What We Do Here


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.

Artists interested in exhibiting their work in our Sunderland Hall gallery are invited to contact the Arts Committee chair by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Art in March: Members and friends of First

Jean Galt

First Unitarian has a long tradition of celebrating our artists, dating back to Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven.

All are invited to view the excellent creative work produced by our members and friends, from March 4 to April 1, 2018.

Please join us on Sunday March 4 for our opening reception, from noon to 1 pm.


Library Exhibit: THE 70,273 PROJECT QUILT #304

The 70,273 PROJECT QUILT #304

The blocks for Quilt #304 were made by older RE kids at First last spring, after learning about THE 70,273 PROJECT. That project honours people with physical or mental disabilities who were killed by the Nazis in the Aktion T4 programme, from January 1940 to August 1941. These people’s files were examined, and if they were deemed 'unfit' or an 'economic liability', marked with a red X. Red Xs by two of three examining doctors sealed their fate.

With this Project, each of the 70,273 killed are to be remembered with their own block. As well, it is to remind us of the many living nowadays with similar disabilities, and how they contribute to our lives.

The RE children had many questions and comments as they sewed or marked their red XX block - representing the doctors’ marks on the white files. Each block is unique, as were the men, women and children they represent. The 18 blocks were sewn together, combining their work and care into the quilt, a symbol of comfort, remembrance and beauty. The children have dedicated Quilt #304 to the memory of our own Mark Jorgensen, who brought much joy to the congregation.

Come to the library to view the lovely quilt itself, and see other blocks in the making. Materials and help will be available if you wish to join this worldwide art project (100 countries) and make a block yourself.

This Year’s Shows

The following shows will be held in Sunderland Hall in 2018:

Month Artist Show Dates Reception
  (12 pm)
Learn More
January Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy Jan 7-28 January 14 (Fundraiser) escarpment.ca
February Ato Seitu Feb 4-25 February 4 inkphy.com/tag/atoseit
March Members and friends of First March 4-25 March 4 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
April York Artists Guild April 8-29 April 8 YorkArtistsGuild.ca
May Joanna Strong May 6-27 May 6 joannastrong.ca
June Lucinda Vandenieuwegiessen
Colin Van Zwijndregt
June 3-24 June 3 saatchiart.com/vandenieuwegiessen
July & August Avenue Road Arts School     AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com
September Susanne Clark   September 9 susanneclark.com
October Lori Ryerson   October 7 focalocity.ca
November Martin Myers   November 4 martinmyers.ca
December Métis artist Louise Lefebvre   December 9 mountaindrummer.wixsite.com/spiritcougarlefebvre


Previous Years' Shows

The following shows were held in Sunderland Hall in 2017:

Month Artist Show Dates Reception
  (12 pm)
Learn More
January Michael Battenberg Jan 8-29 January 2 MichaelBattenberg.com
February Jordan Clarke Feb 5-26 February 5 JordanClarke.ca
March Members and friends of First March 5-26 March 5  
April York Artists Guild April 2-30 April 2 YorkArtistsGuild.ca
May Nancy Bennett May 7-28 May 7 NancyBennett.ca
June Irene Sakata June 4-25 June 5 IreneSakataArts.com
July & August Avenue Road Arts School July 2 - Sept 3   AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com
September Carmel BouzanneSept 10 - Oct 1 Sept 10 CarmelBouzanne.com
October Barbara de Beaupré Oct 8-29 October 8  
November Nick Biagini Nov 5-26 November 5 DigitalConsciousness.com/galleries/NickBiagini
December Joseph Sagaj
Keitha Keeshig-Tobias
Dec 10-31 December 10 muskratmagazine.com/joseph-sagaj


The following shows were held in 2016:

Month Artist Learn More
January Palette Expressions Group  
February Clayton King, Indigenous artist WhiteBearArt.com
March Members and Friends of First  
April York Artists' Guild YorkArtistsGuild.ca
May John Visser JohnVisserArt.com
June Susan Farquhar susanfarquhar5.wordpress.com
July & August Artists’ Network
September Steve Rose SteveRose.ca
October Shir Libeynu ShirLibeynu.ca
November Jean Galt, Wendy Ounpuu  & Wendy Dines  
December Aboriginal Art  


The following shows were held in 2015:

Month Artist Learn More
January Michael Battenberg MichaelBattenberg.com
February Judith Donoahue, Carol Harrison  
March Members and Friends of First  
April York Artists' Guild YorkArtistsGuild.ca
May D.D. Gadjanski ddgadjanski.com
June Randall Brown  
July & August 10 Artists from the Don Valley Art Club www.donvalleyartclub.com
September Shir Libeynu Shirlibeynu.ca
October Barbara de Beaupré
November David Connolly  
December Amnesty International: In/visible Scars Amnesty.ca



Our programs will help to nurture your spiritual growth and to find community. We welcome all, members, friends and visitors, to engage in all of our programs. Come and learn, explore, and experience the many groups and activities here at First. Read the Adult Program Guide.

