January 2015

In This Issue…


From the Minister

As we begin together another new year, I pause with gratitude for the journey we have traveled. We have shared deep moments of connection; marriages, memorial services, joyous worship, and thoughtful reflection.  We have experienced forgiveness and grace, fostered kinship, and renewed faith in the promise of our ministry together.  And we have known bumps in the road,  moments when some of us as leaders, paused and asked, whose are we, where do we want to go, and how do we do that together?  We have known joy in the figuring it out, knowing that we can be sincere and honest without needing to be perfect.  Here the poet Rainer Maria Rilke puts it best: 

"May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children." Here the call of connection is not "Be perfect." or "Be good." but "Be yourself!" Know your center.  Know what makes you uniquely you. And live from that place!  Forget the masks. Forget the "shoulds "and the "suppose to's." Just figure out what takes you to that place of deep gladness and to that remain true! This doesn't mean abandoning the task of "doing the right thing," it means that you will know what the right thing is when deep joy accompanies your choice.

Integrity and joy. They are companions on the spiritual journey.  Nothing is more joyful then the connections I make with you, and the connections you make with each other, especially when those connections carry us into broader community.   Looking back this past year, I remember fondly many moments of connection in worship, during our Sangha sharing on Monday night, in conversation in the buddhist reading group, exploring spiritual themes in our small group ministries, caroling with kids on the green… the list goes on.  May we continue to encounter both joy and integrity in the connections we make this month, and this year.   

Faithfully yours,
Rev. Jill

Welcome New Members!

James C. (Jim) Morrison (right) lives in Beechwood in a house that was formerly the parson's residence of the Beechwood Congregational Church and built by an ancestor of his late wife, Marilyn Margaret (Pratt) Morrison. Marilyn's parents were married in the living room. Jim is an adjunct professor in the Communication Department at Boston College and has taught at Harvard, MIT and Emerson College, among other places. He loves classical music, jazz, and classic rock. His lifelong ambition is to keep on shortening his literary bucket list.

The Jackson family (below, from left):
Lilah, Sheila, Farrah and John Jackson


RE Matters

Winter Session: Learning about Race and Activism through Stories and Art

During the month of January we will have a three-week “Winter Session” in which the children will come together as one group to explore race and learn about activism that has created new pathways of love and equality among humans. This will culminate during the third Sunday as children and adults come together in worship to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. This topic of course has been very much in the news lately and likely present in conversations among family members in the home. With a houseful of intellectually active teenagers of varied positions and stances who love nothing more than to have heated debates, this topic has come up more than once at our dinner table. Hence, my 10 year-old who is obviously not in the same place developmentally has had a bit more exposure to the topic than perhaps children without older siblings. I’ve paid some special attention to how we’re helping him process this information. We have checked some books out of the library and taken time to read and talk about the content. We’ve made space for discussion about perspectives, perceptions, and “sides” and talked of the value of curiosity about where others are coming from – not just out in the greater world, but even at home when loved ones differ in their perspectives.

Mindful that children in our church community have likely had a varying degree of exposure to the current topics of race and violence in the news, we plan to do a basic treatment of the issue of race and differences using a couple of wonderful books and stories that have come highly recommended. We will not delve into the topics of Ferguson, rather we will aim our lessons toward the activism of those such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. The UU second principle – affirming fair and kind treatment to all people is relevant here and our discussions will explore clear examples of unequal and unfair treatment along with the actions of people who have clearly made a positive difference in that regard. Even still, activism during the civil rights movement involved civil disobedience which can be a tricky subject to navigate with children and we will do so in a developmentally-appropriate, sensitive manner. Older children may feel the desire to connect these lessons to Ferguson etc. and may want more discussion. As such, I will be providing parents with a listing not only of the books we use in class but also additional resources for further family exploration and discussion.

Exploring the Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles

On January 25, we will begin a program on our Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles that will take us well into the spring. Drawing from two strong curricula, we will seek to increase the children’s sense of religious identity as Unitarian Universalists by exploring the principles in age appropriate ways that connect to children’s ideas and actions. The program will include games to play, stories to act out, art projects to complete, songs to sing and for every session, a closing worship service. The program is designed for all ages with ‘family-style’ flair where each member contributes to discussions in their own way. Where the youngest members stretch their understanding as they listen to the comments of older children; and in turn, older children learn to listen and respond appreciatively to the contributions of younger members and to help them with activities when the opportunity arises. Christine and Tatyana will be the lead teachers for this program and we are looking for volunteers to help us run the games and activities. Look for a sign-up board at coffee hour in the coming weeks.

