CUC eNews: December 15, 2020 – Issue 126

In This Issue:

Letter From VydaVyda Ng

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

~ Leonard Cohen

Somehow, in this twilight period of a global pandemic, we have arrived in December, in the middle of the Holiday season.  In this year of Covid,  it is easy to feel a kinship with the early peoples who would sit in the growing darkness of the season, and wonder if the light would ever return.  It’s no wonder there are so many celebrations centred around light in this dark season. Perhaps you’ve seen the Facebook meme that circulates each December stating that there are 15 winter holidays or religious festivals that are celebrated this time of year. While some of them are lesser known observances, the fact that there are so many speaks to our collective need to pause, recenter ourselves and take stock of what matters as we find ways to celebrate. This year, in particular, when we cannot rely on many of our traditions to ground us, we need to dig a little deeper to find light that will sustain us and ways to connect with one another. 

Recognizing that this will be a challenging season for many of us, when we are keeping us all safe by not travelling and gathering with loved ones, we have put together a list of services from congregations across the country which are open to all. The CUC and Board have also contributed favourites to a holiday playlist on Spotify and recipe collection. Food and music are so central to the ways we connect with one another and our hope is that at any given time, we might feel a connection knowing there may be UUs across the country making the same recipes or singing the same songs. 

In early January, as we turn our attention to the work ahead, there will be Annual General Meeting motions to consider and we ask that congregations set aside time in February, CUC month, to review these together. There will be workshops on anti-racism, and pastoral care, and elder circles, and of course our Sharing our Faith service. There is much to look forward to. 

But for now, I hope we can linger in this quiet season, which will feel so much quieter than normal and trust in the light we know is returning. Wishing you all a blessed season and a happy and healthy New Year. 

Be well friends,

Unitarians Celebrate Diverse Array of Winter Holidays

Christmas is an important holiday for many Unitarian Universalists, but it’s certainly not the only one they celebrate during December. Indeed, there’s no limit to the holidays UUs are free to celebrate at any time of the year, which has made the faith a particularly accommodating one for those who bring traditions from other religions into it.

Rev. Diane Rollert of the Unitarian Church of Montreal grew up in a non-religious Jewish family that still believed in holding onto family traditions, including those associated with Hanukkah. As a child, her mother used to hold a big annual Hanukkah party for neighbourhood children which included traditional foods such as latkes — potato pancakes — and games involving the dreidel, a four-sided spinning top. As an adult, Rollert and her husband maintained these traditions for their children while also celebrating Christmas, which had always been an important holiday in his family. Rollert notes that while Hanukkah isn’t the most important Jewish holiday, celebrating it is still important as a means of connecting to her roots.

“It’s always been a very powerful time of year for me because I feel the strong thread of connection to my ancestors,” she says, “just by simply lighting the menorah, and it was a tradition that for some of them in places where they lived in Eastern Europe, they weren’t able to do, it was something that they had to secretly do, or they were persecuted. So for me, it’s an act I do in remembrance of religious freedom because they didn’t have religious freedom.”

For Brandis Purcell, a longtime member of the Calgary Unitarians, celebrating the winter solstice is a reflection of the pagan tradition which she follows. Her family usually gathers to make wassail, a hot spiced apple drink, and uses some of it to water the crab apple tree on her lawn, accompanied by a special blessing. She also creates an altar with toy animals and trees to symbolize the interconnectedness of all life, a pagan tradition as well as a Unitarian principle. 

Purcell has also been a regular participant in her congregation’s solstice service for many years, which will be happening online this year but will maintain most of the traditions participants have come to expect, such as honouring ancestors with candles and a mummer’s play celebrating the return of light. She’s grateful for the opportunity Unitarianism offers to celebrate solstice and other pagan traditions.

“I’ve always appreciated the Unitarian Church because of its liberal stand on the paths people take for their own spiritual well-being, integrity, and interest,” she says. “So I think it intersects nicely with what Unitarians believe, the acceptance of all paths.”

Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy

In what will be a very different and possibly difficult holiday season for many, the staff and board wanted to offer small gifts to our members and friends to let you know you are important to us. We’ve put together a Spotify playlist of our favourite holiday and Christmas music and shared stories of why these pieces are so important to us. And we have assembled our special holiday recipes into a collection along with some information about their origins and the role they play in our own celebrations. Music and food are so fundamental to so many of our celebrations.

