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Intersection event a success

On a cold rainy January 20 evening, almost 80 people gathered in community to share a warm, educational, and uplifting event called: Exploring the Intersections between Colonialism, Racism, and Climate Change.

 This was the first time that all four of the VU Action Teams (IPA, Environment, Social Justice, Refugee) collaborated and it showed in the variety of offerings throughout the evening.

  • The photo exhibition Dispossessed But Defiant was set up in the alcove
  • An amazing potluck dinner was set up which included vegetarian, vegan, teen friendly options, and a separate gluten-free table 
  • Four amazing, youngerish IBPOC speakers: Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Kwiis Hamilton, Kyi Min Saw, and Esther Leung-Kong. They talked about  human rights, colonialism, capitalism, the immigrant experience, Indigenous knowledge, and how it is connected to the environment and Climate Change.
  • VU members Vivian Davidson(emcee), Tamiko Suzuki, Huguette Sansonet and Rev. Shawn Gauthier spoke before dinner.

Parts of the evening were filmed and will be available on the VU website shortly.

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What Do We Call Ourselves? It was decided at our AGM

Out of 105 voting members 81 endorsed the legal name of Vancouver Unitarians at our Annual General Meeting held Nov. 19th in the Sanctuary and online. Yup, it’s the name we have been using informally since 2004. Twenty-two voted to remain as Unitarian Church of Vancouver, two abstained.  Since a 77% vote for the name change exceeded the requirement of 75% for special resolutions…we will become legally Vancouver Unitarians.
Some of us are happy and at least 22 are disappointed. Out Task Force mandate was to provide ample and unbiased opportunities for members to think about and discuss together what name best represents our personal preference and our evolving religious community. Five years have been helpful in deepening into our decisions.  Some changed their minds during this time period. We have heard from many members that they see us as having fulfilled this mandate and being discrete about our personal preference.  Yes, we have been in a dual role as objective and neutral task force members and also as members with our personal beliefs about the best  name for us.  Since the vote some of us have come out of the closet.
The Task Force role has now been fulfilled. Not perfectly but hopefully good enough. Five interrupted years!  Now the Board and Administration will address the many next steps. We are grateful that our minister Rev. Shawn is sensitive to the challenges of reminding us of our common ground which is much more than just our name.
Many questions are looking for answers!  What do we call the place we go to on Sundays? Should this be codified? Or should this be is a personal choice? It could take time to figure out this one.  We hope that everyone will feel respected with their personal name preference –  that it’s ok to come to church, UCV, VU, or some other place name….  Over time one name for our place may emerge and then again many names may continue to be used. Diverse names! Shared values!  
We have so many people to thank for their support and guidance of the work of the Task Force. And we will. It truly has been a community effort. Thank you all!

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UCV members have chosen an alternate name

The main information page for What Do We Call Ourselves (WDWCO) is here.

After years of discussion, 10 days of voting, and 165 ballots cast, representing 57% of UCV’s membership, UCV members have chosen an alternate name by ranked ballot. It is:

Vancouver Unitarians

During the AGM on 19 November, members will be able to choose between changing to Vancouver Unitarians, or keeping the Unitarian Church of Vancouver as the legal name. It would require 75% of the vote of those in-person or online to make the change.

The following provides the round by round detailed results of the ranked poll.

QUESTION: IF we voted to eliminate “Church” from our legal name,what name would you choose?
Round 1
Vancouver Unitarians63 votes 38.18%
Unitarian Spiritual Centre of Vancouver  7 votes   4.24%
Unitarian Community of Vancouver28 votes 16.97%
Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver44 votes 26.67%
Unitarian Centre of Vancouver23 votes 13.94%
After round 1, Unitarian Spiritual Centre of Vancouver was eliminated.
 165 ballots tallied
Round 2
Vancouver Unitarians64 votes 39.02%
Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver46 votes 28.05%
Unitarian Community of Vancouver28 votes 17.07%
Unitarian Centre of Vancouver26 votes 15.85%
After round 2, Unitarian Centre of Vancouver was eliminated.
 165 ballots tallied
Round 3
Vancouver Unitarians73 votes 44.79%
Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver50 votes 30.67%
Unitarian Community of Vancouver40 votes 24.54%
After round 3, Unitarian Community of Vancouver was eliminated.
 165 ballots tallied
Round 4
Vancouver Unitarians95 votes 59.38%
Unitarian Congregation of Vancouver65 votes 40.63%
After round 4, Vancouver Unitarians won with 59.4% of the vote.
 165 ballots tallied

Next steps:

For more information on how the process will proceed, please check out the WDWCO information page.

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Update from the Healthy Relations Team

The Healthy Relations Team (HRT) came together last fall. Such a team had existed a few times over the years and has been wanted in recent years. At the request of our interim minister Rev. Lara Cowtan, the current HRT emerged and grew to seven or eight members in a matter of months. Our members come with various skills, experience, and perspectives.

At least half of our members have had significant family or personal challenges this year, and like most volunteers around UCV, everyone is busy, so our program development has been slow but the rapport, goodwill, and commitment have been noticeable. We are still here and looking forward to a new church year!

A brief summary of activity:

A few of us have been approached by some individuals or groups at UCV for consultation or support around sensitive issues.

