Author: Rev. Lara Cowtan

Grateful reflections on three years as your Interim Minister

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” – Anatole France

This month of June will be my last one with you at UCV, then I will be moving on and you will prepare to receive Rev. Shawn Gauthier as your new Settled Minister.  The past 3 years feel as they have been both long and short, as many complex journeys and relationships are.  We have been through a pandemic together, weathered unexpected storms and also great healing and discovery. We have held steady relative to the wider world of religious bodies during the challenges, and this community is emerging renewed, strengthened and hopeful, even if a bit bruised in places.

I am looking back over our time together and re-reading notes I took from those many first conversations, back when we could only meet on Zoom.  I asked almost 100 people the same five questions: Who are you? What do you love about UCV? What could change here? What should I know to begin this ministry? Who should I talk to to impact change?

These conversations helped to frame the work that we have done together, and were also the beginning of some deeply meaningful relationships. We have done many things, many hard and many joyful things. It has been an honour and privilege to help UCV navigate the transitions and changes that will help give meaning and depth to people’s lives and to prepare your path forward to your next chapter.

As I move into my own time of transition after being with people in theirs, so many feelings are alive in my heart. I feel the sadness that comes with having to let go – relationships that touched my heart are coming to an end among people who honoured me by welcoming me into their lives, allowing to grieve with them their losses and to celebrate and rejoice in their blessings. We have shared our lives with one another in deeply meaningful ways. I have witnessed children growing into teens and teens into adults. I have seen incredible generosity of spirit and openness as well as impatience and fear exhibited in less healthy ways. I have seen people come and go as they are nourished and called in different ways. Through all of it, we have known that my time with you would come to an end.  An interim minister, a colleague of mine writes, is like a harbour pilot, navigating the congregation through a temporary harbour during a time of reflecting, retooling, provisioning and staffing for the next sea adventure. It is a partnership with the vessel’s crew and the harbour pilot, and their mutual success is ultimately a function of communication and trust. Things haven’t been perfect in those areas, we have had particular challenges during this transition time, and we have also done some amazing things together.

You are resilient, beautiful and deeply caring people. My hope is that you will continue to lean into your covenant with one another to break down the barriers of personal relationships and build towards a truly shared vision of the promise of this community. I hope you may let go of lingering fears and open your hearts to one another.

I will be leaving UCV grateful to have been here with you, to have had this chance to know, to love and to grow with you along this journey. I am confident that you know yourselves better, who you are, what you love about UCV, what needs to change so you can thrive, how to support your next ministry and the people who need to shape it.

As every interim minister knows, serving as a harbour pilot is a privilege, and a time will come to wish the congregation fair winds and many blessings ahead. A ship in harbour is safe – but that is not what ships were built for. Happy sailing, UCV.

Many Blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan



For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.


Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.


Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.


Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

– John Donohue


In the interim: Reporting back on the CUC National Symposium

I have just returned from a week in Ottawa where the tulips were in spectacular bloom. I had been on retreat with Canadian ministers and then attending the CUC National Symposium. A lot was packed into this week! If you missed it, I encourage you to watch the powerful Confluence Lecture delivered by Rev. Julie Stoneberg, speaking to where we, as Canadian Unitarian Universalists and Unitarians are now and may be going. People are talking about how inspiring, funny and challenging her message to us all is. It would be interesting to have a discussion group at UCV about the lecture.   


Also really fantastic was the Sunday morning Worship service, ably led by Rev. Eric Meter from Ottawa, Rev. Diane Rollert from Montreal and Rev. Fulgence Ndigadimana also from Ottawa, plus the amazing song leading of Susanne Mazairz, Toronto’s Neighbourhood UU Congregation’s Music Director. Enjoy! (Watch the service.)


You will be hearing more about the CUC Symposium in the coming days and weeks. I want to lift up a couple of special announcements, one of which you may have already heard: UCV’s own Kiersten Moore is newly-elected as the President of the Canadian Unitarian Council.  Congratulations Kiersten!!! Also, Rev. Anne Barker (who delivered the 2020 Confluence lecture) is beginning her new role with the Congregational Life Team supporting Western Canada, in place of Joan Carolyn, who retired this Spring. Many transitions, new roles and exciting new leadership to shepherd our movement across Canada into the future.  


I was sorry to miss the wonderful and creative worship services by the Partner Church and IPA, and will check out the recordings. There seems to be a lot of energy and momentum as we head toward summer, which is so inspiring! I am looking forward to our last month together as a time to appreciate just how far we have come since our beginnings in the summer of 2020.  


