Category: Blogs

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

January 2021 In the Interim

We did it!  2020 is now in the rear-view mirror, hindsight, so to speak.

A new year doesn’t erase the old year, nor do things change with the flipping of the calendar page, yet it does feel as if we are closing one book and opening another.

It would take many books to catalogue and explore all that has happened and changed in the past year, in the larger world and also here, in this beloved congregation. While change is a fact of congregational life, this transition period in between settled ministers and amidst all of the upheaval and physical distancing wrought by the pandemic, this ministerial transition period is unlike any other ever experienced. It has been incredibly challenging, and not without some bumps!  However, I continue to be humbled and amazed by the resiliency, creativity and dedication of folks at UCV, and feel honoured and blessed to be serving this community during this historic time. Yes, it has been hard, AND you have done some amazing things! First among them is that you keep showing up, keep bringing your presence, supporting one another and UCV, planning for a future that is rapidly unfolding in new and unexpected and exciting ways.

Our Soul Matters theme for January is “Imagination”, which will be explored in our worship, small groups and religious exploration.   What does it mean to be a people of Imagination?

Maybe our most important work is to re-imagine imagination. Imagination’s great gift is improvement. At least that is what we’re usually taught. The deep magic lies in the way it can reshape our reality. We are urged to imagine the world we dream of. A world with more justice. More peace. More love. From that, a mysterious magnetism arises, a magnetism that pulls our imperfect present into an improved future. Imagination moves us forward. It makes us better.

And illuminates it too. That’s right. Imagination isn’t just a force that drives us forward toward a more perfect future, it also pulls the sacred into our impoverished present. Imagination is what transforms trees from potential firewood into wise friends. Imagination is what moves us from lording over the natural word to seeing ourselves as part of it. It gives the world a soul. And not just the natural world, but the ordinary world too. Through the lens of imagination, we perceive the common as precious, even miraculous. The laughter of our children becomes the sound of angels. Sunshine on our face becomes a greater treasure than gold. Our “everyday” lives are understood as amazing adventures and inexplicably lucky gifts.

So friends, this month, do everything you can to soak in the many messages of imagination. It’s not just shouting, “Improve the world!” It’s also pleading, “Let the world come alive!”

This month, let us begin to imagine the future of UCV together.

In faith,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

P.S. If you haven’t ordered your ‘I survived 2020’ t-shirt yet, you still have time. Click here. (https://tinyurl.com/yb995y3z

Note from the Board Chair – Jan 1, 2021

Dear Unitarian friends,

I hope you had a rejuvenating winter break. It is a new year, a fresh start, and a lot of exciting work lies ahead. I have two invitations for you to consider in the coming weeks which both further the mission and the vision of our church.

Because we as Unitarians are committed to creating a more inclusive, compassionate and equitable world, I am organizing a Decolonizing Practices Workshop for staff, board, and members that will be run by professional Indigenous consultants.

I would like us all to have the opportunity to get better informed on decolonizing our practices and how to diversify our organization’s membership and board to include more Indigenous people and persons of colour. We need to identify the barriers to our organization and to develop the solutions. This one-day workshop will also include a half-day on the history and ongoing colonization in Canada.

The Decolonizing Practices Workshop will be in early spring and hopefully live and in person. If Covid prevails, we will pursue an online format. If you are interested in this, please let me know so I have an idea of interest and numbers. If the numbers are high, I may have to organize two workshops. president@vancouverunitarians.ca.

Secondly, I would like to invite you all to an Ideas Forum for the Upgraded Sanctuary to generate ideas together for how the new space could be used and be more productive.

This Ideas Forum will be on Sunday Jan. 17th at 12:30 on zoom. Galen Elfert and Dianne Crosbie will be on hand to answer any questions about the lighting/sound upgrades and the new chairs.

The seed behind the Sanctuary Upgrades was planted by Steven, and furthered by a generous donor. Then we asked ourselves, could our beautiful Sanctuary become a cultural and spiritual destination, a hub for various performance and spiritual groups to meet, worship, rehearse, perform, share ideas?  In this way, could we attract a younger and more diverse demographic to our Church, boosting accessibility by allowing for more varied and inclusive styles of music/art/worship?

