Throughout the month of December, the paraments – the cloths placed on our Sanctuary altar and lectern – were purple in color. This represents the “spiritual royalty” of Jesus. And as the Christmas story and rest of the Gospels remind us, that spiritual royalty is rooted in service and humility.
For the author and business advisor Seth Godin though, the color purple is a reflection of something else. Godin says, “If you’ve seen one brown cow, you’ve seen them all. But if you saw a purple cow, that would get your attention. He then uses that purple cow imagery to offer this thought – that if you aren’t remarkable, you run the risk of being invisible, as in having no real or visible impact.
For Godin, remarkable isn’t about being different or gaining notice just for the sake of looking different and being noticed. It’s about making an important, meaningful impact, so that we can’t be ignored.
This past year, you, and First Parish, were purple cows in so many ways – regularly checking on each other through cards, calls and notes; providing financial, material, and emotional support to those struggling near and far; bringing gifts of appreciation to local businesses and first responders in recognition of their efforts throughout this “pandemic year”; offering local youth opportunities to serve those in need; devising and carrying out the technical and musical means necessary to bring worship, prayer and study opportunities into people’s homes virtually. All of it examples of service grounded in humility – the purple that makes us purple cows in Godin’s understanding.
With that in mind, I invite and encourage all of us to consider and discover one new way we can become “purpler” during 2021. Perhaps it means starting a new ministry of some kind either inside or outside the walls of First Parish. Maybe it means making a new and different contribution to an already existing ministry; adding one new regular spiritual practice to our lives that will then manifest itself in how we serve this community and beyond; or initiating one new relationship with someone different from us in terms of race, religion, or political perspective.
Whatever it is, God will help us find it and do it, regardless of what this new year brings in terms of how and when we progress to the other side of the pandemic.
So as we enter 2021 together, my hope and prayer is that it be a healthy, blessed, and purple year for you and our First Parish spiritual community.
Word and Deed: Ethical Living in the Book of James”
Tuesdays: January 12, 26; February 2, 9, 7:00-8:15pm, Via Zoom
It is considered the New Testament’s “Manual for Ethical Christian Living”
During these four weeks, we will explore the Book of James – closely examining the text, as well as James’ sense of what it means to engage in what Buddhists call “right action” from a Christian perspective in our daily lives and the society we are part of.
Join us for any or all of these evenings during this sacred time of year.
If you are on our email list you will continue to receive details on times and how to participate in all our offerings from the Church Office either on the day of or day before each gathering. To join our email list just return to our homepage and sign up.
Prayer and Meditation
Wednesday Prayer and Meditation for January will take place on January 6 and 20 from 7-7:45 PM via Zoom.
Thursday- Bible Study sessions, also continuing on Zoom at 4 PM. Participation in this has significantly increased since going online, another sign of how many of our community are using this time of necessary distancing wisely and well for the benefit of their spiritual lives. To join us with your computer, tablet, smart phone or phone contact email@example.com for details.
For January, Bible Study will take place from 4-5:15 on:
Thursday, January 7, 14, 21 & 28
Announcing the Still Speaking Seminar
As those who have been able to attend recently know, many of us who met last year as the Jordan Peterson Discussion group have been inspired by Dr. Peterson’s lectures on the psychological significance of the Bible to look at a variety of modern intellectuals’ thinking on issues of faith, morals and justice as they relate to our spiritual tradition. In recent weeks we have spent time with Harvard Philosophy Professor Michael Sandel’s exploration of the ethics of meritocracy; twentieth century Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s work on social ethics in relation to economic inequality and warfare; Catholic Social
Teaching and Christian Democracy movement; and Pope Francis’ recent encyclicals on the environment and immigration. The success of this broader program has led the group to re-imagine itself as the Still Speaking Seminar, a play on the UCC’s slogan “God is Still Speaking” which highlights our view that faith is constantly renewing itself and presenting fresh insights in the present moment. We will continue to use our prior format of a video exploration of some aspect of modern thought from an authoritative source, followed by discussion. No preparation is required, though we will also provide additional background material for those interested in optional preparation.
The group has agreed to meet on the first and third Mondays of each month, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm (via Zoom for the immediately foreseeable future). The group will be coordinated by Richard Smith and Steve Carhart.
If you are not already on our email list and would like to receive regular notifications of topics and Zoom invitations, contact us at 978-590-7497 (Dick) or 978-407-8454 (Steve).
Led by Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea with Dr. Herman Weiss, Rebecca Shrimpton and Paul Knox. Streamed on Facebook. Click to watch at 10 AM.
Our past Worship services are also available on YouTube, here.
Throughout the four Sundays of Advent, we explored “The Family Christmas Tree”, looking at characters from the Bible who were in some way a part of Jesus’ ancestry. and considering how aspects of their spiritual journeys speak to us now as members of the same spiritual family tree.
This all culminated with our first – and we all pray, last – “Virtual Only Christmas Eve” celebrations. At 5pm on Thursday, December 24, we offered a special “Christmas Story Time” on Facebook Live for children – a dramatic reading of “The Grumpy Shepherd”. Thanks for finding and choosing this story go to Jeanne Westcott, our new Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. Click to watch.
