Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Rev. Lara’s parting message

This is my last message to you before heading off on summer break and to my new ministry, which will be in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

This photo was taken at the UUA General Assembly on June 22 as I walked across the stage during the Service of Living Tradition, to celebrate Final Fellowship and showing off the gorgeous stole that you all gifted to me.  It is truly a work of art that I will treasure.  The UUA General Assembly and ministry days were full of great conversations, presentations, worship and connecting with 3,000 UU’s from around the world.  Some very important decisions were made by delegates including strongly supporting a year of continued consideration for the ammendments to Article 2 of the UUA Bylaws, AKA the 7 Principles.  Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Grey’s term ended and an inspiring new President, Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, was elected.  I encourage you all to stay informed about what is happening in our larger denomination.  

Here are some links you might find interesting: 

I have been deeply moved by the messages from many of you as we reach the end of our time together, affirming the value and impact of the incredible transition work and ministry that we have shared over these past 3 incredible years.  I leave knowing you are strong, healthy and in good hands with Rev. Shawn. As I pack up my office, I am parting with many books . . . . free for the taking!  Please stop by during office hours and ask Marcus to let you in to take some reading or resource material during the month of July, so that Rev. Shawn has clear bookshelves to move into.  

As you move into summer-mode and then into yet another ministerial transition, I wish you all peace, curiosity, open-heartedness and spiritual nourishment. 

Warmest blessings and profound gratitude, 

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister

Leave a comment

Farewell and Thank you: Celebrating Rev. Lara’s time at UCV

Sunday at UCV was a bittersweet occasion as a big crowd gathered in Hewett Centre and the courtyard after service for a BBQ lunch and a celebration of Rev. Lara Cowtan and her three years as our Interim Minister.

Members and staff shared words of appreciation with Rev. Lara for her leadership during these past few years, and presented her with gifts including a scrapbook of our time together and a liturgical stole with a west coast flavour, created by fabric artist Janet Armstrong.

Leave a comment

Grateful reflections on three years as your Interim Minister

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” – Anatole France

This month of June will be my last one with you at UCV, then I will be moving on and you will prepare to receive Rev. Shawn Gauthier as your new Settled Minister.  The past 3 years feel as they have been both long and short, as many complex journeys and relationships are.  We have been through a pandemic together, weathered unexpected storms and also great healing and discovery. We have held steady relative to the wider world of religious bodies during the challenges, and this community is emerging renewed, strengthened and hopeful, even if a bit bruised in places.

I am looking back over our time together and re-reading notes I took from those many first conversations, back when we could only meet on Zoom.  I asked almost 100 people the same five questions: Who are you? What do you love about UCV? What could change here? What should I know to begin this ministry? Who should I talk to to impact change?

These conversations helped to frame the work that we have done together, and were also the beginning of some deeply meaningful relationships. We have done many things, many hard and many joyful things. It has been an honour and privilege to help UCV navigate the transitions and changes that will help give meaning and depth to people’s lives and to prepare your path forward to your next chapter.

As I move into my own time of transition after being with people in theirs, so many feelings are alive in my heart. I feel the sadness that comes with having to let go – relationships that touched my heart are coming to an end among people who honoured me by welcoming me into their lives, allowing to grieve with them their losses and to celebrate and rejoice in their blessings. We have shared our lives with one another in deeply meaningful ways. I have witnessed children growing into teens and teens into adults. I have seen incredible generosity of spirit and openness as well as impatience and fear exhibited in less healthy ways. I have seen people come and go as they are nourished and called in different ways. Through all of it, we have known that my time with you would come to an end.  An interim minister, a colleague of mine writes, is like a harbour pilot, navigating the congregation through a temporary harbour during a time of reflecting, retooling, provisioning and staffing for the next sea adventure. It is a partnership with the vessel’s crew and the harbour pilot, and their mutual success is ultimately a function of communication and trust. Things haven’t been perfect in those areas, we have had particular challenges during this transition time, and we have also done some amazing things together.

You are resilient, beautiful and deeply caring people. My hope is that you will continue to lean into your covenant with one another to break down the barriers of personal relationships and build towards a truly shared vision of the promise of this community. I hope you may let go of lingering fears and open your hearts to one another.

I will be leaving UCV grateful to have been here with you, to have had this chance to know, to love and to grow with you along this journey. I am confident that you know yourselves better, who you are, what you love about UCV, what needs to change so you can thrive, how to support your next ministry and the people who need to shape it.

