eNews: November 21, 2023 – Issue 155

This Issue:

A Letter from Vyda
by Vyda Ng, Executive Director


I recently returned from Prague, where I was fortunate to attend “Leading into the Future,” a gathering of more than 50 Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from a dozen countries. Revs. Diane Rollert (Montreal) and Ndagijimana Fulgence (Ottawa) and I were there to represent Canada in a global conversation on theology and lay leadership. (You can read our account in the article below.)

From North and South America, Asia and Africa, we came together in Prague to imagine what a new global UU and Free Christian organization might look like. What is needed internationally to sustain and grow our faith, and how can we collectively answer those needs? 

Similar conversations are also taking place closer to home. The Canadian Unitarian Council is initiating a strategic planning process called Living into the Future: Emergent Sustainability. In the coming months, we will be inviting you to share your thoughts, desires, and questions about the future of the Canadian Unitarian Council and Unitarian Universalism in Canada. How can we remain relevant and sustainable?

I believe the answer can be found, in part, in our aspirations, in our desire to be deeply connected; radically inclusive; actively engaged; theologically alive; and spiritually grounded. 

May it be so.

Be well,

A Gathering in Prague–Leading into the Future: A Global Conversation on Theology and Lay Leadership
By Vyda Ng, Executive Director

From October 26 to 29, 2023, over 50 Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from about 12 countries gathered in Prague. The convening was part of “Leading into the Future,” the beginning phase of imagining a global UU and Free Christian organization. We– Revs. Diane Rollert (Montreal) and Ndagijimana Fulgence (Ottawa) and CUC Executive Director Vyda Ng–were there representing Canada. 

After the dissolution of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists and the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council, a Leadership Design Team (LDT) was formed to help create and guide a process for the creation of an international UU presence. 

The group of 50+ UUs was brought together in Prague to have a conversation on global UU theological education and lay leadership, and “to dream together, listen deeply, form new connections, and deepen in commitment to this shared faith, as well as deepen in our commitment to living this faith fully in today’s complex world. It will be a success if we are able to harvest generative questions, identify existing needs, and the resources that can be shared.”

The group first met together on Thursday just before dinner, then for two full days over Friday and Saturday. The gathering came to a close after service on Sunday.

On Friday, keynote speaker Bayo Alomolafe spoke on “Making Sanctuary Together: Faith in a More-than-human world.” He posed some interesting positions on faith–that faith is more than human, and that we are ecological worlds unto ourselves. Because of this, faith emerges from connections we have with each other and manifests in assemblies. Faith, Alomolafe stated, is collective sense-making, that it is an ongoing inquiry, that it is an orientation and not a certainty. He asked, “Where might faith go, what might faith do, in times of crisis?”

Over the next two days, conversations covered theological and philosophical questions. The questions asked of the participants were open-ended and exploratory: 

    • What is holding me in this faith that I want to celebrate?
    • What feels hard/challenging?
    • How is my religious community the living conscience of the society I live in?
    • Why are we here?
    • What is ministry when there is no professional ministry?
    • How can theological education be made accessible globally?
    • What can be designed to meet the needs of learners to be shaped into leadership?

These are the first stages in building a global UU community, so no decisions were made here. 

Going forward, the Leadership and Design Team are centring relationships at the heart of all actions, and have suggested a five-year journey

The LDT is hosting conversations in November; these are opportunities to listen and share with UUs from around the world:

    • Wednesday, November 29 at 9pm ET
    • Thursday, November 30 at 2pm ET

What surfaced as being important are the connections that were formed and strengthened, the meeting of new UU and Free Christian friends, a stronger awareness that there IS a global UU presence, and a strong commitment to making sure that voices that were disempowered before are fully at the table and that power isn’t concentrated in the global west.

The mantra that participants came away with is “Begin in relationship.”

The LDT is:

    • Elekes Zsolt, Transylvania
    • Ailen Pestañas Esogon, Philippines
    • Renee Hills, Australia
    • Juban Lamar, India
    • Carol Maciel, Brazil
    • Roux Malan, South Africa
    • Gerard Niyungeko, Burundi
    • Elias Ortega, US
    • Liz Slade, UK

The international gathering was made possible by generous funding from the Hibbert Trust and the UU Funding Program.

Learn more: Leading into the Future. 

Meet Camellia Jahanshahi

Currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Camellia Jahanshahi has served the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) as a facilitator  in a variety of roles, including for Rising Together, a space for Unitarian Universalists (UUs) of colour; youth advisor training; and inclusivity action groups.

Camellia started Rising Together because of the need she observed for a space in which UUs of colour could gather. Initially designed for UUs ages 14 to 24, the program has since expanded to welcome people of all ages, although youth and young adults continue to comprise the majority of participants. The opportunity to interact with youth in this and other areas has been the most rewarding part of Camellia’s work with the CUC.

