Janine O'Leary Cobb



I had a peripatetic childhood, attending ten schools in Ottawa, New Brunswick, Montreal, and Toronto before graduating from high school.  Denied university because of family finances, I moved from Ottawa to Toronto at age 19 to get a job in advertising (very glamorous in the 1950s) and it was there that I met the man who became my husband, Jack Cobb.  We were married in 1957 and moved to Montreal in 1960, just before the birth of our first child.

For the next 15 years, I was a home-based wife and mother with my fifth and last child born in 1969. Starting in 1963, I attended evening university classes, graduating with an honours degree in 1975 and a masters in 1980. From 1976 to 1990, I taught humanities and sociology at Vanier CEGEP. I always felt that teaching was what I was born for.

We bought a computer for the children for Christmas 1985 and, intrigued by this new technology, I wrote a newsletter about menopause (and the sheer lack of information available on it) which I sent to eight or ten same-age friends who lived in various parts of Canada. One friend worked for a leading radio station in Toronto and she arranged for me to be interviewed on air. This led to a newspaper story about the newsletter and, within days, over 700 women had written to ask for information and/or for a copy of the newsletter. A new career was born.

As the demand for the newsletter mushroomed, I reluctantly decided to resign my teaching position to work full-time as writer, editor and publisher of A Friend Indeed and to write the book, Understanding Menopause, which--over the next 14 years--sold over 45,000 copies.  Also, as the reputation of the newsletter grew, it led to speaking engagements across North America as well as in England, Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, I decided to sell the newsletter and retire, but my interest in women’s health led to a membership in Breast Cancer Action Montreal, an advocacy group that sought to highlight the causes of breast cancer; I served on the board and as president.

In 1999, Jack and I tripped over the Unitarian Church and quickly became devoted members. Over the next 20 years, I was variously secretary to the Board, a coordinator of the Caring Network, a member of Telecrew, the producer of the e-bulletin, Week at a Glance, active in the 175th anniversary celebrations and, latterly, a Warden.

I can look back on many different stages of life -- as advertising assistant, housewife, student,
teacher, author, editor — but my main and most important role was and is as proud mother of five next-generation Cobbs, each an independent, decent and caring individual and each a wonderful parent, blessing Jack and me with a brood of 13 superb grandchildren.

Jack Cobb

Jack Cobb and Rex Batten were both active members of the Fossils Club, a men’s club that wrote and staged a topical musical each May, with proceeds going to summer camps for disadvantaged children. One Saturday, Jack and Rex entered the Unitarian Church to attend a memorial service for a deceased club member, and were surprised and pleased to find a live jazz group playing in the Sanctuary. For Jack and Rex, finding live jazz in a church was a revelation, enough to induce  them to attend services from then on

Jack took the news home to his wife, Janine (me), who had been curious about the Unitarian Church for some years and who was glad to accompany him to a service the next day. Within a few weeks, we had both decided to sign the membership book.

But this is Jack’s profile.

Jack was born in 1929 in Newbiggin-by-Sea, which sounds like an idyllic English village but was, in fact, a grubby coal mining town. His father was on active duty in the Royal Navy and shortly thereafter, took Jack and his mother north to live in Rosyth in Scotland.

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Elizabeth Anglin


Language: English

I was born Elizabeth Fulcher, at home in Suffolk, England. Myidentical twin Diana and I had an older sister, Margaret, and were joined by a brother, Roger, twelve years later. I started my studies in a small local school (27 pupils) and then, at age ten, went from home to boarding school for seven years.  After graduation, I took a year off, learned to drive and helped look after my handicapped brother (my mother had died of polio two years previously). When I was eighteen, I enrolled in the Dunfermline College of Physical
Education in Aberdeen, Scotland, graduating three years later as a specialist teacher, which required me to work with 1500 students a week. Then, at the age of twenty-two, I embarked on the grandadventure of a teaching job in Canada, where I earned three times the salary I’d had in Britain and had to teach only 320 students.

I arrived in Montreal  in 1961, met Tom Anglin, a widower, on the tennis court in 1962, and  was married in 1963, becoming stepmother to Tom’s four children, ages  five to fourteen. Tom and I then had three more children, born in 1966, 1968 and 1971. Although settled in a home on St.
Sulpice Road, I still yearned for life in the country, so in 1979 Tom and I began to build the home of our dreams in Vermont.  This house, still very much part of my life, has been a great source of joy over the years. In many ways it is still unfinished, but even so, very much loved and lived in. It has welcomed many of my friends and colleagues and is now the family home.

Tom died in 1995.  After a period of readjustment, I began to search for a friendly community that thrived in the absence of dogma. I had been impressed by the Unitarian Church of Montreal in earlier years and now found my way back to it. Over time, I have become involved and active in many aspects of congregational life.

I was honoured to receive the Unsung Hero award in 2015  and have maintained my
commitment to the UCM.   I have been a board member, a member of Telecrew, organizer (and chief cook and bottle-washer) of the monthly Midday Meals; a key co-convenor of our 175th
anniversary celebrations; active in planning the Bidnite (now BidSunday) events; a keen volunteer for the Caring Network; and, latterly, a Warden, who enjoys cleaning the church silver and counting money with Julie.

I am happy to be part of this open, honest, accepting community.

Nancy Lorimer

Language: English


l love history and I enjoy planning events - especially as a team member. So when asked to co-chair the 175th anniversary celebrations of the Unitarian Church of Montreal (UCM), with Elizabeth Anglin, I accepted immediately. For starters, I reread Montreal’s Unitarians, 1832 - 2000” and soon realized that I had joined the church during its sunshine years - when the pews were full and the Religious Education (RE) program flourished with 300 registrants.


