What a week it has been! I left for Ottawa last Wednesday to attend the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) gathering, AGM, and Symposium on Living into the 8th Principle. It was an uplifting, challenging, inspiring, and generative weekend. I was pleased to see a few other Vancouver Unitarians in-person and online for the first national multi-platform conference made possible by multiple owl conference cameras (including ours–thank you!)
I have been the CUC Board Secretary for the past five years, and I agreed this year to stand as President. It is with humbleness mixed with excitement and trepidation that I step into this role for my last year on the Board. The people working at the national staff and Board level are kind, courageous, thoughtful, compassionate and dedicated to the thriving growth of our denomination. And we cannot do this work without you.
To thrive as Unitarian-Universalists in Canada we must reach out beyond the boundaries of our individual congregations and see each other as part of something bigger. As one of the largest congregations in Canada we are positioned to be a pillar of leadership, a mother tree in a forest ecosystem. In my role as President I hope to bring the humanity of the CUC and the reality that we are a community of communities home.
I understand that there was a deeply meaningful listening circle held here this past weekend focused on hearing and understanding each other in relation to the 8th Principle adoption. Out of that circle came a desire for UCV to create its own statement of purpose around antiracism and anti-oppression work. Our youth see the 8th Principle as the action principle–the doing, building, and getting down to work Principle. And it will be healing to work in circles of consensus to define how we, as a congregation, will manifest our work and dedication to a more just and peaceful world. It has been 7 years since we undertook a visioning process and now is an auspicious time to take up this work; re-forming ourselves in a post-lockdown time and preparing to welcome a new settled minister. I hope many of you will take the opportunity to participate.
There have also been many conversations around how we govern ourselves, how we make decisions, and how to do so in a way that lives into our values and includes voices that are often left out. The CUC Decision Making Exploration Team is holding a series of workshops between now and January for people to practice different forms of decision making such as consensus building and sociocracy. I hope our Board and anyone else interested in new ways to generate participatory democracy will attend and help shape the CUC and Vancouver Unitarians into the future. People are asked to participate in at least three of the year’s events in order to join the January workshop on drafting a preliminary proposal for the CUC’s annual general meeting.
Changing them up completely, that’s what! They’re envisioning 6 core values centered around Love as “the enduring force that holds us together.” Pluralism, Interdependence, Equity, Generosity, Justice, and Evolution. Each value has a brief statement and an explicit Covenant of actions associated with it. They are in a circle rather than numbered or hierarchical. The sources are changed to a statement that “we draw upon, and are inspired by, the full depth and breadth of sacred understandings, as experienced by humanity. Grateful for the religious lineages we inherit and the pluralism which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.” Full draft proposal (linked here)
The Article 2 Study Commission of the UUA was charged in the fall of 2020 to review Article II: Principles and Purposes of the UUA Bylaws which is where our Principles and Sources come from. It is the foundation for all the work of the UUA and its member congregations and covenanted communities. The UUA includes 15 of Canada’s 43 CUC congregations who kept their UUA membership in 2002. The current Principles and Sources of the UUA were last revised in 1987 and the CUC adopted them by resolution in 2002 after consultation with our member congregations upon withdrawing from UUA membership. Last year, of course, the CUC added an 8th Principle, along with 222 other UU congregations and associations across North America.
This commission was formed in response to many discussions, proposals, and resolutions that have come from the UUA Board, from other commissions, and grassroots groups periodically since 2009. The Commission has engaged active participation of UUs across all demographics, identities, and theological/philosophical beliefs. The Commission itself consists of people from a broad demographic, including two full voting youth members. They were encouraged to review all parts of article II and given freedom to revise, replace, or restructure them as needed to meet the objectives of their charge. As stated in the Charge to the Commission ”There is nothing sacred about the number of principles or sources, nor their specific wordings, nor in the way Article II is laid out. We encourage creativity. The Board would like to see an Article II that is inspirational, memorable and poetic.“
Does this affect Canadian Unitarian/Universalists or the CUC?