With warmest blessings, 


Rev. Lara Cowtan

In the Interim: The Path of Vulnerability

Our theme for the month of March is The Path of Vulnerability.  This seems like something we have been working towards for the past several months, and is illustrated so eloquently by the tender, brave, determined rebirth of Springtime. 


“In our culture, we have a tendency to mark tenderness as weakness, but when a single bloodroot bloom can rock us back on awe-struck heels, we begin to glimpse the power of such exposed intimacy. Tenderness is perhaps the most potent form of bravery. It is the ability to open oneself, despite (as Anais Nin says) the incredible risk to bloom. To open, despite the danger of unexpected frosts and herbivores, the weather whims of spring’s mood and the negligence of passing boots. It takes unbelievable courage to expose oneself in such vulnerability. To say yes— to blooming, to loving and to living once more. Would it not be so much easer to stay quietly in our roots? In spring, the sun draws closer to earth, almost as if to say how much she believes in us, and we respond with a sweeping show of blossoming trust and the gift of our own transformational vulnerability. We bloom— not knowing if this is the right moment, or how the whole story will unfold— and this is how and where and when true growth begins.”


Building trust requires vulnerability, and is one of the priorities identified by the UCV Board to focus on this year. Building trust requires us to be brave and tender, to listen and to share our own stories.  The series we have been doing at UCV, Triumphs and Turmoils, looking back at past ministries through the lens of the historical archive has been illuminating and often disturbing. People are hearing facts and experiences of critical incidents that have shaped UCV that they hadn’t known, even if they were present during the time. We all carry our own stories and version of events through our own perspective, and if we don’t hear other perspectives, we are confined to a narrow version of the ”truth”.   This review of history has been a powerful exercise, and is crucial for UCV to be able to move forward into its next settled ministry, fully aware of the many stories of the past, the good and the bad, in order to make informed decisions about the future and to heal lingering pain and grief.    Sharing our own truth feels vulnerable, but in doing so, we build trust and provide room for healing of past wounds, our own and others.  This is what our Covenant of Healthy Relations asks of us, to listen deeply with care, to speak directly and truthfully and to be open to learning and growing with one another.  This, like the budding blooms of springtime, requires us to take risks, be vulnerable in order to build a beautiful, flourishing community.   Building a new way. 


In faith, 


Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister

What Makes a Minister? Musings from your interim minister

I used to joke that a minister was a Pastor, Preacher, Prophet, Plumber, Philosopher, Gardener, Bookkeeper and Baker. Not far from the truth, ministry encompasses many facets, seen and unseen of congregational life. As UCV prepares to search for your next settled minister, I thought you might be interested to know what UU Ministers today are trained for, what competencies they are evaluated by, and what professional ethical expectations they are to uphold.

This is the Code of Conduct from the UU Ministers Association to which all UU ministers must be accountable. This is a recent article by congregational consultant, Sarai Rice, entitled “What Should a Minister be Good at, Post-Pandemic?”

Listed below are the competencies to which UU ministers are trained and evaluated through 3 years of graduate study, then by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for a further 3 years of preliminary fellowship, based on feedback from congregations they serve, from mentors and from their own self-evaluations. This list has become a tool for congregations to use in further regular evaluation of their shared ministries.

One: Worship and Rites of Passage

  • Knows how to prepare holistic, inclusive worship and rituals for life passages.
  • Demonstrates awareness of multicultural and multigenerational approaches to worship.
  • Prepares and delivers engaging sermons, homilies, and reflections.
  • Works collaboratively with professional colleagues and lay worship leaders.
  • Uses arts to create multisensory worship.
  • Integrates theological theory and practice.

Two: Pastoral Care and Presence

  • Can provide pastoral care, recognizing differences between pastoral and therapeutic counseling.
  • Demonstrates healthy personal boundaries and knowledge of professional ethics.
  • Has awareness and skills to respond appropriately to sexuality, mental health, end of life, and relationship concerns.
  • Understands cultural and generational needs in pastoral care.

Three: Spiritual Development for Self and Others

  • Models spiritual depth in personal practice.
  • Articulates philosophies and theories of teaching and learning.
  • Models accountable engagement with diverse spiritual traditions and communities.
  • Demonstrates understanding of multi-religious knowledge and practices.

