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Promises to Keep

As I write these words, I am mindful that it has been exactly one year since you called me to be your minister on 30 April 2023. Anniversaries are incredibly important to me. Each year, on my wedding anniversary, I read and reflect on the vows I made to Bob when we said, “I do.”

Every June 10th, I read and reflect on the vows I took the day I was ordained a minister. And every May 5th, for years to come, I will take time to read and reflect on the vows that we — that you and I — will make to one another at next Sunday’s Service of Installation.

Some three decades ago, one of my most important mentors gave me guidance that has served me well: “Make promises you can keep. Keep your promises. And your promises will keep you.” To me, these words are a reminder that enduring relationships require both intention and ongoing commitment. Fortunately, the routine maintenance they demand and deserve is, more often than not, repaid in the blessings and benefits of happy, healthy relationships. This is my deepest hope as we make our promises to one another.

The text of the Act of Installation can be found HERE. These words draw heavily on earlier words spoken between the Vancouver Unitarians and its previous ministers at their installation services, going back almost a century. The Board has reviewed and approved these words on the congregation’s behalf. We share them with you now, in advance of Sunday’s ceremony, that you might read and reflect on them before we exchange these promises in our sanctuary at 4:00pm, next Sunday, May 5th.

The installation service will feature an array of great speakers, including Rev. Shana Lynngood, co-minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Victoria, who will deliver a sermon titled “Present Moment, Future Moment.” Rev. Anne Barker, from the CUC, will return to VanU to deliver “The Charge to the Congregation.” And the “Charge to the Minister” will be delivered by four of my closest friends and colleagues, all classmates from Harvard Divinity School and part of an ongoing collegial study/support group that we founded almost twenty years ago; for nearly two decades, we have met monthly and for a retreat annually, to reflect on the work of ministry and our calling to serve the well-being of our beloved liberal religious tradition.

These and the many other colleagues who will be with us on Sunday sustain, encourage, and challenge me, and I’m so deeply honoured they’ll be here with us to celebrate. And I’m delighted that you will get to meet them, and they you. In addition to wonderful speakers, our choir and Chalice Ensemble will be singing three of my favourite anthems. It’s going to be a great occasion.

Now, you may well wonder why we’ve waited a year for this Service of Installation. My hope is that this past year has given us the time required to develop a deeper sense of one another, so that in making our promises to this shared ministry, we might do so in a more meaningful and informed way. After all, the hope is that these promises will keep us, for many years still to come.

I am excited for all that our future holds, and I look forward to celebrating our promises to this possibility next Sunday.

In faith and love,


Sunday Services Coming up in May

May 5th (11:00am) – “Creativity Constrained”

Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn

Shawn’s dear friend and colleague, and one of Unitarian Universalism’s finest preachers (who
now teaches preaching at Harvard Divinity School), will deliver the morning sermon. Rev. Claire
will speak about how our perceptions/what our eyes see is not always the truth, and how
sometimes we are more creative when our creativity is constrained.

May 5th (4:00pm) – “Present Moment, Future Moment”

Rev. Shana Lynngood

Rev. Shana, the co-minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Victoria, will deliver the
sermon during the Service of Installation. She will challenge us to live out our shared ministry in
the here and now, while building for the future.

May 12th – “Waging Peace”

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Rev. Shawn’s sermon will reflect on the worrying state of wars in our world, drawing on what the
origins of Mother’s Day can teach us about labouring in the cause of peace.

May 19th – “A Celebration of Stories”

Our IPA Team (IBPOC Plus Allies) will lead this service, inviting us into the stories that make us
who we are. The service will feature guest musicians and the opportunity for the congregation to
begin learning to sing “Spirit of Life” in Mandarin.

May 26th – “Is There Unity in Our Diversity?”

Rev. Shawn Gauthier

Sometimes, given our great diversity of views, one has to wonder if we can find common ground.
Rev. Shawn’s sermon will explore what we share and what keeps us together.