Events under 'Sunday Services'
Monday, August 03, 2020

Event Name


Music Sunday: The Glorious Music of Life!

Dallas Bergen and the Music Ministry of First Unitarian.

        “Every day that is born into this
        world comes like a burst of music,
        and we will make of it; a dance, a
        dirge, or a song.
        For those who listen deep within
        the soul of music will surely hear
        the sounds of heaven.”

        — Mark Hayes

Our Music Sunday service will explore the “glorious music of life”, featuring music by our choir; pianist, Lisa Iwasaki; and special guest, Regent Park School of Music Parkdale student, Choenyi Tenzin.

Selections will include Castle on a Cloud and Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Miserables, and The Glorious Music of Life by Mark Hayes.

I will be offering a sermon that weaves together the central themes found in Les Miserables (law, justice and mercy), along with stories of immigration, current events, and the great value of music and the arts to our society.

I hope you will join us.

In peace,

Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Coming of Age Sunday

The Coming of Age Youth and Rev. Shawn Newton.

Sunday, May 05, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"Beyond Our Borders"

Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, Minister of the Unitarian Church in Burundi, with Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel and Rev. Shawn Newton.

Rev. Ndagijimana is on the executive of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and has worked closely with our UU friends in Kenya, playing an important role in the spread of our faith into Africa.

He will speak during and after the service about about these topics, about the tragedy in his country and the capital city of Bujumbura, and about the power of UU congregations in Africa to be a healing force of social action and justice.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Theological Gardening

Sermon by Lori Kyle, Seminarian.

When I was growing up we lived out in the country and grew huge gardens. Like the theologies of many religions, my dad provided very concise instructions about planting, weeding and harvesting. Being a Unitarian means we're not offered precise instructions on how to plant, harvest, or use tools. Instead, we're invited to explore which seeds require what kind of planting in our sacred internal gardens. We're called to appreciate the growing seasons of our lives, to seek out what there is to unearth within ourselves, to ponder how deeply we plant which seeds that potentially bring us new life.

Like roots that draw nutrients from the earth, do our hearts leap at the opportunity to absorb the richness of many of the theological traditions that exist in the world around us?


Sunday, May 19, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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Flower Communion

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Join us on Sunday for our annual celebration of Spring, as we create a grand arrangement of flowers that will be a reflection of both our individuality and our place within our community.

I will be joined by a team of members who attended the Canadian Unitarian Council's Annual Meeting & Conference last weekend in Calgary in sharing reflections on the conference's theme: diversity.

Please remember to bring a flower (or a few!) with you to mark this ritual.

(If you aren't able to make it to First with a flower, know that there will be flowers waiting for you.)

In love and faith,

Sunday, May 26, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Where We Stand”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

A century or so ago, Rev. Lewis B. Fisher, the dean of the Universalist seminary at the St. Lawrence University, explained how religious liberals are often pressed to make clear where we stand. He rightly pointed out that, "The only true answer . . . is that we do not stand at all, we move."

As we prepare for our Annual General Meeting on Sunday, it seems a fitting time to ask, if not where we stand, at least where we find ourselves for the moment. I'll look forward to giving my take on that question in Sunday's service, which will include for special music Charles Villiers Stanford's stunning "The Bluebird" and Gwyneth Walker's moving "The Tree of Peace."

See you on Sunday.

In faith and love,

Sunday, June 02, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“The Meaning of Life”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Intern Minister.

When someone asks, at the end of a lecture or meeting "Are there any questions?" author and UU minister Robert Fulghum often asks about the meaning of life. Usually, his question is dismissed with a chuckle, but on one occasion he was given a straight answer.

Once in a while I ask myself the same, and once in a while I feel like I have an answer. I also get a sneaking suspicion that a lot of you often wonder about these things and have some ideas on the matter.


This Sunday will also be my last service as Intern, even though I am sticking around for a while as Summer Minister! It would mean a lot to have your presence for this transition. I also hear there will be a special appearance by Chantal, the Amazing Singing Saw.


