Author: Director RE

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.


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.) 


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.


Sign-up with our Breeze form at 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:
    2. Muslim Hands Canada
    3. Save the Children—Yemen response (84% direct to programs)
    4. Oxfam:
    5. Red Cross:
  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.

Food Security, Youth, and UCV

UCV has made a donation of $12,000 to the Broadway Youth Resource Centre (BYRC) towards a food security program with grants received from Vancouver Foundation’s Robert and Anna Koerner Foundation Community Fund. BYRC is a one-stop youth space that provides a wide range of social, health, education, employment, and life skills services to youth. The food security program focuses on food justice and food security for youth, in particular in the East Vancouver area. It will offer Fresh Food Kits that include produce, dairy, and proteins to youth and families, weekly Food Kits that include non-perishable food items and pantry goods, as well as hot meals for youth available on a drop-in basis during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gives youth the opportunity to develop cooking skills, to learn about how to grocery shop on a budget and how to access more sustainable sources of food including community gardens, food co-ops and food hubs.

More about our financial support for organizations

Participate in Water Communion

How to Participate in Water Communion, September 13th, 2020

Due to Covid-19 safety concerns the worship service can only be attended online, yet we may all still participate in our Water Communion. This year, recognizing the deep complexities we are all facing, you are invited to share what you have been grieving, the sorrows and losses experienced in these past months of uncertainty, isolation, and disruption. Your words will be read as waters are poured to mingle our shared sorrows, and then also what you would like to share of new joys and celebrations. Words and waters of sorrows and loss as well as hope and renewal will flow together in meaningful ritual.

Rev. Lara Cowtan
Interim Minister, Unitarian Church of Vancouver

There are three different ways to participate in the Water Ceremony ahead of time, please pick the one that suits you best:

  1. Drop off a physical jar of water and written words to be shared at the table outside by the blue admin office door—before September 13th.
    Please share what you have been grieving in the past six months of isolation and disruption, and what joys and celebrations are lifting your hope or renewing your spirit.
  2. Submit written words online through our secure form Your words of grief and/or joy will be spoken aloud by Rev. Lara Cowtan as she and Diane Brown pour collected waters into our communion bowl.
  3. Submit a video online at of yourself pouring water. (You may record directly at the website or upload your video file.)
    Please introduce yourself and share either a grief/sorrow or a joy/celebration while you pour water from a container into a bowl.
    If you want to share both a grief and a joy, please submit two separate videos as these will be distinct parts of the worship.

We will also use the YouTube chat at the beginning of the service on Sunday the 13th to gather any last-minute words to share for the Communion.

Anti-Racism Resources

In recent days, we have witnessed a surge of public response in support of Black Lives Matter as well as a call to uplift and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of lives that are continually devalued in racist systems. As Unitarians, we are committed to justice, equity, and compassion in all human relations. With this in mind, it is important for us to take accountability seriously and look deeply into the ways racism shows up in our local communities, in our congregation, and indeed within ourselves.

The Unitarian Church of Vancouver knows that antiracism is in alignment with our Seven Principles, we are committed to racial justice and equity and strive to be antiracist. On June 3rd, our Board released a statement which can be read here. As well, the UUA held a #wecantbreathe prayer vigil which can be viewed here. However, we also know that words are simply not enough and it is only through consistent effort and action as a community, that we can ensure we are diligent in our efforts to contribute to lasting change and justice.

Below is a beginning list of resources from various angles for us to use in our anti-racism efforts to learn about dismantling systems of oppression wherever they appear. If you would like to add resources to a permanent “Antiracism Learning” page please email

Anti-Racism Statements and Resources

Unitarian Universalist Statements

  1. Statement on Anti-Racism from the UCV Board
  2. Canadian Unitarian Council Statement on Mourning the Deaths of More People of Colour
  3. Black Lives Matter Statement by Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
  4. A pastoral letter to Black UUs by Rev. Lauren Smith in UU World, 6/4/2020
  5. Stop Calling the Police and Start Eradicating Anti-Blackness UUA statement and call to action, with links. June 2, 2020
  6. An Awful, Magnificent Truth by Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel in UUA’s Braver/Wiser Inspiration
  7. UUA Prayer Vigil #wecantbreate YouTube Video