Unless otherwise specified, all programs take place at 175 St. Clair Avenue West.

For those programs with associated fees, please make cheques payable to “First Unitarian Congregation” and write on the memo line “Adult Program” and the activity covered. A sliding scale recognizes differences in ability to pay. If you are unable to pay the stated fee for the program, talk to the program leader and adjustments will be made according to your needs.

If you need childcare, please discuss this with the group leader who will contact the adult program committee about childcare requests.

For information about our Adult Programs, contact Angela Klassen, Director of Lifespan Religious Education (DLRE) at 416-924-9654 ext 223 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We also actively encourage anyone who has an idea for a group or workshop that they would like to lead or develop to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss it.

Read the complete Adult Program Guide for Fall 2017.


Belonging and Congregational Life
Newcomer Information Meetings The first Sunday of every month at 11:45 am
“At First” Sessions

Are you new to First Unitarian, or ready to revitalize your connection with the congregation? This is a friendly and informative way to learn more about our community and the UU tradition. Ideal for those preparing for membership, At First provide a way to connect with others, present an engaging introduction to Unitarian Universalism, and offer a time to reflect on your unique life’s calling. All are welcome and lunch is provided.

Note: You can attend At First sessions in any order, and they are not a prerequisite for membership at First Unitarian.

3 Sundays, 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.  Spirit Play Room (206); Light lunch is provided.  $5 donation suggested.

  • At First Seek - September 24 and February 11: An Introduction to UU History, Our Principles and Sources
  • At First Connect - October 22 and March 25: Sunday Mornings and Beyond, Community and Covenant
  • At First Serve - November 12 and May 6: Shared Ministry at First Unitarian, Serving the World
Creativity and Spirituality

Sunday afternoons, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. 
Locations to be confirmed at both Toronto First and Neighbourhood congregations.

October 8: Wonder and Awe
November 19: Choicemaking and Limits
January 14: Beautiful Imperfection

Journey through the Themes
Journey Groups Throughout the year, our congregation explores a different theme each month through Sunday worship, children’s religious education, adult programs, and the feast of materials found in our publication New Horizons. One of the most meaningful ways to engage with the monthly topics is by being part of a Journey Group.

These groups provide a structured way to connect with others, while delving deeper into your own spiritual development. The groups involve the shared spiritual practice of deep and respectful listening, which carves out the all­ too ­rare space in our busy lives to slow down and “hear ourselves think.”

These small gatherings of 5­-10 people come together for two hours once a month to reflect on a variety of questions related to the monthly theme. The overarching question for each month is what does it mean to seek a life of…?

Learn more
Life Stages
The Twerty-Somethings of Toronto First For people in their twenties and thirties; Varies
Prime Timers For people in their forties and better
Wise Elders Circle The first Thursday of the month at 1:30 to 3:30 pm
Social Justice Groups and Events
Amnesty International Group 142 Meeting: The third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm;
Letter and petition signing: The fourth Sunday of each month at 11:30 am
Reconciliation Working Group Varies; Watch for information in First Light (our weekly e-newsletter)
IDEAs Diversity Working Group The third Tuesday of each month at 7 pm
Eco/Social Justice Committee The third Monday of each month at 7 pm
Green Sanctuary Group Monthly on Sundays at 12:15 pm
Central America Construction Expeditions Three trips in 2018 to build kidergarten schools in Honduras
Other Small Groups
Choir at First - Let's Sing! Rehearsals most Thursdays at 7 to 9 pm; Performances three Sundays each month; No experience necessary! New members are welcome in September and January.
Book Group Wednesdays at 1:30 - 3 pm;