When I entered the hallowed hall of the Simpson St. church 53 years ago, I was filled with awe as I experienced the eloquence of Rev. Leonard Mason while immersed in the commanding sounds of the pipe organ.

Once I learned that social justice underlined the church’s principles, I was hooked. One year later, my baby daughter Megan was dedicated and her sister Sally joined the RE program. In accepting an invitation to pour coffee after service in Channing Hall, I knew that I had found my church community. Though neither my life nor UCM’s has been free of turmoil over the last half century, I have found comfort and purpose in the church community.

As my daughter Kendra reached RE age, the Durnford family headed for UCM on Sunday mornings and I gradually added RE leadership to my volunteer work on bazaars, conferences and social events.

The sudden death of my husband, Hugh in 1979, was life-changing. As a single mom, I had to cut back on church duties as I moved from freelance writing and supply teaching to a staff position at the Gazette.

The most wrenching event in that period was the destruction of our beautiful church by fire in 1987. Gradually, I resumed active participation and joined the committee for imagining a new church building. I also headed up the Social Concerns Committee

After many years of searching and planning, our new church on de Maisonneuve was ready for a well-stocked kitchen and soon I found my home economics background at work. Meanwhile I had retired and remarried. Once again, opportunities to serve appeared. As my new husband, Gordon Lorimer, acted as UCM treasurer, I got involved with collective kitchens to promote the concept of “Cook and Share.” The Green Team which focused on sustainability at home, in the community and at church also beckoned. We became a certified Green Sanctuary in 2005.

Gordon’s illness and subsequent death in 2011 precipitated another slowdown, but soon the UCM Caring Committee and then the Garden Committee welcomed me.

UCM has been “my rock” for more than a half century, and through the “ups and downs.” I
cherished the solace and cheer I experienced with four UCM ministers. Rev. Leonard Mason,
minister emeritus led the memorial service for my husband Hugh; Rev. Charles Eddis, the
internment service that followed Rev. Ray Drennan married my daughter Megan to Larry Dionne and later conducted the memorial service for my stepson Graham. Gordon’s memorial was coordinated and led by Rev. Diane Rollert.

As the mother of three, grandmother of seven, stepmother of three and step-grandma of six, I am truly blessed - and involved. Until recently, I enjoyed a very active life: skiing, cycling, tennis, gardening and sailing - often with the “grands.” I now spend more time reading, playing bridge and enjoying concerts and plays.

While I thoroughly enjoyed working with Team 175 last year, I think that dead-heading daffodils
and making soup for shut-ins is more my speed in 2018 and beyond.

Danielle Webber, Sabbatical Minister

danielle weber

Languages: English and un petit peu du Français

In 1967, my grandparents first went to the Ottawa Congregation when my father was a toddler, and this is where my story with Unitarianism Universalism began. In 1978, their family moved to Burlington, Ontario and became members of the Hamilton Congregation, where my grandparents still attend weekly. After my father and uncle moved away from home, my grandmother decided to go to seminary, becoming a Minister of Religious Education and working as a consulting minister for the St. Lawrence District, ministering to churches and congregations that wanted to offer better religious education to their members.

My parents had me dedicated to the Regina Unitarian Fellowship when I was a toddler, and when my family moved to Calgary in 1997, we became members of the Unitarian Church of Calgary. I still hold membership there, and my parents are a part of the regular leadership of the Calgary church.

As I said to the youth in the Coming of Age service in December, I remember planting seeds in Styrofoam cups, celebrating world religions’ holidays and holy days, and writing my own credo during Coming of Age. I started attending adult religious education and creating young adult worship services while in college. I was taking an Arts Degree in Psychology, wanting to be a therapist for families with children who have mental disabilities. But while participating and leading worship at my church, being apart of the committee on ministry, and participating in the caring committee at the Calgary Church, I started hearing a call to ministry.

While in the last year of college, I started applying to seminary to begin a Masters of Divinity, and was accepted to Meadville Lombard Theological School in the spring of 2013. Over the last five years, I have been preparing for Unitarian Universalist ministry, serving as intern minister for both the Calgary Church and First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. I am now in the process of becoming a fellowshipped minister with the Unitarian Universalist Association.

I am very much looking forward to spending the next three months with all of you here in Montreal, and to sharing my love and understanding of this faith. Please know that I am here to help support this community in this time of sabbatical rest. We will spend time together in worship and meetings, but please know that you can connect with me one-on-one at any time, I look forward to hearing from you, and what you love about our faith.

With love,

Julie Golick, Church Administrator

Languages: English and French, with a smattering of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Latin


I knew about the UCM for several years before I joined its staff. Several of my friends were members of the
community, but as a secular Jew it had never occurred to me to attend services. However, one of my friends knew I was looking for work, knew the UCM was looking for an
administrator… and here I am!

My educational background is in the humanities, with a double-major in liberal arts and history from Concordia University and a master of arts in medieval history from the University of Toronto. When I wasn’t learning about history in an academic setting, I was taking part in it as living history through the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment society where I teach, sing, tell stories, and research the lives of interesting
Christian saints. I’d always planned on teaching CEGEP after I graduated, but teaching jobs in the
humanities were hard to come by, and after a short stint as an ESL teacher, I found myself falling into administrative support jobs instead. I love working for non-profit organizations and feeling like I’m helping the world become a better place, so the UCM was a natural fit for me.

