eNews: February 21, 2024 – Issue 158

This Issue:

A Letter from Vyda
Vyda Ng, Executive Director

Change has been ever more on my mind since the pandemic. In those early weeks and months of 2020, we were all called upon to adapt, cooperate and change the way we lived our lives, often without fully understanding why. We did it, sometimes willingly, sometimes with fear and misgivings, sometimes with huge sacrifice. We lost loved ones. For the most part, we changed and we now live with a largely post-pandemic reality.

The change is not over. We have learnt that being on the other side of a pandemic has affected the way we relate with one another, how much money we have and can or can’t spend, where and how we live, how we parent our children, and how we work. Many of us are increasingly aware of our own mortality and worry about the future of our Earth.

This change lives in our Unitarian Universalist congregations and communities. In a recent survey of UUs, the top three topics for attention identified by you are: i) thriving, surviving and sustainability; ii) volunteer burnout, bandwidth and reimagining; and, iii) children and youth – presence and programming. Other topics included financial planning and income streams, justice work, and ministry options. Revs. Linda Thomson and Anne Barker are planning conversations with you on these matters.

Where do we want to be in twenty five or thirty years? We can direct the change we need or we can allow ourselves to fade. 

The work of the Living into the Future (LIFES) team and the proposed goal and strategic priorities by the CUC Board can take us in the direction of living into our potential of being a thriving and resilient spiritual community. And that means stretching ourselves, being open to new and different ideas, including people, changing the ways we do things. Being uncomfortable.

Dare we be the change we want to see in the world? Dare we not?

Are we a people of holding on or of letting go?
Holding on to rigid ideas or
Letting go and opening our minds and our hearts, to something new;
Holding on to certainty of how things should be or
Letting go and living with the uncertainty of new ways of being in the world;
Holding on to what makes us comfortable or
Letting go so we may grow which can be uncomfortable;
Holding on to what makes us safe or
Letting go to make room to help others feel safe?
The chalice flame, this symbol of our religion,
let it be a symbol of burning up the ties that hold us back from being our true self and reaching our true potential;
let it be a symbol of lighting a new way for us into a better tomorrow;
and let it be a symbol of letting go
Because holding on too long and too tightly is never good for the soul.

Paraphrased from Jay Wolin

In faith,

Meet a Music Director: Jennifer Berntson

Jennifer Berntson has served as the music director for the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa since the fall of 2021. Although a newcomer to Unitarian Universalism upon taking this position, she appreciated how welcoming people were and found it to be a good fit.

“What I really found was that the UU faith and principles just aligned really, really well with me personally and with my values,” she says. “And even the values that I feel like choral singing is about, you know, of community and respect and finding your own voice. So I’ve been very happy there.”

Jennifer oversees three choirs at First Ottawa as music director. One of the things she most appreciates about the position is the freedom she has to choose music from a wide variety of singing traditions for Sunday services. Having conducted other choirs in the past, programming concerts was her favourite part of the job, and she sees parallels to this in choosing the music for a service.

“What I really like about working in a worship service like this is that each service kind of is (a concert) in a smaller component, right? You create the shape of it and give it a narrative and hopefully the congregation takes away from it the message and the meaning that you want them to.”

With the passage of the eighth principle, Jennifer is excited about the opportunity to continue diversifying the congregation’s music library.

“A lot of the stuff that’s in the library, the traditional and older stuff, of course, is primarily white composers,” she says. “And we want to be able to draw on lots of different sources and amplify voices of BIPOC composers.”

International Women’s Day packet from CUUWA

The Canadian Unitarian Universalist Women’s Association (CUUWA) is a UU women’s organization with specific goals: to raise awareness about women’s history, rituals, and perspectives, through training, communication, celebration and many resources. 

CUUWA created this year’s resource packet for International Women’s Day on the theme of women and peace, for inspiration in creating an International Women’s Day service. This year, March 8th falls on a Friday, so the IWD service can either be March 3rd or March 11th.


CUC Annual General Meeting Information

AGM voters holding up voting cards in auditoriu, AGM 2018

The CUC’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held online on Saturday, May 25th starting at 9:30 am PT / 12:30 pm ET for an estimated 4 to 4.5 hours. 

Proposed motions and feedback platforms

Proposed motions include proposals to defund fossil fuels (Vancouver Unitarians), to add Terra Nullius to the CUC’s 2023 Doctrine of Discovery resolution (First Toronto congregation), and CUC Goals and Strategic Priorities 2024-2026 (CUC Board). Read the proposed motions here

You are invited to share your feedback before March 15th. This is an important date as, according to our current processes and bylaws, substantive amendments cannot be accepted after this date or at the AGM. A substantive amendment is one that alters the scope and/or intent of a motion. 

