Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going
Report by Philip Symons
Members of the First Unitarian Church of Victoria voted at a congregational meeting Jan. 21, 2018, to join Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT). GVAT is a broad-based alliance of union locals, co-ops, community associations, environmental groups, faith communities and other organizations that focus on the common good.
GVAT plans to have about 30 member organizations representing several thousand people. With that strength, and with well-researched information on what can be done to improve some of our society’s problems, GVAT will meet with politicians with some hope of being heard.
The membership fee for our church for GVAT’s first year (2018) was $700, the minimum. The congregation approved the payment at its January 21st meeting, and the funds were raised through the January Share the Plate program. Membership fees will need to increase in future years.
Before Victoria Unitarian could become a GVAT member, we had to complete a “Listening Campaign.” This campaign’s purpose was to discover what congregation members believed were the important social issues of the day both within our church and in the broader community. Even more importantly, the Listening Campaign was designed to strengthen connections and communication among our congregation members. The Listening Campaign was held between May and November, 2018, with approximately one-third of congregation members participating. This exercise could usefully be repeated.
GVAT First Unitarian Core Group
To steer our church through the process of voting to become a GVAT member and to conduct theListening Campaign, we needed a “steering committee.” This committee is Victoria Unitarian’s GVAT Core Group. Its members are Susan Layng (lead person), Jenny Heston, Kym Hines, Sonya Ignatieff, Judy Gaylord and Philip Symons.
Marion Pape, our church’s president is a member of GVAT’s strategy hub. Rev. Melora Lynngood has taken a strong interest in GVAT from its inception.
If you have any questions about GVAT, ask any core-group member.
First Unitarian’s priority social concerns
When the Listening Campaign finished in November, 2018, a dozen social issues were identified as concerns to our congregation. However, GVAT wanted each member organization to identify just two or three top priorities to work on through the next year or two. Other priorities would be tackled later. Therefore, for two Sundays in late November, 2018, charts were hung in the Lion Hall on which congregation members could vote using coloured sticky dots. Our three top priorities were Housing, Climate Change, and Mental Health and Addiction.
Discernment Day, Nov. 18th, 2018, was the day on which all 20 GVAT member organizations gathered to “discern” the two top priorities that GVAT would first address. Core group members from all member organizations met at Cadboro Bay United Church. After small group discussions, delegates recorded the top priorities of their organization on flip charts. The top two priorities for GVAT’s first actions were Housing and Mental Health and Addiction. These top two priorities were to be viewed through Climate Change and Reconciliation “lenses,” meaning suggested solutions to problems should take Climate Change and Reconciliation into account.
GVAT hits a “speed bump”
Through the two years preceding Discernment Day, GVAT’s organization, under the guidance of a
Hub steering group, was developed through the energy and talents of Flossie Baker, a young British citizen with appropriate experience and qualifications. She was in Canada on a working visa, but her visa expired in December, 2018, before the government got around to renewing it. This meant GVAT lost its one full-time employee, and with no qualified replacement available Flossie’s work had to be divided among several volunteers. Progress continues, but for the moment at a slower pace.
Actions at First Unitarian Church of Victoria through January, 2019
Our church’s membership in GVAT required renewal in January, 2019, so to keep congregation members informed, the service on Sunday January 6th, and Share the Plate collection through January were dedicated to GVAT. Membership fees in GVAT are based on the number of members in an organization. Our church qualifies for the minimum, which in 2019 is $1,200. Also, while GVAT was re-organizing itself after the loss of Flossie Baker, our core group signed up volunteers for the Action Research Teams.
Action Research Teams (ARTs)
Action Research Teams (ARTs) will do the research on Housing, and Mental Health and Addiction that is needed to devise a plan to ameliorate the problems in those two priorities.
ARTs are made up of one or two people from each member organization who are willing to talk with knowledgeable academics, politicians and others, then meet once a month to discuss the information and pass it back to their core groups.
The Core Group at Victoria Unitarian set up a table in the Lion Hall through January, 2019, where people could sign up to serve on an ART. A total of seven signed up on a trial or fully-committed basis for the Housing ART, and eight for the Mental Health and Addiction ART. Our core group is considering what further steps we can take as GVAT overcomes its speed bump.
Further news and information will be posted as it is received.