Category: Recent News

The monthly e-newsletter selects about 5 news posts with this category. Priorities are news relevant to a wide number of people and especially of interest to visitors or new folk.

Pagan Group Fall News

by Mary Bennett

The days are noticeably shorter and after the heat dome in the summer, many of us are welcoming the autumn days that bring a cooler, but still warm, temperature outside. As a gardener, I am grateful for the harvest that is still coming. There are herbs for drying or crafts in the UCV Earth Spirituality herb garden.

The UCV pagan group is approximately 40 people in total. We connect with each other through an email list by sharing information and invitations.  We encourage everyone to take initiative by sharing their knowledge and energy.

Our group plans to host two “public rituals” – celebrations for the sabbats (for example winter and summer solstice) that we will invite anyone in the community to attend.

We are also now coordinating small groups using the covenant group model. If you’re interested, fill out this form:

These groups will

  • meet approximately monthly
  • share leadership and responsibilities for the group
  • once a year do a service project for the wider community
  • determine their own topics and schedule for meetings
  • once formed with 6-10 members will usually remain a closed group for a year

See more about covenant groups here. 


There are two upcoming sabbats (sun celebrations). If you want to plan a solitary or small group celebration with friends you’ll find lots of suggestions online for decorating your home, planning activities and readings.

Mabon – Autumn Equinox

This celebrates the second of three harvest periods. It’s a time of balance.

Samhain – Hallowe’en

This is the new year for pagans and when the veil is thinnest between the living and the dead.

UCV honours this time with a special worship service, Encountering Our Ancestors, and creating an Ancestors Shrine. 


If you want to know the exact day and time of solstices, equinoxes and moon phases, we recommend this website:


IBPOC is back – Fall plans are underway

The IBPOC Caucus is back! (IBPOC = Indigenous, Black, People of Colour)

After taking a break for the summer months, the IBPOC (aka BIPOC) caucus is meeting again, feeling rejuvenated and ready for the Fall.

We are continuing to share our lived experiences of being IBPOC in a White society, which is the main focus of our group. We are also discussing what else we would like to do. Ideas include inviting in refugees, IBPOC artists, or social justice organizations as guest speakers, and working with our “IBPOC+Allies” group to put on congregation-wide events such as Heritage celebrations, film nights, and FUNdraisers.  (All in-person plans subject to the latest pandemic regulations of course).

October is Latin American Heritage Month. If you have ideas or could be involved to help plan and coordinate some events, please contact Mary

Currently we have IBPOC members from UCV, Beacon, and North Shore congregations. We also have inquiries from Unitarians as far away as Victoria and Calgary. Some of our members have connected with the BIPOC caucus in Ontario and DRUUMM, the UUA People of Color Ministry and anti-racist collective in the US.  Zoom has been one of the bright spots in the Pandemic as it gave us the ability to bring individuals and small groups together despite the distance!

Get involved!

If you are a UU IBPOC and would like to join us, please contact Tamiko at

If you are not IBPOC but would like to support IBPOC events and initiatives, contact Mary at  She will put your name on the IBPOC+Allies email group to be alerted when help is needed.




Family Picnic and Water Communion: UCV weekend events Sept. 11-12th

Family Picnic – Saturday, Sept. 11 6pm-8pm

It’s time to gather together – outdoors only for now! Join us Saturday, Sept. 11 for a “Bring your own picnic dinner”! We’ll have outdoor tables, ping pong (outdoors), large form bubbles, sidewalk art and games. Easy to serve desserts and drinks will be provided. Any indoor space use (bathrooms/kitchen) requires a mask.

If you’re coming in for the Family Picnic, you can also drop off your water for this year’s Water Communion…

Let us know if you’re planning to come to UCV campus Sept. 11:


Water Communion

Due to the pandemic, this special service can again only be attended online, yet we are again making special efforts so that all can participate in our Water Communion. This year, you are invited to share what you have been grieving, the sorrows and losses experienced in these past 18 months of uncertainty, isolation, and disruption. Your words will be read as waters are poured to mingle our shared sorrows, and then also what you would like to share of new joys and celebrations. Words and waters of sorrows and loss as well as hope and renewal will flow together in meaningful ritual.

