Children and Families

Our amazing CMUC youth carving pumpkins with refugee families from Iraq, Palestine, and Mexico at Kinbrace Community Society on Vancouver’s east side this past Friday evening. The nighttime pic is a little blurry, but can you spot Josh, Lucas, Angus, Leah, Anna, and Sarah?

Children and youth are a welcome and integral part of our worshipping and community life. 


Nurturing children and youth in a Christ-centred spirituality that is
rooted in an open-hearted, open-minded, and affirming 
community of faithful journeying toward moments of discovery and awareness. 


Children gather with their families in the main sanctuary for the start of community worship which includes choral music and congregational singing, opening prayers and passing of the peace. Then about 15 minutes into the worship service, all children are invited to the front where a child is invited to come forward and light the Christ Candle.

Children then have the option to leave with our Children’s Church staff for age-specific programming as follows:


Infants are welcome to stay in the service with their parents or can be taken, accompanied by a parent or guardian, into the toddler room where there is a change mat, washroom and rocking chair.  Breastfeeding of infants is welcome in the sanctuary at the parent’s discretion.

TODDLERS  (18m-3 years)

Location: The Vestry/Toddler Room through the doors at the doors at the front left of the sanctuary

Leaders:  Clarissa    & Volunteers

Toddlers can be dropped off in the staffed Vestry (cum Toddler Room) which is located through the doors at the front left of the sanctuary).    The toddler room is run on a co-op model with parents and/or guardians signing up to assist the director on a rotating schedule.  Toddler Room staff lead the young children with age-appropriate Bible (and other sacred) stories,  spiritual songs, and simple crafts with lots of opportunity for free play. Toddlers can be picked up at the end of the service though will only be released to adults who have been named on the sign-in/sign-out form.


This age group has two programming options which are pre-selected at the start of each new season (Fall and Winter)

OPTION 1:  GODLY PLAY                                                                               

Location: Youth Room (Basement level of the Centre for Peace)

Leaders:  Mary Toth, Elysia Feaver, Mary Cobban, Stephen Tanner, Sheila

One of the reasons Godly Play has such staying power as an educational program for children of all ages is that is invites hands-on interaction with handmade pieces of the biblical story. This makes learning concrete and intimate for kids. It invites them to ponder the realms of mystery that are too often lost in religious rhetoric. God’s Story “comes together”, as it were, and they begin to see where the story of their lives fits into that larger story.
This fall we are excited to extend the age group from 4-6 year olds, to 3-12 year olds as an alternative for kids who may prefer the more contemplative nature of this program to the more interactive and physically-active alternative of Burrard St. Story Guild. For more information on Godly Play contact Mary Toth ( or come to the registration table on September 16.


Location:  The Fireside Room (2nd Floor of the Centre for Peace)

Leaders: Tama Ward, Robyn Williams

A program unique to CMUC Burrard St. Story Guild had its inaugural launch in the spring of 2018 with its storytelling of the prophet Jonah. Story Guild uses theatre arts to invite children (ages 3-12) into the stories of the Hebrew and Christian traditions. Participants are given lots of options as regards the extent of their involvement on the stage (depending on confidence and skill levels), yet regardless of experience or training (none required) all the participants work together to build a storytelling event that touches the hearts of young and old alike.

Rehearsals for the Story Guild productions take place on Sunday mornings from 10:45-11:30.

Registration for the upcoming season taking place at the Fall Kick-Off on Sunday, September 16, 2018.

Children can be picked up from their program spaces at 11:30.


The south end of the Great Hall is the place to be post-service.  Tables with colouring sheets are left out in the hope that seniors,  introverts, teens, parents,  kids, extroverts, newcomers, old-timers and everyone in-between will come over, chit-chat, eat cookies, colour, make new connections or simply enjoy quiet in the company of other.  


Special days of celebration in the church year (Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost) call for all ages to their creative energies to make the celebration memorable.  A drop-in pageant on Christmas Eve for families, a parade with larger than life palm fronds on Palm Sunday, the nailing or prayers to a cross, a treasure hunt on Easter Sunday are examples of ways we have marked these important days together. Share your own ideas and come prepared to join in with these storied events in the life of the church.


Care for the earth is a core spiritual value in our work with kids at CMUC.  To develop our connection with the earth and deepen our understanding of how it cares for us, and allows us to care for it, we have a garden that the children plant, tend and harvest, led by our very own master gardener, Carol.  The gardening season wraps up with an Ingathering Festival early in the fall.  Earth Day is a day of special focus and celebration at CMUC with prayers and practises that nurture children’s gratitude for our planet home.



