Services at First Unitarian Church


Robots & Us
(Rev. Hannah Capaldi)

This Sunday, March 26th, 11 am, in person & on Zoom
We are increasingly surrounded by artificial intelligence. We encounter it every day whether we intend to or not. As technology advances, how do we consider machines and minds and our own humanity? What do we have to learn from robots and what do robots need to learn from us?

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

Sermons are uploaded every Tuesday on
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March 19. The Lighthouse
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
 "In the beginning, the ending was beautiful" writes poet Catherine Pierce. As the trees bud and flowers bloom earlier and earlier this year, how do we sit with the anxiety and arrival of climate change? This service will ask what is required of us to face imminent global catastrophe with spiritual integrity and faithful community-based love.


March 19. The Thing About Grace
Service led by: Rev. Greg Pelley
This week's service will feature guest preacher Rev. Greg Pelley as he explores our capacity for grace. If we are all vessels for grace, receiving it whether we deserve it or not, what is our obligation to pass grace along to others?


March 5. Surrender
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Becoming a parent is humbling. It reminds you in the starkest terms how little control we have in our lives and in the world. This loss of control can be overwhelming but it can also be a transcendent spiritual practice of surrender. As we navigate the rocks and hard places of our particular lives, each of us must find ways to accept a loss of control and live with integrity despite our powerlessness.


February 26. Love Like Bread
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
This Sunday we will examine how bread can be a useful metaphor for our life in congregational community. Bread requires simple ingredients but technique and patience to achieve ideal results. And just as "starters" of sourdough are passed down through the years to create legacy loaves of sustenance, so too are we given a culture and a community to sustain and maintain for years to come.


February 19. Conversion to Humanity
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Unitarian Universalists are empowered with a lot of choice when it comes to our faith. At the center of our theology is a committment to choose love. What happens when we choose to love the stranger as we love ourselves? What does that kind of love look like or feel like? Drawing on the wisdom of theologians and storytellers from diverse faiths, we'll explore how choosing love puts us in touch with our own humanity.


February 12. My Little Green Pickup
Service led by: 
Rev. McKinley Sims
Pickup trucks can carry a lot of things. They can transport people, furniture, animals, and even ideas across long stretches of road. My little green pickup carries other things: memories and hopes. Sometimes a truck is just a truck, but other times it is the holiest "vehicle" and the most spiritual experience available to a human being. You are invited to take a ride in the pickup as we explore storytelling, memory, winter, and how to deal with coyotes.


February 5. Love Hurts
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Love isn't all roses. To risk love is to risk rejection and many of us have been stung repeatedly in our search for partnership and love. This service will affirm the pain of unrequited love and invite us to wonder about the very human experience of longing for love.


January 22. Quiet Beginning
Service led by:
Rev. Lee Paczulla
Our relationship to work can be… complicated. Human beings long to be useful, to see the value and meaning behind what we do in the world. Yet we know, on some level, that we’re not here just to “earn a living.” In these days of "quiet quitting," in the aftermath of the Great Resignation and all that's come with it, it feels truer than ever what the poet Maya Angelou said: that “making a living is not the same as making a life.” In this sermon we’ll explore our experiences with work – and examine a bit more closely what it truly means to begin on our journey, to make a whole and full life.


January 22. Find the Stillness
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, there is much in the way noise and distraction. Parker Palmer says "The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions" How might we find stillness and sacred silence so we too can hear our souls?


January 15. Infinite Hope
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
This year we honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by tackling fear and harnessing our power to be convicted in the work of anti-racism.


January 8. The Water is Wide
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
 As we sail into the new year, let us consider ourselves as boats upon the ocean. How do we find our center amidst stormy seas? This Sunday's service will explore what gives our lives a "ballast" weight to provide stability and equilibrium as we move through the waves.


January 1. Lay It Down
Service led by:
Congregant Lisa Schilansky
In our day to day life many of us are carrying around burdens and concerns that we might not feel able to put down or might not even be aware that we are holding. As we prepare to enter 2023, what would it be like to release ourselves from some of this weight, to be conscious about what we hold onto and what we let go of? Please join us as we explore the act of laying down that which is holding us back.In our day to day life many of us are carrying around burdens and concerns that we might not feel able to put down or might not even be aware that we are holding. As we prepare to enter 2023, what would it be like to release ourselves from some of this weight, to be conscious about what we hold onto and what we let go of? Please join us as we explore the act of laying down that which is holding us back.


