Author: Communications

Starting July 1: Funds to be donated to Indigenous Residential School Survivors Society

The next Outreach Opportunities Fund (OOF) recipient, starting July 1, is the Indigenous Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS). As we all know, the impact of residential schools on the First Nation population has been profound as shown by high rates of addiction, family breakdown, incarceration, unemployment and poor health. These are the systemic effects of racism and colonialism. The IRSSS was established to address this trauma by providing support to residential school survivors, their families and those dealing with intergenerational traumas. Assistance includes physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth support, as well as healing through culturally-based values and guiding principles. A first donation of $3,000 has already been sent from OOF to IRSSS to assist with the increased demand for their services resulting from the recent news about the unmarked graves of children at residential schools.

Learn more about the Outreach Opportunities Fund here.

“The myth of personality responsibility” – by Ryan Guenther

Text by Ryan Guenther, delivered at our June 27, 2021 service.  

 

If you’ve been out around sunset in Vancouver you’ve probably seen a spectacular sight, the mass migration of thousands of crows to their night-time roost, the Still Creek Rookery. In the spring it coincides with rush hour, which is fitting because that’s exactly what it is.

Every day, crows spread out across the lower mainland, the same crows going to the same neighbourhoods to search for food, and each night they return to their home in Burnaby where it’s more affordable. They literally commute in from the suburbs for work.

Crows are perhaps the most human of birds. They’re capable of advanced problem solving, and they have complicated social structures. If you hear a large group of crows yelling their lungs out, there’s a good chance they’re trying to chase a predator away. And what is that except a form of organized protest? The only reason they aren’t holding signs is that they don’t have hands.

*

Alright, well I’m just gonna get straight into it. My mom has cancer.

There are a number of treatments for cancer, and they all suck. Chemo makes you nauseous, radiation makes you tired, immunotherapy gives you the symptoms of an autoimmune disorder, and surgery is where they cut you open and take out parts of your body that you were using.

Sometimes, the treatment is worse than the disease, at least in the short term, but we still go through it because the other option is death.

One cancer treatment that’s NEVER been tried, as far as I know, is to try and convince each of the cells in the body not to become cancerous, and for the cancer cells to go back to being normal. We’ve never tried to educate our cells about the dangers of becoming cancerous, despite the fact that if none of our cells decided to become cancerous, nobody would get cancer.

We don’t try and cure medical problems that way, because it’s objectively ridiculous. But we do try it with societal problems, almost exclusively.

At the beginning of the pandemic when the streets were empty and businesses were shut down, greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 17%. According to the UN’s report on climate change, we need to cut emissions by 45% by 2030, and 100% by 2050, to avoid literal Armageddon.

For years we’ve been told that to stop climate change, we all need to buy electric cars, and LED lightbulbs, and turn off the AC. After all, this is a problem “we” created therefor “we” each have to do our part to solve it. But that’s a lie.

When pretty much everyone in the world stopped driving entirely, it didn’t decrease emissions by even half of what’s needed. Because in reality, the richest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions, and just a hundred corporations are responsible for 70%.

Bitcoin, the digital currency/pyramid scheme, consumes more electricity than the entire country of Argentina.

Between 60 and 85 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from commercial fishing, and we banned plastic straws.

We treat poverty and homelessness as personal failures, and tell poor people to get a better job, as if those exist, quietly ignoring the fact that wages have barely risen since the 70s while the cost of living has skyrocketed. If minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be $25 an hour, and if it was enough to buy a house in Vancouver it would need to be $110 an hour.

The murder of George Floyd sparked a wave of protests that lasted for months, along with a wave of diversity training, despite no evidence that diversity training has any impact on either diversity in the workplace, or implicit bias. The book White Fragility was at the top of the best seller list that whole time and racist cops haven’t stopped murdering black people, because even if it worked, they aren’t the ones reading the book.

But isn’t it better to do something rather than nothing? The problem is that there’s a tacit assumption that if we’ve done SOMETHING, we’ve done ENOUGH.

We banned plastic straws, and maybe in another couple years we’ll ban plastic bags, or even all single-use plastics. It’ll take an incredible amount of effort and dedication to overcome people’s resistance to each minor change, and it’ll barely even slow down the build-up of plastic in our oceans, because consumers aren’t the problem.

The idea that if we all do our part we can solve any problem, is predicated on the assumption that we’re all equally responsible, and equally powerful, and that assumption is false. And by presenting it as a collective problem, it deflects blame from the people who ARE responsible, and DO have the power.

Cancer treatment targets cancer cells. That seems obvious, but we need to apply that approach to societal problems. Contrary to the title of this talk, there are people who are personally responsible for the problems in the world, it’s just not us.

I don’t own a commercial fishing fleet, and I’ve added next to nothing to the floating garbage island in the Pacific.

You aren’t an oil executive, and your contribution to climate change is negligible. Pretending that all cells are equally responsible for tumors merely allows the actual cancer cells to grow and spread unchecked.

