Fire Communion 2020

This year is different…

We heard that a lot, right? Patrick, Wendy and I re-invented the fire communion to livestream from Vancouver Unitarians sanctuary. Masks, social distancing, fire extinguishers… and poetry and music, and candles and communion!

We were pleased with how it turned out. The text can be found here:

We haven’t discussed yet, but I’m for doing the two sections in future and, assuming we can all be on site, putting the cauldron out in the courtyard after the service is over with a basket of rosemary sprigs for anyone who wants to to walk to the centre of the labyrinth and burn their sprig and light a candle to put along the labyrinth.

It wasn’t easy getting quotes from people, but that could be easier for the second annual litany of leavings and longings.

I enjoyed writing a 4-direction call and release with the past year in mind. Live we could take up more space with that and have people turn to the 4 directions.

Next year will find us about 3/4 of the way our 2-year interim ministry with Rev. Lara Cowtan. There will be much to honour as well as long for.

If you have comments about the service – still available for now at if you haven’t watched, send to me. I’d love to hear from you.

CUC Annual Conference: Been there; done that; got the T-shirt

Elizabeth-BowenThis past summer Elizabeth Bowen was in Vancouver and we had a lovely lunch at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Me: It won’t surprise you to know that I was asked if I’d like to be on the host committee for the upcoming CUC conference in Vancouver.

Elizabeth: It won’t surprise you to know that I was asked if I’d like to be on the host committee for the Ottawa conference.

Me: I said no.

Elizabeth: I said no, too.

Almost in unison: Been there! Done that! Got the T-shirt.

Elizabeth was on the board for most of the eight years I was executive director of the CUC. Those were challenging times in so many ways and Elizabeth and I now and again collided as we were doing our best to “grow vital religious communities in Canada.”

Elizabeth doesn’t know if she’ll come out to Vancouver in May 2015 but if she does, we agreed, we’d get matching t-shirts to wear.

About a year and a half ago I got an email from our minister asking if I could gather a couple of people and meet with Vyda, current E.D., when she was in town briefly en route from the BC Regional Gathering back to Ontario.

Before I checked the diplomacy filter, I typed: That would be my worst nightmare! And I hit “send”.

Diplomacy filter back engaged, I picked up the phone hoping I’d reach our minister before he read the email. I explained that after growing the CUC conference from under 100 with no kids or youth program to 2008 where over 600 (I remembered it as 850) arrived of all ages, I felt I’d contributed enough to CUC conferences for the rest of my life.  I said that I hadn’t meant it to sound so but that after investing those eight years (2000-2008)–giving it all I had–I would not be volunteering for CUC. I do a lot around the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. Indeed I’m always trying to pare down my responsibilities. For New Year’s resolutions I’ve given up committee meetings. We’ll see how that goes.  Click here for a favorite poem from Marge Piercey.

No more committees but only picnics and orgies
and dances.  I have spoken.  So be it forevermore.

The 2007 ACM in Vancouver at UBC (same site this year) was in fact one of the most challenging. We had a heckler arrive to picket our keynote speaker. An elder collapsed at the CUC Friends breakfast and had CPR for 8 minutes before the paramedics arrived. (He lived!) The Downtown Eastside catering company we hired were definitely not up for bringing food for 150 to UBC on a Sunday.  It poured with rain and our salmon banquet under tents was freezing cold and because some people helped themselves to two pieces of salmon, it ran out. I feel an (admittedly mild version compared to war veterans) episode of PTSD  coming on even thinking about going to UBC for a CUC conference. I might need drugs and/or therapy to even attend the Sunday worship service.

I attended the CUC ACM in Victoria in 2010 – and facilitated a sacred circle dance workshop. To my amused delight, we were dancing in one part of those ballrooms that get separated by an accordion divider so a huge room can become two rooms. On the other side, delegates were debating contentious issues about board governance and budgets. As I said to a friend, “I used to be on the other side of that partition. I can’t tell you how glad I am to be on this side.”

Some of my best friends are CUC board members and volunteers, but all I can say is: I just can’t.

Since that brief email in the fall of 2014, I’ve had other opportunities to get involved in hosting the conference. Some actually sound a little intriguing – community art anyone? women’s teas?

I remain resolved however. I may attend, but I will not volunteer for the CUC ACM.

Thanks for asking and best of luck with it.