December 24. Annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
Join us for our annual candlelit service to share the ancient story of wonder and hope reborn, sing carols, and reflect on the meaning of Christmas in our lives and in the world. This will be the first in-person Christmas Eve service since 2019, and we'll be together on zoom as well. If you're coming in-person and want to share in the wassail reception after, please bring a plate of cookies or treats to share!


December 18. Born in Bethlehem: A Christmas Pageant
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
This week we will join together to tell the story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Using fun costumes and a no-rehearsal-needed script, Rev. Hannah will lead the creation of the classic manger scene complete with tigers, wise men, and twinkling stars. All ages welcome. There will be lots of carols and choir singing.


December 11. (No Such Thing As) Other People's Children
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Underneath the buzz of consumerist stories that tell us this season is about buying presents, we know there is something deeper. Stories of the holiness that arrives with each child born - stories of communities surviving by coming together - stories marking the return of light even amidst the coldest days. This Sunday we remember that even when times are hardest, we always belong to one another, and when we care for one another, the whole world becomes brighter.


December 4. Enlightment
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
This week, as many Buddhists around the world celebrate Bodhi Day – the day the Buddha attained enlightenment – we come together to reflect on enlightenment in our own lives. How may we move towards deeper truth and insight? From where do our awakenings arise? How can Buddhist religious practice could teach us?


November 27. Better Get to Living
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
"'Tis a gift to be a simple" goes the old Quaker song, a sweet and plain reminder that when we pare down our desires, we can experience a breakthrough in gratitude. A renewed appreciation for the day we are given and the life we get to live will be the focus of this service as we come together just after the Thanksgiving holiday.


November 22. Like a Room Without A Roof: Music Sunday
Service led by:
John B Hedges
Be prepared to make a joyful NOISE this Music Sunday as the Music Ministry gives voice to some big concepts through big sounds! An eclectic set of pieces, which all express their ideas boldly, will challenge us to be bold along with them. So come listen, sing, dance, clap your hands and hopefully you'll leave the service feeling 'like a room without a roof'!


November 13. Where Do We Go From Here?
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis, Keri Hanson, and Liam Doughtery
The disability rights movement has been going strong for nearly 50 years, and yet there is so much more work for our society to do. Our congregational efforts towards making our space more accessible have been moving too slowly for over 5 years, and yet the visionary work of making our building fully accessible has not truly begun. We have just had an election where our values found a voice in some ways, yet there is massive work still needed to awaken love and justice in our world. Join us as we explore where to go from here!


November 6. When the Grownups Are Gone
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
No matter our age, when we lose a mentor or family member in the generation above us, or sometimes just when the political dialogue seems infantile, it can feel like all the real grownups are gone. How do we face into the grief and loneliness that comes from the loss of those who nurtured us? How do we find the courage to shoulder the burdens of maturity when we are weary or not yet ready?


October 30. Sound of Shapes
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
How is it possible that bats can fly in the dark of night with no sense of sight? An animal that inspires us to consider that there is miracle and possibility where we only expect ordinary and impossibility will be the focal point of this service. Come, in costume if you like, to consider how we are trapped in expectations of our own making and how we might explode this world in favor of building new, bat-inspired, ways.


October 23. Fed By the Giving
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
Many of life's decisions can feel like a tug of war between what we want, what we need, what is possible, and what we feel called to offer to others. How can we ground ourselves in 'that which matters most' as we seek to make meaningful choices?


October 16. What Do We Really Need?
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
Many of life's decisions can feel like a tug of war between what we want, what we need, what is possible, and what we feel called to offer to others. How can we ground ourselves in 'that which matters most' as we seek to make meaningful choices?


October 9. Making it Right
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis


October 2. "Something Greater From the Difference"
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
It takes courage to be generous, especially when others have not always been generous with us. Yet so much of what matters in our lives began with a gift - of love, time, attention, or resources. How can we drum up the power to offer transformational generosity to those around us?