The world’s billionaires have gained over ten trillion dollars during the pandemic, while everyone else is suffering. They could solve most of the world’s problems with just the money they gained this year. They could feed the world, end homelessness, pay off everyone’s student loans and give everyone the vaccine and still be billionaires. But they won’t, and we don’t really expect them to, just like we don’t expect a tumor to stop growing.

So am I advocating that we start murdering billionaires? Obviously not, or at least not before we raise the inheritance tax to a hundred percent. But we do need to be honest about the power imbalance in our society and start acting accordingly.

We like to think that everyone is created equal, but that’s an aspirational statement, and not supported by evidence. A lot of how your life will go is determined by where you’re born and who your parents are.

Billionaires are the children of millionaires, and the rest of us will never be part of that world. If your life worked out for you, you didn’t just make good choices, you HAD good choices.

We don’t like to admit that, because it goes against our individualistic culture and our self-image as the architects of our own destiny. And because everyone from liberals to conservatives to outright libertarians loves not talking about class.

But people are not equal. We’re not equally powerful, and we’re not equally culpable.

The pandemic itself provides a perfect example. We’ve all been told to wear masks and stay home to stop the virus from spreading, so I wear a mask, but it doesn’t protect me. In fact, as long as I’m not sick, whether I wear a mask barely matters at all. The only people who need to wear masks and isolate themselves are the people who are infected.

But I also don’t have the power to make everybody wear masks, or send them to get tested, and I certainly can’t quarantine an entire city. And the people who do have that power, refuse to use it.

Other countries have done it, and all but wiped out the virus long before vaccines were available. Meanwhile it’s a year later and we’re still being encouraged to each do our part, just like with every other problem, and we still have COVID. And poverty. And pollution. And it’s not going to change unless WE change.

As our bodies age, they start to break down. You have less energy, you don’t learn as fast, you get injured and it never completely heals. On the inside you’re still a sprightly twenty-something who’d think nothing of running for a bus or helping move a couch, but reality keeps impinging on that perception in small ways, and you have to incrementally downgrade your own definition of healthy.

Intellectually I know that however bad I feel right now, this is still the healthiest I’ll be for the rest of my life, but deep down I kind of believe that someday my back won’t hurt and I’ll be able to throw a ball again.

And right now, it feels like we’re going through that as a society.

None of the problems in my lifetime have been solved. Not climate change, not the financial crisis or the housing bubble or the opioid epidemic, and not covid. We just kind of stop talking about one crisis when the next crisis hits.

But of course, not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s gone away, just like your blood pressure doesn’t magically go down when you get cancer. Instead, the new problem compounds the old, and the risk of side effects and drug interactions makes potential treatments more limited.

Last winter in Texas, a polar vortex knocked out power, froze water lines, made roads impassable for emergency vehicles, and of course, froze people to death.

The storm was a result of climate change, the infrastructure was decaying because of decades of underfunding due to privatization and deregulation, and it also happened in the middle of the pandemic, when hundreds of thousands had lost their jobs, their health insurance, maybe even their homes, and more than a few of them actually had COVID. The new crisis compounds the old, in an intersectional Armageddon.

Here in Vancouver, the opioid epidemic didn’t disappear when COVID hit. Instead, and unsurprisingly, a year of isolation, loneliness and anxiety was BC’s worst ever for overdoses, and more people died from drug overdose than from COVID, during COVID. But we don’t talk about it, because there’s a new crisis to talk about, but not solve.

We’ve tried to defeat the pandemic by encouraging each individual to do their part, and it hasn’t worked, but we keep doing it because it’s all we know how to do anymore. To quote the Simpsons, “We’ve tried nothin’ and we’re all out of ideas.”

We cling to the trappings of democracy, but the real power in our society is money. Our elected leaders have abdicated their power to the whims of the markets, to the point where now we can’t even manufacture our own vaccines for a disease that’s killing our citizens.

The answer to the age old philosophical question, why do good people do bad things, is capitalism. And I know what you’re thinking, “Tell us how you really feel.” Well, if I did that I’d get a visit from the RCMP.

But as an example of how capitalism solves problems, there’s a coal mine in Pennsylvania that’s been on fire for 60 years. They tried to put it out at first, but it was too hard, and would’ve been too expensive, so they just closed the mine and moved on. And anyone who was living there, whose job disappeared and whose house suddenly became worthless, well.

*

We are living in the age of denial. We’re beset on all sides by existential threats, and yet life goes on as usual, as if none of it’s real. Because if we truly accepted the severity and immediacy of climate change, or the rising fascist movement in the United States, or the true scale of wealth concentration in the world, it would necessitate an immediate and radical change in how we live.

Nowadays, once in a century weather disasters happen a couple times a year, and a lot of them are ironically, or perhaps fittingly, right in the centers of the fossil fuel industry. Texas froze over. Calgary flooded. Fort McMurray burned down. Whether you believe these are signs from god or merely the harbingers of the climate apocalypse, you have to admit they’re awfully on the nose.

Two years ago the town of Paradise California was destroyed by a forest fire caused by climate change and corporate negligence. Paradise, engulfed in flames. That’s simultaneously a metaphor and a literal description of events.

