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Archived Sermons

Below you will find an archive of the transcripts of some recent sermons presented at First Unitarian Church during Sunday worship. Unless otherwise noted the sermons were composed and delivered by our Settled Minister Rev. Abbey Tennis who joined us in September 2016.

Broken Open - Rev. Abbey Tennis, April 29, 2018
Description: “There is a crack in everything,” sings Leonard Cohen. During a break up or a break down, when we feel broken beyond repair, what gifts await ?

The Grace of Listening - David Dubbeldam, Guest Preacher, March 12, 2017

Description: The art of listening is an act of grace. It has the potential and the power to open hearts and minds.

David Dubbeldam is a Ministerial Candidate on the path to becoming a UU chaplain. Since arriving in Philadelphia 11 years ago, David has completed a B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a M.Div. at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, and extensive chaplaincy training at both Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. David is a member of the UU Church of the Restoration in Mt. Airy.

Allahu Akbar - Rev. Abbey Tennis, January 29th, 2017 

Description: Every day, 5 times a day, millions of Muslims around the world recite prayers that seek to expand their vision of the divine as they deepen their lives. What might strengthening our spiritual practices expand and deepen in our lives?

Morning By Morning - Rev. Abbey Tennis, January 15th, 2017

Description: Each day, new choices arise in our lives – the choice to hold a grudge or restore a relationship, the choice to choose the easy path or the right path. Each day, we have the chance to use our gifts to make the world a better place. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring vision of a better world this weekend, how do we find the strength, morning by morning, day after day, to make the difficult choices needed to create a more loving, more just world?

How Can I Keep From Singing? - Rev. Abbey Tennis, January 8th, 2017

Description: So many of us have been silenced at some point in our lives – told our voice isn’t good enough to sing, our opinions aren’t good enough to share, our experience isn’t important enough to matter. As we enter the new year, how can we reclaim those parts of us that have been hushed, or shut down?

Christmas Eve: Candlelit Service of Lessons and Carols of Mystery and Miracles - Rev. Abbey Tennis, December 24th, 2016

Ray of Darkness - Rev. Abbey Tennis, December 18th, 2016

Description: “In the universe there moves a Wild One whose gestures alter earth’s axis toward love” says poet, scholar, and theologian Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker. This morning, we gather to honor the Winter Solstice and find meaning in this time of deep darkness and turning of the seasons.

There, Before the Light Comes - Rev. Abbey Tennis, December 11th, 2016

Description: In the darkest days of the year – in the most grueling moments of unknowing – it can be hard to believe that the light will return; hard to believe things will get better. In this Advent season where Christians around the world enter a time of holy waiting, where might we find hope?

Intimacy With the Infinite - Rev. Abbey Tennis, December 4th, 2016

Description: It is said that those seeking a relationship with God yearn for “intimacy with the infinite.” Whether “God-language” resonates with you or not, what might it mean to become close to that which is incomprehensively vast? Can we ever find comfort in mystery?

Grateful - Rev. Abbey Tennis, November 20th, 2016 

Description: While Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look to the sources of gratitude in our lives, it can also be a challenging time. Spending time with family can be hard even when it is joyful. Having no family can be extra lonely during the holidays. Even the Thanksgiving story itself is not uncomplicated – a story of people coming together in gratitude when their relationship ultimately resulted in genocide. How can we find ourselves grateful both in gladness and in sadness?

No Hands But Ours - Rev. Abbey Tennis, November 13th, 2016

Description: We often look to others when we yearn for change. Surely, there is someone else who could do a better job than us – someone more skilled, more prepared, someone who knows more, someone who has more power. Yet, as the Margaret Mead quote goes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” No matter who our new President is, the better world we yearn for will only come about when we roll up our sleeves and get to work.

A Change is Gonna Come - Rev. Abbey Tennis, November 6th, 2016

Description: We begin exploring our spiritual theme of November – Impermanence – on the eve of the Presidential election. How do we cope with uncertainty when the stakes are high? Join us as we explore how to hold onto hope for a better future when we know the only constant in life is change.

Process Theology 101, September 4, 2016, Sermon given by Karin Tetlow

I'll Take Grace July 10, 2016, Sermon given by Phaedra Tinder

When Church is Hard July, 3, 2016, Sermon given by Elizabeth McIntyre

Maternal Legacies  Rev. Susan V. Rak, 8 May 2016

We step away from the Hallmark holiday traditions of Mother's Day and revisit Julia Ward Howe's original idea of Mother's Peace Day and the idea of Revolutionary Love.

Now What?    Rev. Susan V. Rak, 1 May 2016

As the excitement and stress of the Ministerial Search begins to fade,  the work of  the church continues.  Join us for a morning of reflection and hope, celebration and commitment. 

Grow Your Soul  Rev. Susan V. Rak, April 10, 2016

Unitarian minister A. Powell Davies (1902 - 1957) is often remembered for this one saying: Life is just a chance to grow a soul. But what is "soul" to a 21st century Unitarian Universalist?  We look to another of our sages - the poet Walt Whitman - for some suggestions.

