THE UNITARIAN CONGREGATION IN MISSISSAUGA
Exodus and Genesis
Once upon a time in Toronto, there was a very large Unitarian congregation. World War II had ended and the major reparations had been accomplished, Elvis Presley was doing his thing in the United States, and young people were looking for a radical departure from their parents’ tried-and-true religion that had not held up its end of the bargain. As the membership reports from the time show, lots of people were curious about Unitarianism (there is a purpose to those guest books)—and a fair number of them found what they were looking for.
In downtown Toronto, just a 20-minute drive from UCM, there’s the Unitarian church called the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. The community had started in 1843 and, in 1953 it got to the point where there were too many parishioners to handle. The decision was made to split. A small handful of parishioners were… not told to “go west, young man, go west” because they were already in the west, and had been traveling east to meet their spiritual needs; they stayed west. (Some others stayed east, but they are not our concern in this story.) The First Unitarian Congregation appointed Avis McCurdy to help the small groups start the new parishes.
The bulk of this work was done in the autumn of 1953. Avis McCurdy was, apparently, a whirlwind in human form. Clare Robinson wrote: “A few small groups met once or twice in Alderwood and Port Credit, and as positive support for the idea developed, it seemed timely to explore the situation in a larger, more representative group. Accordingly, a large meeting was called in November, 1953, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Milton Dewey, 54 Van Dusen Boulevard in Islington. (The Deweys were the only family with a living room large enough to accommodate a group of 25-30 persons.) At this meeting, Eugene Denton was elected chairman of an interim committee to advance the planning of the west end congregation.” (The Early Years of the South Peel Unitarian Congregation—November 1977) Thank goodness for large living rooms. It’s interesting how four walls can affect history.
Founder Bernice Law says the new western parish was an easy group that worked very well together. They had two organisational meetings at Milton and Edith Dewey’s house, and then began gatherings in the Dixie Road School House. The congregation met at the school house for over two years. There was a “heated discussion” about the name they would use for the new group: many of the members were humanists, and they weren’t too happy about calling it a “church”. They settled on “congregation” as it seemed to leave room for everybody’s beliefs and preferences.
The first member of the new Unitarian Congregation of South Peel (UCSP), according to a beautiful, leather-bound, immaculately-kept membership book, was Darrell James, who signed his name on April 11, 1954. The book is inscribed with the same date by Avis McCurdy, as a gift to the new congregation.
The first Board of Management was appointed on May 27, 1954: Chairman: Clare Robinson, Secretary: Hans Newman, Treasurer: Donald Law, Publicity Representative: Eileen Adams, Sunday Services: Helen Tucker, Education: John Cohoe, Membership: Eugene Denton, Members at Large: Keith Craig and Ralph Ironman. This Board served only 33 people.
The first couple of years were nothing short of hard work. Bernice Law remembers this period as one of constant movement, as most of the members had young families and were going about their weekday business, and then spending evenings and weekends volunteering for the congregation. At the time, a Unitarian congregation required sixty-five families before it was upgraded from a “fellowship” to a “church”. It only took the western “fellowship” two years to do that (it took the eastern fellowship three years), and they were then given the go-ahead to build an official building.
Donald and Bernice Law
Founding Members Bernice was raised Anglican, and spent her childhood Sundays attending three services. Yes, three services every Sunday. She was active—participated in the choir, especially—but was not impressed by the religion itself. (Later, she discovered she’d been searching for Humanism, though she didn’t know it when she discovered Unitarianism.) Her father was a “Christmas and Easter” Christian, and was the one to sow the seeds of doubt in Bernice, proving that one does not need to attend church in order to be religious. Though he was not Unitarian, Bernice believes his spirituality was oriented that way.
In 1947, during a period of church exploration, she found an ad for the First Unitarian in Toronto and was drawn to it because it seemed “radical”. The church was in the Jarvis Street red light district, so she took her boyfriend and a cousin for protection. It only took one service for her to know she’d found her spiritual home. Her family was aghast, but her mother eventually came ‘round (and became a member of UCSP).
Don had come from the west (Northampton), and was also a Humanist. The couple met at the Dixie Road School House and were married in 1953. Don’s name can be found on just about every record for UCSP/UCM. He was very active until his death; as of this writing, Bernice is still able to attend the Sunday services on a regular basis.
The Tale of Two Helens: Helen Tucker and Helen Tracy
UCM owes its continued existence to that brilliant rhetorical device, juxtaposition.
Helen Tucker was a founding member of UCSP; Helen Tracy lived in Toronto but moved to Mississauga about a year after the congregation started. Helen Tucker was exuberant; Helen Tracy was pragmatic, forthright and organised—though very kind. It was a case of oil and water. In any case, these two Helens were highly motivated individuals, and the congregation benefited greatly from their outgoing personalities.
Helen Tucker was the social activist (organiser of the Women’s Action Mississauga, secretary of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and the United Nations Society, amongst others).
Helen Tracy was the founding member of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto, and worked for prison reform and Native issues. Both were recipients of the Mark DeWolfe Social Action Award: Helen Tracy in 1991 and Helen Tucker in 1994.
Helen Tracy and Dying with Dignity
(from an email from Bunny Turner to Rev. Fran Dearman)
I may have told this story before about one chapter in the beginning of Dying with Dignity. I think that it is worth repeating so that it is known the contribution made by Unitarians to this new organization. DWD, as it has become known, needed a business address to continue operating. They had been operating out of the private home of their founder, Helen Tracy* and had been told they no could no longer receive business mail in a private home.
Helen and her husband Jack had been active Unitarians at Toronto First and then in the South Peel Congregation. We knew each other well. Helen phoned me at Toronto First when I was the administrator, to see if the church could be helpful.
The Canadian Unitarian Council, the CUC, rented upstairs offices in the building of Toronto First. They very kindly agreed to let DWD use a window sill for their delivered mail and a chair to sit and open the mail if they wished. It was not long before DWD expanded and then rented two offices in the building: one for office use and one for their library, which had become extensive.
Later DWD had to move from the church as they excitedly experienced further expansion and the church had no more available space. DWD needed this extra space for more paid personnel and an office for their recently hired Executive Director. They also needed a larger general office space for their volunteers, of which I was one after I retired from the church. It may have been at that time that DWD and CUC decided to share space. It was a very exciting time!!!!!
*Helen Tracy was also a founder and organizing member of the Elizabeth Fry Society. This followed a talk she gave about Elizabeth Fry and the work with women prisoners in England. Helen spoke to about a dozen members of the Toronto First Women’s Alliance. The members were working women who met regularly in the evening.
Toronto Memorial Society
From the website (www.fams.ca):
FAMS (Funeral Advisory and Memorial Society) is a compassionate consumer advocate helping members to pre-arrange simple, dignified and inexpensive funerals. At the time of death, the stress among family and friends makes it difficult to decide quickly on the final details of a funeral. We encourage our members to discuss and pre-plan those arrangements and then, register with a participating funeral provider.
FAMS has participating funeral homes and/or transfer services in various parts of Toronto, and in Ajax, Barrie, Bowmanville, Brampton, Cobourg, Colborne, Cookstown, Newcastle, Oakville, Orangeville, Oshawa and Peterborough. Our list is updated annually to reflect changes in prices, names or conditions.
Founded in 1957 as The Toronto Memorial Society, FAMS is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization with a volunteer board of directors. Information is provided by volunteers to members and to the public. We do not have any financial interest in any funeral home, transfer service, crematorium, cemetery or funeral products company.
In November of 1955, the Rev. Donald Stout of the Unitarian Congregation of South Peel addressed his congregation on the question of simplicity and dignity in funeral arrangements. There was so much interest that it was decided to call a meeting to see if a Memorial Society could be formed. The first meeting on November 23rd was held in a home of a member of the congregation. A representative from the Globe and Mail was present and a report on the meeting appeared in that paper, as well as in the Star and the Telegram and other papers all over Canada, and the United States.
A tremendous response to these reports came by letters from Canada and the United States from people of many different denominations and from all walks of life. FAMS is a compassionate advocate helping members to prearrange simple and inexpensive funerals.
From Helen Tracy’s 1976 history of the congregation:
In November 1955, the South Peel congregation drew nationwide attention following a sermon by Don Stout entitled “The Family Faces Death”. As a step toward funeral reform, some members found time to organise the Toronto Memorial Society. The Society was discussed in newspaper accounts, editorials, and on radio broadcasts and attracted new members to the church. …The Unitarian Congregation of South Peel [played] an important part in putting this valuable new organization on a sound foundation. Our office duplicating machine was used for mailing circulars. A member of our congregation was repeatedly thanked for her faithful work in mailing newsletters and duplicating literature. Another member of the congregation provided the designs for the leaflets which are still being used. Many South peel members served on the Board. The Toronto Memorial Society today has a membership of over 14 000 and an income of over $17 000 (1974). Societies in B.C. and Toronto were started independently within a few weeks of each other in 1957. Now there are 20 societies in Canada; 10 in Ontario (of these 5 were directly assisted by the Toronto society). In 1971 the Memorial Association of Canada was formed. This association is also affiliated with a continental association which has over 100 members.
The Funeral Advisory and Memorial Society
Unbiased Advice and Consumer Advocacy on Funeral Planning At time of death, the stress among family and friends makes it Difficult to decide quickly on the final details of a funeral. We encourage our members to discus and pre-plan those arrangements and then register with funeral provider FAMS has participating funerals homes and/or transfer services in various parts of Toronto and in Ajax, Barrie, Brampton, Cookstown, Newcastle, Oakville, Orangeville, and Oshawa. Our list is updated annually to reflect changes in prices, names or conditions.
Founded in 1957 as the Toronto Memorial Society, FAMS is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization with a volunteer board of directors. Information is provided by volunteers to members and to the public. We do not have any financial interest in any funeral home, transfer service, crematorium, cemetery or funeral products company.
Not Darrell James, but Donald and Sally Stout—perhaps more physically attractive than a man “well into his eighties”?
The First Building – DIY 1956
The demands on the Dixie Road School House dictated the group’s next move. As UCSP was only able to book the school house for so many hours, coffee hour was curtailed. A permanent meeting space was required. Coffee hour is essential. It’s got nothing to do with who you know: it’s who you are. Clare Robinson’s church history notes that there were three engineers—two electrical (Jack Bain and Ralph Ironman) and one mechanical (Keith Craig)—on the board at that time. With that combination, things must be built.
The congregation bought three acres of land in 1956 from one Mrs. Belford of Port Credit. Darrell James, one of the oldest members of the group (apparently “well on in his eighties”), did the surveying of the land. As the weather that spring was apparently quite cold and wet, Mr. James deserves to be remembered for his extreme dedication. (Darrell James was apparently rather deaf and so often missed what was being said, but he attended the service every Sunday until his death in the spring of 1959.)
The building is a testament to the members’ commitment. Both the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail did photo articles on the building project.
Globe and Mail photo, May 31, 1953
Everyone helped. The 1989 UCSP history claims that Sally Stout’s engagement ring is embedded in the mortar of the building. (It doesn’t explain whether this was an accident or a blessing; Karla Stout asserts it was an accident.) The first Sunday service held in the building was in September The building wasn’t quite finished, so the members wore rubber boots to protect their feet from the puddles on the floor (it had rained heavily the previous night). Dedicated members stayed after the service to nail some sheeting over the unweather-proofed roof.
Heat arrived in the form of a furnace in January 1957; there was a dramatic upsurge in Sunday morning attendance. Helen Tracy announced, “It is not possible to determine whether or not there was any relationship between the increased attendance and the furnace installation.” Funny woman.
The official dedication service for the new building was held on January 27, 1958 at 8:00 p.m. Miss Gail Cooper and Miss Adelaide Bell played the piano; Mr. Keith Craig presented the keys (while it sounds formal and dull, it must have been terribly exciting to those who had been slogging since the beginning); Rev. Stout and the congregation did the dedication: To this end, that it may carry blessing to many people, even unto generations yet unborn, we offer this building; to the service of mankind, we dedicate this church.
It was such an occasion that the following people came to offer their support: Rev. George Marshall – Niagara Falls, New York, Rev. Robert Brockway – Hamilton, Ontario, Rev. William P. Jenkins – Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Frederick May Eliot, President of the American Unitarian Association, Dr. Robert Killam – Cleveland, Ohio, Rev. Jay Chidsey – minister of Don Heights (the “eastern fellowship”), Mrs. Mary Fix – Reeve of Toronto Township, Rabbi Jacob J. Eisen – Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, Ontario
The following history was included in the bulletin:
The South Peel Story, The Unitarian Church of South Peel came into being as a result of the vision of Rev. William P. Jenkins, Minister, and the personal direction of Mrs. Avis McCurdy, Extension Director, of the First Unitarian Congregation, Toronto. The first public meeting was held in Dixie Road Public School on January 24, 1954, with Mr. Jenkins as speaker. The enthusiastic response transformed what was to be merely a Sunday school into a weekly service for adults as well as children. That spring it was decided Birch Cliff (now Don Heights) and South Peel would share the services of a minister, and Rev. Donald R. Stout was called to commence his duties on September 1, 1954.
