Author: Rob Dainow

Rethinking Our Identity – Ministerial Transition Team

Rethinking Our Identity

Ministerial Transition Team

Sign up for a workshop to help rethink our identity – read on.

We have described the five phases of a ministerial transition in previous messages and presentations, but to put it most simply, we need to answer three key questions in this transition process:

  1. Where do we come from?
  2. Who are we?
  3. Where are we going?


  1. Where do we come from?

We spent the first months of our ministerial transition creating our Congregational History Wall to look at our heritage and our history and to remind ourselves of how this congregation has been shaped and formed.

  1. Who are we?

We are now in the process of rethinking our identity. The UUA’s Janus Workbook, created to support ministerial transitions, describes this transition phase as “illuminating the congregation’s unique identity, its strengths, its needs, and its challenges”. This is the most important step to complete in our ministerial transition before we search for a new settled minister.

  1. Where are we going?

As we rethink our identity we will envision the congregation we want to be(come) in our future. Determining where are we going includes reviewing our membership needs, how we are organized, and how we will develop new and effective leadership. This transition is ongoing throughout our interim period.

We began this work in the fall with the creation of three task forces:

  • The Organization Design Task Force recommended changes to our organizational structure that the Board has accepted and is implementing.
  • The Long Term Staffing Task Force recommended a new Congregational Administrator position, a new Congregational Membership Coordinator position, and expanding Kiersten Moore’s role to become Director of Lifespan Religious Exploration. The Board accepted all these recommendations and is implementing them.
  • The Young Persons Engagement Task Force presented its findings and shared them with the congregation.

The MTT will be providing support to the Board on the implementation of these task force recommendations.

In January, the MTT created, at the Board’s request, the Decision-Making Task Force to review the four year UCV site redevelopment decision-making process and to provide recommendations for future decision-making processes. This task force will report back in June and will include among its recommendations a more visible and prominent place for our congregationally approved Covenant of Healthy Relations.

Rethinking Our Identity

We plan to engage every UCV member in rethinking our identity. We are organizing 2 1/2 hour workshops based on Appreciative Inquiry principles, an approach to organization transition that focuses on moments of exceptional pride and performance and creates a future that nurtures and supports even more pride and performance. We will answer the question “Who are we?” by sharing our best and most powerful memories of our lives in this congregation.

The process to rethink our identity is based on a set of ‘thought-provoking questions’ (see below). We work in pairs in the workshop to share our responses to these questions and then reconvene in the larger workshop group to identify the common themes in our answers. We then imagine, based on these themes, some ‘possibility statements’ about who and what we would like to be, but that we have not yet achieved. Workshops generally have 6 or 8 participants, but we have also had success with 3 participants.

The workshop has been rewarding and meaningful for those who have participated. All have found it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Many appreciated the chance to see and talk to others in this congregation, something we have been missing during the pandemic. We will let you know when provincial guidelines will allow us to hold in-person workshops, probably on our UCV campus (even if outside only).

We will invite those who cannot participate in a workshop to review the thought-provoking questions with another person in a one-on-one interview. We want everyone to have a conversation with at least one other person about their answers to these questions. We will ask those who are not able to do this to respond individually to the thought-provoking questions.

Here is an abbreviated version of these questions:

  1. Reflecting on your entire experience at UCV, remember a time when you felt most engaged, alive, and motivated. Who was involved? What did you do? How did it feel? What happened?
  2. What are the healthiest, most life-giving aspects of the relationships among people at UCV? What would you say is most important about how we relate to each other? Give some examples of how we live together at our best.
  3. What are the most valuable aspects of our congregation’s worship? What makes your worship alive and meaningful? What shapes your Unitarian faith?
  4. What do you believe are the most important and meaningful elements of our congregation’s engagement with the local community, the nation, and the world?
  5. What are the most important things our Unitarian community has contributed to your life? Who or what made a difference?
  6. What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our congregation – your personality, your perspectives, your skills, your activities, your character? Give me some examples.
  7. What do you think is the most important, life-giving characteristic of our UCV congregation? What makes Unitarians or UCV unique?
  8. Make three wishes for the future of our Vancouver Unitarians congregation. Describe what this religious community would look like as these wishes come true.
  9. Is there anything else you would like to add?

