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The Unitarian — December 15, 2022


Sunday December 18, “Light In The Darkness” with Rev. Chris and Children’s Choirs

Services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary

Saturday, December 24: Christmas Eve Services at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary; doors open 30 minutes before the service

Upcoming services

  • Thursday December 22: No Vespers due to Christmas

  • Saturday, December 24: Christmas Eve Services at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary; doors open 30 minutes before the service

  • Sunday December 25: No Sunday services

  • Thursday December 29: No Vespers due to Holiday Vacation

  • Sunday January 1: “The Taking Up and the Letting Go” New Years Ritual with Rev. Chris

From Your Intern Minister

Worried About the Winter Blues?

Whether young or old, hale or frail, sometimes the dark days of winter can be challenging. While getting out in the great outdoors and participating in winter sports may be just the ticket for some, it is not an option for all. So besides hitting the slopes, building a snow fort, or going ice fishing, what else can we do to resist the winter blues? One answer is to exercise the mind — give it a real good stretch!

Commenting more than 2,000 years ago on the value of the study of liberal arts, Cicero wrote in Pro Archia:

These studies are the food of youth, the delight of old age; the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity; a delight at home, and no hindrance abroad; they are companions by night, and in travel, and in the country.

And just in the nick of time, in addition to all of First Church’s ongoing and special winter programs, the Community Collaborative (CC) is here with its Winter 2023 offerings to delight our minds (see below). Let’s learn together!

The CC is a group of ministers/staff of congregations who want to share new programs with their congregations, and beyond.

This year you can learn to write and deliver a sermon from Revs. Gary Smith and Chris Jablonski. Step up into the pulpit! Public speaking not your thing? Then how about exploring queer theology with the Rev. Dr. Laura Solomon? Concerned about addictive behavior, but turned off by the Christian overtones of 12 step recovery programs? Then explore a more spacious concept of a higher power with author and professor Peg O’Connor. Or delve into the Book of Revelation with Intern Minister John O’Connor who argues the Apocalypse isn’t actually about the end of the world. Who knew?

Want to develop leadership skills? Revs. Jenna Crawford and Chris Jablonski are offering a course on learning to lead in uncertain times. Curious to learn more about Unitarian Universalism? Join Revs. Chris Jablonski and Daniel Gregoire as they explore UU history. How about making your own movie? Check out Rev Dave Egan’s class and learn how to do it all on your smartphone. Or, dive deep into UU theology with the Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies.

Don’t be lazy this winter. Exercise you mind. Registration is limited, so tarry not! Visit and register now. See you all in class!

John O’Connor

Intern Minister

End of Year Finance Report

The Finance Committee has completed its end of year report on church finances. Download/read it here.

Beautify the Sanctuary with Flowers

Thank you for donating flowers to beautify the Sanctuary. Our longtime partner, Paradise Flowers, will create the arrangements, which are $90. You can use the form below for either an online payment or if you wish to mail a check to the church.

This month, we Share the Plate with the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center

The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center provides comprehensive specialty medical, nutritional, developmental and social services and dietary assistance to children from the Greater Boston area referred with Failure To Thrive (FTT). The First Church in Belmont has a long relationship supporting The Grow Clinic.

You can make a worship offering below, text the word “offering” to 617-819-8168, or mail a check to the church. Please make checks payable to The First Church in Belmont and write “offering” in the memo line.

FCB Holiday Gift Drive ends December 16

Every year First Church provides an opportunity for our members and friends to experience the true meaning of the holiday season by supporting organizations in need. We have supported these 3 charities in the past. By using you will find info on wish lists, donations, and gift cards as requested by the charities listed. Thank you for your generosity. Questions: contact Kathryn Bonfiglio at

  • The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center treats infants and toddlers diagnosed with Failure to Thrive and provides support to their families.

  • Mary’s House, operating under the umbrella of MHSA, provides shelter and transitional assistance for families experiencing homelessness.

  • Bristol Lodge (Waltham), also operating under the umbrella of MSHA, is a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

Trivia Night For All! Saturday, January 7, 6:30 pm in the Parish Hall

Join FCByouth for a night of trivia, drinks and snacks, Saturday, January 7th. Doors open at 6:30pm and trivia will start at 7pm sharp! Guests will form their own teams—start thinking of a clever team name now! Donations are welcome, and while registration is not required, you can help the youth group know how much food and snacks to have on hand by RSVPing.

