New Spiritual Studies Unit In June: “The Original ‘Biggest Loser’: Job”
Mondays: June 2, 9, 23 and 30 7:00-8:15 PM, Via Zoom
The Book of Job is considered one of the pivotal, challenging and thought-provoking books of the Bible in terms of the question of human suffering and God’s connection to it.
During these four evenings, we will explore the plot, characters, theology and context of Job with an eye on how they might help us connect to our own and others’ struggles and suffering.
Please join us for what should be lively, insightful and engaging discussions.
Summer Message Series
Beginning this Summer, we will present a series of Messages built around a genera;l theme. This Summer, beginning on Sunday, July 5 and continuing for most if not all of the summer Sundays up through Sunday, September 6, our theme will be “One Hit Wonders”. Each Sunday we will explore a character from the Bible who appears either only once or in only one book, but who still offers us an important contribution to our spiritual lives.
Please join us for what we hope will be a informative, interesting and inspiring Summer Message Series.
Through May –
Wednesday- Prayer and Meditation, 7 PM. An opportunity to come together for a time of quiet reflection, sharing of Scripture, and the offering of any prayer intentions that are on participants’ hearts and minds. To join us with your computer, tablet, smart phone or phone contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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.
Sunday- Morning Virtual Worship Service, 10 AM led by Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea with Dr. Herman Weiss, Rebecca Shrimpton and Paul Knox. Streamed on Facebook. Click to watch at 10 AM.
Worship services, Jan 2020-current, available on YouTube, here.
Our weekly Worship Celebration is streamed online.
Join us at 10 AM Sundays here
or click on a date below to watch past
February 23, 2020
February 2, 2020
Monday, June 29 meeting via Zoom
The book for our June discussion is “Leaving Lucy Pear” by Anna Solomon
One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle’s house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea’s hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea’s abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.
In mesmerizing prose, award-winning author Anna Solomon weaves together an unforgettable group of characters as their lives collide on the New England coast. Set against one of America’s most turbulent decades, Leaving Lucy Pear delves into questions of class, freedom, and the meaning of family, establishing Anna Solomon as one of our most captivating storytellers.
This is a time for church members as well as non-church members 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.
The host chooses the book for their month.
Jan 20 2019 Service Cancelled
As I was leaving the Sanctuary after our Easter Sunday online Worship celebration, I remembered them. The orange cards.
It seems so long ago, especially under the circumstances of the last several weeks, but on the night before the official start of Lent – “Ash Wednesday” – we held our second annual “Fat Tuesday” celebration. There were masks and beads; pancakes for eating and ones for a “flipping” contest; a picture booth; members, friends and guests laughing, talking and praying.
And orange cards on every table.
For distribution the night of the Fat Tuesday celebration and throughout Lent, our Vitality committee had printed up a full supply of orange-colored cards which listed all of the Sunday and special Worship occasions through Easter Sunday; all of the classes being offered during that timeframe, such as “The Walk” and the Jordan Peterson series; our Wednesday evening Prayer and Meditation sessions; and the special events and social groups scheduled, such as the monthly Book Group and a “Spring by the Sea” Craft Fair.
As I left the Sanctuary Easter morning, I remembered those orange cards were still on the small table in the Narthex you pass as you enter the Sanctuary. So I took them. And since Easter Sunday they have sat on the meeting table in my office, where they will stay for awhile. Maybe even until the start of Lent next year.
They will stay there as a reminder – not of what could have been, but of what was.
A couple of days after Easter, when I read one of them again, it occurred to me. that of all the things listed on those orange cards, there were only two we weren’t able to fulfill in the midst of this pandemic – neither of which was in our control. One was the Early Risers concert scheduled for late March,
which we needed to postpone because of necessary restrictions on public gatherings, and the other was the annual MBTS Easter Sunrise Service at Singing Beach, cancelled for that very same reason.
Everything else on those cards – everything – we fulfilled. We came together to figure out when, where and how. And then we did it. We did it even though it wasn’t how we preferred to do it. We did it even though it was out of our comfort zone. We did it even though it wasn’t without glitches at times.
We did it. Together. For each other’s sake. And for God’s sake.
