eNews: March 20, 2024 – Issue 159

This Issue:

Letter from the Board of Trustees

A beautiful sunny day in Vancouver is drawing to a close. One in which I have spent a distressingly large portion in front of my computer thinking of how to speak to Unitarian Universalists in a compelling and engaging way. I have found this winter to be a taxing one, on both the international, national, and personal levels. Even as I love having sun and some warmth come in the midst of wet gloom, it comes with more record breaking temperatures, not enough snow pack, impending summer drought and threat of more fires. Yet, I believe finding joy in the beauty that is around me, revelling in the upswell that spring brings, is a key part of finding resilience and hope in the prevalence of life. I hope you are finding sources of resilience and support in your own life.

One of the major international concerns this winter is the ongoing escalation of violence in the Middle East. Israel’s offence against Gaza takes centre stage, while the ongoing humanitarian crises in Yemen, Sudan, and Syria are also dire and centre around food insecurity. With problems on the international stage in which Canada plays a role, the question always arises with Unitarian Universalists, what are we doing, what is our role, and who speaks for us? The National Voice Team was created by resolution in 2013 and entrusted with the role of speaking nimbly on issues of national concern between meetings of the CUC delegates. The team consists of the President of the CUC Board, The CUC Executive Director, and the President of the UU Ministers of Canada (UUMOC). Even with only three UUs, I wouldn’t quite call our timing nimble–but we do try! 

The CUC National Voice Team statements are crafted under strict parameters and do not always reflect each individual team member’s personal convictions or political opinions and certainly not every individual Unitarian. They are an attempt to speak on behalf of Canadian Unitarian-Universalists holding past AGM resolutions, CUC Vision, the 8 Principles, and 5 Aspirations in the forefront. In the case of Israel and Palestine, the CUC position is one of holding humanity at the centre of a peaceful resolution, about focusing on people who are suffering, of centring compassion at the human level. 

For my own part, when I helped craft the Israel-Palestine statement that went out last week I gave a lot of thought to our first, seventh, and eighth Principles as well as our vision of an interdependent world that calls us to love and justice. I had to temper my impulse to speak from my personal political viewpoint and to think: what do I really want people to hear in a public statement? What is the role of Canadians? What is the role of Canadian Unitarian Universalists? We do not have the power, nor is it our prerogative, to create a solution. But it is our place and within our power to look at how the Canadian government is acting in the Middle East, where it upholds oppression and facilitates violence, and to call on our MPs to change policy. The status quo cannot continue, it is harmful on so many levels. As a Unitarian Universalist, exactly what we call on our MPs to do is up to our individual conscience—but the CUC Vision, Principles, and Aspirations call us to examine if what we ask for is oriented around human dignity, interdependence, love, and justice and dismantling racism and oppression.

The strength and the weakness of Unitarian Universalism is that it is made up of individuals with diverse beliefs, viewpoints, and understanding of the world. Who has the authority to make any public statement is always a contested question—which is why we’re too often on the sidelines or silent as a group, even though we are composed of very passionate individuals. For my own part, I do not believe it is neutral to see and value the humanity of every person. I believe it is one of the hardest things we are called to do in this faith: to figure out how to hold both the value of human dignity and hold people accountable for wrongdoing. To decry actions and words and beliefs that dehumanise and oppress others while holding love and compassion for each person at the centre is hard and demands a lot of thoughtfulness. And UUs are often falling down on this. It is easier to write other people off as wrong and ignorant, or bad; it is easier to not see our own mistakes or exclusionary attitudes. Which is why an 8th Principle was proposed and adopted—because we aren’t fulfilling the first and seventh clearly enough. We can always learn and do better, that is another foundation of this faith.  People are always complex and no one story tells the whole by itself, for an individual or a group.

I believe the only way we create change is through relationship and dialogue, that is why I stick with this faith. And I know that we each have to listen to our capacity at any given moment for how strongly we are engaged or at rest. In the words of one of my favourite teachers on racial justice, Dr. Amanda Kemp, we have to “check in with our wise self” on whether we can stay grounded and present in any given relationship or conversation and to defer or delay when our heart tells us “no, I can’t do this right now.” I hope that you are in with us for the long haul, through rest and through action. I hope that when you see a situation where we are not living into the radical inclusiveness inspired by interdependence, love, and justice that you will help draw us closer to our ideals and aspirations. And when you are weary, may you find the grace to hold you while you rest.

Thank you, and may it be so.

Kiersten E. Moore
CUC Board President

Meet Alex Okrainetz

Alex Okrainetz is serving as this year’s CanUUdle Coordinator. She had previously served as a CanUUdle staff member as a youth, and participated in last year’s CanUUdle in her role as a youth advisor with the Vancouver Unitarians, and was eager to take on the job of coordinator.

