Events under 'Sunday Services'

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Events under 'Sunday Services'
Sunday, September 22, 2019

Event Name

Date

Wanting, Needing, Waiting

Sermon by Ben Robins, Seminarian.

This Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent. Perhaps you are familiar with Advent candles, counting down the days until Christmas. In the Christian tradition, Advent is a time of waiting; waiting for the divine to come, waiting with hope and expectation that powers beyond our control will come and save the day. How might Advent season be meaningful to us as Unitarian Universalists?

We are an active lot, meeting society’s problems head-on, being the change we want to see in the world. We act for change, we don’t wait for change. And in our already full schedules, who has time for waiting? But this Sunday, we will consider how there can be a power in waiting. We might even experience this transformative power ourselves. As we move into the dark days of December, we can reconsider how we choose to be, in the potent run-up to Christmas.

Sunday, November 29, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Paris. Beirut. Baghdad.
San Bernardino. Columbia. Columbine.
Ottawa. Montreal.

For a time, simply speaking the name of a city visited by horrific violence is enough to conjure a powerful memory of the tragedy that recently unfolded there. We hear such a city’s name and immediately our thoughts turn to crime scenes, to mug shots, and to the staggering, senseless loss of even more lives. It’s enough to prompt us to turn off our televisions, and our computers, and our minds.

Our current headlines remind us that we live in a troubled, troubling world. Many of us are struggling to make sense of our living at a moment in history that could so easily be described as both the best and worst of times. On Sunday, we’ll grapple with the meaning of violence in our lives, and in the world around us, asking what we, as Unitarians, can bring to the effort to promote peace and understanding over violence and hate.

During the service, we’ll mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and honour the work of Amnesty International. A special offering with be collected to support Amnesty’s work. Following the service, there will be a brief Congregational Meeting to consider expanding our Syrian Refugee Project to sponsor up to five families.

Wishing you peace in this season.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, December 06, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Living Spiritually on the Edge

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

Twentieth-century Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel had wonder at the core of his theology and piety. Inspired by Heschel, I'll be reminding us of the first source of our Unitarian Universalist faith--i.e., direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder.

How can we bring more wonder into our lives at this hectic, stressful time of the year? The more we anchor ourselves in the ineffable and deepen our sense of mystery, the more we open ourselves to the many possibilities of faith.

Thanks!
Stephanie

Sunday, December 13, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Stars of Wonder, Stars of Night

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

The days ahead promise to be days of wonder. That is, if our best efforts to celebrate the holidays aren't swamped under the "waves of whelm" (as a friend of mine puts it) that come with this season. As we give our hearts over to the stories that speak to us at this time of year, I'll invite us on Sunday morning to give ourselves over to the biggest story of all.

Wishing you a Happy Solstice!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, December 20, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Who's Afraid of the Dark?

Solstice Service

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

Monday, December 21, 2015 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Shine!

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

In the Unitarian tradition, we affirm that Jesus was a powerful teacher, and we can find inspiration in the dedication with which he lived his principles—and even died for them. We also affirm, though, that "each night a child is born is a holy night." The great UU educator Sophia Lyons Fahs put it best:

For so the children come
And so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they come—
Born of the seed of man and woman.
No angels herald their beginnings
No prophets predict their future courses
No wise men see a star to show
where to find the babe that will save humankind
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.
Fathers and mothers—sitting beside their children's cribs—
feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask, "Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?"
Each night a child is born is a holy night—
A time for singing,
A time for wondering,
A time for worshipping.

On Christmas Eve, through story and song, with carols and candlelight, we'll open ourselves to the wonder of Christmas come again. The service begins at 7:00pm, and will conclude by 8:15pm.

Wishing you great joy and deep peace in the days ahead.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Thursday, December 24, 2015 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Self-fulfilling

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, M.Div.

When I first saw the movie Back to the Future II over 25 years ago, I wondered how accurate its predictions of the future would turn out... or at least, its predictions for the year 2015. The future shown in that film has breezed by - have the prophecies been fulfilled?