Here are a few ways to share your feedback:

    • Hosted conversations: Two conversations have taken place, and there are two more.
      These conversations are of interest to congregational delegates, leaders, young adults, anti-racism/dismantling barriers advocates, ministers and to those interested in how decisions are made. We especially want to invite those who may not have previously participated, who might not have felt heard or who don’t feel that there is space for them, and young adults.

These feedback sessions will use the learnings from the work of the Decision Making Exploration Team l(DMET) led by young adults, and will test alternative methods of making decisions together. 

Each session will cover the same ground – choose the date and time that suits you – and register at the links below:

To get a preview of the questions, click

    • Congregational dialogue: We encourage congregations to have conversations together about the motions so that your delegates will be aware of your congregation’s voting preferences. You can use the feedback form questions to guide your discussions, if this is helpful, and fill in the forms afterwards.
    • March 9th “Where Are We Going” experiment session: the CUC’s Decision Making Exploration Team has designed several sessions over the past year to help UUs explore possibilities for a more inclusive and accessible decision making process for the CUC and its Annual General Meetings. Join the team on March 9th to use one of these processes to discuss the proposed motions. Register here by March 6/24.
Participating in the AGM

We never know what’s going to happen at an AGM! We plan diligently, and we are always surprised! 

The AGM is where decisions about future plans for the CUC are made. Everyone is invited  to attend, to participate in decision making and to witness change as it happens. We especially welcome those who may not have previously participated, who might not have felt heard or who don’t feel that there is space for them, young adults, and those who may not have been delegates for their congregations previously. 

AGM registration for everyone
All who are attending the AGM need to register here so that we have an indication of who is present.

Information about delegates and delegate registration

With an online AGM, there are no costs to congregations or delegates for participating. We encourage congregations to consider and select members who:

    • May not previously have been delegates
    • Have a keen interest in matters that may affect Unitarian Universalism in Canada
    • Will become familiar with the proposed motions
    • Are able to facilitate discussion with the congregation about the motions
    • Will be the communications bridge between the CUC and their congregation about actions following the AGM
    • Have easy access to a reliable laptop/desktop and steady internet connection for the AGM

Read “Who May Vote at a CUC Annual General Meeting” 

Delegate registration

Each congregation needs to register their delegates by May 1, 2024. We ask that one designated person complete the form, and have your delegates’ email addresses handy.

CUC Fund Deadlines Approaching

The application deadline for two of the Canadian Unitarian Council’s subsidy funds is approaching. Applications are due March 31 for the Sharing Our Faith fund, and Theological Education Funds.

The Sharing Our Faith program provides funds for congregational initiatives. These can be to enhance ministry and aid congregational projects and outreach. And to enhance the Unitarian Universalist movement in Canada. The fund consists of monies donated to the Sharing Our Faith fund. Supplemented by a Foundation Fund administered by the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. The CUC distributes the funds as grants to congregations for growth projects and initiatives.

The Theological Education Fund bursaries support Unitarian and Universalist (UU) theological education in Canada by supporting:

    • UUs in Canada with expenses incurred annually by studying for the Ministry;
    • Canadian UU ministers with continuing education expenses; and
    • Canadian UU congregations who wish to support an intern minister.

Bursaries are awarded based on financial need. An individual may receive a bursary up to three times in each category (three times for a student and three times for a minister).

Right Relations With Indigenous Communities Q & A

Wed. March 27, 2024
4:00 pm PT / 5:00 pm MT / 6:00 pm CT / 7:00 pm ET / 8:00 pm AT / 8:30 pm NT

Join our “live studio audience” as we record a video podcast using challenging scenarios that UU’s have encountered in their efforts to be in right relations with Indigenous peoples. Includes a curated Q&A conversation between Sharon Jinkerson Brass, Dave Skene, Erin Horvath, and Amber Bellemare, all of whom have extensive experience with settler-Indigenous relations.

Share your questions and experiences in the registration.

Register here by March 27, 2024.

Save the date –  CanUUdle and Chorus 2024

CanUUdle and Chorus are happening in Edmonton, Alberta from May 17-20th, 2024! 

