Category: Blogs

News from the parish minister, director of religious education and other staff or key volunteer leaders.

“Irreparable Harm?” Creation of a documentary theatre piece

Did the protesters at the Trans Mountain facilities in Burnaby cause irreparable harm to Kinder Morgan, one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America, by delaying a few trucks for a few minutes on a few days in 2018? That’s what the BC Supreme Court believes. That’s why there’s an injunction barring anyone from coming within five metres of any site owned by Trans Mountain Pipeline. The 230 people who were arrested in 2018 for breaking that injunction have a different opinion as to who is causing irreparable harm to whom.

Most of those who were arrested and charged with criminal contempt of court for breaking the injunction have either pled guilty, or been found guilty by Judge Affleck – the same judge who created the injunction. These land and water protectors have made many impassioned speeches in court, trying to alert the judge to the harm that this pipeline expansion, if it proceeds, will cause to First Nations, and to the land and water that we all depend on for life. For that we have been labelled ‘sinister’, and told that by showing defiance of the law, we are inviting chaos and threatening civilization.

Several of the land and water protectors have formed the Sinister Sisters Collective to develop a documentary theatre piece about our journey through the BC Supreme Court. We are calling it “Irreparable Harm?” Using video footage from the arrests, excerpts from the court documents, and re-enactments, we will shine a spotlight on how our justice system treats those who are in opposition to the interests of large corporations.

We will be working over the summer months to compile the most dramatic moments of our encounters with the justice system. Our goal is to present a workshop in October, and then a full production of our theatre piece in the spring of 2020.

Stay tuned.

By Mairy Beam, arrested at the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Tank Farm gates on August 24, 2018, found guilty by Judge Affleck on Dec 5, 2018 and sentenced to serve 28 days of house arrest and 125 hours of community service.

Why I Love Transit

Why do I love transit?

It all goes back to my little red wagon and the joy of my body being powered by a force other than my own. With the wind in my hair I watched the world go by with a singular focus as my father pulled my weight with ease. When I board a bus or the skytrain I feel that wonder; the power of the wheel, the forward momentum, the ease of movement. I am a spectator of the world.

Sometimes I read or listen to music while riding. I have even been known to wear a headlamp for long rides at night in order to read in the dim light of the bus. If I am with someone we have the freedom to talk without interruptions. Often the conversation turns to long-term plans and ideas, the discussion of the journey of our lives paralleling the journey of the bus.

Sometimes I meditate or stare out the window catching a glimpse of Hollyburn Peaks, a bank of blooming cherry trees or a red-tailed hawk on a telephone pole. Sometimes I watch and listen to fellow passengers as I relish the diversity of cultures represented or the amazing ease of entry for wheelchairs and strollers on our kneeling bus.
Little kids love transit. When my own kids were small it was a time for asking questions, playing games and singing songs. Talking with other passengers seems natural with small children.

I have witnessed many small acts of kindness on transit like the Chinese grandma offering a banana to a hijab-clad mom to quiet her crying son, or an Asian man offering me his seat: “Not because you are old but because you are hot!” he joked. A friend tells me that once a bus driver got all the riders to sing happy birthday when he found out it was her birthday.

Some of the interactions are disturbing, of course, but I have a special transit radar that alerts me when things are brewing. I move to another section of the bus or another car on the skytrain when I sense something amiss. Or I sit and bear witness to a slice of life I would never encounter in a car.
What I am not doing on transit is:

  • Burning as many fossil fuels
  • Negotiating traffic jams
  • Enduring the persistent semi-conscious knowledge that at any moment I could kill someone or be killed by a hurling hunk of metal of which I am in control

I prefer the ease and sleek beauty of transit as I relinquish control and enjoy the ride in my enlarged red wagon which I share with a diverse community of people.

So if I say I am taking transit, please don’t offer me a ride. I have a car and could use it if needs be as I do when lack of time and energy dictate. Allow me my first choice: Transit.

By Mary Lage

Do you love books?  and lunch? 

by Karen Theroux

The new UCV Potluck Book and Lunch Club brings together good books, delicious food, and lively conversation.  Unlike most book clubs, the PLB&LC doesn’t choose one book for everyone to read. Instead, members bring one, or two, or more favorites to describe and recommend. We go around the table highlighting what’s special about our choices, sometimes reading passages aloud, and we talk about how the books—magical, tragic, uplifting, revealing, inspiring, or sad—have touched and changed us. All books and all readers are welcome. 

