Tag: pride

A Proud History: Reflecting on Decades of Same-Sex Ceremonies at The Sanctuary

The first same-sex ceremony of union at UCV was conducted nearly half a century ago in 1972 by Reverend Dr. Phillip Hewett, who served for over three decades as minister of the Vancouver Unitarians. In this Q&A, former lay chaplain Katherine Roback explains more of this important history. 

The Sanctuary is aptly named because for many years our heritage building here at Oak and 49th was one of the few places in Vancouver that would officiate marriage and other ceremonies for same-sex couples. What was the earliest ceremony that you can remember? 

Katherine Roback: The earliest same-sex wedding I officiated was in 2003, the minute weddings honouring 2SLGBTQ+ couples became legal in B.C. Those were busy years, as many couples came here from the United States and other countries where their love could not yet be legally recognized. Prior to that, I was officiating commitment ceremonies for couples who wished for a beautiful ceremony honouring their love. 

How did the Vancouver Unitarians deal with push back or opposition to 2SLGBTQ+ equality both in general and within the multi-faith community? 

I don’t believe there was any resistance within the congregation. In fact, we had an LGBTQ+ program called “Unison” and opened it up, with strong requests, to the whole congregation. As far as opposition in the multi-faith community, couples from many denominations (or none at all) came to Vancouver Unitarian Church to have their love respected and legalized.

Minister Hewett was decades ahead of many others in performing same-sex ceremonies. Could you talk a bit more about his role? 

Rev. Phillip Hewett actually founded the Lay Chaplaincy Program in Canada in 1972, as he was overwhelmed performing up to eight weddings in a day. This program trained and licensed lay people to officiate ceremonies. He began officiating gay and lesbian ceremonies of union and entered their ceremonies in the official record of Provincial weddings, to legitimize them. He signed certificates of marriage for each couple. 

In our tradition, what’s the distinction between ministers and lay chaplains?  

A minister is ordained by their congregation after completing their theology degree and being called to serve the congregation. A minister marries members of the congregation. 

A lay chaplain is a Unitarian who shows special qualities that can serve anyone wishing a beautiful wedding — non-members of the church.

Could you explain the difference between a marriage ceremony and some of the other ceremonies for couples offered by Unitarian chaplains? 

What makes a marriage ceremony legal are four components that include the couple’s vows, the signing of the marriage license, and the pronouncement by the officiant — and enthusiastic cheers! 

We also perform Ceremonies of Union — just like a legal wedding, but without the signing of the license. Our lay chaplains are also honoured to create, together with couples, ceremonies of all kinds for all occasions, such as a ceremony where couples renew their vows of love and commitment.

Why do you think Unitarian Universalists in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere, have often played a leading role in movements for 2SLGBTQ+ equality? 

Rather than dogma and creed, Unitarian Faith is founded on a set of principles to live by. The UU First Principle affirms and promotes “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” That says it all. 


Prepare for Pride 2021

As Vancouver Pride approaches, you may be thinking of how to celebrate this year. 

The Vancouver Pride Parade is taking a decentralized approach this year, and we are going to be part of it! We’ll be gathering safely outdoors and doing our own mini Pride Parade around the UCV campus on Sunday, August 1, starting at 12:30 p.m. All members and friends are welcome to attend. Wear something colourful and/or creative – show your Pride however you feel like it!

We’d love to put rainbow colours all around our corner sign at 49th & Oak. We’d love to hear your ideas–and then get your help.  https://vancouverpride.ca/festival-parade/parade-entries/

Welcoming Congregation Recertification update

We’re almost there! 

To renew, a congregation has to already been certified (for us that was way back in 1995–one of the first) and do one worship service related to LGBTQ+ issues. Check!

A third requirement is to support an organization who works in this area. We’ve worked with Rainbow Refugee to support refugees, donated money from the Outreach Opportunities Fund and their founder Chris Morrissey will be speaking on Sunday, July 25. Check!

With a lot of support from Rev. Lara and the worship services committee, we’ve lifted up more than the required six “welcome days of observance.”  Check!

The next one is Non-Binary Day which is July 14th and that brings us to a request for assistance with our final requirement which is to offer an educational event that at least 10% of the members of the congregation attend.  So far 14 members (maybe more) have watched Mairy Beam’s play “What Difference Does It Make?” about coming out as non-binary and another 10 or so were at the panel discussion with cast and crew on June 12th. Could you please watch the play and the discussion and then complete a feedback form?  We need at least 30 members to watch and complete the form. 

Here are the links:

Play from Haven Theatre: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQU6WT6Igs8 

Discussion: https://youtu.be/-t9IuuMu-mk

Then send an email to Debra at [email protected] and Debra will send you a link to the survey we need to ask for in order to complete the requirements. 

