What We Do Here

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 2230 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 2230 that the studio is missing from our coverage, and consider either obtaining the appropriate permissions or choosing an alternate film selection.

Dear Members and Friends of First Unitarian,

We write to you in shared sorrow, following the violent rampage that took place in North York on Monday afternoon. Since then, like many or most of you, we have been following the news with feelings of shock and anguish. If you are struggling with your feelings in the aftermath of this event, know that you are not alone.

Along with feelings of grief and sadness for the loss of life, many people today are angry that this act of violence was likely rooted in misogyny. Once again, we are called to confront the reality of hate in our society, and work toward justice and equality for all. We are aware, too, of the hidden toll of loneliness and isolation among vulnerable individuals, and the need to renew our resolve to strengthen the fabric of community.

We are deeply aware today of the fragility of life itself, the precious gift that is each ordinary day, and the reality of similar violence that takes place every day around the globe. Today we are reminded that we are part of a connected human family that longs for a peaceful and loving world. As we move through our feelings of sorrow together, may we open our hearts in the spirit of healing, love and peace...knowing that we are connected to each other, and to all life, always.

We leave you, below, with Jan Richardson's powerful "Blessing in a Time of Violence."

With love,

Shawn and Lynn

“Blessing in a Time of Violence”

Which is to say
this blessing
is always.

Which is to say
there is no place
this blessing
does not long
to cry out
in lament,
to weep its words
in sorrow,
to scream its lines
in sacred rage.

Which is to say
there is no day
this blessing ceases
to whisper
into the ear
of the dying,
the despairing,
the terrified.

Which is to say
there is no moment
this blessing refuses
to sing itself
into the heart
of the hated
and the hateful,
the victim
and the victimizer,
with every last
ounce of hope
it has.

Which is to say
there is none
that can stop it,
none that can
halt its course,
none that will
still its cadence,
none that will
delay its rising,
none that can keep it
from springing forth
from the mouths of us
who hope,
from the hands of us
who act,
from the hearts of us
who love,
from the feet of us
who will not cease
our stubborn, aching
marching, marching

until this blessing
has spoken
its final word,
until this blessing
has breathed
its benediction
in every place,
in every tongue:


                  — Jan Richardson


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 July & August: Avenue Road Arts School

Green Canoes

The Avenue Road Arts School has been offering high-quality arts programming in a relaxed and supportive environment for over 20 years. Coming from a wide variety of professions, many of our adult students turn to visual art as a pastime. In some, an inner passion is ignited, and their visual art becomes a creative vehicle of self-expression. A number of the students in this exhibit have begun to show their work in public venues.

The exhibit runs to September 4.


Library Exhibit: Julie Tang

Julie Tang

I focus on relief carving, using perspective, highlights, shadows and texture to create an illusion of depth, turning a piece of wood into a life-like picture. I create my own style based on pictures or paintings of the subject I choose to carve, and sculpting techniques that I must have unconsciously acquired in my early years.

The subject matters I carve are inspired by my love of nature and all living creatures, big and small. I try to make the animals in the carvings realistic, capturing details, emotion, action and moment in time. When I put the final touch to the eyes of the animal and feel it jump into life, I know that I have found my new calling.


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 Susan L. Brown   October 7 artistsgarden.blogspot.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 Learn More
January Michael Battenberg MichaelBattenberg.com
February Jordan Clarke JordanClarke.ca
March Members and friends of First
April York Artists Guild YorkArtistsGuild.ca
May Nancy Bennett NancyBennett.ca
June Irene Sakata IreneSakataArts.com
July & August Avenue Road Arts School AvenueRoadArtsSchool.com
September Carmel Bouzanne CarmelBouzanne.com
October Barbara de Beaupré  
November Nick Biagini DigitalConsciousness.com/galleries/NickBiagini
December Joseph Sagaj
Keitha Keeshig-Tobias


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 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 Jeanne VanBronkhorst, Michael Stroh, and Sabina Hikel. Among them, they have backgrounds in social work and theology. They also 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 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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Coming soon ...