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A message from Rev. Shawn and the Canvass committee

Every person in our congregation plays a unique role in our community, participating in the wonderful interplay of generations, life stories, and passions that enliven our activities together and in the wider world. We are grateful for your ongoing investment of time and talent to our congregation’s present and future. Thank You, sincerely, for these gifts.

Click HERE to pledge now!

While we have many accomplishments to celebrate at VanU, so much of what we all value about our congregation is intangible. It is the uplift we feel when the choir soars in song, the unexpected tears during a sermon, or the moment of clarity in a committee meeting. It’s being reminded of life’s fragility and its resilience as we hear the joys and sorrows of our lives lifted up in worship. It’s the dawning of insight when we understand in another’s thoughts the missing piece we’ve been seeking. It’s ultimately hearing a call into the fullness of life and knowing that we can’t make that journey alone—and that we wouldn’t want to try.

We are very grateful for the many members who attended the in-person or Zoom version of the congregational retreat. The outpouring of ideas, and the great feeling of community present at those gatherings made it clear how much you all value VanU. There are so many good things happening within our community—increased attendance, increasing numbers of volunteers, more children and families, which are all contributing to an increase in optimism about our future.  At the same time, we need to pay attention to our financial health. Each year for several years, we have had large
deficits (last year’s actual deficit: $292,325). If we continue on this path, we will have used up our nest egg by 2032.  

The Finance Committee has issued a challenge to decrease our deficit by $50,000 for 2024/25, by increasing our revenue. At the retreat, there were many ideas floated about fundraising such as the services auction now tentatively scheduled for the fall. The other way to increase revenue is, of course, through our pledges and donations. If you are able, would you be willing to increase your pledge this year, by 7 – 10%? This would help us meet our pledge goal of $315,000. Between increased pledges and fundraising, the Board is confident that we meet this challenge, and start on the path to a more sustainable future. 

We know that not everyone is in a position to be able to increase their pledge. Please know that you are a valued member of our community, just by your presence. 

Our congregation is what we make it. It is created out of our hopes and dreams. It is sustained by the work of our hands and our hearts. It is built by our commitments of time and money. As you consider your commitment for the coming fiscal year, please give thought to the intangibles we create in our coming together—and then give thanks by contributing generously to our future at
VanU. Click HERE to pledge now!

Sincerely,

Members of the Canvass Committee

Mairy Beam
Michael Clague
Shawn Gauthier
Leslie Hill
Paul Prescod

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Lily Ha’s Retrospective Art Exhibition

This Spring you’re invited to help name art work by long-time VanU member Lily Ha, whose works are now on display in the Sanctuary and the Fireside Room. Lily describes her work as “spontaneous, gestural expressions of my emotions, rendered on paper/canvas—akin to the emotional movements in modern dance.”

If you feel a connection to one of her paintings, you are welcome to name it by following the instructions posted as part of the exhibition. A big thank you to Lily and the Arts Committee!

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Congregational Retreat a success

VanU held a successful Congregational Retreat on March 9 in Hewett Centre on our campus at 49th and Oak. It was a well-organized event with engaged participation with over 90 members registered for the day. After an afternoon of spirited discussion about future directions for our congregation, we were treated to a delicious catered dinner from Tamam and then entertained at an evening Coffeehouse with performances by young and not-so-young alike.

A big THANK YOU to the organizers, volunteers, and members who participated in making this day happen.

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Earth Spirituality Group: Celebrating Ostara

Our group meets to celebrate the “turning of the wheel” – the seasons’ change.

Twice a year (at the solstices) we open the group to the public through posting on the VanU website and sharing on social media. In between current members and their friends are invited to gather in community to celebrate the “sabbat” (solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter/in between days).

In March we celebrate Ostara or the Spring Equinox.

Here in Vancouver, there is much to celebrate! On our garden path labyrinth, the daffodils and grape hyacinths will be blooming while the snow drops will go underground to return next Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day.

Ostara is a Pagan solar holiday honouring the spring’s warmth, light from the sun, and the awakening of the earth. Pagan celebrations during this holiday have themes of balance, renewal and rebirth. The symbols of Ostara are spring flowers, fairies, butterflies, rabbits and eggs.

The feast day of Easter was first a pagan holiday of renewal and rebirth. Honored in the early spring, it praised the pagan goddess of fertility and spring known as ‘Ostara’, ‘Eastre’ or ‘Eostre’. The word “Easter” finds its etymology from the goddess’s name.

From timeanddate.com you can check moon phases and seasons. Spring 2024 The March Equinox is on March 19 and 8:06 pm Vancouver time.