September 25. The Sound of All of Us
Service led by:
Rev. Abbey Tennis
There are so many things that get in the way of our feeling a deep sense of belonging, from physical barriers like stairs, to invisible barriers like racism, to soul barriers like discomfort with vulnerability. How can we remove the barricades that hold us, and others, back from the beloved community for which we yearn?


September 19. Alone Together
Service led by: 
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
How is it that some people just know how to "do" community? Some people just know how to belong to a place, to find their spot, nestled inside the circle of their choosing? For many of us, finding our place and feeling a sense of belonging can be tiring and elusive. Worship today will explore what it means to belong here and how to heal from past hurts of feeling outside.


September 11. Ingathering Water Communion Service: Rooted in Darkness, Floating in Light
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Join us as we celebrate the beginning of our church year, regather our community, and recommit ourselves to the urgent work of justice with our annual multigenerational water communion service. Bring some water from a special place with you to the Sanctuary, or have some with you at home! 

September 4. When Words Don’t Work, Listen More
Service led by: Chuck Black
As Unitarian Universalists, we have seven important principles that guide us. But to help live out our values, we should listen more. This service will explore the "Listen First" method, and reflect on the ways a culture of listening enables marginalized people to be truly heard.
     Chuck Black (he/him/his) is an Organizer, Educator, Doctoral Student, and Proud Philadelphian. He is also a person who stutters, and advocates for people with disabilities. Chuck joined First U in March 2021 where he has been a Heartcheck Facilitator, Caring Team Member, and has participated in the LGBTQIA+ Small Group Ministry. 

August 28. The Beginnings We Do Not Choose
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis and Corinne Dever
We often celebrate new beginnings, but it can be hard to know how to face new starts when they follow grief, or struggle, or failure. How can we face the new beginnings in our lives, chosen or not, while continuing to honor our wholeness, our relationships, and our communities?
     Corinne Dever is a mom to a delightful 9 year old daughter, and has been a member of First Unitarian Church since 2019. She loves being a part of this community!

August 21. Fanny Kemble, Great First Unitarian Abolitionist

Service led by: Richard Frey
This service will celebrate the rarely told story of Fanny Kemble - great actor, abolitionist, writer, and member of this congregation in the 1800s. Join us to learn about our history and glean wisdom from our powerful foremothers!
     Richard has been a member of twelve Teamster's Union Locals and has visited forty eight states. Now about to turn eighty, he's an artist with a Batchelor of Fine Arts, an activist, an architectural history buff, a tour guide--and for forty years a passionate member of our church. He is married to Diane Frey and daughter Julia has made them grandparents.

August 14. 
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 well-behaved or crated pets to the sanctuary or to your zoom camera 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 Tennis serves as First Unitarian Church's Lead Minister.

August 7. Children are People Too

Service led by: David & Zed O'Connor
Every person has inherent worth and dignity.  And children are people too!  We agree with both of these statements, but sometimes, we treat children differently in way that does not extend them the dignity they deserve.  David and Zed will have a conversation about this, and share some different ways of thinking that are powerful for both people in an adult and child relationship.
     Zed and David O'Connor are some of the founding members of Philly Agile Learning Community, an organization supporting self-directed learning spaces in Philadelphia, and have been involved with First Unitarian for about 5 years.  Zed is an advocate for alternative education, enjoys drumming, gaming, acting, the outdoors, and spending time with their sister, Maddy.  David serves as President of First Unitarian, and has been deeply involved in tech for creating hybrid worship here.

July 31.
The Deal on Those Days
Service led by: Rev. Gretchen Haley, Rev. Shari Halliday-Quan, Rev. Sean Neil-Barron
The last few years have not been easy, including in our local congregations. Whole swaths of members have simply stopped coming; COVID is confusing, and polarizing; many ministers have joined the great resignation; and Pew studies and friends alike have pronounced the end of the local church.
     In this moment, when so many of us might be wondering if we should just give up, and relent, now’s the time instead to double down on our commitment to the local church -this unique community that saves us and also breaks our hearts - often much more of the latter than we’d like to admit. In the midst of our culture of death, the church is a place of life. Or it is, as long as we are willing to bring our own lives to it. Join us for a morning of celebration, witness, and future-visioning for the already and not yet power of the local Unitarian Universalist church.