Forum: Sunday, July 11

What Does Non-Binary Mean? On July 11, Mairy Beam and other members of the GSA will host a forum after the worship service on what non-binary gender means. This is an “ask us anything” forum and we’ll share some anonymous polls to see what your questions are and respond to those. Sign in as soon as you have had your bio break after the service. This shortlink will take you there: ucv.im/gsa


Pride Art Installation – Interfaith support letter from Rev. Lara

You may have heard or seen of the desecration of the art installation at our neighbour’s site, Shaughnessy United proclaiming the message “God’s doors are open to all.”

Rev. Lara has sent a message of support on behalf of our congregation.

In case you missed it, here are two links for you:



Photo from the CBC story

Dear Rev. Dave Moors, Shaughnessy United

Many of our members at Vancouver Unitarian heard with dismay and sadness (but lack of surprise, unfortunately) about the desecration of your Pride installation.
As a “welcoming congregation” (our denomination’s  equivalent of “affirming congregation”) I and our Genders and Sexualities Alliance wanted to send you and your congregation a message of support.
We are filled with admiration of the creativity, message and beauty of the installation and so glad to hear you remain undeterred and enthusiastic about restoring the doors to their original splendour.
Indeed, currently we have an installation related to residential schools on our corner of 49th & Oak, and you’ve inspired us to think about making a Pride installation for Vancouver pride weekend.
Always some good comes out of these incidents, but don’t we wish it was not necessary.
Please know also that we are practically neighbours and if there were any events or initiatives where you would feel it good to collaborate, we would welcome suggestions.
I look forward to meeting with you, as I will be serving the Vancouver Unitarians for another year or two during their transition to the next settled ministry, and hope we can work together on some of these critical social justice initiatives.

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister
Vancouver Unitarians

Remembering Pulse Nightclub – 5 years later

UCV GSA (Genders and Sexualities Alliance) takes this opportunity to mark the 5th Anniversary of the murder of 49, and wounding of 53
attendees at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida on June 12, 2016. This was the most horrific loss of lives to a domestic terrorist prior to the Las Vegas massacre in 2017.

The Pulse Nightclub was a LGBT club hosting a weekly Latin Night. As a consequence, many of the dead and injured were Latino. In keeping with journalistic ethics, the name of the shooter will not be named here, that his deeds be remembered, but not to give his name a place in history. The shooter entered the nightclub wit a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9 mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. He shot over 200 rounds in 5 minutes. The shooter was killed in a firefight with the SWAT team.

The shooter, an American whose family immigrated from Afghanistan, claimed to be taking revenge in retaliation to US bombing of Iraq and Syria. Other witnesses claimed that he was conflicted about his own sexuality. What is clear is that his victims were innocent, simply enjoying a night out in a what should have been a safe space.

The site of the Pulse Nightclub will be reopened as a memorial and museum sometime in 2022. At the time of the event, Federal and State buildings lowered their flags to half mast to honour the dead, and then-President Obama travelled to Orlando to pay tribute to bereaved family, friends, and citizens.


UUA Link: https://www.uua.org/lgbtq/blog/remember-pulse-nightclub-heroes-among-the-fallen (June, 2019)

Image from this link.


UCV is a Welcoming Congregation.



Our Library Has Pride

Our library has the following books touching on LGBTQ2S themes.

Photo shows Barb Taylor, Jean Stanton and Aphrodite Harris, some of our volunteer library committee members.

  • “Gay Men and Women Who Enriched the World” by Thomas Cowan
  • “There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” edited by Loralee MacPike
  • “A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Sexuality” by Jay Gayle

In fiction we have:

  • “Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World” by Janet Cameron
  • “Funny Boy” by Shyam Selvadurai
  • “Inside Passage” by Jane Rule

We have the children’s book:

  • “Daddy’s Roommate” by Michael Willhoite

We have placed the above books on display on the cart below the window in the library.


Also, two collections by Ivan Coyote

Barb Taylor for the Library Committee


Prepare for Pride – Info Table and Photo Booth

Prepare for Pride

Drop-in to the Genders and Sexualities Alliance table to prepare for Pride. In the courtyard before and after the service.

You can

  • paint a rainbow on a rock
  • take a selfie in front of our Welcoming congregation banner
  • pick up the GSA brochure and rainbow book mark
  • add your preferred pronouns to your name tag
  • get a rainbow or trans button or bracelet – by donation
  • check out new Welcoming Congregation mugs
  • ask anything at all

UCVs Genders and Sexualities Alliance was formed in the summer of 2018.

In the past year, we’ve

  • had two potlucks at UCV prior to attending the Out in Harmony choir concert (January and June)
  • hosted a forum with representatives from Qmunity
  • two other potluck/discussion/planning sessions
  • planned a worship service with Lorimer Shenher
  • created GSA brochure and worked with Communications team on principles bookmark
  • hosted a film screening of She’s a Boy I Knew
  • developed our group to include liaisons from other Metro Vancouver Unitarian congregations.