Now that we live in the future, I sometimes look at our lives with a mixture of intense awe and intermittent disappointment. We've witnessed many incredible achievements, not just technologically, but also socially and culturally. And still, so many things seem to lag behind - cures to find, global problems to solve, people to help.v

The answers can be elusive, but I've found a few clues from the past; wonderful revelations that loudly proclaim: "Today's the Day!"

See you on the Eve!
--Rod

Sunday, December 27, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Up in Flames

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the New Year with our annual Fire Communion. Once again, we will relinquish to the past what no longer serves our lives, and we'll embrace what we wish to carry forward into the dawning year. Ben MacDonald, Lisa Iwasaki, the resident musicians, and our choir will share festive music that encourages us all to let our little lights shine. My homily will explore the ways destruction can be the catalyst to life-giving creativity. Between, now and Sunday, please give thought to what you're ready to leave behind, as well as what you hope to take up in 2016.

A very Happy New Year to you all!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 03, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Keep Going!

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

The maxim, “If you’re going through hell, keep going” is often misattributed to Winston Churchill, though he certainly was known for making such pithy statements. Still, who first spoke these words matters less than whether these words hold any enduring wisdom. I think they do. This week, as we dig deeper into January’s theme of resilience, we’ll explore what it really means to “keep going” through life’s challenges—how we can find the courage and summon the stamina required to come through whatever difficulties we face.

I’m grateful to our marvelous team of Resident Musicians (Aria, Ben, Lucas, Stephanie, Tahirih, and Tom) who are providing musical leadership for the choir and the congregation during Dallas Bergen’s sabbatical time. As much as we’ll miss Dallas while he’s away, we are in excellent musical hands. Indeed, I’m very much looking forward to hearing the choir sing one of my favourites this week: Charles Tindley’s “The Storm Is Passing Over”.

Finally, following the service on Sunday, I’ll be skipping the receiving line and heading directly upstairs to Workman Hall to sell tickets to our congregation’s upcoming production of “The Vagina Monologues.” So, please stop by the table to say “hello,” and to buy your tickets for this show that will benefit “Sistering”, a great organization that helps homeless, marginalized, and low-income women in Toronto. You can also buy your tickets online.

See you on Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 10, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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How Can I Help?

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Good help can be hard to come by.

It can be difficult to ask others for help when we need it. And, I've learned as a minister, it can be difficult for those who may want to help to feel equipped to actually do so. It’s not that they’re uncaring; it’s that they simply feel they don’t know what to say or do. While fear of getting it wrong shouldn't keep us from helping others, we should take care to ensure we get it right. There are times when someone's difficult or painful situation is made worse by an indelicate attempt to provide support.

Because we all need each other’s help, from time to time, to be resilient people, we’ll explore together this Sunday the challenges of helping and being helped. I’ll offer some practical do’s and don’ts, and—at long last—reveal all of the tricks of the pastoral trade. (Spoiler Alert: there really aren’t any…!)

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 17, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Lost Art of Getting Lost

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

In my sermon for this week, I'll be reflecting on how our culture and communities don't always invite us to be our fullest selves or to talk about our "wilderness" experiences. We constantly get messages instead saying that we need to be in control and always have our stuff together. In order to be a powerful People of Resilience, we need to embrace our own vulnerability and accept that in others.

As Brene Brown argues, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” When have you been at your most vulnerable? Were you able to ask for help? May our community foster the kind of resilience that celebrates our most vulnerable selves and may all of us be strengthened and our relationships be deepened in the process.

Yours on the journey,
Stephanie

Sunday, January 24, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Hello From the Other Side

Sermon by Ben Robins, Seminarian.

Every year around this time, I watch the movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray’s character is trapped by the weather in a place he doesn’t want to be, surrounded by people he doesn’t want to know. He’s forced by the scriptwriting gods to live the same day over and over again, until he figures out how to connect with those around him.

The Unitarian Universalist movement has had challenges reaching for diversity. Even with our hearts fully into it, something about our habits or context is keeping us from deeper connection with ‘the other.’

This is a near-universal experience. Adele’s pop song “Hello” is resonating with people everywhere, isolated in their own lives, as she calls out, “Hello from the other side.”