We invite existing committees, teams, and groups in the congregation to contact us to organize a workshop with you.

We also invite individuals who are not part of any active groups in UCV to contact us and we will organize groups of 6 or 8 at a time that will be convenient for all participants.

Please also contact us if you have any questions or want more information about this transition process.

Rob Dainow (; 604-523-0123)  Vivian Davidson (; 778-318-3713)  Leslie Hill (

May 2021 Message from Board President

Dear Unitarian Friends,

Happy Asian Heritage Month! I encourage you all to visit the Alliance For Arts and Culture website to find out about resources and upcoming events for those looking to learn about and celebrate the legacy of Asian Canadians both past and present.

Speaking of learning, our Decolonizing Practices Workshop for staff, board and membership was a ground breaking first step on a long, fulsome journey for this organization. In the months ahead and throughout next year, there will be more anti-racist and anti-oppression engagement so stay tuned!

As you know, the Board recently approved a new Organizational Design that will clarify lines of communication and accountability for everyone. It also frees up the Board to become a more Strategic Board as opposed to a Liason Board. The most significant difference is that the job of the Board – to further the mission and vision of the congregation – will now be their top priority. Management oversight of day to day operations will be the responsibility of a small body made up of Board and staff. Our fabulous new Congregational Administrator Casey Wallace along with HR is in the process of hiring our new Membership Outreach Coordinator. This role was created as part of our new org design as well.

Speaking of things a Strategic Board does, we created a UCV Task Force for Sanctuary Upgrades and hired two professionals in technical theatre to work with them who will ensure that this massive task is done well, on time, and within budget. The upgrades to our sound and lighting systems and chairs replacing pews will make our Sanctuary more flexible and thus inclusive to diverse spiritual practices (walking meditation, circle dance), artistic expression (jazz/choral groups, cabaret fundraisers, writers festival venue,) and wheelchair accessibility.

The Board recently refreshed and strengthened our commitment to our Covenant of Healthy Relations and adopted a new policy around disruptive behaviour. Please take a moment to read the Covenant below and remember to be kind. Covid has taken a toll on everyone, and we must remember to breathe and think before we act.

Finally, I would just like to reiterate how in awe I am of our membership and the energy and commitment we continue to exert toward furthering our values and principles. From lovingly tended gardens on our campus to refugees being sponsored to wild salmon being defended in partnership with First Nations, Vancouver Unitarians can and are changing the world, helping to transform it into a more compassionate and equitable one. Meaningful action creates hope. So stay actively engaged, fellow Unitarians, and take care. We will gather in person again soon.

In hope and faith,


Covenant of Healthy Relations
This is a covenant to guide how we behave towards each other and to groups and individuals within the congregation. The objective is to enhance a safe climate that is courteous, friendly, supportive, respectful of others, open and honest.
Because I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of each person, I will endeavour to:
1. Be compassionate and supportive in my relationships with others, assume their best intentions and be curious rather than judgmental.
2. Communicate with active listening and consideration. Explain concerns to the person directly and share differences respectfully. Focus on the current problem – not the person.
3. Balance being open to new ideas with respect for our traditions.
4. Be attentive to our community’s needs, generous with my talents and careful with the church’s resources.
5. Keep the big picture in mind, be patient with myself and others and stay engaged in the process of change; participate in the decision-making and respect the decisions that are made.
6. Discuss conflicts in our church in a way that respects the privacy and dignity of those involved.
7. Recognize and praise others and myself for the work we do in the church and be forgiving when we make mistakes.
8. Support, in a constructive way, the work of the minister, staff and congregants.
9. Deepen our connections by getting to know and understand people of all ages and points of view within the congregation.
10. Nurture my own spiritual needs in this community and support others in their search for truth and meaning.


Vancouver Unitarians Join Extinction Rebellion at Cambie Bridge Shut Down

photo: Cambie Street shut down

Above: We joined the die-in at the intersection of Broadway and Cambie, then marched to the middle of the Cambie bridge for the sit-in

photo: Cambie Street shut down

Above: Vancouver Unitarians Carry the Flame at the Cambie Bridge Sit-In

A group of Vancouver Unitarians, including Mairy Beam, Rob Dainow, and Vivian Davidson, joined several hundred protesters in the March 27, 2021 Extinction Rebellion march for old growth trees and climate justice.