We as a congregation are welcoming and wish to diversify our membership. So let us be pro-active and create a space that is inviting to various creative interests, ages and spiritual practices. Let us not only create that space, let us intentionally seek out and invite communities into our space. Our new Membership and Outreach staff person will definitely help with the marketing and outreach end of things, but what else can we envision for this space and how can we fill it?

Come with your ideas and let’s imagine together! I look forward to seeing many of you there and sharing our thoughts.

Best wishes for the New Year,

Diane Brown, UCV Board President.

Imagination Month for Kids and Families

Kiersten is currently on a well-deserved break. As she puts it, “I’ve put down every ball I had up in the air.”

So here are some ideas and invitations to be part of our various programs for kids, youth and families. And first a chalice lighting for this month:

May the light of this chalice, spark our imaginations.

May it lead us back to the stories and characters

that romp and roam the corridors of our minds.

In the warmth of this chalice, may we remember again

how thankful we are to have others who love us,

and guide and accompany us, as our own stories unfold.

The Soul Matters theme for January is Imagination — so watch out! or better still, dive in!

If you’d like to receive the package for families, please let Kiersten know.

December saw a flurry of activities in the kids, youth and family programs.

The highlight might have been the Winter Solstice play. The kids tell me the hardest part was the two minutes of sitting silently.

For me, that was also the most moving part.

Kiersten did an amazing job of writing, casting and directing.

As well, though programs on zoom happened regularly coordinated by Olivia, our youth coordinator, volunteers including Mairy and Nan and the Tween ukulele group with Donna Brown.

UCV and our young people are always a fount of imagination. What could possibly happen when we actually focus our attention on that theme for the whole month?

 

Can you imagine yourself as part of the extensive team who plan, facilitate or support programs for our kids and families?

I’ve taken on a role to assist with communications and especially multigenerational activities and I can tell you it’s very nourishing and Kiersten is a dream to work with. It’s a sincere pleasure to support her and therefore support our families and the broader congregation.

For a list of kids, youth and family programs with contact and date/time, click here.

by Mary Bennett

 

In the Interim: Stillness

Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.”  ― Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

Heading into the last stretch of this year, I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to see the end of 2020. December is a time to look back and review the past year, to decide what to let go of, and what to carry into 2021. My goodness this has been a hard year!  I am trying to imagine the world of December 2019, and is just seems so distant, so out of touch with our lives today. Never in my lifetime has the world changed so drastically, so suddenly. My heart breaks with the cumulative grief of lives shattered and lost due to the pandemic, of people who are suffering from illness, loneliness, addiction, economic insecurity, struggling with distance from loved-ones and facing uncertain futures. In a world that was already burdened with environmental and refugee crises, this seems like one challenge too much. Yet, here we are. Finding our way towards a new “normal”, learning new ways of coping, of supporting one another, of staying connected. If ever there was a year to count our blessings, this is it. My dear ones, I am truly feeling blessed.  The human capacity for resilience and innovation, for finding joy and possibility in the midst of adversity, constantly renews my faith and my own spirit. This beloved community of Vancouver Unitarians is very special. Your gifts of vision, engagement, generosity, patience, your willingness to speak your minds and also to listen, to show up, to try new things and to hold on dearly to traditions, to reach out to one another in care, to find ways to continue your creative acts of social justice, all of these things have welcomed and warmed me and my ministry, showing me again why it all matters. You prove over and over that UCV is not simply a building or a Sunday service, but a community woven tightly by common purpose and care, of faith in each other and in a future yet unknown. I am grateful to be here with you.

Our Soul Matters Theme for December asks us, “What does it mean to be a people of Stillness?”  As we head into this season of Advent, of festivals of Light, of darkness and silence, may you find in yourself a place to rest in stillness to reflect on this past year, to grieve what has been lost and hold close the precious lights of hope and love. May you go into this Holiday season truly feeling and knowing that You are blessed.

