Events under 'Sunday Services'
Monday, September 16, 2019

Event Name

Date

The Door of Compassion

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has called an open heart the “door of compassion.” If our hearts are open, how much can they let in?

On Sunday May 14th, we continue to reflect on compassion: this month’s theme at First Unitarian. As we strive to grow into lives of greater courage, love and wisdom, we may be called to open our hearts in ways that challenge us. Yet, the reward may be a more compassionate life and perhaps a happier one as well. On Sunday, we’ll seek to open the door of compassion a little wider through inspiration, song and story.

Come and join us! The door is open for you.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, May 14, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Saving one another; the power of compassionate living

Sermon by Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana of Burundi.

We often speak of the heroes from our Unitarian history who have endured hardship for this faith. On Sunday, we welcome one to our pulpit.

This weekend it will be an honour to welcome back to First welcome the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana. As many of you will recall, Fulgence founded the Unitarian Church of Burundi and served as its minister for several years before facing political persecution resulting in his arrest and his church being fire bombed. After several weeks in prison, and with serious concern for his life, Fulgence was released—in large part because of pressure put on the government of Burundi by Unitarian Universalists around the globe. Immediately upon his release, Fulgence fled the country. Last spring, the Canadian Unitarian Council was instrumental in Fulgence being granted refugee status in Canada. He is now serving the congregation in Saksatoon (where there is a significant Burundian population) as their Intern Minister, as he completes the requirements to be licenced as a minister in North America.

Fulgence is to me a dear friend and colleague. I had the pleasure of travelling with him through Kenya a couple of years ago, and have gotten to know him over the years as a man of deep character and unwavering commitment to our faith. On Sunday, he’ll speak to the compassion that got him out of prison and kept many of his people hopeful in their countries of exile. Fulgence will share his dramatic but compassion filled story with his strong belief that compassion can build a better world.

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Sweet, Impossible Blossom"

Flower Communion Sunday – Bring a Flower!

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton and Danielle Webber, Intern Minister.

Join us on Sunday for our annual celebration of Spring, as we create a grand arrangement of flowers to reflect the glory of both our individuality and our diversity. Please remember to bring a flower (or a few!) with you to mark this ritual. (If you are unable to bring a flower, know there will be flowers waiting for you.)

My reflection for the service, “Sweet, Impossible Blossom,” is based on the poem by Li-Young Lee’s beautiful poem, “From Blossoms,” which is certainly worth a read before Sunday. Our service will weave together the meanings of Flower Communion with our month’s theme, compassion.

A reminder that following the service and coffee hour this week, we will hold our Annual General Meeting, starting at 12:30 pm.

See you on Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, May 28, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Looking to the Future"

Sermon by Daniel Webber, Intern Minister.

Wow, It’s been 10 months already! This is my last week as an intern here, and what a time it has been! And although this Sunday will be our last together, we will be spending it looking forward and not reminiscing about the past year together.

What does the future of Unitarian Universalism look like? What will set us apart from other faith traditions, and what will new members or individuals looking for belonging be called in by? In May 2016 at the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual General Meeting a motion was passed to instate the following vision statement: “As Canadian Unitarian Universalists, we envision a world in which our interdependence calls us to love and justice.” What does this vision statement ask of us? How are we expected to live this into the future of our world, and how will we ensure that Unitarian Universalism’s future is bright and focused?

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, June 04, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Leap Before You Look"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, the members of First Unitarian will make one of the most important decisions in our congregation’s 172-year history: whether to sell our property on St. Clair Avenue and seek a new home. In recent days, with our congregational meeting approaching, I have been feeling a deep sense of connection with the generations who have gone before us—the women and men who’ve built up our congregation since its founding in 1845—as well as with the generations still to come—those future members of First who we have yet to meet (or may never meet), but who will carry forward our Living Tradition into a time well beyond our own.

We are, I believe, being asked to make a decision that upholds that Living Tradition, that honours our forebears whose efforts gifted to us the congregation we know today by doing everything we can to ensure the well-bring of First for generations to come.

In the service this week, we will reflect on how we make faithful decisions—both the big and the small. Do we look first, or leap first? Or is such a clear-cut choice a luxury we don’t have most of the time?

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, June 11, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"The Longest Days"

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

As we approach the Summer Solstice, when the days are at their longest, our own energy may be undergoing a shift. In work, school and congregational life, summer often brings a welcome change from the busy productivity of the spring. Many of us may be recalibrating and seeking rest. If so, the Solstice provides an invitation to return to the rhythms of nature…to tune in to darkness as well as light…to open up to silence and stillness.

