Events under 'Sunday Services'
Sunday, August 25, 2019

Event Name

Date

The Wonder of Water

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

The ocean, lakes, swimming pools, sprinklers, garden hoses. So many symbols of summer involve water. Not surprisingly, since it is cool, refreshing, and so necessary during hot days. Of course, it's also necessary every day, for just about everything we do in our daily living. Perhaps since it's so ubiquitous and readily available to us, we easily take it for granted. Any yet, water is about as sacred as anything can be. Join us this Sunday for a celebration of the sacred substance of water.

And, if you're inclined to, join us this evening (Friday, July 10) for Sacred Cinema. We'll be watching "Laughology," a lighthearted documentary by Albert Nernberg about the universal experience of laughter. Join us in the library at 7pm for fellowship, popcorn, and maybe even a few laughs!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, July 12, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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No Regrets?

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

Living is complicated. Each day we make hundreds of decisions, many of them relatively minor - like what to wear, what route to take on our way to work, maybe what music to listen to while washing the dishes. Some decisions are more significant and long-lasting. Sometimes our choices turn out perfectly, sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes we don’t know what the results will be until months or years later. Sometimes we never know.

So what does it mean to have “no regrets?” Does it mean that we feel good about every choice we have ever made, or everything that has ever happened to us? Or is it more of a frame of mind, a state of acceptance of the inevitable imperfections of life? Is it even a realistic thing to aspire to? Being free of regret is seen as a virtue, proof that we are not dwelling in the past. But is that the only way to understand regret? Come join us for an exploration of these questions on Sunday morning. You won’t regret it!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister

Sunday, July 19, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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It's the End of the World as we know it (and I Feel Fine)

Sermon by Christopher Wulff, Seminarian.

Changes in technology can make the world feel like it's spinning so fast and so much that it threatens to throw us from our seats. Concerns about automation and artificial intelligence give us a new view into the fears that divide us and the hope that yet remains.

Sunday, July 26, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Invaluable

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

We are a religious community. But wait, are we? Maybe we're a spiritual community. Or "a community of like-minded people." Maybe it's all of the above, but we're definitely a community of some kind, right? I suppose it all depends upon how you define things.

Whether as an individual or part of a group, we have to define ourselves somehow, or else let others do the defining for us. There are risks to both: others can obviously misunderstand or misrepresent us, but we can also err on the side of defining ourselves too narrowly.

This Sunday we'll explore the question of our self-definition as a religious, ahem, spiritual community.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister

Sunday, August 02, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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I Need, I Need, I Need, I Need, I Need

Sermon by Ben Robins, Seminarian.

This week's sermon is about becoming more comfortable expressing our need. As Unitarian Universalists, we often focus on making the world a better place, putting aside our own need. We do have opportunities to express our need, such as in our monthly Journey Groups, but having need has not fully become a part of who we are as UU's.

Our 7 Principles honour our inherent worth and dignity, but do not directly honour our need. Our 6 Sources implicitly teach that wisdom comes from places of strength (such as ancient traditions and prophetic voices), whereas our sexual education curriculum recognizes that much wisdom comes from the voices of the marginalized and oppressed, those in need.

The sermon title is a line from the movie "What About Bob", in which Bill Murray's character follows his psychiatrist on vacation, and breaks down in front of him, saying "I need, I need, I need, I need."

This week, let us fully own how expressing our need can let the spirit in.

Sunday, August 09, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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On Civil Disobedience

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

If you visit our congregation’s website, you’ll find a section labelled “Notable Unitarians,” with links to biographies of famous Unitarians throughout history. It’s quite an intriguing list, and is worth a look if you’ve never seen it before! One of the illustrious names on the list is Henry David Thoreau, who among other things was an author, philosopher, naturalist and abolitionist. In the 1840’s he wrote an essay - usually titled “On the Necessity of Civil Disobedience” - about his decision to refuse to pay his taxes in protest of the institution of slavery, and the consequences of this decision. The philosophy he developed in his essay came to serve as one of the primary inspirations for movements of civil resistance led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, among others.

Thoreau was speaking to specific issues in his place and time, but his ideas are part of our intellectual and spiritual heritage as Unitarians, and they are alive in contemporary movements such as those for environmental justice and Black Lives Matter. This Sunday’s service will explore the ways contemporary Unitarians are interpreting and living out our heritage of principled civil disobedience.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, August 16, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Laughter of the Heart

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

What qualifies as a spiritual practice? Depending on who you ask, you might get a whole range of answers: music, dance, exercise, and of course prayer and meditation in myriad forms. How about laughter? Most people agree laughter feels good, but we might also see it as something frivolous, the "icing on the cake" of life, rather than something really substantial. But could it be that laughter is really one of the most essential spiritual practices of all? Join us for this Sunday's service, where we will explore and celebrate the sacred art of laughter.

