CUC eNews: October 28, 2020 – Issue 123

In This Issue:

Letter From Vyda

The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create.
~ Leonard Sweet

In just a few short weeks we will gather together for our first National Fall Gathering. Our staff and volunteers have been hard at work crafting their workshops and organizing programs to welcome you all. We are also planning for our 2021 Spring National Conference. Both our spring and fall gatherings are an excellent opportunity to deepen our connections and our faith, to grow together, and to have interesting conversations about who we are now and where we would like to go. 

At the Fall Gathering, the Board will be hosting a conversation focusing on what we are learning during this pandemic and how we can take those lessons to help sustain ourselves and our congregations going forward. This conversation, along with the work of our QUUest task force, will inform our future planning. 

And this is where you come in. It is vitally important that our planning reflects the experiences and the hopes of our members. I invite you to take some time to respond to our QUUest survey and to read more about the work of our QUUest Taskforce in this newsletter.  Whatever your role in our community, whether you are a newcomer or have been attending for years, whether you are a youth or young adult or one of our senior members, and whether you are an active organizer or prefer to stay in the background, we need to hear your perspectives so that together we can create a community that welcomes us all. Your responses to our survey will help us develop tools, programs and resources that can support us now and in the future.

We can’t build our future without you!

Be well friends,

National Fall Gathering: Sustaining Our Light

Community is always important, but perhaps Covid heightens our need to come together, to support each other spiritually, to grow and dream together. Our National Fall Gathering was developed with exactly those goals in mind. We invite you to spend a weekend among friendly faces and open hearts for an opportunity to ground ourselves in community.

The program offers a diverse range of events and workshops all linked to our theme Sustaining Our Light. There is truly something for everyone and our hope is that this gathering is a place for us to rest, and recharge together

Here’s how to learn more:
Read about our program, with workshop descriptions, information about our Coffeehouse, Board Conversations and Sunday worship. 

Make note of the items you want to register for and then head to our registration page.  You will find the form at the bottom. Remember that there is no charge for events on Friday or Sunday, and we offer a sliding scale for other programs to make it as easy as possible for all to attend. 

If your family wants to participate in the Kids ages 9-12 program which is free of charge, please use this registration form to register your kids and provide parental consent. Adults can sign up for the parents’ session on the National Fall Gathering registration page

Once you have completed the CUC registration form, there’s one last step to register for the ZOOM links. Use this document to help. You can register for as much or as little as you want, but we do want to issue an open invitation for all to attend our National Service on Sunday you can go directly to the Zoom link OR watch live on CUC’s YouTube channel.

National Gathering Workshop Offers Tips for Engaging Youth and Young Adults Online

Photo by Zachary Nelson

The Covid-19 pandemic has created both opportunities and challenges for engaging youth and young adults as congregations move worship online. In the workshop Creating Sacred Space Online for Youth and Young Adults, offered as part of the CUC’s National Gatheringon November 14, Facilitators Chloe Hart and Casey Stainsby will share lessons from their experiences planning, leading and attending worship services for youth and young adults (YaYAs) online, both before and since the pandemic. The tools offered will help you – whether you are a youth or young adult, religious professional, lay leader, or youth advisor – to create virtual spaces that are inviting and meaningful for youth and young adults, and for people of all ages! 

The CUC also offers a wide variety of online resources for making congregations more welcoming to both youth and young adults.  Be sure to check out our guide on Worship and Ministry, which is full of ideas to make worship and ministry opportunities more inclusive of young adults, including adding new worship elements and building connections through small group ministry. 

Among the many resources available for both youth and young adult worship, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Worship Web offers a treasure trove of prayers, stories, readings, and much more, searchable by category (e.g. youth, young adult, coming of age, etc.).

Our QUUest for Growth and Change

Photo by Greg Rakozy

In 2032 we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first Unitarian sermon preached in Canada. In recognition of that milestone, the CUC QUUest committee was established in May 2019 to help us all imagine who we are and who we can be as a faith movement entering our third century together. 