“Logging old growth directly violates Extinction Rebellion’s demand to Act Now,” said Kelly Tatham, a volunteer with Extinction Rebellion.

We are all standing up for the climate – and for our ecosystems – whenever we can and in whatever ways we can. Every little bit counts.

The Road Ahead – What’s Your Vision for Our Future?

The five fundamental tasks of our Vancouver Unitarians congregation during our ministerial transition are to successfully navigate our:

HERITAGE – Coming to terms with history by reviewing how this congregation has been shaped and formed.
LEADERSHIP – Reviewing our needs and ways of organizing and developing new and effective leadership to accompany times of transition.
VISION / MISSION – Illuminating and redefining our identity, sense of purpose, and direction.
CONNECTIONS – Renewing, expanding, and strengthening our relationships and resources in the wider community.
FUTURE – Preparing to engage in a new future with renewed vision, stewardship, commitment, anticipation, and zest.

Coming to terms with our history and heritage is the foundation for being able to envision and move into the future. Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? These are the questions we have been exploring as we have built our Congregational History Wall (UCV Stories) over the last few months. 

We presented several short videos in January and February Sunday services to highlight some of these UCV Stories: the Members page, the Controversies and Fights page, and two presentations on the Environment page. 

The February 28 service – “The Never-Ending Story” – illuminated some of the important themes that have shaped and formed us over our 500 year history as a faith tradition and our 119 year history as a Unitarian congregation in Vancouver: 

  • The founding beliefs and principles that cost some of our first leaders their lives and paved the way for what has remained a progressive, non-dogmatic religion that values independent thinking and social action, well-exemplified throughout UCV’s 119 years.
  • The ways in which we have encountered and suffered from conflict situations, notably with past ministers, and how this experience can and should shape how build our path forward – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
  • Our deep roots and long-standing commitments to social action in response to some of the biggest and most challenges issues in each generation.

We have a rich tradition and a strong foundation to build on. March is the month when we begin our visioning conversations to explore our identity and sense of purpose. What we learn in these explorations will clarify the directions for our future. This is a very exciting part of our work together! 

The Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) is adapting the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organizational transition to structure this transition phase. We will engage in structured conversations with as many congregants as we can in group workshops, one-on-one meetings, and individual surveys. These conversations will focus on seven questions:

  1. When did you feel most engaged, alive, and motivated at UCV?
  2. What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our congregation?
  3. What are the most valuable aspects of our congregation’s worship? What shapes your Unitarian faith?
  4. What are the most important and meaningful ways we engage with the world around us – locally, nationally, globally? 
  5. What are the essential, central characteristics that make UCV unique?
  6. What are the most important things UCV has contributed to your life? 
  7. What are three wishes you have for the future of our Vancouver Unitarians congregation?

The answers to these questions will tell us a great deal about who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to.

We will work with existing committee, teams, and groups in the congregation to enlist your help, and we will summarize all the feedback we receive from the responses to these questions and share it with the congregation as we craft our collective visions for our future.

All aboard!

Ministerial Transition Team Update for Feb. 2021

The Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) supports our ministerial transition process with guidance from Reverend Lara, our interim minister. We support this transition with regular updates on where we are, how we are doing, what we are learning, and where we are going. This is our monthly update. 

January has been a transitional month in our ministerial transition. We continue to build our online history wall – UCV Stories. We have shared a few short video presentations, one based on the Members section and one based on the Environment section of the UCV Stories online wall. We will share a few more of these video visits to UCV Stories in February. We invite all congregants to look at UCV Stories themselves and to share your own stories from your life in this community. 

In February we will also continue to explore some of our visions for a future UCV. Several congregants have already shared short videos to describe their visions of their future UCV:

  • Lynn Armstrong envisioned live weddings from our exquisite and well-equipped livestreaming sanctuary; 
  • Noella and Cohen Prescod looked forward to both in-person and live-streamed services so that those who cannot join in person can still attend our services; 
  • Rob Dainow imagined a UCV community that includes new people who have ‘discovered’ us since we began to live-stream services in 2020; 
  • Olivia Hall envisioned how we can live our faith by embodying / practising our Unitarian values and principles in every decision we make and in every action we take; 
  • Thora Gislason imagined regular testimonials from members about their own spiritual path – how they came to Unitarianism and to UCV, where they find meaning in their spiritual lives, how they live their faith; 
  • Diane Brown described her hope that we will become a diverse spiritual, cultural, and social activism hub – a destination for people to practise these things together and to support each other.