“I thought ‘this is a great opportunity,’” she says. “I’m really excited to go all the way through the process.”

As CanUUdle coordinator, Alex will be working with a team of about 10 youth staff members, facilitating their planning process and taking care of the logistical details that require an adult, and will help ensure the participants’ safety and welfare during CanUUdle itself. She believes CanUUdle is important for the chance it offers the youth to connect with other UU youth from across Canada, deepen relationships with their advisors, and develop leadership skills. 

“(It’s) a space that’s not school telling them they have to do it, but it’s something that they’re choosing to do,” she says. “And because they’re Unitarian youth, community is really important to them. So I think it’s a really good opportunity for them to work with their peers.”

Alex knows from experience that both the planning and the actual event of Canuudle are  a chance to have lots of fun, but she believes the event is significant on a broader level as well.

“Youth are the future of Unitarian Universalism,” she says. “And I also think youth are a really big part of our history as a faith, and so I think it’s really important that we make sure that we prioritize them and make sure that they know they’re prioritized.”

Friends of the CUC is now “Growing into the Future”!

Many of you are familiar with, and have donated to, the “Friends of the CUC” fund. “Friends” has been the Canadian Unitarian Council’s (CUC) fundraising campaign to raise direct donations for the operations of the CUC. 

Revenue from the fund, together with congregations’ Annual Program Contributions, is crucial for the everyday expenses of running a national organization, including maintaining the staff team. The staff, in turn, engages with congregations, leaders, ministers, boards, youth and young adults, religious educators, lay chaplains, UU communities – all in order to grow vital Unitarian Universalist communities.

The Friends fund is being renamed to “Growing into the Future”. This is more reflective of where we are going as a faith community and captures our aspirations for the future. The renaming also dismantles the perception that only donors are friends of the CUC – the Growing into the Future fund has room for all of us.

The new description states: “Donations to “Growing into the Future” go directly towards the CUC. The funds fuel the CUC’s operating expenses, enabling us to fulfill the mission to grow vital Unitarian Universalist communities, and positions the CUC as a beacon for Unitarian Universalist communities across Canada, providing them with leadership, support and connection as they strive to foster a just and sustainable world and to enrich the spiritual lives of their members.” 

Donate to Growing into the Future!

Proposed Motions for the CUC’s Annual General Meeting

AGM voters holding up voting cards in auditoriu, AGM 2018

The feedback period for the proposed motions closed on March 15th. The proposers are making decisions about any changes and wording, and the updated motions will be sent out to congregations in early April.

In the meantime, register your delegates! This has to be done by May 1st for your congregation to have a vote. Read more about delegate selection, who may vote, and preparation for the AGM here

The CUC AGM takes place online on Saturday, May 25th, beginning at 9:30 am PT / 12:30 pm ET. Register here to attend.

A National Service on May 19th

Save the Date!
CUC National Service: May 19, 2024
My Muzungu Eyes Are Improving – featuring Liz James

Join us for a CUC National Service on Sunday May 19th, 2024: My Muzungu Eyes Are Improving.

How do we help effectively across a culture gap? Drawing from more than a decade of personal experience, Liz James tells a story that has it all … Humour, thoughtful analysis, and confrontations with lions. Not a metaphor. Real lions. 

Liz James is the founder of a 230,000-person online UU community called the Unitarian Universalist Hysterical Society (UUHS); half of The Cracked Cup podcast; and working on a book with Skinner House Press. 

Liz is based out of Saskatchewan, where she is building a tiny house with her own two hands. She believes in a Unitarian Universalism that is filled with meaning and joy, and that sees change as an adventure. 

Join the national UU community in a livestream of this service on Sunday, May 19th at 10:00 am PT | 1:00 pm ET on Zoom. A coffee hour conversation will follow the service. Join at this link.

The full service, as well as just the excerpt of the reflection, is also available to congregations as a recording – to use at your regular service time if you prefer. Please fill in this form for the link. The recording will be ready Monday, May 13, 2024.

Interview with Capital Rainbow Refuge’s New Executive Director

Capital Rainbow Refuge began in Ottawa in 2010, the result of a diverse group of community members becoming aware of the LGBTQI+ refugee crisis around the world. Inspired to make a difference on this issue, the group continued to grow over the years and formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2020. The CUC, as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, has worked closely with Capital Rainbow Refuge to resettle several LGBTQI+ refugees in Canada.