We were able to collaborate with Rev Lara, the MTT, and our UCV archivist Diana Ellis to develop and present the Ministerial History series, Triumphs and Tumoils. This series was well received and we were impressed by the degree of deep interest and serious contemplation about the history revealed through our archives, with added perspectives from participants. We are pleased that recordings of Diana Ellis’s presentations from the archival material now exist and are accessible to UCV members.

We all learned how knowledge of our past is instructive about our past and present triumphs and turmoils. We saw how patterns of behaviour and interactions have recurred over the decades. We learned how ministry extends well beyond the minister and how we all contribute to a healthy and diverse community.

The Healthy Relations Team were of course aware of, and several of us participated in, the two Circles of Understanding offered in May of this year by Frank Tester. Considerable practice was had in listening! Frank is receiving feedback about the two circles he led and we understand that he will prepare a final report. Some of our members were also involved in earlier listening circles pertaining to the 8th principle.

The HRT plans to offer further training in skills that support us in living into our Covenant of Healthy Relations. Over the summer you might want to research ways to become aware of implicit (unconscious) biases: there are awareness tools online such as the Harvard-based implicit bias tests. Or you might look into bystander interventions when witnessing racism, sexism or other oppressions (e.g. online training by Right to Be, and background info by the American Psychological Association).

A book two of us appreciated reading this year was “The Persuaders: at the front lines of the fight for hearts, minds and democracy” by Anand Giridharadas. One simple line: “So the moral of this story is, how you make people feel matters.” One activist said “I have never seen an instance where, because somebody was deeply shamed or called names or ignored, they changed their mind. I just haven’t”. They went on to describe how the stages once suggested for creating change through activism were: Express Anger about a situation. State a Hope. Suggest an Action (AHA). They are coming to believe that what is more effective is: Identify a shared value. State the current problem. Propose a solution. The book has many good stories and insights.

Feel free to reach out to us about learning opportunities or for support in difficult communication situations. – Submitted by Marg Fletcher, co-chair (with Leslie Kemp) of UCV’s Healthy Relations Team, May 29, 2023

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An Invitation to Circle Work on the Process and Content of the 8th Principle

You are invited to two circle sessions, to be held in the Fireside Room of the Hewett Center, Unitarian Church of Vancouver, on Saturday May 6 and Saturday May 20. The sessions will start at 1pm and be finished by 5pm and include a break for refreshments and treats provided by an Indigenous caterer.

The Unitarian Church of Vancouver has recently concluded a process of considering and lending support to an 8th Principle, adopted by the CUC. This process and the result have been received in different ways and for different reasons by members of the congregation. The result has been differences of opinion about the process and outcome and the development of uncomfortable relations that many would like to see healed.

Frank Tester will be facilitating circle work related to the process and outcome with regard to the 8th Principle.

Frank is a member of UCV. He has had no involvement with this process. He is also a Restorative Justice trainer and practitioner, with years of experience working with different levels of government, non-governmental organizations, and Indigenous communities in Canada and internationally. He is an Emeritus Professor at UBC, and an Adjunct Professor of Indigenous Studies, University of Manitoba and the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute, Nelson, B.C. Participants are required to register and, ideally, make a commitment to both sessions. This experience is available to Members and Friends of UCV.

Pre-registration is required. REGISTER HERE.

There are principles relevant to the work participants will be doing in circles.

The first four principles of the CUC recognize:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Content from the Covenant on Healthy Relations is also relevant.

  • Be compassionate and supportive in my relationships with others, assume their best intentions and be curious rather than judgmental.
  • Communicate with active listening and consideration.
  • Deepen our connections by getting to know and understand people of all ages and points of view within the congregation.

First Session: May 6

This will be circle work focused on ‘active listening’. It will provide an opportunity for those with different feelings about what happened, and the result, to share their feelings, and specific reasons for them with one another, in a format and way respectful of different experiences.

Participants will also be asked to recount what it is they have heard from others.

This will not be an exercise in debating what happened, what was said, done or not done.  It is an opportunity for all participants, regardless of how they feel about the process and outcome, to share their feelings, give reasons for their feelings, and to be reassured that they have been heard.

Second Session: May 20

The second session (May 20) will start by hearing from two members of the congregation with different feelings and positions about the 8th Principle. While the differences remain, they are comfortable with continued communication.

Participants will be asked to reflect on what they have heard. They will then be asked to speak to what has interested, concerned, or left an impression on them.

In the second half of this session, participants will be asked to reflect on, and indicate what they would find challenging, or would need to do in order to achieve a comparable outcome. What are the personal barriers, challenges, and possibilities of achieving, or not achieving, a comparable outcome with others?


Two observers will also be present for these sessions. They will not participate in the circle work.

Muriel Harris is a UCV member. Macaela Bradley-Tse is a recent graduate of the psychology programme at SFU, and is President of the Vancouver Association for Restorative Justice.

They will share their observations with the facilitator, make suggestions for changes and improvements in the facilitator’s communication and management of the process, and assist in interpreting, understanding and appreciating what has transpired. Frank will prepare and submit a summary document to the Board. It will consist of general observations and suggestions for ‘going forward’, with no disclosure identifying what individuals have communicated in the circle.

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