On September 12, 1954, we held our first “church” service and Mr. Stout expressed in his address, “The Church That We Shall Build”, the congregation’s determination that there would be a Unitarian Church in South Peel where none had stood before. On October 6, 1954, we were welcomed into the Unitarian Association as an independent Fellowship, thus ceasing to be a “branch” of the Central Church.
Early in December, 1954, the first of many exciting developments occurred. An anonymous gift of $500 was received with the offer to double the amount if some person would match the original gift. Not one but two persons responded and we found ourselves with a building fund of $2,500—and without even conducting a campaign! The first anniversary was an exciting event, and amongst future goals envisioned were 65 families by September 1956, and a budget of $6,000 for 1957. All goals were met or surpassed as we achieved church status in May, 1956, with 70 families, and enter 1957 with a proposed budget of $10,000.
But as if this weren’t enough, greater enterprises were undertaken—and accomplished. The second year saw the present three acre site purchased and a building committee appointed to design a structure which would become the Education building when a larger auditorium is erected. Mr. Keith Craig was in charge of construction which began in April, 1956, and had progressed far enough that services opened in the new church in September. When finished, the building will contain 6 classrooms, office, furnace room, washrooms, kitchen and auditorium to seat 200. All work except the cement floor and roofing has been done by volunteer labor, and the finished cost of building, furnishings and landscaping will be under $20,000. In addition, a house on the property has been remodelled as a residence for Mr. Stout. Present membership stands at 140 persons—over 400% increase in three years.
On this Third Anniversary we look back with pride on our accomplishments and forward to years of growth and service. Before this building has been completed, our Sunday school has already outgrown its quarters and plans are being prepared for remodelling the barn as additional classroom space. We have also outgrown the designation “South Peel” as our “parish” now extends from the Humber West to Burlington, and from the Lakeshore North to Brampton. In part, our growth has been due to being located in an expanding area, but this alone could not account for our success.
The real factors in our growth are the never flagging determination, enthusiasm and cooperation of our congregation. It is this spirit of our people which has made the “South Peel Story” possible. They knew that they had to expand if this congregation was going to work. The new building held the current members and drew in new ones.
In 1958, a contractor was hired to build the School of Religion (now the Montessori school), but, as Clare Robinson said, that was quickly outgrown and people turned to the barn for more space. The congregation lost a little of the land in 1961 when the Government of Ontario built the QEW. The old farmhouse, which had been home for the Rev. Stout and his family, was demolished.
The use of the second building, the School of Religion, has always been a subject for debate, especially when finances were strained. The building has been kept, however, as its rental has often provided much needed income.
Rev. Donald Stout
Rev. Donald Stout was the minister hired to do joint ministry for the new eastern and western fellowships, a few months into 1954. He was young, fun, down to earth, and able to communicate what Unitarian Universalism is all about. Like everyone else, Rev. Stout and his family put up with a lot of hardships for many years. He, his wife and infant daughter Karla moved from Louisville, Kentucky, and eventually settles in the old “rigged-up” farmhouse on the site of the new church building in Port Credit. There are no stories about Rev. Stout that allude to anything but fortitude. Everyone remembers him as a dynamic leader, definitely the one to take on a new parish in a radical church (radical for Ontario, at any rate…). Eugene Denton’s membership report from Jun 7, 1955 notes, “Despite the very good outside speakers we had, it seems that our minister is still our best drawing card.”
Rev. Stout served both the eastern and western parishes until just before the new year, at which point he resigned from the eastern parish to concentrate on UCSP. Don Stout with daughters Donna and Karla in front of the new building, 1957 In the history files, there’s an (undated) orange half-sheet of paper entitled “Introducing Our Minister”. This is what it says:
The Reverend Donald R. Stout is minister of our South Peel Unitarian Congregation. Mr. Stout is a native of New York State and holds a BA degree from Syracuse University. His graduate work in theology was done at Harvard University where he secured an S.T.B. degree. While a student at Harvard, Mr. Stout served as minister of the North Unitarian Church, New Bedford, Mass.; was Assistant to the Minister, Community Church, Boston; was Assistant Director of a Unitarian Service Committee Workcamp for teenagers in Monteagle, Tenn.; and for a short period (summers) was minister of the Unitarian Fellowships in Asheville, N.C., and Paducah, Ky. He also spent one summer visiting small Universalist churches in Georgia and Alabama.
After graduation he served for one year as Assistant Minister in Louisville, Ky. He is founder of the Toronto Memorial Society, which became the subject of nationwide articles and discussion on radio, in papers and publications such as MacLeans and Newsweek. He has served as a member-at-large on the executive of the Unitarian Ministers Association, and is now chairman of the Meadville Branch Ministers Association. He is also a member of the Fellowship Committee of the Meadville Unitarian Conference. This committee interviews candidates for the Unitarian ministry from our area. He is married and has three children, two girls and a boy. He was invited to become minister of South Peel and Birch Cliff (East Toronto) Fellowships in May, 1954. Two years later he became fulltime minister of South Peel.
There are few details about Rev. Stout from this period, other than his incessant building efforts, some newspaper columns and some eye-opening sermons. The part of the story that stands out is the ending—an ending of indisputable finality. Of course, with a story this old, there are variations. The rising action in each variation is similar, though: building something from the ground up is not easy on any of the builders. In the fall of 1960, Rev. Stout began to have problems with his voice. He could no longer project or speak loudly. For a minister, voice is a lifeline; without it, there’s no way to communicate with the people who have hired you to do just that.
Again, there’s no disagreement on this point: the doctors were not able to solve the problem of Rev. Stout’s failing voice. There is some disagreement as to the cause: was it physical or psychosomatic? Helen Tucker was a certified speech therapist, and she was involved in the search for doctors who might have been able to help. Though the congregation was said to be fully supportive, Sundays were painful days. His last sermon was entitled Waiting for Godot (which, according to Don’s brother Richard, was his favourite play). Sadly, all the storytellers agree on the climax: Rev. Stout committed suicide on April 30, 1961. Some of the short parish histories call it an “untimely death”.
At the memorial service on May 7, 1961, Rev. William P. Jenkins said this about Don Stout: …he was my kind of man. He spoke to the human condition forthrightly and did not gloss over the ugly nature of things with pretty words. There are too few such men today who deal boldly with the ugly causes of our condition rather than with the symptoms, and we shall miss him for this.
The congregation was taken aback by Don Stout’s suicide; none of them had foreseen the suicide. Had they let one of their own fall through the cracks? No one quite knew what to do next. What they ended up doing was not surprising, as it was the way things had been since the beginning—and the way things would remain: they took turns leading the services, found guest speakers, and supported each other as best they could. Healing, of course, could only happen if they remained together.
My Memories of the Unitarian Congregation of South Peel
By Karla Stout
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky in July 1954. My parents made a conscious decision to leave the US as they strongly disagreed with segregation, racial discrimination and McCarthyism. We came to Toronto as landed immigrants, arriving on August 24, 1954. When we first arrived, we lived in an apartment in the Avenue Road, Eglinton area, with a Unitarian family (I think it was the McCurdys but it could have been the Jenkins). We moved to the farmhouse after the property for the building was purchased, sometime in 1956 or 1957. Donna was born in November 1955; my brother Craig was born in August 1957; my youngest sister Elaine arrived in July 1961, shortly after my father died.
The Stout children in front of Don Stout’s portrait, c.1977. From left to right: Karla, Craig, Donna, Elaine (holding Donna’s son Quinton Richardson)
I was born Unitarian and grew up surrounded by an enormous, wonderfully warm, extended Unitarian family. We saw a lot of the McCurdys, Jenkins, Birches, Coughlans, Pashleys, Tracys, Tuckers, Cohoes, and Jacksons. After my father died, we moved to Etobicoke, into the heart of the community of the Craigs, Robinsons, Wulffs, Laws, Chapins, Cormacks, Nobles, Scotts, Bruces, Zeiglers, and Gowlands. Mary Cohoe was our nursery school teacher. Mrs. John Jackson (sorry, I can’t remember her name, though I remember her face [Kay –ed]) looked after my baby sister Elaine when my mother went to work. Dr. Bobbi Robinson was our family doctor. The Bruces agreed to be our guardians after my father died, even with four children of their own! The eldest Craigs (Carol and Bill) and the Zeigler boys babysat us from time to time. We went to school with many of their children. We went to the Bahamas to help the Birches build their resort, Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros Island. We went camping on Beausoleil Island with the whole group for summer vacations. I remember lots of parties at the various homes, with music and art and boisterous conversations—stimulating even for a child! As children, we could go to any of their doors and know we were welcome. So many others: McLeans, Torringtons, Dodds, Godfreys, Websters—I can see more faces even if the names are escaping me at the moment.
Some families are part of my life still: the Gowlands, Craigs and Bruces have all visited with me here in Victoria, B.C. I have been to the Unitarian Church here a few times. There are some members of South Peel who have retired here and still remember my family.
Notes on the Early Period of UCSP
The Deweys were the parents of Sylvia, who became the wife of Richard Knight. I remember the Deweys as very kind people. Richard Knight was very active, I believe, at First Church and with the CUC. Bunny Turner is Richard Knight’s sister. My father performed the marriage ceremony for Richard and Sylvia. We saw the Knight family fairly regularly, even after they moved to Kitchener/Waterloo area. I also remember staying at the Dentons – I think they were in Oakville.
A few months later (late 1959, early 1960) Donald Stout called a meeting of the five ministers then serving churches in Ontario and Quebec to discuss their own ideas regarding a Canadian organization…Five members of the board elected at this meeting (May 14, 1961) were ministers: Eddis, Cameron, Chidsey, Petursson, and Hewett. Six had originally been nominated, but the sudden death of Stout left a vacancy that was later filled by Pet Chefurka of the London fellowship. (Phillip Hewett: Unitarians in Canada, 2nd Edition, 1995, pages 258, 259) (Dates in brackets are my estimate.)
The First Building:
We were living in the farmhouse when the church was being built. My sister Donna and I (ages 3 and 4, I think) made peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen of the farmhouse for those working on the church. My mother accidentally lost her wedding ring in the church cement. This is a true story. The church building was our playground. The upstairs hall with the risers and long, curved couch at the front was great for hide and seek. I was given piano lessons by Gail Cooper, Nora Cooper’s daughter, on the church piano. The barn was a gloriously mysterious place where interesting things were kept for the Fall Fair. We were really only supposed to go in there with a parent. A visit to Dad’s office was special: the intoxicating smells of books and pipe tobacco. The apple tree was a favourite to climb. I have a print of the tree with children by Pay Morrisey. It was given to me by Fran Scott for my 50 birthday. (I also have a watercolour given to me by Jack Cohoe for that same birthday. He was a painter, but this one was done by one of his daughters, either Pat or Anne.) I went to kindergarten (I think it was Mineola Public School at Hurontario St. and Mineola Road) down from the farmhouse – a long walk by myself. I met June Scott’s daughter Fran there, and we have been fast friends ever since.
The church property had been an orchard. What is the large parking lot now had apple trees with grape vines planted in between. There was always fruit to harvest. I remember the adult Unitarians taking the grapes and making wine, stomping the grapes with their feet just like the I Love Lucy episode! In front of the church, where the South Service Road is now, was a sort of boggy place full of bull rushes and milkweeds. In the winter, it froze over and that is where I learned to skate. My dad took me out with a folding chair to push as I tried to keep my feet on the ice.
New Year’s Eve: The adults came over to the farmhouse to celebrate. We went to bed but I woke up because they were very noisy. I asked my father why they didn’t go home because it was very late, and he told me they couldn’t find their coats. When I woke in the morning, they were just leaving; their coats had been in the kitchen the whole time!
We moved to Applewood Acres when I was in Grade 1, as the farmhouse was expropriated for the South Service Road. I think Ed Gowland was also involved in the building of the School of Religion. He taught drafting at Western Tech High School, and I remember him having pictures of the design for the building. Frankie Gowland was also the Director of the Religious Education program for a number of years, I think after the building was built.
My father’s death: Yes, my father was having concerns about his voice and his health. It bothered him that it was limiting his ability to work with his congregation. My understanding is that it was probably a combination of physical and psychosomatic causes. I remember Dr. Dodds bringing my mother home to the house in Applewood Acres after she learned the news. She was seven months pregnant with my sister Elaine, who was subsequently born in July of 1961. My father’s brother, Richard Stout, has told me that Waiting for Godot was my father’s favourite play.