July 24. How to Be a Tourist
Service led by: 
Phaedra Tinder
Most summers, we think of vacations - maybe to the beach, far off cities, or road trips.  Being a tourist somewhere can be a freeing, tense, disorienting, exciting, and conflicted experience.  What is it about being a tourist, and about not being a tourist, that we can take home with us for the rest of the year?
     Phaedra has been part of the First U community since moving to the Philadelphia area almost 9 years ago. Since then she has grown to love both. She lives in West Philly.

July 17. The Examined Faith

Service led by:
Lisa Schilansky
By design, Unitarian Universalism is a creedless tradition, but that does not mean it is a faithless one. 20th Century Unitarian James Luther Adams famously said, "An unexamined faith is not worth having." He also argued that all people are people of faith regardless of whether one believes in God. Join us as we explore what it can mean to be a person of faith in Unitarian Universalism.
     Lisa has been at First Unitarian since 2010 right after moving to Philly and was singing in the choir by her second weekend at the church. Currently in her second year of seminary at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Lisa is spending her summer interning in the spiritual care department of Lankenau Hospital. Lisa lives in Philly with her partner Molly and their two cats.

July 10. Behold: A Time for Healing is Upon Us

Service led by: Rev. Zemoria Brandon
Join us for a worship service filled with a time for healing and reflection through the power of music; song; spoken word; sacred dance and spiritual messages.
   Reverend Zemoria Brandon is the administrator/social worker for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter. Her commitment to the sickle cell community is influenced by her marriage of 25 years to the late Rev. Walter E. Brandon who passed away from complications of sickle cell disease in 1998 at age 59 years old.
     Received BSW from Temple University, School of Social Administration in 2001 and ordained as an Interfaith Minister in 2011 through The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies in New York.
     Rev. Brandon became a member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia in 2011 and has served as a former trustee; and member of the worship ministry team and First Church Voices Intergenerational Choir.

July 3. What Happened To You?

Service led by: Melody Bergey
Drawn in part from Oprah Winfrey's book of the same name, this service will explore how trauma impacts individuals and society. It is hard to discuss trauma, and even harder to face the stigma of admitting one's own experience of trauma, but whether we discuss it or not, it affects our lives and communities. Join us in unpacking what defines trauma, the impacts it has, and the ways we can live with and beyond it.
     Melody has been a member of First Unitarian for over 5 years, singing with the choir and the band, serving as a worship associate, involved in small group ministries, and the stewardship team. She recently finished a degree in graphic design, and is a lover of baking and the outdoors!

June 26. Radical Acceptance & Radical Love on the Great American Roadtrip

Service led by: Katherine Schneider
In times of extreme polarization, how might we lean into our UU values to a path forward? Can we practice “radical acceptance” of and even “radical love” for those with whom we disagree, perhaps vehemently? Katherine Schneider’s answer to this question involved a pandemic year adventure in an Airstream on the Great American Roadtrip, meeting all kinds of people and confirming we have more in common than not.
     Dr. Katherine Schneider is a family physician and health system executive who has been an independent consultant since 2021 when she returned home to Philadelphia from a yearlong, solo Great American Roadtrip. She has been a member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia since 2010 and has served in various volunteer leadership roles there as well as with the UU Service Committee. She and her husband, Dr. Bill Petricone, live in Center City.

June 19. 
Three Bloom Limit 
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Join us for our annual flower communion service, as we explore how the abundance of the world's beauty can refill our spirits. In this intergenerational service, we will also celebrate the end of our formal church year before shifting to our Summer schedule on June 26. All are invited to bring a flower to participate in the in-person communion service (we'll have extras too), wear floral prints, or have flowers with you on your zoom screen at home. Have a picture of flowers you want to share? Email it to or post in our facebook group!

June 12. Gratitude

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
It's easy to feel grateful when things are going well, but what do we do when things are rough? Join us for a service where we reflect on the choice to be grateful, and discover what gratitude might offer us in good times and bad.

