Events under 'Sunday Services'
Thursday, July 09, 2020

Event Name

Date

Thunder Woman Healing Lodge

Sermon by Patti Pettigrew.

 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday, it is an honour to welcome to our pulpit Patti Pettigrew, the President of the Board of the Thunder Woman Healing Lodge and member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. Patti will share the complicated journey involved in establishing the first healing lodge in Ontario to serve Indigenous women who are in conflict with the law. The healing lodge, which has recently been approved for construction in the Cliffside area of Scarborough, will help to support the healing, rehabilitation, and reintegration of Indigenous women offenders. Thunder Woman Healing Lodge will be the beneficiary of our March Sharing the Plate offerings. Patti was also instrumental in organizing the recent demonstration and round dance in support of the Wet’suwet’en at Queen’s Park; I have invited her to share her candid reflections on this complicated moment in our national life, as well. I look forward to being in conversation with her during the service and sharing the story of how First Unitarian has a long-standing tie to this work of rehabilitating incarcerated women.

 

View the Order of Service.

 

Sunday, March 01, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

Love in a Time of COVID-19

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

 

There’s an old maxim in preaching that says the preacher should, in preparing for the task, have the scriptures in one hand and a newspaper in the other. There is something to that, even for a Unitarian Universalist minister. The challenge, as always, is to seek to be relevant by holding wisdom teachings—be they ancient or more modern—alongside our pressing contemporary concerns. That said, I don’t tend to preach to the headlines from week to week; I have witnessed the pitfalls of sermonic ambulance-chasing that arise when a preacher doesn’t take time to allow a deeper perspective to settle in.

Still, there are moments when the pulpit must be used to speak to current issues in an immediate way. This is turning out to be one of those weeks. Actually, it’s turning out to be one of those months. I had long planned this month to preach about radical inclusion and to unpack some of the harder stories from UU history that I believe have enduring wisdom for us today. Those sermons will have to wait. In their place, it has felt critically important to carve out time to reflect on other things: the unfolding situation between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Canada, and the process of change in light of our congregation’s upcoming move to a new location. This week, the sermon that I feel most needs to be preached is about the novel coronavirus.

As it becomes clear we are very likely facing a pandemic in the coming weeks and months, we are being inundated with helpful but concerning information. We are rightly being told not to panic but to prepare. I hope everyone is heeding this guidance by stocking up on canned goods and upping their hand-washing technique. At the same time, what I feel missing from the larger public conversation is any mention of the spiritual preparation required if we are to bring the best of our humanity to this shared health crisis. As it turns out, COVID-19 confronts us with some deeply theological questions about vulnerability and fear, about individualism and interdependence, about equity and compassion, about racism and how we relate to our neighbours. This Sunday, we’ll dig into these questions, while also marking International Women’s Day through an array of music by female composers and/or lyricists and a special offering to support the creation of the Thunder Woman Healing Lodge.

As I said last week, the leadership of the congregation is closely monitoring the guidance from public health officials so we can support and sustain the congregation through the challenges we may face. In the coming days, we will release our plans for managing various aspects of congregational life should community transmission occur in Toronto and social distancing be encouraged or required by the government. Mostly, at this point, I want to say that I know the emergence of this virus is weighing heavily on many of your hearts. Let us take care of each other and ourselves, while vigorously washing our hands along the way (and eating well and getting good sleep).

Finally, a reminder that we will shift early on Sunday morning to Daylight Saving Time.

In faith and love,
Shawn

 

View the Order of Service.

 

Sunday, March 08, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

Non-Anxious Presence in a Pandemic

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

 

Sunday, March 15, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

The Myth of Certainty

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

 

In the span of a week, much of what so many of us took to be “normal life” has been upended by the extraordinary measures we’re all being asked to follow in hopes of flattening the curve of the spread of the coronavirus. I know this change of circumstances is proving difficult for many people, especially in light of the possibility that these measures may be in place for months rather than weeks. Every one of us is being asked to rearrange our lives as a result. Remember that doing so is ultimately an act of love—for life, for neighbour, for our nearest and dearest, and for ourselvesl. As I said in last Sunday’s online service, keep reminding yourself of the deeper reason you are—we are—doing this.

It was good to be together on Sunday, via Zoom and YouTube. While we’ll continue to iron out the technical glitches, what matters most is our being able to connect with each other in these uncertain times of physical distancing. For this Sunday’s service, I’ll be reflecting on the acceptance of uncertainty.