I’m a tried-and-true geek, and anyone who’s been by the UCM office in the last year has probably seen some little geeky touches hiding in my office decorations. My loves include science fiction and fantasy, roleplaying games, and medieval history, and I can talk your ear off about any of these topics – and more! – when I’m taking a break from running the church office. We can chat over tea – another one of my loves. (Psst… one of the worst-kept secrets in the church is the tea stash I’ve got hidden in my office.)

I know it’s always difficult to switch over from a long-term staff member to someone new,
someone who might have different ideas about how things should be done. But I’ve been so
grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received from the UCM community. This is truly a special place, and I’m happy to be part of it. If you’re ever near the church during office hours, stop by and say hello! I’d love to meet all of you!


Susan Gyetvay

Languages: English, French, Hungarian, some Romanian

Susan UCM pic.jpg

I grew up in a split catholic/Jewish home and as a result, was never exposed to formalized religion. We celebrated the holidays, but without delving into the religious or spiritual meaning. My maternal grandfather was a Talmudic scholar who loved philosophy and asking questions. I may have inherited this trait from him because from an early age I was filled with questions about human existence and human nature. In high school, where kids can be cruel, I was filled with puzzlement at their motives and longed for my world to be filled with kindness. Once I had a husband and a baby and felt secure, these thoughts and questions more or less vanished. I went on to adopt two little girls from Romania, so-called Ceausescu Babies, and then within a few years I found myself a single mom, sharing custody with a dad who lived a few blocks away from me in NDG.

My world fell apart and I was quite completely lost. I stumbled upon the Unitarian church of Montreal by accident, at an Empty Bowls event in 2001. I took home about five little flyers answering some basic questions, and I returned the following week, with my three children.  I felt safe at church from the beginning, and while I was in a bit of an emotional fog, unable to really access so-called “good” feelings like joy or peace, my two hours at church each week were the closest I came to feeling well. I look back on those days now and they seem so far away. I have since healed, grown, and flourished in every way imaginable.

One of the first groups I joined at the UCM was the Walking Group which used to meet every Saturday morning for a hike in the city, followed by coffee. Next, I joined the RE Committee and eventually became its’ chairperson. This was a logical and safe place for me, as my day job is working with children as a daycare director. For the next several years I helped put on the annual Trade Craft Fair, Empty Bowls, and BidNight, mostly in the role of food coordinator. It took a little longer than I had anticipated to really make friends, but joining these groups and committees helped me make some of the best friends I have today. After my stint in social events and social Justice, I was ready for something new and tried my hand in the spiritual realm by leading an explorations group for two years. The experience of quietly listening to others and witnessing their reality with love and openness was life changing for me. It enabled me to move gradually towards deeper connections, even if that meant taking risks. 

I am now trying something completely new and different for me, I have joined the Board of Management as the chair of stewardship. I did not really know what this role entailed but I agreed to give it my best shot, and so far, it has been rich and rewarding. The trajectory of my life, my spiritual and emotional growth, my ability to connect with others, and to truly listen, coincides with my life at this church and the people who have shaped and guided me along the way.  

Chloe Hart

Languages: English and French


My parents took me to the Universalist-Unitarian Church of Halifax when I was very young. When my brother was born, it became too difficult to get ourselves there, so we stopped attending before I was really old enough to remember it clearly. When I was growing up, I remember telling people I was Unitarian and that my church didn’t have a creed, but by the time I was in junior high, I stopped identifying with the church at all.

After finishing high school, I came to Montreal to study at l’Ecole de danse contemporaine de Montreal. I moved in with a friend from high school named Olivia, who had moved to Montreal the year before. As it turned out, she had also gone to UUCH when she was very young – we had probably been in the same religious education class – and she had also stopped attending as she grew up. She had rediscovered Unitarianism through UCM in her first year in Montreal, so by the time I moved in with her, she was going every week. We only discovered this coincidence when we became roommates, so of course this made me curious about Unitarianism. I started coming to UCM with Olivia fairly regularly during my first fall in Montreal, and by the time the new year rolled around, I had a job working in the RE nursery.

I spent a year working in the nursery, and by the end of the next year, I was invited to work in the RE grade school. This meant I actually had to know something about UUism! I learned a lot of what I know about our faith through teaching it to children in RE that year. I started getting very involved in the church, joining an Exploration Group and the Worship Planning Committee, and later volunteering as the co-publicity coordinator for BidSunday. I became a member in fall 2015.

One of my major roles at UCM has been working as the Summer Services Coordinator. I have served in this role for the past three years, and I absolutely love it. For 10 weeks in the summer, our staff gets some time off as regular programming comes to an end. My job is to organize volunteers and material in order for the services to continue running during this time. I absolutely love getting to know a different community member each week as I help them prepare a service.

Another experience that has been deeply informative to my UU experience has been Meaning
a spiritual development program for young adults run by the UUA. The year-long program includes an opening and a closing retreat at UBarU Camp and Retreat Center in Mountain Home, Texas. The centre itself is absolutely beautiful, and its staff, along with the Meaning Makers program leaders, were incredibly inspiring. Every young adult in the program had something to teach me. During the year, I attended monthly virtual small-group meetings with other Meaning Makers
participants, as well as monthly meetings with a mentor from the UCM community. Shoshanna Green acted as my mentor, and every month I looked forward to our meetings.

Unitarian-Universalism has become a huge part of my life and I am so grateful to be a part of the community at UCM!

