The Importance of Board/Staff Retreats

L to R: Susan Ruttan (Edmonton), Rev. Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel (Ottawa Fellowship), Danielle Webber (Toronto), Milton Orris (BC), Carol Cumming-Speirs (Montreal), Keith Wilkinson (Vancouver), Jane Ebbern (Calgary), Maya James – Youth Observer (Winnipeg), Rev Debra Faulk – Minister Observer (Calgary), Tanya Cothran (Toronto).













Each September, staff and board members of the CUC gather for four days at a retreat centre somewhere in the Toronto area.

For both staff and board, it’s a special time. We learn and think and laugh and eat together. We are intensely with each other, working very hard and becoming a close-knit unit.

This year our retreat was at the Ecology Retreat Centre, a collection of buildings in a wooded area 45 minutes north of Toronto. Originally built as an outdoor education centre for Toronto children, it now hosts groups like ours.

We spent a lot of time in the large meeting room, dealing with the big issues. Finances, of course, are a huge issue for the CUC. We are trying to boost our fundraising to support the national organization. Providing services to congregations is another top issue. And of course, being true to our values – we talked about how to continue our Truth, Healing and Reconciliation work of recent years.

Communication is also a key issue. The board talked via Zoom to the two Montreal experts, Margo Ellis and David Rollert, who are rebuilding our website. We want the site to provide all the information our congregations need, but also to be an open door for spiritual seekers.

Along with the work, there was time for walks in the woods, walking the big outdoor labyrinth, and just being together. Thanks to the fall retreats, I know that vice-president Jane Ebbern is a wine connoisseur, that social justice staffer April Hope is an expert in circle dancing, and that new board member Milton Orris has worked in Africa. We are a remarkable group, we Unitarians.

The CUC board only meets in person twice a year — just before the national annual meeting, and at the fall retreat. The rest of the time we meet online, using Zoom technology.  Zoom meetings are fine, but nothing beats face-to-face.

The same is true, to some extent, with CUC staff. The only staff member who works in our tiny national office all week is administrator Ahna DiFelice. The others live and work in various places – Burlington, Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Winnipeg. For our staff as well, these four days together are precious.