Events under 'Sunday Services'
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Event Name

Date

No One Ever Mentions the Loss

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

People don’t resist change; they resist loss. That’s perhaps the most important nugget in the writings of Ronald Heifetz on leadership. Too often, we find people (or, gasp, even ourselves!) stuck in a rut, or simply dead set against making a needed change in their lives, without truly considering the losses that are at stake.

This Sunday, we’ll be exploring how we might reconcile ourselves to life’s losses when facing the need to change.

Stephanie Hotchkiss will sing “Let It Go” from Frozen and the choir will sing “We Rise Again” as the anthem.

Sunday, February 22, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Servetus on Trial: A Reformation Drama

Sermon by Peter Hughes.

My favourite t-shirt—which I’ve owned for thirteen years—says, on the back: “Unitarian Universalism: Celebrating 450 Years of Heresy”. On the front is an old wood block image of Michael Servetus, who was born in 1509 in northeastern Spain and died in Geneva, in 1554, by the order of the city’s Protestant-dominated council for heresy. During the short years of his life, he became a doctor and correctly described for the first time the human pulmonary system. He was also a theologian who published highly controversial books, with provocative titles such as On the Errors of the Trinity, that raised the ire of the Inquisition and Protestant Reformer John Calvin. In the end, his freedom of belief and conscience cost Servetus his life. The city council had him burned at the stake, along with his books.

This coming Sunday morning, we are fortunate to have our own Rev. Dr. Peter Hughes, one of Unitarian Universalism’s most distinguished historians, present, with a small cast of characters, his short drama about the fascinating life of Servetus. Music from the period will fill out the rest of the service, which will end with a special candle-lighting ritual inspired by the practice in Servetus’ hometown parish church.

I can think of no better way to kick of this month’s theme that invites us to consider what it means to seek a life of freedom!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, March 01, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Celebration & Struggle: International Women's Day

Sermon by Delia Opekokew & Rev. Shawn Newton.

This coming Sunday, we will mark International Women’s Day by considering especially the well-being of Aboriginal women in Canada. It will be my honour to introduce you to Delia Opekokew, the first woman to run for Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the first Aboriginal woman admitted to the bar in Ontario and Saskatchewan. She now serves as the Deputy Chief Adjudicator of the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat. She and I will share in a dialogue about how the legacy of residential schools plays into the cycles of violence we witness today.

We will also welcome Victoria Pezzo, the Executive Director of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto and elected deputy chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation. She will tell us about the good work of the NWRCT, which will be the beneficiary of this week’s special offering (please come prepared to give generously!). Following the service, Darlene King, also from the NWRCT, will present a “101” session on Aboriginal culture, to which all are welcome.

As part of this week’s service, I’ll offer a reflection on what it means to stand in solidarity with others in times of struggle. Our resident musicians Stephanie, Aria, and Tahirih will sing The Wyrd Sister’s “Warrior,” and the choir will sing Catherine Dalton’s “I Know a Woman.”

As you may know, this weekend mark’s the 50th anniversary of the pivotal marches for civil rights that set out from Selma, Alabama. A large number of Unitarian Universalist ministers heeded Martin Luther King’s call for clergy to come to Selma, including Rev. John Morgan, the minister of First Unitarian, Toronto. Following the march on March 9, 1965, Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb was attacked by a group of white segregationists and died two days later. His death became a watershed moment in the struggle for African-American civil rights—and a defining moment in Unitarian Universalism, as our tradition deepened in its commitment to working for racial justice. To learn more about this powerful story from our history, I encourage you to view this short “Op-Doc.”

Our special offertory collection will go to the Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto.

Finally, remember the Daylight Savings Time change this weekend, as our clocks spring forward by an hour!

In faith and love,
Shawn


At 12:15 there will be a workshop in Shaw Hall where you are invited to meet women from the Native Women's Resource Centre, including Darlene King, who will present a “Culture 101” session on Aboriginal culture and on sharing her teachings, and Victoria Pezzo, the executive director, who is also the elected deputy chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation and a long-standing community volunteer at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto as a Community Council member for their alternative dispute resolution program.

