ACT FOR AN EQUITABLE WORLD
Members of the congregation have been warm and welcoming and have made UCM a place where we want to be.
Dean and Heather Taylor
This congregation of active and open-minded people is important to me. I am happy to have found a healthy spiritual home for myself and my daughters.
As a parent, I love UCM for the rich experience of community. UCM helps my family be resilient, ethical and connected in today’s world. This is truly a religion for today’s modern parent.
SUNDAY SERVICE TESTIMONIALS
Collette Dowhaniuk -Testimonial
Joan Hill -Testimonial
February 17, 2019 – Testimonial
Two weeks ago, Fiona talked about the concept of flow – the state of being absorbed in an activity that is both challenging but do-able, something that is not boring, but not so difficult as to cause anxiety. It made me stop and think about why I feel compelled to be so involved with Unitarian Universalism – not just here at UCM, but also feeling the need to be connected to the wider UU community.
And I think it is that sense of accomplishment I get from doing something that is absorbing, that is challenging, but also being supported by this community that is so accepting and embraces who I am and lifts me up when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
My first exposure to Unitarianism was in Toronto when the Anglican theologians in my mandatory theology courses started to contradict my rational scientific train of thought – which led me to look for alternatives.
Then as a graduate student at UBC in the 60’s, we joined the First Vancouver Church and I was taken under the wing of a wonderful Religious Education Director who saw beyond my insecurities and encouraged and supported me to take on more responsibilities and leadership roles. The RE community in the Pacific Northwest (which included British Columbia, Oregon and Washington) was a lively and embracing one and helped me grow.
From there, we moved to a Fellowship in London where again we were both welcomed into that community and formed very close ties. Several moves later, we landed in Ottawa, where our second son was born just a month after we arrived.
When September came, we headed for the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa with a baby and toddler in tow – where again we were welcomed into the community. By this time, I knew that, for my mental health, I needed a sense of connection that was more than just attending Sunday Services. So that very first Sunday, I chased down the RE Director, who I’d met in the Pacific Northwest community, and asked her if I could serve on the RE Committee.
We spent 32 years in Ottawa, which started out as part of the Saint Lawrence district (which included New York) and now is part of the Eastern Region of the CUC. And, over the years, I’ve been to many of those congregations – sometimes for training or to attend regional conferences or Annual Meetings – often being billeted in people’s homes.
Then we moved to Mississauga and this time, while we deliberately moved to be close to UCM, I felt the need to ‘just be’ for a while before becoming involved. And this community welcomed me and supported me until I felt ready to jump back in.
Over the years, I have served in many capacities in the various congregations we’ve been in and I have found the CUC (and Unitarian Universalist Association) staff have always responded immediately to any questions or requests that I have had – be it for support in staffing, for conflict resolution, or assistance in reaching out to other congregations for information or ideas. The CUC has embraced new and improved communication techniques so that many of the seminars, conferences and training sessions can be attended on-line and are scheduled so that they can be attended by members across the country.
So perhaps this gives you some idea of why I am such a strong proponent of our denomination and of our connections to other congregations. I have found encouragement, stimulation, challenge, strength and support everyplace I’ve been – and at every stage of my life.
And now, when I attend denominational events such as Regional Fall Gatherings, Canadian Unitarian Council Annual Meetings or on-line training sessions, I meet new people or hook up with people I’ve known for years and instantly feel a part of the community.
I encourage all of you to consider the role that our denomination plays in your lives: be it attending or being a delegate to a denominational event, supporting the social responsibility initiatives of this congregation and the wider denomination, funding Northern Lights projects, becoming a Lay Chaplain or OWL trainer, or perhaps for you, right now, being held in the warmth of this community is what you most need.
Larry Rawlinson -Testimonial
Judy Benger -Testimonial October 2018
As a Unitarian Universalist (UU) Lay Chaplain I strive to live by the seven principles that define my liberal religious faith. Unitarian Universalism is grounded in the principle of covenant. We believe in the freedom of religious expression, the acceptance of differing ideas, the search for truth and the authority of reason. We see no fundamental conflict between faith and knowledge, religion and the world, the sacred and the secular. Rather than following a particular creed, UU communities come together in covenant of our shared principles. Our beliefs are diverse, and we walk our paths to spiritual discovery and truth together.
The first principle of Unitarian Universalism is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. If I am to be respected in my beliefs, I must in turn respect the beliefs of others, even when those beliefs are different from mine. The people in my congregation, the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga (UCM) come from diverse backgrounds and bring with them diverse spiritualities. As a non creedal faith, we welcome these beliefs. There are Jewish Unitarians, Pagan Unitarians, Christian Unitarians, even agnostic and atheist Unitarians. There are probably more than a few “I’m not really sure” Unitarians. We are all worthy and deserving of respect.
As a Lay Chaplain I put this principle into action. The ceremonies and rituals I co-create are not about me and my specific spiritual beliefs. I ask questions, I listen carefully, I provide multiple options for each element of a service. I take into account the differing values and faith backgrounds of the people who request my assistance with a rite of passage. My respect for the inherent worth and dignity of each person commands me to co-create services that reflect the backgrounds and beliefs of the individuals with whom I am working.