Flowing in the Stream - Equanimity   Rev. Susan V. Rak, April 3, 2016

One of the Four Immeasurables or four great virtues (with compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy) that the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate.

A Stone Rolled Away  Rev. Susan V. Rak, March 27, 2016

It’s Easter Sunday  and as we consider the traditional resurrection story, we sing hymns in celebration of spring’s return and resurgent life.  So join us for this annual seasonal celebration of life… a little doubt or skepticism on an Easter morning cannot stop our hopes and dreams!

Calamity, Hope and Courage (on Job) Rev. Susan V. Rak, March 6, 2016             

We often think of the character Job, from the Hebrew scripture, as synonymous with “patience”.  But there’s more to the story than that.  So we explore how an ancient tale and a suffering man’s questions can inspire hope.

500 Hats of a UU Minister  Rev. Susan V. Rak, February 21, 2016

As the congregation’s sense of anticipation ratchets up, we offer a reality check on the role of a minister and the expectations of shared ministry… and lay claim to our aspirations and high resolve.  (You might recognize the title  as a play on the title of one of Dr. Seuss's most popular books “the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins".)

Haven't Got a Prayer     Rev. Susan V. Rak, 6 February 2016

On the verge of the Christian season of Lent - a time of reflection and  soul-searching, repentance, all in preparation for the glory of Easter - we pause to consider our own Unitarian Universalist response to the ancient religious notion of prayer. 

A Place for Becoming            Rev. Susan V. Rak, 31 January 2016

We Unitarian Universalist consider life to be a quest for meaning.   Religious Education is not just Sunday School,  but a life-span enterprise.   So we consider what it means to be a "multigenerational community" of life-long learners.


My Life Matters – Being a Black UU by Connie Simon       3 January 2016

 Unitarians, Universalists and UUs have a long history on racial issues - but what are we doing today to further an anti-racism and anti-oppression agenda? How can we support modern civil rights activists and the Black Lives Matter movement?  Connie Simon unravels our long and tangled racial history and offers her perspective as a Black UU on why it’s critical that we recommit to this important cause.

The Courage to Be Vulnerable  Rev. Susan V. Rak, 6 December 2015

Brené Brown  advises that "If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” And allowing ourselves to be vulnerable empowers us to work for justice.

Community - The Impossible Possibility   Rev. Susan V. Rak, 22 November 2015                  
When we celebrate communion in this church, it is all about community - the community that supports and challenges us.  We prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday with the sharing of bread and companionship.

Is It Too Late? Rev. Susan V. Rak, 15 November 2015

Part of gratitude is recollecting and remembering. Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans’ Day has just past and Transgender Day of Awareness is held later that week - and we are reminded of our commitments to justice and compassion.   

For All the the Saints  Rev. Susan V. Rak, 1 November 2015

on All Saints Day we honor those who have gone before us - the people who have made us who we are - and celebrate el Día de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). 

Building Community  Rev. Susan V. Rak, 25 October 2015

There's construction going on all over Philadelphia - buildings knocked down, giant holes are dug, cranes stretch off into the sky and towers rise.  We're just as hard at work here, and it takes all of us to make this happen!  I've heard it said that building community is not a spectator sport.

An Amazing Grace     Rev. Susan V. Rak, 20 September 2015

In the midst of the Days of Awe, we explore the grace of forgiveness, how it makes room for something new.

A Morbid Subject Services led by Christine Carlson

Graffiti artist Banksy noted that we die twice - once when we stop breathing, and later when someone says our name for the last time. Join Christine as she ponders mortality and immortality from a Unitarian Universalist perspective. 

Whose Silence Are You? July 26, 2015 Services led by Phaedra Tinder

Silence has been embraced in diverse spiritual practices, sought out in natural landscapes, and examined by modern science. What can we learn from all of these encounters with the increasingly elusive quiet?

The Gifts of Mary July 5, 2015 Services led by Karin Tetlow

Mathew, Mark, Luke, John…and Mary. Yes, there is a Gospel of Mary. What if it and other texts had been included in the New Testament, rather than hidden for centuries? Karin Tetlow explores how Mary Magdalene can inform our lives and paths to spirituality today.

Examining an Ethic of Cooperation June 28, 2015 Services led by Elizabeth Ralston

Cooperation and collaboration are hallmarks of the UU way of approaching problem-solving and communication. Join Elizabeth Ralston as she explores the concept of partnership from the context of her exposure to these UU principles, as well as from her personal history, which she's shared in her recently published book, "The Mother and the Manager." 

Hold On - Let Go      Rev. Susan V. Rak, May 31. 2015

Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. This morning we ponder how the Buddha’s teachings  help us navigate life all these centuries later. 

A Community of Possibility  Rev. Susan V. Rak, May 17, 2015

In preparation for our Congregational Annual Meeting, we reflect on our community and our covenant.

Bound to Life  Rev. Susan V. Rak, May 10, 2015

Whether or not you are or have been a parent, the lessons of this important, sometimes thankless and most rewarding tasks of adulthood has wisdom to offer to all of us bound in this beloved community.

