Author: UCV Admin

Vancouver Unitarians Cherish Our Ministers

How do we see ourselves as we transition to our next settled minister?

Our minister is of central importance to all dimensions of UCV life. They are the source of the most engaged, alive and motivated times in many members’ lives, and are often directly responsible for people choosing to join and participate in our community. Their stimulating and thought-provoking homilies strongly shape the faith and worship experiences that support personal and spiritual growth, as do the varied services and ceremonies they create. Members deeply value a minister who leads, challenges, and inspires with compassion, who helps us integrate our principles and shared values into our everyday lives, and who walks the talk with us.

Over 130 congregants answered 8 Thought-Provoking Questions about their experiences in the UCV congregation. The Congregational Identity Team (CIT – Rob Dainow, Leslie Hill, Marg Fletcher, Naomi Taylor, John Boyle) analyzed these responses into the six major, interdependent themes shown in the figure. MINISTRY is one important theme.

The full CIT report is available online here. You can read more about how the CIT collected and analyzed the 130 responses on page 3, or about how MINISTRY is so important to our congregational identity on page 11.

Explore the history of the Congregational Identity Team and its work here: ucv.im/cit.

Ministry Milestone!

It is with deep joy and gratitude I share that I have reached a professional milestone: I have been granted Full Fellowship as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.  This is a bit akin to getting tenure, and the last major milestone our faith recognizes in a Minister’s formation and service before retirement or death. I will be recognized at the UUA General Assembly in Pittsburg during the Service of Living Tradition.

This has been a journey worth looking back on. At the 2013 UUA General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, I apprehensively attended a Prospective Student luncheon with Meadville Lombard School for Ministry which marks the starting point for these past 9 life-changing years. Our religion has a rigorous and defined path to ministry which includes a Masters of Divinity, psychological evaluations, chaplaincy training, community and congregational internships as well as other learnings and processes.

My path has not been easy or straightforward. There was the back and forth travel between my home in Switzerland and seminary in Chicago for several years, and many, many other travels. I’ve been evaluated constantly by multiple parties, including professors, as individuals and as teams, my teaching pastors, multiple UU church and fellowship boards and internship committees at my teaching congregations in Geneva, Amsterdam, Basel and then the Unitarian Universalist Church of Westport, Connecticut where I interned for a year and was also Ordained, and then by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee who granted my Preliminary Fellowship, and before that by peers and supervisors in my chaplaincy training, and later by an international panel as I served communities across Europe before returning to Canada and being evaluated again in a hospital chaplaincy setting, and finally, these last couple of years with the Vancouver Unitarians Board of Trustees and Committee on Ministry, along with my own self-evaluations and learning plans all the way through.  I think that is it.  For now.  If nothing else, there should be significantly less paper-work in my future!

It’s called “Full Fellowship” now, but it used to be “Final Fellowship.” The change is a good one – it signifies that we are never done learning, growing, and developing. By any name, it is an affirming milestone to reach, to be recognized as having served well, sometimes in very difficult situations, and as being committed to my on-going learning and growth. This incredible journey has changed me in ways I hadn’t imagined, opening my heart and horizons in ways I hadn’t known possible.

It is always good to recognise our achievements and to celebrate together.  I share this celebration with you, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, with deep gratitude for being a meaningful and supportive part of this journey.

Grateful for the journey, grateful for the call, and grateful to all who have accompanied me on this journey. So… now I am beginning to look around with curiosity and an open heart to see what’s next, and what I can do with that extra time in the coming year(s)…

In faith and service,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

 

Thanks to Thomas Park @thomascpark for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

Engagement and Buy-In Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #4)

Process Leaders:

