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  • Writer's pictureMairin Smit

Your Greatest Spiritual Teacher

No matter how different from your own, in hearing someone else’s story, your heart finds a connection. And that moment of connection can change you.

If you receive others as worthy, lovable, spiritual creations - perfect just the way they are - you get to see the highest possible version of who you are. Richard Wagamese

I remember the day I first stepped into First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto.

It was a quiet Sunday morning in late August. Light was streaming into the sanctuary through big skylights in the ceiling.

It was busy, but not crowded. So Dave and I had no problem finding seats – off to the side, a few rows back from the front.

We nodded to the people around us as we sat down. Not sure what to expect.

After several songs, a few readings, a meditation and a candle lighting, the minister got up to give his sermon.

This was Rev. Shawn Newton’s first week back after summer break. And the congregation was buzzing. You could feel the anticipation as he stepped to the microphone.

I don’t remember much of what happened next.

I do remember at one point looking over at Dave and seeing he had tears in his eyes, just like me.

Apparently, this happens to a lot of people when they attend their first UU service. So much so, Rev. Shawn is studying it as part of his PhD research! 😊

But what I do remember is the message of Rev. Shawn’s sermon.

That sometimes your greatest spiritual teacher is not the writer of ancient texts, the celebrity speaker or even the person behind the pulpit.

It’s the person sitting next to you.

The person you may not always get along with. Who pushes your buttons every time you see them. The person who makes you wonder – how did we end up in the same church? Community? Family?

Because they're the person who’ll show you the inner work you still need to do.

And that’s a spiritual lesson we all need.

When I heard Rev. Shawn say this, I felt it resonate deep in my heart.

I’ve kept it with me ever since.

And it’s framed this podcast from the beginning.

I’ve always believed in the power of everyday people’s stories. It’s one of the things that motivated me during my time as an actor and theatre director.

No matter how different from your own, in hearing someone else’s story, your heart finds a connection. And that moment of connection can change you.

It can make you grow in profound ways. Make you feel seen and heard. And a part of something greater than yourself.

I started this podcast with that same intention. To create a space where people could share their stories about faith and hope in this messy world.

So we could see and hear each other.

Feel seen and heard by each other.

And know we’re not alone.

Many folks you heard from this season are friends I’ve known for years.

But never had we sat down together with this intention – to share stories about our journeys with faith and hope.

After each interview I was left in awe. By the sheer number of profound, heart-swelling things they said. These people I’d know for years. Who I'd spent hours sitting next to at dinners, on camping trips or watching TV on the couch.

They’d become profound spiritual teachers, simply by telling their stories.

So as I start setting up interviews for Season 2, I can’t help but laugh when people tell me they’re not sure they have much to say.

Because if Season 1’s taught me anything, it’s that everyone is deeply spiritual.

And when you give them space to tell their story, they’ll tell you the spiritual lesson you need to hear most.

It’s been an absolute honour to share these stories with you this season.

We’ll be back in the fall with more stories about faith, hope and what you put your trust in, in this uncertain world.

Thanks for listening. And being part of this journey.

See you next season!


Whose story’s changed you? What have you learned from hearing about someone else’s life?

Share your thoughts with us – they might end up on this blog or our social media!

Here’s how – write 500 words or less in a doc (Word or Pages) or make a 1 min voice recording on your phone of your thoughts on this post. Then email it to us at:

We’d love to hear your personal perspective on how you’re working through these big questions. Don’t forget to tell us your name and where you’re from!

(If you want to stay anonymous, that’s ok too. Just let us know.)

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