In that, we carried on the commitment of those who have come before us throughout the life of the Christian spiritual path – those who found a way to express, strengthen, and live out God’s call for our lives individually and as a spiritual community, in a variety of circumstances that were less than ideal.
I am sure it is not the first time this spiritual community has done that. And it will likely not be the last. But as God raised Jesus, God will continue to help us rise to the occasion. Whatever color the cards are.
It is believed to be the phrase most used by Jesus in the Gospels:
“Do not be afraid”…
Around a dozen times (depending on the Bible translation), Jesus says some variation of this to his closest followers and others:
“Do not be afraid”, Jesus says when he calls the first disciples.
“Do not be afraid”, he says to his disciples as he gets ready to send them out on their own for the first time.
“Do not be afraid”, Jesus says to the women who come to tend to his body on Easter morning.
“Do not be afraid.”
I have seen and heard enough over the last few weeks to know that Jesus’ words are not the easiest to embrace right now. People – many people – are afraid right now.
Perhaps you are afraid right now.
If so, please be assured that you are not somehow being unChristian, unfaithful or spiritually lacking. Be assured that you are not dismissing or rejecting Jesus’ call. Because while the stories in the Gospels, and the Bible in general, are told from the perspective of particular instances at specific times, like all the best stories they are meant to speak to us in a much more general, universal way. They are meant to speak to us from the perspective of our common human condition.
And so while Jesus is encouraging the disciples and the women who came to tend to his body after his death (in truth, those women were also disciples, but that’s a conversation for another day), to not be afraid in those specific instances, those scenes are more about encouraging us to not be afraid in general. They are meant to tell us that from a spiritual perspective, it is one thing to be afraid at a particular time for a specific and valid reason. It is quite another to be afraid as a general way of being – as a consistent way of life. As a habit.
Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid”, as a way of life because that way of being drains the life right out of us. As research has consistently demonstrated, fear as a habit negatively impacts the decision making ability and creativity we need to find solutions to our troubles, and also saps our emotional, spiritual and physical strength.
As it pertains to our current struggles with the Coronavirus, fear as a habit saps the very mental, emotional, spiritual and physical “immune systems” we need to overcome this pandemic with the least possible harm done. So while we should be “afraid” of the virus in a specific sense – take it as enough of a very real and serious concern to exercise appropriate, medically recommended precautions against – it will not serve us to live in constant fear. That kind of habitual fear leads to things like the spread of misinformation; the unnecessary hoarding of certain goods; states of anxiety and despair which actually lower our resistance to disease; and a sense of hopelessness which makes it more difficult for us to overcome this pandemic together as God’s people.
As we move through this time when the Coronavirus pandemic coincides with Holy Week and Easter, Jesus’ call to us is more important than ever. Let us answer that call by offering support, strength and encouragement to each other.
“Do not be afraid.”
I wanted to take a moment to reach out and see how you are doing these days. This time of the Coronavirus pandemic must be some combination of confusing, frustrating, or maybe even scary for you. The disruption of having your school, sports, music, theater, and social pursuits and interests restricted or put on hold completely for an uncertain amount of time has to be difficult to deal with.
My guess is that this is likely the worst large scale crisis you have ever been through in your lives. And I have no intention of being dishonest with you. I have spent the vast majority of my professional career working closely with college, high school and middle school students as a teacher, coach, administrator and counselor, and my experience has been that young people like you generally have pretty good “BS Detection” skills. So I will not test those skills by telling you this will end quickly, that few people will suffer, or that there will not be any long-term effects. I will also not be dishonest with you by saying you won’t experience any of those long-term effects. The truth is that I don’t know. No one does right now.
But none of that means you won’t be OK, or that there is nothing you can do to make things better for yourselves and others. Because the other thing I know about people your age from all those years working with you, especially during other times of crisis, is that you are smart, creative, kind, and much stronger and more resilient than you are given credit for at times.
So use those gifts now. My guess is you are already supporting each other through social media. If you are – keep going. If you aren’t – start. And look for ways to support others you may not have thought of or normally interact with who could really use a lift right now, even if you can’t do it face to face. Those who live alone or who are homeless. Veterans. Students in other countries who are going through the same thing you are. I am sure you can think of many other people and ways I have not, and you certainly have far better social media skills than I do to make some good things happen out there.