And of course, nothing was done and last year was California’s worst year ever for forest fires, many of them caused by the same utility company that caused the Paradise fire. And life goes on for those whose lives go on, because what else can we do?

Indi Samarajiva, a journalist from Sri Lanka, wrote about that country’s collapse and the parallels to what’s happening in the United States. His article begins:

“I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends.

There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.”

But of course, that’s just America. Canada isn’t as bad. Which is true, in its way, but less bad is still bad, and Canada is no more an island than any one of us.

Canadian patriotism is taking something that’s objectively terrible and celebrating it because it’s better than the American equivalent. We’ve stuck to the Paris Climate Accord, even if we’re on pace to meet our 2030 targets 200 years late. Our cops kill fewer people than American cops, but they still kill people.

And fewer people die of COVID here than south of the border, but tens of thousands have still died, and will die. Focusing on how our society is crumbling slower than America lets us feel superior, and if there are countries that aren’t crumbling, well, we just don’t talk about that.

More people will die of COVID in Canada this week than have died in Vietnam since the start of the pandemic. Right now we’re acting like the vaccine is a magic spell that will make everything go back to normal, and reacting to the reports about resistant variants the same way we did the original reports out of Wuhan. Which is to say, not at all.

There are countries that were having sporting events and music festivals with full crowds LAST SUMMER, meanwhile we’re in year two of self-imposed solitary confinement to protect ourselves, because no one else will.

And we pretend like those countries don’t exist, or that there’s something special about their geography or their population, because that’s the only way what’s happening here can possibly be acceptable.

I will fully admit that I’m living in denial of climate change. It’s too big, and there’s nothing I can do about it, and if I think about it too much I’d be angry literally all the time, and that’s not healthy.

Whether I play videogames five hours a day or spend that time pacing and muttering about billionaires, I’m still probably gonna die in a food riot in 20 years. Denial is natural, and perhaps, necessary.

It’s not that surprising, then, that some people are in denial about the pandemic. After all, when you’re already living in denial about several other crises, what’s one more? What’s so special about COVID that it warrants a massive change in how we live, when climate change doesn’t?

And really, how much denial is too much? Our government’s position is that the pandemic isn’t serious enough to shut everything down for a month, but it’s serious enough that we all need to live in isolated limbo, indefinitely.

I haven’t seen my family in a year and a half, and as I may have mentioned, my mom has cancer. I haven’t seen most of my friends since the fall or done standup since last spring. In fact, up until a month ago the only person my wife and I saw regularly other than each other was a personal trainer, because apparently it’s less risky to hang out indoors with people if you pay them.

We’ve all lost a year of our lives, and we’re LUCKY if that’s all we’ve lost. Solitary confinement for longer than 15 days is considered torture by the UN. And while we aren’t actually imprisoned, it’s also been a lot longer than 15 days, and it’s going to leave a mark.

So is there no hope, are we just doomed? Yes, probably. But the lack of opportunities for compromise and half-measures can be liberating, and deadlines focus the mind. My mom talked about writing a book for years, but when she knew she was going to die she actually sat down and wrote it.

We’ve all been focused on doing our own thing for the last half century and it’s brought us to the brink of extinction on multiple fronts. It might be time to try working together again.

Municipalities which had Black Lives Matter protests saw a dramatic decrease in people killed by police, and cities with larger and repeated protests saw greater declines.

When Texas froze over, the government’s response was slow and ineffectual, and what actually helped was regular people, pulling together. Community organizations and left wing groups distributed food, fuel, blankets, whatever they could collect to whoever needed it. Even in Texas, the most individualistic state in the most individualistic country in the world, people pulled together in a crisis.

We like to think of ourselves as individuals, that everyone is unique, but that’s another lie.

*

Fringe theater festivals are completely un-juried, meaning that the line-up is determined by a random draw and anyone who gets in is given 60 minutes to do absolutely anything they can think of. And it turns out that what they can think of ends up being almost exclusively the same dozen or so types of shows.

A friend I met on tour pointed out that every festival has at least one locally produced, zombie-themed musical, and for the rest of the tour I looked out for that, and he was right. Nobody made them do it and they didn’t talk to each other, but they all independently decided to do the exact same thing. It was just what was in the air that summer.

We aren’t as unique as we think, and we aren’t as independent as we pretend. Surely a year of living separated has driven that point home.

One of the major obstacles to change is the fear of losing what little we have left, but people who’ve already lost everything are less resistant to change. Since we’ve started talking about truth and reconciliation with indigenous people, it got me thinking about what real restitution for stealing all of North America might actually look like, and I realized that I have very little skin in the game. The unspoken assumption whenever it’s brought up is always “Well, obviously we can’t give all the land back.” But for me, personally? I’m fine with that.

Without a massive market collapse I’ll never own a home in this city, so go ahead, give all the land back. It won’t affect me AT ALL. The chances that my new indigenous landlord kicks me out are probably lower than my current landlord.