Location:Great Hall in the Centre for Peace

Leader:  Michelle Cobban

Day & Time: Thursday mornings, 10-12

Open to all ages from babies to preschool, this is a more peaceful playgroup for your littlest ones or those who prefer a bit less stimulation. We will have a professional story time with songs and stories and puppets at every session, also tea/coffee and snacks (by donation). There is no religious content in the program, we are open to all. Just come and play and connect!

YOUTH (Grades 8-12)

Regular Fridays

Location:  Fireside Room in the Centre for Peace (1825

Leaders:  Tama Ward and Sarah Lyons

1st & 3rd Fridays                     

Games, Snacks, Pop Culture & The School of Love                             

All youth are invited to chill after a long week and enjoy low-key  games and activities to build community, eat snacks, discuss youth culture alongside the teachings of Jesus and spiritual practises (“The School of Love”)



 2nd Friday                                     

Justice and Service

Once a month the youth visit a part of their own city to learn about the social and political needs of others and where possible provide acts of service as a way of giving back toward the well-being of all.




4th Friday                                                     


The purpose of our sessions, the fourth Friday of every month, is to build an understanding of a self care practice through mind body connection. We will be exploring movement, breath, listening and talking together, taste sensations in the kitchen, being in nature together and other creative activities to facilitate this connection.


Throughout the year CMUC youth are invited to participate in denominational led retreats that take place variously at Cultus Lake, Naramata Retreat Centre and Camp Fircom on Gambier Island.  These 2-3 day retreats provide a great opportunity for youth to meet peers from other youth groups across the province and deepen their own experience of God and exploration of their gifts and unique value in the larger church community.     Leaders from CMUC attend with our teens to provide away-from home support and follow-up.    Retreat opportunities are posted throughout the year and bursaries available at registration.


Confirmation & Mentorship

Beginning in January 2019 there will be a confirmation process for teens who want to publicly affirm their commitment to a life of faith.

This will involve a weekend retreat at CMUC, a few Sunday morning gatherings, and the opportunity to be grouped (1:2) with an adult mentor in the congregation.

For more information or to express your interest contact Tama or Sarah.



Family breakfasts are held 3 times a year (fall, winter and spring) and are designed to give parents and caregivers an opportunity to get to know each other and share their struggles, hopes and insights for nurturing faith in the home.  The breakfasts are potluck and are held Sunday mornings before church.   While the adults meet together kids enjoy an extended morning together to do a larger scale art project or other group activity.

Next Family Breakfast:


Two workshops to equip the development of faith at home and to further deepen our programming for Children and Youth at CMUC are planned for the coming year:

Seamless Inclusion: Creating a Culture of Affirmation for Children, Youth & Families at CMUC (Facilitators TBA)

In June 2018 the church voted to become an affirming church with the United Church of Canada.  For Children & Youth programming this means developing a culture of inclusivity of same-sex and single-parent families that flows seamlessly at all levels of our shared life, from lessons to conversation to visual resources and so forth.  This workshop will be an important opportunity to work toward this goal as we share with each other our own experiences, best practises, and favourite resources.

Gentle Parenting  (Facilitator: Mary Toth)



Sacred stories, told well, can become lifelong inner compasses for our children, enabling them to pass through times of loss and grief, hope and longing when needed.  To that end we are committed at CMUC to equip families with good Bible story books that enable children to engage the stories at age appropriate levels and find the spiritual value of the ancient texts that lie at the heart of the Hebrew and Jewish traditions.  If you don’t currently have an age-appropriate Bible in your home that your feel confident reading with your child speak to one of the leaders who will be happy to supply you with one.


The church library has a wonderfully stocked section of story books, both Christian and more broadly spiritual content, as well as books of nurturing faith in the home, the spiritual life of children, etc.   Please get to know Catherine (the church librarian) and acquaint yourself with the collection she has gathered over many years.   A few books will be on display every Sunday at the south end of the Great Hall colouring tables for parents and kids to browse (and check-out if so inspired!)

Bulletin Boards

Don’t forget to visit the bulletins in the hallway on the main floor of the Centre for Peace for printed announcements of denominationsl led and wider community events that may be of interest in the spiritual life of your child or teen.


Save the date!  May 24 – May 26, 2019



New volunteers are always welcome in all our programs.  If you like hanging out with kids, want to share a skill, or want to benefit from the spiritual insight from children and youth we’d love to hear from you.  NOTE: There is an application and training process for all new volunteers.  Speak to any of the leaders to express your interest.