We Stout children were not at my father’s memorial as my mother felt it would be too difficult, but we were with our mother at the planting of the tree. There is a picture somewhere of this event. My father was cremated and is buried at the Toronto Necropolis Ceremony & Crematorium, 200 Winchester Street in Toronto. The ashes are interred in Section A, Lot 31A, under a beautiful Norway maple. My mother was only able to speak about this recently in 2004, and that’s when we were able to locate his grave. Our family sponsored a tree to be memorialized in his name (the tree was always a metaphor for my father), and a plaque that was installed in 2005. It reads,
Acer platanoides L.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
DONALD RAY STOUT
To be free in the sunlight with none to call him in or hush his song.
Praise life, it deserves praise, but the praise of life
That forgets the pain is a pebble
Rattled in a dry gourd.
(The first quote is from the sermon “Why Are We Here” by Donald Stout, adapted from the poem “The Suicide” by Edna St. Vincent Millay; the second quote is taken from the poem “Praise Life” by Robinson Jeffers.)
UCM had no record of the grave; the information was finally passed on at the end of Jeff Brown’s time.
Sally Stout: After my father died, my mother went to the University of Toronto and got her second degree as a librarian. Everyone supported her by helping with us children while she did her studies. She became head librarian of the Oakville Public Library, shepherding it through the building of the new Centennial Library in 1967. This was a significant project as it was a first in connecting a library with an art gallery and a community recreation centre. She later worked at the Central Ontario Regional Library system, one of the first efforts to develop local interlibrary cooperation and loans.
After My Father’s Death: My family remained very active in the church for a number of years. We moved from Applewood Acres to Etobicoke in 1961, and I remember regularly attending Sunday school classes, seasonal church celebrations and participating in a very active LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) group. Guest speakers and ministers continued to be guests at our house for lunch on Sundays. I was very active in the LRY group in the late 1960’s and 70’s. Together with Ian Scott and his sister Fran, and Audrey Garland (Foster) and others, we planned and organized several conferences of the Eastern Canadian Federation of LRY that were held at South Peel. They were very well attended and, with the support of the whole congregation, very successful.
My mother remarried in the 1970s and we moved to King City, north of Toronto, in 1970. Our attendance at South Peel was less frequent but we have stayed in touch through many friends since then. The Committee of Concern and June Scott have kept us informed, and family members have attended recent events from time to time as possible. I went to McGill for my undergraduate degree and lived across from the downtown Unitarian Church. I had many friends from the LRY group in Montreal – especially Pointe Claire – and I continued to be involved in LRY activities for a number of years. I remember Mark DeWolfe visiting me in Montreal in those days.
A Tidbit: The Morrison-Reed’s daughter, Charlotte, is my nephew Christopher Sanford’s partner. They met at U of T, not through the Unitarian church.
Patience (Pay) Morrissey
Mary Green and I had been attending a mission at the Anglican Church and an offer was made to answer any question written on a particular Sunday. I went and reported the answer to Mary, and we agreed that it avoided the point we had hoped for. We did a lot of chuckling. It was that kind of questions, but I forget what it was. Anyway, at that time, Mary and I were attending the portrait painting evening classes that were held in the Unitarian Church every week under the organization called “Toronto Township Recreation”. It met every Thursday night for six weeks, I think I remember. The class was taught portrait painting by really outstanding teachers, and we really enjoyed them. We did have trouble cleaning the oil-paint spots off the floor and chairs when we had finished class. But the Unitarians always left leaflets at the back door, explaining what they believed, and we eagerly read them and took them home.
The time came to try out a Sunday service. The place was quite crowded when I got there, and among the people were Mary and Art Green, who had found friends already. Rev. Don Stout was the minister. It was such a friendly, happy crowd. What we really enjoyed was the talk back by the audience, discussing the sermon that Don had presented, although his voice had been rather quiet and scratchy. Some of the talk back was very interesting, but various speakers held the floor too long and some got off the point or boring. But altogether, it was a vibrant and enjoyable crowd of friendly people, and we felt part of it.
Don Stout’s voice continued to fade, and he had to admit that the cancer that was troubling him was inoperable, and his time left was very limited. But he introduced me to a new series of lectures and discussion groups: “Adult Education”. Literature was supplied through the U of T, I think. The congregation showed a lot of interest. Don undertook to deliver the poetry group. Mary and I signed on for the Modern Poetry with seven or eight others. Once a week for six weeks, I think it was. Don could make himself heard to a small group, without much effort. And we had a very interesting class, enjoying it and discussing the meaning and composition of each poem. And the other groups were very enthusiastic and well-attended, too.
Don’s voice became more and more troublesome, and finally he ended his own life. It was a terrible disappointment to his congregation. Sally, his wife, planted that maple tree at the west door, and it is thriving.. The church library has a copy of Don’s book, containing his philosophy and a number of his sermons. He was dearly loved by his congregation, but we could only offer his sweet wife and children our deepest sympathy. There followed a sad and difficult time, of course. Then we felt it was time to choose another minister to replace him. It took a long time to arrive at a decision and various interesting speakers filled in. Eventually, we arrived at the decision to choose Rev. Arnold Thaw. There are many stories about him, colourful and disturbing. He brought vitality and colour and even excitement and new ideas. I remember we had a number of dinner parties to welcome him in our own homes. It may have been his idea to do this. When he came to our house for a dinner party, he greeted us all by our own names right away. I remember he had amusing stories to tell about his dog that we understood to be waiting for him at his present house. He was a great story teller. And later, I found out that it was just an amusing fiction. He could be both charming and believable, and he—and we, too—enjoyed it.
Arnold continued the Adult Education classes and started a group to visit other congregations and have discussions. Altogether, the next few years were very active and his newspaper columns were popular in the Mississauga News. Our own congregation grew enormously. I’m sure you have heard already of the surge of activity. We even heard of discussions to increase the number of services per week, etc, in Arnold’s time of leadership. Arnold was with us, I seem to remember, about three or four years, maybe. And many stories, I’m sure, could be told. One of the final ones was about Arnold’s religions study groups that visited the local synagogue (Solel Synagogue). The topic of discussion was, at that time, how our family backgrounds influenced our lives. Arnold shocked the discussion group with his description of his Jewish father reading the sacred scrolls to his congregation. It was a great shock to the Jewish group to hear that Arnold was from the same sacred group as they were. “You could have heard a pin drop,” I’m told. This is only one of the embarrassing stories circulated at that time. Our congregation became aware that Arnold was perhaps no longer suitable to be our minister, and we voted to end his services with our raised hands in majority.
Our next minister was charming and we enjoyed his services, but AIDS shortened his term of office. I was away for a while but I’m sure some other old members could tell you how much we enjoyed his times. We did have a minister who was very much appreciated after that. I just forgot his name for the moment. (That would have been Rev. John Manwell. – ed.) When his term of office expired, we called in an interim minister—a woman who we all enjoyed. Those two fell in love, very happily, and the wedding took place, of course, in our own church. It was performed by the Morrison-Reeds. Anyway, when he arrived at the church here, he had picked up a penny in the parking lot and realised he had no gift for the bride, so he presented the “lucky penny” to her with great good humour.
African Students Education Assistance
(from Helen Tracy’s 1976 history)
Welcome party for the African Students at the McNaughton’s house. After Don Stout’s death and before the next minister, Arnold Thaw, was hired, the congregation took part in the African Students Foundation’s programme to bring students to Canada. The congregation’s wards were Steven Ochieng and Fellgona Metho. In the fall of 1961 two Kenyan students (one a girl) were chosen and brought to Canada by the African Student Foundation. The Unitarian Congregation of South Peel assumed responsibility for their upkeep while they attended secondary school in the expectation that they would be qualified to enroll in a Canadian university. Each one lived with a family of the congregation, the McNaughtons and the Tracys, who accepted them as members of the family and provided board and room. Clothing, medical and dental care, and monthly allowances were supplied by the congregation. The various problems which arose and the attending crises were dealt with by a committee set up for the purpose.
Unfortunately this project was fraught with an unbelievable number of problems. As a result neither student was able to complete the intended program. The girl had to return to Kenya in March for the imminent birth of a child after careful arrangements had been made in advance for the welfare of her and her baby. Later she was able to complete a nurse’s training course in London, England. She has since married a fellow African student and returned to Kenya to live and work. The boy, in spite of much extra help, was quite unable to meet academic standards. The African Student Foundation advised him that they would pay his fare back to Kenya. Instead, on his own initiative, he made arrangements to attend a Junior Preparatory College in South Carolina, and the African Students Foundation agreed to pay his fare there and give him $150 spending money instead of paying his return fare to Africa. He has since obtained a B.A. degree from Brandeis University and an M.A. and a Ph. D. from Columbia. Both students have good memories of kindness and friendship proffered them in Canada. It’s noted, somewhat later, that the congregation’s pioneering efforts resulted in some significant changes in the programme.
Canadian Association in Support of Native People
For ten weekends in January, February and March of 1965, the congregation worked with the Indian Eskimo Association (Canadian Association in Support of Native People), training “Indian people from Cape Croker” to do silk screening and help in marketing. The goal was to help people start small industries to provide employment and livelihood. Sadly, though this activity is listed in all the histories and notes about the time, there are no photos of this and no further information.
Rev. Arnold Thaw
Almost a year after Don Stout’s death, Rev. Arnold Thaw was hired in March 1962. Membership had increased to 283 (170 families), so Rev. Thaw certainly had his work cut out for him. There were “summer conversations” where previously the congregation had taken a break over the summer; there were two Sunday services, each with their own Sunday school. Social and informal meetings were held in members’ homes. A bookshop was opened.
Some notes on the congregation, written by Mr. Thaw himself in March, 1966, say, “Mr. Thaw’s sermon usually deals with some aspect of human living: its problems and potentialities. He bases his thoughts on philosophy, science, psychology, sociology and his own experience. He does not merely expound or enlarge upon some verse in the Bible as one frequently finds in Christian churches. He draws his references from a great many sources, ancient and modern. Unitarians often refer to the Bible as ‘a loose-leaf Bible,’ meaning that they are free to select from whatever sources they wish, wherever they find wisdom; and they are free to discard whatever time has proved to be in error or of less worth. In his pre-sermon meditation, Mr. Thaw often reads from the scriptures of the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Moslems, as well as the Judeo-Christian Bible, and modern-day thinkers.”
Despite the Search Committee’s best efforts, Rev. Thaw wasn’t a good fit. After one year, the Board voted for Rev. Thaw, citing lack of integrity. Some other members of the congregation weren’t sure what the problem was—and certain other members weren’t happy with Rev. Thaw but they felt they should go easy on him. So the people in Boston sent someone to try to make things work. The Boston people organised a second vote and persuaded the dissenters to withdraw. The congregation tried to hold separate services for the factions, but that didn’t work very well. Bernice Law says the Boston people only made things worse; the Laws left the congregation for about five years, as did most of their friends.
There isn’t a lot of documentation on Rev. Thaw, other than his own prolific, articulate writing. There is a scrapbook full of Unitarian articles he wrote for various newspapers. He did a seminar in the fall of 1967 called Ideas, which talked about Unitarianism’s history, philosophies and practices. There are notes quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, Thomas Jefferson and Michael Servetus—hardly radical thought for Unitarians.
There are a lot of photographs, though. Thaw was captured on the sidelines of many pageants and performances, walking with groups, and generally as part of the activities that seemed to be constant. The congregation was active. The man helped increase membership to 332 in 1964, which ironically marked the beginning of the end. It was after Mr. Thaw formed the Experimental Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga that the congregation split and Religious Education ended (for the first time since the 1954 founding of the congregation).
In 1976, Helen Tracy put together a history of UCSP to give to Phillip Hewett (who was writing Unitarians in Canada). Where the first seven years are given more than a page, Rev. Thaw’s seven years are dealt with in three brusque paragraphs. She wrote: “During 1968 and 1969 the congregation suffered an upheaval of major proportions. Encouraged by the minister, a substantial proportion of the congregation left and eventually formed the Experimental Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga, in spite of real efforts by the Board of Management to meet the needs of all members and keep the congregation together. There were dramatic reductions in attendance (from 150 to 45 in and from 200-300 adults to 20-30.) South Peel was left with 70 instead of 170 family units. It is perhaps too simple to attribute the decline entirely to internal problems as other Unitarian congregations also experienced reductions in numbers. The fact remains that the whole event had a devastating effect on the congregation. When Arnold Thaw left, his ideas no longer corresponded with those of majority of the congregation: enthusiasm was gone, morale was low and finances were in a parlous state. It is a great tribute to the congregation that they survived such a blow.” With the exception of a leave-of-absence in March 1965, Rev. Thaw remained at USCP until his resignation in February, 1968. Reverend Thaw suffered a serious automobile accident in late 1968, however, and the experimental church was short-lived, collapsing in 1970.
Rev. Linda Lawrence, UUCP Assistant Minister in Phoenix, Arizona, writes, “After serving a congregation in Flagstaff (and no doubt some others before that), Arnold became a founding member of the Gestalt Institute of Phoenix. Somewhere along the line — not sure of the timing — he became a licensed psychologist, went into private practice, and stopped serving congregations, although he did for a short period of time provide pastoral counseling support to members of the Phoenix congregation at the request of its now Minister Emeritus, Ray Manker.”