  • Snacks and drinks will be sold

  • Childcare will be provided

  • All proceeds will go to FCByouth and Service Learning Trip

  • Spread the word and bring some friends!

  • Click here to sign up!

Intergenerational Conversation About the Climate Crisis and How We Can Respond - January 29, 5:30 p.m.

The Youth Group and Social Action Committee and FCB Green are co-sponsoring this event. It will be a conversation focused on the following questions and topics, among others: how youth and others in our congregation are already responding to the climate crisis, what SAC and FCB are doing, and ideas for how First Church can further organize and support our congregation to do more.

FCB and UU Service Committee

The UU Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonsectarian organization for advancing human rights together with an international Community of grassroots partners. Their Mission: UUSC advances human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies. Our work is grounded in the belief that all people have inherent power and dignity.

It has been First Church’s pride and pleasure to support UUSC because it began in our church under the leadership of Robert and Elizabeth Dexter, long-term members of the church. We have enjoyed a close relationship with the Unitarian Service Committee and now the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee for many years. We have been led by Jim Landfried for many years and I have taken his place representing the church. Thank you, Jim, for your excellent leadership.

Given our relationship with UUSC, we will be offering once a month a story about their work. We hope this will persuade you to join the UUSC to support their exceptional work. In the meantime, please read the articles and learn more about ways we as UUs support human rights around the world.

Sam James

Ian Zdanowicz - QDEP - Stories of Hope

Ian Zdanowicz left Poland 14 years ago to escape the homophobia and transphobia in his homeland. “Especially as a trans person and as an immigrant it takes time to rebuild your life in a foreign place and culture,” says Ian. “It can be really scary and very lonely.” His search for community in the United States led him to the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) where he first became a member, then a volunteer, then a staff member, until eventually becoming co-director of the organization.

“Working at QDEP allows me to provide immediate support to newly arriving queer and trans immigrants hoping that they don’t have to do all that work from scratch to find their people and resources that they need,” says Ian. “We do our best to make sure that new members feel that they have a community here and that we have each other's backs no matter what. That helps to alleviate feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress related to being in immigration proceedings and having to go through so many traumatic experiences to finally arrive in New York City and then start rebuilding your life.”

QDEP aims to address the particular needs of queer and trans people during the harrowing immigration process in the United States and highlight experiences that are often overlooked by U.S. media. “Members of LGBTQIA+ community go through a lot of traumatic situations, discrimination, and violence in their country of origin before they decide to migrate,” says Ian. “Then during the travel to the Mexico/U.S. border, they are at a very high risk of the same type of violence and discrimination that they experienced in their country that they are fleeing from.”

Arrival in the United States does not mean an end to discrimination and violence for those seeking asylum. Trans people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are sent to detention facilities that correspond to their sex assigned at birth and not their gender identity. Because of the sexual and physical violence trans women are often subjected to when housed in men’s units, ICE frequently locks these women up in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, for their “safety.” This time in profound isolation, compounded by the traumas already experienced to that point, takes a heavy toll on their mental health.

“The United States is one of few rich Western countries that incarcerates asylum seekers and does not provide them with governmental support while they are in the asylum proceedings. The United States does not provide special protections for LGBTQIA+ immigrants and that is why the work of building powerful, inclusive, and fearless immigrant communities and LGBTQIA+ communities is so important.”

QDEP has been a UUSC partner organization since 2017. UUSC supports QDEP’s direct services program which assists LGBTQIA+ immigrants in ICE detention as well as those newly released with rent, grocery, and utility support. UUSC has also been partnering with QDEP for the past three years on a leadership development program for trans women, cis queer women, and gender non-conforming folks who are impacted by the immigration system.

“[This program] helped uplift amazing community members who are now becoming leaders of the movement to abolish ICE, and fight transphobia and homophobia as well as sexism,” says Ian. “We are so very grateful to UUSC for all their work and continued support. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

Ian goes on to say, “I believe that love, care, and solidarity make our lives possible and make our communities powerful and soft at the same time. Love, care and solidarity build bonds and relationships that can’t be easily destroyed by the violence and injustice. And only together, in strong unity, will we be able to abolish ICE, prisons, and other systems of domination and injustice that impact our lives.”

