Dear First Unitarian Family,

Effective March 13, 2020 and for the foreseeable future, we will not be gathering in person.

All of the congregation's worship services, religious education, programs, and meetings will take place on online platforms (or by phone) or they will simply be postponed.

Following the guidance of Toronto Public Health and Health Canada, to protect the health and well- being of our congregation and the wider community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the board and staff of the congregation have decided, to the degree possible, to move the life of our congregation online.

Sunday at 10:30 am, Tuesday at 12 noon, and Thursday at 7:30 pm we will hold Zoom sessions open to all who wish to gather for a chalice lighting, a meditation reading, shared silence, and then a time for check-in and conversation:

(If you’re new to Zoom, you can learn more at zoom.us/resources.)

The Sunday service will also be streamed on our YouTube channel. As in the past, this method will allow you to see the service as it unfolds (but not participate): www.youtube.com/user/firstunitarianTO.

Zoom will allow for a bit more interaction, and make it possible for you to see many of the others who are online with us. You will be invited to share Joys and Sorrows in the comments section. And at the end of the service, we will invite you into Coffee Hour breakout groups of five, with an invitation to say hello to your neighbours and share what the changes of the last few days have meant in your corner of the world. (If you’re new to Zoom, you can learn more about how it works through the tutorials at zoom.us/resources.)

Our building will be closed to the congregation and the general public during this time. In doing this, it is our hope our congregation will “serve life” by helping to slow the spread of the virus and prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed at such a critical moment.

We realize this may be hard news to receive, especially in this time of great uncertainty. Now, as always—and perhaps more than ever—we need one another. But, for the time being, the present public health emergency will necessarily keep us physically apart. While we may be isolated in the coming weeks, though, we need not be alone, and although we won’t be meeting together in our building for awhile, we hope you will continue to maintain the strong connections you have with one another.

These are difficult days, and there’s still so much that remains unknown. We are going to crave more certainty and more control than is possible. We may not always be our best selves, and we may not always get it “right.” But through all of this, we also have an opportunity to respond in the ways that only a congregation can, and in the way that only this congregation can. We can be a community that is listening to the call of courageous love in these trying times, seeking to follow that path, together, with compassion, integrity, and faith. We can learn together, and we can actually grow spiritual practices that deepen our relationships and sustain our community long after this time. And, friends, there will be an “after.”

As always, if you need your ministers, we are both just a phone call or an email away. Even while we are physically apart, we are holding you all very close.

For now, we offer you this poem by our colleague, Rev. Lynn Unger:

“Pandemic”

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Centre down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

— Lynn Ungar, 11 March 2020


In faith and love,
Shawn and Lynn

Rev. Shawn Newton
Rev. Lynn Harrison