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!
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.
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.
A couple of months ago, our Church Council determined that the time had come for us to update First Parish’s website. The site as it is now has served
us well, but as with all technical tools, it must be kept current as times and circumstances change. As we are in a renewal time here at First Parish –
new staff, new directions, new hopes and dreams for the future – the time has come to renew our website as well.
Besides the obvious benefit of doing so, the process of updating our website offers another substantial plus – the opportunity to engage in the
vital exercise of exposing who we are now and who we aspire to be going forward to others, both internally and externally. For while one of the
primary purposes of a website is to communicate important information to our current members and friends, the more important purpose in my mind
is to communicate to those outside our congregation – especially those who may be considering or actively seeking a spiritual community – who we are
and why we matter.
So, how would you answer that question?
Over the many years that I have facilitated leadership and performance lectures and workshops, one of my favorite exercises is something usually
referred to as either the “Elevator Pitch”, or my preference, the “30-Second Commercial”.
Imagine you are at a party, in the grocery store, a concert, game, or some other environment, and instead of being asked to describe what you do, you
have a 30-second opportunity to describe your organization or team.
What are the most important things, or thing, you would want them to know?
What would you say to someone in that 30-second timeframe that might move them to consider looking further into First Parish, joining us, or at the very least
mentioning us to others?
I invite you to try this exercise. I also invite you to send me your “30-Second Commercial” by email, text, or mail. It will not just be helpful for you, but might also prove helpful to the subgroup that will end up working on the content of our revised website.
Seaside Parish Knitters
A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words
Above and below are photos of our handmade items and knitters during our get-togethers on the 1st and 3rd Thursday afternoons in the Chapel Parlor.
Over the years we have enjoyed our time knitting and crocheting items for baptismal events at the church, shawls and blankets for friends at home, scarves, neck gators, and helmet liners for our veterans in Afghanistan; and mittens and hats for Cape Ann children.
We all love to knit/crochet, but more importantly we have been rewarded with helping others by sharing our handwork. We would love to have you join us, Sandy, Bonnie, Millie, Sally, Martha, Lauren, Eleanor, Jean, Jan, Mary K., Penny, Cheryl, Mary L., Wendy M., Carol, Doris, Muriel, Liljana, Marianne, Wendy S., Shirley
In the first sentence of this month’s section on “Worship Notes”, you’ll no doubt notice that I use the term “re-gather” to describe the time when we resume in-person Worship, classes and meetings.
For the past several months, I had been using the term “re-open” to describe this time in the vast majority of my communications to you. But it occurred to me recently that it would be helpful to drop that term from my – and our – vocabulary regarding First Parish for the sake of ‘truth in advertising”.
The fact of the matter is that we won’t “re-open” because we never “closed” in the first place. Circumstances made it unwise for us to gather together in-person to Worship, study, pray, meditate, conduct committee business, or socialize, but we never stopped engaging in any of those parts of our spiritual community’s life. No, it hasn’t been ideal, but it has worked. More importantly though, it has made us better as a community of God’s people.
Over these last seven months, significantly more people have been participating in Worship and study through our consistently improving virtual efforts than when we were exclusively gathering in person. Committees have continued to meet to faithfully deliberate and fulfill their vital duties. Connections between our members and friends have been maintained, and in some instances renewed. On a regular basis, some act of thoughtfulness and kindness carried out by one of you for the sake of another has been brought to my attention.
In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of your calling me to join you as First Parish’s Minister. A major factor in my decision to accept that invitation was that you convinced me you were ready, willing, excited and committed to letting God move you in new ways and directions that would make this a more vital spiritual community – one able to respond to changing times, circumstances, and the needs of God’s people, with flexibility and creativity.
None of us, obviously, is grateful for this pandemic. But one of the core questions the Bible and our tradition continually put before us is how faithfully we will respond in difficult, confusing, uncertain times.
For the past seven months, we have been passing that test. We have remained “open” even though we have not been “gathered”. And we will remain “open”. Always.
The “Vincent Terrill Memorial Steeple Fund” was recently established.
Vin led many fundraisers and most prominent was a 1980s campaign to preserve his church steeple.
Monies raised through this fund will help to maintain the Steeple of First Parish Church.
Donations can be made through Paypal at PayPal.Me/
Church Steeple Railings Restoration 2019/2020
The railings (balustrades) in the steeple of our church are in need of restoration. The balustrades- at both the bell level and the carillon level- must be repaired. At the carillon level, several spindles have rotted and become separated from the rails; at least one has fallen to the ground, further presenting a safety problem. A contractor with expertise in steeples (American Steeple) has assessed the situation and provided an estimate for repairs. On Monday, November 25, American Steeple brought in a large crane and removed all of the balustrades (four at the bell level, eight at the carillon level). They will be restored in the coming months and reinstalled in the spring. We will apply for, and hope to get approval for, funds from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to defray some of the cost. We have been awarded funds from the CPC for restoration projects for our church on three previous occasions dating back to 2007.
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.”