Go deeper and take action:

Adult Programs in December

FCB Sangha: Mondays at 7:30 pm (online)

Contact: James Hencke Meditation practice allows us to dwell in the present moment.

Gentle Yoga and Meditation with Teresa Howe: Wednesdays through December 21, 9:30 - 10:30 am, Parish Hall

Bring a yoga mat, strap or fabric belt and blanket. Drop in. No registration required. This class will be held for 7 weeks. Teresa Howe is a certified yoga teacher with over 12 years of experience teaching.

Films about Black Lives: Saturday, December 17, 7:30 pm (online)

Facilitated discussion led by Diana Dill and Eva Patalas. Films change monthly.

Straight Outta Compton (2016) - F. Gary Gray - In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album, "Straight Outta Compton," stirs controversy with its brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles. With guidance from veteran manager Jerry Heller, band members Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren navigate their way through the industry, acquiring fame, fortune and a place in history. (Amazon, Apple TV)

First Church Book Group, 7:30 pm (online)

December 29: A couple of poems from each of these U.S. Poet Laureates-Joy Harjo, Billy Collins, Kay Ryan and Tracy K. Smith.

January 25: Think Again, by Adam Grant

February 22: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

First Church Belmont UU Alliance Zoom Program - Thursday January 12, 11 a.m. (online)

Presented by Mark Rosenstein

"A Naturalist's Year: Highlights in New England"

For a naturalist in New England, there is something to see at any time of year. You can find birds, mammals, even insects in any month of the year. But knowledgeable naturalists know the best time of year to look for certain creatures, and at any given time, what the best spectacle is to look for. Snowy Owls in January, Bald Eagles in February, young animals in June, silk moths in July. Mark Rosenstein will describe the highlights at various times through the year here in New England, illustrated with his nature photography.

New Adult Programs Coming in January

Gather Round: Deep Winter Discussions on Self and Community with Rachel Greenberger, 4 Sundays beginning January 7; 4 p.m. (online)

A Gather Round is a facilitated discussion on a particular topic, anchored by a pre-assigned reading or listening. Contact Rachel for topics and details. Each session stands alone.

Revisiting the First Church Traditional Covenant with John Howe: Sunday, January 8, 12:30 p.m., Parlor

What does it mean to come together as a UU congregation? What is the overarching spirit and purpose of our church community?

Since 1900, the First Church bylaws have included the historic "Ames Covenant" or bond of fellowship. This covenant reads: "In the love of the truth and the spirit of Jesus we unite for the worship of God and the service of man."

Is this a faithful reflection of who we are as a congregation today? Or does our covenant need to be updated?

The FCB Parish Board is currently taking steps to draft a revised set of bylaws for consideration by the membership in spring 2023. Here are two of the key questions the church faces: (1) Whether to retain, modify, or replace the Ames Covenant; and (2) whether our covenant should be integral to, or separate from, our bylaws.

Please plan to join an important discussion session on these topics led by FCB parish historian John Howe. The session will begin with a brief recap of John's October 30 presentation, followed by an introduction to other forms of covenant used throughout our denomination.

After addressing these two pressing questions, we will engage in a more general discussion on how we might arrive at a covenantal statement fitting for this era of the church's life.

Please bring a sandwich; light refreshments and drinks will also be available.

OWL for Adults with Ran Courant-Morgan, beginning January 8, 4:30 p.m. in the Parlor; register below

Join us this winter for a series of four workshops from Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Older Adults, a curriculum that takes a values-based, social justice approach to the sexuality of adults in midlife and beyond.

Sexuality is one of the most basic components of being human; we are sexual beings from birth to death. As we age, however, it is commonly assumed that we either know everything we need to know about sexuality or have lost interest in it. Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Older Adults offers a rare opportunity for adults in middle and older age to talk to each other in a facilitated context about a topic they may find fascinating, confusing, frustrating, and rewarding. Too often, communication about older adult sexuality focuses on sexual dysfunction rather than on the benefits of healthy sexuality. In this program, participants learn new information, examine their values, and build communication and sexual health skills.

These 2-hour workshops will be facilitated by trained sexuality educator Ran Courant-Morgan. Participants should plan to attend all four sessions, which will take place in person. The curriculum is designed especially for participants ages 50 and up; interested adults over age 35 are welcome to enroll. All genders are invited. Registration required.

