First Parish News, April 2018

Thursday, March 29th 7 pm: Tennebrae Service in the sanctuary. “Tennebrae” means darkness and describes the period from Maundy Thursday through Good Friday, before the dawning joy of Easter, when the disciples of Jesus walked with their beloved teacher through his last supper with them to the Garden of Gethsemane and finally to his death by crucifixion. This is a contemplative service with traditional and modern readings and music by the choir and reflects on the very human and sacred truth that we sometimes must walk in darkness and with broken hearts. It is good to have a religious community to do this with. Rev. Ellen


Update on Open Office Hours:  Due to snow and other schedule craziness, I need to reschedule my open office hours at the Java Room over the next couple of weeks to: THURSDAYS from 10:30 to noon on March 29 and April 5th. So, if you can, please join me and anyone else who comes for coffee or tea and conversation. - Rev. Ellen


Church Council will meet Tuesday April 3rd, 7pm in the Alliance Parlor. There will be an update on the ABP. Our hot topic will be pre-construction clear-out, access during project & moving back in when construction is complete. We urge every committee to have at least one person attend. Also, Deirdre Heck will present a mini lesson on Nominating committee & elected positions/what they entail.


Dear First Parishers, We will hold a memorial service to mourn Tom’s loss and to honor and celebrate his life at First Parish on Saturday, April 7 at 1 pm, followed by a reception at the vestry. Meanwhile, I have been asked by many people what they can do to support Edith and her family. The Caring Connection has set up a process for providing food. You can reach out to Suzanne Wilson for more information. Another way we can support Edith and honor Tom is to step in to the places where they have given so much of their time and energy. As I said on Sunday, Tom, Edith and their kids are intricately and intimately involved in the day to day workings of our First Parish community. So, if you can, I ask you to consider preparing or cleaning up social hour, or reaching out to Dolores and the RE Council to see if they need help there. Tom’s presence among us was quiet but strong and we will need to come together to help mend some of the holes. Thank you for your continued care for Tom, for Edith, for Rick, for Marion, and for Dan. -- Rev. Ellen

Reception after Tom's service: We have had countless offers of help for this and will be sitting down and figuring details this week. Thank you to everyone. I’ll send another email out by the end of this week to all those who have offered to help with hopefully correct information about that! Be sure to let me know if we misunderstood anything! –Cindy/Jill/Jess

P.S. One more suggestion for the day, Edith has set up an ‘in lieu of flowers’ request, but would still love to have some for the sanctuary service. 2 large arrangements will be there, but feel free to add to that if you wish.


Committee Fair sponsored by Church Council will be held Sunday April 29th after church during social hour. Make new connections, meet the fun and proactive people who help things run smoothly, sign up for a committee and be a part of the positive changes. It's your church, get involved.


2018 CANVASS - Do you know what the CANVASS is? Do you know "how" to pledge or why we pledge or how to decide how much to pledge? Whether you have been here for 10 or 20 years or are brand new, come to one of our informal classes on CANVASS and PLEDGING on April 8.

We will meet in the Alliance Parlor after the Church Service, have some light refreshments, chat for 15 or 20 minutes about canvass and pledging, and ask those questions we thought we were already supposed to know the answers to. ---The Canvass Team.


Split the Plate – April 15 - Our Split the Plate organization for April is THRIVE, a Lowell based charity. THRIVE Communities is a community-based response to the challenges faced by adults returning from prison to Lowell or Lawrence. Designed to empower returning citizens and engage local community members, THRIVE cultivates genuine experiences of community that are inclusive of all men and women - defining people not by their experiential differences, but by the best parts of their character. Learn more at their website: http://www.thrivema.org


The next Women's Discussion Group meeting will be on Tuesday, April 3 at 7pm at the home of Marie Claire Galera, 138 Newton Road, Plaistow, NH. Marie Claire will have her usual pizza and beer! The topic will be about our dependence on modern technology; i.e. what happens when we forget or lose our cell phone.
Call to RSVP or email Marie Claire
As always, all are welcome to join us.


April is Caring Connection month. Our role is to reach out to parishioners in times of need with calls, visits, meals, and rides. Additionally, we monthly send cards noting our many and varied special life events. We are a small committee but need lots of helpers. Please drop by our table during the 4/29 Committee Fair and add your name to our list to assist with brief, one-time services. These are immensely appreciated and invaluable gifts of support binding our beloved community.

If you have a need, please contact a Caring Committee member or share with another parishioner, Ellen, or Cindy Gist. We welcome donations of birthday, sympathy, get well, and blank cards. Please place them in the Caring Connection mail slot next to the copier machine across from the office.
Caring Connection Committee: Suzanne Wilson/chair, Sandy Johnstonm, Joan Keane, Mickey O’Connor, and Maura Snow.


