First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

Services at First Unitarian Church


December 5. The Second Best Time is Now
Service led by: Abbey Tennis
When we miss a chance to do something important, we sometimes feel defeated enough to give up entirely. How can we find momentum when we feel like collapsing? Where is hope when the opportunity is lost?

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

Sermons are uploaded every Monday on
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November 28.
Sometimes Our Heroes Aren't Heroes
Service led by: Rev. Connie Simon
We human beings are complex creatures, capable of both good and bad behavior. Even some of our most well-known forebearers behaved in ways that today we consider offensive. What do we do when the people we admire most can’t live up to our expectations?
   Connie Simon first encountered Unitarian Universalism when she walked through the doors of this church in 2009. She was an active member of this congregation until we blessed her and sent her off to seminary in 2015. After graduating from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2018, she was co-ordained by First U and the Unitarian Society of Germantown and now serves as minister of the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. She is the first person of color to be called to the position in the congregation’s 200-year history.

November 21. 
To Call Myself Beloved
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
In this world full of minor slights and massive oppression, where property is valued over humankind again and again, it can be hard to feel how beloved each life is. Amidst the turmoil of the world and our own lives, how can we tap into the deepest love?

October 14.
Border People
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Borders give shape to our world, though they don't exist in nature - they define and divide us, they can be places of danger and also creative possibility. Join us this Sunday as we reflect on the many borders in our lives. How can we become a people harnessing the transformative power of borders for a better world?

October 7.
The Choir Invisible

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Poet George Eliot once wrote about the "choir invisible" - those "immortal dead who live again / In minds made better by their presence." In this season where so many religious traditions honor the dead, how may we draw sustenance from those who have gone before to fuel more loving, purposeful, and vibrant lives?

October 31. Chronos & Kairos
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
We talk about time as a constant force in our world, yet each of us has also experienced moments where time seems to stand still, moments of insight or transformation or grace which stay fresh with us though they may have happened years ago. How do we make sense of time in our lives?

October 24. Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Service led by: Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart
"Faith over fear." "I feared for my life!" We have heard these contradictory refrains over and over again during the pandemics of COVID-19 and racialized violence. During this Halloween season, let's reflect about manufactured fear, haunted histories, and the kind of faith that isn't scared.

     Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart, a daughter of Detroit, is the Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs for the city of Philadelphia. In this role, she serves as a public facing leader, liaison, and subject matter expert for the Mayor’s Office on local and national matters that impact diverse communities of faith. She also recruits and manages the Mayor’s Commission on Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs.     
     Rev. Naomi is also an adjunct professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University, where she teaches a variety of courses. In 2019, Rev. Naomi received the Pohlhaus-Stracciolini Award for Teaching Excellence. She is often invited to lecture and consult for various student and faculty groups within the University, and as a multifaith advisor to Campus Ministry, Naomi directs the Villanova Gospel Choir and preaches in ecumenical worship services.

     Rev. Naomi has spoken at congressional, state, and municipal hearings, and has held sacred space in sanctuaries and on the streets. She regularly preaches and teaches in diverse worship settings, national conferences, and religious and academic institutions, including Vanderbilt University School of Divinity, Swarthmore College, Ithaca College, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Chicago Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Council of Churches, and the International Council of Community Churches. 
     Rev. Naomi delights in singing with the Philadelphia Threshold Singers, an all-volunteer choir whose mission is to bring audible comfort and kindness to the bedsides of people living in hospice care.
     Rev. Naomi proudly serves in ministry leadership with the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. She is grounded in life and love by her wife, their daughter, and their 4-legged friends. 

October 17.
Kneeling Angels
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis

"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" proclaimed Jesus in his sermon on the Mount, words held in the hands of the stained glass angel that hangs above the pulpit in our Sanctuary. Yet nothing is truly pure, least of all the human heart. Where is the blessing for the complicated in heart?

October 10. No Arguing: Welcome the Stranger
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
All of us know the experience of being a stranger - all of us know how huge the difference is between being ignored and being truly seen. Yet so many of us struggle to always offer the kind of warm welcome that can make all the difference for another. How can we transform our hearts and our culture to be more radically hospitable?