Let us know if you want to share what you hope to see in our congregational future. 

The MTT in January reviewed and forwarded to the Board reports from Task Forces on Organizational Design, Long Term Staffing Needs, and Youth Engagement. A new task force on Congregational Decision Making (CDM) will begin its work during February. All five CDM task force members chose to enrol and participate in a Convergent Facilitation course as they begin their work together.

The MTT will join Reverend Lara at the Feb. 28 service to share with you what we have learned and discerned from working on the Congregational History Wall project.

Lots to do in February! All aboard!

from Transition Team, Rob Dainow, Chair

January, 2021 – Imagining The Future For UCV

We are travelling the “road ahead”, our ministerial transition. We have made great progress on our first developmental/transition task, “Coming to terms with history”, and we continue to build our history wall. Please visit or revisit UCV Stories to discover our past and to add your own memories and stories.

We begin our second transition task this month – “Discovering a new identity”. The UUA’s Janus Workbook, created to support ministerial transitions, describes this second transition task as “Illuminating the congregation’s unique identity, its strengths, its needs, and its challenges”. Simply put, it is time to imagine the future we want to become, to stretch ourselves, to look into our crystal balls, and to use our imaginations to reshape our reality and transform UCV into the congregation we dream to be. Our imaginations are the magic that will get us there.

Our Soul Matters theme for January is “Imagination”, and Reverend Lara explains in her January 2021 In the Interim that we will explore imagination in various ways during this month. Unleashing our imaginations will help our Vancouver Unitarians world come alive – an exciting step in our “road ahead”!

from Transition Team, Rob Dainow, Chair


Vancouver Unitarians Join Sept 27 Global Climate Strike

Contact the Enviro Team | Join Our Email Group

Above: Vancouver Unitarians join thousands at Global Climate strike, Sept 27, 2019

An estimated 100,000 people, including Unitarians from all four Greater Vancouver congregations, rallied at Vancouver City Hall for the September 27th Global Climate Strike

Unitarians from all four Greater Vancouver congregations – including three Unitarian ministers – gathered under the Vancouver Unitarians banner at the start of the Global Climate Strike in Vancouver on September.

The event was organized by students and we proudly joined with tens of thousands of them to fill the length of Cambie Street on our way through downtown Vancouver to the CBC building at West Georgia and Hamilton streets.

It was exhilarating – and reassuring – to be a part of this massive mobilization of Canadians. Police estimated that 100,000 people participated – perhaps the largest march ever in Vancouver.

Would you like to join us for future rallies, marches and activities? Learn more about our team here or contact us by Email

Many tens of thousands gathered for the Global Climate Strike at Vancouver City Hall September 27, 2019

Youth Taking Action with Rallies for CBC Leaders’ Debate on Climate

Above: Vancouver Unitarians standing with youths leading the July 17 rally calling for a CBC federal leaders’ debate on climate and the Green New Deal

Vancouver Unitarians rallied once again in support of climate justice. This time it was on July 17 at CBC Vancouver.

The rally was organized by Our Time, a national campaign of young people, in order to push the CBC to broadcast a federal leaders’ debate focused on climate change and a Green New Deal for Canada.

What would a Green New Deal for Canada look like?

A cohort of over 30 young persons led the rally with speeches, songs, and cheers. We were several hundred in Vancouver and we were joined by many hundreds more in over 20 cities across Canada. We were proud to stand with these committed and inspiring young people.

A Green New Deal for All – Cross Canada Tour in Vancouver


At least ten Vancouver Unitarians were among the 350 person sell-out crowd on June 21 at the Canadian Memorial Church to participate in the Vancouver stop of the Green New Deal for All cross-Canada tour.

All the presenters were passionate, well informed, and inspiring. It was a great event, part of the grass roots movement that started with over 150 town hall meetings across Canada – including a full house event with about 100 people at UCV on May 24.

Support for the Green New Deal (GND) is rising up across this country with the intention to become a powerful voice in the coming federal election.

