Twins born different years on New Years

ulc ca 1.13.14

Waiting for the arrival of a baby can be an exciting guessing game since due dates are not always accurate.  If you happen to be expecting two babies, the anticipation may be even greater. A very unique event occurred in Toronto and Washington D.C. this past New Years; 2 sets of twins were born in different years.

Gabriela and Sophia

Canadian mom Lindsay Salgueiro was not planning to spend the last day of 2013 in the hospital, but her infant daughters had other plans in mind. Salgueiro’s original due date was January 19th.  Baby Gabriela arrived just before midnight and weighed in at 7 pounds.  Sister Sophia arrived 8 minutes later weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces.  The incremental time difference of the deliveries gave Sophia the opportunity to have her own special New Year’s birthday and to be one of the first babies of 2014. Both mother and twins are doing well and the city of Toronto is very pleased to have played host to such an auspicious event.

Lorraine and Brandon

Five hundred miles away from Toronto in Washington, D.C., Yaleni Santos Tohalino was making some New Year’s history of her own. She also delivered twins with one being born in 2013 and another in 2014. Her daughter, Lorraine, was born at 11:58 on December 31st and had a birth weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Brother Brandon arrived at 12:01 AM weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces. The brother and sister will have a very unique birth story to share with their own children and grandchildren Yaleni and proud dad Father Warren Begazo were very happy to welcome their December 31st and January 1st babies.  It is safe to say their New Year’s Eve will take on a whole new level of significance and special memories.

Other Notable Births of 2013

While it is difficult to top the New Year’s twins from Toronto and Washington D.C., there were some other notable births in 2013. Prince George Alexander Louis arrived on July 22nd. He is the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, otherwise known as Prince William and Kate Middleton. Prince George is third in line to the British throne after his grandfather and father. He would have been the first grandchild of Princess Diana. North West, the daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, was born on June 15th. Kardashian heads her own fashion and reality show empire. West is a Grammy winning recording artist and fashion mogul.  Uniting Gabriela, Sophia, Lorraine, Brandon, Prince George and North West someday would make for an incredibly interesting birthday celebration.

New Year, New Wedding Traditions

canadian wedding blog 12.13.13Recognizing Old and Creating New Canadian Wedding Traditions

Weddings are one of the most fascinating cultural events for people all around the world. Every religion, country, and ethnic group has distinct traditions associated with weddings. Some wedding traditions require the pomp and circumstance of an ordained minister that has spent years learning theology and who is familiar with a specific sacred text. Other traditions are newly made by couples who are ready to make the world their own. Canadian wedding traditions are similar to many of those in Western culture.

A Typical Canadian Wedding

It is a little silly to label any one specific wedding style as typical. In the past, religion has dictated what is important in a wedding ceremony and what is not. A large and historic church, such as the Catholic Church, has specific ceremonies that accompany a wedding. In fact, they have important ceremonies for many things. One such holy rite was held on December 8th of 2013 as the NotreDame de Quebec Basilica received holy bronze doors that were to be opened after a priest knocked three times. Once the ceremony ends, the doors are sealed for at least 25 years, if not longer.

Non-Denominational Traditions

Even as children, many young women dream of their wedding day and once engaged, they excitedly plan every detail. Canadians host what is known as a Trousseau Tea. Although not a particularly common practice, sewing a trousseau was very important to English women and some other European countries for many hundreds of years. Since cloth was precious, and a woman wanted to be able to bring lily while linens with her to her marriage, a girl would begin saving sheets, dresses, table cloths, etc., for her marriage. Now, instead of sewing bed sheets, Canadians prefer to host a luncheon or dinner for friends that cannot make it to the wedding ceremony. This special Tea could be described as making good memories with which to enter a marriage instead of linens. This is a Canadian wedding tradition that does not belong solely to any one religious denomination.

Saying Special Vows

A very common practice among married couples in Canada and around the world is writing their own vows before their wedding ceremonies. These vows can be anything a couple would like to promise one another. Ceremonies that contain personalized vows are able to be overseen by anyone who is ordained to perform weddings. There need not be any association with religion if the couple does not wish it. One of the most freeing options for any soon-to-be wed couple is the possibility of creating their own Canadian wedding traditions. Women and men are often excited to begin new lives starting with matrimony, and what better way is there than to start than with brand new traditions that can be passed on to their own children.

Canadians with Religion Are More Likely to Lie for Money


At the University of Regina in Canada, a study has attempted to get some data about the tricky subject of people lying, especially where there is money to gain from the lie.  One result of the study seemed to indicate that more than half the subjects were willing to lie to get a direct financial gain.  The study was set up to let the subjects remain anonymous, and involved testing whether a person would give truthful information to another person in the test, knowing a lie would likely end up delivering more money to the person who told it.

