Category: Governance

News and reports from the Board of Trustees, Board Committees and Task Forces.

What’s in a name? Update from the WDWCO task force

November’s Bulletin report explained how ranked polling works as a democratic method of selecting the most popular choice from several options.  This report is an update on considerations for choosing the favourite alternative name to ‘Church’ for the second and final vote. We have compiled a list of the popular names suggested during the January 2020 Forum, and this year, 2022, from the June Survey, September 18 and October 16 Forums, and emails and verbal recommendations over the years.

In January you will have the opportunity to rank your preferences for an alternative name on an online poll.  The next and final vote will be between the most popular alternative name and the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.

Many have been disappointed to learn that the current version of the BC Societies Act expects the corporate suffix of either Church or Society for us to retain our charitable status. Our legal counsel informed us that exceptions are unlikely; however, we are seeking advice on costs and likelihood of successful application for a legal name without ‘church’ or ‘society’ as part of it.  Most favoured names according to the results of the June 2022 Survey were Vancouver Unitarians, and Unitarian Community of Vancouver.

Whether our name should include ‘Universalist’ has emerged recently as a big question.  It is also potentially divisive.  We have members who strongly object to this and others who believe that this is who we are now.

Our shared values and diverse beliefs may be somewhat mixed up these days, which is inevitable within our progressive and liberal faith.  It makes decisions about our name complicated!

WDWCO Task Force

wdwco@vancouverunitarians.ca

Vancouver Unitarians Cherish Our Ministers

How do we see ourselves as we transition to our next settled minister?

Our minister is of central importance to all dimensions of UCV life. They are the source of the most engaged, alive and motivated times in many members’ lives, and are often directly responsible for people choosing to join and participate in our community. Their stimulating and thought-provoking homilies strongly shape the faith and worship experiences that support personal and spiritual growth, as do the varied services and ceremonies they create. Members deeply value a minister who leads, challenges, and inspires with compassion, who helps us integrate our principles and shared values into our everyday lives, and who walks the talk with us.

Over 130 congregants answered 8 Thought-Provoking Questions about their experiences in the UCV congregation. The Congregational Identity Team (CIT – Rob Dainow, Leslie Hill, Marg Fletcher, Naomi Taylor, John Boyle) analyzed these responses into the six major, interdependent themes shown in the figure. MINISTRY is one important theme.

The full CIT report is available online here. You can read more about how the CIT collected and analyzed the 130 responses on page 3, or about how MINISTRY is so important to our congregational identity on page 11.

Explore the history of the Congregational Identity Team and its work here: ucv.im/cit.

Triumphs and Turmoil: A Community Look Back at UCV’s Ministerial History – Wednesday, November 16, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Once a month for three months, an open discussion on UCV’s history of ministry will be offered by the Ministerial Transition Team (MTT) and facilitated by members of the Healthy Relations Team. You are invited to the first of these meetings on Wednesday, November 16 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Fireside Room. We are also offering a zoom option using this link: https://ucv.im/hrt-zoom

The MTT has prepared a timeline-overview of the history of ministry at UCV extending from the ministry of the late Rev. Dr. Phillip Hewett to our present Interim Minister, Rev. Lara Cowtan. This timeline will serve as a prompt for eliciting stories, clarifying differing viewpoints, healing lingering griefs or conflicts about past decisions and actions/inactions related to ministry, and for remembering particular highlights. We will then discuss how problematic issues were addressed, and what processes we have or should have in place now. We may also take time to celebrate the ministerial strengths we have benefited from these many years.

 

Note: The MTT has coordinated several projects over the past year and a half to help us learn from our history, investigate our identity and explore our decision making skills. They have prepared timelines to aid us in processing the history, discussing any lingering effects and clarifying our ways forward for two of our experiences. The first is from our history wall: conflict / turmoil with past ministers, and second:  CUC and UCV processes leading to the adoption of our 8th Principle.

The first meeting about 8th Principle processes planned for Thursday, Nov 24, 6:30pm to 8:30pm has now been postponed. It will likely take place in the new year.