  • Are mechanisms in place to confirm and regularly reconfirm congregational buy-in to both the decision-making process and to the possible or probable outcomes of the decision-making process?
  • Is there focused, facilitated, widespread brainstorming about the issue before committing to go ahead or start down a particular path, with all options discussed? Does that include the history of past explorations and projects?
  • Is there an “engagement leader” or team who will track and coordinate communication to/from members and who may recruit volunteers?
  • Has a survey been considered to see how aware members are about the process and if their expectations align with the plan?
  • Are there opportunities periodically during the decision-making process for small group/committee discussions as well as whole-congregation forums? Does this include ample time and patience to hear from as many as possible, and to reach as much convergence as possible on next steps? Are those concerned about or
    opposed to the project strongly encouraged to attend such sessions?
  • Are there sufficient opportunities for congregants to get information and to ask questions about the decision and the decision-making process?
  • If the project/decision involves building or altering a physical structure, are there models to view the proposed location and appearance?
  • Are there multiple well-advertised ways for congregants to provide input (e.g., by emails and bulletins, posters, web-postings, announcements in Sunday services)?
  • Are the decision-making leaders and groups seeking out all voices (including those historically underrepresented*, dissenters, and others with unstated points of view) right from the beginning of the decision-making process? (*Underrepresented members include IBPOC, youth, and others traditionally not heard from: people with language issues, less education, immigrants who have been taught never to contradict people especially their leaders, and people who are not able to get to forums or access online meetings.)
  • Is there a clear mechanism for registering dissent?
  • Is dissent explored early in big processes?
  • Has every effort been made to let the dissenters know they have been heard and that there is a will to include their concerns in making the decision (even if their concerns may not be fully resolved)?
  • If the dissent surfaces later in the process, is it clear whether this represents concerns about new information and information not previously addressed or represents ongoing resistance from the start (the latter not being amenable to a shift in willingness unless the whole project is changed)?
  • If there are big or frequently expressed concerns, will a facilitated process be considered to hear and respond to these?
  • When not many members are engaged or when some groups are underrepresented, is there a mechanism to gauge the degree of and determine the cause of apparent nonengagement and possible nonagreement?
  • Is there an inventory of members’ skills and expertise to support or possibly replace outside experts for some or all aspects of the project?

Members:

  • Do the members agree that the process leaders may proceed even with some residual disagreement, provided all efforts have been expended to understand and resolve these disagreements?
  • Do those with concerns or who dissent agree to abide by the stated processes for feedback, and also agree to follow the Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Are congregants informed about and encouraged to take responsibility to engage in the decision-making process by:
    • attending meetings
    • asking questions
    • keeping track of project-related communications and events
    • discussing with others
    • encouraging others to engage
    • assuming leaders are acting in good faith?

Vancouver Unitarians Cherish Our Community

How do we see ourselves as we transition to our next settled minister?

We cherish our community – our people, the quality of our relationships, the respectful way we interact with each other, and how we strengthen our connections through activities both within and beyond our congregation.

Over 130 congregants answered 8 Thought-Provoking Questions about their experiences in the UCV congregation. The Congregational Identity Team (CIT – Rob Dainow, Leslie Hill, Marg Fletcher, Naomi Taylor, John Boyle) analyzed these responses into the six major, interdependent themes shown in the figure. COMMUNITY is one important theme.

Many people spoke of “finding a home” at UCV, of our openness to all new members, and a desire to increase the ethnic and economic diversity of our congregation and the number of younger persons and family members, and our general openness to all new members.

“We create this congregation together: it is not given from above.”

The full CIT report is available online here. You can read more about how the CIT collected and analyzed the 130 responses on page 3, or about how COMMUNITY is so important to our congregational identity on page 6.

Planning and Leadership Checklist and Democratic Process Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #3)

From: The Decision-Making Task Force report, UCV’s Redevelopment Exploration 2016 –2020: 

A Review of the Process with Lessons for the Future

LEADERSHIP AND THE PLANNING PROCESS 

PLANNING: 