The study split volunteers into teams of two, separated them, and set up a situation where two packages worth $5 and $7 in one version, or $5 and $15 in another version of the controlled study were to be divided between the two participants.  Person A knows the amounts in the delivery, and is directed to tell the other person which is the higher amount.  Person B gets to choose which to select (presumably the higher amount).  Person A had the opportunity to be dishonest, with anonymity, and with no other impact on the study, except that lying could be counted on to be likely to return a few extra bucks to that person.

The creator of the study then connected the willingness to lie in the study for greater gain to other individual traits, which had been noted at the outset, including major area of study (the subjects were all college students), and other categories, including religion, family background, age, and some economic indicators, including student debt.  The three largest indicators of willingness to lie in the study were religious identity (those that self-identified as more religious being more likely to use deceit for financial gain, although lying is classed as a sin in the main religions represented), being a child of a divorced couple, and being a business major.

The creators of the study seemed nonplussed by the last two indicators of higher levels of willingness to be deceitful, being familiar with prior studies that supported the notion that business majors as a class were ambitious and statistically more prone to value financial gain over moral values.  Perhaps it is true, as the creator of the study postulates, that a religion that distinguishes itself as the one true faith, as most major faiths teach, creates a condition in which there are those who are inside those particular parameters of righteousness and those who are not of the flock, and perhaps for some with this worldview, it is easier to cheat a little for some extra money, as against those who are not of the same faith, even if lying is a sin in the belief system.

But for those who respect all as children of the same universe, such as the Universal Life Church teaches, the idea of damaging or harming another individual to benefit oneself would be anathema and would conflict also with the principle of doing good in the world.  This may be closer to true religion, the notion that harming one causes harm to all.

Canadian Charter Harms Religious Freedom
A young girl wearing a hijab

A young girl wearing a hijab. one of many religious symbols prohibited by new law.

Quebec’s Charter Restricts Religious Freedoms: Considered Unconstitutional

Quebec cited gender equality as the foundation for its proposed charter to restrict all government employees from wearing symbols of their respective faiths while on the job.  Some religious symbols that would be unlawful for all employees that bill hours to government agencies that receive tax monies include hijabs, kippas, turbans, and crucifixes.

Freedom of Religion and Gender Equality

Parties that are advocates for the proposed charter in Canada have made claims that the charter would further the feminist movement.  Others argue that this stance is misogynistic (and counterintuitive) at worst and nonsensical at best.  Many women of Muslim and Orthodox Jewish faiths independently choose to dress modestly and cover their hair when practicing their respective faiths.  Modest dress and covering of hair was largely rooted in a pro-feminist philosophy in which women were to not to be objectified.

Pandering Religious Freedoms

The Shafia murder trial in which an Muslim man from Montreal was sentenced to life in prison after murdering his first wife and three daughters allegedly due to their refusal to wear headscarves, refusal to cease dating, and refusal to regularly attend school was repeatedly used to support the argument that religious symbols and doctrines are used for violence against women.  Should the backbone of religious freedoms and policy in Canada be based on a bizarre quadruple murder?  In other words, should policy surrounding religion pander to the lowest common denominator in any given society?

Celebration of Different Religions

The Universal Life Church takes a strong stance that different religions should be celebrated.  Religious symbols such as hijabs are not a detriment to individuals or society as a whole.  The freedoms offered by Canada have attracted a rich and culturally diverse population.  Furthermore, people have the right to work in jobs that do not restrict their inherent rights to practice religion in the form of wearing items that are symbolic to individual faiths.

Legal and Moral Ramifications

The larger legal issue behind the proposed charter to ban religious symbols worn by government workers while on the job is Canadian human rights on a larger scale.  Currently, the charter would be a clear violation of Canada’s Notwithstanding Clause.  However, passing the charter could open new legal channels that restrict religion in different contexts.  Morally, placing substantial limitations on the right to practice religion in a reasonable manner does not seem right.

Do that which is Right

The Universal Life Church believes that it is important to do what is right, regardless of political pressures or alternative agendas.  Diversity and symbolism of different faiths should be celebrated, and individuals should not have their freedoms restricted.

Top Wedding Destinations in Canada

Recently married couple poses in the snow, johnhope14

Recently married couple poses in the snow

Canada boasts some of the top weddings destinations on the planet.  World-class metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Vancouver offer almost unprecedented cultural diversity, variety, and wedding opportunities.  In addition, nearby areas such as Whistler offer an ideal setting for snowy weddings, and winter weddings can be held comfortably aboard larger vessels on the Pacific Northwest coastline.