CanUUdle is the annual conference (“con”) for Canadian Unitarian Universalist youth ages 14-19 and their adult advisors (ages 25+). CanUUdle always happens over May long-weekend, and lasts from Friday evening to Monday at noon. It’s a youth-led con where youth and adults create an amazing community, worship together, attend workshops, play and grow as spiritual beings. It’s a beautiful weekend full of fun, laughter, games, discussion, thought, and above all, love and friendship—the special kind that can only be found in UU community!

Chorus is an event where UU young adults (18-35) gather to build beloved community, deepen our cross-country connections, and grow as spiritual beings. This gathering, happens over May long weekend every year,  at the same time as CanUUdle, our national youth conference (for teens aged 14-19 and their adult advisors), and the weekend includes some shared programming. Older youth (17-19) can get to know the young adult community through the bridging dinner and may choose to “bridge” in a ceremony to mark their transition from youth to young adulthood. 

May National Worship Resource for Congregation

For the May long weekend Sunday of May 19th, CUC staff will offer you a Sunday worship resource. This will be a video of a full service, with an alternative video of just the homily section. The video will be available for download before May 19th – we hope this will be of use as you plan your late spring Sundays!


CUC Searching for a Communications Manager

An opportunity to create the stories. To build content. To reach thousands. To live out the values of love, justice and interdependence. 

If you are a communicator and a savvy collaborator, check out the job ad for the Communications Manager. Apply by March 25, 2024.


In Memoriam – Helen Backhouse

It is with deep sadness that we let you know that Helen Backhouse died on Friday, February 9, 2024. Helen Backhouse became active with Canadian Unitarianism with the Lakeshore Unitarian Church in Montreal, Quebec after she joined as a member in 1965. Helen, and her husband John, then became active with Calgary Unitarians in 1972 when they moved to Calgary. 

Her interest and activities within Canadian Unitarianism soon became larger than the congregation when she became active with the Western Canada District. Not only was she active, but she was the President, and it was through that work that she became aware of the importance of our Icelandic connections. Helen also served on the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Board and was a long-time member of the Canadian Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. In 2000, she was awarded the Knight Tribute award by the Canadian Unitarian Council. She also served for many years on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on Appraisal. Helen shared what had drawn her to Unitarian Universalism in a 1992 interview with the Calgary Herald when the UUA’s General Assembly was held in Calgary that year.

At Calgary Unitarians, Helen was active in religious education and as an About Your Sexuality educator. She served for many years on the History and Archives Committee. For her extraordinary contribution to our congregation, Helen was the 2001 recipient of the William Irvine Award (now called the Harold and Marion Panabaker Award).  Her late husband, John, also a steadfast contributor to church life, won the same award in 1994.

A Celebration of Life for both Helen and John is being planned for late spring and will be held at Calgary Unitarians.

In Memoriam – Brian Reid

We are saddened to share that a beloved among us has died. Longtime member of the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, Brian Reid, died peacefully surrounded by family on Saturday February 16, 2024.

Brian was a leader at First Unitarian Hamilton, a former president of the Canadian Unitarian Council, and founding member of the Stratford Unitarians. We are grateful for his dedication to our faith and his advocacy and commitment to justice in the wider world.

Our hearts are with the Reid family as they grieve their loss. We hold them in the care of community and in the presence of our love.

Friends and family are invited to Brian’s visitation on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 from 6 -8 p.m. at the W. G. Young Funeral Home, 430 Huron St, Stratford, ON. Brian’s Memorial service will take place at First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, 170 Dundurn St, South, Hamilton, on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at 3:00p.m. For those not attending Brian’s service may take part by watching the livestream feed through his obituary on the funeral home website. Following the service there will be a time of light refreshments and fellowship. To leave a tribute to the family please visit the published obituary.

Let’s Connect with: The UU Ottawa Ajashki Garden Project 

Still time to register now for the important webinar about the indigenous / UU project for affordable housing and much more, Saturday, February 24th 1 pm ET. This is the true spirit of reconciliation with the First UU Congregation of Ottawa. 




Did You Know?

The CUC’s YOBs (youth observers to the board) have played vital roles in the organization’s governance for over 20 years, with some going on to pursue UU ministry or other leadership positions.

Elected in May of each year, the YOBs (junior and senior) work together to represent youth perspectives and voices to the CUC Board, nurture national youth community, and present Board updates back to Canadian UU youth.


What’s Making Us Smile

Rumours that The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening identifies as a UU have never been confirmed, but either way, this compilation of clips shows how the series pokes fun at Unitarian Universalism in the same way it does for many other faiths.