Four: Social Justice in the Public Square 

  • Is engaged with critical justice issues in the local community and in the larger world.
  • Can apply the lens of power and privilege in the areas of antiracism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism.
  • Understands basics of community organizing and value of broad-based coalitions.
  • Connects the history of UU justice engagement to the present.

Five: Administration

  • Is prepared to manage staff and volunteers.
  • Has a basic understanding of budgets, stewardship, and fundraising (and the theology thereof).
  • Understands role as a minister within a mission-based institution.
  • Articulates understanding of conflict management and obstacles to healthy organizational functioning.

Six: Serves the Larger Unitarian Universalist Faith

  • Collaborates with Unitarian Universalist and interfaith colleagues, including other religious professionals.
  • Articulates historical influence of Christianity on North American culture, including Unitarian Universalism.
  • Engages with Unitarian Universalism at the local, regional, national, and global levels.
  • Articulates knowledge of current initiatives and issues within the faith movement.
  • Demonstrates knowledge of UU history and polity.
  • Contributes to ongoing scholarship and support of professional ministry.

Seven: Leads the Faith into the Future

  • Experiments with emerging media technology.
  • Articulates a vision for the future, assessing opportunities and challenges for Unitarian Universalism in a changing society.
  • Explores new generational and multicultural expressions of Unitarian Universalism.

In the interim: Welcome to The Path of Change

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”   Eric Hoffer

Welcome to The Path of Change!

This is, aptly, our monthly focus theme from Soul Matters.

Transitional ministry is all about pathways for change, and my oh my, have we been on a journey!  UCV members, friends and staff have embraced the opportunities presented by the challenges and changes of these past couple of years, and this congregation is filled with promise and energy, as well as with a healthy dose of continued grief, resistance and skepticism, and all of this is normal, as normal as anything gets these days.

There is good reason to be optimistic about the start of this program year. People are back from a summer of traveling and reconnecting with loved ones. Staff are rested and brimming with new ideas. Many children have been vaccinated, and a more predictable school year seems likely. We are coming out of pandemic mayhem. However, a more robust start up to the new program year is not a signal that we have arrived at “the” new normal. We are still in a liminal season—and need to lead accordingly.

Liminal seasons have three distinct phases:

  1. Separation: A period in which order is stripped away from organizational structures, practices, and identity. The old way stops working.
  2. Liminal Period: A disorienting period of non-structure that opens new possibilities. New identities are explored, and new possibilities are considered.
  3. Reorientation: A re-forming period, in which new structures and practices emerge that are better suited to an emerging identity.

It is tempting to believe that we completed the entire liminal cycle during the pandemic, and that we are ready for reorientation now.

Remember, this liminal season began well before the pandemic arrived and it is driven by other disorienting forces. We are amidst a climate crisis, a racial justice reckoning, political polarization and a host of other factors causing institutions to deconstruct and reorient. We are living through a cultural transformation, the outcome of which is still unknowable.

This does not mean we can’t be energized and hopeful. There is much to be excited about. At the same time, we cannot naively return to the old ways of being church. This is a season that calls for ongoing disturbance, continued innovation, and the discovery of new coherence.


Rev. Lara Cowtan, Interim Minister


Update on Peace Circles regarding the 8th Principle process

A second peace circle was held on May 19, 2022, facilitated by Dr. Evelyn Zellerer, Peace of the Circle ( The focus of this circle was to acknowledge and address specific concerns and harms amongst individuals who engaged with the 8th Principle process at UCV. All those who came forward with concerns in response to previous notices in the Weekly e-bulletin or who otherwise made clear their concerns were invited. Participants were (alphabetical order by first name):

  • Bruce McIvor
  • Diane Brown
  • Hisako Masaki
  • John Boyle
  • John Smith
  • Nancy Barker
  • Rev Lara Cowtan
  • Rob Dainow
  • Sheila Resels
  • Tamiko Suzuki

At the end of the circle, there was a sense of relief and lightness that truths had been spoken and heard. There was a sense we could now move forward together. We also understood that another’s truth can be more complex than we might appreciate from our perspective. We saw where we could take responsibility for our part in disconnection. As we heard, all in the room had good intentions, yet the lesson of intention vs. impact arose: there are harmful impacts from some words and actions of good people with good intentions. These harms can be understood and lessened with open-hearted curiosity about another’s perspective and experience.