If you love books, why not join the club?  Meetings are the last Thursday of the month, 11 to 1 in the Fireside Room.  

Here are some of the titles from the club’s most recent meetings: 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

The Shoebox Bible by Alan Bradley

Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kampkwanda

The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Celia’s Song by Lee Maracle

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Sustenance by Rachel Rose

The Trans Generation by Ann Travers

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Annabel by Kathleen Winter 

Once Upon a Time by Jane Yolen 

This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher

Imbolc – How to Celebrate Early Spring

by Mary Bennett   Imbolc (usually pronounced with a silent “b”) is a good time, if you’re like me, to finally put all of the Christmas decorations away and finalize your New Year’s resolutions!

I’d like to propose an annual snowdrop count on the labyrinth for the first Sunday of February. There are lots, so perhaps rounded off to the nearest 100!

Traditionally, Imbolc, half-way between the winter solstice and spring equinox, was (and is) a good time to look spring in the eye and say: come on in!!

Speaking of “come on in”, many neo-pagan groups welcome Brigid, the Celtic fire goddess, into their midst and thank her for her presence.

CBC this morning was talking about how people who went dry for January, are celebrating Feb-BREW-uary. Saint Brigid approves. Learn about the connection between Brigid and Beer here: http://brewmuseum.com/st-brigid-patron-saint-beer/

I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

(Me, I’ve discovered making kombucha, so that will be my febrewary drink of choice. I’d be happy to share if you’re interested.)

Some seeds can be planted now, but perhaps indoors is safest.

As February 2nd is also Groundhog Day, and in Vancouver what that means is Banyen Book’s annual 20% off everything sale–including a great collection of pagan/earth spirituality books.

And if you’re still wanting more ideas, in the Catholic tradition, it’s Candlemas – you could buy and bless new candles for the year, melt down candle stubs to make all new candles or just light a whole lot of candles.

For all upcoming earth spirituality events, go to vancouverunitarians.ca/earth-spirit

You can sign up for the monthly e-newsletter there as well.

Questions? contact earthspiritucv@gmail.com

 

 

 

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Proportional Representation Leads to More Fair and Inclusive Government–Letter to the Editor for PR by Rev Steven Epperson

Reverend Epperson submitted the following letter to several newspapers.  It is posted here for interested members of the congregation.

Proportional representation leads to more fair and inclusive government
By Reverend Steven Epperson, Unitarian Church of Vancouver

I want to add my support to those individuals and groups, including the BC Conference of The United Church of Canada, in their endorsement for the proportional representation (PR)  option in the electoral reform referendum in British Columbia.  Advocacy for the practice of “the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large” has been a bedrock principle of the Unitarian religious tradition throughout its nearly 500 year-long history.

Under our current First Past the Post (FPTP)—or “winner-take-all” voting system—the party with the most seats can form a government even if it received a minority of the popular vote. That means, in effect, that political parties win 100 per cent of governing power, even if they received only 40 per cent or less of the vote. Thus 60 plus percent of votes are disregarded, an outcome which can foster resentment and alienation – as was well noted by former Liberal premier Christy Clark in 2009.

The main change, which is found in all three PR options in our ballots, is that the percentage of votes should bring the percentage of seats. It is basic common sense, apart from some details of process, and the bedrock principle is sound.  That is why about 90 other democracies in the world use PR, including Commonwealth entities such as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

This topic should not be a partisan one – although regrettably it has become so – because all the B.C. parties have suffered unjustly under the FPTP system (such as the B.C. Liberals in 1996). The “No to PR” campaign mostly uses negative attacks on the referendum process instead of defending its electoral status quo, raising the question: Is it able to?

The No campaign slogan hails FPTP as “Simple, Stable and Successful.”  Where is any mention of democracy there?  Too often the most “simple” and “stable” systems are autocracies.  And “successful”—for whom, exactly? The majority of voters, or for those like the “No” side which condescendingly – and wrongly – asserts that PR is “too complex and confusing,” and resorts to video ads of goose-stepping soldiers to confuse and scare B.C. voters?  This last outcome would be prevented by the PR rule that fringe parties must gain at least five percent of the vote, while their combined total is now usually at less than one percent. In fact, the greater inclusivity of the PR system may assist in reconciliation with our aboriginal peoples.

People often express to me their astonishment over the US voting system with its anti-democratic, antiquated Electoral College that enabled the current president to win despite winning 2.8 million fewer votes than his rival.  Isn’t our own FPTP, winner-take-all voting system – designed in 13th century Britain to fit a two party system – similarly antiquated?