Soo Young Kim
Foster Child, October 1963 – 1968
For $100-ish per year, the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada could house a sponsored foster child for a year. In the fall of 1962, the RE programme was looking into sponsoring a child in the new USC house in Coimbatore, India. Somehow, communication got muddled, and the programme ended up sponsoring a child in South Korea. The money covered a fair amount of food, clothing, education and medical care for a child in the Sung Lin Children’s Home in Incheon City, South Korea. Soo Young was born in February 1950, and was orphaned at the age of 10. He was cared for by neighbours for three years before being taken into Sung Lin Children’s Home. He attended the local Presbyterian church; there was some thought that his parents had been Presbyterian. In 1966, Soo Young was only in Grade 6; it was too early to know for sure if he would have the academic standing to become a doctor. (It’s unclear if this was Soo Young’s goal or someone else’s goal for him.)
Here’s a (translated) letter from him, dated October 15, 1967.
[Grammatical and spelling mistakes are the translator’s. – ed.]
Dear Foster Parents,
It is cool autumn here now and leaves are falling from their trees. This reading week at school. children are competing to read more books during this week. Now our home is in big repairment with its warm floor, ceiling walls. new kitchen was built during last month, and another coal stocking room is being build now. This afternoon we are praticing valley-ball with big children of home. Korean headquarters of USC in Seoul is planning balley ball game on Oct 24, UN day. Crops are ripen in field and waiting for their harvest. It is warm and sunny to day but it is a little chilly in the morning and at night. I think it is little late to say this, I received your kind letter of Sept 13, I know you were so busy. I understand about you. Thank you for you visited Korean Pavilion at Expo and enjoyed. I pray for your health good bye.
Kim, Soo Young
The letters from the USC are signed by Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, the Executive Director at the time. In the file, there are also a good handful of receipts for $5.00 that were sent for Christmas and birthdays. The last letter in Soo Young’s file is dated March 5, 1968. He says, “Last month some North Korean raided into our country and it affected our people in uneasment. I’m going to enlist to Army when I grown up and keep our country from their raid.” The letter then goes on to talk about the stamp collecting he’d recently taken up.
The Tracy Library
The congregation has had a library since it had a permanent building, but it expanded considerably in 1966 when Jack Tracy died and left his collection as well as a memorial fund. During her lifetime, Helen Tracy was the librarian. The books are varied, concentrating on subjects that might be of interest to Unitarians but are not likely to be found in public libraries. Naturally, the publications of the congregation are kept there, as well as other Unitarian publications. The borrowing period isn’t specified, but three months is the recommended maximum; the library uses the Dewey Decimal system.
In 1994, Jim Pattison was chair of the library. He noticed that the committee was “struggling a bit”. The congregation wasn’t really using the library, except for a few new members. The committee decided it was time to promote growth. They decided to test out videos. (As there are no videos at the moment, we can assume they didn’t work out all that well.) At the time of this writing, Douglas Hill is librarian.
From Karla Stout: As a librarian, my mother helped a lot with the organizing of the church library – I believe she encouraged the use of the Dewey Decimal system. I remember going with her to repair and conserve books using cloth book tape and plastic covers for the paper ones. In fact, I think I still have a church library book, “ The Church Across the Street”!
After the issues with Rev. Arnold Thaw, the congregation decided to content themselves with lay-leadership until 1971.
Memories of the 1970’s
By Shirley Dickens
George and I arrived in the early 1970’s and since we were not new to Unitarianism, having been members in both Montreal and Vancouver, we knew we would find folk here who shared our values. The congregation was held together by its members as there was no resident minister until later. There were guest ministers and many guest speakers often with discussions afterwards. Some very creative services were planned by our own members.
I remember three important “Helens”: Helen Tracy was the administrator, Helen Tucker was our very vocal Social Activist, and Helen Fisher did more than her share of coffee duty and served in her own way. There were lots of social events and parties. I remember Ken and Mary Noble hamming it up with Norman and Beth McLeod, and Ron and Ruth Staunton. They, along with Bill Tucker, organised great Robbie Burns dinners and pub parties. We felt right at home amongst this group. We had an annual Fall Fair. I was demonstrating spinning wool, and Carole Berry came to ask what I was doing and inquire about our congregation. The Berrys joined shortly after. George was reading tea leaves at this fair but quickly stopped when some people took him seriously. The auditorium was our worship space and our party place, and looking back we can recall many happy memories.
From Audrey Foster:
My friend, Colleen Markusich, remembers that she was 15 (the summer of 1970) when she worked at the hostel. She believes it was sponsored by the Port Credit Lions Club. There were over a dozen beds but usually only filled by four at the most. These were in what is now Founders Hall. She worked the 3-11pm shift and walked home near Dundas Highway every night she worked. Colleen remembers the other staff; a fellow named Dave, whose family had come from the United States, and a few others: a girl named Robin (Robin Hollingdrake, Pay Morrisey’s daughter), and a guy that was a little stout and wore glasses. She also recalls a few of the guests. There were two guys travelling across the country from out west who stayed a week, and a local girl who had problems with drugs.
June Scott remembers Karla Stout [Rev. Don Stout’s oldest child] working there that summer. She would have been about 17. She slept on the Scott’s couch as there were no spare beds at her home. She also walked home after her evening shift and had breakfast with June in the morning.
From Karla Stout:
I was in Sunday school and LRY with Audrey Garland Foster and remember her very well. June Scott’s daughter Fran was also in our group. Yes, I worked at the Youth Hostel. It may have been 1971, as we had moved to King City by that time. I believe the church got an Opportunities for Youth grant and did work with local Lions Club to establish the Hostel. The bunk beds were in the Sunday school building classrooms. I don’t remember beds in the main church building. When I worked the night shift, it was very late to drive home so the Scotts let me stay at their place. It was not about no spare beds – more my mother worried about my hour-long drive back to King City that late at night. The Scotts were very kind and generous, and have always treated me as a member of the family.
“Dave” (see Audrey Foster’s entry above) was David Boyer. His family, Al, Agnes and sister Diane, came to Canada from Winchester, Massachusetts around that time. They lived in Oakville and came to South Peel. David subsequently went on to become a Unitarian minister and is back living in Winchester, Massachusetts. His sister Diane lives in Toronto. I believe that Al Boyer was active in First Church for some time – he passed away last summer. (My mother is from Winchester, and it turned out that Dave knew some of my cousins who still live in that area – SMALL WORLD).
From Pay Morissey:
In Canada’s Centennial year (1967), there were government grants given out for good causes. At that time, we had an active group of teenagers (“LRY”: Liberal Religious Youth), and they applied for a grant to set up an overnight place called “Give Me Shelter” for people hitchhiking across Canada. Of course, it was only mattresses on the floor of the big meeting room of the church building. Kay Barron was a public health nurse who gave them some support. The police station nearby was helpful, and I guess the whole LRY was involved. I know my daughter Robin was working in a gas station all day, so she slept there and was sometimes in charge during the nights.
Of course, 1967 was celebrated by the World Fair in Montreal, and many teenagers were travelling there and hitchhiking. The police would sometimes direct them to the shelter. I think it continued all summer.
In 1971, Rev. William Jenkins served UCSP quarter-time. Though an experienced minister, the limited hours meant that Jenkins wasn’t able to offer the congregation quite what they wanted, and there was no real change in the congregation. They found this disappointing, having put their faith in professional leadership. The RE remained at 18 children (having previously been at 150). A Committee of Concern was assembled to see if they could co-ordinate the congregational needs. It was this committee that dealt with the personal needs of members in times of stress, made arrangements for weddings, funerals, dedication ceremonies, etc., and also worked on the interpersonal relationships that had taken a hit over the previous decade. Membership was at a rock-bottom low of 106. The numbers hadn’t been that scant since 1956, when the congregation was just beginning.
Helen Tracy wrote the membership report for the annual meeting on May 27, 1973.
This report is one which is almost did not get written. In fact, after postponing it for as long as possible, I still shrank from the task. Because of its negative tone I wondered if it would have a damaging effect on a congregation whose morale seems to be faltering. But we have survived many crises. Perhaps we can rise above this honest but disheartening look at ourselves. Now, to relate the few rather depressing facts: During the year we gained 4 members, 3 new and 1 reinstated former member….
Things seemed to look up a little in 1974, when Helen wrote, “Many of us are convinced that this congregation has been enjoying a renaissance during the past year. Members and friends have enjoyed excellent Sunday morning programs and an improved quality of interpersonal relationships has been evident.” In January 1975, the congregation “borrowed” Rev. David Bumbaugh for six weeks of inspiration and advice. It was just what the doctor ordered. Fifteen years of stormy weather had taken their toll on the group but, working with the already-reviving spirit of the battered congregation, Rev. Bumbaugh helped kick-start it again.
The RE programme (thought to be dead) began again in the fall of 1975. A part-time Administrative Co-ordinator was hired. Finances were still pretty thin, but the sun was beginning to show through the clouds. Helen Tracy’s 1975 membership report admitted “…this is the most promising report which has appeared for some time.”
From “Stompin’ Ken Noble’s” song
written for the 21st Anniversary dinner:
We’re South Peel Unitarians
Running in the race
Ready with a friendly smile
When we meet face to face.
Our greatest strength’s each other
That’s really what we’ve got
But when you stop to add it up
It surely is a lot!
Reading the April 1976 report is a prescription for anyone who ever doubts this congregation and the healing properties of cake: Helen says, “On April 12 we spent a very pleasant get-acquainted evening when eight of our new members were joined by fifteen “old” members. It has been suggested that a good excuse for another such get-together would be to throw a party for the “old” members. LET’S DO IT.” Ya gotta love Helen….
The membership committees of the late 70’s were somewhat daunted by the work that was required to bring the numbers back to their previous levels. Name tags, pamphlets, events, introducing new members to the others, and doing the paperwork were just part of the job. The big thing—the first thing on their list—was “to take a personal interest in friends and members of the congregation”. But they noted that the personal enrichment it brought them was well-worth the effort. (Name tags, by the way, were de rigueur by 1980.)
Throughout all this, the congregation remained lay-led. Calling in professional leadership just wasn’t in the budget, but the group also seemed to understand that they were the only ones who could fix all the problems. Whenever someone talked about getting in a minister, the congregation would balk. Did they doubt their ability to select a good minister for their group, or was it a matter of cleaning the house before the maid came and saw the mess? Perhaps it was a little of both.
The end of this decade also began the first official welcoming of LGBT members. The Gay Equality group from Mississauga had used UCSP space, and so the congregation formed an official welcoming group for LGBT Unitarians.
Pulpit Testimonial November 3, 2013
My name is Tom Lebour. Back in the mid-70s, as I was struggling to come out of the closet as a young gay person, I heard about a support group for the LGBT community. The weekly coffee night took place at the Unitarian Congregation of South Peel, as our congregation was called back then. I can still remember looking at the original Founders Hall that resembled a squash court across from the OPP station. I knew nothing about the Unitarian Congregation, but admired them for being so welcoming and accommodating.
Being a frequent visitor of the old hall, I picked up and read the pamphlets about the order of service and noticed that the Sunday services were so non-church-like, without a strict religious dogma. Having been raised as a Roman Catholic and being disillusioned by the conflicting messages, I welcomed this new and fresh perspective. I started to attend and discovered an interesting mix of members. The arrival of Reverend Mark DeWolfe further cemented my sense of belonging here. I became a member and have fostered some fond memories with many of you over the years. I recall how the children of some long-term members were only teenagers then, and now a couple of them are here as young parents.
Fast-forward some 35 years; here I am with sixty shades of grey. There was a gap in my attendance for several years due to my workload on Sunday morning and travel distance; however, I have turned a new leaf this year and have made a commitment to attend on a more regular basis, and I will simply make the time.
In closing, I have always been a steady and committed financial contributor to this church—for nearly 35 years—because I am a proud member and stake holder of this congregation.
The congregation did a survey at the turn of the decade. As a result, The Philosophy Series (led by Dr. John Mayer) was arranged for six sessions. Reports say it was very well attended. There were also Parenting Study groups and film nights. Membership was up to 116.
1982 saw four Introduction to Classical Music sessions (arranged by Denise Vilep and conducted by Richard Moses) and Clare Robinson’s The Doctor and The Soul (a discussion on mental health and religion, based on the work of Dr. Victor Frankl, the father of logotherapy).
Rev. Mark DeWolfe joined the congregation in April 1982. He ran an Orientation session in May, which was very well attended. Rev. DeWolfe had plans to do a Building Your Own Theology course as well as other activities that would increase membership while meeting the needs of the current members. He was very involved in the implementation of the programmes, old and new. Membership was stagnating a little. The reports note that the congregation found “a drive toward conformity or an emotional proselytizing zeal inappropriate”, so they were trying to find other ways of dealing with society’s decreasing interest in religion and the economic downturn of the time.