Mental Health and Self-Care Resources for BIPoC Congregants and Friends

  1. Black Lives Matter Vancouver has a detailed and comprehensive list of legal, community, mental health and wellness services here
  2. Healing in Colour provides a list of therapists who have agreed to a statement of values
  3. Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community free health guide from Sunshine Behavioural Health
  4. Alica Forneret provides mental health by and for PoC
  5. Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society provides inclusive, accessible, and culturally-based healthcare and social services.
  6. Summit Wellness Group provides a list of 61 BIPOC mental health and addiction resources

Ally Learnings for White Congregants and Friends

  1. Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
  2. The 8th Principle project of Unitarian Universalism
  3. Black Lives UU Spiritual Subscription Box
  4. The Church of the Larger Fellowship an American UU congregation “without walls”
  5. Resources based on your current stage of racial identity development

Anti-Racist Parenting

  1. Antiracist Education Resources compiled by Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  2. “How To Be An Antiracist Parent” recording from Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  3. Resource roundup for parents
  4. Anti-racism resources for white people and for parents to raise anti-racist children
  5. Resources for Talking About Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids from the Center for Racial Justice in Education
  6. The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story pushing awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers.
  7. A fabulous list of children’s ebooks from the VPL called “Stand Up! Racial Identity, Racism, and Resistance for Grades K-7”

Canadian General Anti-Racist Resources

  1. Systemic Racism Explained in under 5 minutes
  2. The Story of Slavery in Canadian History at the Canadian Human Rights Museum
  3. The Canadian federal government page of anti-racism resources
  4. Vancouver Mutual Aid Organizations and Resource List
  5. Black Lives Matter Vancouver 
  6. 10 Reasons You Should Support Black Lives Matter
  7. Feminists Deliver: Confronting Anti-Black Racism in Canada (video: a panel of 8 Canadian Women of Colour)
  8. The University of Toronto Anti-Black Racism Reading List


“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
—Son of Baldwin (Robert Jones, Jr.)




YoUUth Summer Virtual Adventure

This is of particular note to Unitarian/UU youth entering grades 6-12, their parents, and advisors. We want your input!

Unitarian youth in BC have historically been very connected to the UU youth in the Pacific Northwest Region of the United States. Although there is an international border, geographically we are much closer to the many congregations in Washington and Oregon than we are to the rest of Canada; there are also enough of them to create some truly wonderful programs. We go to their Cons, youth leadership schools, and family camps.

This April there were two Virtual Cons held by the Pacific Northwest district (Washington/Oregon/etc.) and the Mountain district (Montana/Colorado/etc.). The youth and adult staff worked very hard and creatively and both Cons were well received with positive feedback.  Since all in-person gatherings of UU’s have been cancelled for the summer, Pacific Western Regional staff (PWR) are working to create a week of Virtual gathering/learning/playing/celebrating online this summer.  These Cons, and leadership camps are transformative and uplifting spaces to gather in as Unitarian youth, and I encourage our BC youth to participate if you can.

All youth, parents, and youth advisors interested in PWR’s youth summer virtual adventure are invited to fill out this form to help inform planning–and to be kept informed.

Happy (Virtual) Trails!

Kids Art Gallery

Since January is Imagination Month it’s a good time to fill this space with photos of creations and creators.

This is our art-board space where doodles, drawings, artwork of any kind can be shared and displayed. If you’ve made something you would like to see here, send it to Kiersten or Mary Bennett.

Featured image by: Hawk, Charlotte, Arthur, Leonard.













Send Video Greetings for Sundays

UCV is up and running with online Sunday worship serviceThe virtual video greetings from members and friends around metro-Vancouver were a welcoming and heartening part of the service and we want to keep it going! 

For this week’s video (March 29) how about sharing “How IS everyone keeping busy?” Short and sweet—15 seconds max.  It’s a treat to see you and your families and know you’re well!  We will share these during the “turn to your neighbor” segment of the service. Send it by midnight Saturday for the following Sunday service! 

If you have a smartphone or tablet, just open up your camera, flick it over to video mode and then flip the camera to selfie mode so you’re in the frame. Then press the record button and say a few words with those around you (remember, less than 15 seconds please). 

When you’re finished, click the sharing icon (square with an arrow pointing up on Apple devices, dot to two dot triangle on Android) and then email that video to us at 

That’s it! We’ll broadcast what we receive on Sunday morning and it would be a real treat to see familiar smiling faces. 

Here’s an example video. 

If you’re not sure about how to email a video, if you think you’ll have trouble viewing the service on Sunday morning from vancouverunitarians.caor if you’re struggling with Zoom for a church online eventplease let us know here and we’ll be in touch to help you get connected.