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

Event Name

Date

After the Words

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

April feels like a long time ago, now. But April it was, when Unitarian Universalists from around North America gathered in New York City for the annual Spring Seminar at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO). The focus of this year's seminar was indigenous rights. Conversations around this topic dovetail well with our theme of Awakening this month, given that there appears to be a gradual, if delayed, national awakening to the ongoing issues of justice for indigenous people in Canada. More and more people are asking what it means for us to live in this land, and on this land, and how we can move forward in right relationship with the land's First People's. This Sunday I will share about how my own and my family's history intersects with the colonization of Canada, and we will reflect together on how we fit into this unfolding story. There will also be a special collection taken in support of the UU-UNO. See you there!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis
Intern Minister

Sunday, October 19, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Finding Life In Death

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

We gather this Sunday at a tender time in our national life, newly reminded of how precious life is, and how fragile. The violent events of this week have stirred a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to fear and pride. We’ve been confronted with our vulnerability, but also shown the depths of our resilience. The sights and sounds of this week leave us with unsettling questions we will likely grapple with for some time. On Sunday, at 12:15pm, I will host a Sharing Circle in the library for all who wish to grapple together. This will be a respectful time of deep listening to what’s on our hearts as we try to understand the meaning of what has happened and what response we hope to make, as individuals, as a community, and as a country.

This Sunday, we will also, during our annual celebration of the Day of the Dead/Samhain/All Souls, honour the lives of beloved family and friends who have gone before us. You are invited to bring their photographs and other mementos to place on our Altar of Memory during the prelude or the opening hymn. Later in the service, we will lift up the names of those we’ve loved and lost, and collectively affirm their continuing presence in our lives: ¡Presente! My sermon will explore the seeming paradox that we so often find life in the midst of death.

Finally, I’m delighted to invite you to join a delegation of members from First Unitarian who will attend the Installation Service at the Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga. Happily, their new minister is our former Intern Minister, the Rev. Fiona Heath. The service will take place at 3:00pm on 1 November.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, October 26, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Home for All Souls

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday we will celebrate and renew our commitment to our congregation for the coming year. First Unitarian is what we make of it; it’s destiny, as always, rests in our hands. So I encourage you to give as generously as possible to keep First both vital and vibrant far into the future. During the service, we will invite you to bring forward your completed 2015 Pledge Form. It will be my honour, along with other congregational leaders, to thank you for your ongoing dedication to our religious community.

Be sure to enjoy an extra hour of sleep Saturday night by setting your clocks back for Daylight Saving Time!

Finally, I’m looking forward to taking part in Fiona Heath’s installation on Saturday as the new minister of the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga. The service is at 3:00pm, with a reception to follow. All are welcome, so I hope to see you there!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 02, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Anthem for Doomed Youth

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton & Ann Shafer.

As we approach Remembrance Day, red poppies have bloomed, far and wide again this fall, a ubiquitous sign of gratitude and admiration for those who’ve served in the country’s armed forces. And, there are also to be found, though less plentiful, white poppies, a sign of aspiration for peace and non-violence. I appreciate the traditions behind both colours, which perhaps speaks to the ambivalence I feel about war. By ambivalence, I don’t mean indifference—which the word is sometimes thought to mean—but rather it’s truest definition of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something.

The same has been true for Unitarian Universalism for much of our history. People often assume we are part of the “Peace Church” traditions, such as the Quakers and Mennonites. Our story, though, is much more complicated. On Sunday, I’ll share part of that story and explore where we, as a faith, might go from here to promote peace in the world.

I’ll be joined in the pulpit this week by Anna Schafer for a powerful reflection about her experience of growing up in Germany, near the Dutch border, in the wake of World War II.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 09, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Vulnerabiity Is Our Strength

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton & Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

Over these past few days, as our congregation has absorbed the difficult news of the sudden death of Bruce Schwartzentruber—arguably our most outgoing member—I've been reminded again and again that even in this time of deep loss we have been reminded of our shared strength. When someone we deeply care about dies without warning, we are reminded in such a visceral way of life's fragility—and of the vulnerability that comes with simply being alive. Such moments so often show us what we're made of. So often they teach us that we're stronger than we previously realized.

In the Torah, in The Book of Deuteronomy, God explains that we humans have been presented with a choice between life and death. We are told, emphatically, “to choose life”. It is that choice we confront repeatedly in the course of our days as heartache and loss come our way. Do we choose the path of bitterness and resentment, brokenness and death? Or do we choose life by walking through our pain and difficulties toward healing, hope, and growth? On Sunday, I'll take up this question of how we choose life when it seems that all is lost.

Following coffee hour on Sunday, I invite all those who wish to join me in a Sharing Circle in Sunderland Hall at 12:15pm to reflect on Bruce's death, offer up memories, and tell the stories of how our lives were touched by his. Whenever I plan a memorial service, I typically sit down the family of the deceased and invite them into a reflective conversation about the person's life, their impact, and their hopes and dreams that live on in us. Given that First was a significant part of Bruce's family, it's only right that we gather together for this conversation—which I fully expect will involve dozens of people! I look forward to sharing this time together.