NEW (or not so new) UU CLASS! This spring, the membership committee on Saturday, April 28th from 9 to 4pm will be offering the New (or not so new) UU class! We will discuss this church and Unitarian Universalism in general. The class will be based on a UU Tapestry of Faith curriculum but will also discuss the traditions of this parish. It will be highly interactive and include lunch with guest speakers.
-Who would be interested in this class/discussion? People new to First Parish (who may or may not be new to UUism), people (members or non-members) who have been here a while but still have questions.
-What is the time commitment? Approximately 7 hours. Babysitting will be provided as needed; And lunch and refreshments throughout the event 😊

If you are interested, please speak to Chris Sweetnam, Rose Lerer, Joan Keane, Lisa Calvo, Theresa Popoloski or Peter Mellish or email your preferences to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MEMORIES WANTED: We are preparing for our New UU class on April 28. We would like to let our newcomers know why we think that First Parish is so special. Please send us your memories (a few words to a page) about First Parish so we can share them with the class.
If possible, email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by April 14.


Healing Circle - Do you ever feel that you need some positive energy to help you or a loved one through a difficult time? The Healing Circle is made up of folks from your caring church community who hold you and yours in loving and healing thoughts during health (or any sort of) crises. Some of us pray, some of us meditate, some of us close our eyes and imagine sending peace and health. If you would like to be a part of our circle (we need you!) and/or need some healing energy, please reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call coordinator Kathy Deschenes.

First Parish News, March 2018

2018 Canvass will begin soon! Do you know what the CANVASS is?  Do you know "how" to pledge or why we pledge or how to decide how much to pledge?  Whether you have been here for 10 or 20 years or are brand new, come to one of our informal classes on CANVASS and PLEDGING on March 18, March 25 or April 8.  We will meet in the Alliance Parlor after the Church Service, have some light refreshments, chat for 15 or 20 minutes about canvass and pledging, and ask those questions we thought we were already supposed to know the answers to. ---The Canvass Team.


Split the Plate – March 18 -  Our split-the-plate organization for March is Merrimack Valley Project. MVP's mission is to unite religious, labor and community organizations in campaigns to expand economic opportunities and good jobs, save and create affordable housing, and to address other issues related to the welfare of the Merrimack Valley region, and through these campaigns to develop the leadership skills of Valley residents. MVP led a service at First Parish this past Fall. Learn more at http://www.merrimackvalleyproject.org/


Open Office Hours at the Java Room - Wednesdays February 28, March 7, March 21, and March 28, 10:30 to noon. Please drop by to join me (and anyone else who comes!) for tea or coffee and conversation. (If you wish to meet with me for pastoral care in a more confidential setting, please feel free to contact me to set an appointment.) - Rev. Ellen


Nominating Committee - Have you ever wondered how your fellow First Parish members come to be the ones on Standing Committee and other elected positions here at church? Nominating is a quiet committee that works behind the scenes to find members to fill these positions. We talk with folks to explain the various positions and determine their interest in serving the larger First Parish community. Our hope is to match the interests of members with the committee work that needs to be done. Casual conversations at coffee hour can be a great way for us to gauge your interest in serving our community. Listen carefully, have you had a similar conversation? would you like to? Although our primary work IS preparing the Slate of Officers to be voted in at the Annual Meeting we are also here to help connect people to many of the other committees and ministries in our congregation.  If you have an interest in serving on any particular committee in future, or if your committee needs help finding new members today, please talk to one of us. We are here to serve!  Your Nominating Committee - Deirdre Heck, Erin Clifford, Carla Corey, Joan Coyne and Peggy Stephens-North.


 New (or not so new) UU Class  -   This spring, the membership committee will be offering a class/discussion where we will discuss this church and Unitarian Universalism in general. The class will be based on a UU Tapestry of Faith curriculum but will also discuss the traditions of this parish. It will be highly interactive and there will be guest speakers.
-Who would be interested in this class/discussion? People new to First Parish (who may or may not be new to UUism), people (members or non-members) who have been here a while but still have questions.
-What is the time commitment? Approximately 6 hours.
Would you prefer: One 6 hr session (most likely on a Saturday) including lunch or 6 weekly one-hour sessions
If weekly: Which day or time works best for you? Is there any day or time when you could not attend?
Would you need babysitting?
If you are interested, please speak to Chris Sweetnam, Rose Lerer, Joan Keane, Lisa Calvo, Theresa Popoloski or Peter Mellish or email your preferences to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Calling All Civil Rights Activists  -  This November, for the first time ever, a possible repeal of civil rights will be on the ballot when voters are asked to decide whether to repeal the Public Accommodations law that protects transgender people's access to public spaces. Freedom for All Massachusetts (FFAM) is working to prevent that repeal and you can help.\The existing law was passed in 2016 and protects transgender people against discrimination in such public places as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, homeless shelters, and transportation. There have been ZERO incidents of problems in the sharing of facilities since the passage of the bill. We worked hard to see the bill passed but many around the state are still unaware that the repeal vote is happening this year, an off year that tends to draw fewer voters., so a lot of public education is necessary to prevent the repeal.