Rainbow Refugee

Outreach Opportunities Fund Recipient

The Outreach Opportunities Fund will be collecting for the Rainbow Refugee Society from October to January, 2019.

A portion of the Sunday service offering goes to an organization selected by the OOF committee.

About Rainbow Refugee

  • Founded in 2000, Rainbow Refugee is a Vancouver based community group that supports people seeking refugee protection in Canada because of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression (SOGIE) or HIV status.

Pride in the Metro Vancouver Unitarian Community

Pride in Vancouver happens right smack in the middle of the summer. So although we at UCV are very proud of the fact we were officially certified as a Welcoming congregation for BGLTQ folk way back in 1995, we sometimes forget about planning to celebrate Pride Week. Last year when we did a vision survey, one of the comments struck me as significant: How would anyone visiting know about our positive support of queer issues?

We have a tasteful certificate hung in the sanctuary, but even if you notice it, it’s pretty subtle. Unless you’re already in the know, you wouldn’t know that “Welcoming Congregation” status had anything to do with awareness and support of diverse genders and sexual orientations.

North Shore Unitarians with the poster they created for their entrance way. They’ve generously shared the template and advice for when we decide to make something bigger.

Recently the Board supported an initiative to work with the other three Metro Vancouver congregations to recertify as Welcoming Congregations and share ideas and commitment around celebrating Pride.

We’ll be submitting an application to the West Bequest for financial support to produce and print a brochure and inviting speakers on educational topics into our congregations. To this end, we plan a couple of gatherings to share our own stories and discuss ways in which UCV can move forward.

Our UCV group is just getting started, but I’m pleased to say that along with myself, Mary Bennett, Martha Saunders and Leonie Armstrong have joined our team. If you’d like to be involved or have comments or suggestions, please send to me for forwarding to the team.

This year the South Fraser Congregation celebrated with bubbles at Surrey Pride.
UCV Congregational photo that was sent to Orlando, Florida, showing our support.

Because, as mentioned, the term “Welcoming Congregation” doesn’t mean much to any one who hasn’t already been involved in the Unitarian religion, we are considering a new and more explicit name for our team. Many schools and universities use the term Gay-Straight Alliance, but since “gay” often has a more specific meaning than the umbrella term “queer”, I found on wikipedia that some “GSA” groups are now using the term “Genders and Sexualities Alliance” and one (Christian) school in Alberta–probably others–use Gender and Sexuality Acceptance.

Beacon at New West Pride 2018.

We will be doing some preparatory work over the fall, and expect to offer some workshops and presentations in 2019.

Please do contact me with your suggestions or questions.

posted by Mary Bennett

Prepare for Pride

We’re preparing for pride. The Vancouver parade is Sunday August 5th.

UCV is showing our colours. We’ll hang a rainbow flag outside and paint rocks in rainbow colours.

Perhaps we’ll decide to re-certify as a “Welcoming Congregation” or offer the “Living the Welcoming Congregation” program.

Contact [email protected] if you’d like to join the email list of the ad hoc team working on this.

More about the Welcoming Congregation program here.

Did you know that

  • UCV officially certified as a Welcoming Congregation in 1995
  • there’s a program called “Living the Welcoming Congregation”
  • the Canadian Unitarian Council was an influential and strong voice in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada
  • there’s a “transgender” flag
  • the communications committee is working with Buildings and Grounds to proudly display a rainbow flag during Pride week
  • 99% of Canadian Unitarian congregations are certified as Welcoming Congregations
  • At the 2006 Annual Meeting, a Gender and Sexual Diversity resolution was passed, updating an earlier resolution on “gay and lesbian rights”. http://cuc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Gender-and-Sexual-Diversity-Resolution-2006.pdf
  • At the Hamilton national Unitarian conference in 2005, five youth from Calgary unfurled a 500’ rainbow banner. A spontaneous offering raised funds to send them to Ottawa to show their colours. Parts of the banner have been left with various individuals, the CUC and the Calgary congregation.
  • Martha Saunders has donated a flag and we’re looking for a great spot for it
  • There’s a growing collection of rainbow-coloured rocks on the inner courtyard? (rocks welcome—we’ll paint them for you!)
  • The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has a list of ten things we can do for Pride https://www.uua.org/lgbtq/witness/pride
  • The UUA recommends renewing the Welcoming Congregation every five years
  • The original “gay flag” design had eight colours including pink and turquoise and blue and indigo were combined to be “royal blue”, so they usually have six rainbow colours not seven.
  • Each colour had a meaning attached to it:
    • life (red)
    • healing (orange)
    • sunlight (yellow)
    • nature (green)
    • harmony/peace (blue, and
    • spirit (purple/violet).
    • The removed colors stood for sexuality (pink) and art/magic (turquoise).[wikipedia link]