  • Is there agreement on the problem we are trying to solve: the key decision we are asking?
  • Is there widespread discussion and agreement from the outset about the values and principles guiding the planning process, consistent with our UU principles and our Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Has there been a process to develop a clear vision and goals for the project?
  • Is the project consistent with the vision (and mission, if applicable) of UCV? Does the planning include considering the impacts for the more distant future, i.e., 10, 20, 30 years down the road?
  • If some goals seem to conflict with one another, has there been a process to elicit common goals and/or prioritize the goals (e.g., Convergent Facilitation, sociocracy)?
  • In a prolonged process, is there an opportunity to revisit these values and principles to remind the membership?
  • Is there broad agreement that the outcome of the decision-making process will be accepted, knowing that it will be arrived at for the greatest community benefit?
  • Does the planning/leadership group have clear terms of reference from the outset?
  • Are the project scope and parameters, including constraints and projected costs, defined and clear to all?
  • If there is disagreement about the goals and constraints, is there a system for participatory decision-making such as Convergent Facilitation or sociocracy? Is there conscious awareness and agreement in the community about how these decisions are made?
  • Are there clear go/no go parameters that all understand?
  • Is it understood by all that the scope and parameters will be revised only for very compelling reasons such as a big change in conditions, with widespread buy-in for the changes?
  • Are there clear timelines and contingencies for not meeting those timelines?
  • If the timeline is extended, is this a conscious choice that is transparently justified?
  • Has a protocol been established for naming, dating and filing documents to facilitate retrieval?

LEADERSHIP: 

  • Is there an overarching body (board, delegated individuals and teams) providing consistent oversight andsupport for the decision-making process, with continuity throughout the project?
  • Is a leadership/planning team assigned to any projects and decisions that are complex and/or that potentially involve divergent positions?
  • Is there a mechanism to check in with the project leaders to see what support they need?
  • Are the leaders of the process and the other leaders involved equipped to lead a robust participatory decision-making process?
  • Is there clarity about
  • roles and responsibilities, such as who makes decisions on what aspects of the process (e.g., committee, delegated overarching body, board or congregation)?
  • whether the minister will provide leadership and support for the decision-making process?
  • expectations of congregation members?
  • Are definitions and steps of the process clearly documented and accessible by the general membership, with the input of experts (inhouse or external) included?
  • Is there general agreement that once approval for a next step has been granted by the congregation, and dissent has been addressed as far as possible, all while following the Covenant of Healthy Relations, the leadership team of the project may proceed without revisiting the addressed concerns — and if necessary, a facilitated process be undertaken to explore continued dissension?

For prolonged projects, is there a process to rotate leads or co-leads periodically (e.g., two people leading the process and then two people on the steering committee observing and learning in order to take over after an agreed term)?

Is there a reassessment of UCV’s capacity (human resources, finances, time, expertise) at every key decision point?

DEMOCRATIC PROCESS 

  • If a decision is to be made by majority vote, is the voting threshold for congregational votes clear from the outset (e.g., simple majority, two-thirds, etc.) and is this consistent with UCV’s bylaws?
  • When voting on a project, is it clear what the alternative is (status quo or something else)?
  • Are mechanisms other than majority approval in place for decisions along the way, such as Convergent Facilitation, sociocracy, and “gradients of agreement”?
  • If a final vote is undertaken, for efficiency, have written questions and oral answers been considered for the vote-related discussions?
  • Is a vote wise and useful at the endpoint of this project? Have alternatives been considered?

Trust Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #2)

From: The Decision-Making Task Force report, UCV’s Redevelopment Exploration 2016 –2020: 

A Review of the Process with Lessons for the Future

  • Is there trust and support for the leadership of the project? Is there a process to build trust and robust buy-in for the leaders’ decision-making?
  • Is there explicit commitment from all members to trust in the good intentions of everyone involved?
  • Is there transparency of the board’s processes and role in the project?
  • Is the minister’s position on the project clear (or are their reasons for not taking a position clear)?
  • Is the board sufficiently involved so that when a new board is elected, there is institutional memory of the status and history of the project, sufficient continuity of board members, and a clear record of the board’s actions regarding the project?
  • Do all members agree that regardless of how well they have followed or engaged with the process, they will respect the leadership and authority of the planning team, and will go first to that team with any concerns? Then, if not satisfied, do all agree they may next approach the overarching body?
  • Do all members commit to trust that the project leadership will be the point of contact with outside consultants, and agree to go through the project leadership team with any questions or concerns?
  • Are those who facilitate group processes trusted to hold all points of view with equal care?