October 3.
Fierce Love
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Sometimes we can love so hard it hurts. Yet, when our hearts have been broken - by friendship, family, romance, failure, or simply an unjust world - it can be hard to risk opening ourselves again. How can we cultivate a fierce ability to love in a world with no guarantees?

September 26.
Devote Yourselves to Justice

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Today we virtually rededicate the newly restored LaFarge Prophet Isaiah stained glass window decades after it's removal from our Sanctuary, 130 years since it's original installation, and nearly 3,000 years since the life of the Prophet Isaiah. What does the prophet's ancient call for justice mean to us today? Join us online this Sunday!

September 19. Becoming One, Remaining Separate
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Life is lived in the tension between connection and independence. Close connection can bring deep belonging and love but also conflict and heartache. Independence can bring freedom and growth but also loneliness and loss. As we honor the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur this week, how can we make peace with our place in the tension of life's relationships?

September 12.
Ingathering Water Communion Service
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
"All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was," writes Toni Morrison. Join us as we virtually celebrate the beginning of our church year, regather our community, and recommit ourselves to the urgent work of justice with our annual water communion service. This will be our first service led live from our Sanctuary as we prepare to transition to hybrid services at some point soon. Have some water from a special place with you at home!

September 5. 
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: the Past Year of Yearning
Service led by: David O'Connor
As we come back together in person, we have a chance to build our community in a way that is safer and empowering for everyone. What does that look like to you? What do you most need to feel safe enough to take risks and grow? What are some things we can each commit to in order to make that happen for each other?

August 29.
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 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!

August 22.
My (Secular) Faith
Service led by: Fred Tipson
When you lack faith in an engaged God, a pervasive spiritual force, or a benign universe, what is it you do believe in?  What assumptions guide your life and your choices or offer solace and meaning in a world untethered to some transcendent moral power? 

August 15.
Born to be Joyful yet Grief in our Bodies
Service led by:
 Rev. Abbey Tennis
This Sunday we will get in touch with the grief that lives in our bodies and the deep abiding joy that grounds each of our beings. Join us for music, ritual, and reflection as Rev. Abbey returns to the virtual pulpit after her parental leave!

August 8.
The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters You: Body Modification
Service led by: Eliza Hammer
Across the globe and for millennia, people have been modifying their bodies as a form of spiritual practice and self expression. This sermon will explore the histories of tattooing, piercing, and other forms of body modification and how modified bodies have been feared and revered in society. Is your body your spiritual home? How have you decorated it?

August 1.
Question Box Sermon
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
In this service, Rev. Hannah will answer your questions about theology and Unitarian Universalism.  This is a fun and improvisational service where your questions get to be centered as Rev. Hannah responds in real-time to the deeper mysteries sitting with you.

July 25.
Roots Hold Me Close

Service led by: Julie Rigano
As we consider how we move forward as individuals and as a congregation, let us look back at our grounding roots. Our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist theology carries wisdom we can turn to in times of change and uncertainty.

July 18. Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall: Reflections on Abolition Theology
Service led by: Sonja Dahl, Rev. Hannah Capaldi and Tricia Way
In past centuries, Unitarians and Universalists fought for the abolition of slavery. Today, in an age of mass incarceration that disproportionately impacts people and communities of color and impoverished communities, how might we connect our UU faith to movements for prison abolition?

July 11.
Until Love Wins
List of Presenters: Musicians, Franco Holder, Aimee K. Bryant, and Dr. Randal Buikema, and religious professionals, Lauren Wyeth, Julica Hermann de la Fuente, and Revs. Arif Mamdani, Karen Hutt, and Jen Crow will lead the service
Until Love Wins – Today’s challenging times require a nimble and resilient spirituality. We need a demanding, inspiring faith and a love strong enough that it will not let us go. Join us as we draw the circle wide, gather our strength, and promise to stay in the struggle and joy until love wins. You can check out the Order of Service here.

July 4.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Unitarian Influences
Service led by: Richard Frey
How activist and writer Frances E. W. Harper was influenced by Unitarian theology and by First Unitarian Church ministers. A member of Mother Bethel A. M. E., she frequently attended First Unitarian. Minister Joseph May paid her pew rent. How did she gain spiritual understanding and support from our church?

