Love Will Guide Us

A statement from the CUC National Voice team about the violence and white supremacy demonstrations, to UU congregations and communities. The CUC National Voice Team consists of the President of the CUC Board, the President of the UU Ministers of Canada, and the CUC Executive Director.

Our hearts are heavy by recent expressions of racist intolerance and hatred and related violence in the United States, Spain, North Korea and other parts of the world. As Canadian Unitarian Universalists we choose the guiding light of love, not hate.  We choose radical inclusion and welcome over exclusion and isolationism.  We choose the way of respectful negotiation over angry rhetoric.

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Goodbye from Ariel Hunt-Brondwin, former CUC Youth and Young Adult Ministry staff

Ariel Hunt-Brondwin

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

I first came across this quote as I was preparing for the 2011 CanUUdle in Toronto. I think it was in an old Pre-Packet or maybe scrawled into a past schedule beside the line for the final closing circle. Either way I was struck by how perfectly this simple, “Seussical proverb”,if you will, captured the bittersweetness of a Con’s ending and how kind and direct its advice was. It was, and still is, I think, a perfect sentiment to offer the departing participants of a Con. Not that I want to discourage anyone from feeling their feelings, but this seemed a gentle reminder not to hold that sadness too tightly either.

And so as I prepare for my own bittersweet departure leaving the CUC after serving for almost seven and half years its seems fitting that this silly little phrase I learned so long ago has returned to me. And I will admit that I feel the challenge of its charge more tenderly than before.

Coming to work for the CUC as the first Youth and Young Adult Ministry Development staff has been, without exaggeration, life changing for me. This was my first “real job”, my first experience managing programming and events at a national level, the first time working for my spiritual community. It has been an incredible journey and privilege to do this work and to have been able to share and learn so much from all the deeply committed UUs I’ve crossed paths with.

And although I got to work with leaders of many ages and stages, it is to the Youth and Young Adults I worked with over the years that I most want to say something:

Some of you reading this might be tempted to think that it was because of me that the CUC has all the Youth and Young Adult programs and events and offerings it does. But you’d be wrong. It’s because of you.

You are the ones who pushed for my position in the first place. And you are the ones who planned and attended all those Cons and Trainings (and the many, many meetings to make them happen!)

You are the ones who showed up again and again when I put out a calls for participants and leaders.

You are the ones with hug buttons and mail bags and the fire of commitment who let me learn about  building radically inclusive community with you and from you.

You are the ones who are always looking to draw the circle wide and welcome in one more. You are the ones grappling with what it means to be part of our faith as a young person – with what does it mean to come of age, to cross the bridge and to grow up and into Unitarian Universalism.

It has been such a gift to serve you all to meet new teens just joining “youthdom” and new Young Adults newly joining our UU tradition. To  get to mentor new leaders and be wowed by the knowledge and experience of seasoned youth and young adult leaders. To get to  play games and share stories and write notes and braid friendship bracelets with you. To be trusted to hear your disappointments at the ways in which your congregation or our tradition has let you down. To worship with you. To witness your pain when the world has ground you down. To hold your wonderings and questions. To hear your dreams and hopes for the future.

You welcomed me to walk alongside you as worked and planned and learned and cooked and ate and sang and worshiped together. As you built sacred, alive, messy, changeable community together – in short as you were “church” together.

Although at times stress-filled and difficult heart wrenching even in its moments getting to do this work for and with you and getting to meet you all in the process has truly been a blessing in my life, more than I could have ever known at the outset seven years ago. And for this I am deeply grateful.

I want to leave you with some these words by Rev. Alison Barrett; in her poem she is talking about the art of worship, however I think they are just as apt to describe the creation of community too:

Do you know what work you do?

It is holy, ancient, alive

It is the work of the people

And always has been.

May we do it well, and with joy.

In faith and affection,


Letter from CUC Staff

It’s the start of a new church year, and the Canadian Unitarian Council’s small but dedicated staff are hard at work preparing for it. The CUC works to support congregations across Canada, particularly in the areas of building beloved community, spiritual growth, community resilience, and lifespan religious exploration, and 2017 has been a busy year on all these fronts. Here are some highlights from the year so far, and a sample of what to expect in the fall and winter (click on staff names for bios and job descriptions).

JOAN CAROLYN , Congregational Development, Lead for BC & Western Regions, (

Joan has just returned from a road trip during which it was her pleasure to meet first with 17 people from across both her regions for a Serving With Spirit: Nurturing UU Leaders retreat. Since then she’s been on Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island and the Lower Mainland, connecting with five different BC congregations. Thanks to all who have welcomed her into their uniquely Canadian UU space!

