1. What are your services like?
Our services take place in our sanctuary, and usually involve lots of music and various common elements. Followed by a musical prelude, the main services begin at 10:30 am with the lighting of the chalice, a symbol of our Unitarian Universalist tradition.
If the children are upstairs for the beginning of the service, which is often the case, we all enjoy a children’s story and some congregational singing before the children proceed to their classes. Following some words of welcome and a few brief announcements, we light a Candle of Joys and Concerns, and a Candle of Global Concern. We may listen to a reading, and take a few minutes for quiet reflection.
There is almost always some kind of address – either a sermon from our minister (2-3 Sundays per month) or an invited guest, or a talk or panel discussion involving members of our congregation. We take a collection to support the work of our congregation. We tend to close with a few more words and more music. We like to link hands for our closing song. Services usually run about an hour in length.
2. Is there childcare and/or Sunday School? What is taught?
Yes, We offer lifespan religious education for people at all stages of their personal spiritual journeys. For children, we have programming for all ages – from nursery care to our youth group (13-18). For more details see Lifelong Learning.
3. What should I wear? What should my children wear?
You should wear whatever you are most comfortable in. Many people dress casually (jeans are fine), but some people dress up. Your children should wear something they can play in.
4. What kinds of people attend?
You’ll find a wide variety of people in our NSU community, including those with Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist,freethinker or pagan backgrounds or leanings. Many of our members are people who have attended another church and found the community valuable but weren’t able to accept the beliefs. Some have never before been part of a spiritual community. Acceptance is very important to our membership – we like to learn from each other, knowing that none of us has all the answers.
We are a welcoming congregation, which means our church affirms and promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We invite, welcome and celebrate people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, levels of education, and economic status. We believe we do not all need to think alike to love alike.
5. What provisions do you have for people with disabilities?
Our main floor, including our sanctuary, is wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately our washroom facilities are downstairs, and currently must be accessed by going out and around the building via a ramp. In the sanctuary we have a hearing loop system, as well as headsets, for people with hearing difficulties, and large-print hymnals for those who have difficulty reading the standard-print hymnal. Please ask a greeter or usher for more information on these aids.
6. What binds Unitarian Universalists together?
At the heart of Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a belief each person is free to search for truth and meaning in their lives. As religious or spiritual liberals we put less emphasis on formal beliefs and more on practical living. Our interest is in deeds, not creeds. What we have in common are our seven UU Principles, and the desire for a caring community where we can be accepted regardless of what we believe.
7. What do Unitarian Universalists believe about God?
Some Unitarian Universalists are non-theists and do not find language about God useful or relevant to them. The faith of other Unitarian Universalists in God may be profound, though among these, too, talk of God may be restrained. Why? To avoid confusion over the wide-ranging use of the word God, many Unitarian Universalists are more apt to speak of “reverence for life” (in the words of Albert Schweitzer, a Unitarian), the spirit of love or truth, the holy, or the gracious. Many also prefer such language because it is inclusive; it is used with integrity by both theist and non-theist members. Whatever our theological persuasion, Unitarian Universalists generally agree that the fruits of religious belief and spiritual inquiry matter more than beliefs about religion – even about God. So we usually speak more of the fruits: gratitude for blessings, worthy aspirations, the renewal of hope, the interconnectedness of all living things, and service on behalf of justice.
8. What ceremonies are conducted, and holidays celebrated?
Our ceremonies of marriage, naming or dedicating our children, and memorializing our dead are phrased in simple, contemporary language. We observe these rites in community, not because they are required by some rule or dogma, but because in them we may voice our affection, hopes, and dedication.
Though practices vary in our congregations and change over time, UUs celebrate many of the great religious holidays with enthusiasm. Whether we gather to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day or the Summer Solstice, we do so in a universal context, recognizing and honouring religious observances and festivals as innate and needed in all human cultures.
9. What other activities and programs do you offer?
We offer many opportunities for you to participate in our NSU community. As our offerings change over time, you may wish to check our newsletter and calendar to see what’s going on currently. In addition to our ongoing children, youth, and choir programs, we host adult religious education workshops, potluck dinners, book clubs, women’s and men’s support groups, various affinity groups (such as Chronies for older women, and Artarians for artists), inter-faith dinners, meditation groups, drumming classes, sex education classes for all ages, various discussion groups, , etc, etc.
10. What does becoming a member involve?
Over time, many people embrace the responsibilities that come along with membership in our congregation. As a member, you are responsible in at least three ways: To yourself, you owe the pursuit of a personal spiritual journey. To others, you owe participation as a member of a shared community. To the institution, you owe a commitment of financial support in the form of an annual pledge in any amount you feel appropriate in your economic circumstances.
Participants in our community are generally at one of three levels of commitment, each with the following rights and benefits:
- Guests: are welcome to attend services and all activities.
- Friends: make a contribution of record, either by ongoing participation in a committee or by financial support in the form of a pledge.
- Members: have made North Shore Unitarians their spiritual home, provide financial support, and participate in activities. Only members may hold office and vote in congregational affairs.
11. Will I be pressured to join?
No. The right to a free and independent search for truth and meaning is one of our seven UU Principles. We are not as oriented towards spreading our religion as much as we are towards making it available for people who are looking for it. However, expect people to be friendly and encouraging. When you first arrive you will likely be greeted (look for people in the foyer wearing sunflowers on their lapels), offered a printed program describing the service being given that day, and a nametag if you wish to wear one. You are also given an opportunity to sign our guest book. If you like what you find, you are welcome to return for our services as often as you wish, and to participate in our community life in any other ways that appeal to you. When the time suits you, you may wish to become a member of our church.
12. How does the NSU organization operate?
Our congregation is a member of the BC Region of the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), our national organization. For some services we also rely on the American national organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). CUC congregations are independent, democratically run institutions with the power to select and approve their own ministers. Congregation policy, budgets, and programs are overseen by our Board of Trustees. Congregation work is shared by our Minister and Staff and various committees. We rely heavily on the efforts of our many volunteers. Our budget and all major non-budget expenses are subject to congregational review and approval by majority vote.
13. How are you funded?
The congregation has an annual budget to meet, and the congregation is responsible for raising all funds to meet that budget. Everyone’s contributions, but especially the pledges, help us improve, enhance and expand our programs, staff and facilities.
14. Where can I find out more?
Call us. One of our Co-Ministers would love to talk with you. Or attend one of our UU101 classes, that we give about once a month.
15. What time are your Sunday Services?
Join us at 10:30 am on Sundays for our weekly services. Click HERE for more information about our Sunday services.