We wish our Muslim friends and neighbours a blessed and peaceful Ramadan.
The 2017 Annual General Meeting held on May 13 at the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto had a number of “firsts.” It was the first time an AGM was held on its own without a national conference. The CUC with its congregations decided to hold conferences every other year instead of annually, so the 2016 conference in Vancouver was the last annual conference; the next one is 2018 in Hamilton at McMaster University hosted by the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton.
It was the first time that full on-line voting and participation was available for congregations across the country. This is in fulfillment of an Active Democracy resolution approved in 2013 to allow for electronic participation and access to Annual Meetings. Using Zoom meeting
technology and Google forms, more than 50 delegates from 24 congregations signed in on-line to discuss, vote and participate. Another 30+ delegates from mostly Ontario congregations were on-site in Toronto.
And it was the first time that the Youth Observer to the Board (YOB) was elected before the CUC’s AGM – previously, the YOB was elected at CanUUdle, the youth con held concurrently with the national conference. This year, in an on-line process, youth elected Maya James from Winnipeg as the Youth Observer.
On the resolutions front, delegates approved updated goals and strategic priorities over the next two years:
The CUC ensures that it has resources to maintain its own sustainability in order to advance the cost-effective achievement of the following four primary goals:
- Enhance religious exploration and spiritual growth grounded in the vision, principles, sources, and aspirations of the Canadian Unitarian Universalist (UU) movement;
- Advance socially responsible actions to live out our vision of interdependence, love, and justice to bring benefit to Canadian and global communities;
- Build community resilience so our congregations and communities are connected to each other, and thrive organizationally, economically, and socially in a diverse, multi-generational context;
- Strengthen local, regional, national, and global networks of collaborative and interdependent UU congregations and communities.
Within these goals, the following four strategic priorities are identified:
- Ensure sustainable revenue generation to continue the work of building vital Unitarian communities;
- Optimize communications capabilities so that they are flexible, robust, and effective, with an early focus on the CUC website to make it a useful and appealing communications tool for both members and visitors;
- Advance social justice initiatives, including truth, healing, and reconciliation amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians;
- Encourage innovation and sustainability in the growth and development of UU communities, with an emphasis on youth and young adults.
Also approved was a new level of Annual Program Contribution (APC) from congregations to the CUC. The APC funds supports, resources and staff engagement with congregations, and is currently calculated at a specific amount per congregational member. The APC had last been increased in 2013 from $91 to $93 per member, and no increase nor cost of living adjustment has since been applied. The delegates approved an increase to a $100 per member fee, which brings the amount current with cost of living levels.
There was discussion on an alternate method of calculating the APC. The CUC Board, led by outgoing Treasurer Kristina Stevens, has been exploring a method based on a percentage of congregational expenses. There was a variety of opinions expressed, with no clear consensus. The CUC Board will take the next year to continue conversations with congregations before bringing a recommendation to the 2018 AGM.
There was a report from the CUC Board’s task force on fair compensation for CUC staff. The task force had spent the last year examining the discrepancy between current staffing salary levels and fair compensation targets. The task force made a recommendation which would bring salary levels to within fair compensation range. Delegates spoke in favour of this, and in approving the preliminary 2018 budget, also paved the way for these fair compensation levels to be phased in over the next two and a half years.
To see resolutions approved at the AGM, check here.
Sharing Our Faith grants were announced, which will help congregations move further towards their outreach and growth goals:
- First Unitarian Church of Victoria: to commission a setting to music of a Latin Vespers, Vesperae pro Serveto, with text based on Unitarian Universalist Principles. The intent is to create an evening prayer. Amount granted: $2,500
- Unitarian Church of Calgary: for rebranding and promotion – for brand development, marketing templates, signs and banners and Facebook advertising. Amount granted: $3,500
- Unitarian Fellowship of London: To provide a one week summer day camp as an adjunct to the RE program and as a benefit to the surrounding community in which the Fellowship resides. Amount granted: $1,000
- Unitarian Congregation of Guelph: to assist in funding a Director of Congregational Life and Learning position as the Congregation explores options for professional ministry. Amount granted: $6,000
- Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough: to support a gathering of local faith groups on an autumn weekend focused on the theme of gratitude, after which a video will be produced to promote the value of shared values of interfaith groups. Amount granted: $3,000.
- UUEstrie (Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley): for outreach projects. One is for “Spirit Circles,” a small group ministry project furthering work that is already in progress, and the other to present non-violent communications workshop to the community of North Hatley. Amount granted: $2,300
Theological Education Funds, which help support ministerial students on their path to professional ministry, were awarded to Rosemary Morrison and Ben Robins.