Rev. Lara Cowtan
Interim Minister, Unitarian Church of Vancouver

We want you to be included in this year’s Water Ceremony! Please feel free to share what you have been grieving in the past six months of isolation and disruption, and what joys and celebrations are lifting your hope or renewing your spirit. There are a couple of ways to participate in the Water Ceremony ahead of time this year, and please pick the one that suits you best:

  1. Drop off a physical jar of water and written words to be shared under the Portico outside the Sanctuary on Saturday, Sept. 11 between 3p.m. and 6p.m. If you wish to share your message on video, membership outreach coordinator Derrick O’Keefe will be on site to video record messages to be included in the Sept. 12 online service.
  2. Submit written words online to with “Water Communion” in the subject line. Your words of grief and/or joy will be spoken aloud during the Sept. 12 service as we pour collected waters into our communion bowl.


OWL is Back!

We are excited to announce a new offering of the Our Whole Lives sexuality education for grades 8 &9 (ages 12-14). Because this class can only be held in person and students come from many different areas of metro Vancouver, we are requiring that all students be age 12 or older and fully vaccinated by the start of class (October 3rd). We will require masks indoors until they are no longer recommended by BC public health.

This is a comprehensive, school-year long program led by trained volunteers and staff. You can read more about this award winning curriculum on our website, check out the dates for this year’s class, and REGISTER HERE.

Ministerial Transition Team: Rethinking Our Identity Workshops — Now In-Person at UCV

The Identity phase of our Ministerial Transition is the time to envision the congregation we want to be(come) in our future. It is arguably the most important step to complete before we search for a new settled minister.

The Rethinking Our Identity workshop is based on Appreciative Inquiry principles, an approach to organization transition that focuses on moments of exceptional pride and performance and creates a future that nurtures and supports even more pride and performance. In the workshop we will share our responses to eight ‘thought-provoking questions’ (see below) that probe our best and most memorable experiences of our lives in this congregation.

Over 60 congregants have already completed this 2 1/2 hour workshop and all have found it worthwhile and enjoyable. Many appreciated the chance to see and talk to others in this congregation, something we have been missing during the pandemic. Here are some participants’ comments:

“Very enjoyable and useful.”

“I was very engaged.”

 “The questions are all about meaningful things.”

 “The process itself was an example of meaningful connections when working in small groups at UCV.”

“Every member should take part in these workshops – interesting and very useful.”

“[The interview questions] are thought-provoking…I found the process good –

helpful, informative, stimulating.”

“This workshop was wonderful opportunity to share stories of what gives meaning to my life at UCV – 

and to learn about others’ experiences too.”



We have scheduled workshops on Sept. 1, Sept. 9, Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, with more to follow.

Contact us to register:




Here is an abbreviated version of the workshop’s thought-provoking questions:


  1. Reflecting on your entire experience at UCV, remember a time when you felt most engaged, alive, and motivated. Who was involved? What did you do? How did it feel? What happened?


  1. What are the healthiest, most life-giving aspects of the relationships among people at UCV? What would you say has been most valuable about your friendships in this community? Give some examples of how we live together at our best.


  1. What are the most valuable aspects of our congregation’s worship? What makes your worship alive and meaningful? What shapes your Unitarian faith?


  1. What do you believe are the most important and meaningful elements of our congregation’s engagement with the local community, the nation, and the world?


  1. What are the most important things our Unitarian community has contributed to your life? Who or what made a difference?


  1. What are the most valuable ways you contribute to our congregation – your personality, your perspectives, your skills, your activities, your character? Give me some examples.


  1. What do you think is the most important, life-giving characteristic of our UCV congregation? What makes Unitarians or UCV unique?


