A Welcome From Our Minister

Sermons are also available from other years: Sermons

Date Sermon Title and Description Preacher/Participants
December 30 I'm Not Sure...Can I Still Believe?
Unitarians seem to never be sure, but we still believe in many things: magic, a partner, justice. Come explore this mystery of mind and soul. Intergenerational service
Robbie Brydon
December 19
(Wednesday)
Blue Christmas Service
A quiet, contemplative worship opportunity to reflect on the losses in our lives amid this season of merriment
Rev. Shawn Newton
December 21
(Friday)
Winter Solstice Service
A candlelight celebration of the Yule on this "turning night" of the year
Rev. Shawn Newton with Members of the Congregation
December 23 A Living Nativity
An Intergenerational, interactive retelling of the Christmas story, in all its messy wonder
Rev. Shawn Newton
December 24
(Monday)
Let Christmas Come
A candlelight Christmas Eve service of traditional and not-so-traditional "lessons and carols" to celebrate the spirit of Christmas; the choir will sing and Shawn will offer the homily
Rev. Shawn Newton
December 16 Labyrinthine Living
Winter solstice exploration of labyrinths as teaching tools for deeper living
Rev. Shawn Newton, Helen Iacovino, Nancy Kasper & Michael Moon
December 9 To Light or To Curse?
What do Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, and human rights have in common?
Rev. Shawn Newton
December 2 You Can't Always Get What You Want
Theodore Parker said disappointment is often the "salt of life". How do we make the most of it when it comes?
Rev. Shawn Newton
November 25 This Preaching Thing
A sermon about sermons
Rev. Shawn Newton
November 18 Radical Hospitality
A celebration of our commitments to one another and the future of Toronto First
Rev. Shawn Newton
November 11 Say You Love This World - Read
Taking inspiration from our Unitarian Seventh Principle: the interdependent web of all existence. We all have ourparts to play. Special Music
Ilene Cummings
November 4 The Art of Possibility
The kick-off for our annual canvass & an invitation to consider the opportunities before us in this new season of ministry
Rev. Shawn Newton
October 28 For All the Saints
Religious traditions the world over mark this time of year by honouring the delicate thread between life and death. Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day, the Pagan festival of Samhein, and the colourful celebrations of the Dia de los Muertos in Central and South America all speak to the relationship that the living have with the dead. As part of considering what any of this means for us as Unitarians, all are invited to bring photos of deceased loved ones to place upon the traditional altar that we will create in this celebration of the Day of the Dead. Christina Kaya will treat us to South American music for classical guitar and the choir will sing.
Rev. Shawn Newton
October 21 Only One Earth
This special United Nations Sunday service will include a host of voices from the congregation describing "the world I want," as well as music by the Raging Grannies and Shawn's homily, "The Pale Blue Hue of Hope."
Rev. Shawn Newton and Members of the Congregation
October 14 The Intimacy of Being Real - Read
Are you hungry for closeness with others? Here's a close look at the make-up of intimacy and how we can have more of it.
Carol Wilson
October 7 A Gratitude Adjustment
An intergenerational celebration of Thanksgiving with our annual Bread Communion Service. Please bring bread to share!
Rev. Shawn Newton
September 30 Turn! Turn! Turn!
One of the customs of the Jewish festival of Sukkot is building temporary shelters that serve as reminders of the Israelites' dependence on God's benevolence during their years in the wilderness. While this is a joyful time of celebration in the Jewish calendar, these shelters (sukkah) symbolize the ultimate fragility and contingency of life. In this service we will explore this notion of shelter in light of the congregation's work with the Central America Project, considering the ways we provide and receive shelter in our own lives.
Rev. Shawn Newton
September 23 Terms of Engagement
Poet and one time Unitarian T. S. Eliot said: "Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, Will not stay still." This is surely doubly true of religious words, so Shawn will unpack his lexicon and begin to introduce the theological context of his ministry.
Rev. Shawn Newton
September 16 The Village People
Falling during the Days of Awe, the Jewish High Holy Days bracketed by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will explore the meaning of religious community and consider the commitments we make to the village that is Toronto First.
Rev. Shawn Newton
September 9 Our New Called Minister: The Journey is the Destination
In this intergenerational service, we celebrate the beginning of the year with our new minister and our annual Water Communion. (Remember to bring a small bit of water from some place meaningful to you).
Rev. Shawn Newton
September 2 A voice says 'Cry out!'
In the Hebrew scriptures, the prophet Isaiah heard a voice challenging him to "cry out"—to look at the world and all the things in it, to discern what is of passing and what is of permanent value, and to speak up in the
face of injustice. On this Sunday of the Labour Day weekend, we celebrate the actions of courageous men and women who took up the challenge to cry out, and ask ourselves how the world speaks to us now, and what we might be called to say or do in response.
Karen Fraser Gitlitz, Summer Minister
August 26 Evolutionary Humanism - Read
In our congregational survey, over 50% of us labelled ourselves as humanists. That probably means that there is a good deal of variation among that 50% in how we frame what we believe. After "conversion" to humanism nearly 50 years ago, the way I see the world has changed, though my label hasn't. An exploration on one individual's odyssey.