The entire Green New Deal for All event was video taped and posted online, or you can watch it below. The table shows the time for each presentation to help you navigate through this nearly 3 hour long video.


Redevelopment? Circle of Concerns Workshop

About 40-45 people attended the Circle of Concerns Workshop after the service on May 2, 2019 to share and explore their questions and concerns about the current UCV site redevelopment project.

This workshop was a followup event to the March 31 Listening Circle forum where at least 35 congregants gathered to share their questions and concerns. Issues raised at this fell into eight categories. There was considerable support at the forum for a followup workshop to extend this conversation to include more congregants and to explore the concerns and issues in more depth. (See for more information about the Listening Circle event; you can find the 3-page report from that meeting here: Mar31 Sharing Circle report.

The May 2 Circle of Concerns Workshop is the followup to the March 31 Listening Circle forum.
The intent of all these activities is bring new voices to the redevelopment conversation. There is no intent or desire to create divisions or dissensions; on the contrary, we believe that we will make better decisions when we include all voices.

Here is a summary of the notes from the Circle of Concerns Workshop. (You can get an electronic copy of the full notes here: May 26 Circle of Concern minutes.)

Top 3 concerns

Participants at the Circle of Concerns Workshop identified their top 3 areas of concern from the 8 categories identified in the March 31 Listening Circle forum, with these results:


Weighted votes



Existential Threats




Ability to Complete


Site redevelopment


Affordable housing


During construction


Design elements


No concerns



Groups were formed to discuss the top 3 concerns.
Here are some selected comments from these discussions:


  • The combination of an interim minister and temporary meeting places in trailers will lead to losing congregants and it will harder to attract new people. It will be very hard to maintain our regular activities and social events. The timing sucks!
  • Everyone in this group felt very strongly that it is essential to have the new settled minister in place before undertaking redevelopment. It will be a recipe for disaster if we do not have strong leadership.
  • We will limit the number and perhaps quality of ministerial candidates if a redevelopment project is a front issue for the new minister. It will be a threat to the very existence of the church if we cannot get a satisfactory new minister.
  • Proceeding with redevelopment under these circumstances can create a lot of stress and can lead to an antagonistic, divisive, destructive atmosphere.
  • We should not see our current exploration of redevelopment as a failure if we do not proceed with it.


  • The vision is the base – we should start with a vision.
  • We need a formal statement of how this project will exemplify our UU values.
  • A compelling vision would have housing affordability and environmental concerns built in; the current design doesn’t reflect our ideals because the social and environmental benefits are modest.
  • We have a chance to make an architectural statement; need more imagination – invite artists and architects to come talk to us.
  • Landlording is a nightmare – and UCV would be at least indirectly in that role. Would we trust a management company to go by our values? Where do we stand in a tenant-landlord issue? How much would we intervene? How much Board involvement would there be?

Existential Threats

  • Do we have the volunteer capacity to carry out this project?
  • How will we get new members during the construction period (2-3 years)?
  • Will our younger congregants be able to sustain this project financially?
  • How do we continue ‘doing church’ during construction (2-3 years)?
  • We are muddling through financially and are kind of sustainable now, so may be wiser to not launch a redevelopment project now, but to instead focus on growing our membership.

How would you vote today?

Workshop participants were asked during the last part of the workshop to indicate on a spectrum of choices what their position is today with regard to the redevelopment project. The following table summarizes their responses.





Will likely approve redevelopment project as is or with minor changes.
Will approve only if (check any and all that apply)



It is clear that the project fits our values and vision.



The project is delayed until we have a new settled minister.



Environmental considerations are given higher priority.



The design of the building is significantly changed.



Can stay on campus and use sanctuary during construction (acceptable washrooms).



Possible to create truly affordable housing and still have significant return to UCV.



Members step u to volunteer to liaise with developers.



Other methods to improve finances are unsuccessful.



Hewett Hall is not destroyed. The new building is built elsewhere on campus.



Will almost certainly not approve.



* maybe

Next steps

  • Hold an open meeting monthly, with chairs in a circle to encourage equal participation.
  • Get input from others who have done similar projects.
  • Who would live here? Survey Vancouver Unitarians to see how many would rent or buy (co-housing)?