June 5.
Goodness Gracious!
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
Come one and all for our multigenerational celebration of Pentecost! Flames filled with spirit help us to hear one another better and love one another better.  This service will be big on fun and story telling and song as we learn of the ways in which we need not think alike, or speak alike, to love alike.

May 29.
Deep Remembering and Moral Engagement
Service led by: Leroy Enck
What is moral injury? How does it differ from Post-Traumatic Stress and other clinical diagnosis? And how can we, as a community, expand our capacity and create space to hold those from among us who grapple with the pain and moral burden all too often carried in isolation. By engaging in deep remembering, moral reckoning, and opening ourselves to the difficult work of moral engagement, we may learn how to identify with those among us who were willing to die and kill on our behalf, and in doing so, expand our capacity to heal as a community. Together, we will also lift prayers for veteran loved ones lost in service, suicide, or overdose.

May 22. Putting Ourselves Back Together Again
Service led by: Rev. A
bbey Tennis
2 years and 2 months since the US COVID pandemic began, and so much of our world continues to feel shattered. How can we rededicate ourselves to being forces for healing in our own lives and in the world? This Sunday we will welcome new members and hold our Annual Meeting after service!

May 15. The Burden that Defines Us
Service led by: Rev. A
bbey Tennis
Sometimes we hold onto a hardship for so long that it begins to feel like a part of us. When we finally reach a place where we have outgrown it, or where can let it go, it can be hard to know who we are without it. How can we feel fully whole once we have laid our burdens down?

May 8. The Heart Outside Your Body
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
It has been said that becoming a parent is to 'have your heart go walking around outside your body.' In this time where reproductive justice is under enormous threat, we join together this Sunday to honor the joys and complications of motherhood and recommit ourselves to the work of supporting parents, children, and reproductive choice for all.

May 1. 
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
During our New Member Ceremony, new folks are asked to "know and be known" in this congregation. Knowing one another and being known takes hard work but they are key to our survival. Knowing our neighbors and building community will be the thing that saves us as our ecosystem and our society face unpredictable futures. In this service, we'll explore how this church community can be a cure for loneliness and a keystone to climate resilience.

April 24. Poems Upon the Sky

Service led by: 
Rev. Abbey Tennis 
Kahlil Gibran once wrote that, "Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky,” though their impact on our communities runs deep. Join us as we reflect on the ways we are transformed by our relationship with the earth around us, and rededicate ourselves to interdependent living.

April 17. Easter Sunday - Destiny By Way of Sorrow
Service led by: 
Rev. Abbey Tennis & Hannah Capaldi
This weekend we mark the ancient Christian holiday of Easter, a time of resurrection, and renewal. Yet many of us know that renewal does not come without first feeling fatigue, as resurrection does not come without first experiencing death. What meaning might we find in honoring the joy of Easter without forgetting the difficult path that leads up to it? All are invited to wear festive Easter hats for this hybrid service!

April 10. There's a River Somewhere
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
As sources of renewal and constant change, rivers can inspire us to live our lives with purpose and action. Too often we feel stuck and unsure of how to move forward but rivers can remind us that we have power and agency to affect change in our lives, even when it scares us.

March 27. Evil Gets Strong When We Get Tired
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
When we are tired, hungry, and emotionally exhausted, it is so much harder to be patient, compassionate, and open minded. How can we replenish ourselves so that we may keep up the good work for the long haul? Where is the blessing in weariness?

March 20. Coldest Summer of the Rest of Your Life

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Our climate is changing, humanity is not doing enough to stop it, and it is too late to stop some degree of future devastation – though we don’t yet know the shape of that devastation. When it feels like the end of the world is barreling towards us, how do we keep from sinking beneath despair?

March 12. Worms Eating At the Rind

Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
The world watches as yet another war unfolds. This Sunday, we find ourselves tired, as Langston Hughes wrote, of "waiting for the world to become good and beautiful and kind." As Unitarian Universalists, we hold life as sacred and abhor war in all its forms. Let us spend this service questioning how our faith might propel forward our quest for peace.

March 6. Same Hate, Stronger Resistance

Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
Hatred, oppression, cruelty - despite our best efforts, these seem to rise up in human community over and over again. If we cannot erase evil from our culture and actions, what can we do to make the world more loving and just?

