Author: Director RE

Lifespan Notes: January 2022

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 as Covenant

“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. 

Blessed Be, 

Kiersten E. Moore 

Director of Lifespan Faith Development 

OWL is Back!

We are excited to announce a new offering of the Our Whole Lives sexuality education for grades 8 &9 (ages 12-14). Because this class can only be held in person and students come from many different areas of metro Vancouver, we are requiring that all students be age 12 or older and fully vaccinated by the start of class (October 3rd). We will require masks indoors until they are no longer recommended by BC public health.

This is a comprehensive, school-year long program led by trained volunteers and staff. You can read more about this award winning curriculum on our website, check out the dates for this year’s class, and REGISTER HERE.

Community Impact

Earlier this year, Vancouver Unitarians extended a grant to the Broadway Youth Services Centre (BYRC) through our stewardship with the Robert and Anna Koerner Community Fund. BYRC has been able to grow their food program and provide food security to participants and their families. Their program employs youth as peer navigators and has been a source of community support and pride during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are enriched by our capacity to reach out to the larger community in this way and have an impact beyond our walls. You can read the impactful thank you letter from the BYRC below.

A Call to Become Actively Anti-Racist

We are called to action around racial justice within our congregation, ourselves, and in collaboration with our community. I encourage everyone to read this report from the CUC’s Dismantling Racism Study Group. –Kiersten Moore, Director of Lifespan Learning.

From Vyda Ng, Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council:

The Dismantling Racism Study Group has completed their report on the work they have been engaged in since 2019. The report, along with background on the study, is available on the CUC website on the Dismantling Racism Study Group page.  You may read it directly with this folder link.

Our grateful thanks to the members of the Study Group who have spent many hours engaged in this work. They are:

Beverly Horton (Hamilton) – Co-Chair
Rev. Julie Stoneberg (Peterborough) – Co-chair
Douglas Ennenberg (Vancouver)
Charmaine Ferworn (Mississauga)
Ashlyn Noble (Winnipeg)
Pamela Smith-Loeters (Mississauga)
Catherine Strickland (North Shore, Vancouver)
Tamiko Suzuki (Vancouver)

Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty

What can we do individually and collectively to reduce harm and bring about climate justice?

Our food system has a huge impact on climate. Food production is fraut with racism and oppression of the people who grow our food. It is also a very complex system. Eating less meat, particularly red meat, has clear health and climate benefits. Large scale change needs to come from good policy and public pressure to create system change. The following organizations are working to create real change for those who produce and harvest our food as well as the impact of agriculture on our planet:

These are good places to start for information and action. Stay tuned for more!

Mystery Pals Deluxe 2021

Tangible Connection and a Break from Monotony

I feel a great desire for spring, for unplugging, for tangible connections to people. Zoom and video calls help me connect with people far away, but boy am I missing people’s prescence! How about some old-fashioned letter writing? It’s the time of year when we roll out Mystery Pals letter exchange for children, youth, and adults of all ages.  Some wonderful friendships and connections across generations have been made through this annual event–and if you haven’t tried it out yet, I encourage you to sign up!

This year we are forming a small organizing team to spice up our exchanges. Each Pal mails their letters to UCV and we send it on with Artist Trading Cards, art or activity prompts, or poetry slipped in.

Who?

Anyone age 4-104 can participate if you have regularly attended the Unitarian Church of Vancouver for six months or more, are known by someone in our church leadership (RE Director, Minister, Board, or committee member, small group leader), and can commit to exchanging weekly letters throughout April by Canada post (envelopes and stamps supplied.) 

When?

April is the month of mail exchange and early May is our Reveal Party where you find out who exactly your Pal is. The reveal party will be facilitated in whatever way is deemed safe at the time–either a zoom party or outdoors if public health allows.

How?

Sign-up with our Breeze form at https://ucv.im/pals by March 15th.

Kiersten and our Pals team will match folks up and assign each Pal pair a famous Unitarian to identify with. You will receive a Letter Writing Kit with addressed envelopes, stamps, and paper at the end of March to get you started. Write an introductory letter to your Pal, mail it to the church and it will be sent on. Watch your mailbox for a response and keep exchanging letters throughout April.

