Church Council will meet Tuesday, February 6th, 7 p.m. in the Alliance Parlor. All committee heads are urged to attend. If unable to attend, please have someone on your committee attend in your place and let Sandy Johnston know. We need to confirm the Church Council charter and Neil Harmon (church treasurer) will speak on committee budgets.  Future meetings will be the first Tues in April (the 3rd) and in June (the 5th), all at 7pm in the Alliance Parlor.

Open Office Hours at the Java Room - I will hold them from 10:30 to noon on Wednesdays February 7 and 28. -- Rev. Ellen

The February meeting of the Women’s Discussion Group will be on Tuesday, February 6. We will be having dinner at Princeton Station, 147 Princeton Street, North Chelmsford (Rt 3A) at 6:30pm. Please RSVP to Sue Sheedy by Sunday, February 4 by email or phone if you wish to come. All are welcome!

Caring Connection - Caring Connection month is coming up in April. For those of you who don’t know or have forgotten, our mission is to comfort parishioners in need with calls, visits, meals, rides, or just a card acknowledging their life event (more than 100 cards were sent during 2017). Let us know of your needs by contacting a CC member or sharing with another parishioner, Ellen, or Cindy Gist.

As personal schedules and availability change, we are always in need of volunteers. We are currently a small group of four committee members, but we maintain a list of generous volunteers available for brief, one-time services or for more involved roles. Please consider sharing your contact information for our list as we work toward building a committed community. We also welcome donations of birthday, sympathy, get well, and blank cards (you know, those often found with donation request packages that you don’t need). Please place your card donations in the CC mail slot next to the copy machine in the chapel vestibule. Thank you for your time.

Caring Connection Committee: Suzanne Wilson/chair; Sandy Johnston; Mickey O’Connor; Joan Keane.

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, 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.  Recommended donations are $15 for adults, $8 children 12 and under.

Open Pantry - Please Don't Give!! (for now) - First Parish UU now collects two times a year for Open Pantry of Greater Lowell. One collection is at the Thanksgiving Ingathering Service. The other collection will now be shortly before summer and will be announced.  PLEASE DO NOT leave food or other donations here. Thank you. If you have questions contact me. - Gail Pickering

IMPORTANT <> Time to VOTE for the Accessibility Building Project (ABP) <> IMPORTANT-
Please note important ABP meetings dates for two votes below. Also please attend 1 of 2 Cottage Meetings to be prepared when you walk into the vote.
1. Sunday January 28th 1115am in the Sanctuary. Vote #1. Vote to approve the Project and the associated financing.
2. Sunday March 4th 1115am in the Sanctuary. Vote #2. Second vote for the ABP financing.
3. Sunday January 7th 1130am in the Chapel. Cottage Meeting. Hear the latest status on project components and costs on the contractor bids. Also will share the latest details on financing the project.
4. Tuesday January 16th 7pm in the Sanctuary. Cottage Meeting. Alternative to the January 7th Cottage Meeting.

Geography of Grace: a faith formation opportunity for adults. This curriculum offers the opportunity for spiritual exploration and the deepening of community using the practices of “the Circle of Trust” approach developed by the Quaker teacher, Parker Palmer. Using the metaphors and imagery offered by the landscapes of geography—vista points, holy wells, mountain edges, desert places, to name a few—the sessions guide participants through individual reflective exercises and group sharing to attend to the nurture and care of our own souls and while offering each other the gift (or grace) of listening presence and intentional community. Each session follows this outline: “The Gift of Hospitality: Welcome, Opening Reading and Silent Reflection”; “Grace in Community: Reading the Touchstones”: "Meeting on Sacred Ground: Check ins”: “Deep Speaks to Deep: A Further Exploration”; “Amen, So Be It, the Closing Circle” and “Grace Note: A Blessing to Take Home”. I will be offering an introductory session on January 7. If you attended the one in December, you do not need to attend this one. Then the course will run on January 14 and 28, February 11 and 25; March 11 and 25, April 22 and May 6. The course will be closed after the introductory session. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 978 256-5555. I am so excited to offer this course! Rev. Ellen

