Being President/Being Present

by Mary Bennett, UCV Board of Trustees President, December 28, 2021

Come into this place of memory and let its history warm your soul,

Come into this place of prophecy and power and let its vision change your heart.

Singing the Living Tradition, #429 

Rev. William Schulz, Unitarian Universalist Association President 1978 to 1993

I’ve been indulging in nostalgia this month. Recalling past Decembers both with my own family and friends and at UCV.  As I sat at home visiting three congregations over youtube on Christmas Eve this year, I recalled my first Christmas Eve at UCV. In darkness to the singing of Silent Night, we lit each others’ candles. On leaving I was asked to put my candle in a basket. I did so reluctantly; I wanted to keep that candle. I got my courage up to head over to the hall where the minister was serving hot apple cider from a big punch bowl. 

Wind the film back to January 1989 and you’d find me making my annual New Year’s resolutions. That year I’d decided to make a resolution for each of the 8 aspects of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. I self-mockingly summarized my list as “to have matching towels and become spiritually developed.”  UCV was one of three spiritual groups I tried out. Once I gave up trying to figure out exactly what this religion was, I realized I’d found my people and so “signed the book.”   

As well as nostalgic memories, I have been studying our recent past: reading last year’s board meeting minutes, task force reports, by-laws, terms of reference and previous strategic plans. The board will be embarking on its “prophetic” role of developing a strategic plan. 

January, named for the Roman God Janus, the two-faced God looking both back and forward, is a good time to do this work.  

Meanwhile, we live in the present. What of UCV at this very moment, or at least this very month or year? 

Some of you have likely engaged in a “SWOT” analysis before. What are our Strengths? Weaknesses? Opportunities? Threats? 

As I consider these questions, I’m aware that every individual on the board brings their own history, perspective and hopes. We are something like the blind men encountering an elephant. You likely know the story. Since they can’t see the animal, they each describe it based on the part they touch whether the ear, the side, the tail or the tusk. The moral of the story is for everyone to share their knowledge in order to build up an understanding of what an elephant really is.

The first item under duties in the President’s job description exhorts me to “encourage everyone to engage”. This will be my Prime Directive for the coming year. I am genuinely curious to hear more of each board member’s perspective. Together we can build up a better idea of what this animal we know as UCV actually is and where it might want to be led. 

The board will continue with regular forums to invite congregational input into important decisions. As well, I’d like to try an occasional AMA – Ask Me Anything session.  Since I’ve asked you to treat me as “Just Mary” (not the board president) when you see me at UCV, it seemed fair to set up a way to make “President Mary” available. If it wasn’t Covid-times, I would book a room in Hewett Centre and invite you to bring your coffee and drop in. Join me on zoom through ucv.im/ucvpres on Sunday January 2nd and… ask me anything. We’ll see how that goes. 

Meet the board members and see past governance messages here ucv.im/board

Send a note to president@vancouverunitarians.ca if you have a question or comment for the board president.


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