2017 UUMOC Retreat

Rev. Victoria Ingram

The UU Ministers of Canada will gather together in May for their annual professional development retreat.  This year, the participants are meeting at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario starting on the evening of Sunday, May 21 and ending at noon on Thursday, May 25.

Time spent with colleagues provides ministers with many opportunities for sharing and learning.  Every retreat offers a chance to check in with one another about life in ministry, and share the kinds of innovative programs or initiatives people have been using in their congregations.  Ministers share ideas about worship, social justice and outreach, governance, and religious exploration topics and approaches. Networking allows ministers to spread good ideas and strategies across Canada as they share resources and materials.

Since many of our congregations are geographically isolated from other UU churches and fellowships, ministers also enjoy conversation about the joys and challenges of a life in ministry.  This year, Rev. Jane Bramadat will be sharing her Odyssey – the story of her personal journey in ministry from her early years through retirement.  Each year, a ministerial colleague is selected to share the story of their personal experience as a minister, providing insights and inspiration gained along the way. Ministers consider the chance to share their Odyssey a high honour, and value the wisdom and perspectives shared in these presentations.

Much of this year’s retreat focuses on professional development and learning, always a major focus of ministers’ time together.  Anne Barker and Melissa Carvill-Ziemer will facilitate a learning session titled “Where Leads Our Call.”  The UU Ministers Association developed this program to encourage discussion and reflection on the future of our individual and collective ministries.  It is one in a series of programs  designed for UU ministers at retreats to consider the various demands and realities of ministerial life; to reflect on the current and future status of our faith and ministry; and to share ideas for keeping our faith vital, relevant, and engaged in the world.

Ministers also take care of business at the retreat.  The UU Ministers of Canada belongs to the larger UU Ministers Association, and must address organizational issues, such as proposed by-law changes, financial statements, and the election of officers.  The proposed slate of candidates for this year include:  Samaya Oakley (BC) for President, Fiona Heath (Central) for Vice President, Brian Kiely (Western) for Secretary, and Nicoline Guerrier (Eastern) for Treasurer, and Debra Faulk for Minister Observer to the CUC Board.  Gratitude goes to the ministers who have completed terms and are leaving the UUMOC Exec:  Stephen Atkinson as Treasurer and Victoria Ingram as Vice President.

Lest you think minister retreats are all business, there’s time for fun and relaxation as well. Shared meals allow for catching up on each other’s lives, and other social time makes it possible to take walks and pursue leisure opportunities.  And, there is almost always at least one evening when a game of charades breaks out, full of laughter and fun.

About a Community Climate Change Culture

Mike Bell

Mike Bell is a member of the Comox Valley Unitarian Fellowship and the Comox Valley Climate Change Network. This article is the third installment in his Comox Valley Climate Change Chronicles.  The e-news welcomes submissions from Unitarians about issues of social justice and sustainability.

When I read the very scary reports of scientists about climate change and hear some of the predictions of a possible Sixth Great Extinction, it reminds me of a favorite New Yorker cartoon.

It shows the Grim Reaper with his spooky hoodie, black gown and sickle over his shoulder knocking on an apartment door.  The man who opens the door has this terrified look on his face.  The Grim Reaper is handing him a note and saying to him, “Now don’t freak out.  This is just a save-the-date notice.”

I’m not a “doomer” and I suspect you aren’t either. But I do believe that climate change is the most serious challenge our world and civilization is facing. I thus believe that we need to develop a response we can pass on to future generations: we need a community climate change culture.

Most of us tend to think of a community as a geographical location circumscribed by fixed boundaries — a city, a town, and so forth.  The Inuit and Dene peoples of the Arctic were nomadic. They had to go where the food was. So they didn’t think of a community as a specific geographic location. A traditional definition of community was “An intimate relationship with all living things, both animate and inanimate.” (The seeming paradox between animate and inanimate was probably for the benefit of us folks who didn’t realize that all things are living.) So we must learn to think of community as a relationship not a place.  