Spiritual Renewal through Poetry with Peter Guthrie, weekly from January 8 - January 29, 2 p.m., in the Parlor

Robert Frost once defined a poem as a “momentary stay against confusion.” Good poems can help us see ourselves and our lives more clearly. We will read and discuss poems that deal with spiritual issues in the broadest sense of the term. This is a drop in program. No rsvp necessary. Contact:

“Green Cuisine: Preparing and Sharing Plant Based Meals” with Michael Griffin, begins January 10, 5 - 7:30 p.m. in the church kitchen; register below

Have you been thinking about going plant based or curious to see how to make simple plant based meals? Join us for one or more plant based dining experiences. Michael Griffin will be sharing ideas and recipes for plant based meals that are simple to prepare. You can sign up to help prepare the meal and feast or just come for the Feast. Each session will feature a soup/appetizer, salad, entree with sides, dessert and a few surprises. You will leave with the recipes and a full belly. To help cover the costs, we ask for a $10 per person donation (to be submitted at each dinner). To sign up please go to: Eating for our Planet Sign Up.

  • January 10: International Foods from the Southern Hemisphere

  • February 7: Comfort classics for a winter night or super bowl party

  • March 14: Italian Inspired dishes

  • April 11: Spring Classics

  • Food prep will be from 5:00 - 6:30 PM (limit 8 assistants)

  • Feast: 6:30 - 7:30 PM (In the Upper Gathering Hall)

"White Hot Hate" with Dick Lehr, January 20, 7:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall

Dick Lehr will discuss his new book, set in Kansas in 2016, where a small group of far-right nationalists plotted to bomb Somali refugees in Garden City, Kansas. Through this story, he will discuss how far right media, Facebook and the internet created an echo chamber that served to inspire the bomb plotters with paranoid rage and misinformation. The book is titled: WHITE HOT HATE: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America’s Heartland.”

First Church member Dick Lehr, is a professor of journalism at Boston University, and the author of seven award-winning works of nonfiction and fiction. For more information

Books will be available for purchase. Refreshments. RSVP

The First Church Organ with Simon Andrews, January 22, 12:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary Organ Loft

Have you been curious about how our magnificent Casavant organ works? Join our organist, Simon Andrews for a demonstration and explanation or our organ, and learn something of the history of the organ and its place in worship. Maximum of 12 people; the program is up steep stairs into the Organ Loft. Register here. For more information about Simon:

Updating our First Church By-laws with Roger Read and Martha Courant, January 29, 12:30 p.m. in the Parlor

Presentation and discussion of proposed changes to church bylaws.

Save the Date for these New Adult Programs

Date With Death Club program with Jackie James, January 31, 7:30 p.m. (online)

Writing Memoir Workshop with Martha Spaulding begins February 5, 4 p.m. (online)

Begin weaving the story of your life using specific memories for thread.

“Slow Looking” with Nelina Backman, February 5, 12:30 p.m. in the Parlor

Join Nelina Backman in a powerful conversational ritual/protocol she has practiced with a group of educators for the past 20 years.

Confronting our History: Part 1 - The Stories Behind the Tiffany Window with John Howe and the FCB History Group, February 12, 12:30 p.m. in the Parlor

First Church Annual "Moth" Hour with Ian Garvie and Richard Waring, February 17, 7:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall

Join us for stories from our beloved community that help root us, define us, give us a sense of our past and future.

"Eating a Jewish Life" - a facilitated discussion led by Eleanor Sugarman with Judi Berman and Susan Kobayashi, February 26, 2 p.m. in the Parlor

Join us as we remember the foods of our Jewish traditions and the memories they elicit.

Social Action News

The Holiday Gift Fair was a Resounding Success!

The Social Action Committee is pleased to share that this year's Social Action Holiday Gift Fair was not only a festive and energetic gathering of our community, it also raised over $13,000!

The funds will benefit people and causes near and far, including refugees and immigrants locally; families in El Salvador, Uganda, Guatemala, India; sustainable agriculture in Guatemala; food assistance on the front lines of crises; LGBTQ young people; the global climate crisis; animal welfare; women's healthcare and abortion rights; and so much more... plus our very own social action programming and the youth group's service learning trip.

