A Letter from Rev. Ron Phares, our Ministerial Candidate


Dear North Shore Unitarians,

It is almost time for us to meet! I have been looking forward to discovering who each of you are ever since I received the delightful invitation to be your candidate. This is a time that encapsulates two of my most favorite aspects of ministry and religious life: the spirit of curiosity and the spirit of invitation. From board meetings, to worship design, to a walk in the woods, I find the spirits of curiosity and invitation foster gentle, creative, and joyful opportunities for connection. Candidating week promises to be full of such opportunities.

I first experienced that sense of connection with you all at North Shore Unitarian Church when I read your mission statement. A church that wants to encourage one another to live with more depth, purpose, and meaning? Yes! My soul felt that as an invitation and my mind sparked with curiosity. I can attest to the fact that your mission is not just a bunch of words. I saw your mission in operation as I got to know your ministerial search team. In addition to being incredibly welcoming and gracious, I saw the earnest cultivation of depth, meaning, and purpose. Learning about the culture of NSUC, your hopes and dreams, and what it offers to its members and the wider community only added to the impression.

And then they showed my wife Katie and I North Vancouver! I don’t think we’re over it. We thrilled at the proximity of nature and culture. So much life to behold! Katie and our 8 year old girls, Minnie and Cora, are over the moon about the trees, the water, the food, the neighborhoods, the people, and the church. At every turn, it seemed Katie and I were met by an invitation to connect. The result was that we felt very much at home. In fact, we’ve already watched a 15 part documentary on the history of Canada and look forward to getting ever more familiar with Canadian history, prehistory, ecology, and its diverse set of cultures. Invitation, curiosity, and connection abound. Depth, meaning, and purpose their yield.  

Receiving the invitation to candidate for NSUC has filled with us all with such gratitude and joy that we are sometimes moved to dance. This may be unfortunate to any witnesses in my case, as my dancing days appear to be a bit behind me. No matter! The dancing will not be denied! In fact, I very much hope it is contagious as I look forward to falling into rhythm with you.

Just a few more days now.

Until then, I remain, in faith,

Rev. Ron Phares

Introducing Our Ministerial Candidate: Rev. Ron Phares


At our church service on March 31st, we announced that our first-choice minister chose us.  Now we can tell you more about why we chose him! 


The Rev Ron Phares grew up in the southwest US.  He became UU as an adult, and was ordained as a UU minister in 2012.  Ministry, as Ron says “seems to be where my gifts overlap with the world’s needs, or at least where my needs and those of the world overlap some.” 

Ron and his wife Katie, whom Ron describes as a powerful feminist, have twin seven-year-old girls: Minnie and Cora.  Katie is also a committed UU – and very charming!  

Ron has served the Mountain Vista UU Congregation in Tucson, AZ for eight years.  Previously he served other UU churches as a contract minister and youth director.  In earlier years he studied global management and worked in communications and publishing. 

We chose Ron as our candidate for many reasons, among them his reassuring and confident presence.  Ron is a deep thinker who speaks, listens and draws people out equally well.  We think you’ll love his intellect, warmth… and humour!

Ron’s Sunday services are well crafted, varied, creative, and appeal to both the head and heart.  He’s particularly sensitive to the power of music, as much as words, to move people.  He loves to preach, and with humour and wisdom aspires to create services that “shape us, prepare us to feel connected, act compassionately and show up for justice.” 


Ron has a strong grounding in UU tradition and history, and is committed to our principles and purposes.  He loves our varied approach to theology.  Ron believes deeply in the power and importance of beloved community, and is passionate about the intersection of one’s spiritual life with one’s ‘work’ in the world.  Connection and interconnection are at the heart of Ron’s own theology and way of being. 

Ron is an innovator and not afraid of change.  He loves our mission and vision, and is fully on board with our intention to become a go-to-place for life-long learning and modern spirituality.  He loves to read and learn about neuroscience, relationships, nature, oppression, organizational/church theory – you name it.  He then shares what he learns with his congregation, both in services and classes. 