CUC Events from February 21, 2024  to October 7, 2024

Share what’s going on in your congregation. Contact communications@cuc.ca

Youth Advisor Training
Feb. 24: 12:00 pm PT | 1:00 pm MT | 2:00 pm CT | 3:00 pm ET | 4:00 pm AT  | 4:30 pm NT (2 hours)
Feb. 29:  4:00 pm PT | 5:00 pm MT | 6:00 pm CT | 7:00 pm ET | 8:00 pm AT  | 8:30 pm NT (2 hours)

Designing and Leading Rites of Passage: Basics Training for Lay Chaplains
Feb. 24: 9:00 am PT | 10:00 am MT  | 11:00 am CT  | 12:00 pm ET  | 1:00 pm AT |  1:30 pm NT
Feb. 25: 11:30 am PT | 12:30 pm MT | 1:30 pm CT  | 2:30 pm ET  |  3:30 pm AT  | 4:00 pm NT
Mar. 2: 9:00 am PT | 10:00 am MT  | 11:00 am CT  | 12:00 pm ET  | 1:00 pm AT  | 1:30 pm NT

AGM Motions Feedback
Feb. 27: 4:30 pm PT | 5:30 pm MT | 6:30 pm CT | 7:30 pm ET | 8:30 pm
Mar. 6: 9:30 am PT | 10:30 am MT | 11:30 am CT | 12:30 pm ET | 1:30 pm AT

Let’s talk about the young adult age range (and beyond)! – Emerging Adults
Feb. 27: 5:00 pm PT | 6:00 pm MT | 7:00 pm CT | 8:00 pm ET | 9:00 pm AT | 9:30 pm NT

Where Are We Going? Considering the proposed CUC goals and strategic priorities for 2024 – 2026
Mar. 9: 10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 2:00 pm AT | 2:30 pm NT 

Gathered Here
Mar. 12: 5:00 pm PT | 6:00 pm MT | 7:00 pm CT | 8:00 pm ET | 9:00 pm AT | 9:30 pm NT

Connect and Deepen
Mar. 17: 1:00 pm PT | 2:00 pm MT | 3:00 pm CT | 4:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm AT 

Right Relations With Indigenous Communities Q & A
March 27, 2024: 4:00 pm PT | 5:00 pm MT | 6:00 pm CT | 7:00 pm ET | 8:00 pm AT | 8:30 pm NT

Rising Together: Unitarian Universalists of Colour
Apr. 10: 4:30 pm PT | 5:30 pm MT | 6:30 pm CT | 7:30 pm ET | 8:30 pm AT | 9:00 pm NT (1.5 hours)

Gathered Here
Apr. 12: 11:00 am PT | 12:00 pm MT | 1:00 pm CT | 2:00 pm ET | 3:00 pm AT | 3:30 pm NT

Connect and Deepen
Apr. 21: 1:00 pm PT | 2:00 pm MT | 3:00 pm CT | 4:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm AT 

Lay Chaplains Chat (Online)
May 6: 4:30 pm | PT 5:30 pm MT  | 6:30 pm CT  | 7:30 pm ET  | 8:30 pm AT   | 9:30 pm NT 

CanUUdle XXIV: CONstellations ~ Exploring the UUniverse
May 17 – May 20: Starting at 6:00 pm MT

Chorus 2024: Navigating Our Cosmic CommUUnity
May 17 – May 20: Starting at 6:00 pm MT

Connect and Deepen
May 19 : 1:00 pm PT | 2:00 pm MT | 3:00 pm CT | 4:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm AT 

CUC Annual General Meeting 2024
May 25: 9:30 am PT | 10:30 am MT | 11:30 am CT | 12:30 pm ET | 1:30 pm AT

Gathered Here
Jun. 11: 5:00 pm PT | 6:00 pm MT | 7:00 pm CT | 8:00 pm ET | 9:00 pm AT | 9:30 pm NT

Connect and Deepen
Jun. 16 : 1:00 pm PT | 2:00 pm MT | 3:00 pm CT | 4:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm AT 

Rising Together: Unitarian Universalists of Colour
Jul. 10: 4:30 pm PT | 5:30 pm MT | 6:30 pm CT | 7:30 pm ET | 8:30 pm AT | 9:00 pm NT (1.5 hours)

Lay Chaplains Chat (Online)
Oct. 7: 4:30 pm | PT 5:30 pm MT  | 6:30 pm CT  | 7:30 pm ET  | 8:30 pm AT   | 9:30 pm NT 

Enews Prepared and Formatted by Brigitte Twomey, Website Specialist