  1. Make three wishes for the future of our Vancouver Unitarians congregation. Describe what this religious community would look like as these wishes come true.


  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?


Join an ROI Workshop and help create our future.




Some Options for Action

Reversing the climate crisis

Study these resources and then choose some to act on:

Project DrawdownClimate Solutions by Sector

“Project Drawdown’s mission is to help the world reach “drawdown”—the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible.”

82 Partial Solutions

All We Can Save Project  – a feminist initiative

   “Our mission: To nurture a welcoming, connected, and leaderful climate community, rooted in the work and wisdom of women, to grow a life-giving future.”

Discussion circles

Emotional and mental health support


Photo: Sky smoky from forest fires near Osoyoos, BC, summer 2018.




Dismantling racism

In British Columbia:

Donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society

In Canada:

  1. Ask the CUC Board and Staff to describe the work that is being planned  to advance the strategic priorities approved by delegates at the 8 May 2021 AGM in these four areas of social justice:
    – Truth, Healing and Reconciliation
    Dismantling racism

    – Climate justice
    – Refugee support
  1. Encourage the CUC to continue to implement its 2020 strategic priorities, notably
    – Advance social justice initiatives, including truth, healing, and reconciliation amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
  1. Ask the CUC to invest more resources in support of anti-racist work.

Photo: Sculpture by Virgil Smoker Marchand at the Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos, BC. 2018

Registration open for the 2021 Men’s Retreat at Sasamat Lake

2021 Men’s Retreat – Oct. 15-17, 2021

Join an amazing group of men for a weekend gathering this fall! Surrounded by the forest bordering beautiful Lake Sasamat (about 30 minutes from Vancouver), this event is a rare opportunity to reflect on your quality of life, work with and learn from other men, discover more of yourself, and build relationships both new and old. More importantly, this is a chance to relax and have FUN in the company of strong, gentle, witty, and wise men – all in a serene, inspiring, natural environment.

Since 1990 this (mostly) annual event has been organized by and for (mostly) Unitarian men who celebrate and welcome all traditions, backgrounds, orientations and faiths. There is no membership or belief required other than respect for yourself and others.

Much of our time is spent in both structured and informal discussion and conversation, but there is also plenty of opportunity to visit the private beach, walk the trail around the lake, or take on the local biking trails. We’ll also enjoy campfires, opportunities for artistic and musical expression, story-telling and humour, as well as informative workshops celebrating our inherent expertise.

The spacious lodge where we meet daily (which also houses washrooms and showers) has covered porches with indoor and outdoor fireplaces; five meals and snacks are included. We sleep in simple, heated cabins in the forest (bring your own towels, soap, sleeping bag and pillow). One person per cabin this year to keep us Covid-safe. It’s a camp – no hotel, but not roughing it. No one else lives around the lake. This is a wonderful, quiet, inspiring place for this event.

The facilities can accommodate a maximum of 30 people this year because of Covid protocols. Don’t miss out!

We gather around 5:00 pm and start at 7:00 pm on Friday and end after lunch on Sunday. If cost is a barrier, we may have support available – please ask.


Information and registration at

Get ready for a wonderful weekend in the woods!


Embracing Possibility – In the Interim

“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.

Not all things are blessed,

but the seeds of all things are blessed.

The blessing is in the seed.”

Muriel Rukeyser, 1913 – 1980


Embracing Possibility – this is our Soul Matters theme for the month of September, which is perfectly fitting as we anticipate returning to the beautiful UCV Sanctuary with upgraded sound and lighting equipment along with refinished floors and brand new chairs, offering countless possibilities for gathering in new ways. 

Embracing possibility is also the way we enter this second year of transitional ministry together.

