Events under 'Sunday Services'
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Event Name

Date

A Vision from Sea to Sea

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

It’s wonderful to be back after a very enriching summer that included trips to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in Ohio and the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists biennial conference in the Netherlands, which brought together people from over twenty countries, from Indonesia to India, from Burundi to Columbia, from the EU to North America. It was rewarding (and humbling) to see the world through the eyes of our coreligionists who live in such very different contexts around the world.

Between attending those two conferences, I spent an intensive week travelling the world, all while staying put in Toronto. I took part (with Angela Klassen, who joined me while on her sabbatical) in the amazing Encounter World Religions program hosted at UofT. The program included brilliant lectures on various world religions and site visits to nineteen different faith communities in the GTA, including three Hindu temples, a Sikh gurdwara, Orthodox and Evangelical Christian churches, a Reform synagogue and an Orthodox Yeshiva, a Pagan coven, a Rastifarian shop, and Buddhist, Taoist, and Zoroastrian temples. It was rewarding to see the world through the eyes of our neighbours, and to grow in my appreciation for the diversity of our shared context as citizens of this remarkable city.

These journeys near and far will figure into my sermon this Sunday (and, really, next week, too), as I reflect on what it means to be a Unitarian in Canada today.

Finally, it gave me great joy to welcome the Rev. Lynn Harrison to our congregation this week as she joined our staff in the newly-created role of Minister of Community Engagement. On Monday, Lynn began her work with us to help build connections within and beyond our congregation. She is and will be a tremendous partner in the ministry of our congregation. I invite you to welcome her in your own ways in the coming weeks and to mark your calendars for the service on Sunday, October 2nd, when we will officially celebrate Lynn’s arrival and create our Covenant with her as she becomes a minister of our congregation.

I hope summer has been a blessing to you all. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday—or sometime very soon!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, August 21, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Vision for this Place

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Each week, I begin our service with some variation of the words of our mission 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.” This coming Sunday, I’ll dig deeper into this mission to explore why it matters—not just on a congregational level, but as a life-giving personal spiritual practice. To seek, connect, and serve is not merely a catchy, concise statement of what we’re about as a congregation; I believe to seek, connect, and serve is a call to each of us to a more powerful way of life.

I’m delighted to share that we welcomed Danielle Webber to First Unitarian this week, as she begins her term with us as our 2016-2017 Intern Minister. I’ve gotten to know Danielle over the past couple of years and am excited about the many gifts and talents she brings to this role. Danielle graduated from Meadville-Lombard Theological School in Chicago this spring and recently completed a two-year half-time internship at her home congregation in Calgary, where she and her family have been active for many years. To gain an understanding of another, different congregation, Danielle has decided to do a second internship to broaden her experience. So, we are blessed to share in this time of learning with Danielle this year.

Also, in case you missed my announcement last week, we have also welcomed Rev. Lynn Harrison to our staff, as our new Minister of Community Engagement. We will formally welcome both Lynn and Danielle on Sunday, September 11th, when we celebrate our annual Water Communion Service (be sure to gather water from some place meaningful to you, if you haven’t already!).

Finally, I’ve been thrilled that so many people have been accessing our worship services online on Sunday mornings this summer. If you’re not able to be with us in person, please join us for the service, streamed live, starting at 10:30am.

Savour these summery days!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, August 28, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Stepping into our second Nature

Sermon by Michael Battenberg.

I’ve been reminded recently when I’ve told people I hope they’ve had a wonderful summer, that summer is not yet over. True enough!

While it’s been a hot, long summer — and though the autumnal equinox is still three weeks away with this weekend, for many if not most of us, summer comes to an end. School will start on Tuesday for children across the city. The 10-day forecast shows cooler days and nights ahead. And north of the city, you can now occasionally glimpse a spot of orange on an otherwise still-green tree. Autumn is coming. But before it arrives, may we enjoy the blessings of summer a little while longer.

For those joining us on this Labour Day Sunday, it will be a treat to hear our own Michel Battenberg’s sermon, “Stepping into Our Second Nature.” Michael is best known to many of us as a photographer of bugs. His close-up photographs of insects have been included in our art gallery in Sunderland Hall many times over the years. This year, he released his new photo book, Portraits of an Overlooked World. Needless to say, Michael offers a unique perspective of the world around us. His sermons are always an invitation to encounter the natural world — the only world there really is — in a different way than our urban lives typically allow.

