Events under 'Sunday Services'
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Event Name

Date

Making It Up as We Go Along

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

So much of life is improvisation. And, yet, we can often so harshly judge ourselves and others when things go awry or are less than perfect. What if we were to shift our understanding to better appreciate that most of us, most of the time, are simply making it up as we go along? That will be the question at the heart of my sermon this week. The Resident Musicians will sing a wonderful setting by our own Danny Fong of "You've Got a Friend".

As I prepare to begin my summer break on Monday, with a mix of vacation and study time, I am happy to share that Curtis Murphy will be returning to serve as our Summer Minister for the next two months. Curtis was our Intern Minister in 2014-15 and has twice served the congregation as Summer Minister. Curtis is nearing the end of his preparation for UU ministry and is currently providing spiritual care in a hospice setting in Hamilton, where he lives with his partner Rev. Carly Gaylor and their young son Darragh. In addition to preaching several times over the coming months, Curtis will be available to respond to any pastoral care needs, along with our team of Lay Pastors. It comforts me to know the congregation is in such good hands.

May each of us this summer find moments to deepen our connection with life and all that we love. May these warmer months renew our spirits in every way. (And remember to gather water from some place meaningful this summer to share in our Water Communion Service on September 8th.)

If I don't see you this Sunday, I'll look forward to seeing you again in mid-August.

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, June 16, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Sacred Places

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

It is a pleasure to rejoin you all this summer, and to be a part of the ministry of this congregation again. I look forward to seeing many familiar faces, as well as meeting those of you new to this community in the past year. I will be in the pulpit six Sundays between June 23 and August 11.

Our worship services will be part of a series on the theme of "Place." Wendell Berry wrote: "There are no unsecured places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places." This Sunday we will explore the meaning of sacred places in our lives and in our world.

See you Sunday, and in the meantime, Happy Summer Solstice and Pride Weekend!

Curtis Murphy

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, June 23, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Named and Claimed

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

This Sunday is the last day of June, which is Indigenous people's month, and the following Monday is Canada Day. This confluence calls us to reflect on the interweaving stories that make up the places that we live. We'll explore what it means to belong where we live, and what the historical names of places in the Toronto area have to tell us about what has been and what might yet be. Juleth Dawson will share with us the gift of music.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, June 30, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Soil, Soul and Society

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

July is upon us, and with it the heat of the summer. I hope everyone is finding ways to stay cool, and to stay connected to community. For those of you travelling or on vacation, may it be a time of renewal and replenishment. For those of you immersed in the ups and downs of the day-to-day, may there be moments of rest, contentment, and laughter sprinkled throughout.

This Sunday at First, we'll be using Satish Kumar's book, Soil, Soul, and Society: A New Trinity for our Times (perhaps a trinity even Unitarians can get behind!) as the starting place for an exploration of what it means to be human in our place and time. Whether you plan to join us in person, online, or in spirit, I wish you a wonderful weekend.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis Murphy

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, July 07, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Love in the Time of Climate Crisis

Sermon by Reilly Yeo.

What does it mean to love as a Unitarian in a time increasingly defined by the climate crisis? How do we bravely face the reality of our hypocrisy and complicity while still deepening our practices of self-compassion? In this sermon, we will turn towards the search for right action to ground ourselves through these turbulent times. We will cultivate a deeper understanding of love as spiritual growth, and spiritual growth as a continual orientation towards our Unitarian principles of justice, equity and compassion.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, July 14, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Fences and Neighbours

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

Robert Frost is often credited with the saying “Good fences make good neighbours.” But it seems he didn’t coin the phrase, only popularized it in his 1914 poem “The Mending Wall.” The sting goes back a few hundred years, and there are also similar expressions in different languages around the world.

Though proverbs can make things sound simple, this one involves a lot of ambiguity. What, after all, is a “good” fence? And what does it mean to truly be neighbours in a complicated world?

These are some of the questions we’ll explore in the service this Sunday.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, July 21, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Time and Space

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

Our lives are shaped by many practices and traditions, including ones that we may not think about very often. One of these traditions is the practice of keeping the Sabbath, observed in Judaism from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and in Christianity on Sundays. Our congregation meets on Sunday mornings as a result of our heritage in these traditions. Yet the meaning of the Sabbath goes much deeper than this - it is rooted in an understanding of time as a way of touching the sacred. This Sunday we will look at what it means to dwell in sacred time.

Yours on the Journey,
Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, July 28, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The G-Word

Sermon by Terri Palmer.

Unitarian Universalists sometimes get asked why we go to church if most of us don't believe in God. How do we talk about the divine, the spiritual, the things greater than any one person, without using that word? This week we'll talk about the G-word and how we think differently about it.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 04, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Love Like a Fine Ether

Sermon by Curtis Murphy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "the whole human family is bathed in an element of love like a fine ether." This can be hard to reconcile with the reality of violence so present in the world, and the many crises that are unfolding at any given moment. In some ways, this makes the very persistence of ordinary love, kindness and gratitude all the more remarkable, and this Sunday we will reflect on and marvel at the ordinary blessings we offer each other in the course of our days.