Why Are We Here?   Rev. Susan V. Rak, April 19, 2015

Continuing this important work of transitional ministry, this service invites you to consider the purpose or "mission" of First Unitarian Church... What is 1st UU for? What difference does it make in the world that this congregation exists?  What inspires you to be part of this faith and this congregation?

Redemption   Rev. Susan V. Rak, April 12, 2015  

We don't often think about being redeemed - our Universalist theology might have worked that out of our system.  But it is more important that ever to consider the possibility of redemption in the wider sense, especially as it applies to our society and the criminal justice system.

We Are Made New  Rev. Susan V. Rak, Easter Sunday - April 5, 2015

Easter reminds us that “resurrection” has many meanings and gives us a the opportunity to celebrate!  The story of Jesus’ life and death and other myths and legends all call us to this notion of rebirth.

Who Are We?     Rev. Susan V. Rak, March 22, 2015

Approaching Easter and spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, we consider the mission and purpose of this congregation.  Part of our "conversations in community" that help to create a clear, vibrant and true picture of who and what First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia is in preparation for the search for a settled minister. 

Bridges to Cross  Rev. Susan V. Rak, March 8, 2015

As people gather in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of events in the Civil Rights struggle, we join with Unitarian Universalists around the country to consider our commitment to justice all these years hence.  And if you can,  go see the film Selma before this Sunday!

Moving Forward (& An Ongoing Story redux)   Rev. Susan V. Rak, March 1, 2015

Stories - your own, this congregation's, and everything in between and beyond - are a path to wholeness.  We honor and celebrate the spirit of these stories that hold us in community!

Throw It Away  Rev. Susan V. Rak, February 1, 2015

The title comes from a wonderful song by Abbey Lincoln and in it she offers us some hard-won life lessons.  Because love is about so much more than valentines cards and chocolates!

The Aftermath of I Can't Breathe: Social Justice in America
 a sermon by J. Jondhi Harrell       January 18, 2015

We explore the political, social and community ramifications of the failure of the American legal and policing system to protect all of its citizens.

The Growing Edge     Rev. Susan V. Rak, January 11, 2015

Hope and expectation - what does it mean to be a person of hope? And how realistic is it to do so? 

A Magi's Journey     Rev. Susan V. Rak, January 4, 2015

The trip to Bethlehem taken by those "wise men" was no easy sojourn.

We bring the winter holidays to a close looking to the journey ahead. 

Light It Anyway    Rev. Susan V. Rak, December 14, 2014

Inspired by the Hanukkah story, we explore the gifts of faith, the spirit of dedication that gives rise to our common commitment.  

Comfort and Joy         Rev. Susan V. Rak, December 7, 2014 

Some questions to ponder in the face of current events: Can festivity and frivolity be a spiritual practice?  Is it right to celebrate the holidays and still rightly respond to the cries of "Black lives matter"?  

Roots Hold Me Close  Rev. Susan V. Rak, November 30, 2014

Come to the Table   Rev. Susan V. Rak, November 23, 2014 

On this Sunday before Thanksgiving to pause in gratitude and appreciate
life.  We’ll celebrate the spirit that brings us together by sharing bread in community as we reflect on how we make a "welcome table". 

We Make the Path by Walking  Rev. Susan V. Rak, November 16, 2014

This sermon title is inspired by words of Spanish poet Antonio Machado: "Wayfarer, the only way is your footsteps, there is no other." 

Sometimes the way before us is clearly laid out, and other times not so much.  Whether the road is your spiritual journey or your life's course - or the direction of this congregation - the only way to make your way is to step out on the path.

Living with Death    Rev. Susan V. Rak, November 2, 2014

A celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead  (el Dia de los Muertos).  Honoring All Souls Day with an altar of remembrance, we gather in gratitude for the gift of life and ponder our mortality.

The Struggle Continues - Prayer for the Community      October 25, 2014

The final part of the Service“Unitarians, Universalists and the Underground Railroad”, First Unitarian’s participation in Moonstone Arts Center’s “The Underground Railroad in Philadelphia”commemoration.

Light the Lamp of Love Rev. Susan V. Rak, 19 October 2014

Inspired by the Hindu festival of Diwali, we explore what "wholehearted living" - and  living our Unitarian Universalist principles and values in community, requires of us (drawing from Brené Brown's writing on vulnerability).

At One    Rev. Susan V. Rak, 5 October 2014

Honoring the Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, let us open ourselves to the wisdom and beauty of these very ancient practices that encourage us to be who we are called to be.

Sweet Blessings    Rev. Susan V. Rak, 28 September 2014

Another year begins with Rosh Hashanah.  The seasons change with the Autumn Equinox.  And we anticipate the months ahead, the work of living into this community.  

Where We Stand    Rev. Susan V. Rak, 14 September 2014

Change and transition brings disequilibrium, so it is important to know where we are rooted as our Interim Ministry begins.  We ask the questions Who are you? Whose are you? and remember "you are a gift, not an achievement."

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