What Do We Call Ourselves (WDWCO) Task Force – Sept 18 Forum Summary

What Do We Call Ourselves Task Force (WDWCO)

Forum – September 18, 2022

28 in attendance at start of meeting (including 4 Task Force members and 3 advisers)

Topic:  WHAT NAME THAT WE CAN ALL LIVE WITH WOULD MOST LIKELY SUPPORT OUR FUTURE VIABILITY WHILE STILL HONOURING OUR JOURNEY TO THE PRESENT?

The question of what UCV will be called has been part of its evolving story since early days, and several changes have been made at different points of time for various reasons.  For Unitarian Universalists, exploring and naming our identities, individually and communally, is an essential part of our living faith tradition, and also a perennial challenge.  What this congregation chooses to call itself is emblematic not only of history and theology, but of who we aspire to be, who our vision and mission call us to become. A name reflects our identity as a spiritual, religious body, part of a larger religious community, and of our place and purpose in the world.  Choosing a name is about more than words or acronyms, it is a complex and meaningful affirmation of being in covenantal community with common purpose and vision. – Rev. Lara

 

Circle of Names  Flipchart Summary recorded by Advisor Rob Dainow

  • Never thrilled with the name Church. May be uncomfortable for wounded Christians. From a Jewish background  it is very awkward when telling Jewish friends that he attends a church.
  • Not concerned about the use of the name church, but ready to let it go.
  • I’m comfortable with the word church but would like a new word.
  • Would like to change the word church so that will not have to explain that it is not Christian.
  • Church misleads what we really are; need identifier as a spiritual centre.
  • Like spiritual centre idea. Church requires explanation that we are not a church!
  • Vancouver Unitarians is who we are and has been in use for many years. Spiritual Centre is a good name for the place. No real need to change the legal name (we can call ourselves what we want). Need another legal opinion about whether we need to include society in our legal name.
  • Okay with church; prefer congregation.
  • Receives unfavourable reaction when using the word church and it needs to be explained. We should seek input from younger people for a name that can last into their futures.
  • Happy with anything we all agree to. Like congregation, also spiritual centre.
  • Need to come up with our own collective name.
  • One of the problems with the word church is that it is a convenient and easy way to name the place where we meet, and we have not yet found a good alternative.
  • Like the name church. Will have to be convinced to change it. Prefer not to challenge our religious charitable tax exemption (and legal name change could trigger that).
  • No big problem personally with church, but we are perceived as Christian by prospective refugees, which creates problems, so prefer to change the word church.
  • Church is always a barrier with friends and family. Want a new name for the location/place.
  • Use fellowship as a great catch-all for what this group is.
  • Prefer to keep Unitarian Church of Vancouver but not a priority. Notes that Unitarianism is also associated with Christianity (Google Unitarianism to find out).  Include Universalist in our name to be more non-Christian.
  • I’m uncomfortable with church and avoid it whenever possible. Knows 2 people who will not come because of the word church in our name. Prefer a name for who we are and not so concerned with the place. Also think we need another legal opinion on the inclusion or not of society.
  • “I like the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.”
  • Never felt at home with church as part of our name. Will be upset if we keep church in any new name.
  • Have a problem with the name church. Prefer collective.
  • Okay to change because of other’s concerns. Need a second legal opinion about name requirements.
  • UCV is a “church for non-believers”.  Don’t see any need for including society in our legal name. Wants to include Universalist in any new name. No need to change our name if we are going to keep church as part of it.
  • In favour of dropping church because this is important to a significant number of people. Like congregation, also community and Unitarian Universalists of Vancouver.
  • Never liked church in our name –  it means a Christian community – a place of worship that does not fit for me as a Jew. Jewish friends think I have converted to Christianity when I say I go to the Unitarian church!  All for changing to a name that does not include church but hope to keep UCV abbreviation. Unitarian Centre of Vancouver is not good because it does not identify us as a religious organization, but Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver does. This was in fact our name some time in our past.

Also addressed briefly:

  • Expenses should a name change be voted in:  $2375 as estimated by Advisor Keith Wilkinson.
  • Criteria for names of  non-profits that maintain charitable status – inclusion of Church or Society.
  • Percentage of votes to maintain or change our name:  referred on to the Board.
  • Voting procedures to maximize as many members as possible and ranked ballots. John Smith.

