First Parish News, December 2019

ONE HOUR CHOIR! - Do you love to sing but don’t have time to commit to regular rehearsals?  If so, join The Choir at Church for “One Hour Choir” on December 1st. Just show up at 8:30am on Sunday morning, December 1st for a one hour rehearsal and then experience the joy of singing in the morning service. It will be fun, I promise. Thanks, Steve


 Request for Greeters - Being a greeter is a simple fulfilling way to volunteer for our wonderful FPC community! As a greeter you get to meet, greet and “WELCOME!” all the wonderful people that come through our FPC doors! We are using SignUp.com.

Here's how it works in 3 easy steps:

1) Click this link to see our SignUp on SignUp.com: https://signup.com/go/jMSRNUm
2) Review the options listed and choose the spot(s) you like.
3) Sign up! It's Easy - you will NOT need to register an account or keep a password on SignUp.com.

Note: SignUp.com does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can sign you up manually.  For more information or questions you can also contact Sarah Manning, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., LFF Director, Dolores~ on behalf of the Membership Committee


Information about Proposed Outdoor Play Area - SC is considering providing the Little Acorn nursery school with an outdoor play area. The Play Area Task Force will have a table at social hour on Sunday December 8th. They will show the proposed location and the type of fencing being considered. Visit to learn more and ask questions.


Pastoral Care News - The Pastoral Care Team would like to remind folks that we have a table set up at social hour where you can write cards to fellow church members who are going through difficult times or just to tell someone you miss at church that you are thinking of them. It is especially important during the holidays that we hold each other with love and support since so many deal with grief and stress. We are also available at the table and elsewhere to chat if you feel like you need an ear.

We are also asking for donations of gift cards to local supermarkets since this is an expensive time of year for people who might be already facing some financial constraints. General gift cards are welcome as well (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) for those who need to cover other expenses. You can give those to either the Pastoral Care Team or directly to Rev. Ellen.

Thank you as always for being there for each other in good times and in bad. We couldn't do this work without all of you.


Songs of Strength & Solace – How have these last few years been for you …?!  Feeling recurrent bouts of hyperactive anxiety, outrage, burnout or dread …? US, TOO …!!! So, we’re bringing out the old guitar and our homemade songbooks for you again and getting ready for another darkness-busting singalong …!! On Saturday, December 21st ~ Winter Solstice ~ we’re going to welcome Light back with all our hearts …! As in the past, we will be singing folk songs and hymns, spirituals and camp songs, songs of the people in good times and bad. Also as in the past, it will be fortifying and fun …!! We will meet in the chapel from 11:00 a.m. to noon. If you have any questions, please contact Virginia Adams  - Virginia Adams & Diane Johns


Calling all prayer shawls!! We are desperately short on prayer shawls and our need for them is great as always. If you have some ready to go, please give them to either Rev. Ellen or Kathy Deschenes.  Thank you!!


HEALING CONVERSATIONS -  In keeping with the commitment in our First Parish covenant to care and be present to one another in our joys and sorrows, Rev. Ellen and the Pastoral Care Team offer this grief and loss group on the second and fourth Mondays of the month to nurture and hold a sacred space to share stories, experiences, and emotions around love, loss and grief in a spirit of mutual care and deep listening. This is an ongoing group that folks in our First Parish community can join during the year, while maintaining it as a confidential and supportive space. We meet from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, upstairs in the High School room. Our next meeting will be Monday, November 25th. As we are in the midst of the holidays, we invite you to bring a recipe or item that represents a tradition that has been impacted by loss and grief. For our December 9th meeting, we will offer a healing ritual. If you have any questions or wish to attend, please contact Rev. Ellen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Christmas Day Dinner – Looking for host/ess(s) for our traditional Christmas Day potluck dinner held in our vestry on December 25, mid to late afternoon. Usually -but not necessarily - the person in charge cooks a turkey (or something of that size-monetary aid available for that) either here or at home and everyone else brings whatever they consider necessary for Christmas dinner. It is a way for those who would otherwise be alone or simply missing a big holiday dinner crowd, to celebrate the season with friends. Most years at least 10-20 people show up. This requires minimal organization and with so much help, set up and clean up is a breeze. Please talk to me at Social Hour or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you are interested in leading this event this year.  Thanks - Cindy Gist

First Parish News, November 2019

11/5 - CHURCH COUNCIL: Our next meeting is Tuesday, November 5th, at 7pm in the Parlor. It is important that committees send a representative to share their news and plans as well as review how we all can help each other. Please contact Joan Keane with questions or more information.