Early in October, she will be on the road again to do in-person visits with three different congregations and then join the Unitarian Church of Calgary, hosting the Western Region Fall Gathering. The Gathering is Oct. 13- 15 and if you’ve not registered to join this great event, you may do so here.

That road trip will end with a special service in Nelson BC as the Nelson Unitarian Spiritual Centre holds its Membership Celebration service.

Joan and Rev. Linda Thomson honour the great team that worked with them to develop the Serving With Spirit retreat: Rev. Anne Barker, Rev. Nicoline Guerrier and Rev. Peter Boullata. They will continue developing supports for congregational leaders over the fall, anticipating forum conversations with the UU Ministers of Canada, Canadian UU Religious Educators, Canadian UU Leadership School attendees from the past and other interested Canadian UU leaders.

Linda and Joan have also taken great care to follow the interests of the Canadian UU Leaders discussion group as well, and welcomed concerns and questions voiced by many congregational contacts across the country. They are finalizing plans for webinars based on those interests which will take us to the end of 2018! Watch for upcoming webinar schedules and thanks to all for sharing their interests!

AHNA DiFELICE, Organizational Administrator (  With the sounds of the crickets and cicadas still in the air, Ahna, the newest CUC staff member, has hit the ground running as the Organizational Administrator supporting the Executive Director and Board of Trustees.  This is the perfect time of year to learn the inner workings of the CUC in the areas of financial record-keeping, event coordination and overall office administrative tasks. She’s ramping up with organizing logistics for the upcoming Western Region Fall Gathering and the board meeting in Ontario at the end of September, while updating lay chaplaincy records and tracking donations. Ahna is thrilled to be with the CUC!

APRIL HOPE, Social Responsibility Coordinator( April continues to devote substantial amounts of time to refugee applications, working to support congregations in their sponsorship efforts, and addressing the many political issues related to the world refugee crisis.

The CUC currently has groups actively working and engaged in the social justice areas of Criminal Justice, Environment and Climate Justice, and World Peace. The Diversity Group continues its dedicated work on the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Reflection Guides. Over the summer the team worked to complete online versions of the guides and to provide facilitator trainings in order to prepare congregations for fall and winter programming around reconciliation.

Watch for Social Justice updates, events and calls-to-action in the CUC eNews, and the Love and Justice Facebook group, and the Social Responsibility e-list. To be added to the SR e-list, please email If you are involved in social justice action and would like to share this, please post on the Love and Justice FB group or email

KENZIE LOVE, Communications Coordinator ( Kenzie is just under six months into his position as communications coordinator, which involves editing the eNews, updating content on the website and Facebook feeds, drafting public statements, and other promotional activities. He now has several issues of the eNews under his belt, and is looking forward to making it snappier and more attractive to readers (look for a fall reader survey for a chance to provide feedback). He is also looking forward to taking on a new role as editor of the Canadian Unitarian, and to attending the Western Region Fall Gathering hosted by his home congregation in Calgary in October.

VYDA NG, Executive Director (

In her 5th year as Executive Director, Vyda is looking forward to the congregational year ahead. In a quick summary of 2017 so far, she highlights:

  • The launch of electronic participation at the 2017 Annual General Meeting, with technical warts and all;
  • 1 CanUUdle youth con, 1 Young Adult Con, 2 Our Whole Lives (OWL) trainings, 13 webinars, 5 Truth, Healing & Reconciliation facilitator trainings, 15 roundtables, 2 homily writing and 2 sermon coaching workshops, 2 leadership retreats;
  • Publication of Spring Canadian Unitarian newsletter and monthly eNews;
  • Migration of CUC financial system from Sage Simply Accounting to Quick Books Online, which gives the ED and CUC Board Treasurer access 24/7 to bookkeeping data;
  • Staff transitions: saying goodbye to Rawaa Shubbar (Administrative Coordinator) and Ariel Hunt-Brondwin (Youth & Young Adult Ministry Development), and welcoming Ahna DiFelice (Organizational Administrator).

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?

Stay connected:

  • Encourage all your members and friends to sign up for the CUC’s monthly eNews, especially those in leadership positions, newsletter editors and church administrators
  • There are several Google email groups that help folks stay connected and hold discussions. To name a few – leaders, refugee sponsors, social justice seekers, administrators, money, newsletter editors…. Email to be added to a group.
  • ‘Like’ the CUC Facebook page and Love and Justice group. There are also CUC FB groups for young adults, youth, youth advisors and OWL facilitators. Email for more info.