As it is with many things, Covid has shifted our perspective and our needs. We have been given the opportunity to reimagine ourselves and our faith now and in the short term, with an eye to using what we are learning to help sustain us and nurture our faith in the long term. 

The first goal of the taskforce is to understand where we are today, so that we can map out our path forward. A QUUest survey has been developed to invite you to share YOUR vision for our future. We have more than 4000 Unitarian Universalists in Canada and we want to hear from all of you! 

This survey offers questions for Canadian UU individuals or groups to answer.  If you are completing the survey as a group, perhaps at your virtual coffee hour, during an online discussion group or check-in, at a youth or young adult group event,  or at a gathering of UU colleagues, a short facilitation guide is provided on the CUC website.  If you have completed the survey as part of a group, you are also welcome to answer the individual version if you have additional comments.

Debra Thorne, Minister and member of the task force, encourages all Canadian UUs to respond. “In this liminal time of Covid, between the way we used to do things and the unknown future, there is an opportunity to re-imagine who and what we are. What is the vital beating heart at the center of our faith? What might our essential purpose be? These are the questions that inspire the QUUest 32 task force. We are inviting you to look into our deep future by starting with who and what we are today.  We need you, all UU’s, all ages, all groups, all perspectives to gaze with us. To see who we are today and what we might become.  Rev Steven Epperson wrote, ‘Our ancestors in this faith believed they had a future, and the future is us.’  We in turn are asked to believe in the future of the next generation. What will we create for them?”

  The survey closes December 15 and once the survey results have been compiled the Taskforce will develop a report for our spring AGM.  If you are looking for more information about QUUest and its goals, join us at our Board conversation at the upcoming National Fall Gathering.

Roundtable Provides Strategies for Dismantling Internalized Racism

Photo by Joan Villalon

A group of Canadian Unitarians participated in a session of guided reflection and small group discussion on October 21, aimed at  helping white people better understand how racism towards People of the Global Majority (People of Colour) looks in their lives, and how to acknowledge it without shame in order to have better, more honest conversations.

As Erin Horvath, the CUC’s Social Justice Lead, stressed at the beginning of the webinar, the discussion wasn’t meant to neatly resolve all the racism participants have internalized, but rather to at least begin a conversation about how it shapes their lives. To this end, participants were encouraged to see honest reflection as a positive thing, and not evidence of being a “bad racist”.

Webinar attendees participated in a variety of activities, including small group discussions about how they first became aware of race and what impact this had on them, listing ways in which they benefit from being white, and examining assumptions they might make about people of other races. Participants had engaging conversations on all these topics while also making use of the Padlet platform to share thoughts anonymously.

This webinar was just the starting point, and anyone interested in exploring the topic further is encouraged  to join in two workshops that will be presented at November’s National Fall Gathering, on examining racism in Canadian congregations and educating for anti-racism. There will also be a workshop on undoing systemic racism on December 2.

Spring National Conference: Sustaining Our Light

Photo: Vincent Gui

Our 2021 Virtual National Conference will be held from Friday, May 14 to Sunday, May 16, 2021. As in previous years, there will be something for everyone. We will be offering a full slate of events and workshops and events to draw us all together, to celebrate our faith and to build our connections with one another. The theme for the 2021 National Conference will be Sustaining Our Light, building on the same theme introduced for the National Fall Gathering. Registration for the event will open in February. 

As part of our process, we are putting out a Call for Proposals to offer a session for the conference. The proposals are due by November 30. Support will be available to help with the technical aspects of the presentation and we plan to offer training and networking opportunities to share ideas and best practices for virtual conference presentations.

We are also looking to build a virtual conference team, to help plan and support our national conference. There are a variety of roles available, with a range of commitment requirements. This is an excellent opportunity to work on a team and get to know your fellow UUs from across the country. If you are interested in sharing your skills please complete the Call for Volunteers form by November 30.

