Your First Visit
What is a service like?
First Parish worship services are both vibrant and meditative. Music is an essential part of our worship. Children participate in part of the worship on most Sundays. Worship services run about 80 minutes and are a bit shorter in the summer months. Visit our Worship & Music section for a full description of worship at First Parish.
Will I have a chance to meet people?
During the service, there is an opportunity to chat with three or four congregants for about five minutes. If you’re there in person, these are generally the folks you’re sitting near. If you’re attending virtually, you’ll be invited to join a breakout room. A topic or prompt is offered to foster discussion during this short conversation.
After worship, we offer a “coffee hour” – a time for drinks (coffee, tea, and lemonade) and conversation in the vestry (the large community room next to the vestibule). Look for the Welcome Table. Here First Parish members will be delighted to meet you, talk with you, and answer your questions. They can also give you a Connection Card to fill out, where you can give us your contact information, sign up to receive the weekly e-bulletin, and indicate your particular areas of interest. Coffee hour, which usually runs until noon or 12:15, is a great time to meet people and get to know more about our community.
When should I arrive?
Our Sunday services start at 10 a.m. Arriving around 10 minutes early will give you time to get settled. You can speak with folks at the Welcome Table in the vestry (the large community room next to the vestibule) and get a name tag. In the colder months, you may want to leave your outerwear on one of the coat racks just outside the vestry.
If you run a little late, don’t worry – it’s fine to join the service in progress when you arrive. The ushers can help you as needed.
If you are coming with children, it’s helpful if you arrive 20–30 minutes before the service begins. The ushers or folks at the Welcome table can direct you to the Religious Education office, where a member of our RE staff will talk with you about the RE program and give you registration materials to fill out. (Visit our Religious Education for Children section for more information about the RE program.)
What should I wear?
As a congregation of many blended cultures, religions, and ages, our dress on a Sunday morning varies from “business casual” – slacks, skirts, dresses, jackets – to more casual (e.g., jeans and sneakers). However you choose to dress, you are welcome!
What will my kid do during the service?
Our programs for children and youth, from preK through high school, are central to the life of First Parish. We offer a vibrant religious education program for each age group. Visit the Religious Education for Children section for more information about RE at First Parish.
We also believe that families should have a time of worship together. Children are in the sanctuary during the first 20 minutes or so of the service and are usually invited to come to the front of the sanctuary for the Time for All Ages – a story, song, or other activity (parents are welcome to accompany their children, and many do). Right after the Time for All Ages, the preK through grade 7 children and teachers go to their classes.
We recommend that on your first visit you accompany your child to their class and then return to the service. At 11:30, you should pick up your child from their classroom, then come to the vestry for coffee hour.
Several times a year we have intergenerational services. On these Sundays, there is no RE programming; the children stay in the sanctuary throughout the service, which is designed to provide a rich and engaging experience for both children and adults.
On a few other Sundays when it is impractical to conduct full RE classes (for example, during school vacations), the RE program organizes a “one-room Sunday school” that brings all the children together for an activity.
RE programming for older youth (those in the spring term of grade 7, eighth-graders, and high school youth) happens on Sunday evenings. Youth in these grades are welcome to attend worship service with you on Sunday mornings.
What about infants?
Our congregation includes many young families. There is a nursery specially staffed to care for infants while you attend the service. The folks at the Welcome Table or the ushers can assist you in finding the Religious Education office, where you can register your child for the nursery. If you prefer to keep your infant with you, that is also fine. If your infant or young child becomes restless during the service, you may choose to sit in the vestry and watch the service through our video link.
Is the building accessible?
Our building was constructed in 1980 and is relatively accessible. There are no steps at either entrance. The sanctuary, vestry, and restrooms are all accessible. There is an elevator for those who can’t use the stairs to the RE classrooms on the upper and lower levels.
What if I need special assistance for a Sunday visit?
If you have questions about special needs or accessibility for yourself or a family member, please don’t hesitate to call the parish office during the week for assistance (781-648-3799). On Sunday morning, speak with the folks at the Welcome Table or the ushers. We would like to assist you in any way that we can.
Where are you located?
We are located at 630 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, Mass., at the corner of Pleasant Street (Route 60). See Getting to Us for more information.
Where can I park?
There is ample parking on Sunday mornings in these areas:
- The municipal parking lot behind the commercial block across the street from the First Parish Mass. Ave. entrance. Parking is free on Sundays.
- The spaces belonging to the town library to the right of First Parish on Mass. Ave. These are available to us on Sunday morning and evening (and whenever else the library is closed – follow this link for library hours).
- A small town parking area next to the Whittemore Robbins House behind the library. These spaces are available to us at any time, except during the rare occasions when there is an event at the house.
- Street parking on Mass. Ave. and Pleasant Street.
Where’s the entrance to the building?
There are several ways to enter the building:
- The door at 630 Mass. Ave. – you’ll enter the narthex (a small vestibule), the sanctuary will be to your left, and the vestry (main gathering area) will be to your right
- The door near the parking lot, facing the town library – walk down the hallway, and the vestry is just past the bathrooms
- The door opposite the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery – you’ll go through a small vestibule and then enter the sanctuary