11/5 - Women’s Discussion Group: The next meeting of the Women’s Discussion Group will be held on Tuesday, November 5, at 7 pm at the home of Judy Perez de Heredia. The topic will be “Women’s clothing throughout the ages”. If you wish, pick a decade or an epoch i.e. Middle Ages, Renaissance, Paleolithic and tell us about women’s clothing during that period. Please rsvp to Judy.


11/9 - Nov 9th (Sat) 1PM - Bedsheets to bandages for Ghana - Do you have old bedsheets that you’d like to put to a good use? Sheila Morehouse, a member of the Meetinghouse Ringers and a pediatrician in Chelmsford, volunteers each year at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana (https://baptistmedicalcenter.org/). One of the items her group brings with them is bandage wrappings made from old bedsheets. CFAM will be hosting an event on Saturday November 9th at 1pm where we will cut up old bedsheets and roll them for use at the hospital in Ghana. If you have any questions, please contact Joan Coyne.


11/16 - WELCOMING CONGREGATION COMMITTEE CALLING FOR HELP WITH ANNUAL TDOR VIGIL  -  This year, on Saturday, November 16, will be our tenth annual vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, during which we honor the memory of all those reported killed as a result of anti-transgender violence. It really takes a village to make this event happen. There are many ways that each of our "villagers" could help with the vigil:
From now through November 10, there will be a table during Social Hour where you may paint luminaria bags.

Assistance is needed with set-up (both inside and outside), during the vigil (inside), and breakdown (both inside and outside), as follows:

Set-up (4-6pm on day of vigil)
3 people to set up luminarias outside & 3-4 people to set up chapel
During indoor vigil (5:45-6:45pm)
2 greeters & 1 Usher
Breakdown & Clean-up (9-9:30 or 10pm)
3 people outside & 4 people inside

Tasks are fairly segmented, so that no one need feel they must commit to be present for the entire event. For more details on what the tasks involve and to sign up to help with any of them, please stop by the Welcoming Congregation Committee table, or speak with one of the Committee members (Dee Halzack, Frances Killam, Warren Flewellen, Theresa Popoloski, Abbie Ransdell, Kedar Thomas), during Social Hour. You may also email or call Dee Halzack.


11/24 - INGATHERING is the name we give to the Thanksgiving Service. This year it is on Sunday November 24. During the service we bring food, checks and cash to the front of the church. NO ITEM OR AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL. It is delivered to The Open Pantry of Greater Lowell in Lowell. They have been serving hungry people since 1981and First Parish was one of the original initial supporters. Hunger is always present.

Nutritious, non-perishable, unexpired, packaged food items are welcome. Examples include - but are not limited to - canned fruits, vegetable, beef, turkey and chicken, as well as tuna, pasta, soups, stews, cereals, powdered milk, mac n cheese, rice, peanut butter and beans. In addition, they distribute toiletries including: soap, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, toothpaste, and shampoo. They may also provide diapers, wipes, baby formula, baby food, and cat/dog food when available.

Open Pantry has a very informative website: www.theopenpantry.org

The Ingathering collection is becoming part of CFAM, the Council on Faith in Action Ministry. If you have questions about the collection this year, please contact Caroline McMullin. I want to thank everyone who has contributed and who has helped in any of many ways. Your generosity has continually amazed me.-- Gail Pickering


11/28 - In keeping with the season’s theme of Gratitude some folks at First Parish are once again offering a Walk in the Woods on Thanksgiving morning. If you would like to begin your day of Thanksgiving with a connection to friends and an appreciation of the natural world join us at 9:00 AM at Greenough Conservation land in Carlisle. This is a tradition among several First Parishioners and their dogs that has evolved over the years. The walk is through a lovely – but fairly uneven – terrain and is a little less than three miles long. We share coffee and muffins in the parking lot at the end. If you are interested contact Carla Corey, or just show up if you know the routine. Carpooling would be a good idea as we filled the little parking lot one year. New to First Parish? This is a great opportunity to get to know a few more people in a less crowded venue. Or, if you have been coming for years but are having a hard time meeting some of our newer friends, this is also a good place to connect. Please join us! (It is not necessary to have a dog to come along! )


12/1 - Holiday Prelude one month away! Thanksgiving weekend!! We'll be just finishing with our turkeys and pumpkin pies and moving on to donuts and Christmas music!!!

On Sunday, December 1st, First Parish will hold our 3rd annual Holiday Prelude Event. It will take place during the Town's Celebration and Tree Lighting from 4 to 6 PM. We will set up tables outside to sell donuts, baked goods, hot cider and cocoa. And new this year - our very own Maestro will be making music in the Chapel. Steve will play Christmas Carols on the piano and we will open our doors to the public to drop in and sing along.

WE WILL NEED VOLUNTEERS - singers, servers, bakers, set-up and break-down folks!  If you would like to help we'd love to have you. Volunteers are needed for many tasks. Visit our sign-up table in the vestry during Social Hour any Sunday in November to see where you might like to serve.

You can also pre-order your wreaths and roping. We will only be selling those within the congregation. More info to come in next week's Announcements.
For questions and suggestions in the meanwhile you can contact Carla.


Calling all prayer shawls!! We are desperately short on prayer shawls and our need for them is great as always. If you have some ready to go, please give them to either Rev. Ellen or Kathy Deschenes.  Thank you!!


HEALING CONVERSATIONS: In keeping with the commitment in our First Parish covenant to care and be present to one another in our joys and sorrows, Rev. Ellen and the Pastoral Care Team offer this grief and loss group twice a month to nurture and hold a sacred space to share stories, experiences, and emotions around love, loss and grief in a spirit of mutual care and deep listening. Loss can take many different forms and people have participated in Healing Conversations for deaths recent and those years ago as well as for other losses like divorce, estrangement from family, and living with illness. We use readings, ritual, meditation/prayer, video clips, journaling and small group discussions to reflect for ourselves and accompany each other across grief’s difficult terrains. Healing Conversations is an ongoing group that folks in our First Parish community can join during the year, while maintaining it as a confidential and supportive space. We meet on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, upstairs in the High School room. 

Our next couple meetings will be on November 11 and 25. If you have any questions or wish to attend, please contact Rev. Ellen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Supporting the Little Acorn Nursery School – Standing Committee (SC) Play Area Task Force

SC has been discussing how best we can support Gina Cook, the owner of Little Acorn, to grow her business so it will be a secure, long-term, tenant for First Parish. The school was severely impacted by the delay in our completing the ABP project and needs to increase its enrollment.

The early education market is shifting from half-day to full-day programs because it is now normal for both parents to be working outside the home. Massachusetts regulations for early education facilities require that full-day programs have a fenced-in outdoor play area. So, for Little Acorn to achieve its full potential, it will need a play area.

SC has established a task force to research the requirements and propose a location. Ideally, the area would be 750 square feet and there are limited locations into which this would fit. We are considering four, will select one, and then consult with the committees and individuals who would be impacted before developing a budget.

If you have questions, concerns or suggestions, please contact Chris Sweetnam.


Help First Parish feed the hungry! Did you know that First Parish works with 3 groups in the Greater Lowell area to provide food for those who need it? We work with Community Table (CT) of Lowell, Table of Plenty (TOP) in Chelmsford and Open Pantry of Greater Lowell. First Parish's CT team serves a meal every third Saturday at the Salvation Army in Lowell. Our TOP team serves the first Tuesday of every other month (the even months). For open Pantry, we collect non-perishable items and monetary donations every year at our Thanksgiving Ingathering service. CT and Top are always looking for volunteers. CT needs volunteers for shopping (on the day before), food prep, serving and cleanup. TOP needs volunteers for serving, dishwashing and cleanup. For those of you looking for a simple, meaningful way to participate in a worthwhile cause, please consider volunteering to help out at Community Table or Table of Plenty. For all those individuals overwhelmed with busy scheduled lifestyles, CT or TOP may be just what you are looking for. No meetings to attend, no long term commitment just a willingness to commit to a couple of hours on a serving date, with a willing smile.

Community Table's next serving data is Nov 16th. Please contact Michelle Hillman if you can help out, Table of Plenty's next serving data is December 3rd. Please contact Frans Janssen if you can help out on that day.

If you have any questions, visit the CFAM table at social hour and talk to us about how you can get involved.


Have You Ever Wondered About:

The Board of Investment? One of the recommendations from this past FY audit was to better publicize our meetings. The BOI meets on the fourth Monday of January, April, July and October. Our next meeting will be held on Oct 28 at 7pm in the Parlor. Our October meeting agenda items are (1) 3rd quarter portfolio review (2) Review Policies and Objectives statement for BOI and (3) Review terms for BOI members. We also plan to discuss investment in socially responsible funds and whether/how to discuss with our investment advisor in preparation for our January meeting. Please join us if you are interested. If you are interested but can't attend the meeting, please reach out to Susan Woodmansee, Bill Newhard, Ami Hughes or Doug Snow prior to 10/28.

The Nominating Committee? We try our best to match member’s time and talent to elected positions throughout the church. Elected positions include Standing Committee, Clerk, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Collector, and Board of Investments. If you have ever had an interest in any of these positions, feel free to come and talk to any of us! We also occasionally facilitate matching for non-elected committees, so feel free to ask us about those as well. This year’s committee is Erin Clifford, Jim Curley, Leslie Yauckoes, Sandy Johnston, and Theresa Popoloski.

HR ? The Human Resource (HRSC) Sub-Committee is a sub-committee of the Standing Committee.
Why do we have an HRSC? The HRSC was created in 1995 to do the time-consuming, in-depth church staff work in order to inform and make recommendations to the full Standing Committee. The HRSC strives to ensure that the church is a fair, legal and equitable employer.
Who is on the HRSC? The committee is comprised of one or more members of the Standing Committee as well as the minister and three or more lay members who have human resources knowledge, skills or experience. Currently the Standing Committee members are Tom Coffey and Michelle Hillman liaisons; the lay members are Carlene Merrill, Ruth Whalen, Debra Grad and Dave Kaffine along with the Reverend Ellen Spero who is an ex officio non-voting member.

What work does the HRSC do? The HRSC works with the minister who is the day-to-day staff supervisor to write and update job descriptions; assist in employee relations; recruit and interview for open staff positions; ensure corrective action policy is followed when needed; solicit input from other committees to develop the annual staff compensation recommendations for the budget; write policy for the Human Resources Manual; ensure the Human Resources Manual is updated; conduct a year-end performance evaluation process; and generally oversee equitable employment practice for First Parish.
What is it the HRSC not do? The HRSC does not set policy and does not hire or fire staff members. The HRSC makes recommendations to the Standing Committee for a vote. The HRSC is not a search committee, which is required by the by-laws to call a minister and is formed by the SC to hire staff when needed.


TIME TO UPDATE OUR CHURCH DIRECTORY – Have you moved? Changed your preferred email? Phone Number? Let me know. If you are a newcomer – please know that you do NOT have to be a member to be included here, just involved enough to want to be able to be contacted, or to contact other people. Send information by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or write it down and put it through the door slot to the church office on your way out, ANYTIME ( but I only print twice a year or when requested by individuals). I update the e-version as I receive information, and you can email and ask for a soft copy at anytime. I hope to print a new version by the end of November.

Please send me any combination of the following information (as long as there is some way to identify you and contact you!) : names/address/phone/email/kids names & birth year.  - Cindy

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133