We learned that clear communication and checking with each other for shared understanding is critical. If I make a request, does the other understand what I’m hoping for? If I say yes or no, am I and the other clear about what I’m saying yes or no to? If someone uses language I find alienating, am I willing to hear what their underlying message, hopes and fears might be? Am I striving to welcome all voices, finding our common humanity?

We also discussed transparency in tracking and responding to requests, and the importance of acknowledging the efforts of both leaders and members who are trying their best to respond and contribute, even if imperfectly.

We learned about missed opportunities and how checking for shared understanding might have averted some painful outcomes. For example, for some there was a misunderstanding that a request for respecting the voices and lived experiences of IBPOC meant one should not question processes and wording. Providing more clarity as well as explicitly welcoming all voices and perspectives would have supported more open, fulsome dialogue. And in future, if we are confused or concerned about a process or guidelines for speaking, we can ask for clarity. We require brave spaces and shared understanding of what that means in our community.

Missed Opportunities – yet it’s not too late!

In summary, we have learned a lot, opened up to others, seen where our words and actions might have contributed to disconnection and harm, and how we might do things differently. Opportunities to widen this learning will be offered over the coming year through various programs and invitations to engage in restorative conversations. And each of us at UCV can practice clear communication, checking with one another for shared understanding and for impacts of our words, actions and inactions. If we’re ever unsure, we can ask the other people involved.

One suggestion offered in the circle for a possible future community conversation: those interested could use the DRSG Final Report and the subsequent critique for asking questions and learning together.

We received a suggestion that for future learning, someone (volunteers welcome!) documents the process around the introduction of the 8th Principle at UCV.

The broader reality of the experiences of IBPOC, other marginalized persons, and those who support them was touched upon and we acknowledge this critical piece needs much greater attention. This includes congregation-wide sessions like those mentioned above to share stories and learn strategies and most of all, to shift our culture so that everyone feels truly valued and welcome.

We know we have more work to do. We also know that not everyone who has had concerns has chosen to come forward. We acknowledge there might still be a gulf of trust for some and are curious to hear from you what might further address that. We want to move forward with demonstrably living in the spirit of our Covenant of Healthy Relations and all our principles, including the principle to accountably dismantle racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our community. We celebrate that many of us were and are drawn to Unitarianism because we thrive when embracing new perspectives. Now is the time to further welcome the diversity of perspectives, learn, and grow as a community.


In faith,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Nancy Barker


*Note: For the sake of clarity, very minor changes to the wording of this letter were made after its initial publication and circulation. 

In the Interim: April Awakenings

As I write this, the cherry blossoms are beginning to litter the streets like Carnival confetti and the daffodils are waving in full glory. Across the world, fighting rages on in Ukraine and Indian Residential School Survivors are at the Vatican seeking an apology from the Pope.  Our theme for this month of April is “Awakening”.  May people everywhere awaken to the bright, radical daylight truth that we are all intricately connected to each and every living being, and that any injustice or harm inflicted on people and on the planet, harms each of us. And may we stay woke. Don’t go back to sleep.

This reflection is from our monthly Soul Matters resource on Awakening

We all know what it was like. The world was alive once. When we were little. The trees whispered words. Animals spoke to us with their eyes. Playgrounds could become castles. The stars somehow told us we were special. Life could speak. The magic wasn’t imprisoned in childhood. We’ve all had adult moments when we’ve “come alive.” Wonderfully lost in our work, our creativity or a kiss. Time both stopped and was set on fire. It happened as well in moments of alignment. When our inner life and outer life fell into step. We were finally “us.” Everything was clear, and enough. There it was in the flower too. Actually in so many simple things: freshly baked bread, blackberries, a deer standing still staring at us without blinking, our children laughing. For those fleeting moments, we lacked nothing. We felt gifted beyond comprehension. We knew what “rich” really means. And it’s not that these moments of awakening don’t still happen. There’s just something about how we’ve got things organized that places a fog between them and us. It’s surprising actually – how easily we let dullness sink in, how often we allow life to be muted.

But there are always those memories. That whispering tree. That magic kiss. That moment of being true to ourselves. That priceless taste of blackberry juice on our tongue. They can be brought back. Yes, we forget what it feels like to be fully awake and for life to be fully alive. But forgetting means we can remember. It means we can help each other remember. And remembering opens a door for us to find our way back. So maybe the message this month isn’t simply, “Awaken!” but also, “Remind!” We need to tell our stories so others remember theirs. We need to take each other back in time, so we can fully inhabit our present. It’s no small thing. On our own, we are so easily convinced being wide awake was a delusion, so easily fooled into thinking that life never really felt that good or seemed so clear. But with help, we wake up. We remember what it is like for life to shimmer. And for us to shimmer too.