The CUC Board has undertaken the beginnings of a by-law review, some points of which will come to the AGM in May. We are also waiting on recommendations from the Decision-Making Exploration Team which may impact our considerations around consensus-based decision making, Robert’s Rules, and how the CUC conducts business. As a part of that, we will also be exploring a process by which to amend, revise, or re-write our Principles and Sources that we migrated over from the UUA in 2002. We did not include them in our by-laws or in our statement of purposes. They live as adopted by simple resolution at an AGM and the current process by which to change them is the same resolution process we use for any other decision. We have heard from many sources that it is time to review our Principles as a whole and rewrite them for a new age.
I encourage Canadians to be part of the conversation with the Article 2 Commission. If their proposal is voted in at next June’s GA and ratified the following year it will inevitably have implications for us in Canada. All of our professional associations are continental, Ministers, Religious Educators, Music professionals, Administrators, Membership professionals. Credentialing of religious educators and fellowshipping of ministers is through the UUA. Our theological seminaries are in the U.S. The CUC does not have the capacity to independently create substantial religious education resources, or to be involved with credentialing of professional leadership or ministerial transitions.
It is important that we have the CUC as a national body and voice and it is very true that Canada is an independent country, not a 51st state. However, Canadian Unitarians/Unitarian Universalists are not a fully independent national denomination and we never have been. Therefore, it would be meaningful to engage in the conversation. About 1/3 of Canadian Unitarian/Universalist congregations retained their membership in the UUA, 15 out of 43. Even if we do end up diverging further in how our principles and sources are stated, we should identify our commonalities and connective through line.
Happy November dear UCV! October was a busy month for me and I can hardly believe that Halloween has passed already. I was able to attend the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) in-person for the first time in three years. It was a multi-platform event with a little over 100 people visiting Birmingham, Alabama and an equal number attending online. We visited the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the Memorial for Peace and Justice. I know a lot about history, but I still learned details I was not aware of.
The vastness of the slave trade and racial terrorism in the American South makes it easy to see why many Canadians think racism is different here, not as bad or as drastic as in the U.S. But the justification of racial hierarchy that spawned the Doctrine of Discovery is the same that justified slavery, Indian Residential Schools, and the legacy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, not to mention our current migrant labour policies. I wonder what a comprehensive museum of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada would look like, what it would illuminate.
That is the heavy stuff that has been on my mind. More exciting is the beginning of new things and the revitalization of others:
Our first Elders Circle met this week. The group is exploring meaning and spirit in aging and planning field trips and activities with our Coming-of-Age youth who are 12 and 13. Let me know if you are over 65 and would like to join the circle!
UU Wellspring for Busy People starts next week, and I am looking forward to running this 8-session Covenant Group now and again in March. Wellspring is at a good number of registrants, but there is still room if you want to hop in https://ucv.im/uu-sources.
Parents, kids, and youth—look out for a call for actors to workshop our new Solstice pageant set to perform on December 18th!
Messy Church is joining forces with our Youngerish Games Night to bring multi-generational connections and playfulness into our life. First Saturdays of each month—that’s this week, Nov 5th! Bring a dish to share and a board or card game you enjoy.
Anyone interested in leading the new Dreamers, Devisers, Doers gender expansive update to Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and Rise up and Call Her Name? Contact me!
There is more in the works and more to be imagined. I look forward to bringing it to life with you!
Saturday, October 1, 5 – 8 pm in the Hewett Centre
Messy Church Potluck is back! This Saturday, October 1st, 5-8pm.
Open to the entire UCV community embracing multigenerational fun and connections over food. Dinner includes a centering worship element, time to check-in with yourself and each other, and leaning into play. Our youth provide childcare attention to the kids with Cardboard Kingdom creations and games.
For Potluck: The Dish That Brings Back Belonging
For potluck this month let’s nourish our souls and our bellies! Think of a food or recipe that takes you back to a memory of deep belonging (our September theme). Maybe it was the secret ingredients your grandma put into her apple pie: orange juice and bourbon. Or it might be the tostones your beloved aunt taught you how to make. Whether it was your dad’s way of doing BBQ or the go to dish you made when your kids were little, there’s likely some beloved “belonging food” you’ve not made lately.
So, this weekend, make it! And don’t just stop there: bring it! And don’t just share the dish but share the story of how it anchors you in some precious piece of belonging in your life, how it connects you to belonging and how sharing it with someone else deepened your sense of belonging with them.
Do you want to connect with 6-12 people around a theme, interest, creative endeavor, or spiritual question?
