Author: Mary Bennett

Women’s Meditative Poetry Circle

Do you need more poetry in your life? UCV women in collaboration with the Canadian U*U Women’s Association offer a women’s meditative poetry gathering three times per week on zoom.

  • Note new time: First Tuesdays at 5 pm Pacific/ 8 pm Eastern – a focus on poetry related to environment/climate change
  • Saturdays and Sundays at 9 am Pacific/12 noon Eastern
Click the following link to join the gathering:
Mary Bennett started this following Rev. Lara’s “Lectio Divina” series in October, 2020. Mary’s objective is to make her mornings go better and read more poetry. Both are almost lifelong goals worth revisiting regularly and it’s working.
You are invited if you identify as a woman or are non-binary, gender queer or gender fluid. I/we invite suggestions how to ensure this is a welcoming space for you.
The facilitator will:
  • Read a poem written by a (usually) Canadian (almost always) woman three times with a one-minute pause and brief sharing between.
  • Participants will listen during the first reading for words or phrases that strike them.
  • Second reading, listen for feelings or memories that are stirred.
  • Third reading, listen for a message or personal meaning.
  • We usually have about a minute’s of silence after each reading and then, as we’re usually a small group of 3 or 4, everyone shares briefly. We’re always finished within half an hour.

We have an email group. If you want to e-meet the other group members and receive occasional reminders or links to poetry, please join by sending an email to 

See the CUUWA page here:

Women’s Memoir Writing Series

Note: This series is now at capacity.

If you registered by sending an email to Mary prior to Saturday, March 27, and haven’t received a confirmation email, please send another email to the address below.

Our Lives as Stories

Maybe you would like to commit to paper (or your laptop) a few of the stories knocking around inside you. Maybe you’re seeking a new way to deepen your understanding of yourself and your connection with others. Or maybe you’ve been longing to write your memoir. Whichever is the case, this series of workshops could get you started.

Session 1: Finding Stories. (Gathering the Sensory and Emotive Details)

Session 2: The Craft and Building Blocks of Stories.  (Writing the Scene(s))

Session 3: From Draft to Polished. (Giving and Receiving Feedback)

⦁ The three two-hour workshops will be spaced a month apart providing lots of time in between for other activities.
⦁ For the first two sessions, the whole group (up to twenty participants) will meet for instruction and guided exercises. Sharing time will involve breakout rooms of five or six, and everyone will be invited to share a portion of their work with Maggie by email if they wish.
⦁ The third workshop will happen in 3 sessions, with up to six gathering each time, to share their work and give and receive guided feedback.

FREE to UCV members
$100 registration fee for non-members


Maggie de Vries is the author of eleven books including the Governor General Literary Award nominated Missing Sarah: A Memoir of Loss and teen novel, Rabbit Ears, winner of the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. Maggie’s TEDxSFU talk The Red Umbrella: Sex Work, Stigma and the Law has been viewed more than forty-thousand times. Hooker Monologues, a collaborative production Maggie co-produced, co-wrote and performed in, staged six sold-out shows at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre in 2016.

Maggie was children’s book editor at Orca Book Publishers for seven years and a substitute teacher in Surrey for five. In 2005 and 2012, she was the inaugural writer in residence at VPL and UNBC respectively. For some years now, she has been a Lecturer in UBC’s Creative Writing Program, and a Martha-Beck-certified Life Coach who mentors writers, runs workshops, leads writing retreats and offers creative writing courses in her Ladysmith, Vancouver Island community and beyond.

She is in the process of reconnecting with UCV, where she was married in 1995 and attended more and more regularly from 1999 until she moved away from the city in 2017.

Dates: May 8, May 29 (2 – 4 pm)

June 19/20 The last class is meant to be divided into three groups for workshopping, with Maggie present for each one. People will sign up for one of these slots: Saturday: 9:30 to 11:30, 12:30 to 2:30 or 3 to 5 or Sunday: 12:30 to 2:30 or 3 to 5.

Registration required: contact Mary Bennett

Zoom link will be sent to registered participants before the first session.
Minimum: 10; Maximum: 20 participants

Supported by the Vancouver Unitarian Women’s Retreat Fund.

Registration fees and donations will be used to replenish the fund for future events.


