Rev. Shawn Newton, Senior Minister
The Reverend Shawn Newton became the 23rd minister of First Unitarian in September 2007.
He began his undergraduate studies in the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College, eventually completed a bachelor degree in religious studies at Harvard’s Extension School, and later received a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. He is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry at the University of Toronto/Toronto School of Theology.
In the course of his preparation for ministry, Shawn served five different congregations, including the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas; Arlington Street Church in Boston, where he was administrator; the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill, Massachusetts, as a student minister; the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, Ohio, as the Killam Fellow; and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley, as Assistant Minister. Shawn’s clinical pastoral education was undertaken at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Shawn loves to travel, to take in theatre and classical music, and to explore, with his husband, Bob, the fascinating array of neighbourhoods in Toronto.
On Sunday April 23, 2017 we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of our congregation unanimously calling Shawn Newton as our Minister. At this joyous service there was a Recovenanting ceremony between Shawn and the congregation, followed by a party with great food and special tributes. Shawn was given a “memory book” containing thoughts, memories, pictures and greetings chronicling his time with us, and he was also presented with a Gift Certificate for a new pulpit. He and Bob gifted the congregation with a beautiful new singing bowl.
Rev. Lynn Harrison, Associate Minister
The Reverend Lynn Harrison joined First Unitarian’s staff team in the Fall of 2016. She was ordained in November, 2015 by Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation, after completing her Master of Divinity Studies at Emmanuel College (Toronto School of Theology) in May of that year.
In preparation for ministry, Lynn served as our Intern Minister in 2013-14, completed her clinical pastoral education at Bridgepoint Health and served as a spiritual care intern for Hospice Toronto. Her wide-ranging work at First Unitarian focuses especially on pastoral care and member engagement.
A longtime resident of Toronto with her husband, David, and two adult children, Lynn is also a recognized singer-songwriter who has received national airplay and earned honours from the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (now Folk Music Ontario). She holds an undergraduate degree in broadcasting from Ryerson, bringing strong communication and outreach skills to her work at First Unitarian.
Rev. Ben Robins, Summer Minister
We welcome Rev. Ben Robins as our Summer Minister for 2021. Recently-ordained, after completing his UU internship at First in Toronto, Ben now directs the Peterborough UU Fellowship’s programs for children and youth. He grew up in the Kingston Unitarian Fellowship and has a B.Ed. from Queen’s University with a focus on personalized learning. Ben believes we can find the most meaning in life by centering our lives – and working to centre the world – on love, justice, community, and all the other good things.