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Services at First Unitarian Church


July 12. An Aching Kind of Growing
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
It hurts to discover that your heroes are human.  How do we reckon with finding out ugly and hard truths about those we looked to for inspiration and vision?  It is an aching kind of growing to wrestle with fallibility and determine which kinds of mistakes are worth forgiving in our heroes and which forever alter how we see them.
     Rev. Hannah (she/her) serves as First Unitarian Church's Minister for Faith Formation.

July 19. Junk Merchants of the Apocalypse
Service led by: Martin Wiley
In this service, we will explore the way oppressive forces overwhelm our senses with lies, distractions, and false images of strength. When those in power need to diminish us to stay in power, how can we harness the revolutionary power of mockery?  We cannot confront liars solely with truth--we steal their power when we reveal their powerlessness.
     Martin (he/him) is a poet, teacher, activist, and thinker, but most importantly a father and a husband. His day-to-day work is at Project HOME, a Philadelphia non-profit working to eliminate homelessness and combat poverty and the things that cause it. A lot of his writing is focused on being Black in America, and raising Black children in a world that doesn’t appreciate their beauty. Martin is interested in understanding the forces that are pushing hatred, violence, and separation, and using that understanding to better craft our resistance. Historically, oppressed peoples have always known the oppressor better than he knew himself—this is how we survived. Now, we need to do better than survive—we need to win.

July 26. Unlearning Gender, Learning About Ourselves
Service led by: Amy Hillier
Why do we have so much trouble when it comes to gender identity? Why is it so hard for those of us who are cisgender--whose gender identity matches our sex assigned at birth--to get pronouns right, especially non-binary pronouns? Drawing on her own experiences, from  childhood "tomboy" to the parent of a transgender child to the teacher of graduate social work students, Amy will lead us in spiritually exploring what it means to queer, unlearn, and lean in to gender identity.
     Amy (she/her/hers) has been a member of First Unitarian Church for more than 20 years. Born and raised in New Hampshire as a UU, she moved to Philadelphia to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where she is now a faculty member. She lives with her partner and two children in West Philadelphia.

August 2. Every Day is Ashura, Every Place is Karbala
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis and Mahyar Entezari
Every Ashura, or tenth day of the month of Muharram, Shi‘a Muslims mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Husayn, in the epic Battle of Karbala. Told and retold, over and over again, the story represents the oppression of the downtrodden across time and space. In a contentious climate of Islamism overseas and Islamophobia at home, what can we learn from this theology here and now?
     Mahyar (he/him) teaches Persian language and culture at the University of Pennsylvania. Born into a Shi'a Muslim family in Iran, he has Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of Texas at Austin, where he also studied Arabic, Islam, and Shi'ism. 

August 9. Naming Our Anger
Service led by: Crystal Mann Boyd
Anger is one of our most feared emotions. It is often a trigger that sends us into primitive fight-flight-freeze mode. Yet, what would happen if we approached this feeling with tenderness and curiosity?
     Crystal (she/her) is a seminary graduate and DC/Maryland native. She loves to cook vegan food with her toddler, perform spoken-word poetry, and care for her family (one toddler, one tween, one husband).

August 16. Focus on Strengths during Times of Change & Challenge 
Service led by: Stephen W. Oliver, Ed.D.
“From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths” says Tom Rath. We all have strengths and weaknesses. But, the more we know what makes us tick, the more chance we have for success in life. If you better understand who you are, you can put most of your energy into developing your natural talents, and have extraordinary room for growth. Your Strengths can help with all those in your life. How can we concentrate on our strengths, both in following our passions, and during times of change & challenge?
     Stephen (he/him) is a long time resident of Center City, Philadelphia. Stephen is an adjunct professor of Human Resources Management, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence and Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia and Widener University. He has been teaching online for many years to business, nursing, and health care students. Stephen had been coming to First Unitarian Church for several years and joined in 2016. He just finished a term on our Board of Trustees (2018-2020) and has enjoyed his work with the board, ministers, staff, and congregants.

August 23. Questions of Faith
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Join us for a spontaneous, unscripted service to answer your questions on matters of spirituality and social justice. If you’d like to submit a question, please send it by Wednesday, August 19, to with “Questions of Faith” in the subject line. There will be a chance to ask questions during the service as well!
     Rev. Hannah serves as First Unitarian Church's Minister for Faith Formation.

