Events under 'Sunday Services'
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Event Name

Date

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This week we launch our final theme for “the UU year” by taking up the question of what it means to seek a life of . . . play! For the month of June, we’ll be considering the importance of play in our lives and explore how we might become a more playful people.

In my sermon on Sunday, I’ll invite us to see our life, together and as individuals, through the prism of religious philosopher James Carse’s work in Finite and Infinite Games. One of Carse’s most helpful points is the need for us to have clarity about which type of game we’re actually playing—one that is time-limited and seeks a clear winner, or one played for the love of the game itself, with the primary goals of keeping the game going and bringing into play as many people as possible. My hope is that we’ll all seek to better understand the various games we’re playing!

At the Annual General Meeting which will follow Coffee Hour, among other agenda items, the Building for the Future Task Force will present their findings about the current options before us in terms of our building. They will share what they have learned and point us toward the next leg on this journey. You can find links to their report and other materials for the meeting below. I’d highly recommend reading their report prior to the meeting if at all possible.

One of our core principles, of course, is the use of the democratic process in our shared life. Being engaged in the questions and concerns and decision-making of our congregation is a spiritual practice, so I very much hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we exercise this practice and this privilege together.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, June 01, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Playing for Keeps

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Intern Minister.

A playful spirit continues at First this Sunday, as we reflect more on June’s monthly theme. When we play, we know it won’t last. And yet, the joy we find in playing can linger on, even for a lifetime! Something magical happens in the spirit of play, that allows us to step outside our limitations and connect more deeply to life. As my internship comes to a close, I’ll share with you my thoughts about how creative joy has illuminated our year together. Also, we’ll welcome talented young musicians from the Regent Park School of Music, who remind us of the joy of playing music, learning and growing. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Blessings,
Lynn

Sunday, June 08, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Spiritual Practice of Play

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I wonder if this month’s theme has stirred you to ask: “what constitutes play in my own life?” Do you play? Are you playful? And, maybe most importantly, how has play changed across the years of your life?

In this month’s New Horizons, I included Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan’s “properties of beneficial play,” from their book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Are there moments in your life when you undertake activities that include these properties?

  • Apparently Purposeless – done for its own sake
  • Voluntary – not done for duty or obligation
  • Inherent Attraction – fun, exciting, the opposite of boredom
  • Freedom from Time – causes you to lose track of the passage of time
  • Diminished Consciousness of Self – forget outer self, be in the now
  • Improvisational Potential – invites serendipity and novelty
  • Continuation Desire – reluctance to disengage from the fun
  • For most of us, I’m guessing that it’s rare. So, how do we bring more play into our lives? How can we understand the playful aspects of our lives, even as our definition of play has likely changed as we’ve gotten older? How can we embrace play, even when we’re not feeling particularly playful? I ask, and will ask again on Sunday, because play can be a significant part of a spiritually fulfilling life, opening us to creativity, to joy, and to life itself.

    I’m looking forward to another playful Sunday, and hope you are, too.

    In faith and love,
    Shawn

Sunday, June 15, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Pride 3.0

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This weekend, Toronto welcomes people from around the globe for “WorldPride,” the major international event held to promote LGBTQ rights. It's expected to be double the size of a "normal" Toronto Pride. To kick off the Pride at First Unitarian, I’ll be preaching on why “pride” matters, not only for queer folk, but for everyone.

After Sunday’s service, I’ll be heading to Providence, Rhode Island for this year’s Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. Following the conference, I’ll be on summer holidays and annual study leave until mid-August. This summer, I’m thrilled Lynn Harrison will be returning to serve as Summer Minister. Lynn will be preaching several of the Sundays this summer and will be available for pastoral crises should they arise. As well, our team of Lay Pastors (contact information can be found on our website) are also available, as always, for general pastoral care. I have complete confidence that the congregation is in good hands.

My hope for us, as a congregation, is that we will take this summer to rest, relax, and, in keeping with June’s theme, play! It’s been a challenging year in many respects, complete with a very long winter. My sense is that many of our congregation’s leaders, volunteers, and staff are pretty well exhausted at this point. So, if at all possible, I’d encourage you to set aside committee work in the coming months and bask in the beauty of summer. Connect with whatever feeds you in life and come to Sunday services, but set aside whatever can wait until fall (or at least late summer!), so that we as a congregation can return in the fall refreshed and raring to go. That’s certainly my plan!