June 27.
It Is Time Now
Service led by: Lisa Schilansky
As Unitarian Universalists, many stories from our past have shaped how we understand our place in the world, but when do the stories we have learned about ourselves hold us back from what we are called to do?

June 20: Flower Communion
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
In this annual service, we'll celebrate the beauty and importance of our diversity, the vital part each of us plays in building the bouquet of life. Inspired by the story of Norbert and Maja Čapek, the creators of the original Flower Communion, we'll be reminded of the inherent splendor and dignity in our existence.

June 13: The Church and the Challenges of Today
Service led by: Rev. Dr. John Buehrens
On June 12, 1796, Unitarian scientist/minister Joseph Priestley helped launch in Philadelphia the first church in America to use the name Unitarian. In late May, 1841, the spiritual leader of American Unitarians, Dr. William Ellery Channing came from Boston to give one of his most important sermons, simply called “The Church.” To celebrate our 225th anniversary, we welcome to our pulpit Rev. John Buehrens, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (1993-2001) and current President of the UU History and Heritage Society. He is the author or co-author of seven books on liberal religion – most recently, Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the American Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice.

June 6: Season of the Pickle
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
"Hunger is the best pickle" said Benjamin Franklin. We have been hungry for many months now and as life begins anew, let us celebrate our satisfaction and joy in being alive. In this season of the pickle, let us take time to be present to the miracles all around us and relish the opportunity to be counted among the living.

May 30: Brand New Day
Service led by: Minister Candace Simpson
The book of Revelation is a text that defies the reality of this realm.  The writer often has visions for the world "that is to come."  This passage can serve as a radical text for an abolitionist near-future.  But uninterrogated, it can reproduce dangerous social norms and political projects like colonization, patriarchy, and cisheteronormativity.  This service will ask us to reflect on what we want to bring with us into the future for the thriving of all living beings. 

     Minister Candace Simpson (she/her/hers) is a sister, educator and preacher. She is a graduate of Trinity College and Union Theological Seminary. At Concord, Minister Simpson designs the adult Sunday School lessons. It is her delight to create lessons that include Black liberation, joy and practical applications of the text.  She also is a staff developer at the Concord Freedom School, a literacy-based social justice program for children. Currently, Minister Simpson works with non-profits and churches to design and facilitate Christian anti-oppression lessons and workshops. Minister Simpson serves on the board of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, an organization dedicated to nurturing the Black faith community through education, advocacy and activism. She is the lead writer and curriculum designer at Fish Sandwich Heaven, an online resource for dreaming a freer world.

May 23: Screaming Into the Wind
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
When it comes to knowing and acting from a place of principle, from our values, it's important not to forget those who came before. Connecting our stories to a longer legacy of activism in Unitarian Universalism can remind us that there have always been people who fought for what is right and acted with courage, even when it felt like screaming into the wind. In this service let us remember how it is that we work to honor the lineage of our faith.

May 16:
Music Sunday
Music plays a key role in our worship at First Unitarian Church every week. We use it to ground us, meditate on service themes, and in our prayers and thanksgivings. This Music Sunday we will listen to and sing along with many musicians at First Unitarian Church, reflecting on the changing of the seasons and the joys of Spring in verse and song.

May 9:
Full Week Faith
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
James Luther Adams once stated "The question concerning faith is not, Shall I be a person of faith? The proper question is, rather, Which faith is mine? Or better, Which faith should be mine?" If we understand ourselves to be naturally people of faith, how do we practice it every day of the week and not just on Sunday?

May 2:
Litany of Broken Places
Service led by:
 Rev. Hannah Capaldi

Our faith rejects the notion of original sin. We are born good and destined for good things. But does this mean we are born whole? How do we understand ourselves as people who are whole, broken, and healing simultaneously? This service will ask us to explore how our faith asks to respond to these questions and how we live in a world that is also whole, broken, and healing.