Insightful, hardworking, thoughtful and encouraging, Maggie provided the literary expertise to solve the structural and editorial issues that plagued early drafts of my memoir.  Coincidently, she identified areas where I struggled to probe and encouraged me to explore, improve and flourish.  She helped me to dig deeper and write better. Maggie is terrific!

Renée Hetherington, MBA, PhD
Writer, Scientist and Businesswoman
British Columbia, Canada
February, 2021

Maggie de Vries runs a humdinger of a writing retreat. In an island setting, I was so deeply comforted by the schedule she set for us—one I could decide not to partake of at any moment should the writing bug o’er take me or should I simply need a walk in the woods—that I was inspired to fully involve myself in the opportunities. I was encouraged to share my writing, something I’m truly not used to doing, and I found it thrilling; that shell remains open, well after the retreat, and I’m delighted to feel the change.
Maggie took care of each of us by combining inviting reflection and prompt-driven writing sessions, literary focus, and guided workshops with lots of individually spent time too: free writing in our separate (stunningly beautiful) spots and one-to-one sessions with Maggie.  These check-ins allowed us to look wide to see the larger project and then to perceive the minute detail of scene writing and character perspective.
All that Maggie engaged us in over the 3-day retreat stays with me, weeks later, because I heard myself articulate a deep desire to do this. I said it in a safe and supportive environment; that baby step feels giant to me now. And Maggie helped us envision each of our books in the mess of journals and papers, in the engagement and the intention of the writer. I see these things now. I am showing up for this part of myself.
Thanks, Maggie, for knowing the world of writing so thoroughly and letting us in on its mysteries and delights.

Jane Slemon
Retreat Participant
UCV Member
November, 2019


Maggie’s experience as an author and writing coach has given me the courage to finally write my memoir. Her guidance has helped me see more clearly how to structure my book, stay true to my purpose, and tell a story that will engage the reader.  I know I couldn’t do this without her expertise and dedicated commitment to my project. Thank you, Maggie

Jeri Ross, MPH
Licensed Health Educator & Entrepreneur
Author of See You in the Sky: A Memoir of Prison, Possibility and Peace
Santa Cruz, California
June, 2018


PDF Description

Women’s Memoir Writing Series – Google Docs



Virtual Coffee Hour: What would you like to talk about and with whom?

Coffee hour starts at 12 noon. Join at

Breakout rooms are set up with a variety of options including some of these:

  • sermon discussion – share comments about today’s service hosted by a member of the Connect and Engage team
  • open discussion – you just want to connect with some other Unitarians – talk amongst yourselves and perhaps meet some new people!
  • (Please let us know, preferably in advance, if there’s a topic you’d like to discuss so it can be added.)

Please make sure your name and any additional information (pronouns, location) are in your name rather than your phone # or name of your device (ipad)  From:

You can now choose your own breakout room and go back to main session to choose a different one. You need to have updated your zoom client within past two months.

When others leave your breakout room, you can return to the main session to be placed in a different room.

Co-hosts: There will be several co-hosts on to make sure we’re only letting in identifiable UCV folk.

It helps us to know it’s you if you have updated your zoom profile with a name we’d recognize and also your picture. Click here to see how to do that

We like to continue to keep the main session as a “welcome table” – Just like the entrance to Hewett Hall there’s not space for people to congregate there so I hope you’ll move along and find your group.

If you’re not familiar with zoom, please join the monthly zoom practice session if you can.

On Sunday, just click here to join us:

All members and friends are welcome to join. Watch our Sunday service on youtube and then join us for coffee. Visitors welcome. You can come directly after the service, or drop-in at any point.


Zoom Update

Virtual coffee hour hosts

  • John Smith – 1st Sunday
  • Donna – 2nd Sunday:  includes Book group at 12:30 pm
  • Erin – 3rd Sunday
  • Nan – 4th Sunday – includes Refugee committee at 12:30 pm

Usual breakout rooms include: Sermon discussion, open discussion and whatever you suggest.

Volunteer opportunity: We’re looking for someone to host 5th Sundays and be a backup if one of the regulars isn’t available. Training and a nice team available to help.

Facilitators for break out rooms always welcome. There have been rooms for discussion of indigenous studies, anti-racism and could be on the monthly soul matters theme.

If you’re not sure how to contact the hosts, the office staff can help you access an online directory (“Breeze”) or look up contact info for you.

Zoom Practice: We are now meeting once a month on the first Tuesday at 4 pm. Mary, Donna and John facilitate and we usually have Unitarians from across Canada join us.

