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 Allan Brand, 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.
|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:|
Giving Using Your Smartphone - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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 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?
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 October: Barbara de Beaupré's “Some of my best friends … (are trees)”
Barbara's lifelong love affair with trees is on display in her second solo exhibition at First Unitarian. She invites the viewer into a veritable arboretum of monoprints, watercolours, mixed media and acrylics.
At the October 8th reception, Barbara will talk about her many influences, her fascination with trees and personal odyssey as an artist after retirement from the financial world.
The exhibit runs to October 29.
Library Exhibit for September & October: Cloths and Zentangle-Inspired Art by Sue Berlove
Sue’s original 6” x 6” pen drawings are adapted from Zentangle, an art form typically done using black ink. Sue has incorporated color, bringing the drawings to life with vibrant colors and imaginative designs.
The 3’ x 5’ floor cloths in the show are intended to add color to any floor and brighten up a room.
The exhibit runs Sept 10-Oct 31.
|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 Bouzanne||Sept 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||First Nations Art||Dec 3-31||December 3|
The following shows were held in Sunderland Hall in 2016:
|January||Palette Expressions Group|
|February||Clayton King Aboriginal 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|
Shows in 2015
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|
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:
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::
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 next season:
- January – Creation
- February – Love & Justice
- March– Simplicity
- April – Resistance
- May – Compassion
Past Book Talks: (Some reviewers’ names are linked to the texts of their talks.)