Remember – while we do not have a medical vaccine for the virus yet, we DO have some social, emotional, and mental vaccines for things like loneliness, discouragement and the struggle to find hope. One of those is social interaction, even if not in person. Another is service for the benefit of others. And another is spiritual support.
So whether you have had any involvement or contact with our church community or me before, or any spiritual community at all, please know that you can contact me at any time for any reason. I will be here to listen, offer guidance, pray, or whatever you feel you might need.
And even though you are among the groups at lesser risk, the data is now clear that you are not completely immune. So PLEASE be smart like I know you are and follow the guidelines issued by medical experts so that you stay healthy, and also so that you can do right by your families, friends and all of us.
You can reach me at any time by email at , or by phone or text at 908-477-5426.
First Parish Church
To the First Parish Church Community:
Last evening we received word from the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, of which we are a member, that in response to the continuing spread of the Coronavirus throughout this region and the country, they are requesting that all 600+ of their churches postpone their Worship services this Sunday and next (March 22).
Though I am not prone to overreaction, I believe we should comply with the Conference’s request. It is simply the right thing to do – right both for medical, but also for spiritual reasons.
We must never lose sight of the fact that while the Christian path is about our own individual spiritual growth, it is never just about that. It is, and always has been, about the common good. And so while it would be easy for us to say that there is no need to postpone Worship, or take any other measures recommended by medical experts and scientists, because the virus has not directly affected any of us, it would not be the most faithful thing to do.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, widely considered to be the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, what matters most now is what he calls “flattening” the peak of the virus’s spread so that it does not overwhelm our medical system’s capacity to treat and overcome it with the least possible harm and loss of life. That “flattening” is something that all of us can, and should do what we can to contribute to, especially those of us in the Christian community, as it is one of the ways for us to carry out Jesus’ call to “love our neighbor as ourselves” in this season of Lent.
Therefore, after consulting with Nancy Peterson, Moderator; John Round, Chair of Trustees; and John Feuerbach, Chair of Deacons, it has been determined that we will not hold public Worship this Sunday or next (March 22). We will however, conduct an “abridged” version of Worship that will be live-streamed at the usual time of 10am. Specific information on how you can access that, as well as how you can view it after the fact, will be sent either later today or tomorrow.
That “abridged” Worship time will consist of a Prelude from Herman Weiss, Pastoral Prayer, Scripture Reading (Matthew 23:1-4, 13-15, 23-28), Anthem from Herman Weiss and Rebecca Shrimpton, and a Message from me.
In addition, please know that we are at the point where it is not just Worship that needs to be taken into consideration. Therefore, and again with the guidance of lay leaders and for the sake of the common good, it has been determined that we will also be postponing all other “group” gatherings, at least through next Sunday, March 22. This includes meetings, classes, rehearsals, and unfortunately, the “Early Risers” concert being sponsored by our Missions Committee. We will reassess these parts of our community’s life the following week. We have also received word that the Open Door meal which we are schedule to sponsor next Wednesday has also been cancelled.
Regarding additional measures related to looking out for one another at this time, I have asked John Feuerbach to mobilize our Deacons for the task of keeping in regular contact with members of our congregation who live alone, or who have health issues which make them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Also, I strongly encourage you to contact the Church Office 978-526-7661 or me directly through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or cell (908-477-5426) for any pastoral visits or assistance you wish, so that I can respond directly, or through the assistance of our Deacons or Care Team.
Lastly, please keep in mind that along with the physical and emotional effects of this pandemic, there will likely be serious economic ones for those who are hourly workers or living paycheck to paycheck without paid sick leave, available day care for students who must stay home from school for a period of time, or adequate health care coverage. Along with your prayers, I encourage you to consider donations to food banks (like the Open Door), or other aid organizations for people in these circumstances.
The early Christian leader Paul tells the Christian community in Corinth during a time of great stress not to lose heart because their struggles will not last, and in that time of struggle is an opportunity for them to grow closer to being the kind of spiritual community that God calls them to be. Let us do the same – for each other and for the common good.
Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea
First Parish Church