What We Do Here
Our Lay Pastors are specially trained and commissioned volunteer members of the congregation who extend the ministry of the congregation by creating a safe space for deep listening and reflection by any member or friend who requests support. Lay Pastors provide a safe space for spiritual discernment and growth, offering compassionate listening and presence.
Our Lay Pastors are Jeanne VanBronkhorst and Michael Stroh. Among them, they have backgrounds in social work and theology. They also have extensive experience and training in pastoral care. They are dedicated and well-equipped to help meet the growing pastoral and spiritual needs of our congregation. After many years of service as a Lay Pastor, Allan Brand now provides his support as Lay Pastor Emeritus.
To arrange meetings with a lay pastor you can contact them directly at their phone numbers listed in the Congregational Directory (available to members) or by email:
Sunderland Hall, our main worship space, is an ideal place for showing artwork. The large skylight and high ceilings enhance the room while the gallery space has its own lighting to allow the works to be shown to their best advantage.
We also have a smaller display area in our library, where art from our members is displayed for up to two months.
The artists who display their work in these spaces often offer some pieces for sale, with a small percentage of the price going to the congregation. Please contact the artist if you are interested in purchasing a work.
Art in June: Rama Fayaz
Rama Fayaz is an architect, urban planner and also a painter. He has experimented with many styles and currently is working in abstract and portraits. He is Persian and has worked and studied in Iran, Cambridge University, U.K. and Toronto. He has exhibited in several solo and group art shows in Toronto, Cambridge and Tehran.
The exhibit continues to July 14.
Library Art Exhibit July – September: Jeni De Carlo
I came to painting in a roundabout rather dramatic way. A profound hearing loss prematurely terminated my career as a high school English teacher. I turned to art both for solace and as an alternative means of communication. To my delight, I discovered that I had a natural flair for painting and that I loved it.
My subjects are places, people and things I have loved. If it touches my heart, I want to and can, paint it.
The following shows will be held in Sunderland Hall in 2019:
|January||Willowdale Artists Group||Jan 6-27||January 6||willowdaleartists.com|
|February||Sheryl Keen||Feb 3-24||February 3||sherylkeen.com|
|March||Members and friends of First||March 3-31||March 3|
|April||York Artists Guild||April 7-28||April 7||yorkartistsguild.weebly.com|
|May||Bill Ross and Randall Brown||May 5-26||May 5|
|June||Rama Fayaz||June 2 - July 14||June 9||Rama Painting|
|July & August||Avenue Road Arts School||July 16 - Sept 4||AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com|
|September||Jeff Mann||Sept 8 - 29||Sept 8||jeffmannart.com|
|October||Phyllis Gordon||Oct 6-27||October 6||phyllisgordonart.com|
|November||Sereen Azizz||Nov 3 - Dec 1||November 3||instagram.com/sereenscape|
|December||Indigenous Artist Melanie Bartel||Dec 8 - Jan 5||December 8||melaniebartelart.com|
The following shows were held in Sunderland Hall in 2018:
|January||Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy||Jan 7-28||January 14 (Fundraiser)||escarpment.ca|
|February||Ato Seitu||Feb 4-25||February 4||inkphy.com/tag/atoseit|
|April||York Artists Guild||April 8-29||April 8||YorkArtistsGuild.ca|
|May||Joanna Strong||May 6-27||May 6||joannastrong.ca|
Colin van Zwijndregt
|June 3-24||June 3||saatchiart.com/vandenieuwegiessen|
|July & August||Avenue Road Arts School||June 28-Sept 3||AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com|
|September||Susanne Clark||September 9||susanneclark.com|
|October||Susan L. Brown||October 7|
|November||Martin Myers||November 4||martinmyers.ca|
|December||Métis artist Louise Lefebvre||December 9||mountaindrummer.wixsite.com/spiritcougarlefebvre|
The following shows were held in Sunderland Hall in 2017:
|March||Members and friends of First|
|April||York Artists Guild||YorkArtistsGuild.ca|
|July & August||Avenue Road Arts School||AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com|
|October||Barbara de Beaupré|
The following shows were held in 2016:
|January||Palette Expressions Group|
|February||Clayton King, Indigenous artist||WhiteBearArt.com|
|March||Members and Friends of First|
|April||York Artists' Guild||YorkArtistsGuild.ca|
|July & August||Artists’ Network|
|November||Jean Galt, Wendy Ounpuu & Wendy Dines|
The following shows were held in 2015:
|February||Judith Donoahue, Carol Harrison|
|March||Members and Friends of First|
|April||York Artists' Guild||YorkArtistsGuild.ca|
|July & August||10 Artists from the Don Valley Art Club||www.donvalleyartclub.com|
|October||Barbara de Beaupré|
|December||Amnesty International: In/visible Scars||Amnesty.ca|
Issues and Ideas
In the Library, now usually on the fourth Sunday of each month, from 12:15 to 1:30 one or two facilitators initiate our discussion of a selected topic by each presenting a 20 minute review of a relevant book from our collection, followed by questions and discussion open to all.
