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Staff Board Report, December 2022

From Janice Zazinski

Church Administrator

December is a time for financial reckoning of member pledges so we can

both send out accurate pledge reminder letters and then enter the flurry of

pledges that will arrive as a result of said letters. Online giving helps

enormously with accurate pledge information as neither John O’Connor

(wearing his Office Assistant hat) nor I need to manually enter pledge

information when people pay online — it’s automatically recorded. If you’re

paying your own pledges online, I heartily recommend it as a way of

reducing church staff workload! You can do it right here, using a bank

account or a credit/debit card:

We’re also gearing up for some larger than usual orders of service in

December: Major Music, and Xmas Eve services. Lots of paper, lots of

printing, and lots of appreciation for the Friday Folders!

Website updates continue to be a work in progress; Raeann and I are still

uploading governance documents such as annual reports and Parish Board

meeting minutes.

Raeann has introduced staff to a new tool called Airtable, which is an online

information-gathering and workflow-creation system. You may have seen

some new “forms” that take you to Airtable to reserve a space in the church

or submit news and announcements. What’s wonderful is that these new

forms capture all the info staff need and then, depending on the request

(room space, social media announcement, Unitarian article, and so on), the

appropriate staff member is notified that some action is needed. No more

back and forth to gather details, or having church members fill out multiple

forms. And good news on the summer rental front, as BASEC will rent the

church for all of July, since Powers won’t be here, as well as all of August.

Roger Gallagher has confirmed that the Henry Frost School does not need

any church space at all over the summer, and BASEC is thrilled to be able to

rent the whole building, all summer.

From Ian Garvie

Director of Music

The holidays are right around the corner, and though the weather doesn’t

always feel like winter is coming, the music program’s sights are fully

focused on Christmas. 

Taking a look back first, the musical was a huge success. We had 68

children and youth perform The Sound of Music for two sold out audiences,

as well as a partially sold dress rehearsal. In all, more than 450 seats were

sold. This goes to show that for our community, two shows are not enough!

I’m looking forward to next year, when I anticipate a large enough group of

children for two casts, and four shows. The musical was also underwritten

by another generous donation from Anne Mahon, a realtor and church

member from Belmont. This additional support will allow the music

program to strengthen all of our big events this year, providing some

guarantee money for Second Friday Concert performers, and a nest egg to

create our Children’s Choir Festival in May. It will also mean that the

musical will once again be a substantial fundraiser for the church as a whole.

Immediately after the musical finished, we had seven new children join the

program, making our total membership 75 now. 

Looking ahead, as of writing this, the Major Music service is right around

the corner. Thanks to Camila Parias and Ken Stalberg for all their hard work

contracting the orchestra! We have an amazing group of musicians joining

the Senior Choir for a performance of Saint-Saens’ beautiful Christmas

Oratorio. Rehearsals will continue this week, and the performance will be on

December 11th. Due to the pandemic we have missed the last five Major

Music services, so it’s wonderful to be starting this tradition up again. We

anticipate a completely full Sanctuary. 

On December 18th the Children’s Choirs will be singing in both the 9:00

and 11:00 services, giving us a preview of the Christmas Eve services. And

then on the 24th, we have our traditional Christmas Eve Marathon, with four

services, pageants, kings, children’s choirs, and more. This year the Senior

Choir will also be part of the Christmas Eve madness, singing at the 6:00pm


Finally, the Music Committee has just welcomed four new members,

drawing from the amazing group of parents in the musical. I look forward to

working with them, and the rest of the community, to keep the wonderful

music playing!

From Nate Sellers

Director of Children’s Religious Education

This past November, we switched things up in grades 1-6 and began

following the KUU (Kids UUnited) curriculum, which was met with

excitement and curiosity. The kids have enjoyed learning about the

importance of collaboration and putting ideas into action with various STEM

activities. Next month, the classes will begin to focus on the concept of

individual/creative thinking within a larger group, which will then lead to a

three-part lesson on inclusivity/acceptance/individuality.

