Testimony of Margaret Bryant, May 14, 2016
I am Margaret Bryant and I'm a member of this congregation. My husband Dominic and I were married at First, and our daughter Alix attends the Grade Five/Six RE program. I'm participating in the leadership development program, a member of the social events team and past co-leader of the Family Retreat.
You might be surprised to know that I've been attending First since I was a child.
There are few of us who have made the transition from child to youth to adult.
This morning I'm going to tell you a few of the things that I remember from when I was a kid here.
Most obvious are the physical changes to our building.
Our RE classes were held in dark, cold, cramped rooms in the basement. They were classrooms that you ached to get out of. The curriculum was uninspiring and traditional, though delivered by kind and caring teachers. Those classes began to change as I became a youth with first what was the precursor to OWL called About Your Sexuality, and a program that endures today, Neighbouring Faiths about learning about other religions. On one memorable Sunday, we visited The People's Church up on Sheppard East and were amazed to watch kids our age responding to the call from the pulpit of volunteering to go on missions right then and there, while we Unitarian youth slunk low in our seats.
Now, our RE program is incredibly varied and dynamic. Today my daughter isn't sitting in a cold, damp room, or even one of our bright, carpeted rooms, but heading to Winston Churchill park for a nature walk. On any given Sunday, you see kids tearing up and down the backstairs, and chasing each other through Coffee Hour. Our popular Family Retreat stretched the limits of Cedar Glen this past January with over 80 participants.
Another physical change is the layout of the sanctuary which has rotated 90 degrees. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, my mind wanders, with apologies to the service leaders, and I challenge myself to remember what the building was like before. Moving the front of the sanctuary over there, with the floor to ceiling opaque glass windows on either side through which you could hear the sounds of the streetcars.
When I was a kid, there was a room on the side of the chancel which was called the minister's study, although I think it was used as the library. It was a mysterious room in which we were never allowed, and amongst the kids it was rumoured to have a door to a secret garden.
Although the chancel moved, some things have remained the same. The piano for instance, and the playing of our pianists. I have always sat where I can watch the pianists' hands. Many of you will be familiar with the dramatic and wonderful changes in our music program. When I was a kid, the music for each service was announced in the monthly bulletin. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that if we saw that the choir was singing, my mum and I would skip that Sunday's service. Now, the opposite would be true.
It's also hard to believe that the kitchen moved so significantly. Where the kitchen now is, was once the smoky welcoming lair of church secretary Bunny Turner. I spent many boring hours in that office while my mother volunteered as the collections and pledge bookkeeper.
And in the old kitchen, my mum introduced me to the pleasures of giving service. We regularly helped out at social events including the men's lunches making what seemed like hundreds of sandwiches. It might have been tedious work to a kid, but it wasn't really. I got to listen to the women chatting, and felt a real sense of belonging and the joy of feeling useful. This is something we're trying to pass on to our daughter. You'll see her helping out at the AGM lunch, with the social events team that has made her welcome and a team member. It's through active participation that we feel most comfortable here, and that hasn't changed at all.
One last physical change, I'll share with you. You may occasionally use the back stairs. Well, I use them all the time, even at risk of being locked in them. Hanging on the wall is a beautiful wooden wall hanging that once hung in the front of the sanctuary, where now we have the copper sculpture that complements our chalice. When I was a kid, we had only a small wooden chalice lit at the beginning of the service and extinguished at the end. The new large chalice with communal candle lighting didn't exist, and actually the chalice was not a focal point, more a bookend to the service.
I walk by the wooden wall hanging and am nostalgic for my childhood, and for a time of my grandparents humanism, cooperative games and Lotta Hitschmanova-led service to others. Of my parents popular and robust youth groups, of robe-less ministers and minimal rituals. And of my childhood, here, where I belonged.