May we all savour the last of summer!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 04, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Come to the Water

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

    Think of the year as a house:
    door flung wide in welcome,
    threshold swept and waiting,
    a graced spaciousness opening
    and offering itself to you.

    Here – let the weary come
    let the aching come
    let the lost come
    let the sorrowing come.

    Here – let them find their rest
    and let them find their soothing
    and let them find their place
    and let them find their delight.

    And may it be in this house of a year
    that the seasons will spin in beauty,
    and may it be in these turning days
    that time will spiral with joy.

    And may it be that its rooms will fill
    with ordinary grace
    and light spill from every window
    to welcome the stranger home.

This Sunday we launch a new year in the life of our congregation by celebrating our annual Water Communion Service. 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 and the Covenant Ceremony with our new Intern Minister Danielle Webber. It will be a great and festive day at First U, and I look forward to seeing you all at this very special service.

Finally, if you haven’t yet signed up for a Journey Group for this year, it’s not too late. I passionately believe this to be the best way we as a congregation can support each other toward spiritual growth. So, I encourage you to deepen your experience and practice as a Unitarian by taking this journey with us this year. You can register for a group here.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Radically Welcoming?

The Canadian Unitarian Council’s new vision statement includes the aspiration of our being/becoming “radically welcoming.” For years, this aspiration has been at the core of our efforts to become more inclusive and accepting of all people who seek to share our values. We have made tremendous progress in so many ways, and yet there is, as always, work still to be done. For us, as a congregation, some of that remaining work is in the area of becoming more intentionally welcoming of people across the spectra of gender identity and expression.

Following the direction of our own Diversity Working Group, we are in the process of updating the signage for our washrooms on the ground level and the second floor to reflect our intention to welcome all people. The downstairs washrooms will have signs that indicate we welcome people of all genders and that people are encouraged to use whichever washroom they choose. The upstairs single-stall washrooms will have signage more clearly indicating they are all-gender washrooms. I am hopeful this will be a step toward giving meaningful substance to our intentions to be a fully welcoming congregation.

To support this shift—and to hopefully educate and empower us all to be more vocal allies beyond our walls, especially as Bill C-16 makes its way through Parliament—I will be delivering a somewhat updated version of the sermon I preached two years ago about gender identity and expression. This is the first time I've returned to a sermon in this way, but I believe this sermon bears repeating at this time, given that our country as a whole is moving toward a more progressive embrace of people of all gender identities and expressions. There will be fall-out and resistance to these changes, so there will be a need for well-informed allies to help usher in these changes.

Following the service on Sunday, we will honour the upcoming International Day of Peace by gathering outside at our Peace Pole at noon to lift up our hopes and prayers for peace in our world. This year, our Peace Pole will be adorned with 2,000 paper cranes to give physical expression to our hopes.

Finally, as I mentioned last Sunday in announcing our Congregational Meeting on September 25th, this is the moment to plug in to the conversation about our future real estate/building options. As things change dramatically in the neighbourhood around us, opportunities are beginning to emerge that did not exist even a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll plan to attend the meeting a week from Sunday, and I encourage you to review the documents included in this edition of First Light to help you understand our present and evolving situations.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, September 18, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Welcoming Deeper Understanding

Service by Diane Webber, Intern Minister.

First Unitarian is an exciting place to be this Sunday. Meet me, the Intern Minister, Danielle Webber, as I introduce myself to the congregation, discussing my journey into and through ministry, and pieces of my theological understandings.

We will also be celebrating Central America Sunday, marking the 20th anniversary of First Unitarian’s involvement in supporting communities in Central America, to build schools. Please come prepared for a special collection to support Young Adult and Youth continuing to deepen our relationships with these communities.

Don’t forget the Congregational Meeting in the afternoon. This is the moment to plug in to the conversation about our future real estate/building options. As things change dramatically in the neighbourhood around us, opportunities are beginning to emerge that did not exist even a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll plan to attend the meeting this Sunday, and I encourage you to review the documents to help you understand our present and evolving situations.

Lastly, Friday September 30th there will be a Jazz, Blues and Funk, concert happening here at First. Join the Red Hot Ramble as they bring a piece of New Orleans into Toronto.

I am looking forward to welcoming deeper relationships and understanding about the life here at Toronto First, and I hope you will join me!