Minister Profile: Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz

Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz has served as the settled minister of Saskatoon Unitarians since 2016. Previously an active member of the Vancouver Unitarians congregation, she and some of the congregation’s other young adults were once asked by a member of the Sunday services committee if they’d be interested in presenting a service, which they ultimately did on the topic of forgiveness. Karen recalls how this invitation to be heard was empowering, and helped start her on the ministerial path.

The ability to similarly help others find a place within their congregation is the aspect of ministry Karen finds most rewarding, whether it means inspiring people to go in new directions or helping them feel more grounded where they are.

“For each person, I think it’s different,” she says, “but what’s exciting is when there’s that spark that happens and people are able to do things that they might not otherwise have been able to do.”

Karen’s ministry, however, has been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced the congregation to move all its operations online. Although she notes this was a useful spur for Saskatoon to broadcast its services, something it had long wanted to do, she’s also found it challenging to lose the spontaneous encounters people would have at in-person services. 

“I feel that I’m still as connected to leaders as I was before,” she says, “although it’s different, but I’m not nearly as connected to folks who aren’t in leadership and that troubles me, and I wonder how people are doing.”

Reconciliation is an important focus both within and outside of Karen’s ministry, with Saskatoon Unitarians moving from discussing it as a possible area of focus to making it a core part of its identity. The process has been an illuminating journey for both her and the congregation.

“That journey has taken all of us into new places and really caused us, me included, to reflect on what it means to be Unitarian Universalist,” she says, “and what it is that our tradition and our principles are calling us to do in this moment.”

As part of her personal learning around reconciliation, Karen is currently pursuing a diploma in art therapy, with a focus on Indigenous ways of knowing and learning.

This July, Karen is participating in the Water Walk for the South Saskatchewan River. To find out more about the Water Walk and how you can support it, click here:



Lay Chaplaincy: Ask Us Anything

If you have ever wondered what is involved in Lay Chaplaincy work, you are invited to an informal information session with members of the National Lay Chaplaincy Committee on Thursday, November 26.  During the session, the Committee members will answer questions and discuss a wide range of topics related to Lay Chaplaincy.  This session is open to people considering applying to be a Lay Chaplain, for congregational Lay Chaplaincy committees, and others who are curious.  Those who register will be sent links for a Zoom session via email in advance of the event.

Please register in advance

How Shall We Gather? Thinking About Virtual and In-Person Communities

Before 2020, when we imagined gathering in community, personal connections and shared experiences were a big part of the picture. And now we are having conversations about how to bring warmth and authentic connection into our online spaces and rituals. We’re inviting congregational leaders to explore these ideas through upcoming events.
On October 31 join us for a Leaders Round Table where we will discuss ideas to ensure our online spaces are welcoming ones to newcomers, visitors and members. Bring your ideas and your questions and help us create resources to share widely.

And on December 5, we are hosting a workshop to consider what safe, inclusive and meaningful UU services and community might look like going forward.  One of the goals for this workshop would be to create a network of other professionals for ongoing support and conversations. Plan to join us!


Indigenous Seed Sovereignty Learning Opportunity with SeedChange

SeedChange, formerly USC Canada, has been supporting the growth and vision of Sovereign Seeds, an Indigenous-led initiative working to strengthen seed and food sovereignty amongst Indigenous people and communities. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has spurred a shift in Sovereign Seeds’ work, as Indigenous seed keepers are experiencing an increase in Indigenous seed need and increased interest in gardening, seed keeping, ancestral food gathering, and preserving. While this interest is positive, it also means the demand for seed is higher than Indigenous seed keepers’ seed supply, putting communities’ already precarious seed stocks at risk. 

Many Indigenous seed keepers have been faced with the decision to gift seed for food at the risk of losing ancestral varieties. Sovereign Seeds has responded to the challenge by facilitating the COVID-19 Indigenous Seed Crisis Response Circle to support seed keepers in seven locations this growing season. 