Sample topics are Unitarian history, defining the sacred, peace and social justice, interfaith dialogue, feminist perspectives, mysticism, science and religion.
If you’ve ever wished to explore faith matters further by reading, why not drop in on that book review circle. You’re not expected to read the book beforehand (though perhaps you will want to afterwards).
Please cast your mind ahead to the themes for our Current Season:
- October: Abundance
- November: Courage
- December: Hope
- January: Intention
- February: Endurance
- March: Balance
- April: Emergence
- May: Creativity
Past Book Talks: (Some reviewers’ names are linked to the texts of their talks.)
Giving to First
|The easiest ways to make a one-time donation to
Toronto First are PayPal or CanadaHelps.
Pledges for Ongoing Giving
We are very grateful for the ongoing generosity of our members and friends who make financial contributions to support our programs and operations. First Unitarian Toronto is a registered Canadian charity (851846816 RR0001) and issues annual tax receipts.
There are many convenient ways to make a donation and we invite you to use whichever method or combination of methods are best suited to you.
If you are ready and able to give regularly to First, you are probably ready and able to participate in what we call “Pledging”. Our annual Pledge Drive occurs in the fall, when we provide our members and friends with information about this critical process for sustaining our congregation and planning our annual budget.
We ask members and friends to indicate ( i.e., “pledge”) an amount they are committed to giving over the course of the coming year. This stated financial commitment from each member, paid periodically, allows us to plan staffing and programs knowing there will be sufficient funds. If you give regularly (monthly, quarterly, annually) you will provide us with a predictable income. Of course, the amount is up to you; we invite you to give at a level that fits your circumstances and your values.
Ways to Donate
If you donate at least $20 in a year, you will normally receive a tax receipt from First Unitarian in February covering the full amount you donated in the previous year. It will come either by email (if we have your email address) or by Canada Post.
If you donate via PayPal or CanadaHeelps, the tax receipt will be generated by those sites.
Donate in the Collection Basket
- When you put a donation in the collection basket during the Sunday service, whether by cash or cheque, 100% of your donation comes to First Unitarian.
Donate using post-dated cheques
Donate using debit from your bank account
- When you donate via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), 100% of your donation comes to First Unitarian.
- We can set up a recurring donation on your schedule (monthly, quarterly, every two months).
Donate using your credit card
- First Unitarian supports donations using either Visa or Mastercard.
- When you donate via your credit card, the card takes a processing fee. 95-97% of your donation comes to First Unitarian. Please consider adding 3% to cover the fees.
- We can set up a recurring donation on your schedule (monthly, quarterly, every two months)
Donate via Paypal
- When you donate via PayPal, 100% of your donation comes to First Unitarian. (Paypal started waiving their fee for charitable donations in October 2018.) Learn more at PayPal.ca/GiveBack
- Your tax receipt will come from Paypal Giving Fund Canada with one email per donation.
- Paypal does not support automatic recurring donations.
- Donate online via PayPal. You can also use the PayPal app on your phone.