Going forward, we will meet each Sunday at 10:30am for a simple service and a virtual “coffee hour”. Every Tuesday at noon, I will host a drop-in conversation and check-in that will include a chalice lighting and reading and time for shared silence. Rev. Lynn will facilitate a similar drop-in conversation on Thursday evenings at 7:30.

As well, most of our Journey Groups will continue to meet, but now online rather than in-person. If you would like to join a Journey Group, please let me know.

We are expanding our existing caring ministries and Engage & Connect structures to help provide pastoral and practical support to anyone in the congregation who would like it. You can find more information about how to request help or volunteer to provide assistance with grocery or prescription delivery.

Let us be gentle with ourselves and each other in these coming days.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, March 22, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

On Peace and Powerlessness

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

 

In the week since your last First Light, we’ve been adjusting to social distancing and self-isolation, acquiring new skills that help us connect with each other, and often dealing with significant amounts of disorientation, anxiety and sadness. The coronavirus pandemic is having profound effects on everyone in our world.

As I’ve spoken to many of you in recent days, the theme of powerlessness has come up frequently. We may wish we could do more to help others, wonder if we’re doing enough to slow the rates of infection (current information from Health Canada is here) or feel we’ve lost considerable control over our lives.

My reflections on Sunday will explore how we can find some measure of peace, even times when we feel powerless. As we are swept up in this event of such great magnitude, how can we stay grounded and centred? Join us at 10:30 on Sunday, via Zoom and YouTube. Stay on Zoom for “virtual coffee hour” and the Congregational Conversation on real estate matters.

We continue to encourage you to join our online drop-ins during the week, with Rev. Shawn at noon on Tuesdays and with me at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. We hope these opportunities to gather will allow us all to connect and reflect in the ways we need, during these extraordinary days.

Love,
Lynn

 

(No Order of Service this week.)

Sunday, March 29, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

Lessons from Another Pandemic

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

 

Over the past couple of months, as this present pandemic has unfolded, I’ve reflected on my personal experience of an earlier, different pandemic. Thirty years ago, when I was living and working in the thick of the AIDS crisis—at least as it was playing out primarily among gay men in Dallas—it would have been hard to imagine that what I and so many were living through might provide something of meaning to people in a public health crisis three decades later. In looking back, though, I now appreciate that there are lessons about life that endure from that time, and that are worth being shared. While many of these lessons have shaped me in significant ways—and are central to my theology—I’ve rarely spoken from the pulpit about the many stories from that chapter of my life continue to guide me and inform my values. It is my hope in sharing more this Sunday that we might all find some inspiration to bring the best of ourselves to the challenges of this present pandemic.

While meeting for our services online isn’t ideal (or perfect), it has been so wonderful to see your shining faces on Sunday mornings as we come together from our own homes to create anew this beloved community. I am grateful to everyone who has recently joined us on Zoom, even when it has required some stretching to embrace this new technology. As we continue to adapt to this new format for worship, we are learning how to best use this tool to support the shared life of our congregation. Sadly, in this, we are also working to protect our online gatherings from the vile attacks that have been on the increase over the past couple of weeks. Many organizations, including several UU congregations, have had their online gatherings “zoom-bombed” by individuals and groups bent on disrupting events with highly offensive language, images, and behaviour. We are working to put in place protections against these disruptions; these efforts may involve small but noticeable changes for our shared experience on Sundays, including having you arrive in a Zoom “Waiting Room” before being admitted into the main meeting room by one of our virtual ushers. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we work through these challenges.

Finally, I want you to know how deeply grateful I am for the ways we have come together as a congregation to care for one another and the world around us. In these uncertain times, may we lean on the strength and stability that comes from knowing we are all in this together.

In faith and love—now more than ever,
Shawn

 

(No Order of Service this week.)

Sunday, April 05, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather before the regular service, from 10:00-10:15am

To join on your mobile phone, tap on the phone number that best matches your location (you may have to enter "#" twice):

To listen on your home phone, dial one of those numbers, and when prompted enter the Meeting ID "984445944#" then "#". For an audiovisual experience on your computer, tablet or mobile phone, please go to tinyurl.com/rm8blne.

Sunday, April 12, 2020 10:00 am - 10:15 am
Every Week until April 19, 2020

Broken Hallelujahs?

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

 

We won’t, unfortunately, be gathering in person this Sunday to sing the hallelujah hymns of Easter. Our sanctuary will not resound this year with the triumph song of Passover. We will not join our voices to sing praises to the ever-renewing Earth. But we will come together to celebrate, even still, from our many homes. Even still, because there is so much to celebrate. Even still, because there is much in these ancient celebrations to guide us through these difficult days.

