Author: Marie Witt

In the Interim – September Update from Rev. Lara Cowtan

I have been in Vancouver since the beginning of August, settling in as UCV’s Interim Minister for the next two years. What a beautiful city! Aside from exploring and unpacking, my weeks have been filled with online meetings with UCV members, leaders, staff and committees. It has been a real privilege hearing your stories, and I hope to meet many more of you in the coming weeks and months. It is an honour to serve people who so clearly love and are dedicated to this community.

Following the retirement of Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson, who served UCV so well for 19 years, this time of transition, is an opportunity to:

  •  Reflect reflect on the past, claiming and honoring all that has shaped UCV
  • Illuminate UCV’s unique identity, its strengths, needs and challenges
  • Clarify the multiple dimensions of leadership needed for UCV to thrive
  • Renewing and connecting with relationships and resources in the wider community
  • Preparing to engage in a new future with renewed vision, stewardship and commitment.

These are the goals of the Transitions Team, who will be working alongside me during this exciting and challenging time.

Together we will continue the great work of this congregation and explore new opportunities to create meaningful connections.  Please reach out and introduce yourself to me, I am looking forward to our time together.

In Faith,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

A Garden Party to Welcome Rev. Lara

The UCV Board hosted a Welcome to UCV Garden Party for Rev Lara Cowtan on Saturday Aug. 8th. Attendance was limited due to Covid-19 precautions, however, a splendid time was had by all, and the weather cooperated just in time!

Announcing “Soul Matters” Themes for 2020 – 2021

UCV has adopted the “Soul Matters” sharing circle subscription which will be used as a resource to guide our small groups and worship over the coming year:

From their website:
The Soul Matters small group approach was developed at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester New York. The idea for a Sharing Circle arose in 2006 when the co-senior ministers, Reverends Scott Tayler and Kaaren Anderson, reached out to a small group of colleagues to explore deeper collaborative relationships. What began as an effort to share materials among colleagues became a means to connect congregations from around the country and world. Today around 1/5 of all UU congregations in the United States and Canada (and a few more in other parts of the world!) participate in this web of interdependence.

To learn more about this unique approach and how it will be used to connect us in group discussion and worship, visit the soul matters website

If you would like to be involved in a Soul Matters discussion group or join a covenant group to explore these themes further, please check out the Zoom You post for more information.

Our Themes for 2020 – 2021 are below!

Action Evenings

Something new at UCV! 

On Wednesday evenings 7-8pm via Zoom, we’ll reflect together on significant issues of our times. Topics are curated and prepared in advance with videos, speakers, slideshows, and discussion points. This meeting offers a chance for shared learning, thoughtful dialogue, and the potential for collaboration for taking action.

All members and friends of UCV are welcome!


How to Join and What to Expect

Log in to our Zoom room early from 6:45pm on Wednesday evenings as we’ll be starting right at 7. 

After 8, you are welcome to stay for a while to chat about the topic and exchange ideas for action.

You are not required to have any prior knowledge of the topic. 


Schedule of Topics: 

Sep 9 – What’s this about tree sitters?

Sep 16 – Moving from food charity to food dignity

Further topics each Wednesday evening.


Please email us if you’d like to get involved with planning for an issue that matters to you by filling out the contact form below


Oak Street Parking Lot Entrance Closed

CLOSURE OF OAK STREET PARKING LOT ENTRANCE. For safety reasons, the Oak Street entrance to the UCV Parking lot will be closed indefinitely, starting August 15th. The Fremlin Street entrance will be the main access to the parking lot.

Report from Harry Potter Camp 2020

The Hogwarts Camp was a great success this year. We asked participants to let us know what their favorite parts were and how they enjoyed it so it could be shared with the whole congregation! Below is a detailed account of the fun from one of the members. If you are interested in helping volunteer with Youth programming, please check out the CYRE volunteer information page.