I'm not really that nostalgic. I know ours is a perennially changing faith. I like looking at the colours and workmanship of Shawn's stoles. And I'm so proud of our recent service towards the Syrian refugees. And of our amazing music program, wonderful and challenging Sunday services and of our enhanced RE program for kids and adults.
Despite the constantly changing nature of Unitarianism, to me, one thing stands out as not having changed at all.
There are few of us here, and at other congregations, who have grown up Unitarian. We remain a faith of predominately first generation Unitarians, whose experience of our faith and of this congregation is largely limited to the recent past.
We still are challenged to bridge the transition from youth to adulthood.
Testimony of Kimberley Watson, March 6, 2016 (actor in the Vagina Monologues)
Good morning. My name is Kim Watson, and I’ve been attending First for about a year.
Women stood in a sacred space, a place of reverence and respect, and told women’s stories.
As someone who currently falls in the agnostic-atheist range, I sometimes feel perplexed at attending a congregation that comes out of the Judeo-Christian tradition – a tradition I left at the age of 13. Looking back, in the version to which I was exposed, I experienced it as didactic, prescriptive, emphasizing shame and sin instead of life and celebration. There seemed to be no space for my questions or for direct experience! Later I tried neo-paganism, where there was an embrace of the feminine principle along with the masculine, and where as a woman I had a place in the sacred circle. But, ultimately, at the time I didn’t know how to compromise that approach with my science training.
And now, here I am, back to a place that comes out of the tradition I left, albeit with some welcome variations – talking about what it was like to tell women’s stories in a sacred space.
In retrospect, I didn’t carefully consider being in The Vagina Monologues. Sistering is a good cause, it was a way to get to know people here, it’s a classic play. Never mind I hadn’t auditioned for anything in 30 years! This seemed like a safe place to take chances. Our director Mona el Baroudi asked how brave did I feel – would I consider a monologue reclaiming a fallen word now considered the most profane, AND do it with orgiastic ecstasy to boot? Why not? – This seemed like a safe place to take risks.
The realization of the absolute profundity of this project only slowly unfolded for me. Women stood in a sacred space and told women’s stories! The play speaks to the feminine across a range of issues including: sexual desire, body shame, genital mutilation, rape, love, birth, lesbian and transgender experiences, embodiment. My monologue was about the celebratory, healing power of sensuality and sexuality, and the joy and freedom in claiming the right to define oneself.
We named all these things, in the pulpit, which historically has been a seat of power from which women were excluded, women were persecuted, and women’s bodies were controlled.
Remnants of neopagan ritual come back to me. I hope that together as a cast we lifted up a sort of incantation that aids a transformation of those difficult truths we declared, and a transformation of the relationship between women and institutions of worship. May there be transmutation in naming these things from a powerful and loving centre.
Our Minister Shawn Newton affirmed this project was his long-time dream. I don’t recall him saying – but surely it was intentional? – that The Vagina Monologues was performed the very month we focused on the theme of Reconciliation.
WE women spoke of women’s realities, in THIS sacred space. We held this place of reverence and respect, and we TOLD the stories.
Our minister, and many of you, attended the show. You listened and bore witness, sometimes despite discomfort. You did not turn away from, interrupt, dismiss or silence us.
You. Bore. Witness.
And that, also, is Truth and Reconciliation.
I stood in this place of reverence and respect and I spoke women’s stories, together with other women.
This process healed an old wound that I didn’t even know was still there. For that I am ever grateful to all of you.
And yes, I feel renewal. Did you know related words are restoration and restitution?
And yes, this is a safe place.
Testimony of Yvonne Raaflaub, March 6, 2016 (actor in the Vagina Monologues)
How does this wordsmith, who expands small topics, reduce an extraordinarily layered experience to 451 words, the length of Eve Ensler’s monologue finale I was 4 privileged to perform – “My Revolution begins in the body” – and that I continue to recite once each day? I can but try or I may just cry, speechless.
Inseparable, “My Revolution” and I. The most powerful piece I’ve taken inside me.