It will also be my last time in the pulpit as summer minister. Even though summer is still several weeks from over - rest assured! - Rev. Shawn Newton will be back Sunday August 18, and Rev. Lynn Harrison the following week. As always, it has been an honour and a pleasure to share in ministry with you these past two months, and I wish all the best to each of you and the congregation as the year unfolds.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis Murphy

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 11, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Keeping the Faith

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I hope each of you in recent weeks has discovered anew the great gifts of summer. I hope you have taken the time to bask in the sun, to literally smell the roses—to rest and rejuvenate, and more deeply connect with life itself. I’m grateful to say I have. (Thank you, as always, for the gift of study leave and vacation time. It is a balm for my soul and a needed time to prepare for the year ahead with renewed energy and exiting ideas.) If you’ve not yet made the most of this summer, well, there’s no time like the present. The world awaits!

In my sermon on Sunday, I’ll take up the question of what it means for us to “keep the faith,” especially in a rapidly changing world. I’ll ask you to consider what truly grounds you in this life—and gives you a foundation upon which you build your days, one upon another.

I look forward to seeing you all soon.

In faith and love,
Shawn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 18, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Return Again

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

At many junctures in our lives, we’re called to return again: to reunite with people and places we’ve been missing. Late summer is such a time for many of us…and yet, every day presents us with opportunities for return.

Especially in times of change, and perhaps anxiety and uncertainty, we’re invited to return to the foundations of our spiritual lives: to the “ground of our being” that some call God, to our deep connection with the Earth and the eternal. The UU hymn “Return Again” urges us to return to “the home of our soul.” On Sunday, we’ll explore what that home might be and how we might find our way back to it. It's a returning that happens again, and again, throughout our lives.

I’m so glad to be returning to First again after the summer interval, and look forward to a Sunday of soulful reflection, song and story. Whether you're returning again, or joining us for the first time, I look forward to being with you.

Blessings,
Lynn

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, August 25, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Challenge By Choice

Sermon by Nicole McKay.

View the Order of Service.

Sunday, September 01, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Water Communion

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

Welcome to the beginning of an exciting new year in the life of our congregation.

On Sunday, we will gather together for our annual Water Communion service in Sunderland Hall. The choir and resident musicians will be serenading us with our own Lucas Marchand’s arrangement of “The River” by Coco Love Alcorn. Dallas Bergen, Rev. Lynn Harrison, and I will lead you through various rituals to honour the place of water in our lives. Whether your journey in recent months has taken you far away or been lived close to home, we encourage you to bring water that symbolically marks some meaningful moment from your summer. (We’ll have water available for those who don’t bring water with them.) There will be opportunities to pour your water to reflect moments of sadness and grief, transition and change, as well as renewal and joy. In this we honour the bittersweet blend that is life itself. We will also begin a new ritual this year that I’ll explain more fully on Sunday.

At the end of the service, I will make a few important announcements. Here’s a preview:

  • While Sunday mornings are important to our congregation, it is in our Journey Groups where we go deeper by engaging with a monthly theme with a circle of five to ten other members of the congregation. This year, we are changing up the format a bit, with more focus on discussion while still listening carefully to one another’s hearts. The themes will tie in closely with the content of the sermon series we have planned for the year. Registration for Journey Groups, which will begin in the second half of October and meet each month through May, will open in the coming week (you’ll find the link for this in next Friday’s First Light).
  • As you may already be aware, there is a widespread call for a truly global General Strike on Friday, September 27thto demand action on climate change. People the world over are being asked to go on strike that day to draw attention to the peril for all future life on our planet. You will be hearing more from Rev. Lynn and I in the coming weeks about this—including plans to have a First Unitarian meeting spot at the demonstrations and marches that will mark the day. In the meantime, our Green Team is providing the art supplies to support us all in making banners and signs that we can carry with us. For the next three Sundays, beginning today at 12:15pm, you can go to Shaw Hall and create your own sign. You can even leave it here to dry over the coming week!
  • Finally, over the past three years, we have had the privilege of sponsoring six refugee families from Syria. We have helped to raise the needed money—at this point approaching a total of a half-million dollars—to bring these people fleeing the horrors of war to Canada. In addition, numerous people from our congregation have volunteered to help these newcomers settle in Toronto and make a new life, by helping them learn how to navigate the TTC or the health care system, showing them around the city and teaching them about what it means to live in this city. It has been highly rewarding work, and a labour of love. The happy news is that our work is not done. We have two more large families on the way, due to arrive in Toronto in the coming three to six months. We urgently need more volunteers. Today and next Sunday, current volunteers will be hosting information sessions downstairs in the Board Room to share their experiences with anyone who is interested in joining them in this amazing work. If you haven’t yet gotten involved, I encourage you to do so.
  • I am excited to join with you—in hope and joy—to begin a new year together.