 

Engagement and Buy-In Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #4)

Process Leaders:

  • Are mechanisms in place to confirm and regularly reconfirm congregational buy-in to both the decision-making process and to the possible or probable outcomes of the decision-making process?
  • Is there focused, facilitated, widespread brainstorming about the issue before committing to go ahead or start down a particular path, with all options discussed? Does that include the history of past explorations and projects?
  • Is there an “engagement leader” or team who will track and coordinate communication to/from members and who may recruit volunteers?
  • Has a survey been considered to see how aware members are about the process and if their expectations align with the plan?
  • Are there opportunities periodically during the decision-making process for small group/committee discussions as well as whole-congregation forums? Does this include ample time and patience to hear from as many as possible, and to reach as much convergence as possible on next steps? Are those concerned about or
    opposed to the project strongly encouraged to attend such sessions?
  • Are there sufficient opportunities for congregants to get information and to ask questions about the decision and the decision-making process?
  • If the project/decision involves building or altering a physical structure, are there models to view the proposed location and appearance?
  • Are there multiple well-advertised ways for congregants to provide input (e.g., by emails and bulletins, posters, web-postings, announcements in Sunday services)?
  • Are the decision-making leaders and groups seeking out all voices (including those historically underrepresented*, dissenters, and others with unstated points of view) right from the beginning of the decision-making process? (*Underrepresented members include IBPOC, youth, and others traditionally not heard from: people with language issues, less education, immigrants who have been taught never to contradict people especially their leaders, and people who are not able to get to forums or access online meetings.)
  • Is there a clear mechanism for registering dissent?
  • Is dissent explored early in big processes?
  • Has every effort been made to let the dissenters know they have been heard and that there is a will to include their concerns in making the decision (even if their concerns may not be fully resolved)?
  • If the dissent surfaces later in the process, is it clear whether this represents concerns about new information and information not previously addressed or represents ongoing resistance from the start (the latter not being amenable to a shift in willingness unless the whole project is changed)?
  • If there are big or frequently expressed concerns, will a facilitated process be considered to hear and respond to these?
  • When not many members are engaged or when some groups are underrepresented, is there a mechanism to gauge the degree of and determine the cause of apparent nonengagement and possible nonagreement?
  • Is there an inventory of members’ skills and expertise to support or possibly replace outside experts for some or all aspects of the project?

Members:

  • Do the members agree that the process leaders may proceed even with some residual disagreement, provided all efforts have been expended to understand and resolve these disagreements?
  • Do those with concerns or who dissent agree to abide by the stated processes for feedback, and also agree to follow the Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Are congregants informed about and encouraged to take responsibility to engage in the decision-making process by:
    • attending meetings
    • asking questions
    • keeping track of project-related communications and events
    • discussing with others
    • encouraging others to engage
    • assuming leaders are acting in good faith?

Fair voting explained: Update from the What Do We Call Ourselves Task Force

Our name is important to most of us as an essential aspect of our identity. Being Unitarians, we have diverse beliefs about what name best represents us and is sufficiently inclusive of our members and future ones. Consensus is an ideal that is also not easy to achieve in this case. Next best is a fair, comprehensive and democratic process of voting.

There will be two votes. The first one will be to rank the many popular suggestions for the potential alternate name to Church. Thanks to a great ranked polling platform that our Techies have found, the most popular name will become the contender for the next and final vote between it and the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.

Not everyone is ‘whatever’ about our name and the process of choosing a name we can all live with, which may be the one we already have, will take time. We hope to have the ranked polling platform for the alternative name online this month or by December. The final vote will most likely not happen until the new year.

Please look at the sample of how ranked polling works.

 

RANKED BALLOTS

 

BACKGROUND

We will need to determine what percentage of members will constitute a representative vote.

And what percentage is needed to declare one option a winner. This may be different from a simple majority.

The Board of Directors is the elected decision-making body and will determine the percentage to be used for voting, referencing the by-laws for Special Resolutions.

 

THE BALLOT

Multiple names have been suggested by engaged members of the congregation.

A survey was conducted in June 2022 polling over 100 congregations about their opinions regarding what we call ourselves. The most popular names from the poll will be listed on the ballot.