Ron appreciates that we have such a capable and long-time staff, and a cadre of strong lay leaders and volunteers.  He’s a collaborative leader who believes in the functionality of a hierarchy but prefers to operate in a way “where the hierarchy is not entirely necessary.”  Our new governance model will fit well with Ron’s style. 


Ron and his family are so excited about the move to Vancouver.  They can’t believe that we have forests, ocean and mountains all within 15 minutes of the church.  They look forward to seeing their girls through their school years here, and “to growing roots in soil that is new to us.”

So… exciting times indeed for Rev Ron Phares, his family, the search team, and our congregation!  Mark your calendars now for Candidating Week – April 27 to May 5. 

Of particular note are the services on April 28 and May 5, the Town Hall Q&A following the service on April 28, and the call vote after the service on May 5.

Pre-Candidating is in Progress!

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As you’ve likely heard, our church is searching for a new settled minister.  Following the UUA’s recommended search process, your seven-member Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) is in the thick of things now, and we’re buoyed by the response!

On December 1 we posted our materials on the UUA “dating” website.  On January 2 we received expressions of interest from 12 worthy candidates.  They’re all smart, talented, compassionate people who remind us how blessed we are to be part of the UU movement. 

Turns out we’re an attractive congregation to them for many reasons including that we’re forward looking – ministers like our mission and vision.  They also see us as a stable, successful, well-managed congregation, and they appreciate the professionalism and sense of humour we exhibited in our materials.

Our team reviewed all the minister’s submissions, which included pages and pages of written responses to questions posed by the UUA, the ministers’ personal websites, and numerous videos of their sermons.

After hours of discernment and in-depth discussion amongst our team, we whittled the list down to five potential candidates.  We interviewed each of them at length via video-conference, and spoke with references to probe further into their qualifications and strengths/weaknesses.

We’ve now chosen three ministers to bring to Vancouver for pre-candidating weekends in February and March.  This is where we’ll get to know them “in the flesh” and see them perform in other UU churches in the region.  (Sorry, due to confidentiality reasons, only the search team can participate in this activity.)

As you can imagine, this process hasn’t been without some stresses – it feels like such a weighty decision that we’re making on your behalf!  However, so far we feel good about our procedures, proud of our tradition, and optimistic about our chances.

Early in April we’ll let you know if we’ve found a match – i.e. someone we think is just right for our community, and who feels the same way about us.  If so, you’ll get to spend about a week with the candidate from April 26 to May 5.  During that time, you’ll see them conduct two services here in our pulpit, and get to interact with them in various formal and informal settings during the week.

On May 5, you’ll get to vote on whether or not you want this person as your minister.  It will be exciting to say the least!  For now we’re all looking forward to having a new settled  minister with us full time beginning August, 2019. 

Your search team: Lesley Giroday (chair), Bruce Grierson, Yette Gram, Jim Stephenson, Ryan Gunther, Kathryn Nicholson and Sue Forbes

We Know Who Likes Us -- and We're Pumped!

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At last - we know who likes us.  And we’re pumped!

The Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) has so far received 12 expressions of interest from ministerial candidates.  That’s above average (compared to other congregations), in a year where minister applications are at their lowest level ever.  We take this as a sign that our congregation has lots of offer.

The candidates are all qualified and capable, and many of them have great life and church experience.  It’s always such an honour to read their life stories, paths to ministry, and love for our tradition.  So inspiring for us as a team.  

It was exciting and informative to narrow down the field, and reach consensus on who might best fit with us.  We’ve now chosen seven candidates to interview via video conference.

Within the next two weeks, we’ll invite 3-4 to to Vancouver for a pre-candidating weekend in February or March.   Only the MSC will spend time with candidates on those weekends.