Unitarians draw on many sources, including: “Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”

Learn more about Earth Spirituality at VanU here: https://vanu.ca/services/earth-spirit/

If you have questions please contact us at earthspirit@vanu.ca

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Save the Date!

I hope you’ll plan to join us at 4:00pm on Sunday, May 5th, when the congregation will formally install me as the settled minister of the Vancouver Unitarians. You may be wondering why we will be doing this, given that I’ve already been “on the job” since the beginning of August. In a Service of Installation a congregation and its new minister enter into a covenant, making promises of mutual care and support to sustain our shared ministry. This is something the Vancouver Unitarians have done several times since the congregation’s founding in 1909.

Diana Ellis, our archivist extraordinaire, recently provided me with the Orders of Service from the Services of Installation for most of the congregation’s previous ministers. It has been a poignant experience to read through these materials, as it has served as a reminder that our present ministry is but a chapter in a book with many chapters that stretch back over a century, and, hopefully, many future chapters still to be written.

In the coming weeks, I will be drafting a version of the ritual for this service that will draw significantly on the words that have been spoken in the past between the congregation and its ministers. I will be reviewing these words with the Board in March to seek their approval. I will also include a copy of the agreed text in the April Monthly Bulletin, so that you may have an opportunity to read and reflect on the words in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. After all, these will be promises we will be making to each other, so it matters that we come to mean them.

I look forward to taking part in this ceremony with you. It has been a joy and an honour over these last many months to get to know the congregation as a whole, as well as the many wonderful people who make VanU all that it is. I am incredibly hopeful about who we will become, together, in the years ahead.

In faith and love,

Shawn

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Sunday Services coming up in March:

March 10th – What Does It Mean to Be a Unitarian?

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Many years ago, there was a trend for Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists to develop their “elevator speech,” the brief explanation of our tradition that one might offer up to a fellow traveller as you ride from the lobby up to the 24th floor. As most people discovered, this isn’t an easy task! In this week’s service, Rev. Shawn will offer some tips that might be of help.

March 17th – For Giving and For Getting

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

What are we to do we do when seeking an apology that never comes? How are we move to on if forgiveness isn’t forthcoming? This Sunday, Rev. Shawn will be reflecting on the many alternative paths we might take to undertake the work of forgiveness. 

March 24th – Climate Transformation: Heeding the Call of the Anthropocene

Reilly Yeo, Candidate for UU Ministry

We’re called in this time of climate crisis not just to change our world, but to transform it. In the process, we will need to transform ourselves. Climate change is a wake-up call that heralds the urgency of our third principle as Unitarian Universalists – spiritual growth. Join Reilly Yeo, Candidate for Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Co-Founder of Climate Plan for this exploration of the spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis.

March 31st  – Threatened with Resurrection

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Theologically, Easter is one of those particularly complex days for Unitarians. But there is much to celebrate in this time of year, even if we don’t find personal resonance in the Christian story. Rev. Shawn’s sermon will explore the meaning that we, as Unitarians, might find in this time of renewal and, even, resurrection. 

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Supporting First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of BC

The Outreach Opportunities Fund (OOF) recipient for March-June will be First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of BC (FNESS). FNESS serves First Nations’ communities by building emergency planning, training, response and recovery; as well as providing fire training, education and prevention, and forest fuel and wildfire management.

For more information about the Outreach Opportunities Fund, click HERE.

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Buildings and Grounds: A note on snow removal

The cooperation and patience of members and other users of our campus when we have snow days will be appreciated.

  • Every effort will be made to ensure that the perimeter and interior sidewalks of the campus will be clear and accessible.
  • Assume that the parking lot will not be accessible and/or it will be up to vehicle owners to determine whether or not to use it.

Many efforts have been made over the years to arrange the equipment and person-power to clear the whole site of snow. None have been found to be satisfactory. Cost of equipment – whether our own or contracted – and people availability (staff and volunteer) are the factors.

A snow-clearing route map has been prepared for the walkways. An information note is available for obtaining shovels. People are welcome to sign-up for voluntary snow clearing to complement what staff can do within their own availability, work schedules and duties.

Your help will be appreciated! (Contact: Patti Turner at pgaleturner[at]gmail[dot]com)

With thanks,

Vancouver Unitarians Buildings and Grounds Committee

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Spring is coming: Update from VanU Earth Spirituality

We in the VanU Earth Spirituality group celebrate the “turning of the wheel” – i.e. seasonal shifts marked by the equinoxes, solstices and cross-quarter days (those are the days halfway between a solstice and equinox.)