This Sunday will also be my last service as summer minister. It has been a joy and a blessing to serve in ministry here over the summer, as well as throughout the year. Perhaps the simplest thing is just to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I hope and expect to cross paths with many of you in the wider UU world, and in the meantime wish the very best for this congregation and all who are a part of it. Until we meet again.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, August 23, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Take Me to Church

Sermon by Ben Robins, Seminarian.

When I tell people what we do on Sunday mornings, I don’t usually use the word church (or congregation, or temple, or…). Many people are not interested in hearing about church. But this doesn’t stop them from singing along to a catchy pop song, and the pop song “Take Me to Church” is catchy.

The song also provides an opportunity to ask people, “Where would you take me, if I asked you to take me to church?” For some people in Toronto, a Friday night ecstatic dance is their church. Others might take you to a yoga class, or a meditation group, or a social justice march.

Our mission at First is to seek freely, connect authentically, and serve passionately, for a more just and loving world. By asking the people in our lives, “Where would you take me, if I asked you to take me to church?”, we can discover the ways in which they seek, connect and serve. This can deepen our relationships in the broader community, and also provide common ground for explaining why we choose to seek, connect and serve here at First.

And are there any takers to rewrite the song lyrics as “Take Me to First”?

Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.

With love, and the fire of commitment,
Ben Robins

Sunday, August 30, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Untitled

Sermon by Michael Battenberg.

In a world of expert opinion, guided tours and suggested servings, there seems to be a premium placed on having the answers, knowing what to do and understanding what everything means — Certainty.

Yet from time to time we find ourselves face to face with Uncertainty: with anonymity, with a work in progress, with the yet to be determined. Do we turn and run? Or do we face the Uncertain and embrace the Unknown?

Do we name the ongoing work of art that is our living presence in the world… or simply call it Untitled?

Sunday, September 06, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Sacred Trust

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

To launch a new year in the life of our congregation, we will celebrate our annual Water Communion Service this Sunday. From the journeys we’ve taken in recent months—be they near or far, literal or metaphorical—we are all invited to bring a small bit of water to remember a special place or symbolize a recent meaningful experience. (If you forget to bring water, we’ll have “proxy” water available to all.)

This service to mark summer’s end and the beginning of a new season will also include the return of Dallas, Lisa, and glorious music from our choir, the Covenant Ceremony with our new Intern Minister and Seminarian, as well as the Dedication of six-month old Theo Stefan Simic. In my homily, I will explore this month’s theme of what it means to live a life of “Promise” through the prism of water. It will be a great and festive day at First U, and I look forward to seeing you all at this very special service.

Sunday, September 13, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Promise of Peace

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

In this political season, as we approach the federal election, I will be taking up the old tradition kept by American Puritan ministers of preaching an “Election Sermon” a week or two before people cast their votes. This tradition, which dates to the 17th century, feels as relevant as ever, so this Sunday I’ll seek to articulate how I see the issues of this campaign through the prism of our Unitarian values and principles.

During the service, we’ll also honour the Jewish High Holy Days with special music and meditation words. And happily, the choir will sing Ysaye Barnwell’s mesmerizing piece titled “Hope”. See an inspiring performance with Dallas leading Univox in this great work.

This week we will also be celebrating Central America Sunday, complete with a testimony by Wendy Peebles about her experiences on a recent service trip. Please come prepared for the special offering to raise funds to held build educational facilities in Central America this winter. During Coffee Hour, we’ll have tostadas and fair trade items for sale in Workman Hall as the kids break open a piñata in Shaw Hall.

Finally, at noon, everyone is invited to gather outside around our Peace Pole as we celebrate in a brief ceremony the International Day of Peace.

See you Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 20, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Promise of Autumn

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

We just passed the Autumn Equinox, and you may feel change in the air.

One way of understanding autumn is as a season of letting go and saying goodbye.

What is autumn's promise? How can saying goodbye intentionally open possibilities for transformation and growth in our lives?

Sunday, September 27, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Peace of Wild Things

Blessing of the Animals

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, you are invited to bring your pets (or photos of pets, or stuffed animals) to our Sunday morning service for our Blessing of the Animals to celebrate World Animal Day. We welcome all animals that are on a leash or in a carrier of some kind. So, bring your dogs and cats, your turtles and your goldfish, your ferrets and your guinea pigs. (If you bring your spiders or snakes, just please don’t tell me…)

There will be water and treats available for the pets, as well as a litter box and clean-up baggies should the need arise (we kindly request that dogs be taken to the park across the street rather than the Secret Garden). The library will be our allergen-free zone and Benadryl will be available for those who need it. Join us for this memorable celebration of the place animals hold in our lives and in our world.

In love and faith,
Shawn.

Sunday, October 04, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Not Bread Alone

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister

We gather this Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving with our annual harvest communion service of bread and cider. Stephanie Gannon, our Intern Minister, will be offering the homily. She describes her reflections for Sunday in this way:

"When we strip down communion of its perhaps fraught historical and theological vestiges, we're left with the notion that it's fundamentally about community. What does it mean to welcome not just the stranger to the Table, but our own fullest selves?"