Thank you to all who volunteered in various ways and to all who attended and shopped.

Gift ideas that honor your loved ones and the planet from FCB Green

A gift can have a big impact not just on your loved one but on the planet. Some easy, smart ideas include a membership to Mothers Out Front, an organization advocating for a livable future, $20(suggested); the gift of time-such as babysitting, chores, home cooked food or an activity together; help for lower emission eating such as a vegan cookbook, cooking class or gift card to a vegan restaurant such as the Red Lentil in Watertown,

CommUUnity Collaborative Winter 2023 Programs

Are you looking to deepen understanding of UU values and theology? CommuUUnity Collaborative is a Unitarian Universalist platform created/conducted by ministers and staff teams who want to share new programs with their congregations, and beyond. The course catalogue includes a variety of stimulating programs and workshops to help adults deepen their faith, wrestle with big questions, and nurture their souls. For more information and to register for any of the following programs go to our website

The Preacher’s Eye: Sermons from Lay Leaders

Revs. Gary Smith and Chris Jablonski

Sundays, January 15, February 19, March 19, 3 - 4:30pm

With supportive peers, we’ll find our voice for the UU pulpit. Where do sermons come from and how can we point our congregations toward hope.

Queer Theology Group

Rev. Laura Solomon

Thursdays, January 19, February. 2, 16, March 2, 16, 7:30 - 9pm

"What is queer theology? How do we queer theology? As queer folks of faith, how do we claim (or reclaim) and shape (or reshape) our understandings of ourselves, the world, and all that is such that we also know the queerness inherent in the world, in God, and in our faith?

Movie Making Club

Rev. Dave Egan

Mondays, January 30, February 13, 27, March 13, 27, 7:30 - 9pm

Have you ever wanted to learn how make a movie? Then come join us for this fun and interactive five-session movie making course. All ages welcome.

Class will be limited to 15.

Higher and Friendly Powers: Transforming Addiction and Suffering

Peg O’Connor

Wednesday, February 8, 7:30 - 9pm

Peg O’Connor argues for a far more spacious conception of higher power than is traditionally encountered in twelve steps programs. Join Rev. Chris Jablonski and Intern Minister John O’Connor of First Church in Belmont, and Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie of Arlington Street Church for an engaging panel discussion.

Leading in Times of Change

Revs. Jenna Crawford /Chris Jablonski

Mondays, February 13 and March 6, 7 - 8:30pm

This class will explore the works of Karen Hering and Susan Beaumont as well as Buddhist psychology and teachings around change.

Class will be limited to 25.

The Revelation of John: Notes from the Edge of the Abyss

Intern Minister John O’Connor

Tuesdays, February 14 and 28, 7:30 - 9pm

As Unitarian Universalists, how are we to engage with the Apocalypse, one of the most troubling texts from our Christian tradition? Join us for a two part discussion of this thesis which offers John’s translation, the original Greek text, an introduction, study questions, and original artwork.

New UU Class

Revs. Daniel Gregoire and Chris Jablonski

Sundays, March 5 and 12, 3 - 4:30pm

Come and explore Unitarian Universalism! This is a class especially for people who are newer to Unitarian Universalism or for people who have been in church a long time without digging into our rich history.

Class will be limited to 25.

A House for Hope: Exploring Unitarian Universalist Theologies

Rev. Rob Hardies

Tuesdays, 7- 8:30pm, February 28, March 7, 14, 28, April 4, 11

Would you like to better understand what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist? Are you interested in UU approaches to thinking about life’s important questions? Using Rebecca Parker and John Buehren’s book, A House for Hope as our guide, we will explore the rich insights of our Unitarian Universalist theological tradition and explore our own beliefs.

Class will be limited to 20.

The Complete Church Calendar of Events

Next Issue: Thursday, January 5

Please use this form to submit your news or event (you can upload photos and graphics and paste links to further information) by noon on Wednesday, January 4.

Submissions may be edited for space and clarity. The Unitarian is published the first and third Thursdays of the month, September - June, and monthly in July and August.

Forms for church members

We Are Here For You

Staff are working from home. Office hours are Monday - Thursday, 9 - 2. Feel free to contact us for anything you need. The church office and church building will be closed from December 23 until January 3, 2023.


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