Tag: ministry

Triumphs and Turmoil: A Community Look Back at UCV’s Ministerial History – Wednesday, January 18, 6:30 – 8:30pm

This January 18th session is in follow-up to the gathering on November 16, 2022, which was first of three planned discussions on UCV’s history of ministry. This series is an initiative of the Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) facilitated by members of the Healthy Relations Team.

We encourage participants to pre-register to help our planning and to receive advance materials whether attending in person or on Zoom.

We will continue to review the timeline of ministry at UCV. The first meeting covered the ministry of the late Rev. Dr. Phillip Hewett and the ministry of Rev. John Quirk. In this Part 2 we will summarize our discussions thus far, including reference to archival material, address questions that may arise, and proceed further in the timeline. As in Session 1, the goal is to elicit brief stories, celebrate particular strengths, clarify differing viewpoints, and where possible address lingering griefs or conflicts about past decisions and actions/inactions related to ministry. We will discuss how problematic issues were addressed, and what processes we have or should have in place now. We’ll reflect on  how the strengths of the ministries along with the challenges and their resolutions have shaped us.


All welcome! Once again, please pre-register here. 


Ministry Milestone!

It is with deep joy and gratitude I share that I have reached a professional milestone: I have been granted Full Fellowship as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.  This is a bit akin to getting tenure, and the last major milestone our faith recognizes in a Minister’s formation and service before retirement or death. I will be recognized at the UUA General Assembly in Pittsburg during the Service of Living Tradition.

This has been a journey worth looking back on. At the 2013 UUA General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, I apprehensively attended a Prospective Student luncheon with Meadville Lombard School for Ministry which marks the starting point for these past 9 life-changing years. Our religion has a rigorous and defined path to ministry which includes a Masters of Divinity, psychological evaluations, chaplaincy training, community and congregational internships as well as other learnings and processes.

My path has not been easy or straightforward. There was the back and forth travel between my home in Switzerland and seminary in Chicago for several years, and many, many other travels. I’ve been evaluated constantly by multiple parties, including professors, as individuals and as teams, my teaching pastors, multiple UU church and fellowship boards and internship committees at my teaching congregations in Geneva, Amsterdam, Basel and then the Unitarian Universalist Church of Westport, Connecticut where I interned for a year and was also Ordained, and then by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee who granted my Preliminary Fellowship, and before that by peers and supervisors in my chaplaincy training, and later by an international panel as I served communities across Europe before returning to Canada and being evaluated again in a hospital chaplaincy setting, and finally, these last couple of years with the Vancouver Unitarians Board of Trustees and Committee on Ministry, along with my own self-evaluations and learning plans all the way through.  I think that is it.  For now.  If nothing else, there should be significantly less paper-work in my future!

It’s called “Full Fellowship” now, but it used to be “Final Fellowship.” The change is a good one – it signifies that we are never done learning, growing, and developing. By any name, it is an affirming milestone to reach, to be recognized as having served well, sometimes in very difficult situations, and as being committed to my on-going learning and growth. This incredible journey has changed me in ways I hadn’t imagined, opening my heart and horizons in ways I hadn’t known possible.

It is always good to recognise our achievements and to celebrate together.  I share this celebration with you, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, with deep gratitude for being a meaningful and supportive part of this journey.

Grateful for the journey, grateful for the call, and grateful to all who have accompanied me on this journey. So… now I am beginning to look around with curiosity and an open heart to see what’s next, and what I can do with that extra time in the coming year(s)…

In faith and service,

Rev. Lara Cowtan


Thanks to Thomas Park @thomascpark for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

Ministerial Search Committee Update and Timeline

Dear UCVers,

On behalf of the Ministerial Search Committee (Diane Brown, Michael O” Neill, Carrie Mac and Esme, John Boyle, Jenny Malcolm, Nancy Woodham, Meena Wong) I would like to share with you all that we have met twice as a committee, and going forward from here we will be meeting every week. As I am the designated External Communications person, I will be updating you often and of course answering any questions you may have about this process.  Please feel free to contact me anytime at diane@rubyslippers.ca

Below is our timeline. Come fall, we will need congregational engagement in a number of exciting ways, including a survey and some cottage meetings. Meanwhile, enjoy the summer, and we look forward to this journey together.

