Events under 'Sunday Services'
Monday, April 23, 2018

Event Name

Date

“On a Night Like This”

Christmas Eve by Candlelight - Rev. Shawn Newton & Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel

At one of the most magical moments of the year at First there will be stunning music, wonderful readings, a homily, and the poignant glow of candlelight to help us bask in the glory of it all.

Bring family and friends to celebrate Christmas in a uniquely Unitarian way.

Monday, December 24, 2012 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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“Phoenix People”: Annual Fire Communion Service

Our Annual Fire Communion Service to mark the New Year - Rev. Shawn Newton.

This is a time during which we look back at the old year and look ahead to the new year. We will acknowledge the regrets and sadness that we wish to leave in the old year by writing them on flash paper and ceremonially burning the paper. Then we will light candles to represent our hopes and wishes for the new year. Please join us as we ring out the old and bring in the new!

Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Epiphany (A Dose of Reality)”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister.

The twelfth night of Christmas seems to have a low-key profile. In my Mexican cultural heritage, however, Epiphany has been a time to celebrate gift giving again, with images of wise folk bearing deeply spiritual offerings of incense, myrrh, and... gold.

The ways that the world is interconnected can give the impression that economics and spiritual witness are incompatible. What constitutes wealth can be a tricky concept, especially since economic theories often have a way of explaining difficult realities about our relationships with each other, while obscuring insights about social responsibility and all that is most valuable to us as human beings.

Clarity is found in unexpected places, even a CBC reality show about entrepreneurship. What realities do these visionaries have in mind? Come and find out with me on Sunday!

Blessings,
Rod

Sunday, January 06, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Mental Health and the Way Things Stand”

Sermon by Rev. John Marsh, Minister of First Unitarian, Ottawa.

Concerns about mental health have been with human communities from the beginning of recorded time, yet it remains an underfunded and often misunderstood area of healthcare.  People with mental health issues and their families continue to be stigmatized.  Advances in understanding have been accomplished by Canadian Unitarian pioneers in the field such as Joseph Workman and Brock Chisolm.  New advances promise a healthier future for all of us.


(Shawn is preaching in Montreal as part of a “pulpit shuffle” amongst the Ottawa First, Montreal and Toronto First congregations.)

Sunday, January 13, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Sacred Change”

Rev. Shawn Newton and the Building for the Future Task Force

"Change alone is unchanging," said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus some twenty-five centuries ago. Around the same time, the Jewish writer of Ecclesiastes proclaimed there to be "nothing new under the sun." Arguably, how one reads the unfolding of time depends on one's perspective.

On Sunday, we'll consider the question of change in our congregation and beyond. Nancy Lee, the Chair of our Building for the Future Task Force, will share, during the service, an important update on the committee's findings. After months of consultation with the congregation and investigation into our options, she will reflect on the patterns that are beginning to emerge.

In my sermon, I will reflect on how the world around us is changing, and how we might best meet the challenges before us. This is a sermon I've been preparing to preach for a very long time. I hope to share with you the vision I believe dwells at the heart of our congregation---a vision that could have a powerful, transformative impact not only in our own lives, but for our city as well, if we were to commit to making it real.

Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“The Spiritual Implications of Stuff”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

The comedian George Carlin famously (and hilariously) spoke of how much of our life's energy is spent finding a place to put our "stuff." He says the meaning of life itself is trying to find a place to store our stuff. A home, he says, is pretty much a pile of our stuff with a cover on it. (If you don't know his routine, it's well worth searching for "stuff" and "George Carlin" on YouTube.)

Carlin is on to something. Our relationship to things — literally the stuff in our lives — is complicated. Stuff can be a source of meaning and memory, but it can also be a burden and a distraction. On Sunday, we'll give thought to the deeper meaning of the stuff in our lives.

In faith,
Shawn

Sunday, January 27, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Proud Sponsors of Elizabeth Taylor's 5th Wedding!”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister.

When Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton first got married while working in Canada, they had trouble finding a legal blessing... Ontario wouldn't recognize their divorces, and Quebec didn't have civil marriage. But there was a willing minister who would solemnize their vows in Montreal: Rev. Mason from the Unitarian Church.

Offering blessings when others might not is still at the core of our mission and outreach. This Sunday, we'll recognize the contributions of out-going Lay Chaplain Greg Robinson as we also install in-coming Lay Chaplain Christopher Wulff. Both of them are part of our long-standing tradition of offering dignified ceremonies for people in the community at large, often outside of our church walls.

I look forward to this celebration of our shared ministry!