We also invited Anne Barker, President of UU Ministers of Canada, and Minister to Westwood Unitarian to share a message which reflects on this challenging season in the midst of a challenging year. Her words are a gift to us all. 

“Here we are amid the holiday season in a time like none we have ever known…

May we be held in the love of community, abundant with the gifts of life. 

Blessed be and Amen.” 

“Watch Anne’s full message on YouTube, or savour it in written form (pdf).

On behalf of the entire CUC staff, and Board we wish you a happy, healthy and blessed holiday season and new year. 

Your Donations Make a Difference

We want to thank you for your generous reception to our fundraising requests. We have received some wonderful donations in the past few weeks and we are more than halfway to our goal.

The funds we raise are essential to continuing our work. These funds go directly to support our operating expenses, allowing our small but dedicated CUC team to continue to develop programs and resources that support our congregations, our members and our social justice programming.

If you have attended a CUC workshop, or roundtable discussion, a Sunday service or a conference, that work was funded, in part, by donations from our members. Donations support our refugee support work, our YouthCons, Connect and Deepen, THR programming, Lay Chaplaincy training, congregational workshops and so much more. In fact, there is not a program, resource or service we offer that isn’t sustained by your donations. 

Our plan is to continue to offer relevant programs to help meet the growing needs in our faith communities, to provide safe and inclusive spaces for our youth and young adults, and to support personal, and congregational growth. But we cannot do this work without you. Asking for your support is challenging during this very difficult year, but it is necessary.

 If you are able, would you please consider donating funds to the CUC  and help us all create the world we want to live in. Your donations make all the difference.

Becoming a White Ally with David Campt

We are so pleased to be welcoming Dr. David Campt for a special series of discussions and workshops in the new year. Dr. Campt is a renowned speaker, author and educator with a unique approach to addressing racism. He will join us to teach his RACE program which is outlined in his White Ally Toolkit.  RACE stands for Reflect, Ask, Connect, Expand and is a valuable tool for inviting and participating in meaningful conversations about racism in our communities.  Join us for our keynote event Monday, February 22, 2021, at 7 pm ET, which will be a conversation around race, unconscious bias, White supremacist thinking, and how our natural tendency to give preference to those in our own groups impacts our abilities to be allies. The workshops will provide an opportunity to explore the RACE method and the second workshop will refine storytelling as a method of persuasion. 

Save the dates! Registration information will be available in the coming weeks.
Please watch for information on our events pages and in future newsletters.

Minister Profile: Rev. Peter Boullata

Rev. Peter Boullata has served as the developmental minister for the Unitarian Congregation of Guelph since January of 2020. Peter first became involved in Unitarian Universalism as a youth, joining the Unitarian Church of Montreal and deepening his faith after graduating from university. Having completed a degree in creative writing and English, he was inspired by writers who drew together a moral vision with beautiful writing, which made his involvement with his congregation seem more meaningful.

“I think it drew me into ways in which I could speak on a Sunday for example,” he says,  “and create these texts just like what I was inspired by and some of the writers that I admired, and so it began to make more and more sense, ministry began to make more and more sense to me. And I’d always had an interest in religion and religious philosophy and theology, so once I posed the question ‘Is ministry for me?’ it just felt like everything fell into place.”

Peter has found the creation and experience of Sunday morning services the most rewarding aspect of ministry, followed closely by the pastoral care that comes with preparing for weddings or memorial services. Although he appreciated the speed and skill with which his congregation was able to move operations online when the pandemic arose, he misses the opportunities for spontaneous interactions that in-person gatherings offer.

Peter believes Unitarian Universalism will remain relevant into the 21st century because it is a faith that emphasizes covenant rather than creed or belief, and that this will appeal to the many people seeking connection.

“When we’re at our best we offer people community and friendship and a sense of belonging, in a time that is increasingly isolated and individualistic,” he says.

Upon the conclusion of his one-year contract with Guelph at the end of this month, Peter plans to complete his ongoing Ph.D. in spiritual care and psychotherapy, with the aim of helping people facing crises of meaning see the role their faith can play by offering spiritually-integrated psychotherapy.