Wishing a wonderful summer for you all!

In faith and love,
Shawn

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Play it Again

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

Whether we’re playing, working, or simply living, our lives are made up of patterns. Sometimes the repeating rhythms are a source of joy, as natural as child’s play. But at other times, we may think “Oh no, not this again!” and wonder if we’ll ever be free of the cycle.

As we return to the theme of “play” on the last Sunday in June, we reflect on the cycles of life that include both highs and lows. During the low point of any cycle, it may be hard to trust that playful joy will return. Yet we can find wonder, inspiration and hope in the rhythms of life all around us.

I’m happy to return to First this Sunday, and to serve as your Summer Minister until August 17th. In the afternoon, I’ll be walking with many of you, and First’s beautiful rainbow banner, to celebrate World Pride. And a special note about the music on Sunday: our service includes music by James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Erik Satie, and me.

Hope to see you on Sunday!
Lynn

Sunday, June 29, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Summertime (and the living is not easy)

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

The summer season is often portrayed as carefree and joyful…but it’s not always so. It can be especially difficult to find hope and courage when our circumstances don’t match the sunny weather. Songs and stories can provide guidance for us, and spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation can help.

As we face what is “not easy” as a caring community, and cultivate gratitude along the way, we can create lives that are (in the words of one poet we’ll hear on Sunday) “large enough for fear and doubt.”

I hope you’ll join us, as we acknowledge that the living may not always be easy, but that we can continue to rise up singing. To inspire us, we’ll be treated to Kate Kudelka singing Gershwin’s classic, and Aria Umezawa with a gem by Billy Joel.

Blessings,
Lynn

Sunday, July 06, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Grow with the Flow

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

So often, we seek a state of “flow”...of freedom and ease. And yet, spiritual growth (not to mention life in community) often feels like just the opposite! This Sunday, with the help of great poets and wonderful music, we’ll reflect on how we can discover or encourage “flow” in our lives, so that we might grow in love and insight.

This Sunday, we are thrilled to welcome the Spirit Choir from Neighbourhood UU Congregation on Hiawatha Road. Like the Choir at First Unitarian Congregation, the NUUC Spirit Choir finds joy in creating harmony together and bringing uplifting music to our congregations. They’ve chosen several wonderful pieces of music for our service at First this Sunday. We’re so glad we can join our voices together as part of a growing UU community across the GTA. I hope you can join us!

Blessings,
Lynn

Sunday, July 13, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Mood More than Logic

Sermon by Rev. Fred Cappuciccino.

The talk is inspired by a truism from Jean Chrétien: ‘The public is moved by mood more than logic, by instinct more than reason, and that is something every politician must make use of or guard against.’ Fred will also touch on Alice Munro, Al Franken, and Peter Morales, current president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Rev. Cappuccino, now 88, is with his wife Bonnie the co-founder of Child Haven International, providing care and education for children and women through nine homes in the developing world. He is Minister Emeritus of Lakeshore Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montreal and of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa. He and Bonnie received the Order of Canada in 1996.

Fred is a compelling speaker and an inspiring presence--not only for Unitarians but for all Canadians. I will be away this Sunday, but I know you will give him a warm welcome and benefit from his wisdom, warmth and inspiration.

Blessings,
Lynn

Sunday, July 20, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Small Blessings

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

The Sufi poet Rumi once observed that human eyes are very small, and yet they behold the world. Seen through some lenses, our personal lives and struggles may seem tiny, but at the same time they’re momentous and worthy of our full attention.

On Sunday, we’ll reflect on how the small blessings of human experience can point us toward lives of greater meaning and purpose. Like gardeners, we can learn to cultivate the blessings that surround us, and joining together in community, grow into our best selves and contribute more fully to the world. As Mother Teresa put it: “Be faithful in small things, for it is in them that your strength lies.”

As always, I look forward to spending time with you this Sunday.

Lynn

Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Forgiveness vs. Fairness

Sermon by Lori Kyle.

As relational people, it is inevitable that disappointments and betrayals will befall even the strongest of relationships, leaving us to wrangle with the concept of forgiveness. As people of faith, we are called to exercise forgiveness, while also being drawn to the ideals of fairness and justice. In this Sunday's service we will compare the idea of forgiveness with fairness, and how striving for fairness, while a worthy consideration, can sometimes leave us ill-equipped to embrace the life-giving notion of forgiveness.