Donate via CanadaHelps
- When you donate via CanadaHelps, there is a processing fee of 3.5%, so 96.5% of your donation comes to First Unitarian. Learn more at CanadaHelps.ca.
- CanadaHelps supports automatic monthly donations.
- Your tax receipt will be available on CanadaHelps.ca. You can get one receipt for all your donations for a year.
- Donate online via CanadaHelps
Donate by Transferring Securities
- Giving stock directly to First may be more prudent than selling stock and giving cash because there may be tax advantages related to capital gains.
- Please contact your financial advisor to confirm the best arrangements for you. Use our Stock Transfer Form.
- Planned Giving is a way to express your support for First after you are gone. Read more about how to make your wishes known and select the most suitable way for you to plan this type of gift.
Deciding How Much to Give
We invite you to make a decision that suits your circumstances and your values. All levels of giving are welcome and you will not be questioned about your own decision. As points of reference, we suggest you consider: many UU congregations recommend 3% of pre-tax annual household income as a meaningful personal commitment. First is a completely self-funded community with an annual operating budget of approximately $600,000.
First’s operating budget supports our mission to Seek Freely, Connect Authentically, and Serve Passionately. The following pie chart represents our spending from an outcomes perspective. Each slice of the pie includes the direct costs of the outcomes and services listed, plus a share of the indirect costs of our overall infrastructure (i.e. staff, insurance, equipment, etc.) All of our outcomes are also greatly enriched by the many uncharted hours of effort and talent provided by volunteers:
Pause your mouse pointer over sections of this chart to see what that spending pays for,
or click on the chart to learn more:
How much should I plan to give each year?
The amount you pledge is a personal decision, but we ask that you consider 5% of your pre-tax income. Many religious communities ask their members to pledge 10% (this is called tithing). Many of our members pledge 5% or more, and some tithe.
The following table will give you a sense of the financial contributions made by other members.
In 2018, 219 households pledged a total of $375,000 for our operating budget.
|Amount pledged for 2018||Number of pledges|
|$250 to $499||26|
|$500 to $999||47|
|$1000 to $1799||49|
|$1800 to $2499||26|
|$2500 to $4999||30|
|$5000 and up||18|
Please consider beginning at a level that is manageable for you, then increasing your giving as you are able.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” - Winston Churchill
Our Vision & Mission
Our vision states what we see as First’s impact on the world
First is a beacon
of hope and inspiration in Toronto.
We move hearts, hands and minds
to make our commitments
to love and justice come alive.
Our Mission states what we do to achieve our vision
We welcome all to come together
to seek to understand the meaning of our lives,
connect with others as we are, and
serve life to build a better world.
Our Mission/Vision history
In 2018, the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees presented an updated and expanded Vision and Mission statement (shown above) to the Congregation at the Annual General Meeting. This material retains the 2013 “Seek Connect Serve” statement, which focused on how we engage in our work to make a difference in the world. It adds a vision statement, which states the impact we see First having on the world.
During the 2012/2013 year, the Board of Trustees established a working group to update and distill the meaning of the 2008 vision statement into a simple, memorable phrase that clearly expresses who we are and what we do. After much review and discussion of existing materials and statements from other faith groups as well as other UU congregations, the working group found the strongest source of expression in the Covenant we speak aloud at Sunday Services. Hence, the group arrived at the simple expression: Seek – Connect – Serve. To this they added modifiers, to express the unique UU approach to these common faith group activities, creating the final version of:
1. Our congregation
We will be a vibrant community, energetic, passionate, and forward-thinking. Ours will be a place where we find connection, meaning, and a sense of purpose that carries over of dedication, compassion, and commitment to one another and to the larger world.
We will all feel we belong. We will treat one another with respect, love, and compassion. We will address conflict to foster healthy relationships.
2. Our religious quest
We will deepen and enrich the diverse spiritual lives of our members, in accordance with our Unitarian principles, by encouraging and celebrating a variety of expressions of spirituality. This will be a place where we can heal ourselves and join with others to heal the world.
We will create a climate of security and abundance through effective use of our resources (leadership, volunteers, staff, finances, communications, and property).