Rev. Mark Mosher (Edward) DeWolfe
March 10, 1953 – July 16, 1988
Mark DeWolfe was from Massachusetts. He was young; he was “dynamic”. He was also gay. (He had come out to the Search Team, but the congregation didn’t find out until after he had been hired.) Despite the initial misgivings of a few members, Mark’s sexual preference was the big draw, it seems. There are several people who joined the congregation because of Mark and who, at the time of this writing, are still active members. Mark helped increase attendance and membership.
In October 1986, Mark was diagnosed with AIDS. He was put on AZT, which, according to his letters, cut into his work-life: he had to back out of a couple of preaching opportunities, and resign his positions as Director of Nexus Youth Services and as a member of the Pastoral Care Advisory Committee at the Mississauga Hospital (now Trillium Hospital) and the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on General Resolutions. The resignation letters betray a clear sense of frustration. The congregation didn’t let him go: AIDS was not sufficient excuse for stepping down as their minister. Sue Pound (the RE programme consultant in 1985 and 1986, and became the director in 1987-1989), wrote an article for The Guardian in which she spoke of explaining the situation to children—and noted that she had little understanding for people who turned away from a friend who was suffering from AIDS.
Mark died of AIDS-related causes on July 16, 1988. His memorial service was held July 23, 1988, at 3 p.m. at First Unitarian in Toronto. (UCSP held its own smaller memorial service on September 11, 1988.) He was survived by his parents, Rev. William and Barbara DeWolfe, two brothers Rick and Paul, and his partner Jim Moore.
From the obituary in the Mississauga News:
In an article published earlier this month, DeWolfe called his congregation true heroes of his story. “Just as they were willing to take the original risk in calling an openly gay minister, they have chosen to take the risk of remaining faithful in the face of death. They could have pensioned me off right away, removing me and the stigma of my disease from the church. They could even have done that in the name of compassion, claiming that it was best for me.”
Barbara Earl, chairman of the Unitarian church board, says the native of Stoneham, Massachusetts, quickly earned the respect of his congregation for his humanistic approach to his job. Earl admitted that members of the church are fearful that DeWolfe will be portrayed in death only as a minister who was a victim of AIDS. As well as counselling work with the AIDS committee of Toronto, DeWolfe had a long history of activism, working for open housing in St. Louis, abused youth in San Francisco where he was an intern minister for two years, and with Peel Peacemakers.” (John Stewart, staff reporter, Mississauga News July 22, 1988)
Mark’s book: A Time to Live was printed by the congregation, who sold copies and made a reasonable profit on it.
Regarding the living Mark: According to Rev. William DeWolfe, Mark changed his middle name from Edward to Mosher a couple of years before he died “…ostensibly to avoid confusion with a Radio/TV personality in Halifax but probably also to honour his mother’s side of the family as well. It hasn’t been substantiated but Mark told his mother that he thought the Mosher name originated with the Huggonauts [sic] who fled to this continent and first became Quakers and then Universalist. (I have learned over the years not to doubt Mark on arcane points like this. As a matter of face he was a veritable reservoir of information on almost any subject imaginable….)”
The non-professional interests listed on his Ministerial Record Sheet are sign language, weight training, dance, theatre, literature and politics. In his search packet, Mark wrote this (and it was read at his memorial services in Toronto and at UCM):
Now, have I told you who I am? Probably not. You’ve read what I’ve done, how I’ve changed. But who am I now, mind, heart, body, spirit?
Mind: I have a love of history, especially our Unitarian Universalist history … I enjoy theology too—both the philosophical and the more personal varieties.
Heart: I am a lover of life.
Body: All my life I have loved to dance.
Spirit: Spirituality is a hard word for Unitarian Universalist, yet many people joining our churches now are doing it to explore the spiritual dimensions of their lives. I do believe it is possible for a humanist to be spiritual.
The hymn book Singing the Living Tradition contains “Sing Out Praises for the Journey”, with lyrics written by Mark and put to Henry Purcell’s music.
Another speaker at the memorial service in Toronto was Mark Belletini—“The other Mark”. He remembered “…the ridiculously expensive restaurant you took me to for my birthday, the fine bottle of authentic dry Lambrusco. You and Jim and I went dancing afterward in a gay club at the foot of Bologna’s two leaning towers, and we toured the city the next day with constant and almost giddy laughter.”
What UCM remembers about the living Mark is social action—and so they created the Mark Mosher DeWolfe Social Action Award.
From Karla Stout:
My father and Bill DeWolfe, Mark’s father, went to Harvard together. Our families were close friends. Mark and I played together as babies. I was delighted when Mark was chosen to be minister at South Peel, my father’s church. While his background was more Unitarian Universalist, and mine simply Unitarian, we were great friends and he was very dear to me. When I was living in Toronto in the 1980s, Mark kept me somewhat involved in the church. Bill DeWolfe performed the wedding ceremony for my mother when she remarried, and Mark performed the wedding ceremony for my youngest sister Elaine when she married.
The Mark Mosher DeWolfe Social Action Award
(The following was approved by the Board of Management on January 10, 1991.)
This award is being established to recognise and honour the spirit of social action shown by the late Mark Mosher DeWolfe.
Definition: Social action is defined as an individual initiative which results in working towards the righting of a wrong, or improving the quality of life of a group.
Recognition: the name of the winner will be announced at a designated church service prior to Christmas, and will subsequently be announced in the newsletter. The winner will be presented with a recognition plaque at the church service, and will have the opportunity to speak briefly on his/her work, should the winner wish to do so. The award moneys come from a portion of the bequest fund that Mark left UCSP, plus the contributions from the Christmas Eve service—a total which varies from year to year. The recipient will designate the funds from this award, subject to confirmation by the Judging Committee, to the charity of his or her choice.
Eligibility: The candidate will be a member of UCSP. The candidate should have demonstrated considerable initiative in bringing about the social action.
The social action performed will be judged by the quality of the work rather than the amount of time spent. The individual may be a professional employed in the field of social action, however, the action for which the person is being nominated must be independent of current job requirements.
The individual can be a member of a social action organisation, however, the action taken must be above and beyond the man date of the organisation.
The candidate should be acting in a voluntary capacity.
Candidates will be evaluated primarily on the following guidelines:
Nomination Procedure: Nominations must be made on the required form in writing. The nominee’s signature must appear on the form in order to confirm acceptance of the nomination. The winner will be selected by the Judging Committee, comprised of a maximum of five members of the congregation. Members of the Judging Committee are not eligible to win the award or to put forward any nominations.
The Mark DeWolfe Social Action Award will be presented annually, subject to suitable and sufficient candidates being nominated.
Deadline: Nominations must be received at UCSP no later than November 1st of each year.
This programme began at UCSP to take some of the burden off Mark DeWolfe, who found that he was spending way too much time with weddings and the like. At the beginning, Lay Chaplains could serve as long as they liked; in 2002, the CUC limited the license to six years. The two lay chaplains at the time, Carole Berry and Joanne Whitford, were allowed to continue six years more until 2008.
Barbara Earl (served 1987 to Sep 1990)
Barbara Earl was our first lay chaplain. She told me that our lay chaplain program was started to take the burden off Mark DeWolfe, who found he was doing too many marriages. Barbara performed over 300 marriages.
Joanne Whitford (served 1988 to 2008)
She averaged about 190 weddings a year for twenty years.
Carole Berry (served 1997 to June 2008)
When her six years from 2002 to 2008 were up, she arranged with the Humanists to be an officiant. Occasionally, Carole’s signature looked quite different, as she signed in a fancy script, but she confirmed that it was her signature.
Carol Gilliam (service ended Oct 2009)
62 marriages from Aug 2004 to Sept 2007
Ann Bone (served 2007)
Two marriages. Ann resigned from the programme when she returned to the Anglican Church—but she has since returned to UCM.
John Rowell (served 2008 to 2010)
Ellen Newman (served 6 June 2007 to June 2013)
Wendy Shusterman (May 2009 to April 2015)
Vanessa Coelho Romeiro (served 19 March 2010 to Sept 2011)
Debbi Callander (Apr 2012 to present)
Elaine Hartman (May 2013 to present)
I joined UCM in 1984 after moving from Montreal. I had never been a Unitarian but knew others who were. My first committee was the Social Action one with people like Helen Tracy, Betty Pellier, June Scott, Andy Kapos and Rosina Bell. They were very interested in helping the homeless, and the second apartment building run by Pathway Community Development had just opened. I helped form Shelter Mississauga, which resulted in a shelter for the homeless in Mississauga, and we served lunches once a week. I served as secretary of UCM Board from 1989 to 1992, and Chair from 1998 and 1999. I was Chair of the committee that hosted the CUC Annual meeting in 1999. I joined the Millennium Steering Committee in 2001 to build a new hall and acted as secretary. I made a commitment to see this project finished and then to see it bring in revenue to pay the mortgage. As a result, I have been Chair of the Rental Committee and on the Property committee ever since. I am proud that we have built up a solid clientele that helps our overall budget and serves the local groups in the surrounding community.
Rev. Judith Quarles
On November 15, 1988 Rev. Judy Quarles was hired as an interim minister. She commuted from Buffalo to Mississauga—a fact that may have contributed to the somewhat nervous demeanour that was noted in her file. The contract was renewed until July 31. Her renewal assessment says she had “grown in leadership, thoughtful, meaningful, low key yet intriguing, well-prepared.” She was given “very high marks” in emotional resources, but it was noted she was still a little self-conscious with “a nervous tremor in moments of high stress or emotion”.
Some of the members remember Judy in a much different way, though. She was the minister to console the grieving congregation—a task which is never simple, no matter how much one has trained for it or how much one gets paid to do it. Given that the congregation had taken it upon themselves to keep Mark DeWolfe in the fold until his death (thus marking him as a family member), it was probably a good thing that this interim minister stayed close to the sidelines.
Jean Mackie remembers a service about dealing with people who are different than us. The service had already begun, but they weren’t yet at the sermon, when an old woman came tromping up the stairs (this was in Founders Hall). She was dressed in extremely ratty clothes, was dirty and a little odoriferous, and seemed to be muttering to herself. With little consideration for others, she made her way to the front to sit. Though no one said anything, Jean recalls a few eyebrows being raised. The woman, of course, turned out to be Judy in disguise, just trying to drive home the message of the day. For Jean, Judy’s creativity was much more effective than any lecture or discussion. When Judy left, she was given one of Pay Morrissey’s paintings (white storks and greenery)
Membership was at about 153 during her time. Judy died of brain cancer in Oneonta, NY, in 2009.
Rev. Judy Quarles
At the end of the decade, the Development Action Committee was formed with the intention of redeveloping the property. Some ideas included additions to the existing buildings and some seniors’ housing. The economy began to wobble quite seriously, however, so the plans were shelved. The committee was severely disappointed, as part of the problem was a misunderstanding on the part of the City of Mississauga Planning Department.
Ed Bieri has a massive folder of meeting minutes, plans, outlines, blueprints—documents about every idea the congregation had. He promises it will be part of his legacy to the congregation. It is an astonishing read: were money not a concern, this congregation would have made a serious dent in many of the local social issues.
In 1989, the survey showed that about 30% of the members were under the age of 45. The survey conducted during Rev. Hoelter’s period (1995) showed that the average age of the members was between 45 and 65, with only 10% being under the age of 45. 60% were female; 40% were male. Sunday services were the big draw, followed by social friendship and religious education.
Most of the people were interested in the intellectual aspect of the Sunday services, with the spiritual aspect (particularly spirituality through nature) following close behind. Not too many were interested in a “family experience”. From the minister, they expected quality sermons and spiritual leadership, as well as some assistance with the growth of the congregation.
Rev. John Parker Manwell
A native of Syracuse, New York, John Manwell was trained at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C, where he was ordained. He’d given up a 27-year legal career, divorced, and taken his first ministerial position in Mississauga. The sermon at his installation ceremony was given by Reverends Donna and Mark Morrison-Reed, and the installation itself was led by Board Chair Janine Lewis.
“[I] served what was then UCSP for four years, beginning in September 1990 [the contract is dated August 16, 1990 – ed.]. Seems a long time ago, and I guess it was. I was fresh out of Wesley Seminary, and thrilled to be starting out in ministry, after many years of law practice. I arrived so fresh out of seminary, and so excited, that I forgot about graduation. I had to fly back for a day, in the middle of candidating week, but you still called me! You were forgiving teachers, too.
Since those days in Canada, I’ve been in co-ministry with my wife, Phyllis Hubbell (we were married at UCSP in 1992, by Mark and Donna Morrison Reed, another co-ministry couple, then at Toronto First, on that cold, rainy June 21 in 1992). We still treasure Don Law’s photo scrapbook, stirring so many fond memories. We served for 14 years at First Unitarian in Baltimore, a marvellous fit for us. Then (after I had a heart attack) we retired from settled ministry to be interim ministers, allowing us to make commitments for only a year or two at a time. We’ve served at Paint Branch, on the Washington Beltway, then two years in Norfolk, VA, and we’re now in our second year as consulting ministers at the UU Church of Loudoun, in Leesburg, VA (half-time). But we live in Frederick, MD. The folks in Mississauga were wonderful, putting up with such a green minister who nevertheless thought he knew it all. They had a lot to offer, and I hope I learned some of it. While I was there, we lived in Mississauga.”