The Preschool and Kindergarten room continues to be a key spot for

younger families to reconnect, as well as introduce newer families into the

CRE program. Our numbers have been consistently growing since

September. As of December 4th, we have an average of 28 kids a Sunday.

And although we haven’t seen all of our pre-Covid families back and

involved with the program, our Building Bridges class (grades 7-8) has

brought in two new families since October. 

Wendy is continuing to plan for OWL, as a record number of families sign

up for both our 5th & 6th, and 8th grade sessions. As mentioned previously,

the OWL program this year will be led by Wendy, with the addition of a

college intern, Mikey Cox. We hope to include more young adults as we

evolve this program and cover more relevant topics (LGBTQIA+ issues,

gender identity, consent, etc.).

From Lillian Anderson

Director of Adult Programs

Our adult programs winter programs will offer an incredible array of both in

person and online events and classes. While there is a palpable hunger for in

person contact we are also aware that the weather contingencies make the

online offerings appealing.

Most of my time during the past month was spent in connecting with people

to confirm program dates for the coming year. In addition to our ongoing

monthly programs we have several one time new in person offerings.

OWL for Adults with Ran Courant-Morgan - 4 sessions beginning on

January 8 - requires registration

Green Cuisine: Preparing and Sharing Plant-based Meals with Michael

Griffin - 4 sessions beginning on January 10; monthly

White Hot Hate with Dick Lehr - discussion of the book and the implications

of far right media - January 20

FC Organ with Simon Andrews - January 22

“Slow Looking” with Nelina Backman - February 5

“Eating a Jewish Life” discussion led by Eleanor Sugarman with Judi

Berman and Susan Kobayashi - February 26

and two of our perennial favorites will also be returning in person

Spiritual Renewal through Poetry with Peter Guthrie - January

Sixth Annual “Moth” Hour with Ian and Richard Waring - Feb. 17

Our online programs will include a return of FC Cooks, Gather Round

sessions, and Memoir Writing with Martha Spaulding.

I am so pleased that Our Date With Death Club (DWDC) programs will

begin on January 31st and March 28th with Jackie James. We are still in the

process of determining which of the titles (Getting Comfortable with Death

Talk, Aging: Better Than the Alternative, Good Life & Good Death,

Planning Your Own Memorial Service) we will use. I am hopeful that this

curriculum will be presented often in the next several years.

The CommUUnity Collaborative (CC) representing seven ministers and

congregations (including Chris and John from FC) have been meeting and

their program offerings will greatly benefit First Church. Chris will be

introducing the CC via video soon. The web-site and registration which

Nate has been working on should be ready for launching by December 10.

From Sam Foster

Membership Coordinator

The "Journey to Membership" workshop on December 4 was well attended

and very encouraging for the church. We had eight newcomers attending,

across a broad age range. Three families with young kids were there,

including a brand new family who were invited by another almost-brand-

new family, plus a young couple in their twenties. The workshop seems to

have produced a good impression, and Chris and I expect several of them to

become members in short order. We'll be reaching out to each of them to

continue the welcome work, and I'll update the Board on new members in

next month's report.

In the spring we'll be running the three-part version of the workshop, but I

think the one-part version we tried this month was a success. The advantage

of a workshop that meets on multiple weekends is that the newcomers build

a cohort, but my takeaway from our single workshop is that it gives

newcomers a great reason to want to come back and explore further. So it

probably makes sense to provide both versions of the workshop every year

going forward.

The SoUUper Lunch on Wednesdays has become a popular event with a

dedicated following. Regular attendees are now signing up to prepare home-

cooked soup on a rota system. As the group grows, I'll have to carefully

manage the problems of scale, but currently a dozen or fifteen attendees is

manageable. The Tea and Scones on Mondays was dropped for lack of

interest, but the Crafts and Games after Vespers will get a reboot after the

holidays, with more advertising and spreading of the word. I am committed

to this weekly event because so many people express enthusiasm about

attending it "one of these days."