 

SAMPLE BALLOT using fruit for explanation

 

Rank any number of options in your order of preference.

Apples                         4

Bananas                      2

Oranges                      1

Grapes                        3

 

EVALUATE THE VOTES

Apples                         10%

Bananas                      30%

Oranges                      35%

Grapes                        25%

MINIMUM THRESHOLD IS A PERCENTAGE THAT EXCEEDS 50% 

 

Eliminate the name with the fewest votes, Apples.  Redistribute votes. Voters whose #1 choice was Apples will move to their  #2 choice. It now becomes their #1 choice. Depending on where these votes go, if equally distributed to Bananas, Oranges and Grapes, we now have the following percentages.

Bananas                      38 %

Oranges                       36 %

Grapes                        26 %

 

Eliminate the name with the fewest votes, Grapes. Voters whose #1 choice was Grapes will move to their next choice. Bananas passes the minimum threshold of greater than 50%. This would happen if most ‘Grape’ voters threw their next choice to ‘Bananas’ thus allowing it to surpass ‘Oranges.’

Bananas                      52 %

Oranges                      48 %

 

FINAL VOTE IS HELD AT A LATER DATE BETWEEN OUR CURRENT NAME OF UNITARIAN CHURCH OF VANCOUVER AND THE CONTENDING NAME (WHICH WILL NOT BE BANANAS). 

OUR BY-LAWS RECOMMEND 75% FOR SPECIAL  RESOLUTIONS.  THE BOARD WILL MAKE THE DECISION.  IF THE THRESHOLD IS NOT MET BY EITHER OPTION, THE CURRENT NAME REMAINS.

Planning and Leadership Checklist and Democratic Process Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #3)

From: The Decision-Making Task Force report, UCV’s Redevelopment Exploration 2016 –2020: 

A Review of the Process with Lessons for the Future

LEADERSHIP AND THE PLANNING PROCESS 

PLANNING: 

  • Is there agreement on the problem we are trying to solve: the key decision we are asking?
  • Is there widespread discussion and agreement from the outset about the values and principles guiding the planning process, consistent with our UU principles and our Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Has there been a process to develop a clear vision and goals for the project?
  • Is the project consistent with the vision (and mission, if applicable) of UCV? Does the planning include considering the impacts for the more distant future, i.e., 10, 20, 30 years down the road?
  • If some goals seem to conflict with one another, has there been a process to elicit common goals and/or prioritize the goals (e.g., Convergent Facilitation, sociocracy)?
  • In a prolonged process, is there an opportunity to revisit these values and principles to remind the membership?
  • Is there broad agreement that the outcome of the decision-making process will be accepted, knowing that it will be arrived at for the greatest community benefit?
  • Does the planning/leadership group have clear terms of reference from the outset?
  • Are the project scope and parameters, including constraints and projected costs, defined and clear to all?
  • If there is disagreement about the goals and constraints, is there a system for participatory decision-making such as Convergent Facilitation or sociocracy? Is there conscious awareness and agreement in the community about how these decisions are made?
  • Are there clear go/no go parameters that all understand?
  • Is it understood by all that the scope and parameters will be revised only for very compelling reasons such as a big change in conditions, with widespread buy-in for the changes?
  • Are there clear timelines and contingencies for not meeting those timelines?
  • If the timeline is extended, is this a conscious choice that is transparently justified?
  • Has a protocol been established for naming, dating and filing documents to facilitate retrieval?

LEADERSHIP: 

  • Is there an overarching body (board, delegated individuals and teams) providing consistent oversight andsupport for the decision-making process, with continuity throughout the project?
  • Is a leadership/planning team assigned to any projects and decisions that are complex and/or that potentially involve divergent positions?
  • Is there a mechanism to check in with the project leaders to see what support they need?
  • Are the leaders of the process and the other leaders involved equipped to lead a robust participatory decision-making process?
  • Is there clarity about
  • roles and responsibilities, such as who makes decisions on what aspects of the process (e.g., committee, delegated overarching body, board or congregation)?
  • whether the minister will provide leadership and support for the decision-making process?
  • expectations of congregation members?
  • Are definitions and steps of the process clearly documented and accessible by the general membership, with the input of experts (inhouse or external) included?
  • Is there general agreement that once approval for a next step has been granted by the congregation, and dissent has been addressed as far as possible, all while following the Covenant of Healthy Relations, the leadership team of the project may proceed without revisiting the addressed concerns — and if necessary, a facilitated process be undertaken to explore continued dissension?