If you could use the resilience of human connection, see you Sunday.

Ben

Sunday, January 31, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Making it Right

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

We've likely all heard it said at some point: "Sorry just doesn't cut it." This Sunday, as we take up February's theme of reconciliation, we'll explore what is involved in the process of making a genuine apology and finding meaningful healing. My sermon will speak to "the art of the apology," covering the aspects required for an apology to be effective and complete. While practicing this vital art can be useful in our day-to-day lives, I'll be asking us all to give greater thought to the goal of reconciliation with our Aboriginal neighbours. We'll be joined by Steve Teekens, the Executive Director of Na-Me-Res, the Native Men's Residence.

With a week to go, I want to congratulate the team working on "The Vagina Monologues." The production is coming along splendidly, and both performances are now nearly sold out. I look forward to hearing these powerful stories told in our sanctuary, and I'm thrilled we'll be able to donate the proceeds of several thousand dollars to Sistering! Hooray!

Finally, I want to let you know that I will be taking my sabbatical break this year between 15 February and 23 March. I'll be travelling in Europe with Debra Faulk, the minister of the Calgary congregation, exploring church history, and in particular visiting places related to significant chapters in the Unitarian tradition. While I'm away, there will be a great line-up of Sundays, with Stephanie Gannon preaching twice, with the drummer Matt Meyer leading a wonderful music-based service, a celebration of International Women's Day with members of the cast of "The Vagina Monologues," and, at the end, with Dallas Bergen sharing reflections upon his return from his sabbatical. You'll be in great hands, as well, when it comes to pastoral care, with the Lay Pastors at the ready to be of support should you need them. As always, I'm grateful for these opportunities you provide me to recharge my battery and enrich and sustain our ministry together.

See you Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, February 07, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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All Kinds of Love

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Though Valentine’s is often thought of as a day to celebrate romantic love, we’re turning it into a day to celebrate all kinds of love. Sunday’s service will be a marvelous mix of moving music and powerful poems that speak to the love found in many different types of relationships. The poetry will range from Auden and Nash to Mary Oliver. And the music, and there will be lots of it(!), will be presented by Lisa and our Resident Musicians, who have been asked to share some of their favourite songs on the topic of love. It will be a great feast of music, from Jason Mraz and Elton John to our own Tom Lillington’s setting of a racy text from Shakespeare!

I am happy to share the news that I have been admitted to the Doctor of Ministry program at the Toronto School of Theology/University of Toronto. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to continue to grow in my capacity as a minister, and I’m deeply grateful this program is designed to allow me (require me, really!) to continue to serve as minister at First Unitarian over these next five years of study. My focus will be in the area of worship and emotion, so the congregation will, at times, be my laboratory; I will certainly need your help, from time to time, in getting my homework done! More than anything, I see this as a helpful way to bring external focus to how I use my annual study and sabbatical times in the coming years. I so look forward to sharing with you what I learn along the way!

Finally, as I mentioned last week, I will be taking my sabbatical break this year between 15 February and 23 March. I'll be travelling in Europe with Debra Faulk, the minister of the Calgary congregation, exploring church history, and in particular visiting places related to significant chapters in the Unitarian tradition. While I'm away, there will be a great line-up of Sundays, with Stephanie Gannon preaching twice, with the drummer Matt Meyer leading a wonderful music-based service, a celebration of International Women's Day with members of the cast of "The Vagina Monologues," and, at the end, with Dallas Bergen sharing reflections upon his return from his sabbatical. You'll be in great hands, as well, when it comes to pastoral care, with the Lay Pastors at the ready to be of support should you need them. As always, I'm grateful for these opportunities you provide me to recharge my battery and enrich and sustain our ministry together.

Happy Valentines!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, February 14, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Beginning Again in Love

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon, Intern Minister.

This Sunday, as we continue exploring what it means to be a People of Reconciliation, we'll examine the topic of forgiveness. What does it mean to covenant to forgive ourselves and each other and to begin again in love? What theological resources can we draw upon to aid us in the difficult process of forgiveness?

