So, What Is Spirit Play?

You may have heard of Spirit Play. It happens in Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Religious Education classes all over North America for our three to ten year olds.

Is it a play? What kind of play? Or is it a methodology? Why and how is it different from other religious education instruction, and why do adults ask to learn about their Unitarian roots, principles and sources with the Spirit Play methodology when they hear about it?

Come and see how Joy Silver unveils the mystery of Spirit Play.

Finding Our Story Within Eco‑Spirituality

Enviro Page  → Finding our Story

Cypresses in Starry Night / Reed Drawing by Vincent Van Gogh 1889 / Public Domain

Roots and Wings
Finding Our Story Within Eco‑Spirituality

Ecology and Spirituality
A Vision for Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism
in the 21st Century

Presentation by Rev Lara Cowtan
at the UUE Eco‑Spirituality Conference in Prague

September 15th, 2018
Čapek Hall, Anenská 5, Prague 1 (Old Town)

Our spiritual response to the environmental crisis can bring us to understand ourselves as part of the divine wholeness of the natural world, finding our self intertwined with the web of life in a way that enriches all life.

— Reverend Lara Cowtan

1. Old City of Prague

2. Neytiri and Jake’s Avatar

3. Robin Wall Kimmerer

4. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photo: Nobert Capek

5. Norbert Čapek


Playlist: All My Relations

All My Relations, Religious Naturalism
and The Heart of a Faith for the
21st Century

UCV Podcasts

All My Relations


All My Relations
by Aline LaFlamme
April 17, 2019


Living Within the Interdependent Web
by Martha Saunders
August 4, 2019


Religious Naturalism
by Rev. Steven Epperson
March 24, 2019


Religious Naturalism: Take Two
by Rev. Steven Epperson
March 24, 2019

all my relations: photo of Aline Laflamme

all my relations: photo of Reverend Doctor Steven Epperson

Speakers Bios

Aline Laflamme
Her name means the light (Aline) and the flame (LaFlamme.) She also carries the name Many Buffalo Running. Aline is a grandmother and Metis from Alberta. Among her many gifts she leads a drumming circle called Daughters of the Drum

Rev. Steven Epperson
was parish minister of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver for 19 years, retiring in 2020. Prior to entering professional ministry, Steven worked as a university professor in the history of religions, and as a museum curator

Martha Saunders
joined UCV in the fall of 2018. She taught religious studies and women’s studies for many years at Concordia University, Montreal, and at the University of Toronto, specializing in religious and environmental ethics

Forest Bathing in Pacific Spirit Park

Several of us in the Westside Unitarian Neighbourhood Group are embarking on “forest bathing” in Pacific Spirit Park. If you’d like to know when we’re going for a walk (probably 1-2 hours), let Mary know and she’ll send you a note when we have a time set (usually weekdays during the day, late morning or early afternoon.) We meet at 16th and Discovery and go from there. We sometimes go for a coffee or lunch together. Some of us bring walking poles.

Here’s an excerpt from a post from David Suzuki:

In Japan, scientists found people spending time in nature — shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” — inhale “beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions” which interact with gut bacteria to strengthen the body’s immune system and improve both mental and physical health.

More information about the park. 


Earth Spirituality Calendar

Some people like to print out their calendar, so we’re experimenting with creating a monthly pdf of all of the earth spirit, circle dance, pagan and labyrinth events. Let me know if this is useful and any suggestions or questions you have. We will post on the bulletin boards at the Unitarian Centre.

Click here to download. Jan-March2019

Email Mary.   (Want to meet me? Here’s a link to my bio) I’ve been part of the Pagan group at the Unitarian Centre for nearly 20 years.

You can go to and follow the links any time to find upcoming events.

New Earth Spirituality Group

We celebrated May Day outdoors near the Oak Street boundary just north of the Kids’ fenced-in playground area. Seven of us very successfully wove in and out around the maypole and–bonus–we found a tall thin wooden branch that we’ll dust off and dance around by next year.

We will meet on the first Tuesday of each month from 6 – 7 pm outdoors if weather permits, and otherwise in Hitschmanova Room- on the ground level-direct entrance from the parking lot/north side.

Looking for friendship and spiritual connection? Newcomers are always welcome at UCV

The Vancouver Unitarians are an active and inclusive community dedicated to spiritual growth and social justice. Newcomers are always welcome here. This page outlines a few of the ways you can get involved. 


New here? Please click here to fill out a short questionnaire so we can put you in touch with people and information you want

If you’re coming on a Sunday for the first time, you are very welcome and hope you’ll enjoy your time – and ask questions!

Sundays at UCV

Join us, in person or online, on Sunday mornings starting at 11 a.m. Doors to the Sanctuary at 949 W. 49th Ave. open at 10:45a.m. or you can join us online at 11a.m. at the following link: 

We continue to offer multiplatform Sunday services going forward.

The service begins at 11 am. If you’re online, feel free to join in earlier and make use of the YouTube chat function to say “hello” to fellow streamers.

You can sign up to receive weekly orders of service or monthly events listing via email.

Social Hours 

Our Sunday Social Hour takes place in person at UCV campus at Oak & 49th as well as online at Newcomers are always welcome to drop in!

On the first Thursday of every month, we have a 5p.m. to 6p.m. online Social Hour with hosts who would love to answer any questions you might have about the Vancouver Unitarians. Join us at

New U Starting Point

At least twice a year, we hold a short orientation course. Starting Point is a great way to get to know the Vancouver Unitarians, and to find out how you might get more involved in our welcoming community. If you’re interested, sign up here for the next New U Starting Point session.