Danielle

Sunday, September 25, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Blessed Being

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

As we begin the month of October, in which we’ll explore the theme of “blessing,” we consider how our own unique lives are inherently blessed…and how we may, in turn, offer the “blessing of our being” to the world through our presence, love and service.

This Sunday, I’ll be entering into a shared covenant with First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, as together we seek to discern how we may contribute to a better and more just world. For many, this is an especially holy time, as Rosh Hashana begins at sundown to mark the Jewish New Year. Also as October begins, we launch our annual Canvass, recognizing the many blessings we enjoy as part of the Toronto First community and renewing our annual commitment to its well being and vitality.

The salutation “Blessed be!” originated in a Wiccan ritual that honours all aspects of the human person. On October 2nd, we create sacred space to welcome each blessed individual among us—and the blessing of life itself.

Sunday, October 02, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Count Your Blessings

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton & Rev. Lynn Harrison.

Though we still await the arrival of fall’s colourful splendour, we will celebrate Thanksgiving this Sunday with our annual Harvest Communion and our Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner. Focussing on this month’s theme of “Blessing,” Lynn and I will offer reflections on the connection between the recognition of life’s blessings and a spiritual practice of gratitude. At the end of the service, we will honour the earth’s bounty with a communion ceremony of freshly baked bread and apple cider. After an abbreviated coffee hour, we will enjoy a potluck Thanksgiving Dinner in Workman Hall. All are welcome, and everyone is invited to bring a dish to share.

If your plans take you elsewhere this weekend, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude “for all that is our life.”

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 09, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Blessing Beyond Our Fears

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

What are we so afraid of?
What are we so afraid of?
What are we so afraid of?
What are we so afraid of?
What are we so afraid of
What are we so afraid of?

It’s a question worth asking, again and again, shifting the emphasis from one word to the next until the answer becomes clear. And it’s a relevant question to ask, given that fear is tied to so much of what is — or at least feels — broken in our world right now.

Fear is, of course, a natural response to the threats we face. Yet, it’s what we do with the fear we feel that matters. Scientists tell us that “fight or flight” are the two options we, along with other animals, typically choose from. But what other options might we exercise? How might we learn to live guided by our faith instead of our fears?

I look forward to our taking up these questions together on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 16, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"To Bless the World"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

With over half the population of Toronto born outside of Canada, with over 140 languages spoken in this great city, and with our status as one of the most multicultural cities on the planet, it’s easy to consider ourselves cosmopolitan. The word comes from Greek and can be translated as “citizen of the world.” Given that definition, who among us wouldn’t want to be called cosmopolitan? Especially if the opposite would mean being thought “parochial” or narrow-minded?

And, yet, what does such citizenship require of us? For those who enjoy seeming ease navigating different world cultures and who have some awareness of the news unfolding around the globe, is there more expected of us than simple passing concern? What responsibilities do we have to our neighbours—be they down the street or half a world away? It’s not an easy question to answer when we’re bombarded around the clock with constant reports of heartache all over the world. How do we keep up? How do we play our part?

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 23, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Blessings of a Multicultural World

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Intern Minister.

Sunday we will mark the Day of the Dead with our annual service where we remember those loved ones who are with us no more. Please remember to bring photos or meaningful objects to place on our Altar of Remembrance at the beginning of the service. The rituals performed this Sunday are done so to help us remember the loved ones we have lost this year, and in years gone by, because this is how we hope to live on in others. The fear of being forgotten is often disguised by the fear of death, so this Sunday let us remember those who have gone before us, and who have left meaning in our lives.

After our service there will be new ritual held in the Secret Garden, where we will be burning the memorial cards that have been on display beside the tower. If you would like to include memorial cards that you have written in this celebration, please visit the memorial before service and place your card into the small box to be brought outside.

With Love,
Danielle

Sunday, October 30, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Hold on to what is good"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

We’ve been duly warned against throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. This month, as we focus on the theme of “letting go,” it’s worth considering when to hold on, and what to hold on to. Some things are worth saving. Some things are not. How do we know the difference? I hope to help answer that question on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 06, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“An Altered Universe?”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

By now, the initial shock of Tuesday’s U.S. election is giving way to a host of other powerful emotions. Around the world, across Canada, and certainly in our congregation, people are grappling with the meaning and the ramifications of the results. Given the tenor of the campaign and promises made by the President-Elect should he be elected, there is justifiable cause for concern. On Sunday, I’ll speak to what I believe our calling, as Unitarians—as people committed to the cause of love and justice—is in these times.