Pray with Us  

Being with kids for Sunday morning programming means giving up the opportunity to hear the sermon and prayers that are a part of the main service of worship.  By way of compensation (!) and by way of building community and nurturing our own inner worlds all Chidren’s Church leaders are welcome to gather in the Fireside Room from 9:55 – 10:15 to check in with each other and share insights from scripture passage in a Lectio Divina format.

Children’s Church Annual Planning Retreat

The shared mandate (i.e. mission statement, values, goals) of CMUC Children & Youth ministries is not a static document but a dynamic work-in-progress that gives us a sense of common purpose and direction in our work with children and youth at CMUC.  Each year in June parents, grandparents, educators, ministers, volunteers, supportive congregants are welcome to join us for a day of retreat and community-building as we revisit the basis of our important calling.  Hope to see you there.

Meet our Staff and Volunteers 

*All staff and volunteers are fully screened with Police Record Checks and are trained in the United Church’s Child Protection Policy, Duty to Care 

Tama Ward                                                      Minister of Children, Youth and Families 

Tama has an MDiv from McMaster Divinity College in Ontario and for the past 25 years has worked with both Protestant and Catholic communities to nurture creative and relevant connection for children, youth and congregations with biblical narrative.  She joined the staff at CMUC in January 2018 and is excited to be a part of the open-hearted, open-minded vision of this dynamic faith community.

Contact:  604-803-1195 (text or phone), (Email), @TamaWard (Twitter), Tama Ward (Facebook),

Mary Toth                                                        Director of Early Childhood Faith Formation

Clarissa George            Nursery Supervisor

I’m Clarisa George, originally from South Africa moved to beautiful BC, six years ago, I was a Preschool Teacher in South Africa for 2 year olds and 3 year olds, and I’ve been a full time mom since we’ve come to Canada I have a 6 year old and a 7 month old Looking forward to be part of the team!

Sarah Lyon                                         Youth Group Program Assistant

Facilitating Celebrate Recovery a  Christ centred 12 step program lead to  a desire to take a more formal approach to my learning for marrying up my interests in pastoral care and psychotherapy. I am a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counsellor having gained my qualification from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in the summer term of 2016. During this time I was a volunteer counsellor for the charity Bluesmile at a school in Cambridge and also a faith school in Stamford, Lincolnshire.  I have long held the desire to work as a pastoral youth worker bringing together a weave of spiritual knowledge with skills as a counselling psychotherapist. I am deeply drawn to working with youth. The opportunity to equip teens with the spiritual and interpersonal skills to navigate life with compassion and care for self and others is in my view the greatest calling.

Michelle Cobban                        Tot Drop-In Coordinator Godly Play Volunteer


Stephen Tanner  Godly Play

I believe that helping  children build self confidence is a most important calling. It is a delight to me when children thrive through knowing they are being actively listened to and heard.  I believe that encouraging and welcoming their stories, their problem solving attempts and their questions and curiosity is fundamental to the role of an adult mentor. As a parent of two  independent and thriving adults, I welcome the opportunity to continue being a positive role model. I enjoy connecting with children through music, movement and random acts of mirth- making…I also enjoy encouraging quiet moments of reflection and communion. I believe that engaging in ritual and spiritual practices of many kinds is not at all lost on even the youngest of our children.

Sheila   Cook Godly Play

Sheila raised two children who are now young adults. She attended the United Church with her best friend’s family as a child, then again on her own as a teenager and young adult in short stints. Music has been a big connection to church, as she loves to sing and hear harmonies in choirs and small groups. Her main career was working with Elders and people with disabilities as an RN, which was a great way to support her artistic and musical pursuits, and feed her interest all kinds of nerdy information. She didn’t pay close attention at Sunday School, so now she is making time for that. She has been attending CMUC regularly since the fall of 2014.

Robyn Williams  Burrard St. Story Guild volunteer artistic director

Joanna Brewster  Youth Group Volunteer

Joanna is passionate about working with youth to foster connection, confidence and mindfulness. She teaches a positive body image program, called Free to Be, to youth in Grades 5-8. This program teaches media literacy and body appreciation and gets youth thinking about their bodies in ways unrelated to appearance. She also teaches Girlvana classes, a program for girls 13-18, that uses Yoga as a tool to connect girls to their bodies and open conversation about a variety of topics. Joanna is also trained in Restorative Yoga, a practice that helps us slow down and restore our systems through specific yoga poses. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of restorative yoga in our fast paced lives and exploring ways in which we can disconnect from devices and connect to ourselves and others in a deeper more meaningful way.