ASHA PHILAR , Youth & Young Adult Ministry Development( Asha is looking forward to the many events and projects that will further youth and young adult ministry during this coming church year. The CUC supports regional and national youth cons, including the October con in Calgary and the national CanUUdle youth con in May 2018 in Hamilton. Offering training and support to youth advisors and religious educators is also a key part of youth ministry, and resources and trainings are coming out this fall. She will also be building off the momentum and learning from this past year’s Young Adult Welcoming Project, and helping congregations find more ways to welcome and serve young adults in their UU community. And in the Our Whole Lives portfolio, the CUC is planning ahead for more training opportunities and ways to support regional OWL programs.

REV. LINDA THOMSON, Congregational Development, Lead for Central and Eastern Regions (

This is always a busy and exciting time of year, as congregations begin their church year and move forward with plans.  During the next few months, Linda will be working in person with several congregations as they undertake a variety of efforts. It is always interesting to support congregations as they consider staffing and ministerial transitions, facility issues, covenant building, planning and more. Time spent on-site with congregations is important as it helps to foster relationships which, in turn, makes remote work easier.

Following up on the pilot program, “Serving With Spirit: Nurturing UU Leaders” to determine how it fits into CUC supports for congregational leaders will be part of this fall’s work. The Peterborough Unitarian Fellowship will host a Lay Chaplaincy Basics training the weekend of Oct. 20 and the Unitarian Fellowship of London will be hosting the Central Regional Gathering on Saturday, Oct. 28.  Information about both events can be found at


A Tradition of Covenant

Joan Carolyn, Congregational Development (B.C. Western)

The Promise of Covenant – We are a “People of Promise” [Alice Blair Wesley 5 Lecture Series]

This promise to enter into relationship with each other carries with it the capacity to inspire, provide mutual support, pool our wisdom and enter into accountability. All with potential to encourage our journeys to become our best selves and inform the manner in which we relate with the full interdependent web of life. Growth within and without. Rev. Linda Thomson, CUC Congregational Development staff, recently shared: “Covenants are not a panacea, a cure all. They do have a great deal to teach and offer, should we be willing to engage in the journey.”

Covenants are historically grounded for Unitarian Universalists. Blair’s lecture series delves into some major historical roots of UU covenant and some shifts over time. I invite you to explore some of this rich history and share only two comments now.

From Lecture #2- “Reasoning together about what we love, and about all the social implications and complexities of love, in continuous consultation, has been a built-in part from the very beginning of the free church tradition from which we Unitarian Universalists have come. Continuous consultation our ancestors called “walking together.” Herein lies the free church concept of discipline.”

From Lecture #5- “in the minds of our congregationalist founders, strong convictions about the autonomy of each church, did not imply sectarian isolation.

  • Though all churches were “distinct…and therefore have no dominion over one another,” they are to be a community of independent churches.
  • It was not acceptable “if a church be rent with divisions…and yet refuse to consult with other churches for healing…” If a divided church does refuse to “consult,” neighboring churches – not a staff person from headquarters– neighboring churches are to “exercise a fuller act of communion by way of admonition.”

Blair traces developments within our UU history which moved us away from this congregational covenantal way of interacting, toward more isolated, independent ways for congregations to exist.

So what of our modern approach to UU covenant? Current practice has moved away from inter- congregational, to intra- congregational relationship agreements. There is within this interpersonal covenant agreement within congregations, the potential to grow into new realities. A covenant with the full range of relationship benefits, from support to accountability, grounded in love and a invitation for all to participate. The underlying assumption is that conflict simply is – what becomes noteworthy is how we engage with it and in what directions we grow.

Even though it may at times be frightening and we may have things to learn about how we implement our covenants, the exciting invitation to shared growth still exists.

During one of the covenant workshops in which I raised this question regarding the willingness to engage, an astute congregational member challenged me, asking if I’d ever participated. Heartwarming images flooded my mind regarding the many ways in which I’ve received support within UU congregation relationships. It’s what keeps many of us actively engaged within our congregations.

Three examples also entered my mind during which I risked becoming one of the active participants in a covenant accountability process.

Two of these experiences taught me the potential negative impact when covenant processes aren’t well developed or facilitated. There needs to be great care in: developing just protocols; building resource pools of well trained facilitators who operate from a shared base of operations; identifying an umbrella organization/group within which facilitators are supported, trained and held accountable.