Starting this Sunday, our storytelling team will be hosting Time for All Ages at 10am, just before the main service at 10:30am. They will share inspiring stories to inspire and sustain us all. More information about how to access these brief gatherings for children of all ages can be found down below.

With the ever-increasing number of links to our various meetings and services, it can be hard to keep up. I encourage you to rely on our homepage for the latest updates to all of the online gatherings our congregation is hosting.

Wishing you a Happy Passover, a Happy Easter, and a Happy Spring!

In faith and love,
Shawn

(No Order of Service this week.)

Sunday, April 12, 2020 10:30 am - 11:30 am
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather before the regular service from 10:00 to 10:15am

Sunday, April 19, 2020 10:00 am
Detached from recurrence

An Earth Day Like No Other

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

 

The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which is observed by 193 countries around the world. But this April 22nd will be no ordinary Earth Day.

With millions of people in isolation and practicing social distancing, and so many familiar activities on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on our lives in ways that could benefit Planet Earth. In what has been called “The Great Pause,” there have been measurable positive effects on emissions—but what will happen when distancing measures are relaxed? What can we take from this experience that will allow us to care for the Earth more consciously than before?

Join us on Sunday morning for poetry, reflection, music and an opportunity to share what’s on your mind and in your heart. (This time, you might like to have a notebook handy.)

Information on how to connect by phone, tablet or computer to this service and to our other weekly online gatherings can always be found on the home page of this website.

We hope that you’re staying safe and well, and glad to be connected with you through the blessings of technology and this life we share.

Love,
Lynn

Sunday, April 19, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather from 10:00 to 10:15 am, before the regular service.

Sunday, April 26, 2020 10:00 am
This event does not repeat

Getting Your Affairs in Order

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

 

The question has probably crossed your mind, too: are my affairs in order? There are reports that lawyers have been busier than usual in recent weeks with people wanting to prepare or revise their wills and other important documents that pertain to end-of-life decisions. While our collective efforts have, encouragingly, gone a long way to flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections in Canada, the pandemic has on some level reminded us of life’s fundamental fragility—a memento mori, if you will.

While fresh awareness of the inevitability of our death can be unsettling, it can also be incredibly life-giving. In this Sunday’s service, I’ll offer reflections on some of the heart work involved in putting one’s affairs in order. And here’s the secret of the sermon: all that we do to prepare for the possibility of a good death (hopefully in the fullness of time!) is key to our potential for a good life. As we slowly move toward a reopening of the city in the coming weeks and months, let us not lose the valuable lessons on offer during this time.

I look forward to being together on Sunday.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, April 26, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather at 10:00 am, before the regular service.

Sunday, May 03, 2020 10:00 am
This event does not repeat

Heaven Knows Where We Are Going

This Sunday, in place of the sermon, our ministry staff will share a conversation about how we are understanding First Unitarian’s role in these times of change. Lynn, Angela, Dallas, and I will reflect on the spiritual lessons we believe are available to us as a congregation, in this present moment and going forward. We welcome back pianist Adam Sakiyama and are delighted that Joann Chapin will sing the beautiful song, “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” You can find links for the service, as always, on our website home page.

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it pretty hard to plan things like I did in the recent past. Once upon a time not so very long ago, I took comfort in having a year of sermon topics and Journey Group themes mapped out and neatly organized in a spreadsheet. Last night, I replaced that elaborate document, with its many helpful columns, with something much simpler and more fitting for the uncertainties of this time. I have a rough sense of what we might be covering in worship services for the next couple of weeks. That said, things could change.

This is a time for creative flexibility. As we take up our May theme of “Resilience,” for me the watchwords are acceptance and adaptability. They are what I’m working on in my own spiritual practice right now—both in my quiet times of meditation and as I work with our staff and other congregational leaders to map out as much of the future as is possible in this moment.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 03, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather from 10:00 to 10:15 am, before the regular service.

Sunday, May 10, 2020 10:00 am
This event does not repeat

Mothering the World

Sermon by Rev. Lynn Harrison.

 

The annual Mother’s Day holiday takes place at a time of year when the earth itself is giving birth to new life. This year, some of us may be watching the blooming of trees and flowers from a distance, or on solitary walks without the company of many others. Some may be separated from their mothers, or children, because of social distancing or for other reasons. As well, for many people, Mother’s Day (like other holidays) can be a complicated time that falls short of greeting card rosiness.