How could I not love this poem that honours females, reveres earth, and respects all human beings, especially those who “feel too much”?
To “feel too much” is to “feel just right”. Mona, you feel just right.
Mona offered me something Unitarian ears might cringe at. Two words. Any guesses?
Validation and visibility and voice. Validation as an artist – first-time actor that I was. Visibility – me alone at this podium in my little black tube dress (which I’ve nicknamed my fallopian tube dress), sharing the spotlight with nobody. Voice – “You have a big vocal range.” That’s something I hadn’t known.
What I do know is the power of monologue combined with Mona’s contagious mindfulness. Here’s looking at you, Mona!
And here’s looking at my VagSisters and our respectful rehearsal week together where I was awed by their hard work and buoyed by all the laughter…
But I had come to resent my monologue and struggled with it. Imagine hating a poem about love!
I’d ignored my soul, my reading, my writing and done what I most abhor in others: I’d abandoned the tried-and-true when something new and exciting came along.
I cried, wrote, asked my books for forgiveness (I hope I used all 5 apology languages), made a nest out of my favourite books and slept inside.
“We missed you,” they said, “but you looked busy. Please come back and write in our margins. We’ve missed your touch.”
“I’ve missed yours, too.”
Books are my personal refuge, my sanctuary. I love them. And this sanctuary at First Unitarian, I also love.
When I performed “My Revolution” here, the two things I most cherish in the world came together for the first time in my life. One – the arts, not part of my childhood, fully embodied here. Theatre, with music, poetry, stories…
And I was a performer. Validated, visible, vocal.
Two – my village, population 300, contained within these walls both evenings. Familiar and friendly faces. Just like back home.
Because of you, I am made whole!
Because you live community.
“A great community,” writes Lois Smidt *, “creates conditions where people can fall in love.”
“It is a place where we can make a fuss about one another.”
“A place where we can ask, ‘How did I ever live without you?’”
* Lois Smidt in John McKnight and Peter Block, The abundant community: awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco: 2010, p. 148.
Testimony of Jewels Krauss, March 6, 2016 (actor in the Vagina Monologues)
Hi everyone. My name is Jewels Krauss. Actually, before I go into sharing my reflections on my experience with The Vagina Monologues, I was hoping you could help me cross something off my bucket list. I was raised in a very conservative Christian church where there was no conversation between who was standing behind the pulpit and the congregation members. I love how interactive it is here, however, so I was wondering if, when I say “Good Morning”, you would all respond with “Good morning, Jewels”? That would be great.
This is actually a very nice segue into my reflections. Being raised in a conservative Christian church, I would have never imaged something like The Vagina Monologues being performed there. I mean I don’t know, I haven’t been there for a while. But definitely not when I was still going. Which is weird and one of the reason I veered away from that church. I remember thinking as a 16 year old how curious it is that we body shame in church/society. That our bodies and their needs/wants are condemned as evil. When, if you believe in God (which I don’t), God himself created us and our flesh. So to me, body shaming ultimately means insulting God’s work. Which would be a sin. And therefore not something we should do, right? So, when Shawn told me in January he wanted to put on the VM here at UU, I thought “I don’t think I could have any more respect for this man!” How incredible to perform this piece of theatre in a sacred space.
I am an actor and director, and I am very interested in theatre as a scared space. Story telling, if you go back to the bible (“first there was the word”), is how we understand ourselves, each other, and the world. I saw the VM years ago at a university and it was very powerful. Young women claiming the space. And yet, having it at a university, with young men in the audience, I didn’t feel safe sometimes for the performers. It didn’t feel like a sacred space. Particularly, during the monologue where a woman reclaims all the various different moans women can make during sex. The reactions coming from some of the young men bothered me. So yes, when Shawn said it would be performed here, I could have not asked for a safer place to do so!