As every interim minister knows, serving as a harbour pilot is a privilege, and a time will come to wish the congregation fair winds and many blessings ahead. A ship in harbour is safe – but that is not what ships were built for. Happy sailing, UCV.

Many Blessings,

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Leave a comment

Reporting back from the CUC National Symposium

I have just returned from a week in Ottawa where the tulips were in spectacular bloom. I had been on retreat with Canadian ministers and then attending the CUC National Symposium. A lot was packed into this week! If you missed it, I encourage you to watch the powerful Confluence Lecture delivered by Rev. Julie Stoneberg, speaking to where we, as Canadian Unitarian Universalists and Unitarians are and where are now and may be going. People are talking about how inspiring, funny and challenging her message to us all is. It would be interesting to have a discussion group with a group at UCV about the lecture.   

Also really fantastic was the Sunday morning Worship service, ably led by Rev. Eric Meter from Ottawa, Rev. Diane Rollert from Montreal and Rev. Fulgence Ndigadimana also from Ottawa, plus the amazing song leading of Susanne Mazairz, Toronto’s Neighbourhood UU Congregation’s Music Director. Enjoy! (Watch the service.)

You will be hearing more about the CUC Symposium in the coming days and weeks. I want to lift up a couple of special announcements, one of which you may have already heard: UCV’s own Kiersten Moore is newly-elected as the President of the Canadian Unitarian Council.  Congratulations Kiersten!!! Also, Rev. Anne Barker (who delivered last years Confluence lecture) is beginning her new role with the Congregational Life Team supporting Western Canada, in place of Joan Carolyn, who retired this Spring. Many transitions, new roles and exciting new leadership to shepherd our movement across Canada into the future.  

I was sorry to miss the wonderful and creative worship services by the Partner Church and IPA, and will check out the recordings. There seems to be a lot of energy and momentum as we head toward summer, which is so inspiring! I am looking forward to our last month together as a time to appreciate just how far we have come since our beginnings in the summer of 2020.  

With warmest blessings, 

Rev. Lara Cowtan

Leave a comment

In the Interim: The Path of Vulnerability

Our theme for the month of March is The Path of Vulnerability.  This seems like something we have been working towards for the past several months, and is illustrated so eloquently by the tender, brave, determined rebirth of Springtime. 


“In our culture, we have a tendency to mark tenderness as weakness, but when a single bloodroot bloom can rock us back on awe-struck heels, we begin to glimpse the power of such exposed intimacy. Tenderness is perhaps the most potent form of bravery. It is the ability to open oneself, despite (as Anais Nin says) the incredible risk to bloom. To open, despite the danger of unexpected frosts and herbivores, the weather whims of spring’s mood and the negligence of passing boots. It takes unbelievable courage to expose oneself in such vulnerability. To say yes— to blooming, to loving and to living once more. Would it not be so much easer to stay quietly in our roots? In spring, the sun draws closer to earth, almost as if to say how much she believes in us, and we respond with a sweeping show of blossoming trust and the gift of our own transformational vulnerability. We bloom— not knowing if this is the right moment, or how the whole story will unfold— and this is how and where and when true growth begins.”


Building trust requires vulnerability, and is one of the priorities identified by the UCV Board to focus on this year. Building trust requires us to be brave and tender, to listen and to share our own stories.  The series we have been doing at UCV, Triumphs and Turmoils, looking back at past ministries through the lens of the historical archive has been illuminating and often disturbing. People are hearing facts and experiences of critical incidents that have shaped UCV that they hadn’t known, even if they were present during the time. We all carry our own stories and version of events through our own perspective, and if we don’t hear other perspectives, we are confined to a narrow version of the ”truth”.   This review of history has been a powerful exercise, and is crucial for UCV to be able to move forward into its next settled ministry, fully aware of the many stories of the past, the good and the bad, in order to make informed decisions about the future and to heal lingering pain and grief.    Sharing our own truth feels vulnerable, but in doing so, we build trust and provide room for healing of past wounds, our own and others.  This is what our Covenant of Healthy Relations asks of us, to listen deeply with care, to speak directly and truthfully and to be open to learning and growing with one another.  This, like the budding blooms of springtime, requires us to take risks, be vulnerable in order to build a beautiful, flourishing community.   Building a new way. 


In faith, 


Rev. Lara Cowtan

Interim Minister

Leave a comment