I browsed at photos from 2007 and as usual in the family album, there were a lot of good times documented there, from Sylvia Bass West standing in front of the ocean and mountains, to familiar faces carrying banners and, yes, the mosaic community art project. If you google CUC 2007 scroll down as the top five hits will be about the Canadian Ultimate Championships rather than the Canadian Unitarian Council.

If you don’t want to volunteer, check here…

I was intrigued when I followed the link about planning the conference for the Canadian Unitarian Council. I’ve been invited to volunteer in several capacities and expect it to continue, and I’ll keep saying “no”. I’ve drafted a longer blog post explaining why.

So when I got to the survey at

And see that the second question is:

2. I would like to help with the CUC’s conferences.

I wondered what they would do with those of us who marked “no”. Will we put on something akin to a no-fly list.?
Listed on a website with a heading: Don’t even think about asking these people!
Why don’t I just fill out the form for fun and see what happens?
There’s a long list that I can check as well as other.

Please tell us how you would like to be involved. Check all that apply.

5. I would like to be involved with:

Program Planning: coordinating themes, program content & facilitators

Logistics: scheduling, meals, logistical details & on-site coordination

Communications & publicity

Gatherings: coordination of Welcome, banner parade, social events & Sunday worship

Registration: on-site registration of participants

Delegate registration & Credentials Committee: registration & credentialling at Annual General Meeting

Childcare, Junior Youth & Young Fun programming

Music: assisting with music needs

Technical & Audio Visual support: on-site set-up of AV needs, recording, livestreaming & trouble-shooting

Youth Advisor for CanUUdle (youth conference held concurrently)

CanUUdle on-the-ground support: kitchen help and/or overnight supervision

Publications: annual report, program guide & other printed material

Accessibility: ensuring on-site accessibility for participants

Fundraising & revenue generation events

At-large: willing and able to provide on-site support as needed
Then they thank me.

Thank you for letting us know your preferences. You will be contacted shortly about becoming involved. If you happen to know of any others in your congregation or community who would like to help us plan, please pass their information on (with their permission!) to us at, or ask them to fill out this survey.

Oh, my, makes me tired to even think back to all the help that is needed. But, sorry, I can’t help. I might have a ptsd episode.

Our First Climate Change Covenant Group went well… and there’s room for you

After Paris COP21; How are we feeling about Climate Change?  What thoughts do we have about it?

Announcing; a Covenant Group convened to Explore Thoughts And Feelings related to Climate Change.

(Co-Sponsored by Beacon Unitarian Climate Change Task Force and Unitarian Church of Vancouver Covenant Groups.)

The group will meet on the first Wednesdays of the month (Jan 6, Feb 3, Mar 2, Apr 6 and May 4), from 6:30 – 8 pm.  We will meet in a private room at Waves Coffee Shop, 715 Columbia, New Westminster, two blocks from the New Westminster Skytrain Station.

The Climate Change Covenant Group will be open for the first two sessions, however, after the 2nd session, no new members will be added.

Following “covenant group” processes, the group will be “mostly listening” as people share in a respectful and compassionate circle. The focus will be to provide an opportunity for each person to speak and be heard, and each session will include a reading and questions to consider.

The series will culminate in a group decision and action to carry out a project as a group.

First Session; Listening (Teresa).

Second Session; Principles of Active Hope, based on work by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (Mary).

Third Session: Taking the Long View (Keith)


Teresa Morton attends Beacon Unitarian and is one of the three co-leaders in the Beacon Climate Change Task Force.  Teresa has extensive facilitation experience, coordinates an art program for adults living with mental health issues and loves helping organizations to change.

Mary is a member of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver and has been involved with the Environment Committee almost since its inception in 1995. She’s an experienced facilitator, a visual artist and a community catalyst. Her work life included working as Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council.

Mary and Teresa have been friends and colleagues for over twenty years. They meet weekly to create art together and their conversations are wide-ranging.

Our First Climate Change Covenant Group went well… and there’s room for you.

Six of us convened at the private room at Waves Coffee Shop near the New Westminster Skytrain Station to share–and listen–to each other around our thoughts and feelings about climate change.

Teresa facilitated the session with a focus on listening.

Mary, Michael, Judy, Marilyn and Lynn participated in the group. We have a maximum of 10 and the group is open for February. So if you’re interested, please contact

Here are the readings on listening for you to enjoy.

“So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

“It is only through dialogue, deep listening, and passionate disagreement that we find our way to something larger than a singular and isolated point of view.”

