Free Minds, Open Hearts: Winnipeg’s Year of Celebrations

The year 2016 was busy with celebrations by the Winnipeg congregation, as they marked 125 years since their beginning as an Icelandic-Canadian Unitarian church in 1891. The 10-person Team 125 began planning for the big year in January 2015, and are now just wrapping up.

Team 125 hosted a kick-off event in September 2015, which brought in many volunteers, especially newer members who wanted to take on specific projects for the year. By October, we had two bright new banners in our front yard, which read Free Minds, Open Hearts.

January saw two exciting events. There was an intergenerational Celebration Party on Friday, January 29, with delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by member chef Ella Clark, followed by a fabulous local talent show. Two days later, Rev, Stefan Jonasson led the celebration Sunday service, entitled Trail Makers and Bridge Builders, highlighting our church’s contributions to social equality. He illustrated our advocacy for women’s suffrage in the early years, and later, the first same-sex marriage in Canada. After church, there were historical discussions, games and a free lunch for all.

Other events that took place throughout the year were:

  • Archival displays and historical articles.
  • U May Know: a weekly UU trivia piece.
  • In March we rededicated our commitment to Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank with a Sunday visit by its founding Director, David Northcott, and with many volunteers helping out Harvest.
  • Also in March the RE youth produced a super UU video about us, as well as a time capsule.
  • Members received free Inspiration Tree posters, courtesy of Kay Gardiner.
  • Membership, under Jo’Anne Kelly’s direction, produced a Former Members’ list. These people were then invited to a reunion event in May, organized by Liz Redston, who also handled most of the communications throughout the year, and also designed banners and brochures.
  • Memorial garden: several meetings took place to plan a Memorial Garden on our property.
  • The Endowment Fund trustees successfully appealed for $125 donations from the congregation.
  • Newspapers: There were feature stories about the 125 festivities in the community newspaper and (in English) in the Icelandic-Canadian newspaper, the Lögberg Heimskringla.

The year’s celebrations culminated in January 2017 with a Voices of Earth Choir Concert, featuring a new anthem commissioned by the congregation. The members were thrilled to hear this new composition, But If I’m in Your Thought, by our Music Director, P.J. Buchan.

With a new minister search prompting us to look ahead as we look back, 2016 was a journey of exploring our shared visions of how to live in our interdependent world with love and justice. Some of us shared justice journeys into areas of social need in the city. We participated in interfaith action to sponsor refugees and to advocate for greater food security for all Manitobans. We began to understand our interconnections as Treaty 1 people. Reflection on the heritage of the past has generated energy and optimism about the future as the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg embarks on a new era of bridge-building and trail-blazing.

Steve Lennon & Linda Henderson, Co-chairs, Team 125, and Lynn Clark, Board President