The new CUC Board of Trustees was acclaimed. This group of dedicated volunteers works largely unseen to create long-terms goals and plans, sets monitoring standards to ensure that outcomes are met, and watch over fiduciary matters. The 2017-2018 Board is:
President: Keith Wilkinson (BC Region)
Vice-President: Jane Ebbern (Western Region)
Treasurer: Tanya Cohtran (Central Region)
Secretary: Carol Cumming-Speirs (Eastern Region)
Milton Orris (BC Region)
Susan Ruttan (Western Region)
Rev. Rod Solano-Quesnel (Eastern Region)
Danielle Webber (Central Region)
Rev. Debra Faulk (Minister Observer)
Maya James (Youth Observer)
As Canadian Unitarians, we are horrified and angered by the heartbreaking loss of life
in Quebec City on January 29. In this distressing period of escalating intolerance, we join in solidarity with our Muslim neighbours to denounce this despicable act of violence and the disgraceful rhetoric fueling fear and division.
We applaud Prime Minister Trudeau for condemning the unacceptable violence, and his recent statement affirming Canada’s ongoing support of refugees. More specifically, we commend his assurance that those who have been detained in the U.S. by the recent immigration ban are welcome in Canada. To make this promise real, we encourage the Government of Canada to take action by making it possible for those banned by the U.S. to enter Canada as soon as possible.
In light of the terrible events in Quebec City, we must unite together as a nation of people who respond with love and hospitality to our neighbours. By courageously welcoming over 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, Canadians have shown the world what it means to live out our principles. We have faith our government can and will take swift and meaningful action to alleviate the great injustices arising from recent changes in U.S. policy. And we trust our leaders at all levels of government will join us in condemning—and working to alleviate—discrimination in all its odious forms. We believe this is what it means to “stand on guard” for Canada.
This year’s Sharing Our Faith Packet, created by Rev. Fiona Heath in collaboration with the UU Ministers of Canada, is inspired by CUC’s vision statement calling us to Love and Justice.
Sharing Our Faith is an annual tradition for congregations across the country to participate in a service crafted using these common resources on a common theme. It allows each individual congregation to reflect on our national connections as part of an interdependent movement in Canada, and by taking up a special Sharing Our Faith offering, supports projects across the country through the annual Sharing Our Faith grants.
I am a big fan of the winter holiday season. Of course, there are things I don’t like about it, the sometimes-overwhelming pressures and the endless barrage of advertisements. Yet, in spite of the flaws, the winter holidays are among my favourites.
I often find myself responding with tenderness and with joy when I see a small string of lights in front of a house, or a reedy child’s voice singing holiday songs. I’ve been known to cry when listening to a choir or when opening a card from an old, rarely seen friend. I’m not normally the sort of person that might be described as ‘soft’; so, this winter time tendency is out of character. Lately I’ve been wondering where my tender holiday-heart comes from and I’ve decided it is more than just the warm memories of holidays spent with my family that prompt my uncharacteristic response. December is, in almost any part of Canada, often a rather gloomy month. Days are short, afternoons are dark and rain or snow are common. Grey and brown are the dominant colours of our neighbourhoods. So, although we’d be forgiven for crawling into bed, pulling the covers over our heads and declaring our intent to hibernate until spring, we don’t. Instead we do the opposite. We set beautiful tables, prepare unusual meals, decorate our homes, gather friends and light candles.
I’m moved by the human tenacity that leads us to declare, in the face of darkness, ‘we dare to hope and dream’. There is a hymn, included in ‘Singing the Living Tradition’ hymnbook, that has as part of its chorus, “And I’ll give you hope, when hope is hard to find; and I’ll bring a song of love, and a rose in the winter time.” I suspect my tender and teary reaction to the winter holidays is a result of my profound wonder at the way we look for the promise of something as unlikely as a rose in the winter time.
These are dark times and the darkest day of the year is so near. The gardens are grey and the weather is dreary. Life can be very hard and sometimes the troubles that come our way seem to be too much. There are still injustices enough to break your heart. Our planet’s ability to sustain life, in the face of indignities we ask it to bear, is in jeopardy. There are good reasons to despair.
Yet, despite that, I invite you to join me this holiday season in looking for the unlikely promise of a rose in the winter, a lamp that burns for eight days, the promise of daylight returning or a baby in a manger. I hope you can join with those you love and to share beautiful meals together. I encourage you to open your heart and your throat and to sing beautiful music – wherever you may find yourself – in the car, while walking or with others during services in your congregation.
May your congregations and may you find a few moments during this winter season, to reflect on the messages of love and hope that are there for the looking. In 1849, Unitarian minister, Edmund Seale wrote of angel music that floated over the weary world. May we all have the ears to hear it.
Rev. Linda Thomson