“It’s more of a community-based ministry as opposed to a parish ministry, but it’s just a different way of serving the need that’s out there for meaning-making and for healing,” he says.

CUC Testifies in Support of Assisted-Dying Legislation

Vyda Ng, the CUC’s Executive Director, appeared before a Senate committee last month to testify in support of Bill C-7, legislation that will amend the Criminal Code provision relating to medical assistance in dying (MAID). Her testimony was in accordance with the CUC’s long history of advocating for the right of people to choose the time and manner of their death in specific circumstances. The CUC’s support for the right to die is based on multiple UU principles, including the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; and the use of the democratic process. 

Bill C-7 proposes broadening the 2016 law on medical assistance in dying to include those whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable,” and allowing for waiver of final consent. Specifically, the amendments would permit assisted dying for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, by removing this criterion from the eligibility requirements; and would make changes to the safeguards for those whose death is foreseeable, requiring only one independent witness, providing for the waiver of final consent and dropping the requirement for a 10-day reflection period. The legislation also adds safeguards for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable and adds an explicit exclusion for patients with irremediable mental illness. Dying With Dignity Canada has expressed concerns about both these changes, believing the latter is unconstitutional.

The bill is currently before the Senate votes on it. Unfortunately, this legislation is at risk of not being passed into law by the deadline of December 18 and the Justice Minister has had to ask for an extension. Dying with Dignity is asking supporters to write to the Senate and urge action to pass Bill C-7.

Former CUC President Receives Honour from Vancouver Unitarians

Former CUC President Keith Wilkinson has received the Life Member Award from the Vancouver Unitarians, having been nominated by Mary Bennett, the CUC’s Executive Director from 2000-2008. Mary had received the award herself in 2017 and was thus invited to make a motion nominating the next recipient of the award, which the congregation gives out only occasionally and to people who have served both that congregation and the wider Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist movement. In addition to his service on the CUC’s board, Keith has filled many roles at Vancouver Unitarians, including board member, treasurer,  and membership committee chair, as well as on the finance and canvass committees.

CUC board and staff members offered Keith praise on receiving the award, including Kiersten Moore, Director of Children’s and Youth Religious Exploration at Vancouver Unitarians and a current CUC board member, who had this to say: 

“Keith was outgoing President when I came on the CUC Board in 2018. His guidance through updating and clarifying the Policy manual was so graceful. He made the effort engaging and understandable instead of tedious. I have enjoyed his wisdom and calm leadership both at the CUC and here at Vancouver Unitarians.”

Vyda, Ng, the CUC’s Executive Director, says “Keith was a member of the CUC Board of Trustees, and its President for two years. During that time, Keith brought an increased sense of organization, introduced efficient processes, and became the Board’s ‘policy wonk.’ He combed through CUC policies, updated the Board Policy Manual, reviewed and revised other documentation, and left the Board with a set of well-organized documents.

“It was my pleasure to work with Keith – his dedication to and love of the national Unitarian Universalist community shone through.”

Congratulations Keith! The award is an honour well deserved.

London’s Fundraising Success after Shift to Online Event

Many UU congregations across the country host auction-style fundraisers which are joyful celebrations of our gifts for one another. Unfortunately, Covid has put a stop to many of these gatherings, but it hasn’t stopped the London congregation from finding creative ways to shift to online fundraising options. 

When it became clear that the Annual Auction could not move forward in November, a small group of volunteers sprang into action. They developed a plan for a campaign called Sharing The Gift of Community which would weave together elements of joy and connection with the goal of raising funds to support the congregation. The team organized small care packets to be delivered to congregations. Filled with homemade cookies and treats, the gift packets provided an opportunity to reach out to the community by email and phone to invite them to donate and attend a Zoom Nosh event on a Saturday evening. This culminating event provided an opportunity to enjoy the treats and conversations with friends. The evening also included a UU trivia game, the watching of their Pride video which was created for the July Pride Festival, and an unveiling of the total dollars raised during this campaign. 

The organizing team was thrilled with the results. Funds raised through the event surpassed previous auctions, in part thanks to all the efforts made over the past 8 months to keep the congregation well connected. In their communications, the organizing team had laid out clear expectations about what financial support was needed to sustain the community and the congregation rallied. And just as importantly, this joyful time allowed the congregation to celebrate the gifts of their connections together. 