Blessings,
Rod

Sunday, February 03, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“A People So Bold”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I had hoped to welcome the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, a visiting Unitarian minister from Burundi, to our pulpit this coming Sunday. Unfortunately, difficulty in securing the required travel visas will keep him at home. Still, I hope we will be able to share in Fulgence's passion for Unitarian Universalism at a date in the not-too-distant future.

In lieu of our previous plans, I'll be speaking about our calling — and how we live it out, individually and together. Frederick Buechner says that our calling is where our deep joy meets the world's deepest need. In preparation for Sunday, I hope you'll give thought to where that intersection sits in your life.

See you on Sunday.

In faith,
Shawn

Sunday, February 10, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Romance”

Sermon by Rev. Peter Hughes.

The Gospel according to Fred and Ginger. How to survive emotionally in the face of present troubles and the contemplation of eventual mortality and how to live life to the fullest while doing so. Using the singing and dancing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the classic 1930s movies, Top Hat, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, and Follow the Fleet, with some sage advice by the minor prophet Woody Allen thrown in, this service is a winner.

Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Taking Responsibility”

Semon by Shawn Newton.

Our fourth principle affirms our intention to undertake a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." We've long been proud of the freedom our faith offers - the freedom of conscience to determine our own beliefs, independent of the received creeds and canons handed down through history. But what of a "responsible search"? What might it mean if we were to take greater responsibility in our search for truth and meaning? Such are the questions that will guide this week's service.

I'm very excited to welcome the fabulous folk duo emma's revolution to First on Sunday. And I'm thrilled they've agreed to sing several songs, including one of my all-time favourites, "Swimming to the Other Side," written by emma's revolution's own Pat Humphries. I have a feeling we'll all be singing the chorus for days to come:

We are living 'neath the great Big Dipper.
We are washed by the very same rain.
We are swimming in the stream together,
Some in power and some in pain.
We can worship this ground we walk on,
Cherishing the beings that we live beside.
Loving spirits will live forever.
We're all swimming to the other side.

And so we are. See you on Sunday.

In faith,
Shawn

Sunday, February 24, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“BYID: Bring Your Identity”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister.

Some shows begin with a warning: scenes of violence, sexuality, coarse language, and mature themes... and these are often the matters that are involved when dealing with identity and diversity.

Badges, labels, and tags have a strange role in society. They can be used as instruments of oppression, aggression, and shame. But they can also be means of recognition, distinction, and pride,

Above all these, they can be tools for enhanced awareness.

To that end, the identities we take on--or are sometimes given to us--can benefit from a second look. Words like female, trans, straight, poor, white--words of gender, sexuality, class, or race--are the kind of markers that can constrain... or empower. And a bit of homework on them can shift the balance on our relationship with these identities--and with each other.

Sunday, March 03, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Newcomers' Meeting

Join us for a half hour conversation presented by our membership team for those who want to learn more about Unitarianism Universalism, and about our Toronto congregation.

Sunday, March 03, 2013 11:45 am - 12:15 pm
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“Not My Table”

Service by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Knowing what it ours to do, as well as what is not, is one of life's great challenges. Clarity about our priorities can be key to living out a purposeful life. So, how do we discern where to put our focus, where to invest our energy? Those questions will guide my sermon on Sunday and hopefully all of us into more intentional living.

Our service will be sign-language interpreted on Sunday. This arrangement has been made so that one of our guests can enjoy our service for the first time. If you have people in your life who would be able to access our services with ASL-interpretation, please invite them join us this week.

Sunday, March 10, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Lots of Luck”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

“Beware the Ides of March,” says the soothsayer in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Though over two millennia have passed since the infamous assassination of the Caesar on this date, an echo of caution endures. There's a lingering notion among the superstitious that this date is somehow unlucky, though it's a day like any other, with the full potential for good fortune or ill.

How we make sense of luck — both good and bad — is a deeply theological concern. How we make meaning of our misfortunes and our strokes of good luck says a great deal about how we understand the world around us. So, join us on Sunday, St. Patrick's Day (wearing a bit o' the green, if you wish!), to ponder the role of luck in our lives.

In faith,
Shawn

Sunday, March 17, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“The Changing Reputation of Human Nature”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

It was Mae West who once wittily said: “Between two evils, I always pick the one I’ve never tried before.” If only it were that easy. On Sunday, we’ll confront the question of how much choice we actually have—and of how we use that choice to build a better world.