—John Manwell, from a letter to Interim Minister Rev. Fran Dearman, March 2013
Phyllis says, “Oh, I was married at South Peel—the folks gave us our wedding, up in Founders’ Hall. They brought flowers and food and their recipes!” John resigned UCSP in 1994.
At the time, the congregation was mostly concerned with supporting social action, followed by religious/spiritual concerns. Regardless, it was a period of religious and spiritual development. There was a concerted effort to be welcoming to the LGBTQ community and become a safe space, and there was an expansion into neo-paganism, beginning with solstice rituals and ending with the organisation of SourceFire.
Along with religious and spiritual development, keeping up with the Joneses – in the Unitarian way – continued. An elevator was installed in 1993, making the building accessible. Previously, the services, being held on the second floor, were only for those who could handle a full flight of stairs.
The years continued, with relative normalcy. The big things seem to be some redecorating, the building of drainage ditches, and some financial issues. For the first time in many years, short-falls were noted for the 1994 budget (some $2600) and the 1995 budget ($2800)—a total shock after having some very nice (i.e. measured in thousands) surpluses. Even the rental income from the Ismaili group wasn’t enough to keep things going. However, there was no mortgage or debt. When John Manwell left, there were mixed reactions; while they supported his career growth, four years wasn’t a very long time, and the instability would, of course, affect the congregation. His last annual Minister’s Report for UCSP noted the death of eight members and a large group that moved away. He also noted that the building wasn’t big enough (or attractive enough; he used the word “homely”) to deal with the current members. While everyone fit in for a service, moving around for coffee hour was complicated; there wasn’t enough space for social activities, and the kitchen couldn’t handle a crowd. He also suggested moving the location of the church a little further north if it was to serve all of Mississauga and the people from Brampton, etc.—or “spawn a clone”. The congregation declined spawning; it also declined moving: finances were just too tight.
John’s last report also noted that the congregation’s vision statement was unfocused. Was the group going to offer anti-theism, or anti-Christianity or humanism? A secular or a religious approach? Would there be anyone who wasn’t welcome to the congregation? What was the relationship with the city around them?
The 40th Anniversary Celebration was held on Sunday, October 9, 1994.
The notes from a Special Congregational Meeting held in February 1995 show that people were worried about the ups and downs. It had been decided that the congregation could only realise its potential with a full-time minister, and so the search for the minister—and the search for the funds—began. There’s always that circular issue: the congregation can’t grow (and therefore have a decent income) without lots of members, but the decent income is required in order to pay the minister (who is generally the draw for the members). Phrases like “financial risk” and “avoid an unfortunate financial situation” dot the minutes of the meeting.
Rev. Mark Hoelter filled the position of interim minister.
Rev. Mark Hoelter
Mark Hoelter served from 1994 – 1996. There aren’t many accounts of him. At the time of this writing, he is a life-coach for clergy, and his Facebook page includes J.S. Bach and L Beethoven among his favourite musicians (for irony, please see the entry for Adelaide Bell). A quote from a sermon by Rev. James Ishmael Ford delivered at the First Unitarian Church in Providence, RI, November 6, 2011:
Then a UU minister, Mark Hoelter offered how, “I don’t believe people have souls. But I know from experience we can have soul! And when we have soul and cultivate soul, there is something more in our presence to each other, and something more which lasts beyond death.” (see http://www.firstunitarianprov.org/sermons/111106.shtml)
by Debbi Callendar, Beryl Smith and Eric Rawlinson
SourceFire Pagan Ritual Group is the Pagan circle of UCM. It is open to Pagan members of UCM and the Pagan community at large. We impose no dogma and encourage a free and responsible search for truth intersecting with the seven principles of Unitarianism, with which we find no conflict. We are a diverse and multi-generational group that provides a community and place of worship for area Pagans and Pagan families.
The high points on the wheel of the year are marked with special rituals as well as services at UCM. We celebrate and honour the Earth and the Wheel of the Year with chanting, meditation, dance, drumming, singing and ritual. We have an Administration Council that helps small groups take turns crafting each ritual by sharing their talents and experiences.
The Story of SourceFire begins with the first UCM Winter Solstice in 1992; the first Summer Solstice took place sometime between 1995 and Then the first SourceFire ritual was Sunday, October 29, 2000. It was written and led by Patrick McArdle, who was UCM’s beloved resident bard. He passed away in September 2006.
A women’s ritual group had their first ritual, Summer Solstice, in The fifteen women in that group were Cassie Rawlinson, Karyn Burney, Karen Thompson, Lorraine Waugh, Barbara Wood, Cathy den Hollander, Corrie Galloway, Jan Toms, Linda Roan, Shirley Dickens, Pat Currie, Liina Veer, Donna, Beth Elysee-Collen, Bev LeFrancois and Ali Thompson.
The group started with a proposed course at Sheridan College, the Unitarian curriculum “Rise up and Call Her Name”, a goddess workshop. It was cancelled because there weren’t enough registrants, but the leader of the workshop was our own Karyn Burney, and permission was given to offer the course on our own. Karyn and Bev LeFrancois agreed to lead it.
Corrie offered her house, and seventeen people participated. When that course finished, people wished to begin celebrating the Eight Sabbats together. In addition, many had participated in “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven”, a woman-honouring Unitarian adult RE curriculum by Rev. Shirley Ranck, and wanted to continue to practice goddess-centered ritual. Paganism 101, another UU course, began in 1999 and was ongoing when the first SourceFire ritual was held in 2000. Those women with husbands and sons wanted to share spiritual experiences with them and create a supportive community for all our Pagan children to grow up in.
In more recent years, Paganism 101 was offered during the 2013-2014 year, lead by Cassie Rawlinson. We also aspired for Paganism 101 to be offered during the 2014-2015 year. As best as can be recalled, the original SourceFire members were: David and Cassie Rawlinson, Pat McArdle, Don and Sharon Flatt, Lorraine Waugh, Karyn Burney, Shirley and George Dickens, Cathy Den Hollander, Patricia Vanier, Heather Hufton, Lynn Holland, Brigitte Twomey, Connie Walker and Jean Holland, plus a few more from the women’s group.
The women’s group “Sisters on a Journey” is still meeting in a smaller cluster, and members often join SourceFire rituals. SourceFire was formed and had been run as an informal and open circle, with its ritual and events the responsibility of its many members. As time and members moved on, however, SourceFire developed a more formal structure, creating the SourceFire Administration Council in 2011.
Jean Mackie remembers:
“Upstairs in our old auditorium, a wonderful moment happened. A group of children were assembled at the front. There was to be a play. The Interim Minister (I forget his name), tall on the stage, wore a black cassock. He had a lofty expression… far… away…. One girl, quite young, addressed him. “Are you the Bad Fairy?”
Adelaide Bell and her family were enlightened as to the existence of the brand new USCP by Adelaide’s mother’s friend. The Bell family attended a couple of services; Adelaide (a young university student at the time) signed as a member first, with her parents following close on her heels. Where her mother was looking for something less traditional than the United Church, Adelaide liked the “disbelief” of Unitarianism. Adelaide’s contribution to the services was to alternate at the piano with Gail Cooper. Her name is listed (along with Gail’s) as providing the music for the first service held at Dixie Road. The music at the time tended to the traditional, and Adelaide likes the Top Forty Classical types.
After Don Stout died, Adelaide went to study in England for four years. When she came back, she didn’t return to USCP right away (on top of having found a few aspects of Unitarianism that she didn’t agree with, she had a hand injury and couldn’t play). She eventually went back to England for another stint—including playing at Wigmore Hall. When she returned to Canada yet again, Mark DeWolfe was the minister. She found him very sympathetic and easy to talk to. As well as his personality, she was inspired by his sermons. His death made her rather sad.
During Mark’s period, Adelaide would sometimes stand in when the Music Director Pierre Lacasse was away; when Pierre left, Adelaide was asked to take over. Before she could reply, someone suggested that having auditions would be a good idea, and they asked Adelaide to audition. She declined, pointing out that if they hadn’t been listening all the times she played, it wouldn’t be worth her effort to audition. The auditions were forgotten, and Adelaide became the Music Director in 1988.
The one thing that made Adelaide balk at becoming Music Director was her lack of experience directing a choir. She offered to take a few classes, but the choir was comfortable with her music abilities as they only sang in unison at the time. Adelaide tried to organize practices (before the Sunday service—very difficult for a nocturnal musician), and a few of the choir members would show up so they began to sing some basic harmony. A few presentation pieces were attempted, but the choir found them difficult so they went back to singing hymns.
At the time, the congregation was only able to afford $60 per week for the musicians, so it was difficult to get professional musicians to attend as guests (the average fee then was $100 per performance). Some of the congregation also wanted to experiment with folk and rock music, which were not Adelaide’s forte. It turned out, however, that a few people in the congregation had been holding back on their musical abilities. Adelaide remembers Bill Kray accompanying Adelaide on his violin; they played a Mozart concerto.
Another memorable musical moment was a celebration of the Chinese New Year: Adelaide found a friend’s niece who was able to sing in Mandarin. Judith Anzelc helped the congregation bring in the Lunar New Year. After a few years, the congregation decided they wanted a “different kind” of music once a month. Adelaide accommodated this by taking off one Sunday a month so the money could go towards whatever musician the congregation brought in. She was a little concerned about what would happen to her reputation if a terrible musician was chosen to perform, but the problem didn’t arise: it seemed that the congregation generally used recorded music.
The congregation’s approach to music changed significantly over the time that Adelaide was Music Director—and she was aware of this, though no one directly asked her to do anything different. In fact, the first she heard was a sermon by Rev. Mark Hoelter (of whom she was not a fan to begin with). In the sermon, Rev. Hoelter listed the sins of the congregation, including their inability to get musically past “the old, dead, white European men”. He said classical music thwarted growth: he wanted the walls to ROCK every week.
Adelaide was offended that, along with a few other misdemeanors such as not giving credit to musicians when the congregation used recorded music, Rev. Hoelter’s respect for her amounted to nothing more than public humiliation. She wrote her letter of resignation that day, noting that Rev. Hoelter had attacked something that was sacred to her: music. To her, this made breaking the employment contract was worthwhile.
Though the resignation was accepted, the congregation was concerned about the previous musical commitments Adelaide had made. She honoured them. The last big musical shindig in Adelaide’s term was a performance of “The Gift of the Magi”. It was produced and directed by Larry Marno, with music performed by Judith Anzelc, Denis Lauzon and Adelaide Bell. There were two performances (Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11, 1994) held in Founders Hall. Both performances, with tickets selling for $10 each, sold out. Ms. Bell rarely returns to UCM. Though she had been around since the very beginning, contributing greatly to the music during services and special events, the ending has sadly overwhelmed the beginning and the middle.
Lorraine first joined the congregation in 1999. She was hooked by a course called “Rise Up and Call Her Name”, which was given by a member, and then she started attending the services that were more of a feminist nature. Her best memory is of a service where the minister spoke about life after death—which he didn’t believe in—that was followed by a very lively discussion on the pros and cons. This “hooked” her, as there’s no other church where such a thing would occur.
Lorraine stays at this congregation because of the three P’s: people, philosophy and principles. The need to “walk the talk” of the Seven Principles is intrinsic to her time and participation here. She’s very involved in The Caring Circle, a congregational group that is concerned with the joys and sorrows of the members.
Rev. Jeffrey Brown
In 1994, the congregation called Rev. Jeff Brown who came from New Hampshire; he remained with the congregation for sixteen years. Jeff was musical. One of his experiments (sadly, a failed experiment due to old a/v equipment) was to project the hymn lyrics on the wall behind the pulpit so that everyone could sing with their head up instead of lauding their shoes.
Jeff’s passion for social justice was demonstrated by his work with the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), a coalition of faith groups advocating for poverty reduction policies at the provincial level. He was also involved in major projects like the Greening Initiative and the building of the Great Hall. In 2011, Jeff became a multi-faith chaplain with Trillium Health Partners, and he retains his position on the Interfaith Council.
Jeff Brown with Virginia Culbert (left) and Shirley Dickens at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Education Building (now the Montessori Day Care), 2003
Rev. Jeff Brown’s Pastoral Care Side
By Beryl and John Smith
John and Beryl Smith moved to Mississauga and joined UCM in Beryl has struggled with various health issues at various times. During Rev. Jeff Brown’s time as minister, he visited with Beryl during these stressful times and provided some counsel to John. When visiting with Beryl, he listened endlessly, joked around with her, and gave her great comfort and a sense of connection to the UCM community since she wasn’t able to attend the services. Also on a regular basis, Jeff would visit Beryl and give her spiritual guidance and helped her to adjust to the Ontario culture—as it is very different to that of Newfoundland where she grew up! At Sunday service, his sermons were thoroughly enjoyed, with his unique sense of humour, and s pecifically with his skill of memorizing poetry.