This Sunday, we’ll seek to un-complicate our lives for a sacred hour, so that we may find the stillness we are seeking--not only on the longest days, but all days! After the service, do stay for the special dedication of the beautiful paintings now displayed in our narthex: timeless images by renowned Anishnaabe artist Leland Bell. Shawn will officiate a short ceremony at 12:15 p.m. after coffee hour.

This Sunday marks the last service before Shawn and I both begin summer intervals of vacation and study leave. This week Danielle Webber will begin her summer ministry, which I hope will be a time of inspiration and deepening for all! I look forward to seeing you when I return in August, and wish you all the best for your summer journeys.

Blessings,
Lynn

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Sunday, June 18, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Kairos Blanket Exercise

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

For the past four years I have worked with Indigenous Leaders, and leaders among the Canadian Unitarian community to further and more deeply engage the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, the colonization of their people and appalling treatment that the Canadian Government have put Canada’s First Peoples through. This journey has been moving, formative and eye opening for me, and has been a significant part of the ministry that I have been called to do. So this Sunday I invite you to take a journey with me through this history.

I have invited Kairos Canada to come to First and lead us through their Blanket Exercise, an interactive learning experience that will cover 500 years of Canadian history from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples.

Our normal Sunday worship routine will be set aside for this morning, so that we can do justice by our indigenous siblings through this learning. Please join me this Sunday for a new experience, a deeper understanding, and a further step towards healing.

With Love,
Danielle

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Sunday, June 25, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Canada150?

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

Over the past several weeks, I am sure we have all been hearing about Canada 150 celebrations, and I am certain that many people will be participating in some of these celebrations over this weekend. The concerts, shows, festivals, and fireworks prove to be a great time all around this country. And Canada Day is an event that we have celebrated for years, so why not now, this way?

Well many Indigenous Peoples believe that this event in particular, but probably Canada Day in general, is not something to be celebrated. In the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the fallout of the Trudeau Government’s “Nation to Nation” promises, and the close to half a billion dollars the government is spending on Canada 150 events across the country, many Indigenous Peoples believe that these celebrations should not be taking place, and are a slap in the face of the First Peoples of our land.

We will be expanding on knowledge from last week’s Blanket Exercise to examine the multiple layers and the different lenses with which people view the Canada 150 celebrations, in an attempt to come to terms with celebrating a Nation we love, even when we are reminded of the down falls in our history.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, July 02, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"What Makes an Elder"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

In much of Western Culture, we talk about the scientific method being the ultimate source of knowledge, how we gain knew information about the world, and how we move forward into the future, and scientists are often considered the most knowledgeable people in our society. But there are multiple ways to learn knowledge, and ways to see the world. The First Peoples of this land however used story telling to share their knowledge and to learn about the world, the people often responsible for sharing these stories, for holding the knowledge for their community, were the elders of a community.

Often knowledge is held by individuals in community, shared from a place of deep personal and interpersonal wisdom. I have forever sought advice from those with more experience than me; my grandmother and father being my two go-to people. But I have also reached out to yoga gurus, Indigenous elders, and senior colleagues. How regularly do we take this knowledge for granted, believe that this knowledge is not as hard earned as the science behind other information? This week we will be exploring how our understanding of knowledge and those who offer that knowledge to us has affected world significantly, and consider how we can listen more closely to our elders.

See you Sunday,
Danielle

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Sunday, July 09, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Aboriginal Spirituality"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

Over the past month we have been looking at the history, knowledge and ideas about Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and how we as Unitarian Universalists interact and engage with these ideas and with these Peoples. This exploration of Indigenous Ideology and my own ponderings about Indigenous Peoples and issues happened because of my own social justice work in this area, as well as my own deeply felt connection to earth based spirituality and interest in the culture that I have been learning about.

In the six sources of our UU faith we find wisdom and understanding of the Sacred, in the many ways we describe and call it. But what does it mean to find wisdom in the “Spiritual teachings of Earth-centred traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature”? How do we find wisdom in these teachings, and let them become incorporated into our spiritual practices, without misappropriating the traditions and culture of a community who have constantly been marginalized for the past 500 years? Is there a way to offer acknowledgement and explain our intent, without continuing to do harm?

In this, our last of the series about Indigenous Awareness and Issues, we will explore these topics, and struggle with how to live fully into our faith while allowing other traditions to inform our own.