August 30. Blessing of the Animals
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
In this service, we celebrate the gifts of our interconnectedness with the animal world. Bring your pets on zoom to receive a blessing in this intergenerational service. Pictures of shy or departed pets, stuffed animals, or other symbolic animals are invited to receive a blessing too!
     Rev. Abbey serves as First Unitarian Church's Lead Minister.

September 6. A Matter of Convenience: Staying Mindful in a Convenience-first World
Service led by: Eliza Hammer Gage
Our society values convenience above most other things. But convenience culture can negatively impact how we consume and how we connect with people around us. This service will explore the ways that we can use mindfulness to make more eco friendly and soul friendly choices.
     Eliza (She/Her) is a lifelong seeker. In her teenage years she found and fell in love with Buddhism. While living in Rochester, NY with her now spouse Em Gage Hammer, they found community and new ideas at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester. When they moved to Philly 3.5 years ago, she joined a choir rehearsal before ever attending a service. From that first note, she new she found her spiritual home. Today she lives and works from home in South Philly as a Project Manager. She sings in the choir and is the current Secretary of the Board. When she isn't working hard she loves to spend time with her animals, in the kitchen trying new things, and with her family.

For a list of all summer services, click here.

For other upcoming events at the church, check out our church calendar.

Sermons are uploaded every Monday on our YouTube channel


June 21.
 Flower Communion: Beauty and Resilience (Rev. Abbey Tennis & Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
11am, online
Join us for our annual flower communion service, as we explore the value of beauty in nurturing our souls for the work of world transformation. In this service, we will also lift up Father’s Day, Pride, and the end of our formal church year. We invite you to have some flowers near you during the service, and wear floral prints if you'd like!

June 14. 
Unused Power Among us (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
11am, online
This year marks 150 years since African American men won the right to vote, and 100 years since women of all races won their right. As we rise for racial justice today, how can we harness the wisdom of our predecessors who led the fight in their day? 

June 7. 
What Love Looks Like in Public (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
11am, online
As our country rises up against systemic racism in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of police, and the threat of COVID-19 still hangs heavy over our heads, what is our role to play in the movement to dismantle racism?

May 31. 
Mountain High, Valley Low (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
11am, online
Around the world, the spiritual journey is often described as enlightenment or despair, mountains or valleys, yet real life shows us that often the good comes alongside the bad, the gifts arrive with the challenge. On this Sunday, we reflect on living in the mountain highs and the valleys lows, sometimes all at once.

May 24. 
Building Our Creation Myth (Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
11am, online
This Sunday reflect on the story of John Murray, who came to America to preach the gospel of universal salvation. His story was messy and full of grief but it ends with a sense of purpose and a hope for a new beginning. Rev. Hannah will help us see how our own present moment is starkly similar to his.

May 17. 
A Little Too Soon to Say (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
11am, online
We comb the news for answers – when will there be a vaccine, when will work, school, neighborhood businesses reopen, when will we feel safer again? When the difficulties are mounting and the answers are still far off, how do we find energy to face into uncertainty?

May 10. Compassion: Midwife's Creativity (Rev. Alison Cornish)
11am, online
Even in the midst of these times of social distancing, the stress of uncertainty, and the sorrow of losses great and small, we are witnessing a great upwelling of creativity – and not just from artists, but engineers, children, amateurs, professionals, grandparents – and many, many more. What makes this great wave of creativity so extraordinary is that it emerges from a deep compassion – a shared, felt sense of suffering. How might this wave help us to imagine a ‘new normal?’ 

May 3. Through a Glass, Darkly (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
11am, online
While most of us are staying home, so much of our life is being lived through panes of glass, whether windows, computer screens, TVs, or phones. What does it mean to live through a glass right now? And what windows of opportunity are opening?

April 26. The Faith of Small Delights (Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
This week we think about how to cherish small moments of delight as routines begin to emerge and the rhythms of our life start to take shape.  As each of us acclimates to our once implausible reality, it's invigorating and necessary to find moments of pleasure and glee.

April 19. Enough (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
When the world feels like it is crumbling and we feel out of control, when our duties as caregivers and workers ask more of us than we can give, how can we feel like we are “enough”? When the economy is crashing and some of us are worried about making ends meet, how will we find “enough” to sustain us?

April 12. Easter Service: What must end before we can begin? (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
This weekend we celebrate the ancient Christian holiday of Easter, of life triumphing over death. Yet the poet Frederick Kesner writes “there must be a death if there is to be a resurrection.” In these times, what must end before a new life begins?
April 5.
Big Anger and Holy Rage (Hannah Capaldi)
This Sunday we grapple with the bigger feelings we face these days--anger and grief.  We recall the Old Testament which tells us that righteous anger can be healthy and helpful as we stare down the barrel of the injustice laid bare by the pandemic. 