Sunday, June 09, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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“Making the Most of Ministry”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Our congregation is what we make of it. The same can be said of the invitation we face each day to live a life of integrity; it is, as always, what we make of it. In the year ahead, from many different angles, we will take up that invitation by asking ourselves: "What Does It Mean to Live a Life of ...?"

Beginning in the fall, we'll focus that question on a particular theme with each month. This approach, called Theme-Based Ministry, is an invitation to go deeper. With weekly services, a shared collection of readings and resources, and monthly small reflection circles called Heart & Soul Groups, we will live for several weeks with a series of questions on each topic. This approach to ministry will be a challenge to walk our talk-to take up the question of how shall we live?-with growing intention. I'm excited to think about the possibilities that might unfold from our deepening in this way together.

I'm pleased to announce that our topics for 2013-14 will be the following:

      September: Listening       February: Passion
  October: Purpose   March: Knowing
  November: Courage   April: Wonder
  December: Connection   May: Honesty
  January: Discipline   June: Play

In the coming months you'll be hearing much more about this new way of doing ministry. As you do, I hope you'll give serious thought to joining one of the Heart & Soul Groups as a way of deepening your own journey.

Finally, I will be away a bit longer than usual this summer, combining this year's month of sabbatical time with a vacation with Bob and a trip to attend the UUA's General Assembly in Kentucky (where Dallas will lead the choir). While I'm away, Rod and our Lay Pastors will be available to support you should a pastoral need arise.

I wish you all a wonderful, restorative summer, and look forward to seeing you toward summer's end.

In faith and love,

Sunday, June 16, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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“Holy Days”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Summer Minister.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Summer Minister.

The fight for your right to party carries on! And the cloud of witnesses involved tells a rich story, with testimonies that are funny, terrifying, contradictory, and all-around inspiring! The narrative of change is not always clear-cut or straightforward, but it is worth celebrating!

Also, last week, we delved into the story of a curious song of liberation... its unexpected sources and unexpected lyrics. This week, we get a broader view of its diverse role in liberation movements! Come for the story and stay for the singing!

After the service, many congregants will head to the Pride Parade downtown. You are invited to stand on the side of love, by joining our contingent or by cheering on the folks striding down the street!


Sunday, June 30, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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“Call me Pilgrim”

Sermon by Michael Battenberg.

Yet no ordinary Pilgrim (is there an ordinary Pilgrim?) I am not physically crawling along well worn paths towards a golden destination. I have no Holy Mountain in my eye. No Mecca calls to me through the desert. Elvis isn't waiting for me in Graceland. My journey is more inward moving, following streams of imagination to unlikely places, like Eiseley's beach at Costabel, Dorothy's Land of Oz, and Dante's Inferno.

I invite you on a tour of the Overlooked World of my own pilgrimage, a world where creatures swarm by the thousands, challenging my tolerance of bites, stings and itches, and stirring up some of my deepest anxieties and fears. I suspect some of the landmarks and characters will look familiar to other Pilgrims as well.

Sunday, July 07, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Re-Membering and Re-Storing”

Sermon by Rev. Joan Montagnes.

Joan grew up at First Unitarian Toronto and serves as the Associate Minister at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington.

Memories, both wonderful and difficult, are restorative.  They are the powerful pulsing of love in the vein.  When we tell our stories, we discover our connections to each other, to our communities, to our history, and to our future.

Sunday, July 14, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Heart of the Universe”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Summer Minister.

Over the summer, many of you have joined in the fight for the right to party throughout the city. In addition to Pride, Carabana, Jazzfest, and other festivals, Toronto has found ways to build its community. I recently found myself at Kensington market, deep in the beat of a Samba percussion band, enveloped in rhythms with echos of a larger harmony amid the dissonance of life.

I find that at moments like this, when the heart, the beat, and the heartbeat converge, a larger voice can also be heard. A voice that brings together the small and intimate with the large and infinite.

The story is, of course, richer and more complex. Come hear such a story this Sunday!

Cool Blessings,

Sunday, July 21, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Certificate of Awesomeness”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Summer Minister.

Every once in a while, something happens that reminds us of how, in the midst of our turmoil and struggles, life can also be awesome: someone helps out, beyond expectations; or we get to spend a good time with people special to us; or we see a neat sight in an ordinary day.