Vincent Mousseau

vincent mousseau

Languages: English and French

About a week before Christmas in 2016, I found myself—strangely enough—in a Catholic Church. Now, anyone who knows me even vaguely knows that this is quite the strange place to find me. A staunch atheist and empiricist, I am pretty much the last person that you would expect to find in a church. Indeed, I was a bit confused about why I was there myself.

You see, about six years ago, my mother died on Christmas Eve and as a result, this time of year has always been difficult for me. Since she died, though, I always had a tendency to find myself in a church for Christmas Eve. This seeking of spiritual solace struck me as being extraordinarily symbolic to me in that regard, but nothing out of the ordinary. Recently, though, I have felt a need for this type of thing more than ever.

With recent events around the world, and also those in my own personal life, I found myself looking for a community to call my own; a community that is based in mutual respect, acceptance, growth, and shared values. I found myself consumed; I was searching for a community that would grant me these things in a loving, respectful, and caring atmosphere.

I truly discovered what I was looking for in the Unitarian Church of Montreal. In so little time, this community allowed me the space to grow and develop as a person, all while fostering a sense of true community that I have never felt before from a spiritual congregation. I found a community that saw the best in me and willingly allowed me to take on leadership roles, even as a relatively new member.

I am proud to say that I am a member of a congregation that is constantly striving towards greater inclusivity; I am an active participant in a community whose values, actions, and beliefs are actively working towards changing the world for the better, and I could not be happier that I stumbled across this community on that fateful Yule evening.

Vincent is a Black, queer, and trans community organizer, educator, and activist. They use the pronouns they/them in English, and il/lui in French.

Hannelore Poncelet

La branche Daniel de ma famille est unitarienne depuis 1568. D’origine hongroise, le 10 janvier 1957 à la veille de mes treize ans, ma famille est arrivée au Canada en tant que réfugiée. Pour mes parents, c’était un troisième déplacement forcé. Leurs familles ont dû quitter leurs domiciles respectifs de Transylvanie (Roumanie) et de Slovénie lors de la répartition de la Hongrie en 1919. Ensuite, l’expropriation en 1948 par l’État, et finalement  la fuite lors des horreurs d’Octobre 1956.
J’ai grandi dans la capitale hongroise, Budapest, dans un appartement qu’on partageait avec des étrangers. Malgré tout, ma petite enfance était heureuse : l’école six jours par semaine, des cours de piano, de natation et de ballet, l’opéra, les concerts et le théâtre de marionnettes, les excursions dominicales avec nos parents dans les montagnes et le travail d’été sur les fermes. En Hongrie, il était illégal de fréquenter les églises. Beaucoup de religieux furent emprisonnés. Mon père, par son exemple, assurait notre accès aux valeurs et aux principes unitariens. Le 3 décembre 1956, mes parents décident de fuir la Hongrie. Dix jours plus tard, plusieurs ingénieurs furent exécutés par le régime. Mes deux parents étaient ingénieurs! 

Aux Chutes Niagara, nous étions soutenus par la Croix-Rouge et l’Armée du Salut. Pendant cinq ans, la discrimination à l’école, « Dirty DP’s, go home! » nous accompagnaient chaque jours. Pour me faciliter la vie, mes parents m’ont inscrite comme externe à Loretto Academy. Pour payer mes frais de scolarité, j’y travaillais les midis servant les pensionnaires espagnoles. Les matins, je livrais le quotidien Globe and Mail, en je gardais des enfants, coupais le gazon ou pelletais la neige du voisinage pour pouvoir acheter mes livres, mon uniforme et suppléer au revenu familial. En trouvant du travail comme journaliers dans les usines, mes parents ont réussi à repayer le gouvernement canadien pour notre passage de l’Europe. Nos parents exigeaient qu’on parle la langue du pays à la maison. Ils devaient se requalifier deux fois (anglais/français) pour reprendre leur carrière. Pendant mon adolescence, je participais au Youth Group unitarien de Niagara Falls, É.-U. La responsabilité et la persévérance devenaient mes valeurs de survie. Comme mes parents ne nous ont jamais transmis leurs inquiétudes, leurs peurs, ni leurs histoires personnelles, j’ai dû les découvrir à travers mes rencontres et mes études de l’histoire. Comme ma mère a toujours dit : « profite et souviens-toi des événements heureux; les malheurs, renvoie-les aux calendes grecques ».

En 1962, j’ai terminé mon secondaire et mes cours de musique (Royal Conservatory of Music  of Toronto) et j’ai suivi ma famille dans la Ville de Québec. En 1966, reçue bachelière en philosophie et en musique de l’Université Laval, c’est aux universités de Carleton et de Laval que j’ai poursuivi mes études à la maîtrise en sociologie. En 1968-1969, j’ai fait un terrain de recherche ethnographique avec mon futur époux, Léo Poncelet. Notre fille, Diane est née dans la Grenfell Mission Hospital à Harrington Harbour (lieu du tournage du film, La Grande Séduction). 

En 1971, nous avons décidé de poursuivre nos études graduées à l’université de l’Alberta. Avec mon nouveau diplôme en pédagogie, j’étais engagée en tant que spécialiste de musique et de sciences sociales dans une école francophone à Fahler (région de la Peace-River) pendant que Léo poursuivait ses études et enseignait au Collège St-Jean à Edmonton. Je dirigeais une chorale de jeunes et j’ai collaboré à la formation des Scouts francophones d’Alberta. Lors de la naissance de notre fils Daniel en 1976, j’ai perdu mon poste d’enseignante. 