Do you already organize, facilitate or participate in a Small Group, Book Discussion, Circle, or regular small gathering in-person at UCV or through UCV Zoom? Tell us about it! www.ucv.im/small-groups-form
Vancouver Unitarians vision is for a more compassionate world. At UCV we deepen our spiritual and religious lives, grow and enrich our congregation, and advocate for love and justice.
To connect folks, new and old members alike, to deep meaningful community, Kiersten and Derrick need to know what is already going on, what you are looking for, what possibilities you imagine, and what you want to create.
To re-vitalize our directory of small groups, join an existing group, or create a new one, please use this form: www.ucv.im/small-groups-form
For all new and returning families, all children must be registered so that we have vital information about parent/guardians, children’s needs, photo permissions or restrictions, and so we can maintain appropriate child/adult ratios in the classroom.
Read on to know what you are registering them for!
Sunday Morning Programs
Everyone starts in the service together and children leave to do their program after the story. Programs run a little longer than service so parents can enjoy coffee hour. All Sunday morning programs are included in the Family Registration at www.ucv.im/REfamily
Pray ground (Sanctuary friendly floor zone)
The pray ground allows parents to be present in worship with their children, it is up front because that is the best place for kids to see what is going on, be engaged as they are able, and teaches them that they belong here. They are safe in a loving community. It is designed for those who need to be near their parents for any reason.
Our pray ground is the area at the very front of the sanctuary on the right side, with our teen volunteers ready to quietly play during worship or outside if needed. It has carpets and pillows, colouring and stuffies, board books and fidget toys! This zone is designed for those who are too wriggly to sit in a chair for an hour and not ready or willing to join a program. Children who are going to a program can hang out here until they are sung out, and those who are not able or don’t want to leave their parents can stay as long as they want to.
Focus: play-based learning about justice, covenant, and community with an anti-racist lens.
Age: 5-9 (grades K-4)
Time and place: 11:15-12:15 in person at UCV
Are you a fan of the Teen Titans or Black Panther? Or are you more interested in learning about your values through playing games with new friends? Superhero Academy is our children’s group for this year, and you’re all invited!
Focus: understanding the religious and spiritual practices of our neighbours and ourselves
Age: 10-12 (grades 5-7)
Time and place: 11:15-12:15 in-person at UCV; also includes fieldtrips once a month to other houses of worship in our community (carpool/transit buddies can be arranged)
Crossing Paths is a core program for UU children. We invite kids beginning to question life-death-and-the-beyond to join with us in exploring many faith traditions and how they relate to Unitarian Universalism. We start with Unitarian Universalism and aim to cover many other traditions practiced in our area, from Buddhism to Islam to Paganism to Coast Salish spirituality. This year’s program is a continuation of last spring’s program, which already spent time on Judaism and Christianity. However, there is no need to have attended last year to attend this year.
Special programs take place at different times outside of Sunday morning. They are often specific to a peer cohort of similar age. They aim to build community within UCV, work on justice in the community at large, and build deep connection to values and identity. Youth may join on their own regardless of parent involvement or membership. The Our Whole Lives program does have a required parent orientation.
Time and place: twice a month for two hours each, exact time tbd; in person at UCV
Coming of Age is a core program for UU kids as they become youth. A group of bridging-in youth become a close-knit community as they ask themselves “what is Unitarian Universalism and why does it matter to us?” UCV elders and our facilitators work with participants to learn what they receive from community, what they give back, and how communities practice their values.
Time and place: 1-3 pm Sunday afternoons in person at UCV; also sometimes includes sleepovers on Saturday nights, fieldtrips, and discord game times
How to possibly describe youth group? Youth group is fun because teens hanging out is fun! Youth group dives deep because teens dive deep! Youth group is led by teens alongside adult advisors in a safe and supported space to be themselves, be weird, find purpose, and give back. This group is open to all teens connected (however loosely) to UCV. You’re always welcome here.
Focus: preparing our oldest youth for the transitions in their lives
Age: 16-19, or gr 11, 12, and first year post high school
Time and place: two Mondays a month 7-9 pm in person at UCV; also some sleepovers
Unitarians call the process of moving from youth to young adulthood “Bridging”, they symbol of moving into a new life stage. We create a metaphorical bridge to existing in the world and as a Unitarian with more autonomy and shared responsibility.