What is it that you want to awaken to this month? What is awakening in you? Is something keeping you from waking?  Welcome to the month of April. Spring is waking all around us!




Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister

In the Interim: Let us make a shield of love

Last week, flowers were bursting from the earth under a warm and welcoming sun. Today, as I write this, there is snow on the ground and patches of ice to be wary of. As you read, the world will look different again.  My heart is breaking for the people impacted by senseless violence, lives taken, disrupted, displaced.  I am also filled today with the energy and spirit of this community, as we gathered this morning in worship in great numbers to sing, pray, listen, share, to be with one another and to celebrate life. Becoming, as Rev. Arvid Straube said, whole human beings. Despite all the challenges we face, or maybe because of them, my faith in our collective power to change our world for the good, is renewed over and over by you.

I am moved to share with you this blog post from Valarie Kaur, Sikh Activist, civil rights lawyer and renowned speaker.

My loves,

I have been breathless watching the terror in Ukraine unfold. Russia’s invasion comes in the midst of nearly a decade of escalating tension, violence, and antagonization. Since 2014, at least 14,000 lives have been claimed as the result of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and persistent military presence.

To the people of Russia: We see you marching in the streets, risking arrest, bearing the cold, and holding your signs high: NO WAR. Your courage is a beacon. You show the world that Russia’s leadership is not Russia’s people. Only you have the power to stop this war at the source. Keep going!

To the people of Ukraine: We see you — waking to the sound of sirens, pulling your children from the windows, and preparing to protect all you love. We tremble with you, and wail with you. You are not alone. We are rising up in solidarity and sending you our prayers, our action, and our aid.

To the children of Ukraine: When I told my son about you, he wanted to send you our prayer Tati Vao Na Lagi. My grandfather sang this as a soldier in World War II. When German air raids came at night, he slept on the ground and imagined this Sikh prayer as his shield. So tonight, we closed our eyes and sang his prayer for you. We imagined a shimmering gold shield around your homes and your families and you. The prayer means: “The hot winds cannot touch you, you are shielded by Love.”

And so, I ask all of us:

What if we made a shield of love?

What if this was the moment an unprecedented number of people around the world stood against war? What if we shifted collective consciousness so that never again would any government win support to start a war? What if our voices and songs and actions flooded Russia and Ukraine now, bringing aid and courage and change?

We can choose to see no stranger — to see the people of Ukraine as our family, and the soldiers of Russia as lost ones who can be called home. We can let that sight shape how we grieve — and what we do. Each of us has a role.

Just remember, my love, we are tired and wired and stressed from pandemic and injustice. Now, war. So breathe and rest before you push, read and learn before you respond. Revolutionary love is not the sacrifice of an individual, but the practice of a community. Together, courage.

Love, Valerie.



Dear ones, let us make a shield of love.


Rev. Lara Cowtan

In the interim: Widening the circle together

“He drew a circle that shut me out – heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him in!” Edwin Markham

As we enter the 2nd month of 2022 (many 2s!), UCV’s worship services remain online only due to the wave of Omicron variant. We are hoping to reopen in a couple of weeks as the curve flattens out again. Prayers and crossed fingers welcome!

We all miss being together. As we prepare a path for being back together in person, we do so as a community grounded in science and bound by principles of radical inclusion. From the beginning of the pandemic, UCV has centered concern for the most vulnerable to severe complications from COVID in our operational decisions. I know that these decisions have also impacted those in our community who are unvaccinated or who suffer greatly from the isolation and do not connect in virtual, on-line engagement. I regret the harm that is caused inadvertently by the safety precautions. I hope we can all find nourishing and healing ways to connect with others during these complex times. If there is anything that you need or if you have ideas we can try to better serve those who are greatly impacted by not being able to be in-person, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to our Care and Concern Team. Let us continue to support one another in all the ways we can, and to grow as a community even when we are apart.

February is Black History Month and, also given that our theme this month is Widening the Circle, it seems appropriate to reflect on how the words we choose to use can perpetuate the very systems of injustice that we are working to change.  Our guiding Principles now include that we affirm and promote, “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our institutions.” What does this look like in action? I have been asked how this new 8th Principle is different than the first Principle, affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all people. I think we may have an example of “barriers to full inclusion” in our institutions to explore together. Part of the reconciliation work in Canada has been addressing the impact of people like John A. MacDonald and Bishop Grandin, among others whose names have been enshrined on many buildings and street signs. How do we as thoughtful and accountable Unitarian Universalists reconcile the complex history of the name of the “Jefferson Room” in Hewett Hall?