Sunday, March 08, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Deep Agnosticism

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister

The last few days I've been humming "Desperado," by the Eagles: "Freedom, oh freedom, well that's just some people talking..." This month, we are those people, since we've taken on freedom as our theme for March. But is freedom just an elusive dream? Is it something we can create for ourselves, or do we need others to grant it to us? What are the connections between individual freedom and collective freedom? Is there a difference between freedom and justice?

The ancient Hebrews had a good answer to some of these questions: the Jubilee year. The Jubilee came every 49 years (or 50 years, depending on who you ask), and it meant that all slaves were freed, and all debts were forgiven. This is more than just a quaint idea from another time. It is a powerful symbol of our collective ability to set each other free, if we will only agree to do so. It is time for a new Jubilee, starting this Sunday!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, March 15, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Mosaic in the Making

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I’ve heard it said many, many times since moving to Canada: “We’re a mosaic, not a melting pot!” And, it’s true. I’ve come to see and appreciate this important difference. Indeed, one of the most distinctive (and best!) qualities of this country is Canada’s deep commitment to honouring and celebrating our diversity. So, it grieves me, and I know many of you, to see this proud tradition being actively undermined in our national discourse by a brazen rhetoric of fear. On Sunday, I’ll take up the question of how maintaining the mosaic is the key to our freedom—both in a civic life, as well as in our congregational life.

In advance of Sunday, I draw your attention to the report of our congregation’s Diversity Working Group. This summary and the fuller report lift up the work before us as a religious community to live more fully into our commitments to be truly inclusive of human difference. If this work is of interest to you, I hope you’ll drop by the DWG’s table in Workman Hall on Sunday for more information.

Finally, I very much look forward to being the emcee of our Storyfire event on Saturday. This festival of storytelling and music will take place at 3:00pm in Sunderland Hall. More details are below. I hope to see you there!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, March 22, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Costs of Liberation

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Those immortal words from “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by Kris Kristofferson and made famous by Janis Joplin, get to the heart of freedom’s complexities. On Sunday, as we wrap up this month’s theme, I’ll explore some of the complications that come with freedom, including our resistance to it. This Sunday, we’ll also honour the start of Passover and hear from special guest Husam Wafaei about our Syrian Refugee Project.

Sunday afternoon, members and friends from First will take a field trip to visit the new Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre. I’ll be part of the group touring the Centre and taking part in discussions with Ismaili leaders about our respective faith traditions.

At 12:15pm on Sunday, before we leave for the museum, I’ll be hosting a gathering in my office for any and all interested in the diversity work I lifted up in my sermon last week. As we begin to implement the recommendations of the Diversity Working Group, there will be a significant amount of soul work for us to do as a congregation. I look forward to meeting with those who feel called to this work.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, March 29, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Why Certain Stories Endure

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Earlier this week, I enjoyed a walk through the ravines around First with a member of the congregation. It seemed a good idea a few weeks ago when we scheduled the appointment. We’d walk and talk amid the unfolding beauty of spring. And we did. What we hadn’t really planned for, though, was mud—in abundance! Our shoes were caked with the stuff. And, yet, for all the difficulty in cleaning up the mess I made of my shoes, I basked in this sure sign that spring is on the way.

The turn from winter to spring has been a process marked by many of the world’s religions, especially those in northern climes. It’s no accident that the imagery involved speaks of transformation, of the move from dark to light, from cold to warmth, from captivity to freedom, from death to life. On Sunday, we’ll celebrate many of the stories that make up this time of year—even with all the complications they bring for us as Unitarians! For there is, of course, something in these stories that endures.

Next Sunday, the 12th, members of our congregation working with the Green Sanctuary Team, will present the service, “A Climate for Change.” A special offering will be taken that day to support our congregation’s Green Fund, which supports our efforts to green our building and our congregation’s various activities.