Below is a list of three very distinct Canadian wedding destinations that have the ability to transform almost any wedding ceremony into a truly memorable event:

·        The City of Toronto

In addition to being the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto has an extensive mass transit system that connects multiple neighborhoods including Polish Town, Little India, Greek Town, and multiple China Towns.  The city offers numerous traditional wedding venues as well as unparalleled religious and cultural diversity.  Couples can easily find ways to stay true to family culture and religious values while enjoying globally recognized art, dining, and accommodations.  Toronto is a winter wedding destination that offers a truly unique urban adventure.  The chilly winter conditions are usually less of an issue due to clean underground sidewalks and multiple indoor venues with spectacular views of the city skyline or Lake Huron.

·        Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler is located in the scenic mountains outside of Vancouver.  Whistler offers world-class skiing, resorts that specialize in winter weddings, and a prime location.  Like Toronto, Vancouver is a metropolitan area rich in cultural and religious diversity.  Vancouver has been nicknamed “the city of glass” due to its many impressive glass skyscrapers.  Only a short drive away from a phenomenal metropolitan area, Whistler has some of the best skiing and winter lodging on the planet for snowy weddings.

·        Maritime Weddings on the Northwest Coast

Some couples have an undying love for the ocean.  The Northwest Coast of Canada can offer fantastic winter maritime weddings.  Instead of embarking on an urban or Mountain adventure, couples can be married aboard private cruises that offer fine dining, top accommodations, and unparalleled scenery.  Unlike many parts of the East Coast or far North, the Northwest Pacific typically does not freeze.  There are ample opportunities to comfortably view marine life, natural wonders, and enjoy the serenity of the sea.

What to Look for in Destination Weddings

There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account before planning a destination wedding.  A few primary considerations are listed below:

  • Is the destination easily accessible for guests and others associated with the wedding?
  • Does the destination offer venues that meet religious and cultural needs?
  • Does the destination offer a chance for couples to afford the perfect wedding?

Winter Weddings in Canada are Recognized Among the Best

Besides boasting major cultural meccas and globally recognized destinations, Canada has something unique to offer.  Canada has a marked history of cultural diversity and eagerness to embrace different religions as well as progressive social change.  Canadians are known for being extraordinarily polite, and courtesy is a general hallmark of Canadian culture.  Canada is a very welcoming country with ample opportunities to create the perfect wedding for almost any couple. Whatever your dream winter wedding is, there are likely multiple Canadian wedding destinations that can turn that dream into a reality.


Canada’s Preeminence in Religious Freedom

Canada's Religious FreedomThe historic embrace of religious freedom is important to reflect upon at a time of increasing global religious persecution. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported in a 2010 study that 75-percent of the human family lived in countries that either 1) had high government religious restrictions, or 2) experienced high social hostility toward religion. This figure was up from 70-percent just three years earlier.

Early Roman Catholic Rights

A seminal event in the propagation of Canada’s religious tolerance occurred when the right of the citizens of Quebec to practice their Roman Catholic faith was affirmed in the Treaty of Paris. The treaty, which marked the end of the Seven Years War between France and Britain, asserted in paragraph IV that,

“His Britannick Majesty, on his side, agrees to grant the liberty of the Catholick religion to the inhabitants of Canada: he will, in consequence, give the most precise and most effectual orders, that his new Roman Catholic subjects may profess the worship of their religion according to the rites of the Romish church, as far as the laws of Great Britain permit.”

In the late 1700s, it received an influx of religious groups from a perhaps unexpected place — the American Colonies to the south. Ironically, although many came to the New World to escape religious persecution, many religious groups had Loyalist leanings as America’s Revolutionary War commenced. Many of these groups then migrated to north.

Religion really took hold as the Enlightenment unfolded into the early 19th Century. As the country’s populace expanded and diversified, its tolerance of diverse religious viewpoints typically expanded as well.

Lords Day Act

However, there was rigorous debate regarding religious viewpoints that revolved around the Lord’s Day Act of 1906. The Act prohibited certain business activities on Sundays. This drew opposition from religious groups that did not accord the same religious significance to Sundays as Christians did.

In 1961, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Lords Day Act. However, in 1985, The Supreme Court, in a landmark case involving a drug store in Calgary (R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd), declared the law unconstitutional.

A Precipitating Event

There are assertions that some of the impetus for the creation of Canada’s new Office For Religious Freedom stemmed from the death of Shahbazz Bhatti in March of 2011. Bhatti, a Catholic, served as Pakistan’s minister of minorities. In that capacity, he visited Canada and met with Prime Minister Harper. Just three weeks later, he was killed by Islamic extremists.

In remembering Bhatti, Harper recalled that “he and I discussed the threats faced by religious minorities and the need for our country to do more.” The prime minster also stated that Bhatti was both a humble and an honorable man that had worked without ceasing to defend the most vulnerable, whether they were Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, or members of other religious minorities.

A New Office

In February of 2013, the country established its new office within the nation’s Department of Foreign Affairs. In so doing, it became only the second nation worldwide to establish such an office. The United States established a similar agency in the late 1990s.