I think that this was my favourite Harry Potter camp yet. My favourite parts were the Quidditch matches. I was the commentator for Quidditch, which was fun. My brother enjoyed it too, especially how the leaders let the kids choose some of their own activities. We had two groups, Dumbledore’s Army Creators, and Dumbledore’s Army Explorers. We created a newspaper called the Daily Prophet (I was a reporter!) and also a movie, which is being edited right now. There were lots of familiar kids and also a few new ones. The leaders were kind and funny and energetic. I had a great time 🙂

– Benjamin Malcolm, daily prophet chief reporter, age 9

Changes to Video Management of Older Services on YouTube!

We are so fortunate to be able to provide live-streamed services to enjoy from the comfort of our own homes! I for one have also been enjoying the ability to tune in Sunday night instead, freeing me up to spend quality time with my husband Sunday mornings when our schedules align.

There are many perks to keeping our content online! However, in recent days, a small impromptu group of communications, technology, and worship folks had a sensitive conversation about protecting anonymity in worship, the dangers of having youth images up online, and even new copyright issues we’ve never had to consider before!! We know we are not the only church going through this right now, but we did have to make some changes to the way we keep content online, in line with our values.

The following are the decisions that have been made at this time (and very likely to change and get better and better as new ideas roll in)

  1. We now immediately remove greetings after the live service.

    Greetings are only available to be seen live. We hope this will increase willingness to participate for those who do not want their image to live on YouTube but are ok with the single broadcast.

  2. We keep the complete service (story, music, meditation, homily) online for one week only.

    We want people to be able to access the service throughout the week, but with copyright concerns and privacy, it is best for us to limit this. Yes! We keep a private archived copy of the whole service for our historical record-keeping!

  3. Services with a great deal of youth participation will not be kept online following the live streaming

  4. After one week we pull the service down from YouTube and replace it with a video of just the homily.

    This lives on YouTube for as long as we want. So the homily can always be watched again, accessed by new members, and shared widely.

We have a backlog of services to edit into just the homily so if you visit our YouTube and wonder why there are only a few videos so far, trust us! We’re working on it and they should be up soon!

If you have questions thoughts or feedback about this, please contact Marie and your messages will be shared with all those working on this important issue.

Reflections on Plastic-Free July from UCV Zero Waste

You may have heard of the initiative “Plastic-Free July.” It is a global movement and a challenge to reduce plastic waste. Local zero-waste shops like Nada Grocery have been at the forefront of promoting this important work in our community. While it is nice to have a special month to “zero” in on the consumption of single-use plastics, we also know the work is year-long.

This year poses a particularly difficult challenge because the safety measures used to protect us from COVID often come with more packaging, less opportunity to use our many-use items.

Vancouver Unitarian’s Zero Waste team members reflect on how they are navigating their commitment to being plastic-free and zero waste in a pandemic. We asked: Has the pandemic shifted your habits with plastic? Why or Why not? and What are some examples of steps you’re taking to be both safe AND plastic-free? 


“My habits with plastic have changed slightly because I strive to live a sustainable and plastic-free life as possible I have endeavored to abstain from activities that require me to introduce more plastic into my life. At the grocery stores, I refuse to use plastic bags and even if I have to carry out my items and later put them in my own bag I won’t use plastic bags. The one thing I had to do which hurt more than I thought was to use disposable cups when having coffee outside as we cannot use our own mugs.
In addition, I have not ordered take out except once and I asked them to have as little packaging as possible. Yes, it came in a container but I asked for compostable.

In order to be safe and plastic-free I wash my hands and avoid touching my face rather than using disposable gloves which research has proven is a false positive anyway. I made my own mask and use that.”