Aussitôt, nous sommes revenus à Montréal, Léo acceptant une charge de cours à l’UQÀM. Depuis, nous nous sommes installés à Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, près de mon travail, dans un milieu féerique avec sa montagne et ses parcs boisés. C’est ici que ma carrière en éducation s’est poursuivie pendant les prochains trente-deux ans : seize ans comme spécialiste en anglais et seize ans à la direction des écoles. Entre-temps, j’ai poursuivi une maîtrise en administration scolaire. Notre cadet, Charles, nous est arrivé en 1984. Le pasteur Charles Eddis officia la cérémonie de sa naissance, et depuis, je suis membre de l’UCM. 

Entre 1988-1991, empruntée par la CSP comme directrice d’école à Blanc-Sablon (deux pas de
Labrador), j’ai réalisé de beaux projets: voyage d’étudiants aux Nations-Unies à New York, 
scolarisation des décrocheurs avec le soutien orthopédagogique du Montreal Learning Center, agrandissement de la bibliothèque, etc.

Entre 1991-1997, l’UCM m’a engagée comme DRE. En 2004, le pasteur Raymond Drennan nous a recrutés dans le but de mettre sur pied une communauté unitarienne francophone : le MUUQ. Mon mari, Léo, a fondé la revue bisannuelle, Tribune Libre Unitarienne, à laquelle j’ai aussi contribué (www.uuqc.ca). 

J’ai pris ma retraite en 2008. Nous voyageons en renouant avec notre parenté éparpillée et nous participons à plusieurs congrès dans nos domaines respectifs. À ce moment, je suis en train de terminer la rédaction de ma thèse doctorale à l’université de Sherbrooke au Centre d’études du religieux contemporain. Depuis 2014, avec nos préoccupations familiales toujours grandissantes, nous avons réduit nos activités à l’église unitarienne. Notre plus grand plaisir est de se retrouver avec nos enfants et nos huit petits-fils. Par le temps que vous lisez ces lignes, la tribu Poncelet s’augmentera d’un neuvième petit-fils et d’une petite-fille. 

Avis Anderson

Languages: English and French

Avis Anderson

I first attended a service at the Unitarian Church in Montreal in 1989 or 1990. I had just recently moved here to go to university and was living in residence with my best friend from high school. One of my mum’s friends lived in Boston and the two of them met in Montreal for a visit the first year I was here. My mum’s friend was a Unitarian Universalist (which I’d never heard of before), so the four of us attended a service in Channing Hall on Simpson Street one Sunday morning. I don’t remember the sermon; in fact, I don’t remember much about the experience, except that I felt drawn to the church and the community. After that first visit, I returned a few times on my own. 
Already then, in my early twenties, I was looking for a spiritual home, although it would take years for me to fully admit that to myself.

Over a decade later, after the current church was established in NDG, I signed up for the online newsletter and contemplated visiting the new church. It took years (and a breakup) to get me through the door, finally, in 2012. I felt very shy about wanting to be part of a church—being “spiritual” was fine, but church seemed countercultural in an uncomfortable way, especially since I grew up in a non-churchgoing household.

After a couple of years of inconsistent attendance, I was inspired by theme-based ministry to make a real commitment: I wanted to participate in an Exploration Group and decided I would also commit to regular attendance for a year, to test out whether this community and I were really a good fit. In the end, I started the second year of theme-based ministry by becoming a member, which felt like a huge step!

Once I’d become a member, I found myself yearning for a historical connection between my family and Unitarianism: I wished that I were somehow reclaiming something rather than venturing into something completely new. I didn’t expect to find such a connection, mind you, and yet there is one! It turns out that my maternal grandmother’s aunt, who was a nurse, was hired to look after Elizabeth Cordner, John Cordner’s daughter, who was blind. (My great-great-aunt was living with Elizabeth Cordner at 50 Chestnut Street, in Boston, in 1920 and 1940, according to the U.S. census records.) Later, my grandfather’s two sisters took over the job and lived with Elizabeth Cordner for nearly 15 years, until Elizabeth’s death. When my great-aunts left 50 Chestnut Street (which has since become the Francis Parkman House, a US National Historic Landmark, but that’s another story), they were asked if theywanted to take anything with them. As a result, my aunt in Prince Edward Island now owns several pieces of furniture that once belonged to the Cordners and that I grew up thinking were family heirlooms. In the end, there are only a few degrees of separation between me and John Cordner, the first minister of this congregation, a synchronicity that was 50+ years in the making!

Carol Cumming Speirs

Languages: English and some French

carol cs

I am a third generation Unitarian, a child of this Church congregation and baptized by Lawrence Clare*. Yes baptized….. I have a church baptism certificate that serves as my birth certificate. This was the practice in Quebec at that time. It was music that drew my mother’s parents, Frank and Betsy Symons, into the Church of the Messiah on Simpson Street, drawn by the celebrated organist, George Brewer and the Gallery Choir, as it later became known, under organist and choir director, Donald Mackie.

All of Frank and Betsy Symons’ children were married in the Church of the Messiah: Jean to Stan Cumming, Dora to Arthur Ferguson, Stewart to Mary Moxley and Joy to Anson McKim. My mother and father stayed in Montreal but the other three at varying times found their way to the West Coast and some descendants can be found in two of the Vancouver Churches and one in Victoria, to this day.