September 20: “In the Garden of Beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin”, by Erik Larson
October 18: “The Givenness of Things: essays”, by Marilynne Robinson
November 15: “Burial Rites”, by Hannah Kent
January 17: “Do not say we have nothing”, by Madeleine Thien
February 21: “The Little Red Chairs”, by Edna O’Brien
March 21: “The Return of History”, by Jennifer M. Welsh
April 18: “Indian Horse”, by Richard Wagamese
May 16: “Mothering Sunday”, by Graham Swift
June 20: “Mad enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies”, by Ross King
Creating Together Crafters’ Circle Second and fourth Thursdays of the month at a member’s home near Dufferin and Bloor.
Issues and Ideas: Mini Book Talks Sundays monthly at 12:15 to 1:30 pm;  Learn more
Bridge Group Tuesday afternoons at 1:15 to 3:30 pm
Conversational French Fridays at 1 to 3 pm 
Jewish Awareness Group Meets for holiday celebrations and other events
Men’s Group Second Saturday of the month at 10 am to noon
Our Pagan Grove Third Tuesday of the month at 7 to 9:30 pm (meeting starts at 7:30)
Yoga Mondays at 7-8 pm until the end of June. Suggested contribution: $30 for all ten classes
Womyn Spirit Meets for holiday celebrations, including Solstices and Equinoxes; WomynSpirit is a “Neo-Pagan Eco-Feminist” circle begun at Unicamp 27 years ago. All womyn are welcome to join in our gatherings - sharing chants for the wheel of the year, video nights, and rituals focused on the rhythms of nature and issues in the lives of the participants. Facilitated by volunteers, ritual circles may include meditation, sacred circle dance, drumming, chanting and sharing of snacks.
Womynspirit sponsors occasional courses in feminist spirituality. Watch for news of an upcoming course in Spring 2018. We also join in organizing the annual October Samhain weekend Womynspirit Festival.


Planning to show a film at First?

As we become more and more competent in promoting our events and programs on Facebook, on our congregational website and via other electronic means, we attract liability to the members who serve on our Board of Directors were there ever to be action on a copyright infringement.

Out of consideration for our Board, for the good name of First, and for those whose creative works we enjoy, our Program Convenor, Margo Holland has researched the subject and found that the community standard in UU and other faith communities is to become mindful of what is considered "fair use" in all aspects of using creative work in congregations such as music, poetry, stories et cetera. We have purchased a blanket license which allows us to show videos from a variety of popular studios without straying into copyright infringement.

If the film you are showing in your programs for children, youth or adults is not an NFB film or a film which comes with limited public performance rights, you should check which studio produced the film, and verify whether that studio is on that list of studios.

If it is not, please inform our Director of Lifespan Religious Education (DLRE) Angela Klassen This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 416-924-9654 ext 223 that the studio is missing from our coverage, and consider either obtaining the appropriate permissions or choosing an alternate film selection.

     Make your pledge    

We are very grateful for the ongoing generosity of 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 tax receipts.

There are many convenient ways to make a donation and we invite you to use whichever method or combination of methods best suited to you:

Give using your smartphone

First has an account with a service provider called Tithe.ly to support this method. It is a quick and easy way to make a one-time donation whenever you are inspired to do so. Learn more

Text “give” (without quotes) to (438) 500-3018 and follow the instructions. After completing the setup steps the first time, you’ll be able to text a dollar amount at any time and your donation will be completed in that one simple step.

Ongoing Giving 

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. The amount is up to you; we invite you to give at a level that fits your circumstances and your values.

You can create a pledge and set up annual or recurring giving at any time, using one of the following methods:

  • By completing a confidential, online pledging form.
  • If you prefer to use a paper form, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • By providing your banking information to the congregation’s Bookkeeper Daniel Grzymisch.

We understand that circumstances can change and pledges can't always be fulfilled. We ask that you simply advise our Bookkeeper if you must make a change to your pledge so we can adjust our cash flow expectations accordingly.  If you give regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually), you will priovide us with a predictable income.

  • Give by Pre-authorized Debit

  • Give by VISA (one time or recurring)

  • Give by Post-dated Cheques

  • Give by Securities Transfer:

    Donations of publicly traded securities create a tax break for the donor. You can do that by completing and submitting a Stock Transfer Form.