In April 2011, the Thomas Jefferson District of the Unitarian Universalist Association voted overwhelmingly to change its name to the Southeast District. Below is an excerpt from UU World.

Proponents of the name change claimed that even though Thomas Jefferson argued eloquently for religious freedom, he was a slave holder, with troubling views of Native Americans and women. In addition, they argued, he was not really a Unitarian, although he has often been identified as a “famous Unitarian.” Those in favor of keeping Thomas Jefferson’s name celebrated his influential views on the separation of church and state and his contributions in writing the Declaration of Independence. They also cautioned against applying modern morality to a man of the seventeen hundreds.

The district’s board first proposed changing the name in the aftermath of a controversial “Thomas Jefferson Ball” at the 1993 UUA General Assembly in Charlotte, N.C., which people were invited to attend in period costume. Hope Johnson, a delegate to the 1993 GA and now a UU minister, asked whether she and other African Americans should wear “rags and chains.”[1]

Following the district name change came a wave of name changes of churches, community centres, schools, and more.  Recognising and holding the complexity of who Thomas Jefferson was and the times he lived in.  Did he do good things and support religious freedom? Yes.  Did he also do things we know to be abhorrent and degrading of humanity? Yes. People are complicated. Our heroes and prophets are no exception.

Things were different in Jefferson’s day, and he was indeed a remarkable supporter of freedom and justice by the measure of his time. Today, we are aware of only a fraction of the impact of the massive sale after Jefferson’s death of people enslaved by him, as well as accounts by those affected and the efforts to reunite families.  In our work towards healing and reconciliation of past injustices, we need to take this continuing impact into account and ask ourselves how we are called to show up on the side of Love today. I believe Thomas Jefferson himself would agree.

At UCV, The Jefferson Room, aka “The Everything Room” is a place where our children and youth are learning about what it means to be UU, about what UU values are and how to live our lives in ways that express them.  This is where they learn what it means to be radically inclusive and how we collectively and individually make decisions every day that can build the beloved community of which we dream. And this is where we all know that our words matter.  Our youth and RE leaders have been considering rededicating this room to better reflect Canadian Unitarian Universalist History and values.  I hope everyone at UCV will support this symbolic and meaningful step towards “dismantling systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our institutions”.

I look forward to exploring with you the many ways UCV can engage in Widening the Circle together.

Brightest Blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister




In the Interim: Rekindling the spark, living with intention

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. ~ Parker Palmer

It’s now two thousand and twenty-two, and we have so much work to do…

Albert Schweitzer said…”At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

For the last year and a half we’ve been walking on shifting ground. And before this, not a few us have experienced periods of darkness and uncertainty…a dimming, or even the total absence of the light of hope and faith in our lives. In those bleak and empty times, someone, or something, sparked and rekindled that inner light…and helped you move on.  Think on this and be grateful.

Now…I would ask you think on those times when YOU were the one that helped to light a candle of hope, or companionship, or compassion, or equal justice for someone (or something) in their personal darkness.

This is harder to do because we’ve been told since infancy that pride is a sin and not to be full of ourselves. I say NO to that. I believe we need to identify and take pride in what we are good at, otherwise, how else can we use that gift or strength to benefit others?

Our theme for this month of January is “Living with Intention.”

At the start of a new year some of us might struggle with looking at all the things we haven’t accomplished or tended to, despite our best intentions. As we think about living with intention as a way of connection to meaning and purpose, hear these words of wisdom from author and spiritual teacher of living in the real, hard beauty of life, Anne Lamott:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were too jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical stillness and staring off into space like when you were a kid?

It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction––and is NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their finger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

Resilience and flexibility have been our mantras. I am so grateful for everyone here at UCV who continue to be nimble and quick to meet every challenge while caring deeply for our community in the safest ways possible. These times of uncertainty, when we must hold any plans loosely and be prepared to shift, we can reframe these challenges as opportunities. These moments, even with the loss and pain they may bring, are creative to their core, calling on our ability to reinvent, reimagine, and make the seemingly impossible very much possible.

My prayer-wish for us all is: “Let there be light.”


Reverend Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister, Vancouver Unitarians