AIDS Walk 1997
John Guiney, Gary Yallop, Tom Lebour, Carole Berry Peter Watts, Jeff Brown, John and Gary Guiney Yallop (now of Nova Scotia)
Our last names are Guiney Yallop, but at the time of the photos I [John] was Guiney and Gary was Yallop. We were married at First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto on June 29, 2003 (Pride Day and our 18th Anniversary).
Helen Tucker created this document to renew the peaceful relationship between the local First Nations and the people of Port Credit. Councillor Harold Kennedy thought it was a fascinating idea.
Children’s Environmental Day Camp
Summers 2000, 2001
The summer day camps were geared towards ages 7-11. They covered waste management, organic food production, creative cooperative conflict resolution, racism, sexism, peace, arts and crafts, cooking, drama, sports and games, and music.
Between 2000 and 2006, Interfaith Television on Rogers TV allowed for two Unitarian Universalist programmes per year. UCSP was involved in many of the interviews. Copies of the programmes are available on disc in the Tracy Library. Out of the Cold is a discussion of a program to help homeless people. Host Michael Hotrum interviews Marg van den Broucke of Toronto First, and the Rev. Jeff Brown of South Peel.
Pulpit Testimonial, November 17, 2013
While attending the funeral of a dear friend ten days ago, my eyes were caught by a banner on the wall of the church with the embroidered words: “Our Faith: Alive in Action”. This was not in a Unitarian Congregation, but in a Catholic church with all the symbols of a Christian religion around.
What struck me as ecumenically meaningful was that this message was exactly what had attracted me initially to Unitarianism, and specifically to UCSP, as our congregation was known at the time. My joining UCSP coincided with my retirement 13 years ago and I was ready to use my sudden freedom from work somewhere in the community as a volunteer or as a member of an organization, whose mission is to promote social justice for all. My husband Fred had retired two years earlier and had looked for similar opportunities. He found an interfaith group, which built schools and houses in Central America, and on joining this group he met Mary and Ken Noble, two of the longest members of UCSP and well known to all of us. Sadly, Mary is no longer with us. One thing led to the other: we started to attend UCSP and soon I signed up for the next trip to Honduras in 2003 and then again in 2005.
These trips opened my eyes to the poverty in Central America, whose economy relies solely on coffee export. In years of poor harvests or when the coffee price on the world market drops, the farmers and their children go hungry. We saw small children with extended tummies due to malnutrition living in huts made from sticks and mud. In contrast, our group built solid houses, with reinforcement bars making them earthquake proof.
These trips are still ongoing, though due to increasing age we have had to abstain from joining them recently. The First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto is happy to sign up volunteers for these ventures. Fortunately, there are ample volunteer opportunities closer to home and one of them, with which I have been involved for several years, is a breakfast program at two non-profit housing complexes.
Our congregation, together with Streetsville United Church and the Jewish Congregation of Solel had been instrumental in the construction of these two apartment buildings, which offer affordable rents for low income residents. This interfaith group still manages these buildings as Pathway Non-profit Community Development and our breakfast program operates as its partner under the name of Pathway Community Programs.
These three faith communities mentioned above worked also together as sponsors of a family from Burundi, who had been persecuted during the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi. They were accepted as refugees and were supported financially for the first year by our three congregations. A lot of fundraising was necessary to meet our commitment, but in true Unitarian spirit our congregation met this challenge.
Having become involved in these outreach activities has forged a strong bond between myself and the members of our congregation, where I am only too happy to continue to support the diverse endeavors to build a strong community.
Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga
Mayor Hazel McCallion noted that there wasn’t really such a thing as “South Peel”. Obligingly, the congregation changed its name to the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga (UCM). The website is uucm.ca because someone else had already used “UCM”.
The Millennium Project
Finally, it became clear that John Manwell had called it correctly: there wasn’t enough space in the church. Even the Ismaili community, which rented the old Religious Education hall, had been renting out larger spaces for their bigger events. Something had to be done. Rev. Jeff Brown encouraged the congregation to create this space for the benefit of everyone. The vote in favour of building passed in 1999.
In the end, even the dissenters were converted. Don Law, one of the ones who objected for financial reasons (they’d already built two halls and they also had the barn), voiced his approval upon walking into the finished hall. His wife Bernice quotes him: “I was wrong; you were right. Magnificent building.”
The Great Hall is a beautiful, open, clean room. Whereas the west entrance to the building, the entrance to Founders Hall, is a shrine to the founders of the congregation and Mark Dewolfe (clearly, that man had a great influence on the congregation), the Great Hall is a space that renters can use without feeling weighted down by the history of the congregation.
The Great Hall
Dedication of UCSP Great Hall, October 28, 2007 by Cathy Tafler and Doug Rylett, architects
Churches are great institutions. They reach out to help members of the community and they invite people and organizations in to share their facilities. In the 1980’s, Mark DeWolfe, the Unitarian minister at that time, encouraged the congregation to explore ways of expanding its facilities and developing this site. One of the ways they explored this was to have plans drawn up for affordable seniors housing but the government funding did not proceed with the housing.
In 1999, Susan Berry attended a conference in the Netherlands and came back with the idea of having an environmental education and conference centre. She organized discussion groups around this idea and the congregation began again to look at ways to develop their site as shared space for the larger community.
We were retained by the church to do a feasibility study around the idea of having a shared space that focused on the environment and Unitarian values. This was carried forward by arranging tours to different facilities that all members of the congregation could attend. In these tours we not only looked at churches but also at environmental learning centres, conference centres, reception halls, gardens and parks. Some of the places we visited were the YMCA Environmental Learning Centre, the Boyne River Education Centre, the Sharon Temple, the Mississauga Rhododendron Gardens and the Clay & Glass Museum in Waterloo. By including many people in the tours we could begin to form common reference points for both the aesthetics of the building and the financial structure.
Through the Feasibility Study, we came to an architectural concept for the space of a clearing in the forest. This image would offer a sense of enclosure but at the same time have a feeling of openness and freedom. This is represented in the hall through the large tree-like columns, the circular wood floor and the many views out to the surrounding gardens.
The church also wanted to incorporate certain symbols into the hall, the first being that there would be seven columns, representing the seven principles of Unitarianism. The second is that the windows would be clear, looking directly out upon the world where our work, joys and sorrows are. The third was to tie the building to the local setting by it forming an outdoor courtyard but also to tie the building to the global compass coordinates. The central beam follows the north-south axis and there is a window at each of the compass points.
With this, the church is tied to the local setting but also is tied to the larger world beyond. The forest image also represented the congregation’s commitment to building an environmentally responsible building. The building was placed on the site so that large windows could be located facing south, to allow passive solar energy in during the winter, that gets absorbed into the thermal mass of the concrete floor and thicker walls.
The landscape is being planted with trees to shade the building during the summer and create a layer of cool air around the building. Native species of trees, shrubs and plants are mostly being planted, which require less water and will provide food and shelter for local wildlife. Windows open on all sides of the building to allow for natural ventilation. The walls are designed with more insulation than the standard and the metal roof reflects the summer heat, helping to keep the building cool. Durable materials, such as the steel roof, have been chosen so they will not require replacement often and can be recycled at the end of their life. The electrical and plumbing fixtures have been selected to conserve energy and water.
The heating system includes a heat recovery ventilator, which recovers heat from air as it is being exhausted out of the building. The building received a federal government CBIP grant for energy efficiency.
Similar to a clearing in the woods, the space can be used in various ways. The Sunday service is usually set up with the podium at the east wall with the seating fanned out in front of it. The Windmill Arts group is located on the north wall, with the roof like an amphitheatre and the cabaret tables in an arc going from east to west.
Groups such as sacred circle dancing and solstice and equinox celebrations, are set up around the circle of the wood floor and pendant lights. The multi-purpose design of the hall ties into the environmental design, ensuring the full use of the hall as opposed to just Sunday services.
Barns & Cottages
The multi-purpose aspect of the hall has to support a wide range of events and priorities. The new hall was constructed as a space to be shared, to support the Mississauga community, the congregation’s social action work and the arts, to have respect for the environment and be welcoming to all.
The hall reflects the former use of the site as a farm by borrowing elements of barn framing with large columns and beams. This site still has the old barn of the original farm and some of the old orchard trees. The large columns and beams create a setting for significant events such as church services, weddings, memorials and concerts. The finer elements of cottage framing give the hall a casual feel where people can gather, celebrate and dance.
UCM—an Environmentally Sensitive Community
From its inception as a 2000 Millennium project the design, construction and development of our new Worship Hall (dedicated 2007) and surrounding property has focused on protecting the Environment and on Green Principles. Some highlights of this focus are…
Our Building – Energy and Resource Conservation through
Our Property – Environmental Protection
August 26, 1960 – October 17, 2009
Amy Doolittle, flautist and vocalist, was the Music Director at the turn of the millennium. She resigned when she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Her video on Dying with Dignity is available on the Dying with Dignity website. She says, “If my life has value and I can contribute: great! But there will come a point when I am a brain trapped inside a completely immoveable body. … I know it’s still me in there, but it’s not the me I want or I feel I can be with the world.”
The Mississauga News reported her death when Peel Regional Police were called to her house when her husband came home to find her dead. The event was “not being pursued as a criminal matter”. A postmortem was done but the results were not publicly released.
Her memorial service was held at UCM on Saturday, October 24, Amy left a summary of her five-year relationship with the disease in her book Cart Wheels, which is available in the Tracy Library at UCM. The book ends with a list of her life’s memorable experiences, which includes her three husbands (Don Dickson being the third and final one), throwing a 180 in a singles darts game, making snow angels, and a menu of good places to make love.
Ted Kloosterman (left) receiving the Mark DeWolfe Social Action
Award from John Rowell, December 2014 (photo by Carole Berry)
Being diagnosed in November 1981 as being HIV+, I’m one of the few fortunate ones who, to date, are still in reasonable good health. Although, looking back at those early days of the disease, it has not been always that easy to stay positive. Having lost many friends in the eighties, it was stressful to see people die—and even the doctors stood by helplessly. There was no medication, and one was more or less on his own.
The first medication came out in 1985, and it did more harm than good. It was very difficult to live with the so-called AZT medication. It was not until mid-1999 that better medication became available, and slowly better and better medications were developed (although the financial cost was very high). In 1999, I developed severe neuropathy in my legs. It was very painful, and it prevented me from working full-time. I had to go on disability.
It was at this time that I came in contact with the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga. They were embarking on a mission to become a “welcoming” congregation [to the LGBTQ community] and I was invited to speak about what it was to live with the disease. I was impressed with the welcome I received. After I came home that evening, I started to think. Perhaps this was a congregation where I would feel at home.
After being without a religious environment for many years, I decided to give it a try and see where it could lead too. Well, to date, I have not regretted that decision. I like what they stand for. The seven principles are making a lot of sense. I have been on many committees and on the Board, successfully ran the Festive Fair for four years, and (at the time of writing) am presently serving on the search committee.
I’m also involved and working with the PEEL HIV/Aids network and serve as Treasurer of that organization. So, what is in store for me I do not know. I try to look after myself and stay in good health; with today’s medication, that should be possible. Ted became President of the Board in 2014.
[Ted has neglected to mention his baking abilities, and the fact that he spends hours and hours in the kitchen preparing for the feasts and festivals held at UCM. He sings as he works—and he sings beautifully. If you’re ever bored at an event, volunteer to wash dishes just so you can listen to him as he putters about. –ed.]
During the lay-led period, June Scott was the one who helped Sheila Bjarnason get guest speakers.
I became a member of this congregation on June 19, 2011 which was my 53rd birthday. I wanted to become an official member before Jeff Brown left, and he was stepping down. As far as we know, I’m the first person to sign the book on my birthday. I lit and extinguished the chalice that day.
Jim is the congregation’s “sound guy”—the one who brings the microphone around during discussions, the one who fixes the speakers that dare to conk out mid-service. He also does an annual summer talk about travelling around Ontario (“So You Think You Know Ontario?”), and defends the small stash of gluten-free cookies so those with allergies can have a sweetie during coffee hour. He’s also the one to set up tables, move chairs, and do the other behind-the-scenes things that must be done for congregational activities.
Summer Meditation Service
by Beryl Smith
UCM has Summer Services, which are less formal than the Sunday Services from September through June. Since 2011, Beryl Smith has presented a service about meditation. The title is usually Let’s Meditate: Mindfulness ~ Breathing ~ Chakra ~ Inner Peace ~ Mantra! or some variation of that.