The series of tech workshops is now complete for now. Contact John Henderson or office staff if you want links to handouts and videos on slack, breeze and what’s app.

Here are some links that might help you make your zoom meetings more interactive:

Zoom Icebreakers: 10 Activities to Energize Your Zoom Meetings


Zoom Youth Group Games


View at

If you use some of these, I’d love to have you post on our googlegroup or members facebook group which ones worked for you.

And here’s an article on limiting zoom fatigue.


Buy Nothing Groups are now all over Vancouver

Buy Nothing Groups are now in every neighbourhood in Vancouver.

And many areas beyond the city as well.

They’ve been growing both in membership and number of groups since March 2020, many doubling in size in six months from the start of the pandemic.

Cayla introduced Mary to Buy Nothing Project in early 2019, after meeting at the womens’ gathering.
Both are now administrators on their neighbourhood Buy Nothing Groups – Marpole and Kitsilano North East respectively.
These are facebook groups where people give stuff away and ask for what they need. And, importantly, express their gratitude. The third kind of post is what keeps the community building part in the forefront.

In 2019, CityTV visited a Buy Nothing “free store” that Mary coordinated. Watch the video here:

Kitsilano is the largest group in Vancouver and has recently helped to mentor volunteers and promote new groups in West Point Grey and Dunbar/Kerrisdale.

Do you want to declutter without contributing to the landfill?

If you’ve every frequented (or have ever fantasized about) a “free store” – here’s a way to try it out.

Find a group in BC by going to

Imagination Month for Kids and Families

Kiersten is currently on a well-deserved break. As she puts it, “I’ve put down every ball I had up in the air.”

So here are some ideas and invitations to be part of our various programs for kids, youth and families. And first a chalice lighting for this month:

May the light of this chalice, spark our imaginations.

May it lead us back to the stories and characters

that romp and roam the corridors of our minds.

In the warmth of this chalice, may we remember again

how thankful we are to have others who love us,

and guide and accompany us, as our own stories unfold.

The Soul Matters theme for January is Imagination — so watch out! or better still, dive in!

If you’d like to receive the package for families, please let Kiersten know.

December saw a flurry of activities in the kids, youth and family programs.

The highlight might have been the Winter Solstice play. The kids tell me the hardest part was the two minutes of sitting silently.

For me, that was also the most moving part.

Kiersten did an amazing job of writing, casting and directing.

As well, though programs on zoom happened regularly coordinated by Olivia, our youth coordinator, volunteers including Mairy and Nan and the Tween ukulele group with Donna Brown.

UCV and our young people are always a fount of imagination. What could possibly happen when we actually focus our attention on that theme for the whole month?


Can you imagine yourself as part of the extensive team who plan, facilitate or support programs for our kids and families?

I’ve taken on a role to assist with communications and especially multigenerational activities and I can tell you it’s very nourishing and Kiersten is a dream to work with. It’s a sincere pleasure to support her and therefore support our families and the broader congregation.

For a list of kids, youth and family programs with contact and date/time, click here.

by Mary Bennett


Invitation to Fire Communion Sharing

Hello, UCV friends,

Patrick Dubois and I, Mary Bennett,  are again leading the Fire Communion worship service on the last Sunday in December (the 27th). Wendy Bryan will once again be “Mistress of the Cauldron”, ready to toss on a sprig of rosemary to mark your contributions.

We will miss seeing you line up in the aisles with your sprig of rosemary to toss on the burning cauldron but have dreamed up a few ways you can participate. It is a communion after all, even though we won’t be physically in the same place!

  • Leavings and Longings: Send me about 3 sentences explaining a “leaving” (loss, change, moving on) over the past year or a “longing” for the coming year. These will be read aloud during the service.

  • The context can be seen in the order of service below. Your submissions might be related to Covid, or not. Just email them to me, and I’ll be grouping them and possibly editing a bit for brevity. Please make clear to me whether I should use your name and if so, whether your first name, your full name or your family name (eg “the Bennetts”).

  • Create a cauldron of your own to use during the service on Sunday December 27 at home. You could burn symbolic sprigs or something written on a (small) piece of paper. Your cauldron could be a pillar candle immersed in a large bowl of water. If you use sprigs, it’s good to dry them for a week or so first.