    Giving stock directly to First may be more prudent than selling stock and giving cash. Here’s why:
    • Say that 10 years ago you bought shares in a corporation for $15,000. Now that stock has a market value of $20,000 and you want to give $20,000 to First. If you sold the stock, you would pay taxes on the capital gain of $5,000 ($20,000 [the sale price]) minus $15,000 [the price you paid]). That might be $1,000 or more, reducing what you would have available to give.
    • If you give the stock directly to First, you don’t pay capital gains tax. First would receive the full $20,000 in stock; you would claim a donation of $20,000 on your taxes. Please contact your financial advisor to confirm the best arrangements for you.
    • Remember that you get a tax advantage only if there is a capital gain. If the shares have lost value, it is probably more advantageous to you to sell the shares, take a capital loss, and donate the cash. A gift of mutual funds might also be exempt from a capital gains tax. Again, please confirm the best course of action with your financial advisor.
  • Give by Estate Planning

    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. As points of reference, we suggest you consider First’s annual operating budget and the recommended Unitarian Universalist practice: 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:

How First Raises Money


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:

Spending our Money

Pause your mouse pointer over sections of this chart to see what that spending pays for,
or click on the chart to learn more:

Pledging as a Percentage of Income

The following chart provides a range of possible pledge levels based on different incomes and different choices about portion of income dedicated to the congregation. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations recommend 3% of pre-tax household income as a meaningful benchmark for many congregants::

Pledging as a % of Income

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 Holly Dennison, Jeanne VanBronkhorst, Michael Stroh, and Sabina Hikel. Among them, they have backgrounds in social work and theology. All five of them 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 Allan, Holly, Jeanne, Michael or Sabina you can contact them directly at their phone numbers listed in the Congregational Directory (available to members) or by email:
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How can I donate to Toronto First when I am not at the service in person?

You can donate by text from your smart phone or over the web using Tithely. The first time you use this service, Tithely will lead you through the process of adding your credit card details.

  • Text “give” (without quotes) to (438) 500-3018. (This is a Montreal-based number that is used only by First.)
  • Go to Tithely.com.

What is Tithely?

Tithely is an online service that provides fast,convenient, secure methods for you to donate to registered charitable institutions.

All identifying financial data (credit card or bank account id) is held by Tithely's processor, Stripe, and is compliant with all Canadian banking and privacy laws. Stripe has servers located in Canada for storage and processing Canadian transactions. No identifying financial data is stored on Tithely servers. Tithely is based in California, but supports Canadian currency and many Canadian churches.

So, does this mean that First is asking me to “tithe”?

No. Some religious traditions expect members to “tithe”, or to donate ten percent of their income to their church. Unitarians each determine their own level of generosity. Although we do not tithe, we can still use the technologies of churches that do tithe.

First will never ask you about your financial resources. In addition, we keep donation information as private as possible. Details of your contributions are available only to church staff, executive volunteers and Team Generosity members.

Why are we using Tithely to collect donations?

We know that we can be moved by the spirit of generosity at any time. By setting up an account for First with Tithely, we can offer convenient ways of expressing gratitude, any time and any place, through simple text or phone-based donations. Perhaps you normally give with cash on Sunday but don’t have any with you; perhaps you’re traveling or you’re watching via live-streaming.

Is Tithely now the best route to make any donation to First?

The Tithely service adds options for different situations, especially non-cash, one-time donations. Tithely doesn’t replace other ways of giving and it is not the process we want to use for recurring payments (i.e., automated withdrawals by VISA or debit).

Tithely offers a way to set up recurring donations online; why shouldn’t I use that?

Tithely charges First a small fee every time it processes a payment. We don’t mind the small fee if it supports an increase in occasional donations by being easy and convenient. You can even opt to cover the processing fee when you give that way! But we don’t want to incur ongoing fees for recurring payments. We can assist you to set up recurring payments ourselves. This can be arranged by providing your instructions during the annual Pledge Drive or at any time by contacting our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., in the office.

Tithely sends me a receipt; does this replace the tax receipt I would receive from First?

Tithely sends you a receipt to confirm that your payment was processed. This is not a tax receipt. In February, we will send you a consolidated tax receipt for all donations you have given throughout the year.

Can I cover the cost of the Tithely service when I make my donation?

Yes; thank you! When you setup your Tithely account you can opt to always cover the processing fee or you can make this decision each time you make a donation.

What’s the difference between Tithely and Canada Helps?

Canada Helps is also a great option if you want to donate online, but Canada Helps does not allow you to text a donation.

Where can I get help if I can’t get the Tithely app or Text process working properly?

You can ask a member of First’s Team Generosity for help: Karen Dunk-Green and Mo MacMahon. Contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or in person.


Coming soon ...