As you’ll see in the note below, there will be a gathering in Shaw Hall following Coffee Hour on Sunday for those who wish to come together for conversation about the impact of the election.

I leave you with these words from Rev. Wayne Arnason, a Canadian Unitarian minister:

Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
Take courage.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.

Indeed.
In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 13, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Now I Become Myself"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I take as my sermon title this week the title of poet (and Unitarian) May Sarton’s poem, “Now I Become Myself.” In the poignant phrases that follow, she speaks to the journey at the heart of being human—the quest to become who we are. She also speaks of letting go, our theme for this month:

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces…

This week, I’ll explore what it means to become our true selves, in large part by our letting go of the idea that we can go it alone.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Letting Go, Opening Up"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Intern Minister.

This Sunday we have the opportunity to welcome Dr. Priya Raju to our community to talk to us about mental health with Refugees, and how our hidden biases around culture and multicultural settings can effect mental health. You will have the opportunity to hear Dr. Raju speak during the service, and are welcome to join a more fulsome presentation after the service in Sunderland Hall at 12:15.

We will also be recognizing the First Sunday of Advent during our service, we will light our first candle, a candle of hope. We will be uncovering what it means to have hope in a time when letting go can be a challenge; when opening up means moving out of our comfort zones; and when welcoming new people to our community seems so easy at first, yet the challenges can often be invisible to us. I am looking forward to exploring these ideas and worshiping with you.

With Love, Danielle

Sunday, November 27, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Looking at the Other

Sermon by Duck Buck.

This Sunday, we’re celebrating the second Advent Sunday, lighting the Bodhi Candle, and remembering the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and certainly sending thoughts and love to our ministers Shawn, Lynn, and Danielle who are witnessing today at Standing Rock, North Dakota. They are responding to a call from Chief Arvol Looking Horse who has asked for the clergy of all faiths to stand peacefully with their youth in prayer.

I’m very happy that Shawn has asked me to step in and preach. I had already drafted a sermon to be offered on Aboriginal Day next June. Now you get to hear it six months earlier! It’s called “Looking at the Other.” In this sermon, the “Other” is Indigenous people in Canada, but “Others” can be black people, women, Jews, Muslims, LGBTT people — anyone. Can we become aware of our own unconscious racism, which was ingrained in us by our culture? Can we confront kindly these prejudices in ourselves and in our lives with others?

With love, Doug

Sunday, December 04, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Expecting the Unexpected

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

“What did you expect?” Such a simple question, that brings to light our all-too-human tendency to judge others, to pre-evaluate our circumstances and to limit our potential for revolutionary love.

This Sunday, along with Danielle Webber and Rev. Shawn Newton, I’ll be reflecting on our recent experiences in Standing Rock, North Dakota, where we joined in prayer with the Water Protectors in response to the call to interfaith leaders from Chief Arvol Looking Horse. Like any pilgrimage, the experience was an opportunity to be open to the unexpected…and to examine what we expect of ourselves, our culture and our communities.

This Sunday, in kinship with Christians around the world, we’ll light the third candle of Advent, while knowing that our world is expectant with both joyful anticipation and deep anxiety. Join us…as we seek blessings beyond expectations, and as we journey together toward justice and love.

Rev. Lynn Harrison

Sunday, December 11, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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How the Unitarians Created Christmas

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This coming Sunday, I’ll show the many ways Unitarians hold a legitimate, historical, and fulsome claim on Christmas—especially as a holiday calling for peace and goodwill to all.

Sunday, December 18, 2016 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Solstice Vespers Service

Homily by Danielle Webber, Intern Minister.

We’ll celebrate the Winter Solstice through ritual and reflection around a great evergreen spiral at the centre of our sanctuary. With winter carols, Celtic music, candlelight, and a homily by Danielle Webber, we’ll usher in a Merry Yule as the earth turns once more.

View the Order of Service.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Great Expectations

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

With beautiful choral music, traditional carols, and our lovely candle-lighting ceremony, we’ll welcome the arrival of Christmas. My sermon, “Great Expectations,” will speak to that yearning of hope at the heart of this holiday.

View the Order of Service.

Saturday, December 24, 2016 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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