We know that many Unitarian congregations have prioritized reconciliation learning and action in recent years. In the spirit of shared learning, we hope you will consider joining SeedChange Executive Director Jane Rabinowicz to learn more about Sovereign Seeds, and SeedChange’s commitment to Indigenous food leadership and justice.

Zoom webinar with SeedChange: Indigenous Seed Sovereignty 

When: Thursday, November 12, 2020, 1 pm-2 pm Eastern Time 


Meeting ID: 878 5067 3642

Passcode: 512200

There is a limit of 100 participants for this event. If you cannot access the Zoom meeting please email Jane at and she will forward you a recording of the event after it has taken place.

To learn more about SeedChange please visit their website or sign up for our newsletter.

Truth Healing and Reconciliation Challenge Grant Updatetruth healing and reconciliation logo

Thanks to those who responded to the challenge to raise $3000 for the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Truth, Healing and Reconciliation initiative, we have surpassed the $4000 mark! Our sincere appreciation to everyone who contributed — we couldn’t have done it without you.

For those who may not have contributed yet, donations of any amount will still be gratefully accepted until October 31. While we have reached our fundraising goal, additional contributions will allow us to increase our programming and our connections through this vital work.


Can Covid Lead Us to a More Equitable Society?

As Canada went into Covid lockdown in March, Mary Scott and Al Sharp, members of the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton were alarmed by the fact that the pandemic was having a particularly adverse effect on people who started from disadvantaged positions.  “The pandemic demonstrated the need for change, and a big question for Canada was how we could replace the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ with better options,” said Mary. Gail Rappolt, the lead of the social justice team at The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, approached the couple about looking at the introduction of a basic income program as a way of addressing these disparities. While Al was familiar with this idea, Mary decided to dig into the topic to educate herself more fully. Her research, and their conversations, formed the basis of an Adult Education program they developed called Living in a World with Covid which includes a series of 3 videos and reflection questions. Mary and Al have graciously offered to share these videos with UUs across the country, with the goal of engaging others in this topic as a potential solution.  “Since we finished the series, economic inequality has increased and the need for citizen engagement in addressing this is even more evident to us.”

Congregations or individuals are invited to watch and discuss these videos (found on our new Economic Justice page) either individually or as small groups. And if they spur you to action, consider writing your MP. See the CUC’s statement calling for Guaranteed Income to be included in Canada’s Covid recovery plan.

What’s Making Us Smile

People with special needs or histories of trauma and injured animals have the chance to forge a powerful bond at an Austin, Texas area animal sanctuary. As Safe in Austin volunteer Skylar Carson says, what makes the sanctuary feel like a second home is “the unconditional love, the grace and the freedom to make a difference no matter what your story is — whether you’re a kid or an adult or an animal.”

Read the Washington Post article



Upcoming Events (online via Zoom)

Share what’s going on in your congregation. Contact

Featured Events

CUC National Gathering

CUC Virtual Regional Gatherings – Friday, November 13
British Columbia: 7:00-8:30 pm PT
Western (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Thunder Bay, ON): 7:00-8:30 pm CT / 6:00-7:30 pm MT
Central (Ontario, except for Kingston, Ottawa and Quebec): 7:00-8:30 pm ET
Eastern (Kingston, Ottawa, Quebec, Atlantic provinces) 7:00-8:30 pm AT

CUC National Gathering – Saturday, November 14
9:00 a.m PT | 10:00 am MT  | 11:00 am CT  | 12:00 pm ET  | 1:00 pm AT

National Service: “Sustaining Our Light” – Sunday, November 15
10 am PT, 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET | 2:00 pm AT

Lay Chaplaincy Question and Answer Session – Thursday, November 26, 9:00 am PT | 10:00 am MT  | 11:00 am CT | 12:00 pm ET  | 1:00 pm AT
Please join with members of the National Lay Chaplaincy Committee for an informal information session.
More information

Regular Online Events

Gathered Here: Young Adult Check-In, November 9 – 8 p.m. ET More information

Connect and Deepen – Virtual Gathering, Sunday, November 8 & 22, 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, October 31, 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