Sanctuary Network: I will be holding another meeting about the Merrimack Valley Interfaith Sanctuary Network on January 21, after the morning service. Several people have attended the training for being volunteer “accompaniers” should anyone seek sanctuary through the Network at Christ Church United in Lowell. At this meeting, we will debrief on this and share any updates. Everyone is welcome who wants to volunteer or learn more about the sanctuary network. Rev. Ellen

Service Trip 2018: We are planning to go to Louisiana again this April (4/14 - 4/21 ) and work with St Bernard Project. The sign up dead line is January 15, 2018 with a deposit of $100 due at that time. Youth must be in high school and accompanied by a parent or other adult.
Please contact Rev. Ellen or Aggie Brennan if you are interested in joining us.

Snow Brigade 2018: Winter will be with us shortly, and we are looking for volunteers to come to church early on Sunday IF it snowed Saturday night or Sunday morning. We have contracted with a company to plow the parking lot and shovel the walks. The company may come early, so there is a chance of more snow on the walks and steps before church. We need at least 6 people to sign up. This means each person will have 3 Sundays to cover during the winter. More is Less!  Please contact Walter Cole if you are willing and able to be a member of the Snow Brigade. Thank you, Ron Cook and Walter Cole

First Parish UU Dinner & Talent Show! January 20th, 2018; 7-9:00 pm
Snow Day: January 27th)
Admission- A Potluck Dish
Calling all First Parish Talent (or not so talented)… to come and have fun and put on a show!
Looking for Singers; Instrumentalist; Comedians (family friendly); Poets; Mime’s, other???
Contact Dolores- for details about Show/General Talent Entries and dinner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Steve- by January 7th for musical talent/accompaniment on piano: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Standing Committee Remarks

Happy New Year!

The revamped Holiday Fair on Sunday Dec 3rd worked out well. Pre-order green sales were profitable, we sold bunches of baked goods, and people lined up as far as the lamp-post by the street to buy the always delicious Holy Donuts! Though we earned noticeably less, the shorter, smaller event was easier to plan, and manageable to implement, and we had adequate volunteers. Thank you so much to all the participants that contributed to the success of this highly experimental event! Carla Corey has volunteered to coordinate a similar event next year, so that's the plan for next time.

The Accessibility Building Project (ABP) Team held a cottage meeting after church on Dec 10th. It was reasonably well attended and the ABP Team presented a cost summary based on the recent bids along with options for paying for it in a fiscally responsible manner. We talked through getting an additional 50-75 thousand dollars apiece from each of four sources: pledged contributions from the individual members of the congregation; a grant from the endowment; money set aside for long range planning from the cell tower income; and a ten year mortgage. Based on that discussion and the reactions from attendees, the Standing Committee approved two congregational votes to approve the project and associated financing using the expanded income sources. The first vote will be January 28th, the second March 4th. There are also two more opportunities to learn about and comment on the plan on Jan 7th and 16th. With a base plan 25% higher than anticipated, and another 20% increase to cover (badly needed) roof repairs and (legally required) sprinklers, this is certainly a more expansive plan than we had been targeting last year, however it will make the building that is our spiritual home safer, drier, easier to navigate, and ultimately much more accessible. This is how we live out our covenant.

For people who are looking ahead to the next fundraisers and wondering if anything else will be different, the Standing Committee has gotten as far as verifying that the Auction is going forward just as it did last year. Jeanette Moreau and Theresa Popolosksi are the contacts for that. The Standing Committee is next considering the viability and value of the May Breakfast and the May Basket traditions in our congregation. Caroline McMullin has graciously agreed to chair both the May and the July 4th Breakfasts again, so they are possibilities, but to continue as is, both would need to be well valued by the congregation and well supported with volunteers.

The Standing Committee (SC) is the elected group charged by the congregation to handle business and financial affairs of the congregation, and is responsible for its health and wellbeing. As such, the SC has been discussing questions like: How much change in one year is healthy? Does anyone want to make May baskets? Should congregational energy be used for fundraisers? Or for social action? Should we focus on fundraisers, or on pledges to fund the operating budget? It is congregational input and momentum that answers questions like these and thus guides the choices made by the SC. I invite everyone to discuss these questions with each other and share resulting insights with me or any other member of the SC.

In faith and optimism for a good year,