Our second principle is: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. My many years on the Social Responsibility Committee at UCM reflect my commitment to this principle. I also believe that this principle is important to me as a Lay Chaplain. People from all walks of life are entitled to rituals and ceremonies that reflect their uniqueness. This can absolutely be a justice and equity issue. Individuals belonging to a marginalized community may face barriers in accessing ceremonies that meet their needs. I must also be compassionate, particularly if I am dealing with people who have suffered a loss. I have posted before about my feelings regarding funerals for unclaimed bodies. Surely providing a dignified service in this situation is an act of compassion.
The third principle of Unitarian Universalism is acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. My congregation brings very different people together. Some of them are not at all like me. I try to be friendly and understanding. I do not always agree with everyone, but I think I am generally civil. I respect their beliefs as I expect to be respected in mine.
My membership in a UU Congregation over many years has contributed immensely to my spiritual growth. Here at the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga, I have found friendship, community, meaningful volunteer work and now, as a Lay Chaplain, a late vocation in my life.
The next principle on the list (number four) is a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I am on my own journey to truth. I know that there is much, much more meaning in my life than I ever imagined. I didn’t become a great scientist or even a mediocre one. I hope I have become instead a better version of myself. I also know that my truth and the meaning I find in my life are my own, and cannot be the same truth and meaning of any other person.
Next UU principle in line (number five) is the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. I vote. I vote at UCM when we have congregational meetings. I can’t say I’ve been at every single one, but I make an effort. UU congregations are democratic in their operation and these congregational meetings are important. I vote in political elections as well. I vote as my conscience dictates (which does mean I am pretty consistent). I believe in Democracy. It is not perfect, but I haven’t found a political system I like better.
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is our sixth principle. I certainly believe in justice, peace and liberty. Acting on this principle is a different matter. I don’t like confrontations or crowds, so haven’t been to many protests. My volunteer work at UCM and in the past has helped in a small way. I have organized many a Sunday speaker to bring information to our congregation. I was involved in our refugee task force until I felt that my personal circumstances made this commitment difficult. I have signed countless letters to politicians over the years.
That being said I haven’t really extended outward all that well. I know there is more that I can do. I hope acting as a Lay Chaplain may help me live this principle a bit better. As I mentioned before, I believe that access to ceremonies of significance that reflect people’s own values is in fact a justice issue. It may seem easy now to find a wide variety of services readily available, but this has not always been the case. Same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for less than 15 years.
Our final principle (number seven) is respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. This is another area in which I feel I could do better. I hate gardening and thus am not growing any of my own food. I recycle, I compost, I reuse when I can. My family tries not to overuse the furnace or the air conditioner (it is set to 25 as I write this and my menopausal self feels warm). When a second car seemed necessary we purchased a hybrid. This is all well and good, but I know there is more I could be doing. I hope I will learn a lot in the upcoming Green Sanctuary initiative at UCM. I also hope to be motivated to do more.
My goal is to incorporate these principles into all aspects of my life. If all people have worth and dignity, I should always be respectful of others. I should be compassionate and accepting of differing views. I must continue to look for truth and meaning wherever I might find them. I must act with conscience, sometimes making a difficult choice because it is the right choice. I need to move outside my comfort zone and act for a better world.
These principles can seem lofty and I know I sometimes betray them. I occasionally loose my cool with people, especially if I am already upset or exhausted. I like to think of myself as a good friend, but I know there, I have occasionally failed. I am not always compassionate. Sometimes I jump to a conclusion about someone that probably is not true. There are people in this world I struggle to accept. I just don’t understand their truth and the meaning they find in their lives. Sometimes when my conscience is telling me to speak, I stay silent, all to avoid a confrontation. I know I could be doing much more to respect that interdependent web of all existence, which serves for me as the divine in my life.
We all strive to be our best selves. We all fail to achieve our highest aspirations. We keep learning, we keep trying.
Here at the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga we aspire to deepen our spirit, nurture community and act for an Equitable, Sustainable World. As we say, it’s in our DNA!
My name is Judy Benger and I have long been a member of the Social Responsibility Committee. It’s been a tough year for Social Action, here, and in the broader world. We lost Mary Needham and June Scott, two of our brightest shining lights. The planet seems to be in turmoil; politically, socially, environmentally. It is overwhelming to even think about it, let alone to figure out how we can act for an equitable, sustainable world. Some may feel their contribution would be but a drop in a bucket. I say one drop in a bucket is better than no drops in the bucket. If we all try to do what we can, there will be many drops in that bucket and maybe we will fill it.
The Social Responsibility Committee seeks to raise awareness of and promote action among our members on social justice and environmental issues. We have been involved in many activities that make our world a better place.
Pathway Community Housing was founded by Solel Synagogue, Streetsville United Church, and UCM to address the need for affordable housing in Peel Region. We continue to write letters on behalf of Amnesty International. UCM has long been involved with the Mississauga Food bank, with three annual Food Bank Collections. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, the SRC has hosted First Nations speakers who have shared their knowledge with us. Another key action for social justice at UCM has been the sponsorship of several refugee families over the years. We are sponsoring a new Syrian family. They will be here very soon!
The SRC continues to fulfill our mission. New and exciting projects are underway. In September we participated in the Take Back the Night March organized by the Peel Committee against Woman Abuse. We have evening speakers planned on topics such as poverty, human trafficking and indigenous issues.
As song 170 proclaims, we are a gentle, angry people. We are a justice seeking people. The activities of the Social Responsibility Committee and, indeed, the other committees and groups that sustain and nurture us as a liberal religious community exist as the consequence of our giving. UCM depends on the many gifts it receives; gifts of time, gifts of wisdom and the generous financial gifts of the members of this congregation.