Resources for Lay Chaplains
The Canadian Unitarian Council’s lay chaplaincy program trains and supports carefully chosen lay members of Unitarian Universalist congregations to create and perform rites of passage (weddings, funeral and memorial services, child dedications, and others) for the general public and for Unitarian Universalists in congregations without ministers.
Lay chaplaincy is an important outreach program of the Canadian Unitarian Council and of the lay chaplain’s congregation. Lay chaplains represent Unitarian Universalism and their congregation in the wider community. They are expected to serve in a manner that celebrates and dignifies the special occasions they commemorate, adding spiritual depth to the lives of individuals and communities. They should always interact with the wider community in a professional manner, and be able to articulate and model Unitarian Universalist principles and practice.
It is therefore important for a congregation’s lay chaplains to be approved and affirmed by its board and members.
Guides for lay chaplains
- Applying to be a lay chaplain
- Lay chaplains’ code of practice
- Training and support
- Maintaining your role as a lay chaplain
Applying to Be a Lay Chaplain
Your congregation will have its own procedure for choosing lay chaplains. The lay chaplaincy program is overseen nationally by the CUC’s Lay Chaplaincy Program Steering Committee, and unless you are in Quebec, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island it is this committee that applies for your licence to perform weddings. Once you have been selected by your congregation, you must therefore (unless you are in one of those provinces) submit the Lay Chaplain Application for New Lay Chaplains to the Steering Committee, and your congregation must submit the Lay Chaplain Endorsement Form by Congregations. Congregations in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island should apply directly to the province to obtain licences for their lay chaplains.
Lay Chaplains’ Code of Practice
The Code of Practice is a statement of the lay chaplains’ serious intent, and expresses their common concerns and loyalties.
As a lay chaplain appointed by my congregation under the guidelines of the Canadian Unitarian Council, I give full assent to this Code of Practice.
- I commit myself, before all else, to an honest and responsible performance of my duties and my role as lay chaplain.
- I take responsibility for my spiritual development and growth.
- I will identify areas of weakness and improve them with training, mentoring, etc.
- Knowing my limitations, I will seek help when in difficulty.
- I will sustain in my own mind respect for the lay chaplaincy program.
- I will refrain from words and actions (or simply behaviour and attitudes) that degrade the lay chaplaincy program, or are destructive to congregational life.
- I will do my best to support my colleagues and to keep, for them, an open mind and heart.
- I will respect confidentiality between colleagues.
- I will not speak disrespectfully or in derogation of any colleague.
- When critical of a colleague, I will speak responsibly, temperately, and constructively.
- I support fair and equitable sharing of ceremonial requests.
- When co-officiating, I will work in cooperation and in accordance to clearly defined responsibilities.
- I will hold to a single standard of respect and help for all members of the church and larger community.
- I will respect the confidentiality of private communications.
- I will respect the private and intimate boundaries of others’ lives, and I will not trespass on those boundaries for my own advantage. My relationship with families requesting special services remains professional.
- I will avoid exploiting the needs of another person for my own purposes, e.g., continue a dependent relationship beyond a service.
- I will treat with respect and sensitivity the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of others.
- I will strive to live and to speak in a way that exemplifies the best of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist values and traditions.
Training and Support
The CUC regularly provides training opportunities for lay chaplains. Please check the events calendar for upcoming trainings and workshops.
Many congregations have produced their own guides to creating meaningful ceremonies. While they are primarily aimed at couples and families being served, you may find them helpful:
- Wedding guide from Toronto First (pdf)
- Wedding guide from Ottawa First (pdf)
- Child dedication guide from Edmonton (pdf)
Also visit Ceremonies: Marking the Moments that Matter. Created by Amanda Tarling, a lay chaplain with Capital UU Congregation in Victoria, and Liz James, the site offers templates and samples of a wide variety of rituals and rites of passage.
Maintaining Your Role as a Lay Chaplain
Change of address. If the CUC applied for your licence to perform weddings, then we are required to notify your province’s department of vital statistics if you move. Please send the following information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Full address of both old and new residence
- Phone number (both old and new if applicable)
- Wedding licence number
- If you are changing congregations, the names of both old and new congregations
Performing weddings in another province. Your licence allows you to perform weddings only in your own province. However, we may be able to help you obtain a temporary licence to perform one in another province. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
Cancelling your licence. When your term ends and you step down from lay chaplaincy, your licence to perform weddings must be cancelled. If the CUC applied for it on your behalf (that is, if you are not in Quebec, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island), you should submit a Request to Cancel Lay Chaplain’s Licence. If you are in Quebec, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island, consult your province’s relevant authorities.
More information and guidelines can be found in the Congregational Lay Chaplaincy Manual (pdf).