I am continuing to produce the podcast, with two newly recorded episodes to

be published over the next two weeks. The "story pod" is also being released

at intervals. Our next recording session will be with Doris Hunter!

Finally, I am working with Raeann, Janice, and Lillian on perfecting our

communications workflow, which Raeann has wonderfully simplified for us

with a new suite of online forms. I am working to populate the events

calendar on the church website, so that the website will be fully up to date

and a reliable source of information for folks looking at our programs. This

month I plan to create a new "serve" page on the website, which will contain

information about all the ways people can volunteer at the church. More on

that next month. 

From Raeann Mason

Director of Youth Ministry

Youth Group

We kicked off the month of November with a great info session with

Florence Reed, the founder of Sustainable Harvest International, for families

to learn more about the youth’s February service learning trip to Panama.

The plans for the trip are underway and we have 8 youth signed up to go!

Check out Florence’s TED Talk to learn more about the ways we are helping

their projects.

FCByouth has also been partnering with UU Mass Action to bolster their

efforts to start a youth corps. The youth corps will be a youth-led social

action group working within Massachusetts to promote positive social

change. We’ve been collaborating with First Parish in Concord and Bedford

throughout this journey as well. A few weeks ago we joined forces for our

Second Annual S’mores Justice events where youth learned about unjust

resource distribution within certain communities and they wrote letters to

their senators about topics surrounding housing, prisoner rights and more.

We ended the day with s’mores and community building. 

Looking ahead we have our much anticipated Holiday Party around the

corner, and we will be coming back from the winter break to host Trivia for

the entire church community on January 7th. We are all so excited about this

event and are looking forward to the chance to bond with the rest of the

congregation (and put your trivia skills to the test!). Appetizers and drinks

(including alcoholic beverages) will be for sale and childcare will be



Beyond the youth group, I have implemented a new communication system

for the staff and church community that should streamline communication

for everyone. If you’re not already, be sure to follow us on Facebook,

Instagram and YouTube to stay up to date. Another big move in

communications is the second edition of the Universalist using the new

format is heading your way for the New Year. We hope you enjoy the

words, art and theme. 

From John O’Connor

Intern Minister

November and the first week of December have been very busy and

meaningful for me at First Church. Janice and I have worked out a booklet

form for the Order of Service which is reasonable enough to produce and

flexible enough to accommodate the different types of services that we do.

The congregation seems pleased with it. I continue to make all of our bank

deposits and enter contributions into our platform, Fellowship One, to track

payments against pledges. Janice and I have a great working relationship!

The Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) has reviewed the Learning

Agreement I prepared in conjunction with Chris and the Intern Minister

Committee. I am happy to report that I have been cleared to “Request a

Date” for my interview with them. Based on their scheduling, this will most

likely occur in September, 2023. I will keep you posted once I have


I will be participating in two programs through the Community

Collaborative: a two part presentation on the Book of Revelation; and an author talk on the book Higher and Friendly Power. Lillian and I have

pinned down the dates and all the collateral information necessary to get

these programs into the calendar. I am very much looking forward to both


The Sunday before Thanksgiving serves as testament to how busy we have

all been! In addition to the two regular services on Sunday, Chris and I

participated in the Transgender Day of Remembrance event on the town

triangle in front of the bank. This was a moving event in light of the killings

at Club Q in Colorado. We then dashed to the Synagogue for the Interfaith

Thanksgiving Service. I think we represented the UU tradition and FCB


A highlight for me this past month was the service I preached my sermon

“Home for the Holidaze.” The service hung together quite well and the feed

back was positive. Simon did a great job with the music, especially the

theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas. I continue to try to come more

from my heart than from my head in my sermons. This is a work in


I also wrote a reflection for the next Universalist on how we might hold the

tension between the call to resist injustice and to embrace acceptance. I

included an interesting image of a tug of war to illustrate the tension.

I continue to enjoy my internship and am looking forward to our holiday


Happy Holidaze to you all!


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