They want the land back, let ‘em have it. Nationalize the oil industry and shut it down? Fine, whatever. Break up Amazon and Facebook and Google? No skin off my nose. Seize every billionaire’s assets and throw them in jail for tax evasion? Do you need a ride?

It can be liberating to give up on vain hopes. You’re more likely to become homeless than a billionaire, and the younger you are the more true that is. And even if you do manage to get rich before everything falls apart, it won’t save you. There are so many things we need to give up on, so that we don’t give up on what matters. In the words of Antonio Gramsci, what we need is “Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.”

In a subsequent article about the parallels between the American and Sri Lankan collapse, Indi Samarajiva made the point that these kinds of problems aren’t solved in a month, or a year, or even a decade. It takes GENERATIONS. He wrote:

[You’re] simply thinking about this all wrong. You’re thinking about yourselves, how this affects you, how you can get back to normal life. I’m sorry, but that’s all gone. My parents never got their carefree life back, but their grandchildren did.

You have to start thinking generationally. This may actually help your mental state because — while difficult — generational change is at least not impossible. You’re trying to change everything right now and the only thing that’s going to give is your brain.

Do you know how long Sri Lanka’s collapse took? My entire life. I was born into chaos, grew up with it and only got out — quite disoriented — around thirty years old. You’re thinking that you’re going to fix America, but it’s not about you. You broke the damn thing. Just don’t break it anymore and help future generations.

These days saying “think of the children” is both a cliché and a Puritanical cudgel, but that’s really what it comes down to. What kind of world will be left for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and is your stock portfolio worth more than that?

*

If you had major surgery, you wouldn’t try to start running around, doing everything you used to do, as soon as you woke up. There needs to be a recovery period, on a generational scale. But first, we need to have the surgery.

Those of us alive today don’t need to solve all the problems. We merely need to let go of the system that’s causing them, so that our children, and their children, can begin to heal the world.

Indigenous peoples on every inhabited continent except one lived in harmony with their environment for millennia, and probably would’ve gone on doing it if they hadn’t been rudely interrupted.

It can be done, just not with our current system, and maybe not with cars and overnight delivery and a new phone every two years. But that’s ok, because you won’t be able to drive when your car’s under water, and there’s no cell reception in hell.

Looking ahead to Fall connections!

As the summer winds you away into different routines, and maybe a different pace of life, the Vancouver Unitarians staff team is planning a variety of soul fulfilling, heart mending, and mind stretching opportunities for the fall. Whether you want to deepen your spiritual life, connect meaningfully with new and old friends, grow your leadership confidence, or enrich your racial justice knowledge, we have something for you! 

Keep a lookout for registration news in the coming months for the following programs and workshops, here and online, that support UCV’s Vision: 

 

Deepening Our Spiritual Lives 

UU Wellspring 

Join a pilot group of UU Wellspring “Sources” for 10-12 Vancouver Unitarians led by Kiersten Moore, DLL. Wellspring is a spiritual deepening and theological exploration course for Unitarians/Unitarian Universalists. Group members experience deep listening and spiritual reflection in small groups of about ten to twelve, inspiring personal and community transformation. The group will meet twice a month for ten months, have access to reading and listening material to delve into our Sources, and are encouraged to strengthen their own spiritual practices.  

Kiersten went through the course this past year with fellow professionals and is excited to bring the deep reverence, connections, and thoughtful theological explorations to Vancouver Unitarians. Please send her an email if you are interested in learning more: dre@vancouverunitarians.ca 

 

Vancouver Unitarian Covenant Groups 

Small Group Ministry with Covenant Groups has been a vital part of many Vancouver Unitarians life. Groups of 10-12 people meet regularly, usually monthly, to reflect on and discuss significant life topics. 

“Small groups are great places to get to know other people and to get to know yourself. Over time, participants build deep connections with one another, with the congregation, and with the sacred. Whether the topic is “good and evil,” “mindful living,” “parenting,” or “letting go,” the conversation is respectful and caring and leads to greater understanding.” UUA.org   

We are revitalizing our small group ministry with the help of our new Membership Outreach Coordinator, Derrick O’Keefe. New groups will be formed each September, meet for a year, and then reform again the following September.  Groups may decide to have a mid-year open-enrollment period. We continue to subscribe to Soul Matters this year and encourage Covenant Group facilitation using theme materials.  If you wonder what groups might be forming this fall, want to lead a Soul Matters group, or if you have an idea for a group topic, please contact Derrick at: moc@vancouverunitarians.ca  

 

Programming for all ages continued despite the pandemic, whether via Zoom or in some cases outdoors with masks on.

 

Growing Leaders, Sustaining Spirit 

Oct 2, 9:30-5:30 pm BC Serving with Spirit: Nurturing UU leaders 

The CUC is sponsoring a gathering of BC UUs as we together explore: 

  • identifying leadership gifts and welcoming ways to express them 
  • finding creative expression for UU values 
  • building skills so that our structures reflect our UU principles 

Join presenters such as: 

  • Liz James & Joan Carolyn in discerning what makes you come alive and then finding expression within our UU groups. 
  • Arran Liddel & Alex Okrainetz as they welcome you to alternative worship ideas and implementation. 
  • Aukje Byker & Ben Wolfe as they share their passion for Sociocracyand its applicability for so many situations/organizations! 