We’re into a “cone of silence” about candidates now.  Some applicants have not told their congregations they’re looking elsewhere so, as you can imagine, confidentiality is key.  However, feel free to ask any of us about the process.  We’d love to chat.  

Our Congregational Record

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Our Congregational Record (i.e. information about us prepared to UUA specs) is up and running on the UUA ministerial search website. Our next settled minister may be reviewing it as you read this!

If you want to see what’s been published, please contact Janni in the Church Office to request the 35-page PDF version. If you prefer paper, there’s a copy in the office. (Note that the formatting is not what the ministers will see — the PDF is linear, but the website allows them to move through the information in whatever order they like.)

We’re feeling good about what we, with your input, have prepared. We tried to present an honest and attractive picture of who we are, and what we’re looking for in a minister.

In January we start to reap the rewards of our efforts, as ministers start applying to us. We’ll keep you posted.

MSC Updates from our Winter 2018-19 Newsletter

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The work of finding a new settled minister is progressing right on schedule. Collectively we’ve completed our “Congregational Record” – you by providing detailed input and thoughtful feedback (via the survey, town halls, interviews, etc.), and the MSC by mining the data and crafting it into

a compelling synopsis. It was no small task, and we thank you for helping make it truly representative of our community.

The Record will give prospective ministers a detailed overview of who we are, where we’re going, and who we’re looking for. It highlights our history, strengths, challenges, finances and congregational health. In a nutshell the Record will convey this message to ministers:

You will want consider this bold congregation because:  

· We are a vibrant 52-year old congregation.

· We have a plan to change “the way we do church” for the 21st century.

· We need/want your skills and creativity to help us transform for the future.

· We’re located in one of the most desirable and multi-cultural regions on earth.

· We offer a good salary and benefits, AND we have a solution for the crazy high house prices (which will be revealed by the Board at a later date.)

· Our country offers universal health care, great public education and other progressive social policies. 

· We’re creative and caring, and if you love us we’ll love you right back!

The MSC has been collecting information for a “Congregational Packet” to share with potential ministers. This includes dozens of documents that illustrate who we are and how we do things (eg. Board minutes, annual report, general meeting minutes, organizational chart) and information about the North Shore.  Additionally, our MSC chair, Lesley Giroday, has worked diligently with a negotiating team and the board to develop the contract for our potential minister – with all the details about salary, benefits, etc. Assuming our materials all pass muster with Rev. Keith Kron (the Director of Transitions with the UUA in Boston), they will be published on the UUA’s search website in December. Ministers in search (which range from 90-120 in any given year) will review their choices, and expressions of interest will flow through the UUA to us in January.

We expect to pique the interest of many ministerial prospects who share our values and goals, and who would love to lead us to new heights. If all goes well, we will present a candidate to the congregation in late April/early May 2019.  We have a great team working well together for the benefit of our church community. For more info about our team and process, check out the MSC blog on our church web site.  Feel free to contact any member of our team if you have questions or concerns.  


Ministerial Search Committee Update

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The work of finding a new settled minister, hopefully to join us in August 2019, is well underway. A main focus over the last six weeks has been to consult with the congregation about what characteristics we’d like to see in our new Minister. This has been done mainly through the survey, interviews with core staff and the Board, and two Town Halls. We’ve also been busy reviewing many documents and reports and previous NSUC search filings.

We’re currently deep into analyzing the survey results, and preparing the information about our church/congregation that will be posted by the UUA on their search website in early December. These materials - the "Congregational Record" - will be reviewed by Ministers in search, and will result in applications to us by Jan 1/19. 

Our record includes answers to dozens of questions about who we are as a congregation and how we function, and what we are seeking in a Minister, among many other things. The record also includes dozens of documents that illustrate who we are and how we do things (eg. Board minutes, annual report, general meeting minutes, organizational chart) and some information about the North Shore as a place to work and live.  