See you Sunday,
Lori Kyle

Sunday, August 03, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Ask for Directions

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

Sunday, August 10, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Stay Tuned

Sermon by Lynn Harrison, Summer Minister.

Rumi writes, “We have fallen into the place where everything is music,” and human beings have often drawn connections between musical harmony and spiritual well-being. Meanwhile, life often presents us with times of dis-harmony and imperfection, as well as “in-between” times of silence, uncertainty and waiting. Through all of the changes of life, staying “tuned” to something more than our individual lives can help us move gracefully and with faith.

This will be my final Sunday at First Unitarian, before I return to Emmanuel College to complete my seminary studies. I know you will give Curtis Murphy a very warm welcome as your new Intern Minister. He is a gifted and dynamic candidate for UU ministry who will enrich this community greatly.

Although I would like nothing more than to remain in contact with you, internship requirements make clear that I must detach from the Toronto First community for a period of time. As I comply, do know that you remain in my heart, with gratitude for all you have taught me and the joy of our time together.

Blessings,
Lynn Harrison

Sunday, August 17, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Home

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Home. It’s a four-letter word that means different things to different people. Indeed, it can even mean many different things to each of us as individuals. And, yet, when someone says they “feel at home,” we instantly know what they mean. On Sunday, we’ll explore the many meanings of home—from the location where we live to the sense of connection we feel with a place or a people, or both.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, August 24, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Dances with Bees

Sermon by Michael Battenberg.

As August and the rhythms of summer draw to a reluctant close, Michael has this to say about his sermon:

Bees, or rather the alarming decline in their numbers, are all over the news these days. Long cherished for the sweet pleasure of their honey, bees have held a unique place in our myths and folklore for millennia. Yet only recently has their importance as pollinators captured the popular imagination, and spurred us to take action for their preservation.

This Sunday, we will take a journey into the remarkable world of these fascinating and varied creatures, reflecting on how their diversity helps preserve our own, and perhaps even learning a thing or two about our own lives along the way.


Michael Batttenberg has been a member at First for 14 years. For the last half-dozen years he’s been fascinated with insects, and has displayed his portraits of bees, among things, several times in Sunderland Hall. Another show of his work scheduled for January 2015 will coincide with the release of his photo book Portraits of an Overlooked World. He is a member of the Toronto Entomologist’s Association and recently participated as a field entomologist at the 2014 Ontario BioBlitz.

Sunday, August 31, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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We Are Water

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton and Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

Just as the summer weather has finally arrived in full force, we’ve turned the pages of our calendars to September and our attention to the year ahead. On Sunday, we’ll gather for our annual Water Communion service. The building will be filled to overflowing with the giddy excitement that marks the homecoming of our congregation each fall. It is, for me—and for many of us—one of the best days of the year.

For the water ceremony, remember to bring a small amount of water you may have collected on the journeys you took this summer, be they near or far, literal or figurative. (If you forget to bring water, know that there will be small cups of water on hand for you to use.) As we’ve done in recent years, there will be four distinct opportunities to pour your water (you may pour more than once!). Because our water can hold many meanings, the congregation will be invited forward to pour out waters of Sadness & Grief, Transition & Change, Rest & Renewal, and Happiness & Joy. Between now and Sunday, you might give thought to the meaning of the water you’ll share.

For this very festive service, my reflection will speak to this month’s theme of what it means to seek a life of kinship; Dallas, Lisa, the Choir, and our Resident Musicians have prepared a feast of music for us; and it will be my great pleasure to introduce you to Curtis Murphy, our new Intern Minister.

Finally, a reminder that this is the final weekend to register for a Theme Group for the fall. These journey groups provide an opportunity to connect with others around the monthly topics, while going deeper on your own spiritual path. I hope everyone will consider taking part. Online registration ends on Saturday. In person registration will be available on Sunday following the service.

I look forward to seeing you all back at First.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 07, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Families: Biological, Logical, and Otherwise

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

We’ve all had to fill in this particular blank at some point. Whether completing intake forms at our doctor’s office or writing up our will, we’ve likely been asked to name our “next-of-kin.” The answer to that question has likely changed for most of us across the years of our life. As a child, it was probably the name of a parent. As we age, it might change to the name of a spouse, a sibling, a cousin. Eventually, we reach a point where the name listed is our child, or a nephew or niece. Or we may reach a point where there is no kin left to list. This week, as we take up September’s theme of kinship, we’ll explore the varied and changing meanings of family. As you prepare for Sunday, I encourage you to sit with the question of whom you consider to be your true kin.

