activities this fall.

Herbology, Prof. Kiersten

Shape of the Week

Classes were held throughout the week, taught by both our local UCV Professors and local Guests:

Herbology—with Professor Kiersten, exploring the UCV gardens and grounds for “magical” medicinal plants and creating a healing salve from plantain and calendula with olive oil and beeswax.

Potions—with Professor Jannika, creating a Cold-Away Potion from echinacea and an Elixir of Euphoria from Orange Blossom Essential Oil.

Potions with Prof. Jannika

Charms—with Professor Douglas, exploring acting skills through Professor Douglas’ own charms: Interiofocus (stilling the mind and focusing inward), Accion (finding personal power in action), and Connectisaurus (connecting with another person and working together).

Special Guests

Quidditch—with guest Quidditch players and Kidditch instructors from the Vancouver Vipers Quidditch Team.

Defense Against the Dark Arts—with guest artist and actress Professor Bailey, exploring how to face our fears through humour using poetry and spoken word.

Charms lesson with Prof. Douglas

Two Guest theatre artists turned the ground floor of Hewett Centre into Diagon Alley and made appearances as familiar ghosts Moaning Myrtle and Nearly Headless Nick. Together they delved into the complexity of what to do when public art lifts up one culture and ignores oppressions.

Patronus Workshop—with Professor McGonagall, exploring core aspects of their personality and identifying a strength of their own that brings something positive into the world.

Finale

The week ended with a Feast and Sharing with family and friends of all that they had been doing and learning—including spells, skits, games, and a haunted house of their own creation.

 

 

Mystery Pals Magic

May 6th dawned bright and warm. I felt a flutter of nervous excitement carrying armfuls of flowers to church, an unusual three block walk to get across the marathon using 49th street. This was the culmination of Vancouver Unitarians first experience with the UU Mystery Pal letter exchange tradition and I wanted to create a beautiful backdrop for it to unfold.

Twelve pairs ranging in age from 4 to 80 were matched up by at least one common interest and had spent the month of April exchanging letters, drawings, and emails not knowing the identity of their pen pal. As the orchestrater of the exchange I had the pleasure of hearing the excitement and curiosity as pals discovered their letters each week. I heard from parents how much their children were enjoying the exchange and from adults having fun comparing notes on how fascinating, bright, and fantastic their pals were. Everyone tried to guess who exactly their pal was of course. My own four-year-old wasn’t sure he wanted to participate because it would be scary to sit at a party with someone he didn’t know. He didn’t want to be left out though so I told him I would sit with him at the party.  As it turns out…

The day of the Big Reveal.

I had tables set aside in the Hall Annex with flowers, fruit, and snacks that pals brought to share. Place settings were marked with the famous Unitarian Universalists that each pair had been connected through—find your famous UU, find your pal, eat and talk together. After the whole congregation worship service, “The Work We Do”, let out Pals started to find their place and find each other. My four-year-old who was sure he wanted me to sit with him? He chatted easily with his Pal for more than half-an-hour; a month of writing letters had taken away the layer of strangeness that he would usually feel with an adult not in the family.

I looked around at the smiles, conversation, and earnest engagement unfolding and found it nothing short of magical. I’m sure some Pals will stay connected more than others, but everyone found a new friend at church. The length of time Pals spent together that morning showed real, meaningful, personal connections were made during a time we often talk to the same people within our age or interest cohort each Sunday.

For all those who missed participating this time around, we will do it again next year!