In active faith, Diane Brown


Timeline for Congregations in Search


Phase One  – concluding a ministry

Departure of previous settled minister and selection of an Interim minister

Late Spring (done)

Phase Two – Education and Preparation for Search – First Interim Year

Review congregational by-laws related to ministry


Transitions Coach Visit (UUA appointed)

February – April

Annual Meeting votes

Approve Search committee budget

Appoint Search Committee


Phase Three – search structure – Summer and second interim year

Search Committee retreat with Transitions Coach

May – August

Conduct Congregational Survey

July – September

Conduct Cottage meeting / small group interviews (based on survey results)

September – November

Gather information and create search committee website and record sheet

September – December (absolute due date – December 7)

List of interested ministers received

January 2

Narrowing of interview list

January 2-15

Precandidating weekends

February – March

Final Decision for offers to candidate

April 1

The MTT Recommends ‘In the Interim”

The Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) has been reviewing and guiding the updates to the Ministerial Teams Terms of Reference (TOR). The TORs for some teams have been completed and approved by the Minister, while other teams are in the process of completing their updates. Eventually, all the Team TORs will be available for congregants to review and learn about the work of the various Teams.

One of the books the MTT recommends for learning about an Interim Ministry – its purpose, tasks undertaken, and goals – is ‘In the Interim: Strategies for Interim Ministers and Congregations’ edited by Barbara Child and Keith Kron. We thought it a timely book to recommend as we have one more year of Interim with Rev. Lara.

This book might inspire you to be more engaged in this process, which will help us work with the eventual settled minister as well!

There are copies of the book in the UCV Office that can be loaned out.

Submitted by Cynthia Lam & Elizabeth Dunn

Below is a review of some of the highlights of ‘In the Interim’ by MTT member Leslie Hill:

“The four essays I thought were most succinct and helpful for UCV are:

  • A Different Country by Judith Walker-Riggs
  • Mining, Minding and Making Stories by Pam Blevins Hinkle
  • Coming to Terms with History by David Keyes
  • The Interim Minister as Systems Analyst by Richard A. Nugent

A Different Country

“A peaceful, quiet interim period is one in which interim tasks are not completed, and needful changes do not happen.

Leadership and membership must come to understand the differences between called ministry and interim ministry. One way to increase this understanding is for the interim, the Transition Team, and the Board to talk about the differences explicitly and publicly.”

Mining, Minding, and Making Stories

“Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them. We tell our stories to transform ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective to see further than normal; to act beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us; to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.”  Huffington Post.

Coming to Terms with History

“Every congregation lives in dialogue with its past. Every congregation is strengthened immeasurably by its history, but every congregation has also been deeply wounded by its past. It is both the heir and the victim of its story. Affection transition ministry begins with a long look in the rearview mirror, where we must read the admonition: ‘Objects may be closer than they appear.’”

The Interim Minister as Systems Analyst

“Interim ministry is about inviting the present congregation to envision the congregation of tomorrow. It is about looking at the health of the congregation as a whole as well as each of its component parts. It is about coming to understand the emotions (grief, sadness, anger, disappointment, among others) associated with the end of the previous ministry and navigating the anxiety of looking ahead to the future ministry.”

Two poems for Steven

Some of you have asked about the poems I read for Steven’s final service, so here they are in print.

As some have remarked, it’s ironic that the poem of welcome from 2002 seems more complete now in 2020 when Steven has departed. Only now do we feel how fully welcome he was and is.

In my poem of farewell, I was reflecting on the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, and the transience of all that we know, including Steven’s time with us, and I wanted to pay tribute to Steven’s annual sermons on science, which ranged from microscopic to galactic in their perspective. So Unitarian in their outlook! I had recently been reading about gamma ray bursts, one received reportedly from a source 12.8 billion light years away from earth, and so the oldest phenomenon humans have detected so far.

A long and interesting journey indeed! The great miracle, the great mystery of which we are a living part, and to which Steven helped us bear witness.

I wrote a second poem of farewell for Steven, too, which may be part of the printed package that was given to him. It’s a bit more complicated so I didn’t read it for the farewell service, but I may post it here sometime in the future. It’s a discussion of farewell, so long, and goodbye and has a particular slant on why “g’b’y” might be the right thing for us to say to Steven, which is what I said at the end of this farewell poem– “G’b’y Steven!”

(The featured image is a detail from a 1989 artwork by long-time UCV member, the late Daphne Naegele, titled “Many suns do not penetrate the darkness”.)

A poem of welcome

on the occasion of Reverend Doctor Steven Epperson’s installation as Parish Minister at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 13 October 2002.


The welcome we give today is not the welcome we will give tomorrow
for the Guest tomorrow will be known more deeply
and our welcome will be more complete.

Each day our welcome will be larger
and deeper than the day before
and never finished in its giving.


A poem of farewell

on the occasion of Reverend Doctor Steven Epperson’s departure as Parish Minister from the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 21 June 2020.


Our time together
has reached its end.
Cosmos has shifted
and still does just what it wants
and still incorporates us.

And if comets or gamma-ray bursts
had eyes and poetic sensibilities,
what would they tell us
about their long and
interesting journeys?

G’b’y Steven!