The next cross-quarter day, between winter solstice and spring equinox, is called Imbolc which is a derivative of “in belly” or “in milk”. The sheep are giving birth to their lambs and their milk is flowing. 

It’s also celebrated as Brigid’s Day. Brigid is a pagan goddess and also a Christian saint. There are similarities–and many differences. Brigid’s flower is the snowdrop and you’ll be seeing a lot of snowdrops emerge on the VanU labyrinth over the next while. 

And, lest we forget, it’s Groundhog Day which means Banyen Books’ annual sale.   

Here are some ways you can celebrate this early spring turning the wheel from winter to spring.

  • Light five white candles representing earth, air, water, fire and spirit.
  • Go for a walk and notice signs of spring – buds and bulbs are emerging
  • Make a Brigid’s cross using reeds or long grasses
  • Bless the tools of your trade. Traditionally this would be a time to bring out the garden tools, clean them up in readiness for the coming planting season. If you’re a gardener, you could follow suit and bring out your secaturs and trowels, clean and oil and sharpen.  You can also clean up and bless the other tools you use in your work and play, maybe your computer, art supplies, cookware or whatever… 
  • Toast Brigid with a glass of beer. There’s an Irish story that says Brigid changed bathwater into beer. (May it be so and Blessed be!)

I’m particularly fond of this time of year and the rituals to celebrate it. In Vancouver, signs of spring are easy to spot. As Denise Levertov says, “so much is in bud.” 

Our VanU Earth Spirituality group hosts two rituals each year that we open to everyone. If you’d like to receive invitations or have other questions about our group, send me a note: Mary Bennett unitarianmary[at]gmail[dot]com

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Creating Theology Together

There’s a perception out there that being a Unitarian means believing whatever one wants.

There is, of course, a lot of latitude in our tradition for shaping a theology that makes sense to us as individuals. Indeed, we are encouraged to “build our own theology,” piecing together our best understanding of the big theological questions—questions about the purpose of life and the meaning of death, the nature of the divine and the reality of evil, the call of justice and the demands of a life of integrity.

In this, Unitarianism calls us to a “free and responsible search” for truth and meaning. We are empowered to undertake a curious and critical exploration of the world around us, unencumbered by doctrine, while remaining mindful of the rich theological tradition to which we belong. Maintaining that balance between freedom and responsibility, for me, requires a community because I find that building one’s own theology is something best done in dialogue.

Later this month, in an effort to foster that dialogue, Kiersten and I will co-facilitate the next round of Creating Theology Together, a workshop that begins with a Saturday retreat on February 24th and will continues over three consecutive Wednesday evenings. In this series we’ll explore the theology we share as a congregation. Kiersten and I have substantially rewritten the curriculum to fit our context at VanU, and we hope you’ll join with us for this time of shared meaning making. We will delve into the history of our Principles, reflect on the influence of Universalism, and discuss how our theology of interdependence has changed our view of the world around us. You can find more information and register to
attend here.

I’m grateful to be sharing this adventure with you all!

In faith and love,

Shawn


February Sunday Services

February 4th – “Belonging”

Kathy Sayers

It’s been said that we are living in a time of profound loneliness. Kathy Sayers, founding member of Vancouver’s newest cohousing community, explores what happiness research says about how the communities we belong to impact our wellbeing. How does knowing your neighbours well enough to borrow a cup of sugar contribute to feelings of trust? What part do casual relations—say, the woman in your local yoga class, your librarian, or your mailman—play in your happiness? Are there novel ways we can live together—like the cohousing community Kathy belongs to—that can enrich our lives and ease our feeling of
separateness?

February 11th – “All Kinds of Love”

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Though Valentine’s is often thought of as a day to celebrate romantic love, we will mark this holiday as an invitation to bask in the splendour of love’s many forms. This Sunday’s service will involve a marvellous mix of music and powerful poems that speak to the love found in many different types of relationships.

February 18th – “Facing Life’s Fragility”

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Most any effort to make sense of our own mortality leads on to questions about how we are living “in the meantime.” This Sunday, Rev. Shawn will invite us to reflect on the delicate dance through life, and through death.

February 25th – “Worthship”

Rev. Shawn Gauthier & the Worship Services Team

This Sunday, we will explore the meaning of various elements in our weekly worship services. Rev. Shawn and the Worship Team hope to demystify aspects of worship in the Unitarian tradition, while also lifting up the complexities involved in creating worship in a theologically diverse congregation.

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