For prolonged projects, is there a process to rotate leads or co-leads periodically (e.g., two people leading the process and then two people on the steering committee observing and learning in order to take over after an agreed term)?

Is there a reassessment of UCV’s capacity (human resources, finances, time, expertise) at every key decision point?

DEMOCRATIC PROCESS 

  • If a decision is to be made by majority vote, is the voting threshold for congregational votes clear from the outset (e.g., simple majority, two-thirds, etc.) and is this consistent with UCV’s bylaws?
  • When voting on a project, is it clear what the alternative is (status quo or something else)?
  • Are mechanisms other than majority approval in place for decisions along the way, such as Convergent Facilitation, sociocracy, and “gradients of agreement”?
  • If a final vote is undertaken, for efficiency, have written questions and oral answers been considered for the vote-related discussions?
  • Is a vote wise and useful at the endpoint of this project? Have alternatives been considered?

What Do We Call Ourselves Task Force – announcement and report on latest forum

At the October 16 Forum we updated attendees about matters concerning our legal name.  31-34 were in the Fireside room and 3 attended remotely.

The September 18 FORUM was on the topic of WHAT NAME THAT WE CAN ALL LIVE WITH WOULD MOST LIKELY SUPPORT OUR FUTURE VIABILITY WHILE STILL HONOURING OUR JOURNEY TO THE PRESENT.

The October 16 Forum focused on VOTING PROCEDURES AND LEGAL REQUIREMENTS to maintain our charitable status.

Because of the diversity of opinions about whether our legal name should continue to contain Church or not, and uncertainty about whether we all can find common ground about our name, we presented a democratic method for decision making.  A PowerPoint presentation about ranked ballots was shown.  This is a way of eliminating the less popular alternatives one at a time to arrive at the most popular ones. A second vote will be held between the most popular alternative and Unitarian Church of Vancouver.

The threshold percentage for the second vote required to change our current name will be decided by the Board.

We do not want to rush through this process. It’s emotional for many who need time to consider the implications.  The final vote may not happen until the new year.

If you were unable to attend, you are welcome to contact us with your questions and concerns.

wdwco@vancouverunitarians.ca

Trust Checklist for Big Projects and Complex Decisions (DMTF Weekly Lesson #2)

From: The Decision-Making Task Force report, UCV’s Redevelopment Exploration 2016 –2020: 

A Review of the Process with Lessons for the Future

  • Is there trust and support for the leadership of the project? Is there a process to build trust and robust buy-in for the leaders’ decision-making?
  • Is there explicit commitment from all members to trust in the good intentions of everyone involved?
  • Is there transparency of the board’s processes and role in the project?
  • Is the minister’s position on the project clear (or are their reasons for not taking a position clear)?
  • Is the board sufficiently involved so that when a new board is elected, there is institutional memory of the status and history of the project, sufficient continuity of board members, and a clear record of the board’s actions regarding the project?
  • Do all members agree that regardless of how well they have followed or engaged with the process, they will respect the leadership and authority of the planning team, and will go first to that team with any concerns? Then, if not satisfied, do all agree they may next approach the overarching body?
  • Do all members commit to trust that the project leadership will be the point of contact with outside consultants, and agree to go through the project leadership team with any questions or concerns?
  • Are those who facilitate group processes trusted to hold all points of view with equal care?

Healthy Relations Checklist from the Decision-Making Task Force (DMTF Weekly Lesson #1)

Healthy Relations Checklist

*Note: these are recommendations from the Decision-Making Task Force and not all are in place as official UCV policy.