We are not using the word “culture” in the traditional sense — common ethnic origin, language, dress, customs, etc. — but rather to refer to how people develop shared values, establish relationships, receive and interpret messages, see and structure their world and give it meaning (context).

Why a community culture?  Because people tend to live locally. Their relationships to the earth are primarily local, families are raised locally.  Parents often want their children to experience nature in their own communities.  It is much easier to see the impact of climate change at the local level. People are concerned about how climate change will affect their communities.

Thus I wondered  if there was an example of a community culture that changed my life, the life of my family, and the life of the community around me…and there was. I was born and raised in Toronto just before Canada entered World War II, and was six years old when it ended.  I have some vivid memories of growing up in the war years.  There was a driving, energizing force that bound us together. All of us were “doing our bit.”

I remember the ration books, the pictures of planes and ships that came in my parents’ cigarette packs; the war-bond posters; the war songs; listening to the war news on the radio each evening; the heavy, growling sound of the engines as the bombers passed over our community to help keep up morale.

I especially remember walking home from school one warm spring afternoon, turning onto our street and being shocked at what I saw: the street was going crazy. The neighbours were out on their front lawns hurling rolls of toilet paper up over the trees to neighbours across the street who would sling them back again.  The street had a canopy of toilet paper streamers.  I ran up to my mother who was on our front lawn right in the middle of the action. She was bending down to pick up a toilet paper roll to send it back on its way.  I asked her what was going on. And she looked up at me with a broad smile on her face and tears in her eyes and said, “The war is over.”

There are helpful similarities between an energized community war culture and an energized community climate change culture. There are also differences. In our part of the world there is no motivating “clear and present danger.”  Moreover, unlike wartime Canadians, we cannot automatically depend upon our existing economic and technological systems to help us, since some of them are causing the very problems we are trying to deal with.

But we can develop a community culture. We can change our lifestyles, our systems, our values, and our relationship with Earth. And we can develop a spiritual resilience in our inner landscape to deal with the challenges in our outer landscape.

Every community culture must be inspired and motivated by a vision.  We will discuss this in our next chronicle.

Refugee Sponsorship: And I Thought the Paperwork was Hard…Little Did I Know!

Refugee sponsorship is not always a piece of cake, a bed of roses, or even what we had hoped it might be.  Sponsorship is kind of like raising a child from 0-20 years of age, in 12 months flat! Except that you are dealing with someone who speaks another language, comes from a different culture, and is not in fact a child at all.

A good sponsor, like a good parent, needs to teach a newcomer to be self-sufficient and thrive without them. Before a newcomer arrives, we hope, we pray, we believe they will settle and be successful in our community. We have a list from the government that tells us how they can be successful: learn French or English, manage bank accounts, pay taxes, find employment, attend school and more.  We dream, surely, “my newcomer” will do all of these things and more!

Then reality hits…they aren’t picking up the language, they want to move to a different city, they want to go back home, they don’t understand the importance of following Canadian laws, they want to do everything or nothing on their own, they resent not supporting themselves, they are scared. We think, how will we ever help them become self-sufficient?

We may need to manage our own expectations. For a family having dealt with very severe trauma or living with daunting health issues, even learning a new language in one year may only be a dream. Sometimes, you will have to set aside the list of things that “should” be done and simply help them through a difficult day.

Alternatively, the newcomer who expects to find work or start a business within weeks or months after arrival may feel disappointed and frustrated because they are not able to provide the same lifestyle they were accustomed to in their home country. They may feel like they are failing, and all you can do is support them in their disappointment and point out their achievements.

When the person(s) we have sponsored is not meeting expectations, ours or their own, it may be difficult to know what to do.  Knowing when to step back is just as important as being willing to step up and help.

A healthy sponsorship is messy…you are taking a traumatized family and connecting them with a group of volunteers who “just want to help”. And, sometimes the best way to help is to do nothing at all.