On Thursday, March 1, from 6-9, there will be a phone bank here at First Parish to recruit more volunteers to help with the effort. If you would like to help, please contact the Merrimack Valley coordinator, Zach Stinchfield. It is important to let him know ahead of time that you want to participate so that materials will be on hand for all participants. You will need to bring your cell phone and a lap top and chargers for both.
The first hour of the phone bank involves thorough training. If you're not sure whether you'll like it, give it a try. It can actually be a lot of fun. And it's important work. It is known from efforts in other states that it takes massive outreach to individual voters to defeat such ballot initiatives. FFAM estimates needing 100,000 volunteers to accomplish the necessary work. If you have any questions, Dee Halzack or Frances Killam will be happy to answer them.

If you're interested, but March 1, doesn't work for you, there are other opportunities to join a phone bank. There are phone banks at Christ Church United in Lowell on Mondays from 6-9pm to recruit volunteers. (The next date is March 5.)
There are also phone banks scheduled on Tuesdays to educate voters. (March 6.)
The next Monday volunteer recruitment bank is March 5.
The next Tuesday public education bank is March 6.
Whatever bank you want to sign up for, please contact Zach Stinchfield so he can make sure he's got materials for you.


First Parish Concert Series presents an eclectic concert of Chamber Music and Jazz on Saturday March 3rd at 3:00pm. Performances by Henry Tervo, Janice Tervo, Shaylor Lindsay, David Siegel, Jessica Gist Volk, Carsten Kowalczyk, Erika Taylor, Mark Tervo, and Steve Zocchi. Works by Telemann, Beethoven, Grieg as well as Jazz Standards.

Proceeds will be donated to the Malala Fund, a non-profit dedicated to Women’s right to education. Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani student and education activist who began speaking out for girls’ education at the age of 11. After surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban at 15, she co-founded Malala Fund with her father Ziauddin. She is the youngest ever Nobel Laureate. Malala currently lives in the U.K. with her family.
First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church is located at 2 Westford Street in Chelmsford MA, 01824. Recommended donations are $15 for adults, $8 children 12 and under. For more information, call 978-256-5133.


The next Women's Discussion Group meeting will be at Uta Musgray's house on Tuesday, March 6th, 7:00 pm. Please call her at to confirm. We are also inviting newcomers who want to find out what we are all about. The topic is: Social life and longevity. 


Auction  -  Our biggest fundraiser of the year will soon be upon us. The annual auction will take place Saturday, March 17, beginning at 6 PM with an optional wine tasting, posters and silent auction. The live auction starts at 7:30 PM.  What could YOU contribute to be auctioned off to raise money for the church? The silent auction includes quality items (new or gently used) that could become someone else's treasure. Past items have run the gamut: artwork, books, jewelry, toys, crafts, decorative items, etc. 

Another popular section at the auction is a bid on an experience, such as a vegetarian meal, language lessons or a fancy tea. These are described on posters and are bid on silently. The donor usually offers the experience to a certain number of bidders, with the places going to the top so many bidders.

And then there are items in the live auction. In the past, this has included hand-crafted quilts and shawls, breads and quiches, museum memberships, flower delivery, fine wine, home-cooked breakfast delivered to the house,....

Want to help in a different way? The organizers could also use people to help set up for the auction and do small jobs during the auction. Helpers are generally needed on Friday and Saturday.

And of course, we need people to come to the auction and bid on the items offered. Prices range from $1 to hundreds, so there are ways for EVERY budget to contribute. Many, many silent auction items are quite a steal! And the live auction is fun to watch, with occasional bidding "wars" over unexpected items.

The Auction Table will be in the vestry during social hour. There are sign-up sheets for helpers and donation forms for everyone. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or would like to sign up while you're thinking of it, you can reach the organizers at: Theresa Popoloski or Jeanette Moreau. Remember--donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE--we will give you a receipt!


Welcoming Congregation Renewal Team  -  In June of 2007, this congregation voted to become a Welcoming Congregation after having gone through a lengthy and thorough program to understand exactly what it meant to be welcoming and affirming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.. The UUA recommends that churches that have been Welcoming for more than 5 years review their commitment. Congregations change a lot over time. The LGBTQ community has also been undergoing dizzying changes. When we became Welcoming, marriage equality did not yet exist nationally, nor could LGBTQ people serve openly in our military. We are now in our tenth year as a Welcoming Congregation, with quite a few church members who have joined since we made the commitment, marriage equality is applied nationally and Don't Ask/Don't Tell is gone.