Has your congregation made a successful shift in your fundraising efforts? We’d love to hear about it so we can share success stories. Please email

Planning Underway for 2021 Conference and Youth/Young Adult Events

The CUC’s 2021 Conference will be virtual, but is sure to feature the same engaging workshops and other activities that offer something for everyone. CazUUm and Ensemble, the online equivalents of CanUUdle and Chorus, will be taking place concurrently with the conference, and will offer multiple opportunities for multigenerational worship. 

Although CanUUdle will be taking place online, it will still offer many of the same experiences participants have come to know and love. As last year’s codeans Taz Trefzger and Maya James wrote, “CanUUdle isn’t just about sleeping on uncomfortable church floors and piling on top of each other during wink, it’s about the family we form together every year. This community is sacred to all of us and we will do anything to protect it.”

There are still opportunities to join the leadership team. The deadline for applications for the CazUUm 2021 volunteer planning team has been extended to December 20! Registration for the conference and the youth/young adult events will be live in early February.

CUC Holiday Hours

Please note that the CUC offices will be closed for the winter holidays from December 23 at noon ET through to Monday, January 4. All our staff wishes you a safe, healthy and joyous holiday.

We’re Looking for a Few Good People

The CUC’s Nominating Committee is looking for individuals who are interested in serving on the CUC Board or Nominating Committee beginning in May 2021. Both these groups make an impact on our faith by developing leaders who can nurture our connections, our growth and our national voice.

Specifically, the Nominating Committee is looking for:

    • a member from either the BC or Western Region to fill a BC/Western vacancy that has existed since the 2020 AGM. 
    • a member from the Western Region 
    • a member from the Eastern Region 

The Board is also accepting nominations for three positions. 

The Committee encourages applications from young and emerging leaders and those from diverse backgrounds for both the Nominating Committee and the Board Positions. Our goal is to build a dynamic, energetic and diverse group to lead us into the future.

Interested? There’s more information available (Call for Nominations 2021) about the open positions, the process to apply and what’s involved in this work. Please note that the deadline for sending expressions of interest to is January 26, 2021.

What’s Making Us Smile

small dog sitting in a Santa hat with Christmas lightsCovid has put the brakes on many things – but it can’t stop creativity and it can’t stop Christmas from coming. Recently Linda Thomson, our Congregational Life Lead, shared a something her daughter Eliza wrote after the Christmas Pantomime she’s involved in was cancelled. Eliza recast the Covid virus as the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas. We thought it was brilliant, and a perfect thing to share to make others smile.

Many thanks to Eliza for allowing us to publish her work.

Upcoming Events (online via Zoom)

Share what’s going on in your congregation. Contact

Featured Events

Rising Together: UU Youth and Emerging Adults of Colour – Saturday, December 19; 1 pm PT |2 pm MT |3 pm CT |4 pm  ET |5 pm AT (90 minutes)

For Youth (14-19) and emerging adults (18-24) of colour
More information

Ceremonies at the End of Life
Saturday, January 16, 2021,11 – 1st session: 9 am PT |10 am MT |11 am CT |noon ET |1 pm AT, 2nd session: 12 pm PT |1 pm MT |2 pm CT |3 pm ET|4 pm AT
Lay chaplaincy – focusing on ceremonies related to Medical Assistance In Dying (MAid), family-led and home funerals, and online memorials
More information

Elder’s Circle with Sharon Jinkerson-Brass
Wednesday, January 20, 2021, 4 pm PT |5 pm MT |6 pm CT |7  pm  ET |8 pm AT (90 minutes)
More Information

Regular Online Events

Gathered Here: Young Adult Check-In
December 10 – 2 p.m. ET
January 10 – 8 p.m. ET
More information

Connect and Deepen – Virtual Gathering, Sunday, December 20, January 10 &24, 1 p.m. PT |2 p.m. MT| 3 p.m. CT| 4 p.m. ET| 5 p.m. AT More information

Leaders Roundtable, Saturday, January 30, 9:00 a.m. PT | 10:00 a.m. MT | 11:00 a.m. CT | 12:00 p.m. ET | 1:00 p.m. AT More information