One of my early memories is of Sunday afternoon meetings at my grand parents home of my grandfather and Angus Cameron. They would be sequestered in the dining room where the siphons of whisky and soda were located, dissecting Angus’s sermon from that morning. There was great pounding of fists on the table, raised voices, and works by GBS, Bertrand Russell, HG Wells, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Emerson, Thoreau and Channing among other references, would be fetched from either the library where I would be quietly reading or from the shelves lining the fireplace. 

I am the proud mother of three children, Lara, Greg and Scott and Granny Carol to seven very active grandchildren (ages 2- 11) of whom I am intensely proud. Two of my children live in Toronto so I get to see their families less frequently than Scott’s family who lives in Montreal. My daughter is General Counsel to a large employment agency, my Toronto son, Greg, is in real estate investment, while my Montreal son is in commercial real estate.  

In my work life, I trained as a social worker and worked first in the Department of Psychiatry at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (6 years), then was recruited by the McGill School of Social Work, first as a field teacher and then as a member of the faculty with an academic appointment (38 years). I also trained as a marriage and family therapist. During that time, I served on the Faculty Association, the University Senate, and chaired a joint Faculty Association and Administration Committee, and wrote the report on non-tenure track faculty that resulted in a change in policy. I also served as the University Ombudsperson for 5 years. 

In more recent years, I have served the Unitarian community in a number of ways – as chair of Communications Committee, the Music Ministry Collective, the Board of Management (2x), the Ministerial Search Committee that recruited Diane Rollert, the Choir Director Search Committee that recruited Maider Martineau, and currently serve as Secretary of the Board of Canadian Unitarian Council, our denomination’s national body.

Music also plays a role in my life.  I attend MSO concerts and sing in a choir with a wonderful group of women called Women Making Music. We join forces with the McGill Choral Society to present two concerts a year under the direction of Mary Jane Puiu. This year we sang Mozart’s Messa Solemenis in C and Rejoice by Handel. Last year at Christmas. we sang the whole of Handel’s Messiah. Singing folk and nursery songs with grandchildren is a special joy.  At the UCM I can usually be found belting out the hymns with great enthusiasm. 

* See pictures of Ministers on the stairway wall – Leonard Mason married Derek Speirs and myelf in 1967. Charles Eddis and Ray Drennen spoke at my father’s Memorial Service and Diane Rollert at my mother’s.

Normand Gosselin

Langues : français et anglais                         

Enfance et adolescence vécues à Malartic, Abitibi, à l’exception d’une année et demie passée à Dundas, Timmins et Rexdale (Ontario) afin d’y apprendre l’anglais; immigré à Montréal à l’âge de 28 ans. Formation en administration, marketing, journalisme, communication, gestion d’associations, créativité appliquée et relation d’aide. J’ai toujours suivi des formations, plus parcuriosité et désir d’apprendre que pour l’aspect professionnel.

Élevé catholique, je suis tombé par pur hasard dans UU au moment où je cherchais une voie à mon goût; un de mes professeurs en créativité appliquée, à l’université de New York à
Buffalo, était ministre Unitarien dans une communauté de New York. J’ai assisté à un de ses services du dimanche par esprit de solidarité en 1990 : et ce fut mon Big Bang !

Après avoir quitté le journalisme pour être plus présent auprès de ma jeune famille, j’ai fait de l’errance professionnelle pendant 25 ans, touchant à toutes sortes de choses, multipliant les connaissances mais aussi le vide laissé par l’absence du métier qui me passionne tellement. Je suis père de trois enfants et grand-père sept fois.

La gestion d’associations a été ma planche de salut lors de la fondation de mon entreprise, Créattitude inc., pendant le Grand Verglas de 1998; ce qui m’a ramené au journalisme
puisque les associations aiment bien posséder leur propre média. Aujourd’hui, en plus de gérer des associations, j’édite le magazine web Électricité Plus, média dédié aux
professionnels de l’électricité.

Apprendre, apprendre, apprendre… c’est le sens de ma vie : la croissance personnelle. La lecture est mon moyen de prédilection et l’Église Unitarienne de Montréal est venue en
complément. La fonction de célébrant laïc est une autre avenue des plus enrichissantes,
fonction que je souhaite à toute personne désirant connaitre une croissance personnelle en dehors des sentiers battus et qui désire connaitre davantage la condition humaine.

Après mûre réflexion, j’ai arraché la page de mon dictionnaire sur laquelle paraissait le mot retraite…

Marie Diane Bessette est ma conjointe depuis 2004. En plus de peindre à l’aquarelle des thèmes qui lui sont chers, elle exerce le métier de technicienne en foresterie urbaine et en horticulture ornementale, au poste de contremaitre des travaux publics d’une municipalité. Elle m’accompagne fréquemment aux activités de l’Église Unitarienne de Montréal et a eu le plaisir de participer à deux expositions de groupe de la Galerie d’art en marches et une exposition en solo, en octobre et novembre 2016. 

Jim Lewis

Languages: English and a smattering of  French


The words I choose to describe myself are, in this order: writer, humanist, guitarist, composer, political junkie and omnivore. I didn’t attend a church or read a Bible until I was in my twenties, which was too late to indoctrinate me in a belief system, although I do seem to have acquired a tilt toward reincarnation and agnosticism. A few years ago, I developed health issues which led me to retire from teaching, but I had no idea how much fun retirement would turn out to be. The longer I live, the more I accept life’s contradictions: I probably spend way too much time on the Internet, but I was appalled to learn that most people get their news from social media like Facebook; also, I miss the chess problems that used to be available in the newspapers, but I have grown fond of solving Sudoku puzzles. I’m a pack rat, and it’s difficult for me to get rid of books, magazines, and clothes. I have enormous bookshelves of fiction (half a long wall) and nonfiction (the other half). I love to read, so I subscribe to The Nation, Walrus, the New Yorker, the Montreal Gazette and Globe and Mail. I have written a bunch of short stories and two novels, one of which is in-progress. I also like to write nonfiction, but I save that for my rants on life. Spoiler alert: I have an announcement to make to the Congregation on December 15th.