Bridger’s Program is a small group for our oldest youth who have been part of UCV or a neighbouring congregation for a while. Two Wednesdays a month, and some sleepovers, we will gather to be with each other in this time of transition. Our leaders help youth to plan post-secondary endeavors (What’s a bursary? What’s a course requirement? How do I fill out my application? Do I even want to keep going to school?), read through Wellspring Youth Sources (What are our UU sources? What spiritual practices keep me grounded? How do I take care of myself and others?), and lead our OWL program (What’s a healthy sexual relationship? How do I make space for my own gender and sexual identity?). And it’s fun.
OWL for Senior High (gr 11-12)
Focus: trans and queer affirming sexuality education
Time and place: one Monday a month 7-9 pm in person at UCV; some Saturday evenings as well
Cost: pay-what-you-can sliding scale, $25-$125; no one will be denied due to lack of funds
Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education is a program used by UUs and other denominations all over the place to support us at all stages of our lives. The grade 11-12 program focusses on sexual health, lifespan sexuality, building healthy sexual relationships, and sexuality and social issues. Our three leaders (two of whom are queer adults themselves) are trained through the program. Our group this year is a majority queer group of amazing teens. Though OWL is offered through UCV, it’s a secular program. Gr 11-12 OWL is a stand-alone part of our Bridger’s Program for older youth, any youth currently age 16 or 17 may join this program.
Our first Death Café in June was a well-attended success that left people primed for more conversation and deeper engagement. Our next offering is Friday, August 26th, 7-9pm. We will have tables and conversation groups set up in Fireside and the Hall for groups of 4 to 6 folks of differing beliefs, theologies, backgrounds and ages to come talk about one thing we all have in common–mortality!
Death Café was founded by Jon Underwood based on the work of Bernard Crettaz. It is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session promoting straightforward and open dialogue about death. The objective is to ‘increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.’
A group of twelve Vancouver Unitarian members and friends, new and old, formed our first UU Wellspring small group last year. It was a deep, transforming experience for many of us. We are forming new cohorts this fall with the intent to spread the joy of deep personal connection, search for meaning, and spiritual practice development.
Participants in UU Wellspring find spiritual transformation as they explore the historical and theological roots of Unitarian Universalism, reflect on their own spiritual understandings, and engage in spiritual practice. Participants often form deep and lasting connections with one another.
We are including an eight-session, less homework intense, program for young adults and a six-session program to launch the UU Wellspring Reads: Sacred Earth program, a series of sessions designed around the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, combined with the book The Sustainable Soul by Rebecca James Hecking, and additional readings and videos.
The five spokes of UU Wellspring small groups
Deep listening in a small group
Daily spiritual practice
Deeper understanding of Unitarian and UU history and theology
Living your convictions
Sources: First Year UU Wellspring Program
UU Wellspring Sources is a unique 10-month small group program offered in a multi-platform setting. The twice a month, 2-hour sessions offer participants an opportunity for spiritual deepening that leads to more joyful living, increased confidence in Unitarian identity, and faithful justice making in their lives and in their communities.
Sources begins with a start-up retreat on October 5, 6-9 pm and meets 2 times a month October through the middle of June.
Sacred Earth is the first program in “UU Wellspring Reads,” six-session programs that provide foundational experience that are dear to Unitarian Universalists’ hearts. Sacred Earth combines the wisdom of Indigenous understandings of reciprocity with the sacred earth, and with spiritual practices that connect our spirit to nature. The experiences, reflections and discussions strive to engage participants deeply in the web of life and your Unitarian Universalist faith.
Our Sacred Earth offering is facilitated by UCV member Martha Saunders. Martha is a retired university lecturer in Religious Studies with a long-time interest in eco-spirituality.
UU Wellspring for Young Adults is designed for a cohort close in age, 18-29 or 25-35 for example. It is a chance to ask the big questions in life and reflect on what is deeply important to you. Each 60 to 90-minute session begins with a check in and sharing of spiritual practices. The session source is introduced and explored through videos, short readings and sharing.