    See you on Sunday (and remember to bring your water…!)

    In faith and love,
    Shawn

    View the Order of Service.

    Sunday, September 08, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Belonging: The Building Blocks of Community

    Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

    This week, we begin a four-week series of the meaning of community. In a time when people report increasing levels of isolation and loneliness, and in a time when we need one another more than ever to meet the challenges we face, Lynn and I felt it worthwhile to spend some time exploring the fundamental principles of being a religious community--from the benefits and joys, to the requirements and logistics, to the disappointments and frustrations. On Sunday, I'll invite us to consider the basic building blocks of being together in an intentional community.

    As we begin new program year in the congregation, I encourage you to connect with a Journey Group this year as a way to go deeper. The format this year will build on the tradition of careful listening by inviting more fulsome discussion on the month's theme. These small groups begin in mid-October and run through the end of May. You may register here.

    As I mentioned last Sunday, there are two ways to get involved in some of our congregation's social justice work:

  • Volunteer to support a refugee family from Syria. Another family will be arriving in the coming months and we need people from the congregation to help them transition to life in Canada in a number of ways. To learn more, please attend the information session at 12:15pm in the Board Room this Sunday.
  • Prepare for the General Strike for Climate Justice on September 27th (and kicking off on September 20th) by making your sign for the demonstration at Queen's Park. Our Green Team is providing all the needed supplies. Visit their table in Workman Hall this week or next to participate.
  • See you on Sunday.

    In faith and love,
    Shawn

    View the Order of Service.

    Sunday, September 15, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Belonging: Caring for Each Other

    Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

     

    This Sunday, we continue our series on “Belonging” by reflecting on how we care for one another as a community.

     

    First Unitarian Congregation is no small group! With over 300 members, and just as many people (likely more) engaged with us occasionally or online, our circles of care intertwine throughout our community and well beyond our doors.

     

    At First, we provide care in many important ways. Our ministers and spiritual care teams provide direct pastoral care. As a community, we intentionally strive to deepen in our ability to provide caring presence, through events such as the upcoming Spiritual Care Salon on Wednesday night (details below). Perhaps most importantly, we form relationships that allow us to be there for each other, when we need each other (and don’t we always).

     

    Our Journey Groups are another important way that we care for one another. In these groups, we practice a form of listening based on Quaker “circles of trust,” using our monthly themes to guide our reflections. These small groups begin in mid-October and run through the end of May. Now's the time to register here.

    As we grow in our ability to care for one another, we extend our circles of care to the whole world. Next Friday, Sept. 27th many of us will gather at Queen’s Park to march for climate justice, in the culminating event of a week of international climate action. We'll meet at the West Portico of the Legislative Assembly at 11:00 a.m. to march at noon.

     

    I hope you’ll join me on Sunday, to deepen, grow and listen together…as we care for each other and our world.

     

    Blessings,
    Lynn

     

    View the Order of Service.

    Sunday, September 22, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Belonging: Being Part of Something Larger

    Belonging: “Being Part of Something Bigger”

     

    Bruce Schwartzentruber, a much-beloved member of our congregation who died suddenly almost five years ago, had as the signature line of his emails the following popular proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As we continue our series on the theme of Belonging, we turn to the question of what it means to intentionally be a part of something larger than ourselves—be it a community, a movement, or simply an understanding of our place in the great web that is life itself. Going together is rarely the quickest course, and yet it is the one that promises to take us farther than we could ever go on our own.

     

    This Sunday, we’ll also celebrate the Central America Project, with reflections by Dominic and Alix Stones about their work earlier this year in Honduras. Contributions to this ongoing effort to build schools in Central America will be welcomed during a special offering. Our musical team will sing Sydney Guillaume’s “Touched in Love” and Greg Jasperese’s “Oh How Beautiful this Finely Woven Earth.”

     

    In faith and love,
    Shawn

     

    View the Order of Service.

    Sunday, September 29, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Belonging: Ins And Outs

    Belonging: Ins and Outs

     

    Order of Service for today (PDF)

     

    We do it perhaps dozens--even hundreds--of times each day. We make judgments about what's right and wrong, good and bad, desired and rejected. It's an important and necessary part of being human, yet it sometimes gets in the way of the deep welcoming we seek for others and ourselves.

     

    As we wrap up our series on "Belonging" this Sunday, we'll reflect on what it means to turn around and welcome the rejected, the unfamiliar idea, the new way of being.