April 25: Spiritual Courage for the Earth
Service led by:
 Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker

In honor of Earth Day, we will celebrate the courage of those working for environmental justice around the world and seek deeper grounding ourselves for the spiritual, ethical, and practical commitments required of all of us in this time of “the great turning.” How do we live faithfully in this time of earth’s climate crisis?
     Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker, President Emerita and Professor of Theology Emerita of Starr King School for the Ministry,  is a beloved mentor, theologian, and teacher to generations of Unitarian Universalist ministers. Her influential books include Proverbs of Ashes, Blessing the World, and Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire.  Currently, she serves as a teaching board member of the Braxton Institute for Sustainability, Resiliency and Joy

April 18:
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Psalm 139 declares we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." If we accepted this as truth, and knew it in every fiber of our being, why is our society so obsessed with controlling bodies? How they look, what is beautiful, how they should behave-the list is endless. This service will explore the kind of liberation that comes with accepting each and every body is fearfully and wonderfully made.

April 11:
Veins of Earth Transformed
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
"Geologic transformation happens under intense heat and pressure along plate boundaries. Just as with rocks, we too transform when under heat and pressure and along the edges of our lives. What can be gained by owning and exploring the truth of transformation as intense and uncomfortable?"

April 4:
Easter Sunday: Renewal, Repair, and Hope
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
This weekend we celebrate the ancient Christian holiday of Easter, a holiday about resurrection, renewal, and rebirth. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote "nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope." In our short lifetimes, how can we cultivate a spirit of renewal held in the power of hope? All are invited to wear festive Easter hats for this virtual service where we will also dedicate a new child into our congregation!

March 28: Anger Helps Us Survive
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Anger, rage, fury - complicated feelings for so many of us. They can lead to harm sometimes, but other times anger can teach us something important about ourselves, help us fight against oppression, and protect us from collapse when we have been harmed. This week, we explore the power of anger in helping build our resilience.

March 21:
Like Water off a Duck's Back
Service led by: 
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Emily Dickinson famously told us that "Hope is a thing with feathers" and this service will take her words literally. Waterfowl tend to their feathers by preening them, applying oil instinctually and methodically to make them resilient to the elements. What would it be like for us to undertake a practice of instinctual and methodical preparation for resilience and resistance?

March 14:
A year unlike any other
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
This Sunday marks a year of our virtual community, a year of so much disruption and loss in our lives, a year of renewed appreciation for small kindnesses and the power of connection. Join us to honor those we have lost, reflect on the gifts we have found, and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding a better future in the months ahead.
   You can also watch and listen to Rev. Hannah Capaldi's companioning reflection here, with footage from last year's first online service.

March 7:
Nobody Lives in the Emergency Room
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Our nervous systems are designed to be able to cope with short-term crises, but what happens when the short-term drags on into months, or years? How can we transition from surviving a short-term crisis to building deep, rested, resilience for the long-haul challenges of our lives?

February 28:
Moment by Moment

Service led by: 
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Kriti Sharma writes "The world is not a place that is created once and then waits for us to discover it. The world comes into being moment by moment, dependent upon our participation." We exert tremendous influence on this world, on each other's lives, which gifts us tremendous responsibility to act with integrity. How do we create a world, moment by moment, that honors this interdependence and mutuality?

February 21: Forever or an End?
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
 "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" - words we hear during funerals and the period of Lent that many Christians around the world began this week. In death, life returns to the ground and rejoins the interdependent web of life that blankets our world in new ways; in death, we leave behind our bodies and enter into memory. Yet as species go extinct, and as memories of us fade long after we are gone, there are true endings too. How can we understand forever? How can we cope with the reality of death?

February 14: Healing Justice
Service led by: 
Rev. Abbey Tennis
A huge percentage of perpetrators of violent crime were victims first. Yet our culture tells us there are “good guys” and “bad guys” and the bad guys deserve harsh punishment. This thinking can poison everything from our own self-image to our criminal justice system. How can we transform our paradigm into one focused instead on healing trauma and restoring relationship?

February 7:
Help, Thanks, Wow
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Author Anne Lamott writes about the gifts of three simple, comprehensive prayers in life that help her get through the day and illuminate the way forward: Help, Thanks, and Wow. Whether we "pray" in any traditional sense or not, how can we each cultivate simple practices for awe, gratitude, and humility that can enrich our lives and strengthen our ability to love?