“That’s always the best part . . . knowing that I am being the adult that I needed when I was a kid, and doing my best to create and foster that space for UU youth.” She adds: “to see it in action and to get letters and notes from them in support of what I do,  and the positivity that comes from it, is always absolutely the highlight.”

At the same time, Camellia acknowledges, grappling with the reasons why BIPOC UUs need a space in which to gather can be challenging. She notes that the need for such a group existed long before it was created in 2020, and that this is difficult to come to terms with.

“The hardest part is just the consistent realization of how necessary this work is,” she says, “and how–while it’s beautiful to do– it’s also quite depressing to sit down and think about it.”

Camellia believes, however, that when it comes to doing this kind of work, there’s much the wider UU community can learn from its youth. While youth spaces aren’t perfect, she values the adaptability they demonstrate and how this offers a model for other UU spaces.

“We welcome new people in,” she says. “We’re willing to be flexible with our structures. We’re willing to recreate our structures to fit the needs of the people who are actually physically in the space, or virtually in the space, or whatever. But when we leave youth spaces, we become much more rigid, and in that rigidity, we lose patience and compassion and inclusivity and diversity. And all the beautiful parts about being a human and being able to learn from each other get lost.”

2024 Annual General Meeting: Call for Motions

AGM delegates votingMark your calendar: the 2024 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place online on May 25, 2024 from 1:00 – 4:30 pm ET. As part of the AGM, delegates will consider motions on a variety of topics. These motions must be submitted using our stated process and be received by December 15, 2023.  Once resolutions are received they will be distributed to congregations by January 15, 2024 to allow for written comments and a final distribution of amended resolutions by March 15, 2024.

If your congregation would like to submit a motion for consideration, please review the process outlined on our website.  

Consider submitting a motion only if: 

    • there is no previous resolution AND it addresses a completely new issue;
    • it is of national importance; 
    • it is timely. 

If your resolution meets these requirements, please reach out to us at resolutions@cuc.ca to discuss the next steps. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this process with you and to answer your questions. 

Please watch for more information about our AGM in upcoming issues of the eNews.

Formal Consensus Decision Making A Potential Model for the CUC
By Kenzie Love

On November 18, 2023, the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Decision Making Exploration Team held a “practice” session using a model called Formal Consensus. This decision-making model, originally developed by the volunteer organization Food Not Bombs, mandates that no proposal is adopted until every concern is heard, understood, and addressed.

One congregation that has used a variation of formal consensus decision-making is Capital Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Victoria, British Columbia, which has used the model for both congregational and committee meetings. Peter Scales, a member of the congregation, believes formal consensus decision making has been an effective tool.

“It gives the leadership and gives all participants in the meeting a clearer idea of the sense of the room or the sense of the congregation and whether something should go ahead or not,” he says. 

Capital was spurred to use formal consensus decision making in the early 2000s, after a sense arose within the congregation that recent decisions made using Robert’s Rules of Order had shut some voices out. The formal consensus decision-making model was proposed as an alternative and readily adopted by the congregation.

The model used by Capital employs five gradients of agreement for participants to select from when deciding on a proposal: endorse, indicating a willingness to devote one’s time, talent, and treasure towards implementing the proposal; support, indicating that one really likes the motion and wants to help it proceed; neutral; don’t like but won’t block; and block, which indicates an active opposition to the motion.

At a recent congregational meeting on whether Capital should sever its ties with its existing landlord, the motion received an endorsement from 13 members, support from four, and neutral from one member. Scales believes allowing for gradients of agreement was preferable to a yes/no vote in this instance, as it allowed the member who selected neutral to express their true feelings, which were based on a desire to maintain harmony within the congregation.

Scales believes that if adopted at a national level, formal consensus decision making could prove as effective as it has been at Capital.

Seeking Youth and Adult Leaders for the CanUUdle Staff Team! 

The CanUUdle Staff is a group of about 10 youth and 2 adults who work together to plan the national conference for Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth (ages 14-19). CanUUdle will be taking place in Edmonton, Alberta over the May long weekend next spring (May 17-20, 2024), alongside its sibling event, Chorus (for young adults ages 18-35). 

CanUUdle is a youth con by and for youth. The staff team plans the con schedule, workshops, activities, worships and runs the show during the weekend. From January to May, the staff team gathers in monthly online meetings and works in small teams to plan the schedule and program. During CanUUdle, the staff collectively function as important community stewards, organizers and, most importantly, role models and leaders of the youth community. Planning is supported by the CanUUdle Coordinator, a part-time contract staff who works with the staff team and organizes logistics. 