The choir on Sunday will be joined by members of Univox, a community choir of younger adults founded and conducted by our own Dallas Bergen. They’ll be singing Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” as arranged by our Resident Musician Lucas Marchand. First’s Choir will be singing an unforgettable piece on how we handle quarrels in community called “Fighting Over What We Believe.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Tag: You're It!” (Easter Sunday)

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister.

Often it is a simple spray-paint "tag" in undecipherable text. But once in a while, there is a scribbled gem, hidden like an Easter egg, bearing witness to truths often forgotten--messages of peace, self-acceptance, and compassion. Whenever I find one of these, I pick it up in photographic form and collect it in a basket of life-asserting tags.

Aside from the graffiti medium, these tags have a rebellious style, challenging accepted notions, much like prophetic people have done for centuries. Among these people, I include the Emperor Norton I, who reigned in San Francisco over a century ago, and whose presence rekindled a passion for life-asserting truths that are sometimes forgotten. I wish to share his story as another look at the Easter message.

Blessings,
Rod

Sunday, March 31, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Three Vows”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister

This week, we, as a congregation, will gather for the rare privilege of ordaining a new minister to the Unitarian Universalist ministry. On Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm, we will ordain Carly Gaylor, who grew up at First and has served as our Summer Minister. In our tradition, it is the congregation-not the clergy or ecclesial higher-ups-who bestows the blessings of ordination. Only a congregation can create a new minister. So, please plan to join us for this wonderful celebration. Those attending are asked to contribute finger foods to the reception that will follow.

On Sunday morning, for the Time for All Ages, I'll be telling my favourite story (of Ingiri the Wart-Hog), before leaving with the children and then meeting with our Youth to plan the Coming of Age Service for May 5th. Rod will be preaching. He says this about his sermon, "Three Vows":

I will be speaking about the vows we all seek to follow in our shared ministry. Spiritual leaders often take a set of vows when they formally enter a religious vocation; Unitarian Universalist ministers also make a set of commitments to maintain a responsible relationship with congregants and communities. Indeed, all Unitarian Universalists-lay or ordained-have at some level affirmed to live with deep awareness of our shared life together, with our principles as guide. I look to share this conversation and responsibility with the congregation as we prepare to ordain a partner in our ministry.

Finally, between Coffee Hour and the ordination, consider joining our Aboriginal Awareness Group for Round Table event on "Aboriginal Peoples and Right Relations: Our Shared History, Our Treaties, Our Future Together," with Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, the newly appointed Vice Provost at Lakehead University. This will be a wonderful way to "make a day of it" at First. For more information, see the notice immediately down below.

See you on Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, April 07, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Five Smooth Stones”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Admittedly, ours is not the easiest faith to explain, or, sometimes, grasp. Theologian James Luther Adams, in his "Five Smooth Stones of Religious Liberalism," has offered us a handy framework to the essence of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. These have been summed up as Learn, Love, Give, Work, and Hope. We'll take up each of these five smooth stones on Sunday and consider how they might be used as a tool in our own lives.

Sunday, April 14, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“So, Just What Would You Preach?”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I typically settle on my sermon titles many months in advance. A certain title comes to mind and a sermon slowly begins to take shape. If I'm lucky, the perfect reading comes along, too, and maybe a wonderful anecdote or joke, as well. As the pieces of the service fall into place, ideas percolate until I sit down to actually write my sermon on the Saturday before it's delivered.

As I began planning last summer for this year's Earth Day Sunday, though, I found myself at a complete loss. What could I possibly say that I haven't already? Aren't we all fully aware of the need to "reduce, reuse, and recycle"? Don't we all know that climate change may be humanity's greatest challenge yet? What more is there to be said when the situation is so serious?

So, my sermon title isn't merely a rhetorical question. What would you preach? If you had a turn in the pulpit this Sunday, just what would you say while knowing that we humans can be so slow to change our behaviour? I hope you'll sit with that question in the coming days. And I hope you'll give thought to the sermon you might deliver this Earth Day, at least to yourself.

As for me, in the end, I've decided to preach about reverence this Sunday, and about our need for a great deal more of it.

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, April 21, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Earth Sunday

During the service this Earth Sunday the Time for All Ages will feature art work and comments from the children on how to make Toronto a Green City, and Judy Vellend will give a special testimony about Climate Change.

The Green Team will be requesting a donation for its yearly collection. We have used this past year's donation on projects to help the church. Please bring a contribution so that we can continue helping the environment and making the congregation a Green Sanctuary.

After the service, there will be several information tables on environmental issues, and a speaker from the Climate Reality Project updating Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

All together, it will be a celebration of the Earth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013 10:30 am - 1:45 pm
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