January 31: Noisy Spirit
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi

Many of the world's religions invoke the belief in ghosts and spirits to make meaning of our existence. Even as UUs we sing of the "Spirit of Life" each week! Western culture tends to dismiss anything that cannot be explained rationally, but what could we learn by cultivating an apprecation for the supernatural?

January 24:
Space Between the Logs
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
“What makes a fire burn is space between the logs,” writes poet Judy Brown. We often feel like we must accomplish a million “to-do’s” to be productive – for our days to “burn brightly.” Yet the empty space is as essential to a good fire as the wood. How can we be more present to the gifts of the “space between”?

January 17:
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
The Latin roots of “conspire” mean “to breathe with.” Every human advancement towards justice has happened by many people gathering together – breathing together – for collective action. As we reflect on the legacy of one of our most well-known justice leaders this weekend, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., how will we recommit to collectively “conspiring” together for a more just world? 

January 10:
Find a Stillness
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
When we are spiritually grounded, we can better respond to the pulls of hectic life around us and the tugs of internal insecurities. Inner stillness helps us lead more principled lives. When mob riots threaten our democracy, a pandemic threatens our health and livelihoods, and our normal day-to-day difficulties threaten our peace of mind, how can we prioritize reconnecting to our souls? 

January 3:
Encounters with Another
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Jewish theologian Martin Buber says the best translation of Yahweh, the Hebrew word for God, is "I am present." To be present to one another, to embody a ministry of presence, means resisting the urge to fix, to solve, or to offer perspective. A ministry of presence is to meet another exactly where they are. How do we prepare for such an encounter and how might we find comfort a practice that asks us to do nothing except to be?

December 27: Savanna’s Shoppe: A folklore with Minister Crystal
End the year with a fun morning of storytelling! As we reflect on a truly surprising 12 months (and on this month’s theme of possibility), what do we do with our mix of hope and anxiety? This story will be an adventure for all ages, set in the South where magic and wonder are held dear by those that know its power. Come join us one last time before the ball drops.

     Crystal is a dedicated “allyship consultant” and creator of White Ally Bootcamp, which is a healing/learning space for allies that need one-on-one guidance. During the pandemic, she took a contact tracer position at the CDC Foundation and is now Lead Contact Tracer for the Pennsylvania program that operates through the Dept. of Health. She is a seminary graduate (Masters in Theological Studies) and also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Cheyney University. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, tween, and toddler.

December 24: 
Christmas Eve Service

Light some candles at home and join us for our first ever virtual Christmas Eve service. Together, we will re-tell the ancient story of miracles arising from unlikely places, sing carols, and recommit ourselves to bringing love and joy into our beautiful and broken world. Join us on Zoom!

December 20: 
Christmas Pageant

Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Join us this Sunday for a festive service featuring seven First Unitarian families as they recreate "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  There will be a festive holiday hymn, a jazz trio paying tribute to Vince Guaraldi's classic soundtrack, and a virtual choir. Homily by Rev. Hannah.

December 13:
It is Good

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
The Christian season of Advent is a time for darkness and spiritual preparation amidst uncertainty. In times where we often feel both franticly busy and desperately stuck, how can we lean into the gift of waiting?

December 6:
Bumblebees Can't Fly, and other impossible miracles

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Nearly every great feat was considered impossible until it was achieved. As Jews prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, we reflect on the impossible miracles becoming real in our times.

November 29:
Centering Love, Cultivating Liberation

Service led by: Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, guest preacher
As we approach the end of a tumultuous and difficult year, filled with grief, challenges, and possibilities, we know that there is still so much at stake. How do we as Unitarian Universalists root ourselves in these demanding and traumatic times? Who do we want to be not only for this moment of history but for the future? What world does our faith call upon us to bring forward?
     Rev. Ranwa Hammamy (they/she) serves as the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California, which supports UUs around the state in their various justice ministries by providing advocacy, education, and witness opportunities to live out our UU values. Ranwa has previously served as President of DRUUMM (Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries), a national organization for UU People of Color. A self-described “UU-Muslim,” Ranwa seeks to serve both living traditions in her ministry, encouraging others both to grow and learn from each other's gifts. When not working, Ranwa enjoys spending time baking absurd concoctions, singing for liberation, and relaxing with their spouse and 5 fur babies.