Then, at 7pm, our Worship team offered a time of hymns, solos, Scripture and Dramatic Reflection for all ages, with special musical guests Kevin Tracy and Tyler Hauer, as well as a special performance by the First Parish Virtual Choir. What a great gift to all of us! Watch the 7 PM worship here.
In January, we will welcome in the New Year by celebrating the Sacrament of Communion on Sunday the 3rd, and commemorating the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday the 17th.
(Summer services at 9 AM July through Labor Day)
Thursday, December 24
Virtual Worship via Facebook Live
5 PM , First Parish Church invites all children – and children at heart – to a special “Virtual Story Time” on Christmas Eve.
“The Grumpy Shepherd”, featuring narration and characters, will be broadcast live via Facebook Live
from the First Parish sanctuary on December 24.
No Bulletin for this service but click below for the
The Grumpy Shepherd”, Obed, likes to complain – about everything. So he can’t see what the fuss is all about when an angel announces that a child has been born nearby. But Obed agrees to go and see the child, and when he does, his grumpy life changes.
7 PM, our Worship team will present a time of hymns, solos,
Scripture and Dramatic Reflection for all ages.
Expect a special musical wrinkle or two as well!
We will meet Monday, January 25 at 7:00 PM via Zoom.
Our January book will be Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
(Purchase it for $2.99 from bookbub.com)
Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire us—in Strout’s words—“to bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can.” BookBub.Com
Book group is open to everyone! This is a time for church members as well as non-church goers to come together and engage with one another, build relationships, and share in discussion of books that are of interest to people of various backgrounds. We have fun visiting, discussing the book and sharing stories.
Minister, theologian and author, John Killinger, tells a story about a Christmas shop that caught his eye one past summer. Even though Christmas was still six months away, the shop was packed with items. There were crèche scenes from all over the world; elves and Santas; sleighs and reindeer of every size; bells and music boxes; angels and drummer boys; stars and snowmen. A loudspeaker broadcast a constant stream of carols. It was infectious, Killinger continues, even in the summertime.
Then, he says, he noticed it – a small sign in a place where it would be hard to miss. The sign said, “Christmas Spoken Here”.
There is no better slogan for us in the Christian spiritual tradition, Killinger proposes. And not just at this time of year, but in any season.
Hard to argue, since what we commemorate in this season, during Advent and then Christmas, is the embodiment of God’s essence coming into the world as one of us. Coming into the world in a way that we can see and hear. In a way that we can touch. In a way that we can personally identify with. In a way that is neither hypothetical nor theoretical, but is instead real and relatable. In a way that we can aspire to emulate.
Because of that, we are called to speak the language of Christmas year round – people who speak the language of hope, joy, peace and love; of compassion, justice and forgiveness to the world in every season.
That is our “spiritual language” as Christians. It is our true “native tongue”.
Perhaps then, we might consider treating this Advent and Christmas as a “refresher course” – as a time to brush up on our “spiritual language” skills.
As a time to practice speaking Christmas in a way that can be better heard and understood in a nation in which so many people seem to have become unable and even unwilling to want to speak to each other. Perhaps, instead, we might try speaking a little less in the language of political party, or ideology, or geography, and a little more in the language of Christmas.
Individually and together, let’s be a place where “Christmas is Spoken Here” as a first language.
First Parish Congregational Church invites community members ages 12 and up to join us in a fun and easy community service project. We will be creating tied fleece blankets for Action, (https://actioninc.org/) who will share them with those in need of warmth as colder weather approaches.
Newly hired Director of Youth And Children’s Ministry, Jeanne Westcott, will offer kits for you to take home and create, or you may join us with a mask at our chapel location, ( enter address or location description here) on either or/both Saturday mornings, November 14, and 21 between the hours of 10- noon. Directions and fleece are free and finished projects can be delivered on or before Saturday, November 28 and dropped into the bin located just outside the buildings entrance.
Middle and high school youth who participate will be offered a certificate for community service hours in increments of two hours per completed blanket.
Join us so that no one is left out in the cold. To RSVP email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 978 526 7661 ext. 3
Last Spring, a number of us spent several Tuesday evenings engaged in a Spiritual Studies unit titled, “Hope Is A Muscle”. Throughout those weeks, we discussed how hope is a spiritual “skill” – not something we either have or don’t have, but instead all have an innate disposition toward to varying degrees. That disposition can then be grown and maintained through the development of a number of habits. It is an understanding of hope as a by-product of other life practices.
Of those life practices, one of the few which shows up on nearly every piece of research I have seen regarding people who score highly on inventories assessing hope is gratitude. Hopeful people tend to be people who practice gratitude consistently in their lives.
As we enter the month of November then – the month of Thanksgiving, and especially in such trying times – I invite you to try something. Each day through the month, perform a “practice of gratitude”. For instance, make a list at the end of each day of three things you were grateful for specific to that day. Make a donation to a charity, school or other organization in the name of someone you are grateful to for something that made a difference in your life. Send an email or note thanking someone for something recent, or perhaps even better, something long ago that they might not be aware of or remember.
Then, at the end of the month, see if you haven’t become a more grateful person. And because of that, a more hopeful one as well.