Henry Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

“Can we listen to each other the way veins listen to blood?”

Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred

“If it is language that makes us human, one half of language is to listen. Silence can exist without speech, but speech cannot live without silence. Listen to the speech of others. Listen even more to their silence. To pray is to listen to the revelations of nature, to the meaning of events. To listen to music is to listen also to silence, and to find the stillness deepened and enriched.”
Jacob Trapp

#482 from Singing the Living Tradition
The questions we responded to are:

1.  What is the most challenging part of ‘deep listening’, in your experience?

2.  What has been the greatest gift you have ever received through ‘deep listening’?

3.  If we only were able to listen to one of your thoughts or feelings about Climate Change, which one would you most want us to hear?


The February session will be facilitated by Mary using resources from the book Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.

The Spiral questions can be found here:

Next session: 6:30-8pm Tuesday, February 3


Unitarians Dancing in Church – Yes!

Today Patrick and I led our annual Fire Communion at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. Inspired by the idea of a New Orleans Jazz Funeral, going from grieving to joy, we emphasized that rhythm today.

I have long wanted to dance to the song “Let it be a dance” (not everything in Unitarian churches has to be metaphor, right?) Well I’ve wanted LOTS of people to dance. I told the story about how when that song was played at the CUC Conference in 2001 after an important vote, I started to dance, roaming up the aisle of the lecture hall at the college. When I got to the top and looked around I realized that although people had one by one gamely danced with me, no one else was dancing.

But today! Well over 100 people were around the pews dancing and then there were too many so we formed two circles using the middle aisle.

Some of my friends who regularly circle dance at UCV were ready as plants or accomplices, so I knew I would not be alone, but I did not expect that the majority of the congregation got up and moved their bodies around the room.

We’d decided on a basic slow-quick-quick for Let it be a Dance and a grapevine to the left for “Let Union be in all our Hearts” but I taught (and friends chimed in) our circle dance mantra: There are no wrong steps–only variations.

Yes, of course, this is now the first annual Fire Communion way to end the service, but I really don’t see any reason why we couldn’t dance at every service.

I’m moving too quickly to the joy part though. It is really very touching to witness as people come forward to add their rosemary sprig onto the cauldron, some visibly in tears. I get a glimpse without words of the lives of these people and it is truly an honour.

As the song goes through “we’ll end it all in pleasure… ”

Thank you to all and especially Patrick and fiddler Joellen and storyteller Nan and dancers Hanno, Jane, Denise, Cindy. I got lots of thank-you’s. Hope you did too!

Here’s the description and order of service and a few notes about the ideas I spoke about.

Darkness Ending, Light Beginning

Sun, Dec 27 11:00 AM
Image credit

Mary Bennett, Patrick Dubois and friends

As is our tradition, we end the year with our annual fire communion – symbolically burning away the parts of the year we no longer need to open ourselves to 2016. Patrick and Mary will share music and words to grieve the year that was, burn away the loss, then celebrate the dawning of a New Year. We invite you to join us in sadness and joy, darkness and light, meditation and dancing.

Order of Service click here. DarknessEndingLightBeginning
Polarities and Transformation
I spoke a bit about the Jungian idea of the tension of opposites and how holding the opposites/polarities can allow the transcendent function to spontaneously, without will and logic, to emerge and your life is changed.
And about Buddhist concepts of the eight worldly ways or eight worldly winds that blow us around:
  • Praise Blame
  • Success Failure (also referred to as Gain and Loss)
  • Pleasure Pain
  • Fame Disrepute (also referred to as Honour and Disgrace).

Since everything is but an apparition,

perfect in being what it is,

having nothing to do with good or bad,

acceptance or rejection,

one may well burst out in laughter.

~ Longchenpa

Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer (Wylie: klong chen rab ‘byams pa dri med ‘od zer), commonly abbreviated toLongchenpa (1308–1364), was a major teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism

Closing words from Hafiz

You have all the ingredients within you

to turn existence into joy

Mix it up! Mix it up!


To Facebook (or tweet, instagram, linkedin etc.) or Not to Facebook etc. Church on social media

Our minister preached about “Reclaiming Conversation” yesterday and I have to admit (those who know me whether in person or online won’t be surprised) I spent a lot of time going “both-and”. Even though we have wifi access in the sanctuary I did not however tweet, blog or facebook my responses at the time. Although I was tempted to take a photo of the visitor from the U.S. who had her device out. Maybe taking notes. It was a good sermon. The rule is we’re not supposed to take photos in the church. I try to be obedient.

