Worship Services

Worship Services

First Parish offers in-person and online worship through Zoom. Find the link to virtually attend services on Sundays at 10 a.m. at the top of our website.

You may view recordings of past worship services from our News page or on our YouTube channel.

Sunday morning worship is the center of life at First Parish. The word “worship” comes from the same root as the word “worth.” At First Parish, we turn our attention to what is of great worth through the spoken word, music, song, and silence in our worship services.

Worship begins at 10 a.m. and runs between 60 and 90 minutes. Between 200 and 250 people participate in the service, which typically includes prayer, hymn singing, choral anthems, a sermon, and “Time for All Ages,” when a story or lesson is told to children at the front of the sanctuary. On most Sundays, children leave after the Time for All Ages for a religious education program that concludes at 11:30. After worship, everyone is invited for coffee hour in the vestry.

On most Sundays, we place stones that represent joys or concerns on the chancel table. Each person warms a stone in their hands and passes it to the next person in line. Those who would like to speak about their joy or concern often have the opportunity to do so.

Every Sunday, half the offering supports the work of First Parish and half supports a worthy cause identified by the Social Justice Committee each month.

Dress runs the gamut from jacket and tie to T-shirts and jeans. Our motto is “Come as You Are.”

See Your First Visit for more about what to expect on a Sunday morning at First Parish.

Elements of the worship services

Our services vary in format but the following are typical elements:

  • The Prelude: The first notes of the music we hear in the prelude are our cues to turn our hearts toward the service, settle into our seats and give our attention to the music to nurture our souls.
  • Ringing the Bell: The sanctuary houses the historic bell from the steeple of our fourth meetinghouse, which burned to the ground in March 1975. Though the bell cracked when it fell and could not be rehung, we ring it inside the church each week as a way to honor our connection to those who came before us and to create an atmosphere of reverence.
  • Lighting the Chalice: The flaming chalice is the symbol of our Unitarian Universalist tradition. As in other traditions, fire symbolizes the warmth, fragility, beauty and power of our lives as individuals and as a community.
  • Intergenerational Sharing: We value the young people in our congregation and the opportunity for them to be in worship with us. Most weeks, we engage the children with a story, song or activity relevant to the theme of the service. At the end, they leave for their age-specific Sunday School programs for grades K-6.
  • Sharing of Celebrations and Concerns: Congregation members have the opportunity to place a stone “of celebration and concern” in recognition of matters significant to their lives. These may range from remembering a deceased loved one to announcing an engagement to showing solidarity with people in other countries.
  • The Collection: First Parish collections both sustain the congregation and raise money for important causes. Our Giving First program devotes 50% of our non-pledge Sunday morning offerings to a different charity each month.
  • The Sermon: Sermons are delivered mostly by our minister, Rev. Marta Flanagan. Marta preaches on a wide variety of topics, ranging from forgiveness to immigration to how to live a meaningful life. First Parish occasionally has guest preachers as well. Check out audio recordings of past sermons.
  • The Benediction: The closing words of our service were written by our Minister Emeritus, Rev. Dr. Barbara Whittaker-Johns, and are a simple prayer/meditation:

“May faith in the Spirit of Life, hope for the community of Earth, and love of the sacred in one another be ours now, and in all the days to come.”

We join hands as a way of offering our warmth to one another, and to remind us of the first Unitarian Universalist principle that affirms and promotes the “inherent worth and dignity of every person” – including ourselves.

  • The Postlude:  At the end of the service to give ourselves the gift of wonderful music once more as we make our transition from the worship hour back into “ordinary time.” The postlude is an excellent opportunity to quietly reflect on the blessings of being in this place at this time.

Friendship/Coffee Hour: As important as anything that happens in the Sunday Service is the opportunity to make new friends and connect with older ones, all of which builds the bonds of our community. This mostly happens in the Vestry, our “Community Room” to the rear of the Sanctuary.

Note that our children’s Religious Education program happens simultaneously with our Sunday services. On most Sundays, children spend the first portion of the service in the sanctuary with their families and leave for the children’s program after the intergenerational sharing time. Some Sunday services are intergenerational and children remain with us for the entire service. Childcare is available on Sunday mornings for young children in our pre-kindergarten class. Babies often stay with their parents during the service. The service is broadcast in the Vestry for those who would like more freedom of movement to keep a baby content.