 

Serving with Spirit: Nurturing UU leaders- Nationwide Intro Training 

Do you wish that your life as a volunteer and a leader was a joyful expression of your values, not a task on your to do list?  Do you struggle to know how to “steer” in a way that orients you towards a vibrant sense of service?  Do you want a deeper sense of connection and spiritual practice in your life? 

Join us for an interactive five sessions over a six week learning journey this fall!  Each week, you start with learning materials–videos, worksheets, and experiential learning experiences.  You’re invited to work through the materials at your own pace, on your own and with classmates online.  Each Sunday afternoon/evening, the group gathers on zoom to share and learn together. 

Together we will seek to build our capacity as leaders, allowing us to return to our home communities with stronger networks, fresh perspectives, and a sense of rejuvenation. 

Facilitation Team: Liz James, Linda Thomson & Joan Carolyn 

Sept. 26- Oct. 31 Sunday afternoons [Except Thanksgiving] 1-3 pm Pacific 

 

Advocate for Love and Justice 

Widening the Circle of Concern: Nation-wide event 

We are looking to send a team of lay leaders and religious professionals to engage in learning an adapted Canadian version of the UUA’s study guide from the Commission on Institutional Change report. We are looking to send those who have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racism, social justice, and are interested in changing systems in our congregation. Participants will become facilitators for the program to run at UCV beginning next winter or spring.  

Dates to mark in your calendar for this training: October 16, 30, November 13, and December 4th from 8:30-10:00 am, 11:30-1, 2:30-4:00. (Pacific Time) 

 

Furthering Racial Justice Work 

We have at least two member led groups in the works to deepen individual understanding around implicit bias, understanding radical inclusivity, racial identity and justice work.  

  • Nan Gregory has offered to lead a small group exploration with Laylaa Saad’s book “Me and White Supremacy”. 
  • Catherine Strickland has suggested a program based on the book “Deep Diversity,” the second edition comes out this fall. 
  • We will have a series of books for “Common Read” available in the Library. 

 

Online Opportunities 

Beloved Conversations registration is open for the fall term. It is “the signature offering of The Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard Theological School. Beloved Conversations is a program for Unitarian Universalists seeking to embody racial justice as a spiritual practice. In Beloved Conversations, we are here to heal the impact of racism on our lives, in order to get free together.”  It is well adapted to Canadian inclusion and the online platform.  

https://www.meadville.edu/fahs-collaborative/beloved-conversations/ (coupon codes here)
https://www.meadville.edu/fahs-collaborative/beloved-conversations/within-phase/  (details) 

 

As you can see, we have many opportunities to engage with outside of Sunday Worship, and we are excited to offer these in-person, online, and multi-platform. I hope you come in as you feel called! 

–Kiersten E. Moore, Director of Lifespan Learning

 

Get a new perspective on the world through UCV’s lifelong learning opportunities.

Update from the Refugee Committee

The refugee committee has been busy submitting applications to fill the 50 allocations we have been allocated (one allocation/one person).

We have good news from one of our sponsored young people who has completed his accountant training, started working in his field, is getting married soon and will be a father in the fall. His sponsorship ended in November 2020.

The more recent arrivals are doing well.

The arrivals are still rare due to COVID and depend on the overseas offices ability to process applications, ability to interview, to do security checks which are usually extensive, to have a medical assessment and to have flights available and allowed to depart and land in Canada.

We have much more demands for sponsorship than we have allocations which is quite heartbreaking as so many are in unsafe and dire situations, including children.

We are very grateful for the support we get and the donations that allow us to bring refugees to safety. We could not do what we do otherwise.

A reminder that private sponsors are required to support the sponsored for one year with monthly allowance plus start up costs (furniture, bathroom needs, kitchen wares etc…).

Please contact the refugee committee if you have any questions

In the Interim May 2021

It is May. A month to celebrate Beltane, labyrinths, Mothers, Asian Heritage, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, Ramadan, Shavuot, Ascension and Pentecost  –  AND our Soul Matters theme for the month of May is “Story”.  I will come up with a very special prize for anyone who can write a short story that includes ALL of the things above to celebrate or honour this month! What does it mean to be a people of STORY?

 

The Canadian Unitarian Council Annual General Meeting is on May 8, and the National Conference May 14-16. Our virtual conference will celebrate how our UU faith and our connections are crucial to Sustaining Our Light through engaging workshops, meaningful connections, and moving worship services. Registration is open until May 9 https://sites.google.com/cuc.ca/cucconference2021/home

A long standing tradition, the Confluence lecture, is shared as the conference keynote event on the opening evening. Our presenter is a minister, chosen by their peers to offer insight into the joys and concerns of our living tradition.

We are delighted that the 2021 Conference Lecturer is Rev. Anne Barker from Westwood Unitarian Congregation in Edmonton. This lecture is available to all, whether attending the conference or not.