Issues that surfaced:

  • What name can we all identify with that represents us more accurately to our community and particularly to those who would want to be part of who we are and what we do.
  • The question surfaced concerning whether we should consider adding Universalist to Unitarian, as in Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver or added to a new name should we vote for that. Some of us identify as UU’s and others don’t. During discussion some said that they wanted to have more information about the differing beliefs about being UU or U.  We look to our Ministry for this.
  • The mandate for the WDWCO Task Force is to facilitate convergence for a name we can all live with.  While some members say that we are a Church (end of story), others say that the word Church misrepresents to members, non-members and potential members who we are and what we believe.
  • Our current thinking is to have a ranked ballot of popular names – which ones  is still being researched. Discussion will continue at the October 16 forum.  Our final vote will be between the most popular alternate name from the ranked ballot and the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.
  • Scepticism was expressed about the BC Societies Act naming requirements for charitable status to include either ‘Church’ or ‘Society’.  We hope to be able to answer this for the next Forum on October 16.
  • While what we call ourselves is not a big deal for some, others do not want to lose ‘Church’ and others do want to lose ‘Church.’  We will be guided by our Covenant of Healthy Relations to struggle with the symbolism  of our identity.

Ministerial Search Committee Update and Timeline

Dear UCVers,

On behalf of the Ministerial Search Committee (Diane Brown, Michael O” Neill, Carrie Mac and Esme, John Boyle, Jenny Malcolm, Nancy Woodham, Meena Wong) I would like to share with you all that we have met twice as a committee, and going forward from here we will be meeting every week. As I am the designated External Communications person, I will be updating you often and of course answering any questions you may have about this process.  Please feel free to contact me anytime at diane@rubyslippers.ca

Below is our timeline. Come fall, we will need congregational engagement in a number of exciting ways, including a survey and some cottage meetings. Meanwhile, enjoy the summer, and we look forward to this journey together.

In active faith, Diane Brown

 

Timeline for Congregations in Search

 

Phase One  – concluding a ministry

Departure of previous settled minister and selection of an Interim minister

Late Spring (done)

Phase Two – Education and Preparation for Search – First Interim Year

Review congregational by-laws related to ministry

Winter

Transitions Coach Visit (UUA appointed)

February – April

Annual Meeting votes

Approve Search committee budget

Appoint Search Committee

May

Phase Three – search structure – Summer and second interim year

Search Committee retreat with Transitions Coach

May – August

Conduct Congregational Survey

July – September

Conduct Cottage meeting / small group interviews (based on survey results)

September – November

Gather information and create search committee website and record sheet

September – December (absolute due date – December 7)

List of interested ministers received

January 2

Narrowing of interview list

January 2-15

Precandidating weekends

February – March

Final Decision for offers to candidate

April 1

The MTT Recommends ‘In the Interim”

The Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) has been reviewing and guiding the updates to the Ministerial Teams Terms of Reference (TOR). The TORs for some teams have been completed and approved by the Minister, while other teams are in the process of completing their updates. Eventually, all the Team TORs will be available for congregants to review and learn about the work of the various Teams.

One of the books the MTT recommends for learning about an Interim Ministry – its purpose, tasks undertaken, and goals – is ‘In the Interim: Strategies for Interim Ministers and Congregations’ edited by Barbara Child and Keith Kron. We thought it a timely book to recommend as we have one more year of Interim with Rev. Lara.

This book might inspire you to be more engaged in this process, which will help us work with the eventual settled minister as well!

There are copies of the book in the UCV Office that can be loaned out.

Submitted by Cynthia Lam & Elizabeth Dunn

Below is a review of some of the highlights of ‘In the Interim’ by MTT member Leslie Hill:

“The four essays I thought were most succinct and helpful for UCV are:

  • A Different Country by Judith Walker-Riggs
  • Mining, Minding and Making Stories by Pam Blevins Hinkle
  • Coming to Terms with History by David Keyes
  • The Interim Minister as Systems Analyst by Richard A. Nugent

A Different Country

“A peaceful, quiet interim period is one in which interim tasks are not completed, and needful changes do not happen.