Lenny Emson, the organization’s Executive Director, assumed the position this past January, having worked for several years in human rights advocacy in both Canada and Europe. Originally from Ukraine, Emson says that while some of the services CRR provides are similar to those of other refugee organizations, LGBTQI+ refugees also face unique challenges that the organization assists with, such as providing peer support within Ottawa’s LGBTQI+ community. 

“We’re working with people who are suffering from a very specific kind of trauma,” he says. “People who are having a really unusual experience to other groups of refugees, because they were discriminated against and they were oppressed based on who they are.”

As a trans person, the experience of the trans people CRR has helped particularly resonate with Emson. Many of them are unable to access services such as hormone therapy in their home countries, in addition to the other forms of discrimination they face.

“They have no access to health services back home,” he says. “And when coming to Canada, they have this opportunity to finally get all the trans health care and to finally be themselves.”

National Voice Statement: Canadian Unitarian Universalists Demand Permanent Ceasefire in Israel and Gaza and Return of Hostages

The CUC’s National Voice Team has released a follow up statement on Israel and Palestine. Read it here.

The National Voice Team consists of the presidents of the UU Ministers of Canada and the CUC Board, and the CUC’s Executive Director. The National Voice Team was formed after a 2013 resolution for a three member team to craft responses based on our principles and, where appropriate, CUC policies on such public issues.


The Unitarian Church of Montreal Wins Injunction
By Margo Ellis

At the end of February, the Unitarian Church of Montreal won the first stage of a lawsuit against a former member for harassment and defamation. Three plaintiffs, including Rev. Diane Rollert and two past presidents, spent four days in court to seek an interlocutory injunction to stop the defendant from continuing his twenty-six-year presence outside the church on Sunday mornings, yelling at and insulting church members as they enter for worship services, and from writing unfounded statements in chalk on the sidewalk, and on signs that he carried with him and online. 

In a powerful judgement, Judge Gregory Moore determined that the defendant’s behavior constituted harassment and defamation, particularly his unfounded claim that the Unitarian Church of Montreal, its minister, leaders, and members were complicit in covering up child sex abuse. On numerous occasions during the trial, the defendant affirmed that he knew that these accusations were false. 

The next step will be a final trial for a permanent injunction against the defendant; to be scheduled at a later date. In the meantime, he is not allowed to be within a 200-metre radius of the church. He has been ordered to take down every post that mentions one of the plaintiffs, including the Unitarian Church of Montreal, Rev. Rollert, and the two church leaders, dated January 1, 2022, or thereafter. He is ordered not to post or publish anything that relates directly or indirectly to each of the plaintiffs. He is responsible for all legal costs. The injunction will remain in force until a final judgement is rendered. 

The judgement was received on Thursday, February 26. That following Sunday, the congregation gathered in the church’s front garden to celebrate. “It was so beautiful to reclaim the front of our church,” said Rev. Diane Rollert. “It brought tears to my eyes as we sang  ‘Enter, Rejoice, and Come In’ and joyfully entered the church in peace together after so many years.”

Searching for CUC Treasurer

The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) Board of Trustees is seeking an individual experienced in financial processes to act as Treasurer for the CUC in a volunteer capacity. 

The Treasurer provides the Board of Directors with information required for sound financial planning, decision-making and oversight, and is responsible for the monitoring of the Canadian Unitarian Council’s (CUC) financial data and reporting.

The Treasurer will be an Officer of the Corporation, but not a member of the Board of Trustees. 

The Treasurer will work with the CUC’s financial team, which consists of the Executive Director, an accountant and administrative staff. The staff are responsible for day-to-day financial transactions, bookkeeping entries and reports. 

For a full description, please refer to the role description document.

Congregational Conversations

The “CUC Congregational Conversations Series” has recently launched and will continue through the spring season. Preliminary queries identified topics of priority for congregations and we’re delighted with the enthusiastic response. Please see below for details. While the focus of this series is primarily congregational, all are welcome. We appreciate your RSVP for planning purposes.

Our March conversation topic, “Thriving, Surviving, & Sustainability”, has been a rousing success. Next up is:

Volunteer Bandwidth, Burnout, & Reimagining (same content / 2 options)
Saturday, March 23 – 10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 2:00 pm AT | 2:30 pm NT
Join the conversation at: https://bit.ly/VolunteerMar23
Monday, March 25 – 3:30 pm PT | 4:30 pm MT | 5:30 pm  CT | 6:30 pm ET | 7:30 pm AT (1.5 hours)
Join the conversation at: https://bit.ly/VolunteerMar25

Please take a moment to fill out this short RSVP form.
The form will ask for your name / email / congregation/UU community / & which sessions and dates you plan to attend. If you need to switch sessions, feel free to come to whichever one works. The form is simply to give us a general idea of numbers, but you are welcome to switch.