With love,
Danielle

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Sunday, July 16, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Horton's Motto"

Sermon by Chris Moore.

The title of the sermon for this Sunday is from children's story by Dr. Seuss, called "Horton Hears a Who", which was also made into full length animated film. I saw that movie on a whim one evening. Our first choice for a movie had sold out.

The moment I heard Horton's motto I was reminded of our first principle. Horton's motto is “A person is a person no matter how small”. It's a child-like take on the inherent worth and dignity of every person. And that about summarizes the sermon for Sunday.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Spiritual Practice in our Digital World"

Sermon by Nicole McKay.

We are connected to each other now more than ever. Our lives have changed rather quickly with computers and cellphones, which themselves have evolved to be small computers for our pockets. Emails, text messages, and meetings online have changed the way we do business, connect with friends or family. Our social action is informed by those on the ground with fewer intermediaries. People can tell their own stories.

This is what we hold in our hands every single day.

It isn't always easy to disconnect from our digital world to find the rest and renewal we need; the space where some of us turn to connect in deep and meaningful ways with ourselves and each other. Although, I believe that is an important skill to develop and practice, it isn't the only way to be spiritually connected in our ever-changing world.

Technology will not go away but will continue to change and adapt. Is there room to welcome technology into our Unitarian Universalist faith and in our congregations? Can we meet the world in virtual and physical spaces with a message of hope for the here and now? On Sunday, I would like explore with you how we can live into our deepest values and create space for spiritual practice in this, our digital world.

In gratitude and love,
Nicole McKay

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Sunday, July 30, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"What is Evil?"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

The famous quote from Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best if times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” seems to sum up so many times throughout the ages. We live in a world that is floating somewhere in between the two polar opposites of all extremes. Unfortunately, those two polar opposites are too often side bide side.

So often when we talk about evil it is with the understanding that it is something external from ourselves, something that might even be external to humanity. Evil is a situation or act that happens when nature is cruel and detrimental to the wellbeing of life, or when humans are cruel and detrimental the wellbeing of life. But when humans are evil they are too often characterized as sick, not of the right mind, or have a deficiency of morals, character or empathy. It is not something that any sane or healthy and conscientious person would do. We put up a wall around evil and hope that it will never touch us, that we can steer clear from it, and that we will never be affected by it. But by separating evil from our selves means that we take away the humanity of those who have been considered evil.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, novelist, Nobel Laureate

Solzhenitsyn argues that within every person there is both the possibility of good, and evil, not only that there is a possibility of good and evil, but that it actually exists within us, sitting there in the shadows and to remove it would be to remove our own humanity. What would happen if we were able to accept evil as a part of humanity, instead of apart from it. Perhaps then we could bring more life into our Unitarian Universalist principle of the inherent worth and dignity of All people.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 06, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"S.O.S. (Source of Strength)"

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

For centuries, people seeking strength and purpose have turned to nature. As our Unitarian ancestor Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the human being, in spite of real sorrows.” This summer, the Don River Valley became for me a place to meditate on the interdependent nature of existence—and to discover the wellsprings of peace that can be found even in a world so full of sorrow. When we need support and send out our personal “S.O.S.” messages, what can be our source of strength? Come join me on Sunday morning, for a walk through the wilderness of spiritual growth.

Blessings,
Rev. Lynn Harrison

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Sunday, August 13, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Unitarian Universalist Individualism"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

The 7th Principle that Unitarian Universalist promote is Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Often lifted up to remind us of our place in the great cosmos of our planet earth; one species, one being, among millions, if not billions of creatures and life forms. But what about the less explored concept of our Interdependence among human beings? My colleague, and dear friend, the Reverend Theresa Ines Soto stated their understanding of this by saying “All of us need all of us to make it.”

What would it look like to embody this as a way of life? I have witnessed and I believe that Unitarian Universalists can live this way – but I also have noticed that we don’t often allow ourselves the opportunity to embody the interdependence of humanity. Please join me this Sunday to explore how a society of individualistic ideals has caused friction with our UU ideals of interdependence.

With love,
Danielle Webber

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 20, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Ideologies of Change"

Sermon by Danielle Webber, Summer Minister.

It has now been a year. I started my relationship with First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto on Aug 23rd last year, and this Sunday will be my last with you all for the time being. A lot of things have happened this year, and I have had the opportunity to learn from and along side the congregation.