 

Rev. Lara Cowtan

 

Action Evenings

Learn Together, Act Together! 

On Wednesday evenings 7 – 8 pm via Zoom, we 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 ucv.im/action early from 6:45pm on Wednesday evenings as we start 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.

Upcoming Events

Wed, Jan 20, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Moving to Deeper Honesty in Housing and Homelessness Moving to Deeper Honesty in Housing and Homelessness
Wed, Jan 27, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Migrant Workers Rights Migrant Workers Rights

Past Event Recordings

To see all past event recordings, please visit the Action Evenings YouTube Playlist

Action Evenings Schedule

January 6 – Action “R&R” Evening

December 9 – Amnesty International’s “Write for Rights” Campaign
December 2 – Eco Friendly Endings: The Green New Deal of Deathcare
November 25 – Gender Fluid Book Reading
November 18 – Trans Rights in the Workplace
November 4 – Compost and Permaculture
October 28 – Is Canada on the Verge of Developing the Political Will to End Homelessness?
October 14 – Roberts Bank Terminal 2
October 7 – Saving the Salmon Nourished EcoSystem of Our Coast
September 30 – Reconciliation is a Massive Failure
September 23 – Evolving Pathways of Nonviolence
September 16 – From Food Charity to Food Dignity
September 9 – What’s This About Tree Sitters?

 

Sign-Up for Updates and Reminders!

If you would like to sign-up to receive email reminders, meeting links, and updates about this recurring event, please sign up for the Action Evenings Updates below:

Theatre Friends – share your reviews and recommendations

Paula and Mary invite you to a weekly theatre discussion on zoom – Mondays @ 4pm.

Sign in at https://ucv.im/theatre  You’ll need the regular connect and engage password. Ask Mary for it if you don’t know it. ucvconnect@gmail.com

Mary also has set up a private facebook group called “Theatre Friends” – theatrefriendsmary If you have a connection with UCV and/or Mary, you’ll be approved for membership after you answer the member questions and agree to rules.

Hoping to help us all take advantage of the amazing theatre available online at this time, and post-pandemic share theatre reviews and information and perhaps even a theatre project together.

This weekly discussion grew out of a book and video discussion, so we may throw in a bit about what we’re reading and films we’re watching as well. Hope to see you there!

Sponsored by Connect & Engage team, Mary Bennett, chair.

Connect & Engage in a Zoom-time

Our Connect & Engage team is part of the overall Membership Committee. Our focus is on welcoming new members who have joined within the past 5 years.

This meeting will be an update of how we’re doing zoom gatherings to connect and engage and brainstorm of other ways we can help “newish” members meet people and get involved during this time.

If you are on the team, or want to contribute, please contact Mary Bennett in advance of the meeting.

Sign-in information will be sent out prior to the meeting

All Ages Book and Video Sharing Online Group

by Paula Vander

Did your heart do a little gasp when you heard the libraries were closed? Did the locked door of your own library, with all those lonely books behind it, convince you that we were really and truly locked down?

If you are someone who loves to read, you will enjoy the book sharing zoom meetings. You will find your peeps.

Everyone shares a bit about the books they are reading and sometimes films they have seen on Netflix too. This way you can start to assemble a good dream list of books to take out when we finally, finally can get back into our libraries!


from Mary: Bruce and Phaedra are regulars, as are Paula and myself. We welcome others of all ages.

Bruce helped Phaedra put her book review on a video.

If you love kids and young adult books, please have one ready to share according to who’s on the call.

You can also ask some questions or for recommendations.

This past week I asked for some discussion related to Jane Eyre so I’m ready to watch the National Theatre broadcast. I got a great context-setting and additional reading (or re-reading) of various 19th century novels. I’ve now posted a request for Middlemarch on my Buy Nothing Group. Confession: Although I owned a copy and it was required reading, I no longer have it and (oops) never did finish reading it.

 

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  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, last year I discovered making kombucha, so that will be my febrewary drink of choice. I’d be happy to share if you’re interested.) Saving the world one SCOBY at a time.

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

 

 

 

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