The Welcoming Congregation Renewal Team was formed by the Welcoming Congregation Committee in consultation with the Standing Committee to review the commitments we made and how we've been doing in living up to them. Members of the team include: Jackie Diamond, Warren Flewellen (co-chair), Dee Halzack (co-chair), Frances Killam, Donna Mitchelson, Laura Nutter, Milo Ransdell, Kedar Thomas, Cheryl Wilson.

The commitments we made include:

  • Using inclusive language as appropriate in worship, religious education, and other areas of our congregational life.
  • Educating our children, youth, and ourselves with respect to GLBT relationships, events, issues, and history, including through the "Our Whole Lives " human sexuality curriculum.
  • Celebrating our diversity in both worship and socia! activities, including services of marriage and child dedication for same-sex couples and their families, and the inclusion of worship services, such as "Love Makes a Family, " which honor and celebrate the sacred in our unity and our diversity.
  • Reaching out to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to Iet them know that First Parish is a safe religious and spiritual home that celebrates their lives and stands with them in their struggles. Reaching out includes advertising in media that reaches the GLBT communities and putting a rainbow flag symbol on our signage and website.
  • Speaking out in the broader community in support of justice arnd equality in consideration of GLBT civil rights, safety, and other issues. This includes attending and carrying the First Parish banner at GLBT rallies and parades.

In order to facilitate being a Welcoming Congregation, we will form a broad-based Welcoming Congregation Committee to offer programs, alert the congregation to Legislative initiatives that provide the opportunity to express our support of GBLT persons to legislators, and communicate with the appropriate church committees.

The Team is asking you to help us celebrate by telling us about ways and times you think we've been particularly Welcoming and ways and times you think we could have done or could be doing better. To let us know, you can either leave a note in the Welcoming Congregation Committee's mail slot, or add to the poster that will be up on the Welcoming Congregation Bulletin Board as of March 11.


Healing Circle - Do you ever feel that you need some positive energy to help you or a loved one through a difficult time? The Healing Circle is made up of folks from your caring church community who hold you and yours in loving and healing thoughts during health (or any sort of) crises. Some of us pray, some of us meditate, some of us close our eyes and imagine sending peace and health. If you would like to be a part of our circle (we need you!) and/or need some healing energy, please reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call coordinator Kathy Deschenes.


Prayer Shawl Request  -  Pretty please, anyone out there interested in knitting/crocheting a prayer shawl to be blessed sometime in the near future and available for those in need?  Our supply is getting low! Thank you!


 Standing Committee Remarks

Hello All!

I am so excited about how far we have come towards upgrading our building to be more accessible. This has been a group effort, with the Accessibility Building Project (ABP) Teams putting a lot of time and effort into figuring how to do this, and the congregation as a whole participating in the decision making, funding the project, providing support and being understanding about the ongoing and upcoming disruptions. At the Special Congregational Meeting at the end of January we built on our previous steps and approved this project and financing plan. The loan to pay for the project and the use of part of the endowment to pay for the code required sprinkler portion of the project are the two parts that require firm and considered congregational support in the form of two votes 30 days apart, so the second vote on those items will be held Sunday March 4th. This project has been so widely and enthusiastically supported that I look forward to being able to sign the contract with the contractor and move into the temporary disarray of construction.

We need to clear space in the building for construction, so if you, or your committee is responsible for stuff stored in the building, and you haven't started having conversations about where it will go during construction, please start considering that. The ABP Teams are looking at storage options during construction, but good decisions require knowledge about what is needed. We need to get stuff out of the building this spring.

The plan is to start taking things apart in early June, as soon after the Open Door Nursery School closes as possible. Effectively the entire RE wing will be off limits during the summer, so the chapel will not be handicapped accessible for most of the summer services, and the regular bathrooms will be temporarily out of service, though hiring temporary replacements for the summer is high on the to-do list! To enable the nursery school to keep its license and remain open, the new bathrooms have to be intact by the time we resume our normal service time in September, so that will start easing the effects of construction, but we don't expect to have the elevator installed until later, so we will be doing what we can to make it possible to participate in the regular services from the lower level of the building, probably the vestry.

In other news, we have the Auction, coming up on March 17, and the May breakfast on May 5th. Please find a way to contribute, these events serve community building, outreach, and fundraising, and all of those require participation - even if participation just means talking it up or inviting your neighbor. You might also get to make May Baskets after church on Sundays in April. In a time of change, traditions like the May Breakfast are comforting, but need to demonstrate how they serve us, and are wanted, in order to invest the volunteer effort to continue them

So, the short story: Thank you all, and change is coming!

Sarah Manning, Standing Committee Chair

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133