The 2021 Confluence Lecture, A New Premise, will ask questions intended to gently interrupt us a little further, to imagine our collective future in a less familiar way. Anne Barker invites you to enter the experiment without a destination already in mind.

This year’s Confluence Lecture is a new concept – it is not a 1 hour lecture. Instead, Rev. Barker has prepared “A New Premise” video for you to view ahead of May 14th. Along with an introduction from the previous lecturer, the Reverend Karen Fraser-Gitlitz, this year’s work will be provided in three parts, each about fifteen minutes long, ending with an invitation for the viewer with:

    • ideas to ponder,
    • activities to try,
    • opportunities to interact with the material.

Watch the parts separately – or all at once – whatever suits you best. Explore the downloads for each part of the lecture. We hope that you will come to it with a spirit of curiosity and willingness, so we might work together to imagine a thriving future. Text for each part is available along with the full text of the entire lecture.

On the Friday evening of the conference, Rev. Barker will repeat the introduction, offer a short review to refresh your memory, and open the floor to questions and conversation.

 

Videos and Materials for the 2021 Confluence Lecture: A New Premise

Watch the introduction by Rev. Anne Barker and Rev. Karen Fraser-Gitlitz

View each part of the video and explore the downloads:

Part 1: What if we were wrong? – View Part 1/ text for Part 1

Download: Part 1 worksheet

Part 2: disComfort – View Part 2/text for Part 2

Download: white supremacy culture

Part 3: A New Premise – View Part 3 /text for Part 3)

Downloads for Part 3:

CUC’s Dismantling Racism Study Group National Survey: Dismantling Racism Study Group

Widening the Circle of Concern: Widening the Circle of Concern | Widening the Circle of Concern

Widening the Circle of Concern Study Guide: Widening the Circle of Concern Study/Action Guide 

 

Blessings,

 

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister

Anti-Racism

Anti-Racism Statements and Resources

Please note: we do not consider this to be anywhere near an exhaustive list and we are seeking regular updates to refresh and renew the links provided here. If you know of great anti-racism resources that are missing from our resource list, please reach out to have your link added communications@vancouverunitarians.ca

Crisis Services

  1. Kuu-us Crisis Line Society provides crisis services for Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia. Adults and Elders: 250-723-4050; children and youth line 250-723-2040. Or call toll free 1-800-588-8717.
  2. Metis Crisis Line is a services of Métis Nation British Columbia. Call 1-833-MétisBC (1-833-638-4722).
  3. Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society offers supports for people, including residential school survivors, who are struggling with addiction, substance use and trauma. Call 1-888-403-3123.

Unitarian Universalist Statements

  1. Statement on Anti-Racism from the UCV Board
  2. Canadian Unitarian Council Statement on Mourning the Deaths of More People of Colour
  3. Black Lives Matter Statement by Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
  4. A pastoral letter to Black UUs by Rev. Lauren Smith in UU World, 6/4/2020
  5. Stop Calling the Police and Start Eradicating Anti-Blackness UUA statement and call to action, with links. June 2, 2020
  6. An Awful, Magnificent Truth by Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel in UUA’s Braver/Wiser Inspiration
  7. UUA Prayer Vigil #wecantbreate YouTube Video

Vancouver-Based Mental Health and Self-Care Resources for BIPoC Congregants and Friends

  1. Black Lives Matter Vancouver has a detailed and comprehensive list of legal, community, mental health and wellness services here
  2. Healing in Colour provides a list of therapists who have agreed to a statement of values
  3. Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community free health guide from Sunshine Behavioural Health
  4. Alica Forneret provides mental health by and for PoC
  5. Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society provides inclusive, accessible, and culturally-based healthcare and social services.

Ally Learnings for White Congregants and Friends

  1. Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
  2. The 8th Principle project of Unitarian Universalism
  3. Black Lives UU Spiritual Subscription Box
  4. The Church of the Larger Fellowship an American UU congregation “without walls”
  5. Resources based on your current stage of racial identity development
  6. Support Black Owned Businesses

Anti-Racist Parenting

  1. Antiracist Education Resources compiled by Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  2. “How To Be An Antiracist Parent” recording from Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  3. Resource roundup for parents
  4. Anti-racism resources for white people and for parents to raise anti-racist children
  5. Resources for Talking About Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids from the Center for Racial Justice in Education
  6. The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story pushing awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers.
  7. A fabulous list of children’s ebooks from the VPL called “Stand Up! Racial Identity, Racism, and Resistance for Grades K-7”

Canadian General Anti-Racist Resources

  1. Systemic Racism Explained in under 5 minutes
  2. The Story of Slavery in Canadian History at the Canadian Human Rights Museum
  3. The Canadian federal government page of anti-racism resources
  4. Vancouver Mutual Aid Organizations and Resource List
  5. Black Lives Matter Vancouver
  6. Feminists Deliver: Confronting Anti-Black Racism in Canada (video: a panel of 8 Canadian Women of Colour)
  7. The University of Toronto Anti-Black Racism Reading List

Books

If you are planning to purchase or consign books in Vancouver, please consider supporting Indigenous-owned and local Massy Books

Anti-Racism Resources

Last summer, there was a huge public response in support of Black Lives Matter as well as a call to uplift and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of lives that are continually devalued in racist systems. As Unitarians, we are committed to justice, equity, and compassion in all human relations. It is important to us to continue this conversation, not just in response to the media and public outcry but as a function of our ongoing dedication to see real change occur at all levels.