Consultations with the UUA are ongoing about the preparation of our record, compensation recommendations, their draft ministerial contract etc. Contract drafting is underway and will soon be submitted to the Board. We have provided Janni with some suggestions on the website to ensure it has been updated and is current, accurate and best reflects us to potential new ministers. Preparations have been made to interview and host pre-candidates early next year. All of this leads to, all things going well, presenting a candidate to the congregation in late April/early May 2019.  

We have a great team working well together for the benefit of our church community. For more info about our team and process, check out the MSC blog on our church web site. And feel free to contact any member of our team if you have questions or concerns.  

Frivolity, Music . . . and Really Insightful Input

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We gathered some very useful, and in some ways surprising feedback at our MSC session last Sunday.  And we had lots of fun too!  

If you missed it, you'll have another chance to see the MSC at its best (wink, wink), and to provide your insights on Sunday, October 14th after church.  

The group conversations give us information that's different from what’s in the survey, so please join us.  You’ll find it very moving to hear what others think.  (PS: Let Lynn know if you need childcare) 

Musical Fun, Frivolity, and Input Opportunities

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September 23 or October 14
Join the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) for a special piece of musical fun and frivolity after church on one of two dates: September 23rd OR October 14th.  (Childcare will be provided for both sessions).  In addition to our show, we’ll ask you: What did Marcus and Emily do for our congregation that “made you sing”?  By sharing your insights you’ll help the MSC hone its search for a new, vibrant settled minister — just the right “someone" who can help us fulfill the dreams we have for this congregation.  

MSC Survey Available Now

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The Ministerial Search Committee needs the congregation’s help! Please take a moment to share your thoughts by filling out the MSC survey, which is available now HERE. This will inform the Ministerial Search Committee about who we are, and what type of new minister we want.  You will have until October 5th to fill it out, but we suggest doing it ASAP!  (Hard copies will be available for those without internet access). 

The Ministerial Search Committee Needs Your Input!

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Our work in the search process for a new settled Minister is fully underway.  We next need to hear from all members and friends. 

On two upcoming Sundays, September 23rd and October 14th, we'll host Input Sessions in the Sanctuary after church (12:15 pm). Childcare and lunch will be provided. Please come  to one of these sessions and share your ideas with us. We want to hear your thoughts on what NSUC needs in a new Minister.  We’ll also provide an update on our work to date, an overview of next steps, and watch a brief video about how to keep an open mind about who we choose. Plus, we’ll soon publish a survey that will help us collect up-to-date information about our congregation and the kind of minister we’re looking for.

Thanks for participating in both the discussion and the survey!  

Fall Newsletter Update from MSC

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Published in our Fall Newsletter:

While the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) has mostly hibernated over the summer, we are now waking up to a busy schedule.

Sue Forbes has been negotiating “neutral-pulpit” spaces where the MSC can meet prospective candidates. This was a key summer task and we are grateful to Sue.

The MSC will hold a week-end planning retreat with a UUA facilitator over the last weekend of August. This is our time to fully comprehend our task, assign roles, and build camaraderie.

We decided in the Spring, shortly after being appointed, to defer a congregational survey until the Fall. So watch for your opportunity to fill out the survey. There will be both on-line and hard-copy opportunities to give us your opinions. The survey will provide us with both congregational statistics for prospective candidates, and with your guidance for our search.

While we are mindful of our challenges, we are also aware of the opportunity we offer to serve a congregation with the energy, future plans, new building prospects, and momentum left by our previous co-ministers.

May our optimism bring the results we all want.

~ Jim Stephenson for the MSC

Your Ministerial Search Committee

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At a Congregational Meeting on May 6, 2018, the congregation approved a resolution to establish a Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) in accordance with our Bylaws. The congregation also voted to approve the list of MSC nominees proposed by the Nominating Committee: Bruce Grierson, Kathryn Nicholson, Ryan Guenther, Sue Forbes, Jim Stephenson, Lesley Giroday, and Yette Gram.