The purpose of the program is 3-fold:

    • Connecting Congregations – to build relationships & share concerns, needs, ideas, & inspirations. We are better together!
    • Sharing Resources – we’ll bring some & we welcome your contributions. Collections will be assembled & shared with attendees & online.
    • Inviting Collaboration congregations working together … groups sharing tools & resources … support in challenging times … so many options!

We will also be sharing more about the survey results & inviting your input on next steps. 

After “Volunteers”, themes will include: 

    • children & youth – presence & programming
    • financial planning & income streams
    • ministry options – types, availability, & creative alternatives
    • worship programming & leadership development

We look forward to gathering with you soon. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you think would benefit, & everyone you hope will attend. 

Your Congregational Life Team,
Anne Barker & Linda Thomson

ONCA – Invitation to a Zoom How-To Clinic

ONCA is the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, which was enacted by the Ontario government in October 2021.

All Ontario not-for-profit (NFP) organizations need to change their bylaws to be in compliance by October 2024. 

Who does this affect? All Ontario congregations, since all are NFPs. You are invited to a Zoom session on how-to prepare for this and to share your experiences. There will be a short presentation followed by Q&A and discussion. 

Please fill in this form to register for the conversation. 

When: Saturday, April 20, 2024, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm ET
How: On Zoom via https://bit.ly/ONCA_HowTO_CUC 

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice Presents “A Better Tent City” Webinar

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice is a national faith-based organization that supports Unitarian values through action. Its presentation this month in the Let’s Connect UU Social Justice series is “A Better Tent City” by Nadine Green of Kitchener, Ontario. Nadine, who once experienced homelessness, now works tirelessly to support others in similar situations. Evicted from her convenience store shelter in January 2020, she was invited by Ron Doyle to help establish and live in A Better Tent City (ABTC). Nadine manages life at ABTC, while also organizing and training volunteers to assist her in providing nightly care for hundreds of unsheltered individuals in the community.

The presentation takes place online Saturday, March 23rd at 1pm Eastern.

Registration is open to all.


In Memoriam – Jane Perry

Jane Perry – beloved human, cherished partner of Cora Castle, gifted musician, joyful conductor, and passionate social justice advocate – left us on January 17, 2024. Jane was vacationing in Hawaii with Cora, fulfilling her special wish for a tropical getaway.

Jane died just before sunset, on the island of Kauai. She had enjoyed snorkeling, watching sunrises on the beach, and spending time with her beloved Cora and two dear friends. Jane had been diagnosed with cancer two years previously and shared her cancer experience with grace, courage and humour on CaringBridge, an online tool designed for sharing health updates with family and friends. Jane was 52. 

Jane was the much-loved music director of the Calgary Unitarians and previously of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa. Jane’s passion for music and her passion for life and justice were felt well beyond Unitarian Universalist communities. Jane spent over twenty years as a professional choral conductor with a focus on community-building through music. Jane was the artistic director of Tone Cluster in Ottawa and the founding artistic director of One Voice Chorus in Calgary, both mixed-voice choirs for 2SLGBTQIA+ singers and their allies. She was also the artistic director of the Calgary Renaissance Singers and Players.

The Celebration of Life service for Jane will be held in person and online on Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 2:00 pm at Calgary Unitarians, 1703 1 St NW, Calgary. The Zoom link will be made available soon. 

Our hearts and love are with all who knew and loved Jane.

Soar on, Jane.

Did You Know?

Are you a new member of a UU congregation? Your congregation, and you by extension, have a relationship with the CUC. This welcome document provides a primer on who we are and what we do.




What’s Making Us Smile

British academic Lucy Moore has completed a Wikipedia page for a woman from every country in the world, noting that “unsurprisingly, perhaps, I got really stuck on Vatican City.”

CUC Events from March 20, 2024  to October 7, 2024

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

Congregational Conversations: Volunteer Bandwidth, Burnout, & Reimagining (same content / 2 options)
Saturday, March 23 – 10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 2:00 pm AT | 2:30 pm NT
Monday, March 25 – 3:30 pm PT | 4:30 pm MT | 5:30 pm  CT | 6:30 pm ET | 7:30 pm AT (1.5 hours)

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

ONCA – Invitation to a Zoom How-To Clinic
Apr. 20: 7:30 am PT | 8:30 am MT | 9:30 am CT | 10:30 am ET | 11:30 am AT | 12:00 pm NT (2 hrs)

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 

National Worship Sunday Service
May 19, 10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm  ET | 2:00 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