Well-meaning volunteers can sometimes cause more harm than good when they disagree about what the next best steps may be. It can cause a great deal of stress when everyone has their own idea about what is best for the newcomer.  If an individual acts on their own without consulting the rest of the group, it can cause a lot of friction and often confusion for the newcomer. Just like in parenting, a unified voice is always the best course of action.

Sometimes volunteers act in their own interests instead of the family’s by creating dependency of the newcomer.  Doing everything for another person instead of helping them learn to do things for themselves is not helping them at all. It may seem easier to just “do it for them”, but remember there is only a short 12 months to get them standing on their own.

We navigate these challenges to the best of our ability, connecting newcomers with professional help when needed. We share our experience and knowledge, encourage them to try things on their own, and then at some point, we let go.

Just like parenting, we won’t do it perfectly, it’s going to get messy, AND it’s going to be OK.

If you have faced the challenges of gathering a group of people together to help another group of people learn to live in Canada, you have succeeded.

Celebrate Earth Day — Stand up for the Environment!

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Over the years, our UU communities have marked this day with protests, education, worship and more to live out our seventh principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”.

What will your community do this year?

  1. join a local protest
  2. enjoy a picnic with friends and family
  3. hold an Earth Day worship service

Whatever activity you enjoy, we invite you to share what you are doing to mark this important date on the CUC Love and Justice FB group.

For inspiration, check out this years’ campaign for Environmental and Climate Literacy at EarthDay.org, This year’s focus is  to empower everyone to engage in environmental protection.

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice 2017 AGM

Are you passionate about eco-social justice issues? Are you looking for a chance to apply your UU principles to the pressing issues of our times?
Then join CUSJ at our Annual General Meeting on Friday, May 12 at Don Heights Unitarian Congregation
http://donheights.ca/  18 Wynford Drive, (1 bl. north of Eglinton & Don Mills Rd.)
5 p.m. Buffet dinner/Ghazale Catering $10.00 (+ tip)
6 p.m. Business Meeting: livestreamed coast to coast
7:15 p.m. Keynote Speaker: Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) Theme: OUR RIGHTS! OUR FREEDOMS! OUR NATIONAL SECURITY?
8:45 p.m. Closing
Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m. Toronto First Unitarian Congregation 175 St. Clair Avenue West (at Avenue Road)
Eco-Social Justice Film “REVOLUTION: Save the Humans” by the late Rob Stewart, whose life tragically came to an end while filming his latest documentary ‘Shark Extinction’ http://therevolutionmovie.com/ 
Donations gratefully accepted for Rob’s favourite foundation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a pizza party and friendly conversation.
When you join CUSJ know that you are joining a global movement for social, environmental and economic change – a seachange  – from the ground up! This is what democracy looks like – using our individual and collective power for the benefit of all, on this one and only precious earth we share.  We do this singly and together, one day and one step at a time.
Accordingly, I take heart in those brave souls who have gone before us and those who stand with us now. Determined men and women such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes who confirm, “WE WERE MADE FOR THESE TIMES – What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace … We cannot know which acts, or by whom, will lead toward an enduring good.
One thing I am sure of –  in these critical times we need critical thinkers and compassionate doers, people just like you and me. It’s your move! It’s our movement!
Standing on the Side of Love and Justice!!
Margaret Rao
President, Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
To register for CUSJ’s May AGM and to sign up for the Friday dinner buffet go to our website http://cusj.org/annual-general-meeting/agm-form/
To order t-shirts and a CUSJ banner please contact Margaret Rao – president@cusj.org
Also, contact me if you are looking for home hospitality for the May 12- 14 weekend.
Tim McSorley is the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and formerly the Co-ordinator of the Voices-Voix Coalition, defending the right to free expression and dissent in Canada.The ICLMG is a coalition of Canadian civil society organizations established following the September, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. In light of the so-called “war on terror”, the  ICLMG’s mandate is to defend the civil liberties and human rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ICLMG members, including CUSJ, come together to share their concerns about national and international anti-terrorism legislation, and  work together to ensure our collective rights and freedoms are upheld in the face of growing national security measures.