Finally, Bruce's memorial service will take place on Sunday, November 23, at 3:00pm at First Unitarian. As always, all are welcome at this Celebration of Life.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, November 16, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Compelling Case for Interdependence

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

If you received an email from Bruce Schwartzentruber in recent years, you may have noticed the African proverb he included in his signature line. "If you want to travel fast, go alone; if you want to travel far, go together." Not only does that sum up Bruce's philosophy of life, but it speaks to a persistent tension in our Unitarian faith, and really our larger culture. It is this fundamental tension at the heart of life between freedom and connection, between the urge to go it alone and the desire to belong that I'll tackle in my sermon on Sunday.

A reminder that we will memorialize Bruce on Sunday at 3:00pm with a Celebration of Life in his honour. If you are arriving by car, I encourage you, if at all possible, to park at some distance from First and walk in order to leave the parking on nearby streets and the lot across the street from First available for Bruce’s family and friends who are less familiar with parking in our neighbourhood. There is free parking behind the Desjardins building at 95 St. Clair West, and Timothy Eaton United Church is allowing us to use their parking lot.

Finally, I know many are struggling to make sense of the sudden loss that has come with Bruce's death. Know that the Lay Pastors, Curtis, and I are available to you if you need to talk.v

In love and faith,
Shawn

Sunday, November 23, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Engendering Vulnerability

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

This Sunday will be the last for November's theme of vulnerability. Dr. Vanessa Brcic writes that, “vulnerability is an inevitable condition of being human. Power is not.” While we cannot escape being vulnerable, our gender identity and expression is one factor which affects how vulnerable we are, and to what, and to whom. Conversations about gender can be sensitive and complex, yet in many ways it is central to how we experience our lives, even if we wish that weren't always so. This Sunday's service will explore some of these tensions, and will also include a ritual of remembrance for the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, in 1989. I look forward to seeing you there.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

P.S. This Sunday's order of service will include a feedback form, for you to offer your reflections on the sermon to our internship committee and intern minister. Please consider filling out this form in support of our commitment as a teaching congregation.

Sunday, November 30, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Living Justice

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Theodore Parker said, and was later famously quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr., that the moral arc of the universe is long, but that it bends toward justice. On Sunday, in light of this month’s theme of embodiment, I’ll ask us to consider the part we play in helping that arc to bend. (In advance of the service this week, you may find it interesting to complete the recent survey found in The Star on the question of “What kind of Torontonian are you?”).

Also during the service, we’ll hear from Ted Wood on our recent projects through Amnesty International and from Beth Guthrie, our Eco-Social Justice Convenor, on how our Middle East Dialogue Group came into being this summer out of tensions within our congregation over how to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Beth will be inviting you to the first of the public dialogue groups that will take place on Sunday at 1pm (lunch available at 12:30) in Shaw Hall. Dalia Krusner, the director of a program that brings together Palestinian and Israeli youth each summer, will offer us tools we can use to help with peacemaking, starting within our own communities.

Finally, I draw your attention to the array of special services we’ll be holding at First in the coming weeks to celebrate the season. I hope you’ll avail yourself of many of these opportunities for taking in the beauty, the wonder, and even the complications of the holidays that will soon be upon us.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, December 07, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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What Does the Hokey-Pokey Have To Do with Life?

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

So, just how long has it been since you’ve done the Hokey-Pokey? I’m guessing that for most of us, it’s been far too long. On Sunday, we’ll give thought to what it takes to put our whole selves in, and maybe, even, to shake it all about!

In love and faith,
Shawn

Sunday, December 14, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Winter Solstice Service

Sermon by Shawn Newton.

We will celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice through a special service held in the round, with candlelight and a walk along a great spiral of evergreens, symbolic of the journey we're all making toward light.

The sermon will be repeated from this morning's service, inviting each of us to consider the miraculous place we hold as children of the universe.

In love and faith,
Shawn

Saturday, December 20, 2014 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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The Staggering Grace of It All

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

In the coming days, as the sun reaches its lowest point on the horizon, we begin the slow journey from darkness into light. It is no accident that at the darkest time of the year, many of the world's religions hold festivals of light, from Chanukah to Yule to Christmas. This Sunday, we'll celebrate all three by lighting our menorah, yule log, and advent wreath. My sermon this week will invite each of to consider the miraculous place we hold as children of the universe.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, December 21, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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In the Flesh

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Our Christmas Eve Service will be a poignant celebration, filled with marvelous music and the glow of candlelight.

The choir will lead us in a beautiful celebration of Christmas, with lessons and carols and candlelight. In my sermon I'll take up Sophia Lyons Fahs' beautiful reminder that each night a child is born is a holy night.

