Holidays and Traditions
Here are some of the annual celebrations and rituals with which we mark the year at First Parish.
Water Communion (Water Ritual)
We begin our church year in September with Water Communion. Originally known as the Water Ritual, this service was created by Lucile Longview and Carolyn McDade for the 1980 Women and Religion Continental Convocation of Unitarian Universalists.
During the water communion, people bring a small amount of water that represents something about their summer: water from their garden, water from the house of a relative they visited, etc. During the service, everyone in the congregation adds their water to a common vessel. In the words of Lucile Longview and Carolyn McDade, “Water is more than simply a metaphor. It is elemental and primary, calling forth feelings of awe and reverence.” The water that we all bring is saved, filtered and sterilized, and later used for our memorial garden or in child dedications.
First Parish traditionally celebrates the Christmas season with several special services.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there are midweek Vespers services, with seasonal readings and music, and time for quiet contemplation.
On a Sunday morning before Christmas, we have a No-rehearsal Christmas Pageant. Children and adults get to take on roles in the pageant, with no need for rehearsal.
Our annual Christmas Eve candlelight service features traditional Christmas music, songs and readings and is capped off by a candlelight singing of Silent Night. Many people from the surrounding community join our congregaiton for this festive celebration.
Flower Communion (Flower Celebration)
In the spring, we celebrate Flower Communion, celebrating human uniqueness, diversity and community. Originally called the Flower Celebration, this ritual was created in 1923 by Norbert and Maja Capek of the Unitarian church in Pragu, Czechoslovakia. Many of the members of that church came to Unitarianism from other religions, and they wanted a ritual that was specifically Unitarian.
In 1941, Norbert Capek was arrested by the Nazis, charged with a capital crime, and imprisoned in the concentration camp at Dachau. Maja Capek had traveled to the United States to raise money for war refugees. She introduced the Flower Ceremony to the Unitarian church in Cambridge, Mass., and from there it spread to Unitarian Universalists congregations throughout the world.
The Flower Celebration is a ritual that celebrates the connections between the individuals who make up the congregation. You come in to the Flower Celebration with one flower. Everyone places the flowers they bring in a common vase, and during the service everyone takes a different flower from that vase. So you leave carrying a flower that someone else brought. You may not know who that other person was, yet when you leave the worship service your life has been touched by them.
Summer Lay-led Services
During the summer months normal services are suspended and members of the congregation lead slightly shorter services on topics of their choosing. Themes have included poetry, the history of the church in Cohasset, the principals of Taoism, and many others.
Other rituals and celebrations
As Unitarian Universalists, we celebrate or recognize other events.
We’re a “Welcoming Congregation,” a congregation that is inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. During Pride Month, we typically have special readings or some other recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of all persons regardless of sexual orientation of gender. We also remember National Transgender Day of Remembrance during our Sunday services.
We recognize the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., on the Sunday before the Federal holiday. During Black History Month, we recognize Black history more generally, and also the history of Black Unitarian Universalists.