Education, Resiliency, and Healing

Vancouver Unitarians’ Koerner Foundation Funds Committee is pleased to announce that the Board has approved a grant for the Alderwood Family Development Centre for a project that provides the opportunity for education, resiliency and healing – by offering child and family drum making and drumming lessons. The drum is a symbol of culture, of togetherness and is a tool to honour unique and individual voices of children and families.

About the Centre

The Alderwood Family Development Centre serves the most complex and vulnerable children and families in Vancouver – these are children for whom there is no alternative schooling. The Centre provides a one year intensive day treatment program for children ages 6 to 12. It is family-centred and services and supports are collaborative, culturally sensitive, individualized and flexible.
 
The donation will be funded from annual grants given to UCV by the Vancouver Foundation from their Robert & Anna Koerner Foundation Community Fund.

Yemen— A Forgotten Nation

The Humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which I spoke of in the service on January 24th, affects 24 million people. My friend, Mostafa, lives in Taiz City. He is on the ground working for Save the Children to bring much needed nutrition and medical aid to young children, pregnant and nursing mothers. People are starving and it is heartbreaking work. 

Early in January, before Trump left office, the U.S. Secretary of State designated the Houthis a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist. These are very strict designations that prohibit any U.S. company or individual from doing business or providing aid in Houthi controlled Yemen.  70% of Yemen’s population lives in the territory affected, and the entire country imports 88% of their food through two ports, both in Houthi controlled territory.  The designations make it harder for non-US aid agencies to do their work, Oxfam International, for example, receives millions of dollars towards their work from US organizations and individuals. 

Globally there is more money in weaponry and arms going into the war in Yemen than food and aid to the millions of people affected.  Canada provides both aid to Yemen and weapons to Saudi Arabia which are fueling the conflict.  

What Can We Do?

  1. Personal Connections.  When I asked Mostafa, he says what he wants most is to immigrate to Canada to be able to work here and help his family.  If you can help me in this endeavor, please email Kiersten Moore.  He is unable to apply for UN refugee status from within Yemen.
  2. The immediate need of the people of Yemen is food and medical aid. Organizations that are actively involved in this work include:
    1. Islamic Relief Canada: https://www.islamicreliefcanada.org/appeals/yemen/
    2. Muslim Hands Canada
    3. Save the Children—Yemen response (84% direct to programs)
    4. Oxfam: https://www.oxfam.ca/emergency/crisis-in-yemen/
    5. Red Cross: https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/red-cross-stories/2018/yemen-the-world-s-single-largest-humanitarian-crisis
  3. Petition your MP and the Trudeau government to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The main reason the government gives for continuing to supply arms is that Canadians will lose money, and potentially jobs, if we pull out of the contract put in place by the Conservative government. The Saudi’s have been over 3 billion dollars behind on their payments and Canada is on the hook to the U.S. manufacturer supplying the light armored vehicles out of London, OT. You can read the available news on this issue to support your petition to your MP:
    1. Canada’s role in the Yemeni civil war, by McGill International Review, Nov 2020
    2. CBC April 9, 2020 Canada Strikes New Deal with Saudi Arabia
    3. Radio Canada International, Feb 2020 on the Canadian-Saudi LAV contract
    4. CBC Oct, 2019. Saudi Arabia $3.4B behind on payments
    5. Defense News, May 2020 on the company contracted to supply LAV’s in Canada
    6. Globe and Mail, June 2020, “Ottowa’s lifeline to Saudi-LAV maker”
  4. History and News releases on the Yemen crisis from Oxfam International

BYRC–a little about who we support

Vancouver Unitarians have donated $12,000 to the Broadway Youth Resource Center towards a Food Security program for youth and their families. The funds donated come from grants received from Vancouver Foundation’s Robert and Anna Koerner Foundation Community Fund. Here is a little more about BYRC and their work:

Check our webpost here for more information about the Food program, and visit the BYRC website.