  • For safety have a fire extinguisher, blanket and/or large jug of water nearby, especially if you’re with kids. Besides the obvious, it’s a good demo for how to safely enjoy the pleasures of candles with minimal risk.

  • Our communion, our togetherness, is important. We want to feel that we are all together once more mourning the past and looking forward to the future, however you set up your own environment to experience that. Whether or not you decide to light something afire to symbolize what you are leaving behind or perhaps light a fresh candle for what you are longing for, you could take this time to share your “leavings” and then “longings”. If you are watching the service alone, you might want to initiate a new journal to record your responses. If you want to really go big, the “recipe” for our flaming cauldron can be found here  It looks exciting but is actually very safe. (I had so many inquiries in the past, I made a blog post.) Flash paper, again, is exciting and actually safe.

All are welcome to participate. All ages and stages. I’d love to hear from kids or family groups.

You’re free to forward this invitation to anyone in our congregation.


Mary, Patrick and Wendy

(excerpt from Order of Service)

Lighting the Cauldron of Transformation


A Litany of Leavings

We will share messages from our congregation about losses and endings over the past year as we add sprigs of rosemary to the cauldron to transform our losses.

We’ll have a period of music: At home, you may share aloud or write about your own losses and leavings from 2020

A Litany of Longings

We will then share messages of what you are longing for. The past year has required many of us to leave “normal” life behind. We will share some of our congregational members’ longings and then light candles as the cauldron consumes the leavings.

During the period of music, you are invited to share what you are most longing for in the coming year.


In the Interim: Stillness

Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.”  ― Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

Heading into the last stretch of this year, I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to see the end of 2020. December is a time to look back and review the past year, to decide what to let go of, and what to carry into 2021. My goodness this has been a hard year!  I am trying to imagine the world of December 2019, and is just seems so distant, so out of touch with our lives today. Never in my lifetime has the world changed so drastically, so suddenly. My heart breaks with the cumulative grief of lives shattered and lost due to the pandemic, of people who are suffering from illness, loneliness, addiction, economic insecurity, struggling with distance from loved-ones and facing uncertain futures. In a world that was already burdened with environmental and refugee crises, this seems like one challenge too much. Yet, here we are. Finding our way towards a new “normal”, learning new ways of coping, of supporting one another, of staying connected. If ever there was a year to count our blessings, this is it. My dear ones, I am truly feeling blessed.  The human capacity for resilience and innovation, for finding joy and possibility in the midst of adversity, constantly renews my faith and my own spirit. This beloved community of Vancouver Unitarians is very special. Your gifts of vision, engagement, generosity, patience, your willingness to speak your minds and also to listen, to show up, to try new things and to hold on dearly to traditions, to reach out to one another in care, to find ways to continue your creative acts of social justice, all of these things have welcomed and warmed me and my ministry, showing me again why it all matters. You prove over and over that UCV is not simply a building or a Sunday service, but a community woven tightly by common purpose and care, of faith in each other and in a future yet unknown. I am grateful to be here with you.

Our Soul Matters Theme for December asks us, “What does it mean to be a people of Stillness?”  As we head into this season of Advent, of festivals of Light, of darkness and silence, may you find in yourself a place to rest in stillness to reflect on this past year, to grieve what has been lost and hold close the precious lights of hope and love. May you go into this Holiday season truly feeling and knowing that You are blessed.


Rev. Lara Cowtan


Life Member Award presented to Keith Wilkinson

by Mary Bennett

At the AGM on November 15, I got to deliver these words and propose the motion to make Keith Wilkinson a Life Member. It passed unanimously. Of course.

Unitarian Church of Vancouver

Life Member Award

November 15, 2020

By Mary Bennett

I received the UCV Life Member award in 2017 and so was given the honour of making a motion for another UCV life member. I enthusiastically accepted.

In June of 2017, Rev. Steven Epperson sent me an email several days before that Sunday saying he hoped I’d be at UCV that week. I was a bit taken aback. And a little suspicious.

For starters, I was in those days always there on Sunday mornings and secondly any email I’d ever received from Steven previously was more about getting something on the website or such request.

So I was actually relieved when I was NOT named as an unsung hero award as I’d begun to wonder if someone had nominated me for that award. I’m not particularly “unsung” around UCV so I was concerned that the intent of that award had been misunderstood.

I was very touched and, at least for a while, I was moved to do even more than what I had been doing.

The congregation gives out this award only occasionally and to people who have served both this congregation and the wider Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist movement.