February 27. Covenant and Kintsugi

Service led by: Rev. Sana Saeed
Join Rev. Sana to explore how the art of Kintsugi can help us reflect on how we use covenants to show up authentically in our UU communities and build a beloved community.
     Rev. Sana Saeed is First Unitarian Church's Affiliate Minister. She currently works as the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. She lives with her partner, beloved puppy Rumi and her kitten Nix in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia.

February 20. 
Duet of Love and Doubt
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
So many of us struggle with the internal tangle of self-doubt and self-love. How can we find balance?

February 13.
Practicing Courage
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
It takes practice to master a skill, some have said 10,000 hours of practice. Something as complicated and hard as playing the violin, making a jumpshot, or baking a croissant takes consistent effort and a willingness to fail. Why would something as complicated and hard as courage be any different? In this service we'll discuss why it's important to try and be courageous, even when we fail and that embodying courage takes a lifetime of work.

February 6.
Moral Imagination
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
We can feel so stuck within of the world's injustices, and the ruts in our own lives, that it is hard to envision a truely liberatory, loving, and wholistic future. At the same time, change is frustratingly slow when it only happens one small pragmatic compromise at a time. How can a courageous moral imagination fuel our work of awakening justice in our lives and in the world?

January 30.
Fallow Fields
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
For hundreds of years, farmers have let fields "lie fallow" when the soil is depleted and needs to be restored.  What does this ancient practice have to teach us about our own spiritual fallow time? 


January 23. Moved - Choose - Tell Your Truth
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
When we first become devoted – to a person, a community, an idea, a life path – it is easy to imagine our joyful commitments lasting forever. Yet when commitment becomes hard - when conflict arises, distractions creep in, or exhaustion slows us down – what then? What can sustain the power of devotion?


January 16. Extremists for Love
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
As we commemorate what would have been Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93 birthday this weekend,  we strive to remember the real person he was instead of the martyr of legend he has become. How can we honor his radical legacy with our own acts of extremism for love?

January 9.
Passion or Purpose?
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
What is worthy of our devotion in this life? Today we explore how to prime ourselves for joy, make a difference in the world, and build a life of meaning, no matter what comes our way this year. 

January 2. This Year's Love Had Better Last
Service led by:
Rev. Hannah Capaldi
No matter what rests with your spirit at the beginning of a new year, this is a season for naming and claiming hopes and wishes for the coming months. When so many of us are weary and worn come January 1st, how do we gather up the will to set an intention? How do we let our faith inform our plans and our dreams for 2022?

December 24.
Christmas Eve: Candlelit Service of Lessons and Carols 
This year, once again, the pandemic is requiring us to hold a fully virtual Christmas Eve service to keep everyone safe. But virtual does not mean it will not be beautiful! So light some candles at home and join us in your Christmas best or your holiday jammies. Together, we will re-tell the ancient story of finding hope in unlikely places, sing carols, and recommit ourselves to bringing love and joy into our beautiful and broken world. Our offering during this service will be for the church's pastoral care fund.

December 26. Virtual Kwanzaa Celebration with Rev. McKinley Sims
On December 26, we will not but meeting in-person in our Sanctuary but instead will be joining all three Philly UU churches for a virtual Kwanzaa celebration, invoking the spirit of the harvest and the presence of the ancestors as we light the candles of the Seven Principles, or Nguzo Saba.
     The Kwanzaa service will be available online only. You can watch the live stream here.

December 19. Born in Bethlehem: A Christmas Pageant
Service led by: Rev. Hannah Capaldi
This week we will join together to tell the story of the birth of the baby Jesus (played by Nova Tennis-Lovell!). Using fun costumes and a no-rehearsal-needed script, Rev. Hannah will lead the creation of the classic manger scene complete with tigers, wise men, and twinkling stars. All ages welcome. There will be lots of fun Christmas music!

December 12.
Woven Fine
Service led by: Rev. Abbey Tennis
"Joy and woe are woven fine” writes the poet William Blake. In the most happy seasons of our lives, we often also find our griefs renewed - and glimmers of joy brighten our most difficult times. How are we held in this complicated fabric of life? 

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?


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?

November 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?

November 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?

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