Alain Pierre Bachecongi

Languages: French and English

Alain and Cym

Alain and Cym

Alain Pierre was born in Cairo, Egypt, and has lived in Montreal since 1989. He is a father, step-father, father-in-law, and since April 2016, a grandfather to baby Talia. Alain Pierre is married to Cym Gomery, also a UU—it was Rev. Diane Rollert who performed the nuptials, back in 2008. He has been attending the UCM since 2007, yet, in true UU style, he considers himself a Catholic, while practicing and (to anyone who will listen) preaching Buddhism. Alain’s mother tongue is French, but he also speaks fluent English and Arabic and of course Egyptian! His nickname in his youth was Halak (“the barber”) because he is fond of expounding on all kinds of topics! 

Alain is a project manager at Bombardier Aerospace, where he has worked for 26 years. Needless to say, perhaps, he considers loyalty the greatest virtue! In his spare time, he likes to work out, or to watch movies (with a strong preference for action movies à la Jean-Claude Van Damme). This sporty and sexy sexagenarian has participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer five times in a row! —Cym Gomery

Prue (Mors) Rains (Lewis)

Prue rains

I speak English well, read French easily, speak it less so.

I was born in Chicago IL but grew up in Wellesley Hills MA, where my parents attended the Unitarian Church and I became active in LRY (Liberal Religious Youth). I attended Wellesley College, but graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois. After graduation, I married Jack Rains, my psychology professor, and went to grad school in sociology at Northwestern University in Evanston IL. Jack and I taught at New College in Sarasota FL. We moved to Pittsburgh PA and then to Montreal when I was hired in 1971 to teach sociology at McGill University. Our son Adam was born in 1973. Jack taught at Dawson College until his death from leukemia at the age of 60 in 1993. I had used his name as my professional name for so long that I kept it even as Quebec insisted on restoring our maiden names for medical purposes, and I married writer Jim Lewis.

I became a Canadian resident accidentally, but finally acquired Canadian citizenship in 1990, thus becoming a dual citizen. I retired in 2003 and have enjoyed every minute since. I have taken writing workshops at the Quebec Writers Federation, and belong to two writing groups, one of which also includes Jim. Ten years ago, I took up painting (oil, landscape) taking courses at the Visual Arts Center and studying with fellow Unitarian and mentor Deirdre McCay. I’m getting better.

I am three-year-old Max’s doting Granny Prue, but I dote at a distance since he lives seven hours away in Rochester NY.

Maider Martineau

Animatrice de chant et chef de chœur : Maider Martineau
Langues: français et anglais

Maider a eu la gentillesse de répondre à quelques questions à propos de ses impressions sur le Québec et l'UCM. Elle est membre du personnel de l'UCM depuis janvier 2016 en tant que chef de chœur et animatrice de chant.

D'où êtes-vous?
J'ai grandi dans la partie du Pays-Basque située en France et j'ai fait mes études à Toulouse.  

Quand et pourquoi êtes-vous venue au Québec?
 Je suis venue l'an dernier au Québec pour poursuivre mon rêve et mes études de maîtrise en musique. Mon rêve était de vivre une aventure musicale québécoise exceptionnelle en rencontrant des personnes inspirantes, et c'est ce que je suis en train de vivre ! Ma spécialité est l'accordéon traditionnel basque, le trikitixa, et j'ai toujours voulu m'ouvrir à d'autres instruments comme le pandero, l'alboka, l'accordéon chromatique... Je viens de terminer une maîtrise en didactique instrumentale à l'Université Laval en mélodéon, l'accordéon traditionnel québécois, un cousin de mon trikitixa ! Le chant a aussi fait partie de mon parcours en France et à l'Université Laval, en cours particuliers et dans des chorales. 

Qu'est-ce que vous aimez le plus au Québec?
Je trouve que les gens sont particulièrement détendus et accueillants. 

Quels sont les avantages à faire partie de la chorale? Dans le choeur Parts in peace, nous tissons des liens humains autour du chant. Le plaisir est le maître-mot de cette expérience. Dans une ambiance détendue et chaleureuse, le plaisir peut alors rimer avec exigence, celle d'offrir une performance lors d'une célébration chaque mois, et celle de la polyphonie pour laquelle les choristes prennent de plus en plus confiance en eux. Deux challenges très motivants !

En quoi aimez-vous votre travail à UCM?
J'adore mon travail à l'UCM parce que cela me donne une belle occasion d'exercer ma passion dans de très bonnes conditions de travail et un excellent accompagnement humain et musical. Je pense en particulier à Diane Rollert, Sandra Hunt, Louise Halperin et Katharine Childs avec qui j'ai l'occasion de travailler régulièrement. Les membres du choeur Parts in Peace sont aussi très bienveillants, c'est un plaisir de les diriger. J'ai toujours adoré avoir le rôle de chef de choeur : quel plaisir de fédérer les gens autour du chant ! Je suis habituée depuis ma naissance à voir des gens chanter autour de moi, que ce soit dans la communauté basque ou dans ma famille où l'on compte plusieurs musiciens professionnels, et même plusieurs chefs de choeurs.