John Smith has been the Service Leader. The outline is that of a regular Sunday Service, with information about meditation and three types of meditations being lead during the presentation section. In 2011, there were only about 15 to 20 people coming out; however, the number has steadily risen to about 40 people in the summer of 2014.
Christmas Break Peace Service
by Beryl Smith
UCM has had very informal services during the time between the Christmas Eve Service and the start-up service in January. These services have involved people sharing poems and stories about peace while enjoying coffee and cookies. In 2012, Beryl Smith starting organizing a more developed service around Peace. In 2013, Beryl organized a service following the regular Sunday Service format that included peace-related poems and hymns, the presentation of interesting information about the promotion of peace, and a long Peace Promoting Meditation; as well, fellow UCM members share how they have helped promote peace in their lives. This service, Let There Be Peace, has become an annual service with John & Beryl Smith being co- Service Leaders. In 2012, there were only about 10 to 15 people coming out; however, the number has steadily risen to about 40 people in 2014 and 55 people in 2015.
Participants in the ‘Let There Be Peace’ service, from left to right:
Doug Alton, Janis Alton, Beryl Smith, John Smith, Lorraine Waugh and Erika Lautenschlaeger. Carole Berry is absent from photo.
The Greening Initiative
Carole Berry is highly involved in the Greening Initiative. With the new hall, it was important to continue the commitment to the Earth, and the gardens and lawns reflect that. Native plantings and a rain garden were put in, and people now stand by the milkweed to wait for the monarch butterflies to arrive. Carole is also in charge of Seedy Saturday, an annual fret-not-spring-is- coming festival held at UCM.
Breach of Trust
The Lay Chaplain programme had been running successfully since the 80s. The chaplains keep their license for six years, and then can take a little break before they renew it. Twenty-five years into the programme, it became apparent that a long-time chaplain, had continued to perform ceremonies after her license had expired. This became a serious legal issue when it came to marriages. The legal matters are still, in 2014, being dealt with.
On a brown paper, handwritten timeline that Reverend Fran Dearman had the congregation make, there’s a yellow sticky note that says, “Wedding Fiasco, March 2012. Very draining.” The congregation didn’t have to deal with the legal issues, as they were immediately referred to professionals; the effect on the congregation had to do with the breach of trust. Just as the congregation could share in the celebration of one member’s achievements, the shame of the irregular marriages was shared. It should be noted that this is the one and only instance of the Lay Chaplaincy programme running afoul in its entire existence at UCM. The programme continues successfully—and with utmost trust in the participants.
The Barn has been on the property since the congregation purchased the Port Credit property. It’s been used for the Youth since the late 1950s, but has also been used as storage for all those ever-so important things that just cannot be discarded (but are never used).
As Neal den Hollander (patriarch of the Barn) says, the Barn has always been furnished with cast-offs, repaired with bits and pieces and scraps, and the Youth are usually pretty happy there. Eventually, the bits and pieces and scraps were no longer holding together, and even the indiscriminate Youth couldn’t stay in there. Too cold; too damp; too allergenic. But, then, there was the money issue. Northern Lights, a fundraising program sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Ministers of Canada (UUMOC) and the Canadian Unitarian Council, came to the rescue. Joan Hill (then President of the Board) wrote the following article for the 2014 spring edition of The Canadian Unitarian:
The Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga (UCM) was pleased and honoured to be the third recipient of a Northern Lights grant. Our request for support arose out of mould issues that plagued our barn and resulted in its closure. The main floor of the barn is divided into two large rooms. One room is dedicated for the Youth to use and the other for our Holy Cows Program (grades 6 through 8) or for OWL (Our Whole Lives) classes.
Throughout the 18-month closure, our Youth and all of our children’s programs have moved into cramped rooms or noisy shared space—at a time when we have been experiencing considerable growth and vitality. With the funds from Northern Lights, and a great many hours of volunteer labour, most of the work has been completed, including mould removal and remediation, replacement of walls and floors, as well as upgrades aimed at improving circulation and other measures for prevention of future problems.
We are currently working on finishing details, such as receiving donated furnishings. The walls must remain unpainted to prevent mould growth, so the Youth will create wall hangings to decorate. However, it was ready enough for our annual Halloween Haunted Barn party in the fall, which was a great success.
We are very grateful for the support from UUs across Canada and abroad. The breadth and depth of participation was very much in evidence; support came from young and old, near and far, larger and smaller congregations, lay and clerical. In fact, a small group of Young Adults were inspired by the Northern Lights Program and our barn project to create a video and website, encouraging donations to support a safe space for Youth community, and the difference it can make in people’s lives. Our thanks go to Liz James, Sean Neil-Barron, and Chris Wulff for their enthusiasm and dedication to Northern Lights. The Youth are thrilled to be moving back into their own space. Our whole congregation thanks you, for enabling us to continue fostering this vibrant community of young people.
(The ever-so-important things that had been kept for so long were deemed no-longer-important. They’re gone now. Other things are taking their place, though.)
Rev. Fran Dearman
A Canadian minister! Reverend Fran Dearman began serving as interim minister in September 2012 and stayed for two years. Fran was the one who suggested that the congregation create this history—that we needed a permanent record of our accomplishments and failures, of our gains and losses, of all that we’ve lived through.
Fran was, outwardly, straightforward and unornamented; when one was up against one of her sermons, one realised that her classically trainedbrain was able to plumb the depths of recorded human history and present it to you on a silver platter.
Here is her bio from www.cuc.ca:
The Rev. Fran Dearman was born and raised on Vancouver Island. Her earliest memories include wandering through ferny glades and forests as if plunging into the verdant grandeur of an Emily Carr painting. Fran’s first career, as a ship’s officer with both merchant shipping and the naval reserve, took her down to the sea in ships, upon the great waters. To this Fran adds a love of language that led her to a masters degree in Classics with the Department of Greek and Roman studies at the University of Victoria, and a masters in Divinity at Vancouver School of Theology.
Fran was ordained into the Unitarian Universalist ministry by her home congregation, the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, where she likes to think of herself as a founding toddler. After five years settled ministry with the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Alaska, Fran served as Interim Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, and currently serves as Interim Minister with the Unitarian Church of Calgary.
Fran continues to make her permanent residence at her family home in Victoria. When possible, she attends services at First Victoria, where, one Sunday over coffee, Kristina Stevens bewailed the lack of a Latin mass that a Unitarian could sing with a whole heart, and the rest is history.
By Alice Travis (a.k.a. John [Jack] Travis, who hasn’t been seen since the happy day Alice gathered the courage to put on a dress and walked into the Great Hall)
When I joined the Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga I had no idea how it would change my life. Being transgender, I am always aware that it can be a bit dangerous and I am very careful of where I go and what I do. However, after attending a seminar with Fran Dearman on “SPIRITUALITY IN EVERYDAY LIFE”, we had a frank disclosure session at the end of the seminar where I told the meeting that I am transgendered.
The next thing that happened was that Wendy asked me to come to a Sourcefire meeting as my transgendered self, and with some trepidation I agreed. I showed up as Alice, and was not only accepted but greeted with open arms by the group. When Wendy asked me to come to Sunday service as Alice, she intimated that it would help sort out any members who were not as accepting of LGBT as they might be.
This was the Easter Sunday service, and I felt a bit like a sacrificial lamb (it being Easter and all) but I showed up as Alice with even more trepidation. I was again greeted by many people with very welcoming smiles, and I felt fully at ease. I now attend services as Alice and I am very comfortable in that role.
The only problem I had was with a little girl who, as we ate lunch, looked two or three times at me and finally asked, “Are you a boy?” I replied “Yes” and she said “OK”. I had a word with her mother who said that her daughter was at the stage where she wasn’t sure about the differences between boys and girls, so that was OK. However, I now stay away from little girls as much as possible.
Because Alice has quickly become such a… formidable voice in the congregation, she was also called to do a “Unitarian pledge thingy” on November 30, 2014, which we include below. Feel free to read this in her elegant British accent:
Don’t you hate those pledge breaks on PBS? Well, here’s me doing one and you can’t even leave and make some coffee. I joined the congregation just a year and half ago. Since then there have been many firsts, the least of which is talking to you all. Shaking in me boots (well, heels). I gave up on the established church long time ago. Never thought I would find a spiritual home where I would be accepted as transgender person. What, you might ask (or not), is a transgender person. The answer to that would take a long time, but not from me as I am not sure meself; besides, I didn’t choose to be transgender: it chose me. I joined not knowing much about Unitarism except a vague idea about it being all for a just society that welcomes a diversity of beliefs and has compassion for human relations. Being a slow learner, I am slowly learning with the guidance of Rev. Fiona and her Six Sources series (bet you can’t say that six times fast) about Unitarian Universalism. It has become my choice for spiritual growth and the more I learn, the better I like it.
With the warm acceptance from many of you, I feel that I have come home—and besides, this is the only place you can buy Ted’s mince tarts! Thanks to Sourcefire for their wonderful support, Debbi, who is an inspiration, and Wendy, that little mover-and-shaker who I have to thank, for my being here today as Alice. So here I am, and here I will stay In closing, I end with a Sourcefire quote and would like you join in, saying after me: Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again. Blessed Be.
Rev. Fiona Heath
Reverend Fiona Heath accepted our call in May 2014 and began her ministry here on August 1, 2014. Fiona joined the Grand River Congregation in Waterloo in 2001. After serving for six years as a lay chaplain, Fiona chose to live out her principles by becoming a UU minister. She was fellowshipped as a minister in September 2012 and was ordained in May 2013. Fiona served the Durham congregation before joining UCM.
Fiona has served on various committees in her home congregation, and was a member of the Board of Trustees for two years. During her internship year with First Toronto she was part of the first Diversity Team. She is trained in Conflict Resolution and Mediation.
Prior to life as a minister, Fiona spent several years as Manager of the Survey Research Centre at University of Waterloo. She has been a freelance writer and adult educator specializing in voluntary simplicity and environmental issues, and has sat on the boards of a food co-operative and a community arts centre. Born in Sarnia, raised in Mississauga, she currently lives in Waterloo with her partner Marc and their teenage son, Silas.
Her particular interests are in growth, vision, and strategic planning, and her passions in ministry include congregational and denominational growth, the use of social media, and the symbols and language we use to express our religious orientation.
On Saturday November 1st, 2014, our congregation celebrated an historic event when we formally installed our 6th settled minister, Rev. Fiona Jane Heath. Ministers and members of congregations across southern Ontario joined us for this special service. The congregation gave Fiona a stole and she gifted the congregation with a birch tree for our property.
Music has been an integral part of the service since day one, though, of course, it’s changed from over the years. There’s no record of the original hymn books used; some of the weekly bulletins have the lyrics printed in them. In 1964, the congregation started using Hymns for the Celebration of Life (a navy blue book embossed with a tree, containing some very, um, traditional hymns); in 1993, they switched to the greyish-green Singing the Living Tradition (much more modern), and in 2005, they added the teal Singing the Journey.
Sadly, there’s also no official record of the various musicians and music directors over the years. Some of them have been noted in the history, but we hope to create a complete, detailed list for the next history.
Shortly before this history was written, the Music Director was Miles Hearn. Here is his biography:
Miles Hearn grew up in the Toronto area and has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto. He played French Horn with a number of professional symphonies including the Toronto Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony, the Hamilton Philharmonic, Canadian Opera, National Ballet of Canada and the O’Keefe Centre. He is currently a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Miles leads the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga Choir, which meets most Sundays before service at 9:30am and always welcomes new members.
Miles departed the congregation to play on a cruise ship. (The dichotomy was confusing: do we express our sadness at his leaving, or do we express fake sympathy for the cushy life he was about to embark on?)
After a bit of a search and a couple of false starts, Abigail Freeman became the Music Director. This is from her website (http://www.abigailfreeman.ca):
Noted for her vocal agility and unique vocal colour, Canadian coloratura soprano, Abigail Freeman, is now establishing herself as a young singer on the rise. Ms. Freeman begins the 2014-2015 season with the role of the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute) with Oshawa Opera and will also make her debut as Blondchen (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail) with Opera by Request. She will once again join Windmill Theatre for another exciting season and will reunite with Arcady in the spring for a recital of new Canadian music. Freeman completed a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Toronto (Canada) and a Master of Music Degree from Binghamton University (United States).
The congregation doesn’t get to experience her voice, but we do benefit from her piano-playing and choir direction.
“Before you know it, you are part of this web that is the Unitarian Church.”
(Tom Lebour, coffee hour, November 2013)
ART IN THE HALL
Joan Elgar keeps the Great Hall (and, formerly, Founders Hall) decorated with work by local artists. The artwork is often for sale. A new artist or group of artists is featured every month. Check this month Artist.
Join us for an evening of fun, relaxation and stretching. Bring a yoga mat, block, strap and a water bottle (required and not provided). Participants should arrive at 7:30pm sharp. Check our Calendar.
For information about the next Book Club check our Calendar . Here is a forum for discussing your favourite book, old or new, with other book lovers. The group decides its own reading list.