A Big Thank You!

In addition to recognizing Tatyana Nakishima and Alli Trowbridge, our two paid staff, for their dedication and loving presence each Sunday, I would like to recognize all those who volunteered their time on Sundays this fall and into the holidays to make our religious education programs possible: Marie Caristi, Polly Duxbury, Kate Mozinski, Katy Woolley, Sarah Williams, Jill Sylvia and two youth assistants Alexis Caristi and Willow Mirise.

Also to the women’s circle ministry group who helped run this year’s No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant: Jody, Joan, Kearin, Susan, Ronnie, Shirley, Bernadette and Pat – I hope I’ve included all of you! It was a great success and a fun morning for all.

Lastly but not least to the Religious Education Support Team: Phil Struzziero, Joan Kovach, Jill Sylvia, Ben Cowie-Haskell and Sara Williams for their commitment to the overall success and vitality of the R.E. program.

In Faith,

From the Theme Team: Connection

"Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours."
                       – Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."
                       – Brené Brown

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
                       – Herman Melville

Connection is an indisputable aspect of being alive. In fact, "separateness is an illusion. That's what we learn through the spiritual practice of connections. Everything is interrelated – in time, space, and our very being. Both religion and science reveal this truth – Hinduism's image of Indra's net, Buddhism's understanding of interbeing, the experiences of the mystics, the teachings of ecology and physics, even the Internet.” 

We are connected to a myriad of things starting with ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, our colleagues, our church, Unitarian Universalism, our town, our city, our state, our country … and so on. Many of these connections are incredibly rich and fulfilling, invaluable to ourselves and to those with whom we’re connected. However, in this technological day and age of Facebook, snapchat, and twitter, it is also too easy to be connected to things that we might prefer not to be connected – i.e., our own digital footprint; or people or causes that don’t represent our values; or to the technology itself. 

How do we nurture the positive connections? Try these Spiritual Practices:

1) Take stock of your own connections by consciously following the links connecting you with other beings and organizations. Start anywhere and see where it leads you. Try to see people or experiences as parts of a whole rather than compartmentalizing them. Try to discern your most important connections and disengage from negative ones.

2) Strengthen your connection to your own spirituality. Spirituality brings purpose and meaning to our lives and a deep sense of connection to all. Find time for meditation, even if only for 10 minutes a day. Keep a gratitude journal, write a poem, draw a leaf or a flower, or take a quiet walk in nature. 

3) Make someone's day by reaching out and making a connection – to a long-lost friend, to someone you know who would appreciate your company, or to a stranger on the street. Be open to spontaneous encounters and connections.

From the Theme Team


Parish Committee Member Spotlight: Steve Brown

Rev. Jill thought it would be useful if each of the current Parish Committee members assemble a brief overview of their background and interests for the newsletter.

In Marion I grew up swimming, sailing, playing tennis and going to Tabor Academy. After Tabor I spent a year in England at Oundle School as an English Speaking Union Exchange student playing rugby, rowing crew, and hitchhiking around Europe and developing a love of travel to different cultures. Then I studied chemistry at Princeton, dated Margie (a lifelong UU), and competed in the Olympic trials for rowing. After college I moved to Michigan to work for Dow Chemical in research and product development, married Margie, and was thrilled by the birth of Carrie and Emily.

Margie and I spent a year in Washington DC on the Presidents Executive Interchange Program where I worked at the Small Business Administration. We entertained many more visitors than we had in Midland, Michigan. After DC, I rejoined Dow, and we moved to Moorestown, NJ, where our daughters grew up and where we were active at the UU church. In 1996, after having worked at the University of Pennsylvania for several years, we moved to Cohasset, joined First Parish, and I worked at MIT with inventors and entrepreneurs and lectured at the business school. During and after MIT, I’ve had great fun consulting outside the US in many different countries with groups interested in starting technology based businesses.

In Cohasset I’ve helped develop an adult sailing program; worked on several environmental projects, including sewering Little Harbor homes and trying to improve the water quality in Inner Little Harbor. I now serve on the Cohasset Conservation Commission. As a Library Trustee, I’m active in program development and long range planning. I still enjoy competing in the local triathlons and rowing races.

At First Parish, I’ve served on a variety of committees, helping to build FP relationship with Common Hope in Guatemala, and the Welcoming Congregation Committee to support equal rights for the LGBT community.