We want to refresh and promote the resources we shared last summer. We are grateful for submissions from members and friends in keeping this resource list current.

Within our own organization, we are working to decolonize our systems and have arranged a Decolonizing Practices Workshop for staff, board members and congregants. Check out the link for more information – this will take place April 24th, 2021 from 10am to 3pm.

If you would like to add resources to a permanent “Antiracism Learning” page please email communications@vancouverunitarians.ca

Anti-Racism Statements and Resources

Unitarian Universalist Statements

  1. Statement on Anti-Racism from the UCV Board
  2. Canadian Unitarian Council Statement on Mourning the Deaths of More People of Colour
  3. Black Lives Matter Statement by Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
  4. A pastoral letter to Black UUs by Rev. Lauren Smith in UU World, 6/4/2020
  5. Stop Calling the Police and Start Eradicating Anti-Blackness UUA statement and call to action, with links. June 2, 2020
  6. An Awful, Magnificent Truth by Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel in UUA’s Braver/Wiser Inspiration
  7. UUA Prayer Vigil #wecantbreate YouTube Video

Vancouver-Based Mental Health and Self-Care Resources for BIPoC Congregants and Friends

  1. Black Lives Matter Vancouver has a detailed and comprehensive list of legal, community, mental health and wellness services here
  2. Healing in Colour provides a list of therapists who have agreed to a statement of values
  3. Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community free health guide from Sunshine Behavioural Health
  4. Alica Forneret provides mental health by and for PoC
  5. Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society provides inclusive, accessible, and culturally-based healthcare and social services.

Ally Learnings for White Congregants and Friends

  1. Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
  2. The 8th Principle project of Unitarian Universalism
  3. Black Lives UU Spiritual Subscription Box
  4. The Church of the Larger Fellowship an American UU congregation “without walls”
  5. Resources based on your current stage of racial identity development
  6. Support Black Owned Businesses 

Anti-Racist Parenting

  1. Antiracist Education Resources compiled by Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  2. “How To Be An Antiracist Parent” recording from Fourth Universalist Society in Manhattan
  3. Resource roundup for parents
  4. Anti-racism resources for white people and for parents to raise anti-racist children
  5. Resources for Talking About Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids from the Center for Racial Justice in Education
  6. The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story pushing awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers.
  7. A fabulous list of children’s ebooks from the VPL called “Stand Up! Racial Identity, Racism, and Resistance for Grades K-7”

Canadian General Anti-Racist Resources

  1. Systemic Racism Explained in under 5 minutes
  2. The Story of Slavery in Canadian History at the Canadian Human Rights Museum
  3. The Canadian federal government page of anti-racism resources
  4. Vancouver Mutual Aid Organizations and Resource List
  5. Black Lives Matter Vancouver 
  6. Feminists Deliver: Confronting Anti-Black Racism in Canada (video: a panel of 8 Canadian Women of Colour)
  7. The University of Toronto Anti-Black Racism Reading List

Books

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
—Son of Baldwin (Robert Jones, Jr.)

Pipelines, Brunette River and ME/WE
by Catherine Hembling

Pipelines, Brunette River and ME/WE…
I think there’s a song that goes something like that!

These past months along the Brunette have brought great resolve and activity to the lives of many activists, many of them seniors. I feel invigorated by my involvement in something so much bigger than I am. As well, I walk in beauty, at least once a week, along the Brunette as part of my “work”.

I am a member the Prayer Circle, in turn part of PPSTMX (Protect the Planet Stop TransMountain Expansion). There are legal fees to pay, there is soup to be delivered, there are people to meet!

We are publicly and peacefully defending the Brunette’s Salmon runs, riparian zones, trees, water quality, environment. As well, we actively support the courageous tree sit which has been going on since Dec. 21/20 with little Press coverage. By doing so we hope to increase the public’s resolve to speak out against this urban pipeline construction. We hold PM Trudeau to his assertion that there has to be community support for TMX.

This salmon run is a particular treasure, one of very few urban salmon streams in the world. It has been restored from open dumping site by volunteers, starting in the late 1970’s. A public Greenway full of birds and wildlife now runs almost the full length of the river and its tributary creeks, under the administration of Metro Vancouver.

Long term could the Brunette be re-restored? Maybe, …..but not the Climate. Climate changes are happening already. More oil burned is more CO2 in the atmosphere. Climate changes can only get worse before they get better. We think to the future. Overall, time is on the side of protesters. Each delay to construction gives the market and economic facts of the project a better chance to be understood by the public. Green job creation brings prosperity to many more workers than pipeline construction. Politicians will always want to be elected and then re-elected. That is our lever.