Ellen Campbell
August 19 Water: the Aboriginal Perspective
An Intergenerational Service. Priscilla Solomon is an Ojibway woman and a Roman Catholic Sister of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie. She is the coordinator of the Faith and Justice ministry in her congregation. A skilled worship leader, Sister Priscilla will help us to explore the sacredness of water and what that means for each of us, through rituals, stories, poetry and visuals.
Sister Priscilla Solomon
August 12 Love and Reality
British writer Iris Murdoch once said "Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real." According to Murdoch, love, art and morals are all about the discovery of reality. I have two thoughts in response to Murdoch: (1) that sounds like a good basis for a spiritual practice, and (2) that sounds like a lot of hard work! Fortunately, perfection isn't required—and a bit of playfulness might just help.
Karen Fraser Gitlitz
August 5 The Power of Imagination" Norma McPhee
July 29 The Pause
Alice Walker speaks of the "the pause" as the wisdom to stop and take stock in the face of our own or others desire to rush forward. Sometimes the pauses are chosen, and sometimes they are chosen for us, but whatever the origin, what seems like an empty nothingness can sometimes turn out to be a time of great growth and deepening.
Karen Fraser Gitlitz
July 22 The Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite
Process theology is often considered one of the more "UU friendly" of ontemporary theologies. This exploration of process theology through the Discworld novels of fantasy author Terry Pratchett (Thief of Time, Small Gods) emphasizes the practical value of this theological perspective, especially its understanding of how we find (and claim) hope in our lives.
Karen Fraser Gitlitz
July 15 Being in the Body as Spirit
Many of us as Unitarians seek spirituality, or a sense of connection with our deepest selves and the universe, by means of our intellect or our emotions, but rarely by tuning into how our lived bodily experiences can be an incredible vehicle to connect with that spirituality. We have epiphamys in our heads, but don't often shift our focus to our home - the body that shelters us. In fact, for many world religions, it is nigh onto heretical to see the body as a source of inspiration and connection. But being in our bodies has the potential of bringing us a sense of peace, relaxation, composure, centeredness, and balance, and just maybe, the possibility of experiencing a kind of transformative transcendence or bliss or ecstasy that shifts our internal alignment to a deeper current of aliveness.
Brenda Ponic
July 8 Allowing Opinion Its Free Course
Reflections on the ordeals of John Matthews, retired British captain, member of the provincial parliament, and the first known Unitarian in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Rev. Chris Raible, a Canadian historian and retired Unitarian minister, was minister of Toronto First from 1982 to 1986.
Rev. Chris Raible
July 1 Stories of a Nation
How we tell a story depends on many factors, including our point of view. There are so many ways to tell the story of Canada—there are so many stories of Canada. Rather than tell just one story, I'm going to share a few stories that are important to me, and ask you about the stories that matter to you.
Karen Fraser Gitlitz
June 24 Spirituality and Community (Pride Sunday) - Read
John J. Guiney Yallop, who writes poetry about identities and communities, and is writing a PhD Dissertation, OUT of Place: A Poetic Journey Through the Emotional Landscape of a Gay Person's Identities Within/Without Communities, will speak about his experiences and understandings of connections between spirituality and community
John J. Guiney Yallop
June 17 The Fire and the Rose are One
In "Little Gidding" poet T. S. Eliot says, "The end is where we start from." In my last sermon with you and an end to our active ministry together, I want to reflect with you on where we started and where we seem to be going. I look forward to receiving the Memory Book with your notes and photos.
Rev. Janet Newman
June 10 The Time You Have Wasted on Your Rose
The title comes from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: "It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important." My sermon is about why we work together the way we do, and is it really a "waste"? We'll honour volunteers in the service and sponsor a volunteer fair afterwards in Workman Hall. It is also Sundae Sunday: be prepared to consume ice cream!
Rev. Janet Newman
June 3 A Combination Coming of Age Service and Flower Communion. Every family and individual is invited to bring a flower and everyone takes a different flower home, In this way we continue a tradition begun in the Czech Unitarian congregations many years ago.  
May 27 A Testament of Gratitude
This is a service that I helped to develop in my home church way back in 1977, and I have offered it to nearly every congregation I have served. It provides a reflection on gratitude from various viewpoints, and congregants present the message in readers' theatre format.
Members and Friends of the Congregation
May 20 Selfish, Selfless and Self-Disconnect - Read
Selfishness is frowned upon as childish and immature. Selflessness is lauded as ha highly desirable attribute of character. Come explore the (un)reality of these notions.
Carol Wilson
May 13 Honoring the Past, Nurturing the Future: Mothers and Others
In my on-going quest for authenticity in the face of crass commercialism, I want to discuss various aspects of Mother's Day from its beginnings as a peace protest to its present incarnation as a card-and-flower-buying frenzy. Cynical? I think not.
Rev. Janet Newman
May 6 Forgiveness in an Unforgiving Age
We have all been taught that we should forgive others, no matter how much we have been hurt. Is this really the way to restore right relation? I will use as my text Saint Maybe by Ann Tyler, a book that has the most accessible theology of any of her works. Let's explore together this difficult matter of forgiveness.