March 29. 
Better for Being Together (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
How can we form relationships that sustain our souls in this time of social distancing? During the stay-at-home order, how can we build community that will carry us through to the other side? Watch the sermon on YouTube!

March 22.
Dancing with Anxiety (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
In this unprecedented time of a world-wide public health crisis, many of us worry about our ability to make ends meet, get medical care, and cope with the new reality of working, schooling, and socializing from home. What spiritual tools can support us in times of anxiety? Watch the sermon on YouTube!

March 15.
Wherever You Go, There You Are (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
When life feels hard, many of us fantasize about leaving all our problems behind and re-starting somewhere else. But as many great spiritual teachers remind us, true change begins within. If we are seeking to turn a corner in life, how can we begin without finding ourselves back where we started?

March 8. We Will All Be Received In Graceland (Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
Many of us join a religious community searching to ease the ache of loneliness. We are searching for connection and community and a reminder that we are here for a reason. This Sunday, we will share stories of transcending isolation and alienation, of moments of grace, when we felt connected to something larger than ourselves.

March 1.
Grace Yourself (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Moments of grace – those times we receive a powerful gift that we did not earn – often arrive when we least expect them. We cannot force grace to happen in our lives, but are there things we can do to open ourselves to experiencing moments of grace?

February 23. 
Persistent (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence,” wrote ancient Roman poet Ovid. When we seek to accomplish a mighty goal, whether as individuals or as a movement, the enormity of the work or the opposition can make it easy to lose heart. This Sunday, we reflect on the power of persistence in overcoming seemingly- insurmountable obstacles.

February 16.
The Third Thing You Must Do (Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius tells us of the reward of living a purposeful life, one bent on having adventures and finding a place in the world. But it is also about making the world more beautiful. To live beautifully and spread beauty are the kernels of wisdom we'll explore in this service.

February 9. Tell Them I Said Yes to Life (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Sometimes, life’s challenges feel so overwhelming that we may want to say “no” to the world; to close ourselves off, or shut our surroundings out. When our energy feels completely drained, where do we find the strength to answer our life’s deepest call?

February 2. 
Growing Out of the Box (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
If we want to grow and develop as people, we will eventually outgrow some of what has been most helpful at getting us to where we are. How can we lovingly let go of that which no longer serves us? How can we transform relationships with patterns we have outgrown?

January 26. 
Built Entirely Out of Attentiveness (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
The Poet Mary Oliver writes “the soul exists and it is built entirely out of attentiveness.” And yet many of us struggle mightily with our culture’s endless flashy distractions. How would we focus our lives differently if attention built our very souls? How can we reclaim attentiveness?

January 19.
Begin Before Knowing (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Nearly all of the most transformative movements in our history began with ordinary people taking one first action, without knowing where that action would lead. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy of a better world this weekend, how can we find the faith to sustain us from those early first actions to the promised land of a world awakened fully to love and justice

January 12. Life in Harmony (Rev. Hannah Capaldi)
We get goosebumps when we hear human voices harmonize, the simple and pure blending of notes to create dimension. Those sounds and our response to them feels primal, extra-ordinary, from beyond. What is it about the balance and blend in harmonies that resonates so deeply? This service will explore the ways we might bring harmony to our own lives.

January 5. Let the Sabbath Keep You  (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
We get goosebumps when we hear human voices harmonize, the simple and pure blending of notes to create dimension. Those sounds and our response to them feels primal, extra-ordinary, from beyond. What is it about the balance and blend in harmonies that resonates so deeply? This service will explore the ways we might bring harmony to our own lives.

December 29. Behold: A Time for Healing is Upon Us (Rev. Zemoria Brandon)
Join us for a celebratory worship service as we close out this current year and open doors to a New Year filled with possibilities to heal and embrace a future of brighter days ahead.

December 24. 94th Annual Christmas Eve Candlelit Service (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Join us for our annual candlelit service to share the ancient story of hope reborn, sing carols, and reflect on the meaning of Christmas in our lives and in the world. And please bring a plate of cookies or treats to share during our wassail reception following service. Childcare will be provided. Service begins at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary.