Even if you’re not participating in a Theme Group this year, you are still welcome to partake of the materials found in each month’s New Horizons. The spiritual exercises and “questions to live with” can be explored on your own or with others in your life. If you decide you’d like to join a group, there will be opportunities to do so later in the year. And, there will be other events on the congregation’s schedule that will engage the themes on a drop-in basis. So, I hope you’ll make the most of these various tools to help you deepen your own journey.

See you Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 14, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Tangled Webs We're In

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

As many of you heard last week, starting on October 1st, we will begin offering another worship service experience each Wednesday night at 6pm. This gathering will include an intentional though simple meal, usually of soup and bread. It will be a time for music and candles, joys and sorrows, meditation and prayer, readings and reflection, sharing and eating. Its primary goal will be to create kinship in a more intimate setting than is possible on Sunday mornings. We’re calling it The Dinner Table—a place where the family gathers, but where there’s always room for more. A place where we connect and commune, where we share our lives, and where we share ourselves.

We’ll need people who can see every aspect of this gathering as the spiritual practice that it is, from making soup and baking bread, to washing dishes, and scrubbing tables. If you are interested in helping with the launch of this new gathering, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., our Intern Minister. I look forward to seeing those who can join us on Wednesdays.

This Sunday, we’ll continue the month’s theme of kinship with a look at how we are all entangled, sometimes in profoundly uncomfortable ways, in the interconnected web of being. As it turns out, kinship is very complicated!

One of the world’s most seemingly intractable tangles, of course, is the relationship between Israel and Palestine. The conflict brings out strong opinions and even stronger emotions. Often times we avoid discussing it (I certainly have!) because conflicts over the conflict give rise to even more conflict…! During the service this week, Dallas Bergen and I will both share reflections on our own grappling with the issues involved, in hopes of offering insights that may have application in other areas of our lives.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 21, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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All I ask of you

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

We're now a full week into autumn, and also nearing the end of our September theme of kinship. This Sunday we'll reflect on how we deal with the many responsibilities which come along with our participation in this interdependent world. As UU's we seek to ever widen the circle of love and justice, but we can't be all things to all beings, even though we might sometimes like to. So what are we to do? How do we juggle our overlapping callings to our friends, family, community, and the wider world? What is the relationship of activism with the stuff of daily life, and how do we take care of ourselves? As usual there are no easy answers, but many useful insights for us to explore together. See you on Sunday?

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, September 28, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Awake, arise!

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

“Are you awake, yet?”

It’s a common question that may come from a loved one or a co-worker. Especially if we’ve not yet had our coffee or endured a particularly sleepless night. This question is one we’ll be sitting with throughout October as we take up the month’s theme of “Awakening.”

On Sunday we’ll consider what it means to be awake to the world around us—be that defined as far away or close to home. And I’ll ask what it means for us as a congregation. Are we awake to the struggles of our times? Are we paying attention to the real needs of a hurting world? Are we prepared to make a difference by changing lives, starting with our own?

My deepest thanks to everyone who turned out for our inaugural Wednesday night service, The Dinner Table. It was a beautiful, candlelit time of community in the making. I encourage everyone to consider dropping by when you can for this more intimate worship experience. The service begins at 6pm, with soup served around 6:30pm.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, fully awake after our city’s celebration of Nuit Blanche!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 05, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Awakening to Gratitude

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I cringe a bit whenever I hear a parent instruct their child to “say thank you.” I know that custom and good manners expect it, and I appreciate that moments of gratitude, sometimes, quite obviously, need to directly pointed out to an otherwise oblivious child. I realize that most, if not all parents been mortified at some point by their child’s seeming indifference. Yet, real gratitude comes from the heart. It can’t truly to be conjured or compelled. It just wells up, and there’s nothing really that can stop it once it does. Gratitude is genuine; otherwise, it’s not gratitude.

So how do we awaken to a life of gratitude? And why should we bother? I look forward to taking up these questions on Sunday at our annual Thanksgiving service with our harvest communion of heart bread and cider.

Following the service, join us for our Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner. Food donations are encouraged, but if you’re not able to being a dish to share, a financial contribution will also be welcome.

If I don’t see you on Sunday, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. May we all celebrate the great gifts of life with genuine and lasting gratitude.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 12, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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