To me the experience was sacred because I shared space with women of all ages.How incredible for me, a young woman, to share a stage with women older than me who are standing powerfully in their sensuality and sexuality. I loved how Mona picked women who were so different from each other in age, cultural background, mother tongue, etc. Andwe all came together and listened. Truly a sacred thing.
I wanted to end with one thought. I think it is incredible that women are coming together to talk about their sexuality, sensuality, vulnerability, and hurt. But I also think that we’ve been doing that for a while. Women, I mean. And I wonder with all the recent talk about rape culture and violence against women, I think it is time for the Penis Monologues. I think it is equally important for men to explore their sexuality in a safe space and I wonder if that would move this whole conversation in a different direction. I mentioned this to Shawn before he left on his sabbatical, so we’ll see. Maybe he’ll come back with a fully written script. I would definitely attend and offer my full ears and heart the way the men here did for us!
Testimony of Alezandria Coldevin, March 6, 2016 (actor in the Vagina Monologues)
Vagina. This word has been seen as sacred, as dirty, as fun and everything in between. I personally had never really talked about or considered Vaginas before joining our production of The Vagina Monologues. This is just one of the many gifts I received in being a part of that performance. Each one of us got to work one on one with Mona – our amazing director – for weeks before we ever got together as a cast. My experience with Mona was one of nurturing and exploration of the text and of myself, it was powerful, but the week rehearsing with the cast takes the cake! I felt privileged to be able to hang out with such a diverse group of incredible, smart, talented, gorgeous women! The respect and generosity felt among the cast members was tangible from the start, and grew as the week progressed.
Throughout the week I got to consider the monologues, their meaning, and their varied truths, while marvelling at the compelling and diverse performances, and enjoying the company of so many awesome women. By the end of the week of rehearsals – we were confident that we had a great show – and that is when the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. You. The audience. Both nights were sold out. Standing room only. And both nights we could feel that you were with us, cheering us and supporting us, and for two magical nights, we collectively went on a journey, and that journey lead to vaginas. When I tell friends outside of this community about my experience with this production, they are always surprised that the monologues were performed in a church. A sacred space. A place for families and contemplation and spiritual growth. Having lived that amazing week, with the cast and ultimately with you, I can’t imagine it being produced anywhere else.
Testimony of Gerta Moray, December 6, 2015
(At the service marking International Human Rights Day and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.)
Good morning. My name is Gerta Moray and I want to bring some reflections, from my own experience, on violence, suffering and memory.
I want to start by thanking the Raging Grannies for sharing their song this morning. The Raging Grannies - now an international movement - began in 1987 with 11 women in Victoria BC. who felt strongly about the threat of nuclear powered and armed vessels in Victoria's harbour and on the BC coast. They developed humour and a disarming send-up of the older woman stereotype, to draw attention to issues of militarism and of environmental, social and economic justice. The Montreal gunman who shot the women engineering students at the Ecole polytechnique on December 6, 1989, had declared that he "hated feminists ... women were taking employment opportunities away from men. They were not fulfilling the role women were supposed to have.” The Grannies' song was devised in 1991, when they and other womens' groups were determined that the fate of these fourteen young women not be forgotten.
Fourteen women! Nine is the number of the African American women, and men, shot by a young white supremacist in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, just this year in June. One thousand and seventeen is the number of Indigenous women and girls that an RCMP report estimates to have been murdered in Canada between 1980-2012.
There is a Latin proverb once told me by a friend: "Sunt lacrimae rerum." It translates as "There are tears in things," or more loosely, "Shit happens."
The members of my Journey group, and of the Journey facilitators' group, will tell you that whatever the month's theme, Gerta is rather prone to remember that bad things happen.
I was born in Czechoslovakia, in 1940, the first year of World War 2. During the first 7 years of my life I only met my father, who had been drafted, on a few occasional visits. Then he was missing, presumed dead. I remember running into basements during air raids, and houses on our street not being there next day. We moved around a lot to stay with strange people. At the end of the war we were refugees, admitted to immigrate to England. My parents had been an affluent young middle class couple with a beautiful home in Prague - their world had vanished forever, save what my mother could carry in one suitcase. There was no Post traumatic shock counselling. My sister and I were sent to school - children beat our legs black and blue with hockey sticks and punished our dolls by making holes in their foreheads.