This transition period of three years in-between settled ministers is a special opportunity for UCV to rediscover itself and plan for the next chapter of its future.  This is a pivotal and exciting period of exploration, reflection, and preparation for the church to look at its entire system through the lens of the five developmental/ transitional tasks, which are:

  1. History – Reviewing how the Congregation has been shaped and formed; encouraging and hearing all of the stories about the Congregation’s past, as the foundation upon with the present rests; and embracing the rich variety that makes up the Congregation.
  2. Mission & Identity – recognizing its unique identity and its strengths, needs, and challenges; Defining and redefining sense of purpose and direction; clarifying the faith community’s identity and core values; working to develop, update, and revitalize mission and vision statements; and reviewing strategic and tactical plans including stewardship and the financial health of the congregation
  3. Leadership – clarifying the appropriate leadership roles of minister(s), church staff, and lay leaders and navigating the shifts in leadership that may accompany times of transition; Reviewing the membership needs and its ways of organizing and developing new and effective leadership; providing opportunity for individuals and the Congregational organization to examine the types of leadership needed for new leaders to emerge, and for seasoned leaders to recommit or to refocus their gifts.
  4. Connections – making appropriate use of CUC, UUA, and other outside resources; Discovering and revitalizing all the association, interfaith, and community relationships a congregation builds outside of itself; and re-assessing old links and considering new ones.
  5. Future – Developing congregational and pastoral profiles that position the congregation for its next ministry, including a healthy and honest assessment of the other focus points so that the congregation can turn its energy toward proactive decision-making for the future.

Embracing possibilities means being open to new ways of thinking and doing things, to letting go of old ways and patterns. This is especially important as we engage in conversations about the proposed 8th Principle to move forward with our commitment to dismantling racism and colonialist culture in our UU institutions and as we go deeper into the hard work of anti-racism within ourselves as individuals. Culture change is hard and sometimes painful work. We are blessed to be in community with one another in these complex times.  Let us be aware of how our words and actions may impact others and remember that we are all one family, one body, so please be gentle and kind with one another. 

UCV has adopted a new organizational design that streamlines the work of the congregation. Embracing and creating possibilities for new leadership to emerge bringing fresh ideas and energy while celebrating and sustaining the foundations  built by many generations of dedicated members. This is an exciting time to be here at UCV. 

Change is inevitable, and it is so often met with resistance, which can manifest in different ways. Resistance is usually about fear of the unknown, of letting go of what is familiar and taking a risk. Something must be lost so that something new can happen. The pain of loss is real and part of our ongoing human experience. The joy of new beginnings is also real, so let us celebrate the start of this program year together as a community by embracing possibilities to shape UCV’s future for coming generations. 

From the CUC (Canadian Unitarian Council) website:

Seven principles guide our choices. Six sources nourish our spirits.

Five aspirations help us grow.

As Canadian Unitarian Universalists, we aspire to be:

Deeply Connected: We strive to foster healthy relationships amongst and within UU communities, with the broader world and with all life.

Radically Inclusive: We strive to create hospitable, diverse, multi-generational communities.

Actively Engaged: We strive to work joyfully for a just and compassionate society, experimenting with new forms of community.

Theologically Alive: We seek to be ever-evolving in our understanding, open to new knowledge.

Spiritually Grounded: We seek transformation through personal spiritual experiences and shared ritual


Friends, may we grow together towards these Five Aspirations, embracing the possibilities to nourish our spirits and heal our world. 




Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim MInister


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+ programme 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 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. 


Kid Art Wanted

Hey there! Creative kids and families,

from Mary Bennett

by Maddie Lomas

This is the story for August 22, 2021 for the worship service which will reflect on our experience of the pandemic.

I got the book from the library and as usual, it has ONE illustrator only and I thought about some of you and the stories I know about what you did during the past 18 months (and what you didn’t do) and I thought: I’d like us to share this poem/story with YOUR artwork.

Please send me art (drawing, painting, photograph) in horizontal format in jpeg or png by August 15th and I’ll include it when Way Kent is reading the story on August 22nd.

Here’s a youtube video of the poem:


Here’s the text:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Here’s the sung version.

I hope you’ll sign your piece so we can credit you.

You could also drop off or mail to UCV marked with “Pandemic art for Mary Bennett.”