Quels sont vos plans pour l'avenir?
Rester un peu au Québec car je n'ai pas fini d'y vivre de belles aventures ! Je vais m'installer à Montréal à partir du mois d'Août et continuer de travailler par moi-même mes instruments et ma voix tout en enseignant la musique et en allant rencontrer les musiciens traditionnels québécois. Mon duo TokaTaNoka avec le percussionniste Olivier Bussières fait aussi partie de mes priorités. Nous allons enregistrer un CD et jouer au carrefour de l'accordéon de Montmagny en septembre prochain. 

David McLeod

Languages: English, French passably, and some Klingon.

I'm a queer-identified cisgendered man who goes by Mr. as my pronoun. I'm an ardent feminist, often activist, and always helpful fellow. I’ve had the delight of being employed in various sectors in Montreal, including the retail, industrial, construction, and gaming sectors. I currently work in game design and production for a tabletop gaming company in a variety of roles.

I've been a member of the UCM community for eight years and spent three years in the stewardship role. I'm in a weekday exploration group and try to help out with collections and welcome new people when they walk in the door. I've done some projects for the church, such as the step stool at the lectern, and the book cases in the Garden Room.

I'm not Scottish. I took my wife's name when we were married in 2002 in Halifax. My 'maiden' name is Wood and is not recognized by the government of Quebec (so progressive here, bleh). I enjoy science, sci-fi, model building, and games with friends, plus fixing things.

In terms of religion, I was brought up non-religious with lots of religious education from the library, and then moved into Paganism and Wicca before rebounding to Unitarianism.

The question I get asked the most at the UCM is if my kilt is Scottish. It is not. The style I wear is contemporary in design though I was married while wearing a retro-design great kilt. I'm not fashion conscious, but I believe that people should wear whatever makes them comfortable and happy without worrying about being ridiculed.

If there is any philosophy I adhere to it is the Star Trek Vulcan idea of IDIC or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations where we accept that all people and experiences are unique and have value, and that we should celebrate and share our gifts.

Shoshanna Green

Languages: English, some French, a few words of German

I grew up in the Boston area and went to college outside Philadelphia, where I studied
mathematics and linguistics. After that I flailed my way through several attempts at graduate school (in computer science, history, and the history of medicine), finally concluding that it was not for me. Instead, I moved back to the Boston area and became a freelance copyeditor, 
working primarily for a university press; it turns out that all those attempts at different fields of study were great preparation for editing books across the humanities and social sciences!

Although Boston was, historically, a hotbed of Unitarianism, I knew little about it until my late twenties, when I began attending Unitarian Universalist services every now and then with friends who went. They touched something tender in me, but I didn’t really want to explore it— because it was tender. 

I had no plans to move to Canada! But when I decided that I was tired of being single and my friends asked, “Well, what would you want in a partner?” I brainstormed some criteria and
promptly met someone who matched every one of them -- whereupon I realized that I had
forgotten to specify that the person should also live within fifty miles of me. Whoops. But I
freelanced at home while he had an office job and young children, so it was clear who would move, and I arrived in Canada on July 4, 2001.

With no local network and no workplace in which to meet people, I started attending the UCM in 2006, in hopes of finding a meaningful social community. I joined a covenant group and volunteered to serve coffee, in a (successful) effort to become more involved, and found myself tentatively drawn to the spiritual side as well. As someone who’s always been comfortable working with words and speaking in public, I loved being a liturgist, and I was surprised and honored when I was asked to consider applying to be one of our lay chaplains. That work has been a challenge and a joy. I’ve also taken on other roles within the congregation, including serving as moderator of the Council and volunteering my editing skills for the newsletter. And my main professional client is now the Unitarian Universalist Association!

I never expected to become so involved with a church, and I continue to be startled at how much my life has changed in the past twenty years. 

I’m immensely grateful for those changes.

Marlo Turner Ritchie


Languages: English and French

I first heard of Unitarian Universalism when I attended a fellowship meeting in the Southern
Okanagan with a friend and her mom – a circle of people that struck me as completely refreshing and welcoming as a teenager. I grew up on an orchard in Naramata, eldest daughter to Penny and Ted Ritchie – post-hippy parents who raised me with a deep sense of spirituality and community – outside of the parameters of organized religion. My birth father Peter and his wife Karren, multiple grandparents and extended family members also contributed to my becoming involved with social justice, feminist and environmental movements at a young age.
As a French Immersion graduate, I went on to live with a Catholic family in Arica, Chile for a year when I was eighteen. Returning to B.C., I studied French and liberal arts at Simon Fraser
University, getting involved with the LGBTQ community. In 1997, all arrows lined up and pointed to Montreal, and I moved here with $300 in my bank account, a rejection letter from McGill and seven boxes on a plane. A year later, I was taking a sabbatical from McGill, working in a bilingual context for a breast-cancer research project and living in NDG. Since that fateful first winter (the same one that the ice storm hit) I have felt rooted here.  

The Unitarian Church quickly became a safe-haven and second home to me, and I was honored to be asked to join the Steering Committee, now known as the Board of Management. I served from June,  2010 to December, 2011. My partner Robert and son Zachary (2), and Montreal family love this space as well, and Zachary often asks in the middle of the week if we can go to church! 

I have worked in the community sector for twenty years, mostly in the areas of youth, mental health, immigration, LGBTQ communities and public daycare. I am currently freelancing with non-profits and the public sector, supporting a diversity of teams with organizational development, 
strategic planning, fundraising, communications, and change management projects. I look forward to applying UU principles in my practice.