November 22:
Lost and Found

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis 
So much, and so many, have been lost in these difficult times. And yet grief has the power to open space for deeper living. What new and beautiful truths might be found through this experience?

November 15:
Immortal Gladness

Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Reflecting on recent experiences at the Convention Center, Rev. Hannah will explore joy as a mode of protest. Let us find ways to be joyful, to express joy, and spread joy.  Let us embody joy as an act of resistance and let us infuse our work for justice with a zest for life. 

November 8:
Prayer & Strategy
Service led by: 
Rev. Abbey Tennis 

Embracing love and deeply rooted justice only come into being when grounded people throw their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls into the task of transforming this world. In the aftermath of the election, what is ours to do in bringing the beloved community into being?

November 1.
Land of Promise
Service led by: 
Rev. Abbey Tennis

This country is not, and never has been, the "promised land" that history books have proclaimed. Yet, despite the sins of oppression that continue to plague us, this country's ideals of freedom and equality still hold promise. As we prepare for election day, where can we find hope for a liberatory future where all people have the opportunity to live out their full potential?

October 25.
Wider Still

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
With arms wide open, we seek to be people who encircle all of humanity in the embrace of love and justice. And yet we humans so often fall short of truely welcoming and caring for one another. Though we will not always suceed, how can we find the strength to keep opening our arms to wider and wider?

October 18.
Generous Bones

Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
We work and live in a world that urges us to hoard: money, time, resources. In order to access true generosity, we need to vaccinate ourselves against greed. How do we develop generosity in our core, in our bones, to make it a part of our everyday lives?

October 11.
Desperation, Inspiration, Identity

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
"It has been said that our motivations boil down to desperation, inspiration, and identity. How can we see the reasons for our actions more clearly? What helps us become better at leading intentional, generous, kind, and principled lives?"

October 4.
Commit from Your Best Self

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
"When the world feels chaotic, and so many competing priorities feel important, how can we decide what commitments to make and what must be left undone? In this COVID-19 election season, how do we use ourselves for positive change while making peace with the need to rest?"

September 27.
Fail Often
Service led by:
 Rev. Abbey Tennis

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,” said Robert F. Kennedy. How many times do we choose not to act because we fear we will fail? In our relationships and our aspirations, how can we move through fear of failure to courageous living?

September 20.
Service led by:
 Rev. Hannah Capaldi
 In a faith that is so optimistic, there can be pressure to forgive and forget. This service will explore boundaries and definitions of what we might consider "unforgiveable" and what it would feel like to accept that some things can never be forgiven or forgotten. 

September 13.
Ingathering Water Communion Service
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
"Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done," writes Starhawk. Join us as we virtually celebrate the beginning of our church year, regather of our community, and recommit ourselves to the urgent work of justice with our annual water communion service. Have some water from a special place with you at home, or pick up a small bottle of last year‘s ingathering water our ministers have hung on the church gates!  

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.

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.

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 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 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 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. 

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.

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 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.

July 5.
Accept the Love the World has to Offer

Service led by: Deborah Hartranft
In many of our relationships, it can often be so much easier to see what is wrong, and spend our time fighing what isn't working. How can we get better at seeing the joy and love that is right here, right now?
     Deborah (she/her) has been attending First Unitarian Church since 2017. She participates in Circle Supers, Small Group Ministry, and is a member of the nominating committee. In her professional life, Deborah is a Program Manager for the three grant funded PreK programs with the School District: Head Start, PreK Counts, and PHLPreK.

June 28.
Poetry as a Spiritual Practice

Service led by: Heather Speirs
In these AC (after Covid) times, one of our sources of solace and inspiration can be poetry. This service will reflect on using poetry as a spiritual practice, especially the experience of reading poems aloud by oneself or in a small group. Join us for powerful poetry and a chance to deepen your spiritual practice!
     Heather (she/her) has lived in Philly and belonged to First Unitarian Church for fifteen years come this July. Before that, she taught high school English in LA and then college English literature in Santa Barbara. Besides poetry, she loves her work with seniors in Friends in the City and her involvement here as a Small Group Leader, Worship Associate and assistant to Rev. Hannah in Adult Spirituality Development.

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 Midwifes 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? 

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?

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.

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