In my life, and for many others in the world, things after the war became steadily better. I ended up a professor of art history. Research on Emily Carr took me to First Nations villages in the 1980s. There I witnessed the vital leadership role of aboriginal women, and the burdens their communities bear. I taught in a Women's Studies program where I shared a long evolution - from amazement that what could not be spoken in public was now being named, to sisterhood, and empowerment, and finally to generations for whom it sometimes seems unnecessary to remember that bad things happen.
I have never forgotten my childhood world in ruins, nor the kindness of strangers. They have continually inspired my choices in life.
There are tears in things. I joined this congregation when I discovered that I cracked open and cried during services. I had found a home, a family where hearts and minds were open to all aspects of the world, where people were as committed as the Raging Grannies to try to prevent bad things from happening, and to assuage the pain. There are tears in things.
Testimony of Ted Wood, December 6, 2015
Good morning. I’m Ted Wood and I’m a member of First and a member of Amnesty International. Today is Amnesty Sunday when we celebrate Human Rights and participate in Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. In addition to writing letters and signing petitions, we undertake research and gather information on human rights in all countries and we promote, protect and uphold those rights. Human rights do not have to be given, bought, earned or inherited. They belong to all people simply because we are human.
People sometimes ask me if writing letters really works. Of course I answer yes. And the answer is yes. There is good news as a result of Amnesty’s letter writing campaigns. People are freed and laws are implemented, changed or upheld to protect people’s rights to live in freedom and When I think about how one letter can help, I think about our city, our country and our world. It is the little things each one of us does every day which makes a difference in the lives of others and in our own lives. We are not alone; we cannot survive without the efforts of others. When it comes to Amnesty it is the effort of each one of us as part of the efforts of 7 million and as part of the efforts of countless others that makes a difference in the lives of all. It is in a world community that we live and create a better world for all.
During our service today we will have a Special Collection to support the work of Amnesty International. The white envelope in your order of service is for this purpose. Cheques should be made payable to Amnesty International Group 142 and you will receive a charitable receipt from Amnesty Canada.
For our Write for Rights during coffee hour we will have an action concerning the death of Indigenous leader Benecio Flor Belacazar and calling on the Colombian government to protect his family and other activists. There are also two Stop Torture actions: one urging the Canadian Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and another requesting justice for Miriam Isaura Lopez Vargas who was tortured and sexually assaulted by soldiers in Mexico.
Along with our actions, Amnesty greeting cards and other merchandise are also available during coffee hour.
At 12:30 pm please join us as we will have the opening reception for the In/visible Scars Stop Torture Photo Exhibit here in Sunderland Hall with our special guests from Amnesty International.
Testimony of Shirley Grant, October 25, 2015
Good morning One and All. Not the best of mornings, but the fellowship we find within these walls makes up for the weather, don’t you agree?
My name is Shirley Grant, and I believe I am the only one in our present congregation who was actually “baptized” in the old Jarvis St. Church. Yes, that’s what my certificate calls it. I’ll let you guess how many years ago that was… quite a few.
One time my father, a good Unitarian who never lies (and none of us do, do we?) told me that I had the distinction of being mentioned in the 23rd Psalm. You don’t believe me? How about: “SHIRLEY goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
However, all that aside, I was asked to say a few words on the subject of volunteering. This must be because until someone corrects me, I affirm that I held my volunteer job for the longest time of anyone here - 22 years – not weeks, not months, but years. Yes, except in the summer, every Monday I was at my desk in the office, counting and tabulating the past week’s revenues in order to do the bank deposit. I am grateful to Sharon Mourer and Peter Brydon who have very capably taken over from me. I should add that Doug Campbell and his team still handle pledge and Sunday collection money.