Happy Spring, Happy Passover, Happy Easter!

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, April 05, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Climate for Change

Service by the Toronto First Green Sanctuary Team.

Yearly collection for Green Sanctuary Committee, including paying for new Tower Lights, maintenance of the Secret Garden, workshops on energy saving, container gardening and divestment, new books and DVDs for the library, education sessions for the children, sources for organic tea and coffee and weekly Green moments in First Light.

Sunday, April 12, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Enough Is Enough

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

“Earth Was Given as a Garden.” These words form the opening line of one of my favourite hymns. Written by Roberta Bard Ruby in 1992, she continues in a later verse:

Teach us how to trust each other,
how to use for good our power,
how to touch the earth with reverence.
Then once more will Eden flower.

It is a beautiful affirmation of hope. And, yet, it seems more and more the stuff of distant dreams. Most days, Eden feels a very long way off. Perhaps that’s because, like Adam and Eve, we’ve struggled to accept that the garden—as wondrous as it is—is enough.

This Sunday, as we celebrate Earth Day and delve deeper into April’s theme of sustainability, we’ll explore the connection between our sense of “having enough” and “being enough.” We’ll take a look at our lives, asking how the planet might become a healthier place if we were to confront feelings of inadequacy and scarcity, and began to see that we, and the world around us, are enough.

Sunday, April 19, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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That Our Days May Be Long

Sermon by Rev. Peter Hughes.

I am delighted to welcome the Rev. Dr. Peter Hughes to our pulpit this Sunday. And I am deeply grateful. Peter has graciously agreed to step in on short notice to preach for us this weekend, as Curtis remains in Halifax with his brother Devin, who is undergoing another surgery today to address complications from his operation last week. (Curtis and his family ask for our continued prayers and good thoughts during this challenging time.)

As many of you know, Peter is a member of our congregation, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, and a leading historian of our tradition. He says of his sermon:

“Reminiscing about my experience as a ministerial intern, I am led to thoughts about the care and honor due to our parents and elders, and the kinds of sustainability that result from the attitude of respect.”

We will also welcome Bayan Khatib, from the Muslim Association of Canada. Bayan will speak about her experience as a child coming from Syria as a refugee and announce that our own Syria Refugee Project has identified the family that we will sponsor to bring to Canada.

I will help open the service on Sunday, but will be departing with the children after the Time for All Ages to be in conversation with the young people in our Neighbouring Faiths program. Over the past year, they've learned about different religious traditions and have visited other faith communities. My time with them on Sunday will be a long-scheduled opportunity to help them reflect on their experiences and consider how what they've learned informs their identities as young Unitarians.

Later next week, I'll be leaving for a couple of weeks of vacation with Bob. While I'm away, our Lay Pastors will be available, with back-up from area ministers, should pastoral needs or emergencies arise. Know that there is, at all times, a web of care in place to hold this community together.

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, April 26, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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This Is My Story

Sermon by Dallas Bergen, Director of Congregational Music.

What's your story?

Homer, Gilgamesh, Hua Mulan; Frodo Baggins, Tyrion Lannister, Hermione Granger. Whether of ancient lore, a national epic, or high fantasy, most of us love tales of heroism--but when it comes to our daily lives, we remain grounded in the strict dichotomy of fantasy vs reality. Humility is a virtue, and our individual insignificance in the scope of time and space is measurable, but does acknowledgement of that truth mean that we should slip into the trap of a mundane life, thinking we are nothing more than ordinary? Are we extraordinary? Is righteousness commendable or detestable?

The story of our lives is a vast epic, unraveling with us both as co-author and protagonist. There's drama, intrigue, adventure; dazzling victories and crushing defeats. We are heroes (and villains) all!

Sunday's sermon, much of it a testimony, will include reflections on the journey that has led me to Toronto First; to Unitarian Universalism; to a life dedicated to building community and improving quality of life through music. It will explore themes of honouring our past while not being beholden to it; responding to our inner call; embracing adventure; telling our story.

