We Mourn, and We Join in Solidarity

As Canadian Unitarians, we are horrified and angered by the heartbreaking loss of life

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Banner design by Alison Hall

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.

Sharing Our Faith

2017 Sharing Our Faith Packet Now Available!Shining lights

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.

Find this year’s Sharing Our Faith Packet here (pdf) | Word doc or read more about the program here.

Warmest Wishes for the Season

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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.

Warmly,
Rev. Linda Thomson

Myths and Facts: The Canadian Unitarian Council and Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice

Confusion and questions exist about the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) and the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ), not just in public but among Canadian Unitarians. This article, written in consultation with CUSJ, aims to provide some answers and clarity about the relationship between CUC and CUSJ, and offers suggestions about how congregations and UUs can relate to CUSJ, and conform with the guidelines of the Income Tax Act and Canada Revenue Agency that govern all Canadian charities.

MYTH:  The CUC and CUSJ are the same organization / CUC runs CUSJ.

FACT: The CUC and CUSJ are completely separate organizations.

Each has its own governance process, board of directors, financial systems, activities and resources. The CUC is not responsible for CUSJ and vice versa. Membership in the CUC is made up of congregations – there are no individual members (it is an association of congregations), while CUSJ welcomes groups and individuals. What the two organizations have in common is a belief in Unitarian-Universalist (UU) principles, and a passion for social justice.

MYTH: The CUC can issue tax receipts for donations made to CUSJ. [1]

FACT: The CUC is a registered Canadian charity, and as such is governed by the rules of the Income Tax Act and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for charities.

CUSJ is not a charity. No charity can issue tax receipts on behalf of, or to, any organization that is not a charity; CRA guidelines specify that tax receipts can only be issued by charities to other registered Canadian charities (qualified donees). Donations made to organizations that are not charities (non-qualified donees), but which might be non-profits, do not qualify for tax receipts. Congregations should re-examine their practices of issuing tax receipts, and ensure that their practices are in line with CRA guidelines. Continue reading

My Heart is Heavy…

A reflection from Rev. Shawn Newton, First Unitarian Congregation of Torontoheart-candles

My heart is heavy beyond belief today. I am sad. I am angry. I am worried about what the results of this election now mean for the world. But I know I’m not alone in my despair. And that gives me hope.

On this hard, sobering night, I find solace in knowing our collective heartbreak (on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border and beyond) points to a deep yearning for a better world—a world beyond the fear and hate-filled rhetoric of the American election. We who hold a very different vision for the world must renew our commitment to make that vision real as we deepen in our commitment to the work of justice and peace. We may not feel quite ready to do this tomorrow; that’s understandable. But tomorrow is not too soon.

May these enduring words of Jack Layton guide us tonight and through the days to come: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Take heart, friends, for we are not alone.

Stay tuned for further conversations with CUC staff and UUs about acting with love and justice. ‘Like’ the CUC FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/CanadianUnitarianCouncil/ to stay up-to-date.