Think of how our federal Conservatives in 1988, with 43 percent of the popular vote, formed a “majority” government and then rammed the Free Trade Agreement through Parliament, despite being opposed by parties supported by 57 percent of the population. In a different FPTP twist, here in B.C., think of how the Liberals won 58 per cent of the vote in 2001—a majority to be sure—yet they gained every legislative seat except two because of FPTP.  This left the province with no official opposition for four years.  Such results could happen again under the old system.

I worry about the long-term effects of FPTP’s winner-take-all politics on our young people and future generations.  If having voted with a majority, their votes are then disregarded as a result of our FPTP system leading to “false majority” governments, they will feel that their votes are wasted; they may understandably conclude they are in effect disenfranchised, and wonder: why bother to vote at all?

Let us learn about different electoral systems and refuse patronizing claims that these are “too complex” for us to understand.  Trustworthy information is available in the Elections BC booklets and website. The four options in the referendum are also explained in your ballot package.  Moreover, if voters do not like how a new PR system works out in practice, you can vote to reverse it in the second B.C. referendum, that is, you can “try it before you buy it.”

I will be voting for Proportional Representation.  It is a step on Canada’s path to political maturity, and towards a more fair, inclusive and accountable government.

Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson

Unitarian Church of Vancouver

949 West 49th Avenue

Vancouver, BC V5Z 2T1

References:

Canadian Unitarian Council Resolution on Imagine Democracy

United Church of Canada, BC Conference Statement

United Church Supports Proportional Representation for Justice

Advent: Science and Religion Sermons

Science and Religion Sermon

Rev. Epperson has preached a sermon on science and its insights that challenge and nourish our religion for the first Sunday in Advent. Always well-researched and thought-provoking, here are some examples.

First Advent Sunday Services 2002-17

2002 Evolution

2003 Birth of the Moon

2004 Life from the Seas

2005 Plate Tectonics

2006 Size of the Universe/Sea of Knowledge

2007 Cell: Smallest Living Thing

2008 The Astonishing Atom

2009 Photosynthesis

2010 The Feeling Brain

2011 Teenage Brain

2012 View from the Center of the Universe

2013 The Advent of Us: How We Became Human

2014 On Human Consciousness and Goodness

2015 A Dangerous “Advent?”

2016 The Important Stuff is Invisible

2017 The Invention of Air

Stand Up to Racism

From Rev. Steven Epperson, Parish Minister

Photo and story from the UUA President

Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver

Please join me at the anti-racism rally at City Hall this Saturday sponsored by Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver. The rally begins at 12:45 pm.

(Facebook Event click here.)

Thanks, Steven

Some thought on “False Equivalence”  (Rev. Steven Epperson)

Given what many of us have been reading/seeing in the media this past week regarding events in Charlottesville, Virginia , I wanted to share some thoughts. On Tuesday, August 15th, the sitting President of the United States said: “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”   Subsequently, I’ve read the expression “false equivalence” to describe his remarks.

When I hear the expression “false equivalence,” the first thing that comes to mind is messed up ways of thinking/reasoning.  False equivalence is a mistaken belief that since two very different things (or arguments) may share a common trait that means they are basically similar/equal.

Examples:

1)            A dog race is about to start.  The two hounds running (a greyhound and a dachshund) are equal favorites to win. Ridiculous? Yes. That’s false equivalence at work where sharing a trait—dogs that are hounds—means there are no other essential differences between them. Under false equivalence, each has an equal chance to win the race.

2)            “Gang bangers cover their heads with hoodies.  Nuns cover their heads with habits.  Therefore, nuns are no better than gang bangers.”  Just because both cover their heads does not necessarily mean they are equally as likely to rob a gas station at gunpoint.

3)            Racism says other races are essentially different.  Anti-racism says other races are not essentially different.  False equivalence states both are absolutist claims. Therefore, there is no difference between them.  Put simply, this mistaken way of thinking/arguing claims apples and oranges are the same fruit simply because they both have seeds.

Examples of false equivalence are seemingly without end (e.g. “creationism and evolution both explain how we got here, so teach both sides,” etc, etc.).  False equivalence is contributing to a slippery world of BS and “truthiness.”   In fact, far-right protesters went to Charlottesville primed for violence in word and act; most counter-protesters adopted an entirely defensive posture. An adult should know the difference.

Let’s value and use our Unitarian Principle of a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning;” that search means knowing there’s a difference between an apple and an orange, a neo-Nazi and an antifascist, and that the difference means something; that it matters.