Of course, one of the largest learnings for me, as I am sure it has been for many of you, has been the changes that the congregation has gone through with the sale of the building. To witness the consciousness and integrity that has gone into communicating with one another, the patience and the desire to make the best decisions and to hear everyone’s opinion, has been heartening and inspiring. One way to look at these changes is through the Roller Coaster of Change that Rev. Shawn Newton has been talking about for the last several years, and that the Real Estate Task Force has also used as a tool during Congregational Conversations. But it is only one way to look at change theory. I hope that this Sunday, the last of ours together, I can offer a few different ways to experience this path that the congregation is on. These frameworks are just a new way to help us make sense of the world around us, and so I hope to offer new frameworks, and different language for you during the next months and years, as the community goes through the ups and downs of changes.

With love,
Danielle

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Unexpected Gratitude

Sermon by Lori Kyle.

We welcome guest minister Rev. Lori Kyle to lead a service on "Unexpected Gratitude." She is a longtime member of the First Unitarian community, and we are grateful to have her with us again this Sunday.

Lori says:
"All of us experience challenges in our lives. Enfolded in these challenges are opportunities for growth and insight that are often overlooked because we remain immersed in the difficulty. On this Sunday we will explore broadening our perspective of challenges to appreciate the potential gifts they offer."

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, September 03, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Water Is Life"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

We will gather this Sunday, bearing water from some special aspect of the summer. We will celebrate Water Communion by pouring into our common bowl water that symbolizes our fond feelings for time spent in good company and in meaningful places, as well as, perhaps, pained or poignant memories of where the summer unexpectedly took us. Like life, the swirl of these mingled waters points to life’s bittersweet blend—the beauty and wonder of being alive, mixed with the heartache that can come our way. In this sense, water is, indeed, life, for it holds everything that touches our existence—the good and the bad, the heart-warming and the heart-breaking. With images of hurricanes and flood waters so present in our minds, my sermon on Sunday, will explore what it means to hold on—to keep our covenant with life—when we’re battered by storms.

I’m looking forward to celebrating this special day with you all, as we launch what promises to be an exciting and defining year for our congregation. It will be wonderful to welcome the choir back after their summer hiatus, to see the throngs of children come forward for the story, to recite in unison the words of our covenant, and to hold in my arms the newest newborn in our congregation, as we bless her unfolding life with water and our best wishes. It will be a great day, quite simply, to bask in the joy of being in community with you all, as we celebrate and affirm that life that is within us.

So, remember to bring your water! (And, if you don’t have a particular bit of water to share, know that we’ll have “proxy water” on hand in order for all to participate in the ritual.)

See you on Sunday!

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, September 10, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Of Promises and Peace"

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

Lynn Harrsion - Promises and Peace

"Promises, promises!" It's a familiar refrain, because keeping a promise is often more difficult than we expect. Yet sometimes we discover, perhaps to our surprise, that we can keep a promise—and that to do so brings unexpected rewards.

As we reflect on September’s theme of “Covenant,” we look at the challenge of making promises…while recognizing that some promises may not be meant to be kept, and that our inherent worth as human beings transcends our ability to keep all of our promises perfectly.

Also, each year at this time, we gather around the Peace Pole to renew our intentions to co-create a world of peace. On Sunday, we’ll create a living affirmation of our desire for a peaceful planet--and the promise each of us holds, to make it so.

In peace and gratitude,
Lynn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, September 17, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Keeping Covenant"

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This month, we’re exploring the promises we make, especially within the Unitarian framework of “covenant.” My colleague Victoria Safford beautifully describes what we, as Unitarians, mean when using this concept:

A covenant is not a contract. It is not made and signed and sealed once and for all, sent to the attorneys for safekeeping or guarded under glass in a museum. A covenant is not a static artifact and it is not a sworn oath: Whereas, whereas, whereas. . . . Therefore, I will do this, or I’ll die, so help me God. A covenant is a living, breathing aspiration, made new every day. It can’t be enforced by consequences but it may be reinforced by forgiveness and by grace, when we stumble, when we forget, when we mess up.

This Sunday, I’ll build on the sermons Lynn Harrison and I have preached this month to delve into what it means for us to find life-giving ways to live in covenant with ourselves, each other, and the wider world.

A reminder that we will gather at 3pm on Sunday to celebrate the life of Mark Jorgensen, who for many years filled our sanctuary and our hearts with song and with joy. For those unable to attend in person, the memorial service will be live-streamed (please see the notice in First Light about the updated link and password for accessing our live-stream).

With all good wishes as we turn toward autumn.

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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