Rev. Janet Newman
April 29 Forward through the Stages
Things Take Time – and so does the establishment of a relationship between a minister and a congregation. In fact, since it takes time, it happens in stages. I want to explore with you some of the stages of relationship so that you can be aware of them in retrospect with former ministers and in prospect with your new minister.
We'll celebrate Earth Day – a week late, but what's a week in this context?
Rev. Janet Newman
April 22 Testifying With Our Lives
There are moments in our lives that seem to define all the others—touchstones and turning points that shape who we are and what we will do in the world. In this closing service of Candidating Week, Shawn will share the milestones on his path in ministry and pass along to the congregation the greatest gift he's ever been given.
Rev. Shawn Newton
April 15 The Forest for the Trees
Learning to discern the difference between what's most important and what's not is one of life's great challenges—and one of its greatest gifts. This first service of Candidating Week will explore the values that we hold most dear, as well as those that hold us.
Rev. Shawn Newton
April 8 So Much in Bud
My sermon title comes from the last line of a poem by Denise Levertov, "Beginners." We UUs have difficulty addressing the traditional miracles of the Easter story, but what do we put in their place?
The choir will sing selections of the season, and we'll have a special Time with Younger UU's in the service.
Rev. Janet Newman
April 1 On Reverence and Reverends
As your Ministerial Search Committee has announced that Shawn Newton is the candidate for the called ministry of this congregation, now is a good time to explore what qualities you might look for in your spiritual leaders. Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet, Unitarian philosopher, and sage, offers me a metaphor for examining some characteristics.
Rev. Janet Newman
March 25 What Do You UU's Believe, Anyway?
This question can truly inspire terror in our hearts! No easy answers in the sermon, but some suggestions to ponder and make your own. We will welcome new members during the service and follow it with a special celebration in coffee hour. What a great Sunday to bring a friend! Or anyone who might be interested in knowing more about us.
Rev. Janet Newman
March 18 Markings
Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the United Nations 50 years ago, wrote a book by this title, and his meditations and musings form the text of this service. We are especially fortunate to welcome guest musician Stuart Laughton, a founding member of the Canadian Brass. He and Peter Tiefenbach have made music together for many years, and this service will include their musical interpretations of the text.
Rev. Janet Newman
March 11 Music as Metaphor
What is it about music that can influence us in the deepest reaches of our being? Music has always been for me the tie that binds me to other people in my life and to that which holds strongest meaning.
Rev. Janet Newman
March 4 To Make an Offering to the Life Force
My sermon title comes from the last lines of a book by Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death. Becker writes of religion as an "illusion" that can help us as long as it is authentic. I want to include a story of a crisis in my own life when liberal religion, plus close friends and family, enabled me to look past tragedy and engage the future with clarity and commitment.
Rev. Janet Newman
February 25 Putting Belief Into Action - Read
A local church community re-invents itself to live out its mission.
Our "Real Estate Task Force", brings us Bryce Taylor, a professional social worker, with an interest in developing faith communities.
Bryce Taylor
February 18 Simple Heroism
My text for this sermon is a book by Ernest J. Gaines titled A Gathering of Old Men. Although its setting is the southern U.S. in the 1970's, the message of hope in race relations is universal and timeless.
Rev. Janet Newman
February 11 The Faces and Phases of Love
The Greeks had many words for it; I will mention only a few of its manifestations in our lives. Some of the Younger UU's from the Religious Education program will assist me by reading poems about love that are age-appropriate. But is there ever an age when love is not appropriate?
Rev. Janet Newman
February 4 I Have a Dream
Poet Langston Hughes urges us to "Hold fast to dreams." In this sermon, I will limit myself to three dreams that affect my ministry with you. Perhaps you hold fast to the same dreams.
Rev. Janet Newman
January 28 The Life of Choice
In our Free Church tradition, members of Unitarian Universalist congregations choose the clergy who serve them. The Ministerial Search Committee is hard at work considering candidates for your choice. In this sermon, I will tell you of some of the hopes and dreams gleaned from your responses to last May's Congregational Survey.
The congregational meeting to discuss the budget will follow the service.
Rev. Janet Newman
January 21 Celebrating the T in LGBTQ: One Family's Sacred Journey - Read
For 18 years, Joan Wiley loved her oldest child as her daughter, and for the last four years she has cherished this same child as her son. From the moment her son spoke the words — "Mom, I have something to tell you" — Joan began an astounding journey of personal growth and has since become a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community, particularly its trans members.
Joan Wiley
January 14 Promises for the New Year
What do we promise one another as we work together to achieve our mission as a congregation? That is the main question of the day. Task force members will join me in sharing their ideas toward a Covenant of Right Relations, and then we will ask you to contribute your ideas. This service will take an additional half hour in order to have time for you to write your thoughts.
Rev. Janet Newman and members of the task force on Right Relations.
January 7 For the Time Being
My sermon title comes from a long poem by W. H. Auden. On this first Sunday of 2007, I want to offer an opportunity to look back (retrospect), look to the future (prospect), and look around (circumspect). My sources will be poetry of Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, and others.
Rev. Janet Newman