Leadership and membership must come to understand the differences between called ministry and interim ministry. One way to increase this understanding is for the interim, the Transition Team, and the Board to talk about the differences explicitly and publicly.”

Mining, Minding, and Making Stories

“Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them. We tell our stories to transform ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective to see further than normal; to act beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us; to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.”  Huffington Post.

Coming to Terms with History

“Every congregation lives in dialogue with its past. Every congregation is strengthened immeasurably by its history, but every congregation has also been deeply wounded by its past. It is both the heir and the victim of its story. Affection transition ministry begins with a long look in the rearview mirror, where we must read the admonition: ‘Objects may be closer than they appear.’”

The Interim Minister as Systems Analyst

“Interim ministry is about inviting the present congregation to envision the congregation of tomorrow. It is about looking at the health of the congregation as a whole as well as each of its component parts. It is about coming to understand the emotions (grief, sadness, anger, disappointment, among others) associated with the end of the previous ministry and navigating the anxiety of looking ahead to the future ministry.”

What to Expect During CanUUdle at UCV (May 19 – 23, 2022)

Dear UCV community members, 

The weekend of May 19th-23rd 2022, a very special event will be taking place at UCV. It is the annual conference for Canadian Unitarian Universalist youth, known as CanUUdle. At CanUUdle, youth from across Canada come together en masse to build friendships, worship together, grow in their faith and build their capacity as spiritual and community leaders. The all-volunteer CanUUdle ‘staff’ team, primarily composed of youth, plan and lead the conference, with the support of dedicated adult advisors.  

If you are around UCV this weekend, here is a snapshot of what you might expect to find, and some requests about sharing space:  

Quick facts 

  • The conference runs from Friday, May 20th around 6pm to Monday, May 23rd around 1pm.  
  • There will be conference staff onsite to set up as of 5pm on Thursday, May 19th, and staying to clean up until around 3pm on Monday the 23rd. 
  • We are expecting around 45 participants, including youth ages 14-19 and adult advisors.  

Building use  

  • CanUUdle generally requires full use of the buildings of the host congregation for the duration of the conference. However, we have been provided with the booking schedule for the weekend and are prepared to work around regular long-term rentals and other events that have already booked space.  
  • Sunday morning, the youth will be off site while the regular Sunday morning service is happening. Their belongings will be moved to the balcony of the Sanctuary, and we ask that this area is off-limits for all except the tech people at that time. The youth will return to eat their lunch in the Hall at noon. The young adults of Chorus (the national young adult conference, happening at North Shore the same weekend), will also be onsite at UCV for a special picnic lunch also at noon that day.  

Youth culture  

  • For many youth, Unitarian Universalist youth events are one of the few places in their lives where they feel they can share and celebrate aspects of themselves that they may keep private in other settings. Many develop deep friendships, and conferences such as CanUUdle are a place of exuberant connection. Please do not be alarmed if you witness more-raucous-than-usual playing, singing, or dancing, or open displays of trust and affection such as hand-holding, “cuddle puddles,” or emotional vulnerability.  
  • CanUUdle culture is based on principles of informed consent and respect for oneself, others, and our environment. We will strive to relate to our neighbours according to these principles, and hope that you will return the same. If any conflict arises, please contact the CanUUdle Coordinator (info below).  

For safety and insurance purposes, any adults who are interacting with youth at a CUC event must have completed a Criminal Record Check and have provided a signed Congregational Involvement form. This year, we are also requiring that everyone wears masks indoors and ‘signs in’ for the purpose of contact tracing in case of a Covid outbreak. We ask that other groups using the buildings do not interact with CanUUdle participants. If you need to speak with someone during the conference, ask for me (Carter, the CanUUdle Coordinator) or another adult advisor.  

We are very grateful to UCV for providing us with the space to host this important event, which in many ways is the mainstay of Canadian UU youth ministry. If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to help out with this event in any way, please contact the CanUUdle Coordinator at canuudle@cuc.ca, or the CUC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Staff at youth@cuc.ca. 

In faith, 

Carter Mahoney  

CanUUdle Coordinator