More later, but for now… if you’re looking for a Canadian curate (1)  who curates (2) tweets, try the Unvirtuous Abbey – I have been following and enjoying for some time but only just found out the “main monk” behind the handle is in New Brunswick.!/UnvirtuousAbbey

For 99 cents you can get the story about the “Main Monk”. Tell me how it goes.

I pray for newspapers and journalists just trying to make a living 99 cents at a time. Amen. – @Mary_Bennett


(1) A curate /ˈkjʊərɨt/ is a person who is invested with the care or cure (cura) of souls of a parish

(2)  to be in charge of selecting, arranging, and presenting material

Word Origin

C14: from Medieval Latin cūrātus, from cūra spiritual oversight, cure

Courtyard Labyrinth at 49th and Oak open for walking

UCVLabyrinth (4)

The labyrinth in beginning stage.

It was exciting to walk the new labyrinth last Friday when the “caution” tape was still up. (I was cautious as well as enthusiastic).

CourtyardLabyrinthbyKeithWilkinsonNov21_2015And then on Sunday morning to see various people discovering the new paving wasn’t just a pretty design but a special pattern.

Thanks to Keith Wilkinson for taking these photos and letting me know that more people walked it in the afternoon, including a friend who uses a walker – She reported that the paths were too narrow for her walker but as it’s flat it didn’t pose a problem.

SouthsideofCourtyardLabyrinthNov21_2015.jpgAnother friend who’s colour blind kept asking me: Where’s the labyrinth? Then we discovered that the red and grey pavers look almost the same to him.


Evil Squirrels Are Feasting on the Crocuses – time to take action to save the labyrinth

Well, I’m sure it’s just their nature not their fault, but squirrels are digging up the crocuses just as soon as we plant them.

UCVLabyrinth (2)

The photo shows the early stages of the double processional labyrinth being created at Fremlin and 49th. The string was marking where we’d plant crocus bulbs. You can still see the markings from last summer’s temporary labyrinth, the classical 7-circuit pattern.

We had thought digging up the sod was going to be the hard part but it turns out that watching out for the squirrels may need some strategy.

On Friday after suspecting that most of the 300 crocuses (croci?) previously planted had been chomped on, we planted more and spread chili pepper flakes on top. Between Friday and Sunday, “only two” bulbs were noted on the lawn.

I had thought squirrels only liked tulips, but it turns out that crocuses are equally tasty.

Time for rethinking our plan and not planting more crocuses till we lick this problem.

I found this funny but informative article about “evil squirrels” noted by their “tulip breath”.

And now I invite all dog owners to bring us their dog hair to decorate the labyrinth.  And should your pets begin to use the labyrinth as a latrine, that would be fine too.



Chocolate and Labyrinths – two good things go together. Buy chocolate. Support labyrinths.

Chocolate and Labyrinths – two good things go together. Buy chocolate. Support labyrinths.

Denman Island organic chocolate bars will be available on Sundays to support the building of the labyrinth in the court yard at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver.

Also available December 6 at the Random Gifts of Kindness Arts and Crafts Fair at the Unitarian Church. Sunday 10 am – 1 pm and 6 – 10 pm (closed during worship service and concert).

$3 each or 3 for $10 (you get the pleasure of giving an extra dollar to our efforts.)

8 different kinds – their best selling ones!

Best-sellers at UCV

  • Hazelnut
  • Simply Dark



It’s after Hallowe’en and Remembrance Day, so now it’s time to take the Christmas Pledge

Repeat after me…

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to… 
* Remember those people who truly need my gifts 
* Express my love in more direct ways than gifts 
* Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values 
* Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends 
* Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth

from Unplug the Christmas Machine , by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli

Our Environment Committee at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver hosts a forum discussion on the first Sunday of December every year to share our ideas and support each other in “Greening the Holidays.”

Here’s the newsletter with tips that still work from the first time we did this way back in 2012.

Click to access Enviro%20News%20Dec%202012.pdf

Personally, I’m joining the movement to Put the Sun back in the Solstice!

Like many Unitarian congregations, I’ll get to attend a children’s pageant, Christmas Eve service, Choir & Carols, Yule Pagan ritual etc. etc. First up the Choir’s Advent Concert, and then making wreaths, then….