My job also included counting all the coffee money collected after the services, and believe you me – it’s a lot of cash! However, some years ago Bill Belfontaine, as Monday’s telephone volunteer, took over that part of my job, for which I was most appreciative. A lot of banter went on between us, including my trying to steal his lunch when he was away from his desk.
I still have all the accounts on my computer, and while I was writing this, I added up the total no. to which money might be allocated. I found the number to be 42, and some revenue requires receipts; some doesn’t. 42 is a lot of accounts, but for me, - it was interesting and challenging. You might wonder why I kept at it for so long. There’s one simple answer – I ENJOYED IT. I think that’s the essence of volunteering. Many, many of you give untold numbers of hours to your volunteer jobs. I hope you too enjoy them. So why did I give it up? Well, some Sundays ago after I had retired, I received some words of tribute from the altar during the service. Some of you may remember that I got up and said I’d decided that I had passed my Best Before date!
If you are new to our congregation, and haven’t found your niche yet, I do urge you to talk to Susan Philips. She mans - if I dare use this gender-loaded word - the Engage and Connect desk just outside the Library. And I suggest that in First Light you will find many other ideas.
In closing, I want to tell you of a phone conversation I had just last Monday. A friend, who NEVER goes to ANY church, was thanking me for some small kindness I had done her. To my complete surprise, she said “Your Unitarian Church has brought you up very well”. Koodoes to First. However my parents would feel they’d had some hand in my upbringing!
Testimony of Adrian Iacovino, February 22, 2015
When I flip through old pictures of myself I always find it curious how much I have changed and how strangely similar I am and continue to be. I think about how the rhythms that I spoke with were crucial to the truths that I held. How these truths were passed onto me and hold a flavour from where or whom I acquired them. And that these truths were not true for who I was to become. Some of their meaning no longer carries the same weight. And now the truths that I have don’t reflect in earnest who I was then.
I think evolution is this malleability of truth, and that truth is your current dialect or the language of our thoughts. It is what defines us.Since we last spoke, I have changed. I realized that I am the only one that gives meaning to the things that I do in my life, call it self-affirmation. And I think I already knew that. But I need to share that meaning with my loves, my friends, or my community. I want to be affirmed by the people that I walk with. I want them to understand my inner dialect because I am a seeker and creator of meaningful connections.
I recently had one with myself. I carved my first wooden spoon and I have never felt more human. The experience of creating a tool as ordinary as a spoon renewed me with a sense of ancestral powers. I looked at a cedar branch and saw that it had potential to be something other than what it was. This experience changed me. It was the reply to a long standing question of mine: what it is that humans do that is of value? How we choose to direct our focus on projects that we bring into being, that then become meaningful. Redefinition.
I am learning how to track these shifts in inner truths that occur - those epiphany moments where all of my writing comes together to disclose a meaning that was obvious to everyone but me.
A major focus right now is to understand how to cultivate space for others to feel comfortable to let down their defenses so that we may connect and talk about the current truths. I want to help them affirm themselves without feeling silly or misrepresented for finding deep meaning in something ordinary.
Being a mentor for staff and youth at Unicamp enables me to set that tone and that creative space by being silly and celebrating our connectivity. What I’ve noticed after working there for so many summers is how at the end of the summer everyone kind of talks like each other incorporating their own dialect with the culture of camp. And to me this is spiritual, this is a genesis of truths, an amalgamation of passion and focus in this intergenerational micro-culture that keeps changing while staying the same. Playing a leading role in this community helps me define who I am going to be by affirming that potential to make those connections.
Even though I make my own meaning, it becomes meaningful when shared.
Testimony of Barb Wentworth, January 25, 2015
Hi. My name is Barb, also known as Mark’s mom! Mark and I and Mark’s support worker, Mathew, usually sit over in this corner. Today Mathew is away and Mira is accompanying Mark for the first time. You probably know Mark because you hear him singing with gusto in the service every week.