Margie and I have two daughters; Emily lives in Concord with her husband and their two children, Reese and Chase. She counsels troubled high school teens. Carrie lives with her wife and daughter Lillian in Durham, NC, and is a psychiatrist leading a UNC team that helps transition discharged patients into the community.

Stephen Brown
for The Parish Committee


Music Program: Connect

We live in a world that, in many ways, is more connected than ever before, thanks to the profound developments in communication technology. Still, to a large degree, we are more disconnected from one another in authentic, interpersonal ways. I believe that the act of choral singing, and the sharing of that live music with people, can offer a wonderful antidote to feelings of emptiness and isolation commonly experienced by so many people.

There is nothing quite like the awareness of breathing the same air, coordinating those inhalations with others, and engaging our ears and eyes with our beautifully imperfect voices to bring a unique contribution to a common musical effort. While it is true that we work hard to minimize mistakes, striving for correct execution of the music on the printed page, the most important moments are when we feel that spiritual and musical synergy, creating a memorable sense of connection among members of the choir and with those participating through active listening.

Perhaps the most important response we can have to our world of smartphones and social media is to set it all aside in favor of creating art in real time, in real space, with our real friends here at First Parish. We welcome new members to the choir, regardless of skill or background, who desire to share their voice in service of our worship experience.



Starting Points

As promised, Lisa Marder and I are offering a 4 session workshop that explores the intersection of your spiritual journey with Unitarian Universalism and First Parish. We will offer some interactive explorations into different religious questions, make time for you to reflect and share  your values/beliefs using as a prompts the written testimony from "This I Believe" curriculum (see thisibelieve.com) and we will introduce you to some foundational principles of our liberal Unitarian and Universalist theologies. This is a great way to  ground yourself in your values, beliefs, and give voice to what you are looking for while at the same time make connections with others who are also just beginning their journey at First Parish. I have spoken to some of you and some of you will be getting this email for the first time. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 617-697-0922.  I hope you can join us for at least 3 of the sessions. Please let me know.

I know we are heading into ski season so we are combining both Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening sessions. Childcare is available Sunday afternoons, class will go for 11:30-12:45.  Let me know if you want childcare on Tuesday evening at the Parish Hall or we could help pay the cost of your childcare at your home if you have a favorite babysitter.

Tuesday, January 13th, 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Sunday, January 18th, 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM
Tuesday, January 27th, 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Sunday TBD

Rev. Jill

Chelsea Collaborative Thanks You

Thanks to all of you who donated bags of usable clothing for the immigrants who have recently arrived in the US. This summer Chelsea Collaborative welcomed well over 500 new children and adults from Central America. Their grassroots community organization serves the large immigrant population of Chelsea by helping with housing, food, clothing, legal aid, youth jobs, political action, and other services. Recently Gov. Patrick was there to celebrate their successes. Rev. Jill, Steve, and I met with the Executive Director, and she was very grateful for the approximately 30 bags of clothing we brought. Thank you for your donations!

Margie Brown

Sunday Worship Schedule


January 4:

"Our Inner Extrovert"Rev. Jill Cowie

January 11:

"Connecting With the Goddess Within; A Title IX Sermon"Rev. Jill Cowie

January 18:

"In the Name of Compassion and Justice"Rev. Jill Cowie – An Intergenerational Service in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March. The children and youth will sing and engage us with a justice dance. My short sermon will draw from the new book by UU author Mark D. Morrison-Reed "The Selma Awakening," and will reflect upon on how the civil rights movement changed our faith. Please stay after the service to watch footage from the 1964 march from the documentary Eyes on the Prize.

January 25:

"Connections Closer to Home"Rev. Jill Cowie

Youth Schedule

January 4:

Children begin in the Meeting House with a Time for All Ages.

Childcare ages 1-4: Alli Trowbridge.

All Ages Winter Session: Learning about Race and Activism through stories and art.

RE Support Team meeting at 8:30 am.

January 11:

Children begin in the Meeting House with a Time for All Ages.

Childcare ages 1-4: Alli Trowbridge.

All Ages Winter Session: Learning about Race and Activism through stories and art.

January 18:

Intergenerational Service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.: Children will perform through music and movement during this service.

January 25:

Children begin in the Meeting House with a Time for All Ages.

Childcare ages 1-4: Alli Trowbridge.

Session #1 of Learning and Living in our Unitarian Universalist Principles.