Yet even in times of unexpected challenge or solitude, we can nurture the world and our own spirits in life-giving ways. Through acts of loving attention, we can bring forth new life in ways that contribute to the well-being of the whole. We can, each in our own way, provide “mothering” to the world—embracing life as it is, and offering our love to it, in so many personal and creative ways.

Join us on Sunday as we celebrate the many ways that life is loved into being—in times of joy but also times of sorrow. Our service on Sunday will include beloved words from Mary Oliver, along with new poetry she inspired, and music and reflection to sustain and support you.

Along with all others, we are co-creating the world today, bringing forth new relationship through our families, our friendships, and our caring connection with ourselves. We’re so glad you’re with us on this journey.

Rev. Lynn

Sunday, May 10, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

Congregational Conversation

Because of the cross-Canada CUC worship service taking place later in the day, we will devote our regular Sunday morning gathering time to a Congregational Conversation, which will begin with a brief meditation that I will offer on the question of what we owe to one another in these extraordinary times. The meeting that will follow will include updates on the status of our real estate search, as well as news about the plans our staff and leaders at First are putting in place to help sustain our community during these uncertain times. There will also be break-out groups to invite your reflections and input. The meeting will end by noon to allow time for lunch before the 12:30 pm CUC service.

Because this meeting will be interactive and involve group discussions, we encourage everyone who wishes to take part in the Congregational Conversation to attend using the regular Sunday morning Zoom link. For those wishing only to watch the Congregational Conversation, you may do so via our YouTube channel. To connect to the Congregational Conversation by phone, you can find more information on our home page.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 17, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

Cross-Canada CUC Worship Service

We will gather with Unitarian Universalists from across Canada for a nationwide worship service, led by ministers from different parts the country. Because the service will occur simultaneously across Canada, the start time for the service for those of us in Toronto will be 12:30 pm.

This collaborative service is hosted by the Halifax congregation, which will serve as the host of next year’s Annual Conference & Meeting of the Canadian Unitarian Council. You can attend this service by either watching on the CUC’s YouTube channel, or via Zoom where a cross-country virtual “coffee hour” will follow for those wishing to connect with UUs in other places.

I look forward to sharing in this special day with you, as we reflect together on our future as a congregation and connect with other UUs across the country.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 17, 2020 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
This event does not repeat

Time for All Ages

Join your favourite Unitarian storytellers for tales of resilience, courage, and community as well as a bit of fun!

We'll gather from 10:00 to 10:15 am, before the regular service.

Sunday, May 24, 2020 10:00 am
This event does not repeat

Cabin Fever

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to get out. Don’t get me wrong, I love being at home on many levels. Above all, of course, the shared labour of love of staying home has saved thousands of lives because of our commitment to our collective well-being. It’s just that after ten weeks within these same four walls, punctuated only by periodic walks about the neighbourhood, it’s starting to wear. Anyone else feeling restless?

Yet, as complicated as these last ten weeks have been for many to manage, this next phase brings a new set of challenges as we begin to emerge from the lockdown most of us have been under and try to navigate our way through a very different landscape—one that involves physical distancing and masks, and sometimes difficult calculations about how we negotiate the distance between ourselves and others. In my sermon this week, I’ll invite us to explore the values and principles that might guide us as we venture forth.

Following this week’s service, in lieu of coffee hour, we will shift into the Congregational Conversation that was intended for last Sunday (but was upended by the Zoom difficulties that affected countless congregations in the eastern time zones on Sunday morning). The meeting will include updates on the status of our real estate search, as well as news about the plans our staff and leaders are putting in place to help sustain our community during these uncertain times. There will also be break-out groups to invite your reflections and input.

Because this meeting will be interactive and involve group discussions, we encourage everyone who wishes to take part in the Congregational Conversation to attend the service/meeting by using our regular Sunday morning Zoom link, or connect to the Congregational Conversation by phone. For those wishing only to watch the service and/or Congregational Conversation, you may do so via our YouTube channel.

Finally, a word about Plan B. While Zoom has been a wonderful tool that has allowed us to continue to gather on Sunday mornings, it is not perfect—and, as we were reminded last Sunday, it isn’t completely reliable. Going forward, should you ever have difficulties joining the Zoom worship service on Sundays, or if there seem to be ongoing technical difficulties during the service, we ask that you seek us out on YouTube instead.

Wishing you well in these warming days.

In faith and love,
Shawn

Sunday, May 24, 2020 10:30 am
This event does not repeat

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