There will be a special collection for Regent Park School of Music--one of our congregational social justice projects--and an institution dedicated to nurturing musical appreciation and proficiency in under-privileged children and youth across the city of Toronto through access to subsidized private music lessons and ensembles.

I look forward to our shared worship together this Sunday.

Dallas Bergen,
Director of Congregational Music

Sunday, May 03, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Nature, Nurture and Narrative

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

I am looking forward to being back in the pulpit this Sunday after spending time in Halifax with my family. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be present with my brother, Devin, through his illness. He is now recovering at home and we are hopeful that his healing will continue. Thank you all for holding him in your thoughts and prayers, and to everyone who sent messages of support.

This week we continue with our monthly theme of story. Often we think that stories are fictional, that they are an alternative to the real world of facts. But in many ways, stories are the foundation of our world, and define how we live in it. Charles Eisenstein refers to “the space between stories” as a place of transition from an old story to a new story. This can be a place of uncertainty and discomfort, and also a place of promise and possibility. What are the stories that define our lives, individually and collectively? How are these stories serving us? What are the new stories we are reaching toward? We will also take the occasion this Sunday to honour Mother’s Day, and the many stories it brings.

Yours on the journey,

Curtis

Sunday, May 10, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Art of the Story

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton & Diane Bosman.

At this year’s Storyfire event, I had the pleasure of hearing many of our congregation’s fine storytellers work their magic. Afterwards, in talking with Diane Bosman, we joked about switching out the sermon and the story some Sunday. This month — with our theme question asking what it means to live a life of story/stories — gives us the perfect opportunity to do so.

So today Diane will weave a powerful tale that I’ll use as the point of departure for reflecting on the power stories have to save us. To prepare, you might give thought to what story you’re telling these days to save your own life.

Sunday, May 17, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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A Story Every One

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

This Sunday, we celebrate “spring come at last” with our annual tradition of Flower Communion. Taking up this ritual first developed by Rev. Norbert Capek between the World Wars in the Unitarian Church in Prague, we will create of great bouquet of flowers, fresh from our gardens (or our local florist..!), and then we’ll each depart with a flower different from the one we brought.

Every year, I’m delighted watching the beautiful sprigs of colour that emerge from pockets and purses, as people bring forth delicate blooms, tiny budded flowers, and regal stalks with a riot of blossoms. Even more exciting is watching the joy and intention each of you bring in choosing exactly which flower you’d like to take home. Picking flowers takes on a whole new meaning, as we find the true “communion” in this ritual—that we are gifted a flower that embodies the natural grace and beauty that is given us on this good, green earth.

So, bring a flower or two on Sunday. (And, as always, don’t worry if you forget or don’t have ready access to a garden; there will be a supply of flowers available in the narthex as you arrive, if you need a flower to share.)

I’ll see you on Sunday, amid all the blossoms.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 24, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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How to tell the story of our faith

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

For a time, about a decade ago, there was a great deal of chatter in Unitarian Universalist circles about getting your “elevator speech” down pat. The idea was that to promote the good news of our faith, we should all be able to rattle off a concise and compelling case to anyone who might be stuck in an elevator with us for 30 seconds.

I’ll confess I never got my story down. Even seminary didn’t really help. If anything, it only made matters worse. Ours is a complicated faith, not easily explained through sound bites.

So, how do we get our message across? How can we describe to others the sustenance we have found as Unitarians?

These questions are my work this week, as I take up writing the “Auction Sermon” purchased by Susan Phillips and Anne Gloger at our auction last fall. I only hope I do justice to the challenge they’ve put to me!

This week, we also will celebrate the Coming of Age ceremony of two of our young people who will share their Credo Statements. Following the service, we will gather for our congregation’s Annual General Meeting, starting with lunch at 12:15pm. All are welcome to this time of tending to our institution by upholding our democratic tradition.