We have different ways of bearing witness to those occasions and people: thank-you cards, an e-mail note, a hug, a high-five... these certificates of awesomeness that attest to the contributions that we make for each other every day, often without realizing it.

The fight for the right to party is more than an exercise in feeling good; it is also a responsibility in celebrating the good that is within us and among us. I wish to exercise that responsibility with you this Sunday!

In the spirit of awesomeness.

Sunday, July 28, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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“Like a Prayer”

Sermon by Rodrigo Solano-Quesnel, Summer Minister.

I'm always amazed by the power of traffic lights to control car flow. With little more than the switch of a bulb, people shift their movements so that cars and people can move around in some semblance of safety.

I sometimes feel that words have a similar power, almost magical, to direct behaviour... to coordinate cooperation that might otherwise seem impossible. Sometimes, they also fail us. And still, their effect to shift and achieve actions seems miraculous!

As people of faith, struggling to work for peace and improved human relations, the words we choose to say--and to hear--can have unexpectedly miraculous effects.

Sunday, August 04, 2013 10:30 pm - 11:30 pm
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“Atheism's Gift to Believers”

Sermon by Chris Moore, student for Unitarian ministry at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

Our pluralistic faith consists of many spiritual perspectives. Atheism is a spiritual perspective as valid and as moving as any other. This sermon is a believer's thank you to his atheist friends and co- religionists. For the many ways they have contributed to and deepened his own spiritual experience.

Sunday, August 11, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Leap of Faith”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I'm coming to believe that a life lived well requires a lot of leaping. Leaps of faith, both great and small, are a part of our everyday, whether we recognize them or not. All day long, at seemingly every turn, we are asked to trust-in the world around us, in each other, and in ourselves. On Sunday, we'll explore what it means to leap with intention, to trust what we can, and take the rest on faith.

Sunday, August 18, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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“Dispatch from the Centre of the Universe”

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

At Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, stands a replica of the tiny cabin Henry David Thoreau built when he “went to the woods... to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In the cabin, as Thoreau carefully notes in Walden, he had a total of three chairs: “one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.” I’ve always appreciated how Thoreau ordered his universe during his famed experiment, expanding out from himself to the wider world. This Sunday, I’ll be inviting us all to look at how well we manage the balance between a healthy self-regard and our concern for “society.”

It's been a wonderful week around First, as we've welcomed Lynn Harrison, our Intern Minister for 2013-14. We will formally install her in this role during the service on 8 September. I hope you’ll join with me in the meantime to make her feel at home.


Sunday, August 25, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
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"The Human Trampoline"

Sermon by Christopher Wulff, Lay Chaplain and Seminarian.

Sunday, September 01, 2013 10:00 am - 11:00 am
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Voice, Still and Small: Water Communion & Homecoming Sunday

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

At the end of this back-to-school week-with its sudden, perceptible shift toward cooler weather-we begin a new and momentous year in the life of our congregation.

On Sunday, with a wonderful mix of music and ritual, we will gather together as a community to celebrate our annual water communion ceremony. You are invited to bring water you have collected from some place special this summer, be that near or far. Ideally, that water will speak to a meaningful moment from your life's journey over these last few months. During the service, there will be four separate opportunities to pour all or part of the water you've brought: to commemorate sadness and grief, to celebrate happiness and joy, to give thanks for rest and renewal, and to mark transition and change. You'll be asked to bring your water forward at the moment (or moments) most appropriate to you. As always, there will be "proxy water" on hand for those who need it!

I very much look forward to formally introducing you on Sunday to Lynn Harrison, this year's Intern Minister. I know she looks forward to meeting you all.

And, finally, I hope each of you will consider joining a theme-based ministry group for the coming year. These groups, which will meet once per month, will provide a rich and powerful way to engage the monthly themes we'll be exploring in worship. These theme groups will offer a safe and supportive environment to go deeper, to reflect on how the themes touch your own life. Registration, which closes on 14 September, can be completed online or by using a registration form found in your Orders of Service on Sunday.

In love and in faith,

Sunday, September 08, 2013 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

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