Author: Leslie Kemp

Update from the Healthy Relations Team

The Healthy Relations Team (HRT) came together last fall. Such a team had existed a few times over the years and has been wanted in recent years. At the request of our interim minister Rev. Lara Cowtan, the current HRT emerged and grew to seven or eight members in a matter of months. Our members come with various skills, experience, and perspectives.

At least half of our members have had significant family or personal challenges this year, and like most volunteers around UCV, everyone is busy, so our program development has been slow but the rapport, goodwill, and commitment have been noticeable. We are still here and looking forward to a new church year!

A brief summary of activity:

A few of us have been approached by some individuals or groups at UCV for consultation or support around sensitive issues.

We were able to collaborate with Rev Lara, the MTT, and our UCV archivist Diana Ellis to develop and present the Ministerial History series, Triumphs and Tumoils. This series was well received and we were impressed by the degree of deep interest and serious contemplation about the history revealed through our archives, with added perspectives from participants. We are pleased that recordings of Diana Ellis’s presentations from the archival material now exist and are accessible to UCV members.

We all learned how knowledge of our past is instructive about our past and present triumphs and turmoils. We saw how patterns of behaviour and interactions have recurred over the decades. We learned how ministry extends well beyond the minister and how we all contribute to a healthy and diverse community.

The Healthy Relations Team were of course aware of, and several of us participated in, the two Circles of Understanding offered in May of this year by Frank Tester. Considerable practice was had in listening! Frank is receiving feedback about the two circles he led and we understand that he will prepare a final report. Some of our members were also involved in earlier listening circles pertaining to the 8th principle.

The HRT plans to offer further training in skills that support us in living into our Covenant of Healthy Relations. Over the summer you might want to research ways to become aware of implicit (unconscious) biases: there are awareness tools online such as the Harvard-based implicit bias tests. Or you might look into bystander interventions when witnessing racism, sexism or other oppressions (e.g. online training by Right to Be, and background info by the American Psychological Association).

A book two of us appreciated reading this year was “The Persuaders: at the front lines of the fight for hearts, minds and democracy” by Anand Giridharadas. One simple line: “So the moral of this story is, how you make people feel matters.” One activist said “I have never seen an instance where, because somebody was deeply shamed or called names or ignored, they changed their mind. I just haven’t”. They went on to describe how the stages once suggested for creating change through activism were: Express Anger about a situation. State a Hope. Suggest an Action (AHA). They are coming to believe that what is more effective is: Identify a shared value. State the current problem. Propose a solution. The book has many good stories and insights.

Feel free to reach out to us about learning opportunities or for support in difficult communication situations. [email protected].
– submitted by Marg Fletcher, co-chair (with Leslie Kemp) of UCV’s Healthy Relations Team, May 29, 2023

Triumphs and Turmoil: A Community Look Back at UCV’s Ministerial History – Wednesday, January 18, 6:30 – 8:30pm

This January 18th session is in follow-up to the gathering on November 16, 2022, which was first of three planned discussions on UCV’s history of ministry. This series is an initiative of the Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) facilitated by members of the Healthy Relations Team.

We encourage participants to pre-register to help our planning and to receive advance materials whether attending in person or on Zoom.

We will continue to review the timeline of ministry at UCV. The first meeting covered the ministry of the late Rev. Dr. Phillip Hewett and the ministry of Rev. John Quirk. In this Part 2 we will summarize our discussions thus far, including reference to archival material, address questions that may arise, and proceed further in the timeline. As in Session 1, the goal is to elicit brief stories, celebrate particular strengths, clarify differing viewpoints, and where possible address lingering griefs or conflicts about past decisions and actions/inactions related to ministry. We will discuss how problematic issues were addressed, and what processes we have or should have in place now. We’ll reflect on  how the strengths of the ministries along with the challenges and their resolutions have shaped us.


All welcome! Once again, please pre-register here. 


Big Decisions ➔ Big Impact: Introducing UCV’s Decision-Making Task Force

At the November 2020 AGM, the congregation voted to not proceed with developing the property at UCV. This followed a four-year process on the part of the Development Committee to carefully research options and to seek input from UCV congregants. Although many steps were taken to ensure a fair and inclusive process, some congregants were concerned about some aspects of the process.

In response, the Board asked the Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) to create a task force to hear from those who have concerns and to see if there are lessons to be incorporated into future high-stakes decision-making processes at UCV. The Decision-Making Task Force (DMTF) was launched in January 2021.

We on the Task Force want to hear from you if you have specific concerns about the process—and/or if you have appreciations for specific aspects of the process. Please contact us at [email protected].

DMTF members (Nancy Barker, Cindy Cashin, Rob Dainow, Leslie Kemp, Michael O’Neil, John Smith)

CUC National Voice Statement, February 2020

The recent RCMP raids of Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northwestern British Columbia has provoked widespread rallies, blockades and protests, world-wide media coverage, public statements by First Nations, politicians, industry, labour, and the public.  In view of these developments, we think it timely and important to restate the initial position taken by the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) on January 10, 2019:

CUC Pledges Solidarity with ​Wet’suwet’en

The Canadian Unitarian Council has joined thousands of organizations and individuals pledging solidarity with the ​Wet’suwet’en​ Hereditary Chiefs, who are blocking the development of a Coastal GasLink pipeline on their traditional territories in northwestern British Columbia:

  1. WE COMMEND the courage and vision of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their community of activists.
  2. WE ARE WATCHING across the province, country and internationally.
  3. WE DENOUNCE any attempt by Coastal GasLink Pipeline, the federal government, provincial government or RCMP to interfere in the rights of the Wet’suwet’en to occupy, manage or maintain their lands.
  4. WE URGE that any and all actions taken by the federal and provincial government, industry, and policing agencies must be consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Anuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en laws) and collective Title.
  5. WE PLEDGE support to the frontline land defenders and affirm the collective hereditary governance of the Wet’suwet’en who are enforcing Wet’suwet’en laws on their unceded lands.

Obviously, the situation has continued to evolve since last year. We recognise this is a complex matter and many of us bring strong opinions and passionate voices to the conversation—given our Unitarian Universalist principles and history, that is how it should be. We recognise, as well, quoting the Afro-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, that “if there is no struggle, there is no progress” for “power concedes nothing without a demand.”

While we reaffirm the January 10, 2019 CUC Statement pledging solidarity with Wet’suwet’en, we urge Canadian Unitarian Universalists to reflect on how we live our faith and convictions when interests and constituencies are polarized.  We urge each other to live our principles.  May our actions be guided by respect for each other’s dignity, by compassion and empathy, by the voice of conscience and reason, by a desire for justice and equity, and by a deep respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We urge Canadian Unitarian Universalists to read and become familiar with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—our nation is a signatory to this Declaration; many of its articles clarify and promote the work of reconciliation and de-colonialisation which we dare hope is still alive in Canada today and will be for generations to come.