Electorates are powerful if ME/WE choose to be involved!

photo

Our Whole Team’s Strength: Note from UCV President Diane Brown

The UCV Board of Trustees just completed an all day workshop on Jan. 30. The focus of this fulsome workshop, led by CUC’s Joan Carolyn, was on leadership and change, working from our strengths, acting on our Transition Team Task Force’s excellent reports and recommendations, and developing our capacity and leaders for tomorrow.

 

“All our lives we need others and others need us. Multigenerational ministry is about creating and sustaining congregations through which we collectively embody wholeness. Wholeness is not a personal accomplishment because none of us is whole alone. Wholeness is something we accomplish together in creative interaction with one another, in communities where all our members are welcome, where all contribute, where all give and receive. All our lives we need others and others need us.”

– Rev. Rebecca Parker

 

There will be another Forum on the Sanctuary Upgrades Sunday Feb 14 at 12:30 via zoom. Please click ucv.im/forums 

We are also organizing a Decolonizing Practices Workshop:

Because we as Unitarians are committed to creating a more inclusive, compassionate and equitable world, we are organizing a Decolonizing Practices Workshop for staff, board, and interested members.

The Board would like all of us to have the opportunity to get better informed on decolonizing our practices and how to diversify our organization’s membership and board to include more people who identify as Black, Indigenous or person of colour. We need to identify the barriers to our organization and to develop the solutions. This one-day workshop will include a half-day on the history and ongoing colonization in Canada.

The Decolonizing Practices Workshop will be in the spring – either April or May – and hopefully live and in person. If Covid prevails, we will pursue an online format. If you are interested in this, please let me know so I have an idea of interest and numbers; president@vancouverunitarians.ca

Finally, the UCV Board of Trustees invites all members to please join us Sunday Feb. 28 at 12:30 PST by zoom for three inspiring reports and their resulting recommendations from three Ministerial Task Forces; Lynn Armstrong will present from the Organizational Design Task Force, Mairy Beam from the Long Term Staffing Task Force, and Olivia Hall from the Young Adults Task Force.
Each report will include succinct recommendations for UCV to consider implementing moving forward. Please go to ucv.im/forums.

We invite you to attend this Forum and, in the moderated Q and A components at the end of each report, to please offer your feedback and input. This conversation will inform the Board’s ultimate decisions. 

With thanks and gratitude,
Diane.

In the Interim, February 2021

In the Interim, February 2021

“The Beloved Community [is] not a goal or destination, and it was not any kind of idealistic, Christian utopian dream, but instead a way of being – spiritually, politically, economically, emotionally, intellectually. Beloved Community is an attitude, an orientation of the heart; it’s a disciplined understanding of your own relationship to other people, to everyone else on the planet, to every living thing.” Rev. Victoria Safford

Our ministry theme for February is “Building Beloved Community”, which will be explored in our worship, small groups and religious exploration, and even by individuals reflecting about what it means to be part of a Beloved Community.

To me, Beloved Community is one of those ideas that is more about the journey than the destination. It is through our continued actions, reactions, adapting to changes, listening, making space to become more inclusive, learning, growing, becoming that we build the community of which we dream. And through all of this building, the community of which we dream is continually being reframed, always just out of reach as we strive to live into our changing vision of who we will become. A living, breathing, embodied, beautiful and perfectly imperfect human community, always aspiring to life more fully into its ideal. UCV is richly blessed with all of the building blocks needed for this work.

In community we are bound to encounter different opinions. It is said, where there are 2 UU’s there will be at least 5 different opinions! How we engage in conversation with one another to hear and find a way through our differences is what creates lasting community. The Ministerial Transition Team has begun a new task force at the request of the UCV Board to review the recent process of the Redevelopment Committee as well as looking at some conflicts that have happened or have been avoided in UCV history in order to create a new process, a pathway for facilitating inclusive, efficient, collaborative decisions.

The Transitions Team is also planning to report back to the congregation about it’s comprehensive and exciting review of UCV History during a worship service on Feb 28. To be clear, this work is not an official archival history, rather more anecdotal, teasing out of stories from the fabric woven by over a century of building community together. These are your stories, the good the bad and the ugly, the humorous and the hurtful, the celebrations, achievements and rhythms of life that have shaped UCV. “Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them.” (Huffington Post). This is the first major task of the Ministerial Transition, coming to terms with history. From there, UCV can really begin to embrace the next tasks, which have already begun.

The five goals of Transition are listed again below to remind you of the work you have already done and the pathway forward. The Board and the Transitions Team are engaging with these tasks as they prepare to make decisions about changes to staffing and governance structure that will make UCV systems more efficient and effective, allowing new leadership to emerge and welcoming newcomers to join in building this Beloved Community.

5 Focus Points of Transition
1. Heritage: reviewing how the congregation has been shaped and formed
2. Leadership: reviewing the membership needs and its ways of organizing and developing new and effective leadership
3. Mission: defining and redefining sense of purpose, identity and direction
4. Connections: Renewing and connecting with relationships and resources in the wider community
5. Future: Preparing to engage in a new future with renewed vision, stewardship and commitment.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan