First Parish News, November 2017

 As many of you know, just before the new church year started in September, we learned that a member of our congregation had been arrested and was in jail, facing serious charges. In response, we brought in two ministers from the UU Trauma Response Ministry (UUTRM) to help people in the congregation process our wide range of reactions and emotions through three facilitated conversation circles. About fifty people took the opportunity to participate.

Since then, the Standing Committee has spent significant time dealing with the aftermath of this traumatic news as it is our responsibility to consider the safety and well-being of the congregation as a whole. We processed our own feelings, listened to the congregation, and consulted with the team from the UUTRM. The described behaviors by this member were experienced as a breach of covenant within our community that cannot be restored easily or quickly. While our Unitarian Universalist principles call us to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, they also call us to affirm respect for the interdependent web of all existence. In the opinion of the Standing Committee, supported by the recommendations of both UUTRM ministers, the balance of these two principles can be compassionately achieved if, and only if, the congregation is freed from having to worry about the member's return to First Parish while he is given time to process the consequences of his actions. The Standing Committee sent a letter to the member stating we cannot permit him back to First Parish for the foreseeable future, given the above considerations.

As we cannot serve as the community to directly support him in this crisis, Rev. Ellen has made arrangements for another UU minister to provide him with pastoral care while he is incarcerated. We recognize that individuals in the congregation may wish to offer support to him as well. This is fine as long as you are clear that you are doing so as an individual UU friend and do not speak on behalf of the congregation.

The legal process is ongoing and the story may come up again in the news. A reminder that the two people authorized to speak on the congregation's behalf to any members of the media are the minister and the Chair of the Standing Committee. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We appreciate the honesty, thoughtfulness, and integrity with which all of you have responded to this situation.

On Behalf of the Standing Committee,
Sarah Manning, Standing Committee Chair
Rev. Ellen Spero, Parish Minister

"Feeding Our Souls" Monthly Worship Meal Sunday, November 19th, 5:30 - 6:30 in the Chapel - From this month's Soul Matters material - What needs to be altered so you can dance with what is plentiful rather than worrying about what is scarce? What clutter finally needs cleaning up so there is room for new abundance to enter in? What changes will free you from the urgent and allow in the important?

Please join us as we explore these and other questions about what it means to be a people of Abundance. Rev. Ellen will lead us in worship, Steve Zocchi will engage us with wonderful music, the Evening service Team will provide a simple meal of soup and bread, and we will all have the opportunity to share our ideas on this theme as we gather around tables in the Chapel. As is our practice at the morning Ingathering Service we will gratefully accept offerings of food and/or financial donations for the Open Pantry of Greater Lowell. Hope to see you there!

Open Office Coffee Hours: I have been holding weekly open office hours at the Java Room and have enjoyed the opportunity to chat with everyone who has stopped by. Sometimes, we are a small group, sometimes one on one. Dates for the next few: Thursday November 2nd, Thursday November 9, and Wednesday November 15, all from 10:30 to Noon. Again, if you wish to talk with me in a more confidential setting, please feel free to contact me to set an appointment. Rev. Ellen

From your Pastoral Care Team (PCT) - Card Corner at Social Hour Our Card Corner has been well received so we will continue to host it on a regular basis. Members of your PCT will set up a table during Social Hour where we invite you to stop by with your coffee or tea and use our stationery/card supply to send greetings to your fellow FPers. Notes of support for folks going through difficult times, congratulations on milestones, good wishes on significant birthdays - you can fill them out and leave the envelopes for us to mail. And even if you have nothing to write or send just come sit for a bit and say hello. Hope to see you at the Card Corner! - Kathy, Liz, Gail, Linda, Elizabeth, Carla, and Brian

11/4 - 4th Annual Story Slam (Like NPR's "The Moth") to support UU Mass Action:
When: Saturday, November 4th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM Where: First Church Unitarian, 19 Foster St., Littleton
Enjoy food, fun, and fellowship while supporting UU Mass Action and our shared social justice work!
Story Tellers: Rev. Lynda Sutherland (First Parish, Northboro), Rev. Ellen Rowse Spero (First Unitarian Chelmsford), Sam Wilson (Director of Youth Ministries, Winchester), Rev Jo Van Rue Minister-in-Residence, Concord), Rev. Steve Edington (First Church Unitarian, Littleton), and Rev Nathan Detering (UU Area Church Sherborn) Emcee: Rev. Robin Bartlett, Senior Pastor, First Church in Sterling

11/7 -Church Council will meet Nov 7 at 7pm in the parlor. We no longer meet every month. Future meeting dates are the first Tuesday (7pm in the parlor) in February, April and June.

11/7 - The November meeting of the Women's Discussion Group will be held on Nov. 7th at 7:00 p.m. at the home of Judy Perez de Heredia. Jean Schott will be our speaker and present slides on the topic " Impressionism, The Garden".  I look forward to seeing you on that day.!! Please call me or email me to confirm your attendance. - Judy

11/11 - On Saturday November 11 Womens Alliance will gather in at 6:15 in the Alliance Parlor for a brief meeting and then attend the Steve Zocchi concert.

11/11 - First Parish Chelmsford Concert Series presents...Steve Zocchi, pianist performing Jazz, Blues, and Inspiring Improvisations Saturday November 11th 2017 7:00 pm Reception will follow. Suggested donation $15 adults, $8 children 12 and under Proceeds to benefit 'Home For Our Troops' whose mission is to build and donate custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 Veterans, to enable them to rebuild their lives.

11/18 - THRIVE Workshop 8:30-4:30 November 18: First Parish through CFAM and the Multicultural Ministries has agreed to host a Thrive COSA training on November 18 (prior to the Transgender Day of Remembrance event). We will be providing space for training COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) participants and will be providing trainees with breakfast and lunch.

We need people to help with providing these meals. The training will go from 8:30 to 4:30 PM. If anyone can volunteer to help for any part of this (coffee making, baking, clean up or shopping) all help will be happily accepted.

THRIVE's mission is to empower adults returning from incarceration and to revolutionize the role community members play in their lives upon reentry by organizing and supporting grassroots efforts for restorative reentry, community building, and constituent leadership.  To volunteer or get more information, please contact Rebecca Gore.

11/23 - 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 ).

Website Privacy Policy

Using the Internet to publish information about our church, our programs, and our faith is an important part of our outreach into the community. At the same time, we want to protect the privacy of our members and the safety of our children. The First Parish Website Privacy Policy was developed by the Standing Committee in 2003 to provide guidelines for what should and should not be published on our website. The policy is printed below and posted on the website at  If you have any questions at all about our website policy, please contact the Website committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

First Parish Chelmsford's Website Policy:

Names appearing in the church newsletters may be published online without permission. For children, only first names may be published without parental permission.

No telephone number, home address, or email addresses will be published without permission. For children, parental permission is also required.

Personal news such as "Among Ourselves" or "Joys and Concerns" will not be published.

Editorial material will not be published.

Photos of adults at church events may be published in newsletters or on the church website or other church-administered online page, including, but not limited to, the church Facebook page and Twitter account without permission, unless individuals indicate otherwise. Adults who wish to opt out of having their photo used in church materials, may contact the Publicity/Website Committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to ask to be added to the opt-out list.

Permission of parents/guardians is required to publish photographs of minors, and additional permission is required to publish identification of minors. Parents may specify their wishes each fall on the Religious Education registration forms. Parents of children who are not registered for RE who wish to opt out of having their children's photo used in church materials, please contact the Publicity/Website Committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to ask to be added to the opt-out list.

These permission policies will be periodically published in the church's printed newsletters, and will be posted on the church website.

Approved on Jan 14, 2003 by the Standing Committee Revised on May 14, 2013 by the Standing Committee

Standing Committee Remarks

November has traditionally been a time for working on crafts for the Holiday Fair. Well no more! After discussions over the last year, and especially after the Sept 9th Fund Raisers meeting, the Standing Committee decided to change the format of the Holiday Fair to be more in line with our volunteer resources. The new format Holiday Fair will occur Sunday Dec 3rd, between 4-7pm during the Chelmsford Holiday Prelude and tree lighting ceremony. It will consist of coffee, donuts, baked goods, and greens. We will still need volunteers to help with baking, set up, sales, donut making, and tear down, but overall the shifts will be shorter, and the total effort smaller.

After the check-in with the congregation at the October 22nd cottage meeting, the Accessibility Building Project Team (ABP) has decided not to put another $25,000 dollars towards trying to shrink our chosen building plan, but instead to continue with the plan as promoted all last year, even if it is more expensive than anticipated. There are three main things in mind to make our desired building plan happen. We plan to reduce costs somewhat by reducing the staging that would hide in-progress construction, and dropping some unnecessary features, notably the slab and bulkhead. We will increase our budget by planning to borrow a larger amount of money that we will have to pay off over a longer time period, and also by directly asking the congregation for more money, since people indicated willingness to increase pledges during the cottage meeting. The borrowing plan and construction plan will come up for a vote of course, probably in January. Please share your ideas, comments, and concerns about these plans with someone on either the Standing Committee, or ABP team. Sarah Manning, Tom Coffey, and Ron Cook are specifically tasked with eliciting feedback on these plans.

The ABP team is making progress towards a decision for recommending a contractor. After recruiting a fourth bid, and dropping another one of the potentials, it is down to two viable possibilities, with similar bids but different styles. The team is working out which of the differences between the candidates should lead to selecting one over the other.

There is also visible and audible progress towards our goal of increased accessibility. The acoustic panels have been installed in the chapel. Many thanks to Dee Halzack who spent day after day at the church for delivery and re-delivery and installation.

As covered in more depth elsewhere in this issue of the Shooting Star, the Standing Committee has also been spending time dealing with the aftermath of the traumatic news of the arrest of a member of the congregation. We recognize that our job is to consider the health and well-being of the congregation as a whole, and to that end we have agreed that the congregation needs time to heal, and have sent the member a letter informing him that his breach of covenant with the community is unacceptable, and that he is not permitted at First Parish for the foreseeable future. I am optimistic that the groundwork has been laid for this resilient congregation to weather further incoming news and that the SC will be able to spend more of our time on the financially healthy and accessible future of our congregation.

-- Sarah Manning, Chair of the Standing Committee

Retreat Recap: A Saturday to Remember

It happened more than a decade ago, before most people knew who Barack Obama was and before Twitter was anything other than the chirping of birds. The event in question wasn't showy or loud in the traditional sense, but it certainly made its presence known and continues to do so to this day. That milestone was the careful, thoughtful crafting of the First Parish Covenant.

Over the last ten years, our covenant has served as both a foundation and a guiding star. It is the measuring stick we use to ensure that we are on the agreed-upon path. Although we recite it most Sundays, it bears repeating:

"We, the members of First Parish of Chelmsford,
covenant together to sustain and strengthen our beloved community by:
Honoring and celebrating the Spirit of Life
Nurturing all souls in our search for truth and the sacred
Caring and being present to one another in our joys and sorrows
Bearing witness through service to justice and peace
And being good stewards of our congregation, our heritage, our Unitarian Universalist Principles,
and our earth."

Because this covenant is a living document that is designed to breathe and change with the people it binds, now, more than ten years after its inception, seemed to be the perfect time to revisit our covenant, to ask ourselves what is working and what is not, what is missing and what is no longer relevant. It was this thought process that led to our recent First Parish retreat that was held on Saturday, September 30.

About 70 First Parishers dedicated their busy lives to this day of communal introspection, exploration and planning. Just as was the case for the inaugural retreat with Larry years ago, it was facilitated by the Reverend Larry Peers, a well-respected ministerial consultant and long-time friend and adviser to Reverend Ellen. Attendees were seated at different tables during the morning and afternoon sessions in order to change up the conversations and perspectives.

We spent the day delving into what brought us to First Parish as well as what keeps us coming back. During a time line exercise, we illustrated the remembered history of our community. Then we spent considerable time looking to the future and naming what we see as priorities, both for First Parish and in the local and wider world. Believe it or not, we even had time for a delicious lunch and a few lively dance moves.

Gatherings such as this one are only the beginning. You might ask what came out of the retreat. Most notably, we recognized that we are doing a great deal of amazing things both within our community and outside it. We affirmed that it was the community that brought many of us here and that is what keeps us here. The document that was crafted all those years ago is, according to consensus, still accurately encompassing how we see ourselves and our mission. There may be a few tweaks here and there that we can perform, but our Covenant still seems to embrace all of us, from our most senior members to our newcomers.

When we recite our Covenant on Sundays, we are verbalizing an agreement we made among ourselves that defines who we are as a community of faith. It is a standard that we can bear as we decide which of the countless congregational, local and world needs will receive our time and attention. Through a mind map activity and in small groups, we identified many issues of concern now, some within our congregation, others in the larger world. Ones that came up repeatedly included: 1) immigration and sanctuary; 2) racial injustice;
3) climate change; 4) political divisiveness; 5) desire for more time for spiritual growth; and 6) the impact of busy schedules on volunteerism and participation. As we can't do everything on this list all at once as a whole congregation, we will have to discern how to balance investing in congregational priorities while supporting individuals and groups within the church who want to focus on specific issues. It is our loving community that keeps most of us coming back, and our Covenant will continue to give us the stability to support each other through even the most trying times.

If you were one of the enthusiastic retreat participants, we thank you for not only giving us your Saturday but for truly paying attention and contributing your valuable and unique insights. If you were not able to attend, know that we missed you. But also be assured that covenanting with each other is a dynamic work in progress. We are reviewing and consolidating all materials recorded on the flip charts at the retreat and will continue to share them with you. If there is something you want to say, speak to someone on the Standing Committee, the Committee on Ministry or to Ellen herself. You certainly don't need to wait another decade to be an active part of this ever-evolving, loving community of ours.

--The Committee on Ministry/Retreat Planning Team: Kathy Deschenes, Deb Grad, Carlene Merrill,
Liz Peterson, Rev. Ellen Spero, Suzanne Wilson, Leslie Yauckoes

First Parish News, October 2017

Rev. Ellen’s Open Office-Coffee Hours: Wednesday September 27 at the Java Room. Apparently, all hip ministers have office hours in coffee shops these days. Sounds like fun to me! So, I will be at the Java Room (in Ginger Ale Plaza on Rte 110, across from the cemetery) this Wednesday, September 27 from 10:3- am to noon, for anyone who wants to come by and chat—about Unitarian Universalism, the Red Sox play-off hopes, or anything else on your mind. I will try to schedule “Office-Coffee Hours" two or three times a month and will keep you all apprised! And if you cannot make it then or want a more confidential setting, feel free to reach out to me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can make an appointment.

Soul Matters: Soul Matters is a monthly UU journal exploring spiritual themes. October’s theme reflects on the question, “What Does It Mean to be a People of Courage?”. If you wish to receive the journal, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will offer two opportunities for discussion on this theme, both on the third Sunday of the month, October 15: 1) after the morning service and 2) at the monthly evening service and meal, 5:30 pm in the chapel.

Sunday Readers Wanted: Anyone who is interested in taking a turn doing the ancient and modern readings during the Sunday morning service, please contact Ellen Ford.  Thanks!

Church Directory:  Time to update your information or add yourself to, the Church Directory: (And thank you to the many who have contacted me!) If you wish, please send me your: names/address/phone/email/kids names & birth year, or any combination of that information as long as there is some way to identify you and contact you!  If you are a newcomer – 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.  You can give me information ANYTIME but I usually only print twice a year – (or when requested by individuals). I update the e-version as I receive information, (you can email and ask for a copy anytime). I hope to print a new version by the end of October.  Thanks!  --Cindy

10/13 - Songs of Strength & Solace:  Please join us for a slightly different format this month with “your choice” being at the center of the sing-along!   You will be able to choose whatever songs you’d like us all to sing from our always-expanding songbook of folk songs, camp songs, hymns, contemporary classics, and spirituals. In the tradition of folk music everywhere, we sing about good times and bad.  And in this sing-along, as in all of them, we reaffirm our sense of giving energy to the creation of a better world together through song! We’ll be meeting on Friday, October 13, in the chapel, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  For more information, or if you would like to bring an instrument, please contact Virginia Adams.   ~Virginia Adams & Diane Johns

10/15 - "Feeding Our Souls" Monthly Worship Meal - Rev. Ellen and the Evening Service Team are excited to bring you our new idea for Sunday evening worship for this church year.  Drawing from two sources - Simple Church and Soul Matters - we will gather at tables in the chapel from 5:30 to 6:30 on the third Sunday of each month.  The centerpiece of our worship will be nourishment - hearty soup and bread for our bodies, shared discussion of spiritual questions for our souls.  Blended with our traditional practices of music, meditations, and readings our time together will be one of worship and community.  Our next gathering will be October 15.

Small Group Ministries – a great way to get to know people:  A Small Group consists of 6-10 people that meet once each month either during the day or in the evening to discuss a variety of topics related to living our lives within the context of a Unitarian Universalist community. An experienced facilitator leads the group through a structured discussion. There are currently five active groups. Take some time for yourself.  For more information, please contact Carlene Merrill.

Open Pantry of Greater Lowell provides food once a month for those in need in the Greater Lowell Area. First Parish UU has been supporting Open Pantry for many years by collecting food and cash donations (in the form of checks) around once a month and delivering them to the Open Pantry distribution center. Delivery starts in September. While we typically deliver donations once a month during the church year, you can leave donations in the Open Pantry box at the church at any time. The box is in the room with the copier across from Cindy's office. If you are leaving a check, you can make it out to "Open Pantry". In the memo line, please write First Parish UU Chelmsford or just FPUU, so they know it's from us. (There is a mailbox for Open Pantry in the copier room also). When the donation boxes are full enough to warrant a trip, I make a delivery.  

Dear friends,

It has been over 3 1/2 years since our son Sam died at age 22 after enduring numerous cycles of treatments for lymphoma and three clinical trials.  This is our fifth year raising funds to advance the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) research to cure blood cancer. Team Grad will be walking for a fifth year in LLS’s Light the Night Walk on October 19 in Boston. We hope to raise more than ever. We need your help.

To donate and learn how LLS helps patients like Sam, please visit my page before October 19.  Thank you for your support in finding a cure. Click  Please forward my message to anyone you know who would like this opportunity to honor Sam. We don't want other families to endure the pain of such a loss.

In love and gratitude,   Debra, Bryan, Rebecca, and Team Grad  -  Relentless for a Cure

Racial Justice Training: Sun. Oct. 15, 3:00 pm, Central Congregational Church. The Greater Lowell UCC Churches are sponsoring a Racial Justice Workshop Sun. Oct. 15, 3:00 pm at Central Congregational Church of Chelmsford, 1 Worthen St., Chelmsford. The workshop will be given by TJ Harper, Associate Minister for Racial Justice for the Mass Conference (see TJ’s bio below). Through the use of videos, quotes, discussion and presentations, TJ’s workshops provide an indepth and personal approach to this important issue. Please mark your calendars and join us Sun. Oct. 15!

“This training, “From Tolerance to Unity,” seeks to create a common language around racism, to unmask racism in our lives, and to encourage long-term engagement in racial justice ministry. We are driven to view racism as a spiritual issue, and not a common endeavor.”

TJ Harper serves as the Massachusetts and Connecticut Conferences’ Associate for Racial Justice Ministries. Previously, TJ and his fiance, Sara, founded and operated a nonprofit organization known as the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA), with programs in Chicago and Oakland, that has worked with over 700 youth through a sponsorship by Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/Operation PUSH. Prior to SJSA, TJ worked with the StriveTogether Foundation, a network dedicated to improving educational outcomes for children, City Hall in Chicago, and U.S. Senator Richard Durbin's Office. He is also a 2014 Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow alumnus at Princeton University.  Call 978-256-5931 for more information.

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824