I am so appreciative to be here. Today is Friends of New Visions Toronto Sunday. New Visions Toronto offers residential support to children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities, like Mark. New Visions Toronto works to enable each person to live life to their maximum potential in their communities. They are constantly under budget pressures, including needing vans for transportation:
- They have 3 homes and 12 apartments, mostly in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.
- The 56 people living there are between 15 and 47 years of age.
- 4 people are in school
- Only 22 people have full day activities
- Only 1 person can leave home on a limited basis without staff support.
To give an example, Mark can go out of his apartment on Tuesday afternoon and evening, Friday afternoon and Sunday morning for Church. The rest of the time he is at home. The need is bigger than the staff resources available. Can you imagine that for yourself?
- 9 people living at New Visions Toronto have no planned outside activities
That’s why Friends of New Visions Toronto is the newest Eco/Social Action Project taken on by Toronto First. We want to support Mark and his peers by actively getting involved and helping with fundraising. If they can’t get out, maybe we can come in. That’s the supporting New Visions Toronto part.
There is another equally important part to the Friends of New Visions Toronto project. That is the disability-awareness component – or stepping into another’s shoes. Here are some examples of what we’ve been up to:
- Mark’s ‘Our Story’ video on the Toronto First Website. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do check it out.
- Collecting donated Canadian Tire $$. The jar is in the Office downstairs, so please continue to bring in donations.
- Annual Golf Tournament. Talk to Matt Virro or Paul Scott. They had a super day!
- Fashion Follows Form exhibit at the ROM. Check out the video about disability mannequins. It will touch your heart.
- 68 people eating lunch in complete darkness at O’Noir Restaurant.
- Read about all of these excursions on our Friends of New Visions Toronto webpage.
- Today there is a special screening of Alive Inside after the service at 12:15 in Shaw Hall.
- And for February, there is an upcoming Valentine’s Day Dinner and Dance on Feb 7th. Join Mark in dancing up a storm.
Every month there will be new, exciting challenges. Please check the website under the Eco/Social Justice tab. Check the lime green bulletin Board in Workman Hall. Watch for notices in First Light.
Life has its challenges. What I want in my life is a nice big fat tool kit that I carry around with me. Inside are my tools and my skills that I can pull out when I meet ‘someone’ who is very different from me.
‘Someone’ who looks unfamiliar, communicates very differently, thinks differently and emotes differently.
That ‘someone’ might be a family member, changed by disease or old age.
That ‘someone’ might be a friend who is at the end of their life.
That ‘someone’ is Mark and others at New Visions Toronto.
I want to be able to learn to connect, support, and just be with people who challenge me in our differences.
Friends of New Visions Toronto hopes that by developing many opportunities for all of us to engage with what is unknown, that we will move towards and include individuals who can’t approach us.
Friends of New Visions Toronto allows us this opportunity to learn and practice. You can help us build this. Talk to me, Judy Clark or Wendy Dines.
Today, you have a white envelope in your order of service. Your contribution will go towards a very-needed wheelchair accessible van for New Visions Toronto. Thank you for your support and see you at Alive Inside screening today and maybe at the Valentine’s Day Dance on Feb. 7th.
Testimony of Bill Glassman, October 26, 2014
Good morning, my name is Bill Glassman, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts and experiences as a member of First, as we observe the Day of the Dead.
My first contact with First Unitarian goes back 26 years, to 1988, when my wife Lies and I were planning our wedding. Neither of us were active in the faiths of our childhood, but we wanted a wedding service that was not purely secular. Eventually, this led us to June Sanderson, who was the chaplain at First at that time. June was warm and supportive, and I am still grateful when I think of her role in our wedding.
We did not join First immediately after our marriage. When our first son was about two years old, we decided we wanted a spiritual foundation for our family, and our contact with June led us to First Unitarian. I must admit to being a bit hazy on the dates, but I believe it was about another two years before we actually became members—but today, I’ve been a member for approximately twenty years, and ultimately both of our sons participated in both RE and the Coming of Age program.