  • Do we have a recently reviewed and affirmed congregational Covenant of Healthy Relations*?
  • Is the Covenant posted prominently in UCV’s physical spaces, and easily located on the website?
  • Do all committees, task forces, and other groups agree to the Covenant as individuals and as groups?
  • Is the Covenant reviewed periodically, and is there a process for considering and incorporating feedback about the Covenant?
  • Are new members asked to review and agree to the Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Is there at least one service per year devoted to the Covenant of Healthy Relations?
  • Does the Covenant include a system to track, intervene, and follow up on concerns and conflicts?
  • Is there a process for addressing conduct that does not uphold the Covenant, including recommended actions that bystanders can take?
  • Has a healthy relations advocacy team been established as a consistent presence in the community?

When a big project or decision-making process is undertaken:

  • is there conscious commitment of UCV leaders, project leaders, and congregation members to abide by the Covenant of Healthy Relations throughout the process?
  • are we collectively committed to a healthy process, and do we all collectively commit ourselves to taking individual and collective responsibility for making it work?
  • is a “healthy process” clearly described (and posted/circulated) so that all know what we are committing to?
  • as UCV members, do we put the collective community’s needs over our own personal preferences?
  • do members commit to sharing information that is (and can be confirmed to be) as factually accurate as possible? When errors in information and assumptions have been identified, do members agree that they will withdraw erroneous material?
  • Will the healthy relations team (or delegated members) work alongside the planning team for the duration of big projects with a mandate to help watch for and follow up on possible misunderstandings or disgruntlement? Does this healthy relations team have a protocol for dealing with questions and comments that impugn any person’s character or integrity?
  • Are there opportunities and resources to learn and practice elements of collaborative/ compassionate communication, participatory decision-making, and bystander intervention training?
  • Are values and commitments reviewed in the whole community, both at the start of and during big projects/decisions, as well as in an ongoing way, as part of the life of this community?

 

*Note: The Covenant of Healthy Relations (COHR), also referred to here as the Covenant, refers to the Covenant of Healthy Relations that was congregationally developed and approved in 2005 and reaffirmed by the Board in 2020, to be distinguished from other UCV covenants developed for specific purposes.

President’s Message

It’s an honour to serve the congregation as president of the Board of Trustees. As per our Bylaws, the Board appointed myself as president and Leslie Hill as vice-president at the Board’s April 19th meeting following the resignation of Mary Bennett as president. Thank you to Leslie for volunteering to fill the vice-president position. Also, a sincere and heartfelt thank you to Mary Bennett for all the contributions she has made and continues to make to our congregation.

This an exciting time of renewal and recommitment for UCV. An impressive group of dedicated members has generously put their names forward for our Ministerial Search Committee. The election closes on May 10th. I encourage all members to read each candidate’s bio and cast your ballot. The entire congregation is proud to have such an inspiring list of dedicated members to choose from.

On behalf of the congregation, I’d also like to express our gratitude to the members who volunteered to serve as part of UCV’s delegation to this year’s Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual General Meeting.  We know your time is valuable and appreciate your willingness to share your time and skills for the betterment of Unitarian Universalists across Canada.

It’s our annual pledge season. Members support the work of our congregation in a myriad of ways, including giving money and, just as importantly, giving of their time, talents, expertise and energy. On behalf of the Board and the entire congregation, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you. For those who make an annual financial contribution and have not increased your pledge for several years, I encourage you to give more this year if possible. Our congregation is doing important, life-changing work and we have a collective ambition to do even more to the benefit our members, our community and our planet. Please do what you can to support the congregation in its important work.

Finally, past-president Diane Brown is leading-up our Nominating Committee for the new Board of Trustees that will be elected at our AGM in November. I encourage both long-time and new members to consider putting their names forward to be part of the new Board and to contact Diane at diane@rubyslippers.ca for more information. Serving on the Board is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the good work of our congregation and to help develop and execute UCV’s strategic goals. It can also be a lot of fun. The Board is a safe, supportive place for members to make significant contributions with a lasting effect–consider joining us in this important work.

Yours with respect and gratitude,

Bruce McIvor

ucvbruce@gmail.com