     

    This Sunday falls during the "Days of Awe" in the Jewish calendar, between the holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and we're delighted to welcome storyteller Eden Nameri to present a classic Jewish wisdom tale, traditionally told at this time of year. As well, the First Unitarian Choir will present Srul Irving Glick's Avinu Malkeinu and our Resident Musicians will honour the autumn season in song.

     

    We welcome you, whether you're a longtime member of First Unitarian or joining us for the very first time.

     

    See you on Sunday!

     

    Rev. Lynn Harrison

    Sunday, October 06, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Thanksgiving Sunday: Blessed

    Please find the Order of Service for this service here and the Announcements here.

     

    From the Pulpit

     

    “Blessed”

     

    High above us the sun shines

    and beyond the sun

    the stars of night

    hide in the daytime sky.

     

    Below our feet

    the worms

    out of their bodies remake the earth

    And at the centre

    the earth still simmers

    with its first fire.

     

    Somewhere

    between the stars and the earth's core

    we live

    and weep

    and ask

    and laugh

    and answer.

     

    Such wonders abounding

    how can we not be amazed?

    Let the light and darkness

    bless each other

    and bless us.

     

    Amen

    - Barbara J. Pescan

     

     

    This Sunday, we will celebrate the earth’s bounty with our annual Thanksgiving Harvest Communion, with apple cider and fresh-baked bread (along with a gluten-free option). My sermon will take up the question of what it means to count ourselves blessed in this world. The choir and our Resident Musicians will offer powerful settings of two spirituals by the African American composer Moses Hogan. And a cast comprised of our young people will present as the Time for All Ages a Readers’ Theatre version of “The Queen’s Loaves.”

     

    Following the service, we will take share in our annual Thanksgiving Potluck, upstairs in Workman Hall. All are invited. Please bring a dish to share or plan to contribute financially toward the meal, if possible.

     

    May this Thanksgiving, in whatever ways you celebrate, provide you opportunities to connect with gratitude and with joy, and know yourself blessed by Life.

     

    Happy Thanksgiving!

     

    In faith and love,

    Shawn

    Sunday, October 13, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    Lay Chaplain Sunday

    Please find the Order of Service for this service here, the Announcements here and the Litany For Affirmation here.

     

    First Unitarian, like many Canadian UU congregations, has long offered the services of Lay Chaplains to the wider community. This form of outreach gives us wonderful opportunities to demonstrate our open faith by supporting people who wish to mark meaningful moments in their lives with ceremony and ritual but do not have a faith home of their own, or find the ceremony of their choice would not be accepted there.

     

    People have come together from the most ancient times to celebrate new life, formalize bonds of love, and bid farewell to the dead using ritual and ceremony. Our Lay Chaplains enter into these intimate moments with care, to provide a listening ear, a calm presence, and a sacred celebration tailored to the beliefs and needs of the gathered company.

     

    This Sunday we will express our thanks to Jan Crowley as a retiring Lay Chaplain and join in a recommittal of Karen Dunk-Green and Sue Meggs as they continue their service in this role. Sue and Karen will share with us some of the scenes they have witnessed and the roles they have played from the Lay Chaplain's unique position in "front row seats at the theatre of love and death." As well, we'll enjoy the beautiful and inspiring music of our resident musicians, and strengthen the bonds of community that can help sustain each one of us through all the passages of life.

     

    Sermon by Chaplains Karen Dunk-Green and Sue Meggs.

    Sunday, October 20, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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    A Good Enough Life

    Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton

     

    This Sunday, we begin a four-part series on the theme of “Enough” with our annual service to honour our loved ones who have died. Across many different cultures and religions, the onset of autumn invites reflection on our mortality and the ongoing presence of those we have lost. Our Service of Remembrance will offer us an opportunity to lift up their names once more and affirm their ongoing place in our lives. You are invited to bring photos or meaningful mementos of loved ones to place on our Altar of Remembrance during the prelude or opening hymn on Sunday morning. The choir will sing Daniel Gawthrop’s “Sing Me to Heaven” and Clif Hardin’s “Wherever you go now.”

     

    I want to share with you a copy of the staff’s Covenant, which we review and renew each year. This set of living promises gives shape to our life together and, we believe, deepens the quality of our work in service to the congregation. We ask, as always, that the members of the First Unitarian community help us in living up to the aspirations of our covenant. You can read the covenant here.

     

    Finally, a note about the beginning of our worship services. With the challenges of traffic and transit in Toronto, we understand that it’s not easy for everyone to arrive on time for our Sunday morning service. Still, out of respect for those who have gathered and to honour the contributions to the service made by our musicians and others, we ask that all latecomers respectfully follow the guidance of our ushers as to when it there is a suitable moment to take your seats. Most Sundays, this will occur during the opening hymn and as the children come forward for the Time for All Ages. Thank you for your understanding and help in this.

     

    In faith and love,
    Shawn

     

    View the Order of Service.

    Sunday, October 27, 2019 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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