It’s an opportunity to get valuable leadership experience (including volunteer hours for school), build up your resume, make long lasting friendships, and give back to your community. 

Applications for roles such as Co-Deans, Worship Coordinators, Social Media Coordinator, Adult and Youth Peer Chaplains and more are now being taken. Read about each role in detail and then fill out the application form by December 3rd. 

Unicamp Invites Applications for New Safety Policy Working Group
By Dianne Heise, Vice President, Unicamp Board of Directors

Unicamp is a Unitarian Universalist (UU) Camp and Spiritual Retreat Centre, located north of Shelburne, Ontario. Unicamp prioritizes the health, safety, and well-being of everyone at Unicamp, especially for children and youth. As part of its Health and Safety Promotion Action Plan, the Board of Directors is forming a Safety Policy Working Group to review Unicamp’s safety policies and practices and provide recommendations to the Board in order to enhance safety and accountability. 

More information and the application form are available online.  The application deadline is November 30, 2023. Email vicepresident@unicampofontario.ca with any questions.  


Featured Blog Post: Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors

In “Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors.” Rev. Linda Thomson explores the exciting, yet challenging, work of organizational change. Interested? You can read the article on our blog,  Call and Response: Conversations with a Reckoning Faith Organization.

Let us know what you think! Share your feedback, thoughts, and questions in the comment section of the blog.



UU Expressions

The Canadian Unitarian Council’s Justice and Equity team is seeking stories of vibrant and diverse expressions of Unitarian Universalism from across the country. For more information about this research project, see the article in the October eNews.

Support the CUC on Giving Tuesday

GivingTuesday is the world’s largest generosity movement. Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a stranger, or giving to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts, and everyone has something to give.

This year, Giving Tuesday takes place on November 28. The Canadian Unitarian Council will be sharing stories about our impact on Instagram and Facebook throughout the day. 

You can help us make an even bigger impact by becoming a monthly donor

    • For as little as $8 a month–$1 for each of our Principles–you can help four youth attend our in-person youth conference, CanUUdle, for free. 
    • When you give $18 a month, you provide an honorarium for an Indigenous teacher to provide guidance on how to uncolonize ourselves and decolonize the land. 
    • And, your gift of $80 each month enables us to process three refugee sponsorship applications.

Thank you for all you do to help us grow vital, sustainable UU communities, on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year. 

Contacting Us

Linda Thomson, Congregational Life Lead, Central/Eastern Region, will be on leave in December and part of January. In her absence, please contact Anne Barker at anne.barker@cuc.ca if you have questions or concerns about congregational life. 

Did You Know?

The CUC’s Lay Chaplaincy Program

The CUC’s lay chaplaincy program trains and supports carefully chosen lay members of Unitarian Universalist congregations who create and perform rites of passage — including weddings, child dedications, and memorial services — for UUs in congregations without ministers and to members of the general public. Lay Chaplains are pleased to fulfill this important role but do not provide pastoral care and aren’t trained in UU theology in the same way as ministers.

What’s Making Us Smile

Members of the congregation of Salt Lake City’s First Unitarian Church present a musical self-parody, set to the melody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General”.

CUC Events from November 21, 2023 to July 10, 2024

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

Youth Advisor Training
Nov. 30, Jan. 25, 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)
Nov. 25, Jan. 27, 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)

Working Well Together with Revs. Linda Thomson and Anne Barker
Registration closes November 23. To request access to the recorded service, please send an email to congregationallife@cuc.ca.
Nov. 25: 9:30 am PT | 10:30 am MT | 11:30 am CT | 12:30 pm ET | 1:30 pm AT  | 2:00 pm NT

National Sunday Service: Reemerging, Reimagining and Renewal
Nov. 26: 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
Dec. 8: 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: Winter Dreaming with Rev. Anne Barker
Dec. 17: 1:00 pm PT | 2:00 pm MT | 3:00 pm CT | 4:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm AT | 5:30 pm NT (1.5 hours)

Rising Together: Unitarian Universalists of Colour
Jan. 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)

Decision Making Exploration Team: Deciding Together: Co-designing a proposal for CUC decision-making – Part 1
Jan. 1310:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 2:00 pm AT | 2:30 pm NT 

Gathered Here
Jan. 16: 5:00 pm PT | 6:00 pm MT | 7:00 pm CT | 8:00 pm ET | 9:00 pm AT | 9:30 pm NT

Gathered Here
Feb. 9: 11:00 am PT | 12:00 pm MT | 1:00 pm CT | 2:00 pm ET | 3:00 pm AT | 3:30 pm NT

Decision Making Exploration Team: Deciding Together: Co-designing a proposal for CUC decision-making – Part 2
Feb. 1010:00 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

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

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

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)

Enews Prepared and Formatted by Brigitte Twomey, Website Specialist