– Vivian Davidson

“Yes.  Instead of going to NADA (way too scary) we’ve been ordering from SPUD.  There’s much more packaging, including non-reusable large cardboard boxes.  Last week one such box contained only 1 loaf of half frozen bread.  Now that NADA has an on-line system, I am back to using it instead of SPUD.  Throughout the pandemic I’ve been getting my produce at farmers markets which are generally good about reducing packaging but even they are using more plastic bags.
I used to be much more pure about getting my bread in paper bags, not plastic but was so desperate at various points in the pandemic to find gluten-free vegan bread that I lowered my standards.  Hoping now that the g/f bakeries are opening up I can insist on bread in paper, or at least bread that hasn’t been frozen in plastic.
Shopping at farmers market feels safe since it’s outside.  Online orders from NADA is now an option.  Stores like the East End Food Coop have taken good steps for safety but sadly their bulk area has been removed.
PS Also very sorry that London Drugs is not doing plastic recycling anymore.”
– Mairy Beam

“The pandemic has shifted my ability to stay committed to plastic-free to the degree I had been committed before. I think moments like this really test us in ways we don’t anticipate and it’s interesting to notice where the motivation to use packaging “for safety” feels different than using it “for convenience.” I am trying to focus on the fact that things won’t always be like this.

I am visiting places that are supportive of zero-waste even in the face of pandemic. The Safeway at King Ed has been allowing reusable shopping bags if you pack your own, and the JJ Bean on 16th and Cambie (and assuming all over too) is now allowing clean travel mugs. I am ordering take out from time to time but we got to places that use compostables like Beetbox Vegetarian. I love to feel our community pull together and remain committed to our values by making our environmental practices as safe to continue as possible.”

-Marie Witt

Become a Familiar Face to Reverend Lara!

Imagine you are meeting up to 350 people in the coming weeks, sounds fairly daunting doesn’t it? The current Covid-19 situation is making it even more so.

Rev. Lara Cowtan is arriving in a few short weeks, and she will need to be able to put faces to names. This is where we need your help! You can help make her welcome, and connections a bit more easy by updating your profile in our directory with a photo!

Sign-Up For A Breeze Account

If you have never logged into your Breeze profile before, you will need to

  1. Click here
  2. Click on “create account”
  3. Follow the prompts and check your email for setting your user name and password

Upload your Profile Pic to Breeze in 4 easy steps

  1. Navigate to your profile or sign in here
  2. Click on the cartoon image box at the top
  3. Click “Upload Image” and select the image (of yourself) you want to upload.
  4. Crop the image to the appropriate size and save the change

For help (including graphics) click here or contact Marcus who will be happy to help!

Greetings From Rev. Lara Cowtan!

Greetings Unitarian Church of Vancouver!

I am Reverend Lara Cowtan, and I am delighted and honored to have been hired as your interim minister, to serve you for a two-year transition period. I just wanted to reach out and say hello to you from Winnipeg, where I am currently serving as a hospital chaplain. This has been a year of transition for me as well, as I’ve moved back to Canada after living in Europe since 2005.

Soon I will set out West, over the prairies and across the mountains to join you in Vancouver. I am excited and looking forward to meeting all of you, to being a part of your thriving and welcoming community, and to working with you as we learn and grow together.
These are challenging and complicated times, and it helps to have something to look forward to.

This transitional ministry time is an exciting opportunity for the congregation to engage in reflecting on where you have come from, all you’ve accomplished, then envisioning and reaching towards the future. It is a time of infinite possibilities, and I can’t wait to explore them with you.

I’ll arrive at the end of July and begin in August with meetings to get to know you and prepare for the start of our first year together.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy summer.

Rev. Lara




Steven Tribute Booklet and Final Service Video

On June 21st, Steven delivered his final sermon at UCV and we presented him with this tribute booklet. You can read and download tribute booklet below and watch a short video below with clips of his final service.

***PLEASE NOTE: We have discovered that the online version of the tribute booklet to Steven was not the draft that we printed- the printed draft included many more tributes. So, we have corrected the online version to reflect the one that was printed and given to Steven Epperson. Apologies for any stress this may have created. If you still do not see your tribute, please send it directly to Marie. Stay well, Diane Brown, UCV Board President***