Where to begin? There is so much happening! First, thank you so much to the Religious Education children, youth, and volunteers for putting on such a wonderful pageant this past Sunday. It was truly a grand intergenerational effort, with much work behind the scenes. The actors were poised. The musicians rocked the house. The set was terrific. The costumes were outstanding and creative. And it has all been captured on whatever it is we call film these days by the documentary crew. Once again, the congregation received a lovely Christmas gift from our children and youth.

We also held our longest night service in the evening. I appreciate so many people coming out on a cold, December night. Everyone was treated to just such beautiful music by the Tervo family and Jessica Gist. While the morning captured the joy and fun of the season, the evening service offered the meditative and quiet side.

On the national scene, Congress repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that has prevented gays and lesbians from serving their country openly. These are not easy times—economically, politically or otherwise. I am glad that senators and representatives from both parties were brave enough to vote on the side of human rights.

Finally, I would like to share from an email conversation between our First Parish team of cooks and Pat, the head cook, for Table of Plenty. Every Tuesday, the Table of Plenty teams of volunteers come to prepare, serve, and clean up a meal for anyone who comes. We have welcomed them to use our vestry and kitchen. Together, we have had to learn to share space and equipment. I know it is not always easy.  But I have watched as we have learned to work together for the larger good of providing some hospitality and a little economic or social support through food. And I have watched as a camaraderie has developed between our cooks and Pat. I have enjoyed watching the trust develop between us as we came to recognize in one another our shared love for making food as our form of prayer or spiritual practice. And I, for one, have learned how to bake rice, create decorative florets from green onions, and whip up “emergency” bread pudding from Pat. After the last evening we cooked, Paul forwarded our feedback to Pat, who sent this email response:

“Dear Friends, I would like to send you all a BIG THANK YOU for all the help you have given to the Table of Plenty and to me. We all do what we can to help out others that are in need.  We do it from our hearts, because that's the kind of people we have become. Caring and sharing is like walking and talking. It's part of us all. God has given us each a special skill. It's how we use it that really counts.  Thank you again for all your help and I am looking forward to working with you in the coming year. Have a wonderful holiday.  PAT SCHROEDER    (GOOD FOOD FEEDS THE BODY. GOOD FRIENDS AND FAMILY FEEDS THE SOUL)”
She has defined “right relationship” as well as anyone I have heard so far. I hope that we continue to find similar ways to experience right relationship in our larger community.

Josh, Sam, Henry, and I wish you all a sane and meaningful Christmas/Solstice, and a wonderful New Year.

In faith,
Rev. Ellen



We had a wonderful Holiday Fair this past Saturday—the unofficial kick-off to our Christmas/Winter Holiday season. Our doors and our sanctuary are beautifully decorated with greens and the scent of donuts lingers in the halls. I would like to thank Bonnie Rankin for chairing the event, ably supported by a wonderful leadership crew including Joanna Paulsen Carlene Merrill, Joan Keane, and Jane Collins to name a few. (I apologize for any folks I forgot.) I would also like to thank all of you who baked, crafted, made donuts, volunteered, played, sang, and shopped at this important community fundraiser. It was fun to see some new First Parishers volunteering at the Fair.

December is a month of special services. For the morning service on December 19th we will hold our annual pageant. This year, it will be an intergenerational play, “The Tailor of Gloucester” by Unitarian and well-known children’s author, Beatrix Potter. The December 19th evening service will be a Longest Night Service, a time of quiet reflection during this busy season. On December 24th, we will have our two traditional Christmas Eve candle lighting services at 5:00 and 8:00 pm. This year, we will do “Lessons and Carols” for both services. For the 5:00 service, I am asking for 4th through 8th grade volunteers to do the readings with me. They will read the traditional biblical passages and I will re-tell the Christmas story for all ages.  For the 8:00 pm service, I need readers for both the traditional biblical readings and the modern reflections on the Christmas story. We will have wonderful music from our choirs, and favorite carols to sing together. And of course, we will recess with our candles to “Silent Night.” I hope you will join us as we celebrate the story of the birth of Jesus and the Spirit of Love. Please note that we have moved the second service to 8 pm so that all the choirs have a chance to warm up and so those who are working at both services have enough time to eat dinner.

We will have church on December 26th only in the morning. The service will be in the vestry: a pancake breakfast with music provided by Erika Taylor, Matthew Bliss and, of course, all of us there.

If you wish to participate in the Christmas Eve services or want to help with the 26th, please let me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 978 256-5555.


And finally, I offer you this prayer, if you wish it, to consider as you go through these pre-holiday weeks. It is from Night Visions by Jan L. Richardson, a book of prayers, reflections, and art for Advent:

From her reflections on “Hope’s Disguises”

We see signs but cannot always divine their meanings.

You call us to move forward not always knowing whether what we grasp in our hands will prove to be a seed of hope or a thorn in our flesh.

Train our fingers, that what brings life we may with persistence hold, and that which wastes our souls, we may with grace release.”


In faith,

Rev. Ellen