The person recommended by the board has served this congregation in many capacities including board member, treasurer, membership committee chair, finance and canvass.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the proposed recipient, but first would like to put to you a motion:

MOTION: that LIFE membership be awarded to Keith Wilkinson in recognition of exceptional and long service to our congregation and to the wider Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist community.

Moved:  by Mary Bennett; Seconded by Mairy Beam, Board Secretary.

So now I can address Keith directly without him wondering if it’s him we’re talking about.

Welcome to the UCV Lifer Club, Keith.

The award didn’t come with any instructions, a manual or even a position description or spreadsheet. 

You and I have often collaborated on Unitarian tasks where I have grand ideas and, although you also have grand ideas, I count on you to put those ideas into a manual or a spreadhsheet so they can be shared with others.

Let’s make sure the next recipient gets some terms of reference so when their friends ask what it means, they’ll be able to answer more clearly than I was able to when I was asked. “Um. It’s just an honour,” I’d say.

My basic understanding of the award is that we are now officially UCV “Lifers” – UCV can’t get rid of us and we can’t get rid of UCV.

Further, I’ve taken it to give me permission to go where “no one has gone before.” In my case, I found myself speaking up with my own opinion more often even if I felt it was out of sync with others.

I also found myself more carefully considering my various involvements here. To some degree I accepted the award as permission to “rest on my laurels” or at least to pick my spots. Three years later I’m still in that discernment process as I let go of some responsibilities and get involved in some new areas.

So in your case, this might mean you’d give up on making spread sheets for committees or conversely would feel empowered to make spreadsheets whether or not asked!

Many people on this call will have worked with Keith in one capacity or another but might not know as much about his involvement in the Canadian Unitarian Council. So I reached out to some of his CUC board colleagues to send their comments and congratulations.

Here’s a message from Vyda Ng, CUC Executive Director

Keith was a member of the CUC Board of Trustees, and its President for two years. During that time, Keith brought an increased sense of organization, introduced efficient processes, and became the Board’s ‘policy wonk.’ He combed through CUC policies, updated the Board Policy Manual, reviewed and revised other documentation, and left the Board with a set of well-organized documents.

It was my pleasure to work with Keith – his dedication to and love of the national Unitarian Universalist community shone through.

And from Jane Ebbern, Calgary Unitarian, and past president of CUC.

Keith was such a wise member of our CUC board – always calm and steady in times of stress and great at de-escalating a situation. I would serve on any board with him at any time in future.

And when he wasn’t being wise, he was great fun to drink red wine with (lots of quantity and quality) and discuss the issues of the world. I only regret that he doesn’t live in Calgary so I could see him more often.

This award is an honour well deserved.

Jane Ebbern, Past President CUC Board of Trustees.

And from our own Kiersten Moore, CUC Board member currently.

Keith was outgoing President when I came on the CUC Board in 2018. His guidance through updating and clarifying the Policy manual was so graceful. He made the effort engaging and understandable instead of tedious. I have enjoyed his wisdom and calm leadership both at the CUC and here at Vancouver Unitarians.

–Kiersten Moore, BC Rep for CUC Board of Trustees 2018–present.

CONGRATULATIONS KEITH. Let’s together for a coffee or glass of wine soon and make up some Terms of Reference.

Many notes of congratulation and appreciation appeared in the chat at this point!

Zero Waste Holidays 1 – Gift-giving tips

Our annual zero waste event will be Wednesday December 16. I’ll be posting some blog posts prior to that to get you in the mood. Your contributions are very welcome on the zoom call or in advance. I can post here. This post is by Vivian Davidson who will be one of the speakers on December 16th

by Vivian Davidson

The holidays are often a season filled with gift-giving and consumerism and our wallets, the environment and emotional wellbeing take a huge hit. This does not need to be the case.  I and my family have long espoused the spirit of the holidays over the consumerist ethos that has overtaken what is supposed be festive occasions.  As such I have developed very sustainable practices when thinking about what and how I give.  Below are some examples that I hope will help you in your ethical gift giving journey 😊 after all there is no reason not to spread joy and love whilst conserving our environment, sanity and creating beautiful memories and experiences.  

For starters, whatever physical gifts I give I prioritize local and sustainable.  I research companies in Vancouver that are committed to sustainable materials and processes so I forgo the ubiquitous big-name online shopping companies that mostly do not provide these choices.