What We Do Here
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 to the Congregation at the Annual General Meeting. This material retains the 2012/2013 “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 discussed the need to refine and distill our vision/mission statement for the following reasons:
- It is a healthy practice for an organization to revisit and revise their vision/ mission statement every few years. Our previous statements were published in 2008.
- A focused and memorable phrase affirms our communal purpose and reinforces Congregational identity.
- A distilled and portable phrase clearly expresses our Congregational purpose to the outside world.
The Vision group comprised Rev. Shawn Newton, Margaret Kohr, Art Brewer, Karen Dunk-Green, and Catherine Lake. Margaret Kohr as President initiated and led the early discussions and provided information on the vision/mission process for organizations. Our visioning process included periodic Board discussion, email dialogue, and two lengthy meetings by the focus group (June and November). The group reviewed our current vision/mission statements and researched other UU congregation statements. Shawn provided a visioning model of three words.
The group spent much time in reflection and exploration. We talked about how individuals connect their journeys to the UU movement; how we want to change lives to build a better world; how we offer a fiercely unique way to be in religious community and to grow spiritually; how in our being together, we provide a haven in a turbulent world and a home where we can seek our own life’s meaning.
We talked about finding three key words to define the core of why we are in community. Our goal was to find active words that each member of our community can embrace. Words that celebrate our beloved community, provide sustenance to each journey, and inspire our future together and in the larger world.
We kept returning to the Covenant that we all share aloud every Sunday. We measured our rationale, descriptors, and key words against our Covenant.
After gathering verbs and clustering concepts, we arrived at:
to which we added modifiers, differentiating our communal purpose and congregational character:
We believe that these words naturally interconnect; these words contemplate the individual and our community and the larger world; and these words resound with active momentum.
This renewed and focused Vision was presented at the November 30, 2013 Congregational Meeting of Toronto First Unitarian by the Vision group. The three words "Seek — Connect — Serve" and accompanying modifiers were well–received. People expressed their reactions through a feedback and discussion process involving over 60 members. The input from that meeting prompted the Vision group to provide a fuller context through a concise and more descriptive statement:
Committed to love and justice, we seek to understand the meaning of our lives, connect with others in common purpose, and serve life to build a better world.
We trust that you find this focused vision meaningful, emotive and inspiring. And that you will embrace it with enthusiasm. Consider these words and phrases. How does the statement and each word resonate with you?
Seek — Connect — Serve
Within our faith community, how do you seek, connect, and serve? What actions/ideas arise for you in thinking about our shared journey and common purpose? Together, how will we enact our vision to
Sources from the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto
Love is our doctrine,
The quest for truth is our sacrament
And service is our prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve life,
To the end that all souls shall grow
into harmony with the divine —
Thus do we covenant with each other and with all.
Vision Statement 2007
Ours is a congregation rooted in Unitarian Universalist values, as expressed in our principles and purposes. Within this enduring community, each individual is free to grow personally and in spirit. We strive together to nurture a caring, inclusive vibrant congregation and to contribute to a better world.
From our Vision Statement 2008:
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).
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 December: Louise Spiritcougar Lefebvre
My name is Louise Spiritcougar Lefebvre and I am a Canadian Métis woman. Art has been a part of my life since my earliest memories. I learned to find inspiration in everyday life and the environment around me. My love is creating sculptural and fibre pieces with holistic and found materials. I enjoy the meditative process of sketching and painting and the daily rituals of reflective writing and poetry.
I have come to honour the unique way in which I view the world: my love of colour and distortions, the inclusion of many perspectives, a profound respect for Earth Mother and the infinite beauty in the imperfect.
I invite you to my opening reception and talk on Sunday, December 9 from noon to 1 pm.
The exhibit continues to December 31.
Library Exhibit: Watercolours by Carol Harrison
Currently on display in the library are watercolours by Carol Harrison. She works from first-hand observation, memory, sketches, and photo references, and her subjects are scenes from across Canada.
The exhibition runs until December 30.
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 2-23||June 2||Rama Painting|
|July & August||Avenue Road Arts School||June 27 - 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 /td>||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
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.
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.
- 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:
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||Number of households|
|$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
Courses & Programs for Adults for Fall 2018
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.
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.
We also actively encourage anyone who has an idea for a group or workshop that they would like to lead or develop to contact Angela to discuss it.
Read the complete Adult Program Guide for Fall 2018.