In love and faith,
Shawn

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Touchstones

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

The days are getting longer. Last Sunday we marked the winter solstice, and with it, the return of the light. This is something to celebrate, and yet it is also a time to pause and appreciate the gifts of darkness. Just as night is more than a time to wait for the next day, the dark of winter need not be merely endured; it can afford us a chance to see what we might not see in the light of day or the heat of summer. This Sunday we will reflect on what we stand to gain from reclaiming the power of darkness in our lives and in our world.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, December 28, 2014 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A New Leaf

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, we'll gather for our Annual Fire Communion Service. Like the Roman god Janus with his two faces pointing in different directions—one toward the past, the other toward the future—we will take time to reflect on the year that has been and give thought to the hopes we carry with us into the year ahead.

A key part of our fire communion tradition involves reflecting on our regrets and releasing them to the past; this year, as always, we will give thought to how we might move beyond the burdens of our mistakes and failings to arrive at the end of 2015 with, hopefully, substantially less to regret!

Over the next couple of days, I hope you'll consider what hurts or bad habits, what regrets or resentments, you're ready to relinquish to the past; and I hope, too, that you'll open your heart to the possibilities you aspire to bring into being in the coming year.

Wishing each of you the very best for 2015!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 04, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Last Laugh

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

Our theme for January asks us to consider what it means to seek a life of character. “Living with character” probably suggests living a virtuous life of authenticity, integrity, and honesty. If so, then what does it mean to be “out of character?” Is that inevitably something negative? Or is each of us capable of playing multiple characters, all with their own unique virtues? Perhaps there is room in life of character for a spirit of playful experimentation, as we seek to live out our truest selves.

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, January 11, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Character of Covenant

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Each Sunday morning, we affirm the highest aspirations of our congregation in the words of our covenant. But what do we really mean in expressing our hope “to dwell together in peace”? It’s a pretty lofty goal, after all, especially given that conflict and tension are a normal part of any human relationship. So, how might best we manage these challenges when the arise—in our lives as individuals and as a congregation? This week, I’ll be joined by Doug Buck, the outgoing chair of our Healthy Congregation Team, in a dialogue sermon to take up that question. We’ll explore how we can seek to dwell together in peace, even while contending with conflict when it comes.

Also, this week, Annette Wilde will tell us about a proposal coming forward to the congregation on February 1. She and a growing team of supporters of this proposal will be asking us all to rally together to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees in the next year or so. As many of you know, First Unitarian has sponsored a number of refugees over the years. This life-giving act of deep hospitality is an important part of our congregation’s story. We are being asked to write another chapter of that story. I hope you’ll sit with this invitation to collective action and discern whether you are willing and able to help First Unitarian support people fleeing the horrific civil war that has so devastated that part of the world.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 18, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Salvation by Character

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Special collection for Friends of New Visions Toronto.

As Unitarians, we tend to have a bit of an aversion to any talk of "salvation." After all, the word has seemingly belonged, for as long as most of us can remember, to people who tend to see the world quite differently than most religious liberals. And, yet, our spiritual ancestors spent quite a lot of time and energy discussing salvation, with a particular eye to the role that the cultivation of our character plays in "saving" us. On Sunday, we'll be exploring what it might mean to update these concepts for the complicated times in which we live.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, January 25, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Halfway There

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

It is nearly a new month, and with it, a new theme. This February we will be asking ourselves: what does it mean to seek a life of evolution?

If we hear anything about evolution in our day-to-day lives, it likely has something to do with the legacy of Charles Darwin, or with the public showdown between "evolutionists" and "creationists." But this is the tip of the iceberg.

In a broader sense, evolution refers to any ongoing process of growth and change, not only biological and geological, but personal and social, outward and internal.

Also, if evolution is a journey, it is not only defined by beginning and end; it is primarily a matter of what happens in-between. This Sunday marks the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox - we're getting there! - and we will use the occasion to reflect on what it means to be "halfway there."

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, February 01, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Everybody Else

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

"The only constant is change." It's an axiom we're all familiar with, and in contains a large kernel of truth. But not everything changes at the same pace. Sometimes, in our lives and in our world, things change so fast it feels impossible to keep up. And then sometimes, the changes we most hope for take forever to materialize, if they materialize at all.

Our experience of change is coloured by our relationship to time. In a fast-paced world, we tend to see time in small units: a few years, a few days, a few seconds. What would a more expansive understanding of time look like and feel like? What might we stand to gain from a worldview grounded in "deep time?" These are some of the questions we'll be exploring in Sunday. See you there!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, February 08, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Survival of the Fittest?

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, as we continue with this month’s theme of evolution, we take up the question of what evolution has meant—and what it means going forward—for our congregation. Karen Dunk-Green, the chair of our Future Focus Program, will be joining me in the pulpit this week to explore how we’ve changed as a congregation and to ponder how we might continue to evolve in order to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world.

The service will include two of my all-time favourite texts. The choir will sing Betsy Jo Angebranndt’s setting of Robert Weston’s “Out of the Stars”, and our reading for the day will be Philip Larkin’s “Church Going”.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, February 15, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

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