Watch for announcements in the Order of Service or in the monthly events list about congregational meetings or special discussions called “Forum”.  Forums are hosted by our small groups, and are focused on special topics around the environment, refugee sponsorship, social justice, Board of Trustees, etc.

Watch for announcements in the Order of Service or in the monthly events list about special discussions called “Forum”.  Forums are hosted by our small groups, and are focused on special topics around the environment, refugee sponsorship, social justice, Board of Trustees, etc.

(Note that mask wearing and proof-of-vaccination is required to attend in-person Sunday services. For more information on the UCV’s Board COVID safety decisions and protocols, visit this page.)

Children’s Program

Families of all sorts, shapes, and sizes, children and teens, are a vibrant and valued element of Vancouvercarpeted area at the front of the Sanctuary with small toys and drawing materials for children. Unitarians. We strive to build supportive community, create fun with meaning, connect with spirit, and act on our Unitarian values with love and justice.

Families in-person at Sunday Worship:

Children are invited to sit and stretch out in our Pray Ground space at the front of the Sanctuary. Colouring, books, puzzles, and stuffed friends are available for calming engagement during the service where kids experience inclusion and belonging in the worship life of the congregation.

Two youth volunteers are present each Sunday to help take the pressure off parents and will accompany your child across to our Spirit Ground room in Hewett Hall for more spirited play if that is what they need.  The worship service is streamed live to a large screen TV in the Hall, so if your child needs a parent’s presence you can still take in the sermon and music across the way. Face masks are currently required indoors for all UCV buildings.

Special Programs: special programs and festivities take place throughout the year. Most are for all ages, and some are age specific registered programs. For all ages activity Sundays, any children wishing to participate will be sung out of the Sanctuary after the Story. The Pray Ground and Spirit Ground always remain open.

Contact our Lifespan Director, Kiersten Moore, to receive program and event notices and updates and Olivia Hall, our children and youth program coordinator, for info about our current youth programs.

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:

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

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

Families–Welcome! A New Program Year

Subject: Welcome! A new program year at UCV begins…

Hello Families,

Welcome to a new program year at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver! I had a very full summer, but I’m actually happy to fall back into routines this month. I hope you are all able to find moments of calm and connection amid the hustle and bustle of life. Church should be a component that feeds our spirit and strengthens connections, a place for both giving and receiving.  For that to be true, we busy families pick and choose what to be involved with and how often–we must set our priorities. I do notice that the children who attend Sunday mornings regularly are forming some truly significant friendships–thank you parents for supporting them in this community. I hope you also find connection and food for your soul.

Here are some dates and opportunities to be aware of:

Sunday Children’s Religious Education 11:15 am to 12:15 pm; Youth Group 11:15 to 12:30 pm

1st Sunday of each month: Whole Congregation Worship (all ages together in the sanctuary). In response to parent feedback, the nursery playroom will be staffed for childcare on 1st Sundays for any children that find an hour in the Sanctuary too much.

Messy Church Potluck Dinners:

1st Saturday of each month 5-8 pm–open to all ages, all family sizes. Next date is October 6th.

Winter Pageant will perform on December 23rd this year. Dress rehearsal on December 22nd.

Our Whole Lives for ages 13-15 will run this winter beginning in January–dates TBD

For adult connections you may be interested in checking out the Earth Spirit Council (hosts Earth based pagan gatherings, rituals, and events open to all-ages); or to connect with either your Neighborhood Group (all-ages inclusive)–or one of the many Small Group circles.

A note about Children’s Program Goals and Choices:

Spirit Play and Jams will be designed by monthly Themes with different developmental stages in mind, but the children are free to choose which focus area they want to join that morning.  This freedom of choice encourages them to take agency within the children’s learning community and it acknowledges that age is not always the best indicator of developmental stages, needs, and learning.

Our main goals are to create a welcoming community modeled on family structure; to foster wonder, awe, and truth seeking; model ethical action, and instill a sense of home in the larger church community. As teachers and leaders, we let the children bring their whole selves on Sunday by modeling living, leading, and teaching with our whole selves.

We now have Buttons for RE volunteers! 

Green “Children’s Program” buttons, Orange “Toddler Watch” buttons, and Yellow “Youth Adviser” buttons so we can be easily identified on Sunday morning.

The Flow of Sunday Morning:

  1. After the Story for All Ages: Children and Youth exit Sanctuary with lantern lit from the Chalice flame.
  2. Everyone gathers in Lindsey-Priestly for Reflection words and Chalice Lighting from the Lantern
  3. The lantern is passed to the Youth who carry on to Hitschmanova.
  4. Opening continues with a mindfulness practice and check-in.
  5. Jams (activity choices) and Leaders are introduced and chosen
  6. Spirit Play story or Wonder Box + games/art/play time.
    Toddler Watch
     will be connected with this stream.
  7. Two Activities designed with middle and upper elementary in mind–Spirit Jams: a Focus Activity followed by exploration of our theme in various forms–garden, games, art or craft, music, special project.

With Joy,

Kiersten E. Moore

Director of Religious Exploration, Unitarian Church of Vancouver

UCV Children and Youth on Facebook
604.446.9359 (cell)

604.261.7204 x225 (UCV office)