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 31, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Imagineers of the Soul

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

More and more, I look to the problems of the world and think that it’s not so much a lack of will that we suffer from, but, rather, a failure of imagination. As we kick off June’s theme of imagination, I’ll explore what it might mean for us to “grow a soul”—not only for ourselves, but for the sake of the world we live in.

This will be my last Sunday morning in the pulpit as preacher until mid-September. After eight years, I’m feeling the need to take a bit longer break than I normally do each summer. So, I’ll be using up the rest of my vacation, study leave, and a few weeks of sabbatical time to reflect and renew in order to return on September 1st, ready for the year ahead.

As some of you know, I will be spending the last couple of weeks in August in and around Nairobi, as part of a small delegation of ministers in our Mentoring Coalition with the Kenyan congregations. I’ll be visiting all six of the Unitarian Universalist communities there, will join in meetings and trainings with their denominational leaders, and teach a short course on theology. (A couple of people have expressed safety concerns given the recent violence in Kenya, so I want to assure you that we will be very attentive to the situation there and taking steps to reduce risks.)

Though this is my last Sunday preaching for a while, I will be here next Sunday to celebrate the end of Curtis’ internship before he transitions into being our Summer Minister. And, later that afternoon at 4:00, I very much look forward to preaching at the Ordination of our own Lori Kyle to the Unitarian Universalist ministry. This is a not only a great achievement in her life, but a milestone moment in our congregation, as one of our own takes up the commitment of ministry after being inspired and formed and fed by our congregation. I hope you’ll plan to attend.

See you Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, June 07, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Church of our Imagination

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Intern Minister.

We all have an imagination. It may be a program that we have "running in the background," most of the time, but it's there all the same. At its best, our imagination is a creative force, which we apply constructively to the problems and possibilities of our lives and our world. It helps us to see potential which may not be obvious on the surface.

What is the untapped potential in our UU faith community? What lies within us, waiting to be born, like the sculpture already inside the marble, waiting to be set free? This Sunday, we will use ideas from ecology and permaculture to explore some of these questions.

This Sunday will also mark the end of my 10-month internship at Toronto First. Wow! It really does feel like just the other day that it began. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve, to learn, and to share in ministry in this congregation. Thank you to everyone for welcoming me into the life of this congregation.

After a short break at the end of this month, I will return to serve as summer minister in July and August. In addition to Sunday services, we will be offering "Sacred Cinema" - short film screenings with reflection and fellowship - several Fridays during the summer. The dates will be July 10th, July 31st, and August 14th, at 7pm. Stay tuned for titles!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, June 14, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Going Deep: Celebrating our Aboriginal Roots

Sermon by Rev. Lori Kyle.

Please join our Aboriginal Awareness Group in celebrating National Aboriginal Day. We will explore the ramifications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, while also celebrating the music and beauty of our Aboriginal culture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Great Work

Sermon by Chris Moore, Seminarian.

The sermon will follow the theme of "Love, Compassion and Kindness", which defy the limitations societies and even religions try to place on it.

From the ancient parable of the Good Samaritan, to a personal story of great-grandparents fleeing Northern Ireland, to the celebration of Pride in our city this weekend, love continues to defy the barriers we try to erect to contain it.

Love is the great work we are called to do.

Sunday, June 28, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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The Sacred Art of Jaywalking

Sermon by Curtis Murphy, Summer Minister.

It’s July! I somehow find myself astonished every time a new month arrives, and this month is no exception. Summer is really just beginning, and its days can seem so fleeting. My hope is that each of us is able to find the time and space to enjoy the warmth and sunshine, amid the ongoing activities of life.

When we gather this Sunday, we will reflect on what it means to share public space - “the commons” - in an equitable and soulful way. What does it mean for us to live together as a neighbourhood, a city, a global human family? How does our experience of shared space change based on the perspective we take and the ways we interact? How do we claim the sacred in city life? See you on Sunday!

Yours on the journey,
Curtis

Sunday, July 05, 2015 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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