One experience revealed to me how a shared covenant, designed and implemented by all those affected, could open doors of growth in relationships (those newly created and others revisioned) and directing me in alternative directions I’d never envisioned and now hold dear. One such group began with participants new to each other, each coming from different backgrounds, with a certain role in mind – volunteer helper, volunteer person in need of assistance, and staff person. Over time, these roles began to blur and we all had times when we needed help, we were all able to offer support and teach. We have grown beyond what began as a support group to become friends. One great treasure within these new friendships are closer links crossing class and race lines and the shared wisdom to be found in that particular classroom of life. The support group has ended, however the basis for long term, positive community relationships continues.

The question remains, will we UUs engage in covenant, and why should we? Blair asserts that there are potentially powerful positive ripple effects within our lives and within our congregations if we do.

So if we have covenants within our congregations, are we willing to use them ourselves? If not, what needs to change for us to be willing to take that step?

If we are unwilling to apply support & accountability within our own groups, how are others, especially those outside our known circles, to trust and respect us when we call for accountability in their communities?

How we learn to live together well carries far reaching potential effects to:

  • Teach us some humility, strength and experience regarding ways in which to engage with others.
  • Create more openness as we receive invitations/ challenges to become more accountable ourselves, as well as receive support, sometimes from unexpected places and people.
  • And then there’s that great welcome to potentially grow beyond our wildest dreams – with new and/or renewed partners, in different directions and with Increased opportunities to learn and share

What do you value about your congregation’s covenant and what stories of implementation would you share? Where are the challenges and the growth areas? And what about exploring inter-congregational covenant relationships with more depth?

Annual Program Contribution: The Conversation and The Vote at AGM 2017

In January 2017, a motion was circulated to the CUC leaders’ group regarding an alternative method of calculating the Annual Program Contribution to the CUC from member congregations. Please note that the proposed motion to vote on this method at the 2017 AGM is being withdrawn by the CUC Board. This is because explicit instructions are now available for congregations to project calculations for their APC based on a percentage of operating budget, and the Board believes that more time is needed for congregations and the CUC to consider the impact of the possible change. An updated motion regarding method of APC calculation will be brought to the 2018 Annual General Meeting.

Closer to the date of the 2017 AGM, the Board will propose a motion to set the 2018 per member fee to an amount sufficient to sustain the current level of CUC operations and provide fair compensation for existing staff within a balanced budget. The amount of the fee increase will likely be in the range of 3% to 7% (from $93 to $96 or $100 per member). Should this motion fail, a second motion will be made to approve a fee at the current level of $93 per member. This option is likely to lead to a reduction in CUC service levels.

A Guide to Calculating Annual Program Contribution Based on Percentage of Operating Expenses has been developed by Grant Thornton, the CUC’s auditing firm, for congregational treasurers, or their accounting advisors, to determine what to include in the annual operating expenditures that they will report to the CUC. Please contact to obtain this Guide if you have not already received it.

The CUC Board requests that congregations use the Guide to calculate the amount of your congregation’s APC based on this alternative method. Please send your calculations to the CUC office by March 31, 2017 by email to or mail to 215 Spadina Ave | Suite 400 | Toronto ON M5T 2C7

The calculation information provided by congregations using this alternate method will help inform the CUC Board about next steps in the APC process.


The level of APC amounts paid to the CUC has continued to decrease annually despite an increase in 2013 from $91 to $93 per member. Please see Table 1 in this linked document for details. (Note also the increasing level of commitment congregations have been making to pay their full fair share contributions.)

There has been no application of a cost of living index (CPI) over the intervening years, which means that congregations have been contributing less each year to the CUC over the past six years. If adjusted for CPI, the per member fee would now be $100.

Financial support for the national and global initiatives undertaken by the CUC is understood to be part of the commitment or covenant that member organizations make when they join the CUC. When individuals join a CUC member congregation, they are joining not just their local congregation, but also the wider UU community. A small, dedicated CUC staff and groups of volunteers work hard every year across a very large country to fulfill these national and international mandates efficiently and effectively through carefully chosen supportive programs, special projects, and public statements by the Executive Director and National Voice Team that affirm and promote UU principles related to selected important issues. Member financial and volunteer support for the CUC to sustain this work is essential, and deeply appreciated.

Join CUC Board Treasurer Kristina Stevens and Board President Keith Wilkinson on March 4th, 8th, or 10th to discuss the alternate method of calculation and what this means for your congregation. Please see the dates, times and registration information on the CUC web site here.