Connecting to the Great Beyond
As Unitarians and UUs we don’t always talk about spirituality and UUW-YAH! Gives you a chance to wonder how our souls are connected to the great beyond as we explore our six Unitarian Universalist Sources.
Connecting to Peaceful Practices
You’ll have a chance to try out spiritual practices, which can simply be choosing an intention, such as gratitude, and thinking about it as you carry out an activity. For example, you might choose to attend a class, a daily task, or work with gratitude.
This 8-session series can be offered as either a fall or spring session meeting bi-weekly or October to May meeting monthly. Online or in-person.
It is 2022. Post-solstice, the days are getting longer; post-fire communion and Gregorian New Year’s–we’ve let go of things, set intentions, bolstered ourselves for the year ahead. I expect many are facing this time of surging pandemic with a feeling of frustration, maybe resignation, perhaps weariness. As worship services remain online for the next couple weeks or so, we are striving to keep our connections with each other and Vancouver Unitarians vibrant and alive.
Religious Exploration programming for all ages continues this winter and we have a lot to celebrate. The Wellspring—spiritual deepening course is full, with a lively group that spans generations and life learnings. It continues through June, with a mixed platform online and in-person using our conference technology. Youth group continues with multi-platform as well, while Our Whole Lives sexuality education for ages 12-14 continues in person through May with a curious, playful, and thoughtful group of young people.
Nan Gregory and Olivia Hall will be leading Crossing Paths for kids ages 10-12 beginning at the end of January. Crossing Paths is the Soul Matters update to the “Neighbouring Faiths” and “the Church Across the Street” classes of years past. We take time learning about the various religions and spiritual practices in our city and inviting guests or taking a field trip if health and safety permits. If you have a 10–12-year-old interested, you can sign up here: https://vancouver.breezechms.com/form/crossing-paths
The fall offerings of Paganism 101 and Anti-Racist Foundations concluded in December and new offerings are on the horizon—so keep a look out in the eNews Weekly for registration announcements!
–Kiersten E. Moore, Director of Lifespan Faith Development
“The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” —Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove
“We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote” is the introductory sentence to our principles. As a religious educator I teach children and youth the importance of covenant, of deciding together how it is important to be and act within a specific group. We stress that a covenant is a living document, within our living tradition—which means it is open to change at any time if we find need to clarify our expectations. If someone is hurt, or the group isn’t functioning well, we turn to the covenant and ask what we need to add or change. How do we need to change our behaviour and understanding in this group?
The purpose of the covenant is to help guide us in creating a space where everyone is able to trust the group with their full, authentic, self. This does not mean that hurtful behaviour or expressions are allowed in the name of free speech. A person who authentically believes that homosexuality is wrong, for example, is out of covenant expressing or acting on such a belief. They are free to be themselves, to be comfortably heterosexual, but they are not free within our covenant to demean another’s identity. That goes against our agreement to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
When I look at the request for us to add an 8th principle that calls us to accountably dismantle racism and oppressions in ourselves and our institutions, what I hear is a portion of our Unitarian members saying that the covenant we have together isn’t working as intended. I hear that we are called to understand that racism, and oppressions that compound it; classism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, are at play within our religious home. That there are people feeling sidelined and marginalized within our community and they are saying “I need you to do this thing, in order for me to trust this community with my full, authentic self.” This call does not come from all IBPOC members or all youth and young adults, no one group is a monolith, but it does not need to be a unanimous call in order to be valid. The question is “can you do this thing to fully include me in the group? At least give it your best shot?”
The thing that the 8th principle asks us to do is to acknowledge that racism has played a role in shaping our reality, our perceptions, our governance, our theology, our world view, and that we need to work to figure that out and change the way we do things in order to live up to our aspiration of radical inclusivity. We are being asked to please, take this on principle. Make this part of our covenant together—to not ignore oppressions within our own selves and within our religion. Change starts at home. We have been very good at looking outwards, trying to make the world a better place. We are very proud of our progressive faith which has been often at the forefront of social change; it is hard to hear we are failing in any area. The truth is, we still have work to do today, in our current time. This principle is not about a social justice issue. It is about working to make our faith better, to include, hear, and see our own members fully. Systemic change has to start from the ground up; our Unitarian and Universalist faith is the ground we stand on. The principles are our covenant with each other, a living document within our living tradition.