This new Office has already taken an important step by establishing the “Religious Freedom Fund.” Interestingly, this fund, within certain parameters, will actually finance projects outside of its borders. It will seek to fund projects around the world that will help religious communities facing religious intolerance and/or persecution.

The establishment of such a fund may be seen as both a continuation of country’s proud heritage of religious tolerance, and a more proactive effort to assail intolerance even beyond its borders.

Lag B’Omer Observations in Canada
Lag B'Omer Celebrations

Lag B'Omer party at Toldos Aharon in Jerusalem.

The Universal Life Church Monastery wants to wish a happy Lag B’Omer to all our Jewish friends who are observing this special day. Chag Sameach, the time of mourning is passed!

For any unfamiliar with the Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer refers to the 33rd day of the counting of Omer. According to the Torah, Jewish folk are compelled to count the days from the Passover to Shavu’ot.  On the day of Lag B’Omer, the mourning practices observed during the Omer period are lifted, which calls for celebration. Some Jewish couples choose to get married on this day for this same reason.

This year, Lag B’Omer falls on today, April 28th, the Sabbath. Since Lag B’Omer is not a federal public holiday, celebratory events are sometimes held after school or work. This year, however, it does not matter; the people will be able to celebrate it on the holiest day of the week, the Sabbath.

Jewish communities in Canada hold festivities including bonfires, street festivals, and general fellowship and merrymaking. Some of the celebrations are specially geared for young adults and children, including playing with farm animals, and even paint ball.

In the United States, many Jewish boys who wait to cut their hair until they are three years of age, cut their hair on this day. This occasion is called the Upsherin and is special because a child’s third birthday marks a significant transition into their education.

There are several stories that attempt to explain why the 33rd day of the Omer period was chosen as a day of celebration. It is said that the pestilence that afflicted Rabbi Akiba’s students was lifted on this day. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s death is also remembered during this time.  Some even say this particular day was chosen because of a connection an ancient pagan festival observed during this time.  

No matter what the origins, like spring after a long winter, Lag B’Omer is a breath of relief after the mourning period of Omer. The ULC Monastery wishes Gut Yontiff (good holiday) to Jewish communities in Canada, the United States, and all over the world.

Ordination of Women in Canada and Beyond

A female pastor looking over her bible.The role of women in organized religion has fluctuated throughout history. Some religions have made the ordination of women a regular practice. However, much of modern religious history reveals a less than open attitude towards propositions such as this. Despite this trend, women have served an important role in religious traditions stretching all the way back to antiquity. Prior to this period, women were central in pagan beliefs and groups that emphasized their divine figures as goddesses, primarily due to ideas and metaphors regarding the earth and fertility.

The role of women remains a controversial issue to this very day. Ordination as a religious rite is unavailable to women in most of the world’s major religions. The reasons for this restriction are primarily based on the repercussions of the shift towards a patriarchal society. The paradigm has led religions to develop cultural biases and strictly interpret theological doctrine. The controversy can run deep through society since the majority of countries prohibit sexual discrimination in the workplace but will still allow for the practice in religious organizations.

The ordination of women has gained ground in particular institutions, however. While women are prohibited from positions of high leadership in the Church of England, they are permitted to be ordained. Women have been able to advance to this level of recognition from a small step taken in 1917. It was at this time that the Anglican tradition first acknowledged women as the “bishop’s messengers.” From there they were able to become deacons and eventually priests over time. The Roman Catholic Church has not afforded women such leeway. This institution refuses to stray from the doctrine that they cite as a defense for their disposition. The canonical passage presented states that “only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.” The organization views this as a matter of divine law. Women breaking this ordinance will be excommunicated.

Betty Robbins in her Rabbi robe.

Despite the opposition, women across the globe have not lost faith. Orthodox Judaism only allows men to become cantors. The multiple divisions across the faith of Judaism, however, has allowed for women to take positions as a cantor. Betty Robbins was a Greece born women who received the very first honor in 1955 in New York. Some of the prominent world religions do not put nearly as much emphasis on the idea of ordination but rather, rely on more organic forms of leadership for spiritual practices. Hinduism has leaders that are called either purohits or pujaris. These priests can be men or women. In addition, ordination is not strictly practiced. Any rites such as these that are bestowed are done through gurus in the individual community. The first female Hindu priest was a Kenya born woman named Chanda Vyas. The ceremony took place in the United Kingdom.

Women all across North America and Canada are slowly shifting the balance of religious hierarchies to a state that reflects those more common throughout world history. Fidelia Gillette is thought to be the first woman ordained in Canada in 1888. She led a Universalist congregation in Ontario. Women have shown us that they will let nothing stand in their way. Other notable female ministers include Lydia Emelie Gruchy, the first female minister in the United Church of Canada and the first woman to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity; and Elyse Goldstein, who became the first female rabbi in Canada.