Over the first several years, I came to First on most Sundays, and enjoyed the sermons, particularly those of Mark Morrison-Reed, who eloquently combined head and heart. Yet during those years, Sunday attendance was the limit of my involvement, and it wasn’t until 2001 that things changed: at that time, I was directly approached by Donna Morrison-Reed, who asked me to take part in a congregational committee—in those days, this was known as “being Donna’d”, because Donna was near-undeniable when making such requests.
I agreed, partly because the project—developing a Safe Steps policy for First—was time-limited. However, it then led to my becoming a member of the Board, and eventually, a variety of other service positions. While my experience on the Board was initially somewhat challenging—Board meetings do not always emphasize the most spiritual aspect of First and its members—over time, I discovered two things: First, that the more I did, the more I felt a part of this community. Second, I learned that when our credo refers to “service is our prayer”, it bears a truth for me that is very spiritual. In essence, the more I give, the more I get.
At this time of year, “giving” often seems to be about money, but in fact I want to talk about a different sense of “giving”.
As we observe the Day of the Dead, I find myself thinking about the legacies we each leave through the living of our lives. I think of June Sanderson, who died earlier this year, and how her chaplaincy led me to joining First Unitarian—and how her life impacted many other people, both in and out of First. Hers was a wonderful legacy, and there are others like her who live on in my heart and memory, and I am grateful for their gifts.
I have also been thinking about my own legacy within this congregation. Lest that seem too egotistical, let me note two things in my defense: First, while I may not have thought about legacies 30 years ago, at this point I’m a lot closer to the end than to the beginning, even with the most optimistic estimates of life-span (which is probably pretty obvious to you!). Second, whatever my life-span, I know that my time at First is drawing to a close, because in about a year from now, Lies and I will be moving to Victoria, BC. So, I find myself thinking more frequently about what leaving a legacy involves.
As I see it, there are three primary possibilities. Service, as I already mentioned, is one aspect—and at this stage, I would say that I’ve gotten much more from my various service roles than I’ve given in time and energy. Most notably, it’s helped me get to know some wonderful people, as friends and as exemplars of what a life of spiritual commitment can be. So, while I can, I will continue to give my time and energy in service.
Second, since many of my service roles have been finance-related, including Finance Convenor, Treasurer, and the Funds Management Committee, I am also very aware that pledge contributions make the day-to-day functioning of the congregation possible. For example, even maintaining our ties to the CUC costs approximately $100 per member each year. So there’s the pledge message—what we give is what makes First possible.
There is also a third form of legacy, based on gifts in the future. Over the years, I have become much more aware of the history of First Unitarian, and that before I ever walked through the door, there were thousands of others who had previously done so—and their service and their pledges and their passion meant that First was here when I was seeking a spiritual home.
As Chair of the Funds Management Committee, I know that our Endowment and other funds only exist because others who came before wanted to pass something on, as a gift or bequest. Some of you will have heard of the Rouff/Mackie-Jenkins Fund, but you may not know that Emily Mackie was a congregant and Bill Jenkins was a minister, and that Ken Rouff wanted to honor their memories. The names of most donors are less visible, but all gifts and bequests serve to foster the long-term well-being of our congregation. Such gifts are legacies from the past that extend into the future. Recognizing that, Lies and I have made provisions in our wills, so that even after we move to Victoria, we can do something to contribute to the future of First. Legacies come in many forms—and planning to give when I am no longer here is one option I wish to exercise.
In the end, I am not so egocentric as to try to judge my contributions to First—either through service, or pledge, or bequest. But I am vividly aware that this is still my community and my spiritual home, and that I continue to get far more than I give. In that sense, the books may never balance, but I will do what I can to strive for a balance--and on this Day of the Dead, I am grateful for the many legacies of others.