December 22. The Back of God (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Jewish teachings remind us that sometimes the workings of holiness in our lives make no sense in real time and only become clear in hindsight. In this time of Hanukkah and Winter Solstice, time of darkness and light, mystery and miracle, what gifts might we find in the unknown sacred that pervades our lives

December 15. Telling It All Together: An Intergenerational Pageant (Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Join us for an intergenerational service where we will recreate the Jesus birth story with costumes, props, and hymns. Bringing joy and light heartedness to a time-worn story, aided by the presence of children and families, helps remind us of the magic of this time of year.

December 8. 
Rest Assured (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Sundays, we sing the words of Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker’s Universalist prayer, “There is a Love holding us … holding all we love … holding all; we rest in this Love.” In this world of uncertainty and mystery, how can we rest assured in a Love that holds all?

December 1. Mystery or Miracle? (Crystal Mann)
This month’s theme, mystery, is full of enigmas for people of faith, people of science, and those that are a little of both. You will be given the facts, but you still have to decide.

November 24. The End of the World as We Know It (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
In the 1970s, children we taught that cleaning up litter would save the world. In the 1980s, it was recycling. Today's children are learning that climate disaster is immanent unless our entire society undergoes dramatic transformation. How can our faith renew our hope, sustain our activism, and prepare us for what is to come as our world transforms, for better or worse?

November 17. The Peace of Wild Things (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
The Buddha said “Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” This morning, we look to nature for lessons on living a life of abundant peace.

November 10. Let my Love Be Heard (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
"Grief is the cost of love," we are told. In a world where impermanence is the only constant, where grief is inevitable, how can our love make a lasting mark

November 3. We Will Be Known (Hannah Capaldi)
If we are to be known as a welcoming church, a place where we all belong, how do we treat those who are just passing through? Must we know someone a long time to love them well?

October 27. The Great Family of All Souls (Rev. Abbey Tennis, Hannah Capaldi, and Rev. Alison Cornish)
Our faith tradition affirms that we are inescapably interdependant with each other. What do we owe to one another as members of this great family? And when abuse and dysfunction happen in the human family, how do we return safety and healing to our center?

October 13. Small Kindnesses (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
We are bombarded with stories of conflict by reality TV, water cooler gossip, the news, and more. Yet all day everywhere around the world people are quietly working together for the common good. How might we be transformed if we awaken ourselves to the human kindness and cooperation that surrounds us but is so easily taken for granted?

October 6. Atonement (Hannah Capaldi)
The High Holy Day of Yom Kippur offers us a time for reflection and consideration on the act of forgiveness.  Perhaps the person needing forgiveness most this season is yourself.  For in the words of RuPaul,"If you can't love yourself, how the hell you going to love someone else?"

September 29.
Alone in the Crowd (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Each of us has, at one point, been surrounded by people yet still felt utterly alone. Where can we find deep belonging in a world plagued by lonliness?

September 22.
Loved into Loving (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
From our births, people have 'smiled us into smiling, sung us into singing, and loved us into loving,' we are told by Mr. Rogers. Yet we also know that poverty begets poverty and trauma begets trauma. How can we find, and build, the kind of community that creates more joy, music, love, and justice into the world?

September 15. Off the Pedestal: Reconciling Relationships in Beloved Community (Hannah Capaldi)
The Beloved Community is built on redemption and reconciliation. The Beloved Community is for everyone, even those that have harmed us or done wrong by us. How do we, as people of faith, stay in relationship with those we would prefer to cast out? In today's culture of calling out and canceling, what does the Beloved Community look like?

September 8. Water Communion: Groundwater of Being (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Sometimes it feels like our well has run dry. How can we refill our souls when we're running on empty? In this ingathering Sunday, we return to our Sanctuary and 11:00AM service time to celebrate our annual intergenerational Water Communion service. Don't forget to bring a small amount of water from a place that is meaningful to you for our ritual!

September 1. Improv as Spiritual Practice: Making It up as We Go (David O'Connor)
The rules that govern good improv play are worth exploring as a way to live in community with others. Let's play together and see what sticks!

August 25. Blessing of the Animals (Rev. Abbey Tennis)
Bring your (well-behaved and/or crated) pets to receive a blessing in this intergenerational service celebrating our relationships to the non-human community of life. Pictures of shy or departed pets, stuffed animals, or other symbolic animals are invited to receive a blessing too!

August 18. Are People Good? (Phaedra Tinder)
How do we square a desire to see the best in others with the harms we know people are capable of? What does "being a good person" even mean? This week we consider this tension and try to imagine what living with it might look like in practice.

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