We'll look at different world religions' perspectives on this. When we cultivate greater compassion towards ourselves and others, we can increase the prospect of forgiveness. Alas, it's rarely easy or simple. But if you've ever truly forgiven someone, you know the freedom and healing that can result as broken and embittered hearts are transformed, first and foremost our own. May we be bold enough to envision more forgiveness in our lives.

Blessings,
Stephanie

Sunday, February 21, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Rhythmic Revelations

Sermon by Matt Meyer.

Matt Meyer is a musician and community organizer who has lead hundreds of services for UU congregations across the country. He has a degree in music and has studied abroad in Cuba, Ghana and Central America. Matt is a founding resident of the Lucy Stone Cooperative in Roxbury and serves as Director of Community Life for Sanctuary Boston.

Ours is a faith guided by covenant. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that some things are better accomplished in community. A spiritual life is one of those. Social justice work is another. Join us for a service of rhythm, music, covenantal community and collective action.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Spiritual Transformation & The Vagina Monologues

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon and Members of the Cast of The Vagina Monologues.

This Sunday we'll be marking International Women's Day and celebrating the tremendous success of our Vagina Monologues production in mid-February, which was a fundraiser for Sistering, a wonderful Toronto-based organization that supports women in need. Four of the cast members will give reflections on how being in Eve Ensler's play and inhabiting other women's voices changed them.

In my short homily, I'll be looking at why this project was important for First as a religious community. How have we as a congregation been transformed by putting on Ensler's play? How might we carry forward this sacred work of honouring women's bodies and lives in our journey as a people of Renewal?

Be sure to join us this Sunday for a memorable service dedicated to women.

Blessings,
Stephanie

(Read Stephanie's homily and the reflections of four of the actors.)

Sunday, March 06, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Waiting Game

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon

It’s mid-March, and who’s not anxiously awaiting spring’s arrival? We’ve all gone through times in which we’ve been waiting for change and growth in our lives that seems to never come. How can we cultivate patience during those in-between times in which we feel stuck, impatient, and wanting certain results and outcomes? During this new month of Renewal, these moments offer up rich opportunities for a renewed commitment to our faith and values.

Also, don’t forget to set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time so that you make it to church on time!

Bright Blessings,
Stephanie

Sunday, March 13, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Renewed

Sermon by Dallas Bergen, Director of Congregational Music.

Helio from the Other Side!

I have just returned a 10-week sabbatical from the other side of the world in Southeast Asia. It's great to be back! I am profoundly grateful to the congregation for extending me this opportunity. Thank you for the gift of time for rest and renewal!

"Helios", stems from Greek, meaning "sun." "Trope" is a suffix meaning "turning towards or affected by." I am a heliotrope--or heliotropic. I turn to the sun. In the last couple of decades of my life I have become increasingly aware of the affect that sunshine and daylight have on my well-being and the debilitating affect our winter climate has on me, my work, and my relationships.

The vernal equinox, the onset of spring, is on Sunday. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring--the days in which there is more daylight than darkness. Celebrations found in cultures around the northern hemisphere, mark the occasion with ritual that signifies rebirth and renewal--the start of a new cycle; restoring, cleaning, planting.

Sunday's sermon will include reflections on what it means to find rest; to be renewed and restored. It will examine the contrast between facing our demons by "sucking-it-up," with knowing what it means to truly listen to the many ways in which our bodies, and our health, speak to us. Hopefully I am able to have some of my new found energy and inspiration rub off on each of you. I look forward to seeing you again, and marking the beginning of the solar year.

Dallas

Sunday, March 20, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Love Never Ends

Sermon by Stephanie Gannon

Chocolate bunnies, brightly-coloured eggs, lilies, all those strange-tasting marshmallow peeps…These are just of the few of the familiar symbols of Easter we’re surrounded by right about now. As spring slowly arrives and we look for signs of newly-returning life in nature, what are some of the Easter stories that resonate with us Unitarians? What is rising up in you at this time of year? What is yearning to come alive (again)?

In my sermon this week, I’ll be sharing some stories of ever-renewing love and possible redemption. At this highpoint in our Season of Renewal, please join me for a message of hope and joy.

Blessings,
Stephanie

Sunday, March 27, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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