2017 AGM

First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto

Our 56th Annual Meeting is a celebration of achieving increased access, both in-person and electronically, for member congregations. To help this historic day run as smoothly as possible, please read through the following notes to prepare:

– The CUC Board is hosting a Cross-Country Dialogue on Friday, May 12 at 7 pm eastern. You are invited to join the Board on-line via Zoom web meeting platform at https://zoom.us/j/483474813, or in-person at 215 Spadina Ave, 4th floor.

– Access the AGM Information Package, 2016 Annual Report, and Instructions for On-Line Delegates here.

For ON-LINE Delegates and Participation:

  • The on-line voting form for your congregation will be sent to ONE delegate to operate; please select this person among yourselves and enter the informationhere by May 10th. This should be a delegate who has attended an on-line orientation session
  • Please sign on one half hour before the start of the AGM so that we can check your audio and video systems. The sign-in link for Zoom is https://zoom.us/j/556899883.
  • Please read through these on-line instructions carefully before the AGM, and ensure your designated form operator can access and open the voting form BEFORE the day of the AGM
  • Observers are welcome and can access the AGM on-line via the Zoom web platform at https://zoom.us/j/556899883. Zoom participation instructions are attached – please read through carefully if Zoom is new to you.

For ON-SITE Delegates:

  • First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto is located at 175 St Clair Ave W at Avenue Rd. Parking is limited, so please allow ample time. Please also come earlier than 11:30 am to pick up your voting cards, and bring your congregation’s Delegate Certification form
  • PARKING: For those driving to First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto (175 St. Clair Ave W at Avenue Road) for the CUC AGM on Saturday, parking is available in the lot across the street from the church – next to the Medical Arts building at 200 St. Clair Avenue West. There is no cost and and no time limit. Some of the spots are double so the first car should pull in. We encourage you to carpool and to come early – there are limited spaces! See the space http://bit.ly/2qo8vuo. Metered street parking is also available.
    A light Syrian lunch will be provided by Tamam’s Catering.
  • For dinner, we invite you to stay after the AGM and join CUC Board, staff and First Toronto members, and partake in a First Nations dinner prepared by Nish Dish Anishnaabe. Nish Dish is a unique and popular café and catering service – don’t miss this chance to experience their Anishnaabe food. Purchase your dinner tickets hereby May 10th to make sure you have a place at this meal!
  • Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available for both meals.

A note about anticipated issues on the morning of the AGM:

CUC Board and staff are pleased to bring you the ability to vote and participate on-line for the first time, and have spent several years working towards fulfilling the Active Democracy resolutions which were approved in 2013, one of which was to advance an electronic platform to allow member congregations full access to Annual Meetings.

While staff has tried to anticipate things-going-wrong and to troubleshoot ahead of time, something will inevitably go wrong, especially where electronics and the web are involved. We ask that you take account of the following:

  • The timing of the Annual Meeting agenda is a best-estimate; it is possible that more time will be needed for items because of the on-line voting and discussion components
  • We welcome observers on-line via Zoom (connect at https://zoom.us/j/556899883.) but may not be able to accommodate all those who wish to speak, as delegates and official representatives of affiliates have priority
  • It is possible that internet speeds may be slow or delayed at times, and for this, we ask for your patience
  • A handful of congregations either haven’t registered delegates or attended an on-line orientation session, or both (you can still register delegates here). We hope you will join us for the AGM, and will attempt to help you work through any issues that may arise, but cannot make promises that these will be resolved – our priority is running the AGM as smoothly as possible.

Questions? Email communications@cuc.ca.

See you on the 13th!

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.