Following the service, we’ll share a potluck Thanksgiving Dinner in Workman Hall. All are welcome, and everyone is encouraged to bring a dish to share.

If I don’t see you this weekend, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with all the things you cherish—and a heart full of gratitude for life’s gifts.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 11, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Beyond Crime & Punishment

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

To live is to make mistakes. To accumulate regrets. To say things that you can't take back. To do things that can't be undone. To break things that can't, or can't easily, be put "back together again."

As Alexander Pope famously put it: "to err is human, to forgive divine." He goes on to say that when we forgive one another for our mistakes, we are acting in a godlike way. This week, our service will explore how we all might be at least a little more divine! How we all might exercise mercy and grace toward others in our own lives and in society at large. We'll look at what reconciliation and forgiveness require of us, as well as what they offer in terms of healing for our lives and for our world.

See you Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 18, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Of Grace and Gratitude

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

"We are here to abet creation and to witness it, to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but we notice each other's beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house."
           -- Annie Dillard

I think Dillard is right. If this isn't our work in the world, what is? And, yet, how easy it is to shirk our duty, to neglect our privileged responsibility on this earth. How often we fail to truly notice the wonders that come for free with the gift of being alive. How (and why) could we take so much of our lives for granted? On Sunday, we'll explore what it would mean to live in a different way.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 25, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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When the Saints Go Marching In

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate the lives of beloved family and friends who have gone before us, calling out their names to affirm their continuing presence in our lives. As always, for our celebration of Samhain, All Souls, and Day of the Dead, you are welcome to bring photographs and other mementos to place on our altar of memory. (And children are invited to wear their costumes one last time!)

The music for the service will take us on a journey from Mozart’s Requiem to marching in with the saints, accompanied by a Dixieland Band. (Only at First Unitarian!)

As you prepare for Halloween and Sunday’s service, I offer you these poignant words from my friend Paul Sawyer, who serves as the minister of the UU congregation in Heartland Four Corners, Vermont:

         November comes with a blast of wind
         to waken the warmth-lulled soul.
         And spirits arise to dance in our midst,
         With the goblins, the ghouls, and the trolls.
         And from deeper inside the ancestors call
         and sing in our hearts a song
         Of love and of promise, of hope and of care,
         That will speed the dark season along.
         The harvest is in and the fires are lit
         It’s time for our stories to rise
         It’s time to remember, and to let the good cheer
         Come forward and call to the skies.
         The veil it thins, and the spirits dance,
         The warm days of summer are done,
         We sing for all souls, held in holy pure light,
         By God, Goddess, human as one.
         There is nothing to fear, in the land of the dead,
         There is nothing to fear, held in love.
         Our gath’ring is warmed by the flames of our faith
         In all that’s below, alongside, and above.
         Holiness lives in this Feast of All Souls,
         Holiness lives in us all,
         Holiness thrives in the Light of our Love,
         In this deep sacred season of Fall.

Finally, a reminder that the clock will “fall back” in the wee hours of Sunday, so enjoy your extra hour of sleep after trick-or-treating!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 01, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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One Life to Live

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

As we dig into this month's theme—which asks what it means to seek a life of integrity—we are invited to reflect on at least two different but connected meanings of the word. What does it mean to be integrated? What does it mean to be whole? These questions are increasingly pertinent as the world around us grows more complex each day, often leaving us feeling scattered and out of balance. On Sunday, we'll explore what our lives would look like if we were to commit to living the one life that is ours to live.

There are a couple of important upcoming events I’d like to draw your attention to:

The Aboriginal Awareness Group will be hosting a workshop at 12:15pm on Sunday, November 15th, to help us all better understand the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent Final Report. Earlier that morning, I'll address the implications of the report for us as individuals and as a congregation as we endeavour to live in right relationship with the Indigenous peoples of Canada. I hope you'll all find ways to familiarize yourself with the report, if at all possible, between now and then. It can be found here.

On Sunday, November 22nd, we are all invited to attend the ordination of Lynn Harrison, our former Intern Minister. The service will take place at 3:00pm at the Neighbourhood congregation at 79 Hiawatha Road. It promises to be a wonderful celebration of her ministry and our shared faith in this Living Tradition.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 08, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Journey Toward Wholeness

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This week, we’ll be exploring what it means to be “a people of integrity” when it comes to our relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of this land. I’ll be asking us to consider what it means for us to live in right relationship with our neighbours? Following the service, the Aboriginal Awareness Group will be hosting a workshop at 12:15pm to help us better understand the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent Final Report. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with that report.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 15, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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To What Are We Called?

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

What does it mean to be called? In being called, our first task is to listen and know ourselves. Then as a community we are fundamentally called to serve and to promote love and justice. As a People of Integrity, where is this moment calling us?

Sunday, November 22, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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