First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

Services at First Unitarian Church


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?

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?

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

Sermons are uploaded every Monday on our YouTube channel


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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