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The Unitarian — February 2, 2023


Sunday, February 5: “The People, United”

Rev. Chris on the power of community and connection to strengthen resistance and help us build a more just and loving world. Services at 9 am and 11 am in the Sanctuary. Childcare is available.

Upcoming Services

  • Thursday, February 9: Chanting Vespers in the Sanctuary with Camila Parias at 6:30 pm

  • Sunday, February 12: “The Shadow Of Your Dog” Rev. Chris, John and members of our worship committee explore why we are confused about love and how we can love more wisely and well.

FCB is Online

From Your Intern Minister, John O’Connor

Resistance Is Futile. Or Is It?

In Start Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg proclaim that “Resistance is futile” — that there is no chance of escaping conquest and incorporation into the collective. And yet we know that Captain Jean-Luc Picard does resist, and the crew of the Enterprise does survive. Who, or what, are the Borg of our time? How best can we resist, so as to not only survive, but to thrive? Two offerings in this year’s CommUUnity Collaborative programs offer us some insight.

The Four Horseman, as if from a nightmare out of some long-past time, do seem to be raining plagues down upon us today—war, famine, disease, and all manner of horrible deaths. What are we to make of the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, the murder of Tyree Nichols, the mass killings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, and climate catastrophe? The Apocalypse might seem like an unlikely bit of scripture to turn to for comfort in these challenging, troubling times — especially for Unitarian Universalists. After all, isn’t it all about the end of the world and eternal damnation?

For a different view of the Apocalypse, check out the course, The Revelation of John: Notes from the Abyss. Explore with Intern Minister John O’Connor how coming to recognize repeated patterns of human behavior can offer us all a chance to pause, to reflect, to come to know where we have fallen short of the mark, and finally to make changes that will yield better results, for ourselves and for the world. Come and dive into this rich and lurid text filled with beasts, dragons, demons, and even an army of 144,000 virgins! The world need not come to a cataclysmic end. Come, dip your toe into the lake of fire on February 14th and 28th. The water’s warm.

Another scourge many of us are all too familiar with is that of addiction and alcoholism. Most models of recovery are based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which require a belief in a Higher Power — which in the literature often reads as a Christian-centric, providential god. As Unitarian Universalists, how can we successfully engage with 12 step programs to resist temptation and recover when we may not believe in this type of god, or any god for that matter? Join professor, author, and former chair of the Nobel Conference on Addiction Peg O’Connor as she agues for a far more spacious conception of High Power based on the writings of William James. Rev. Chris Jablonski, Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie, and Intern Minister John O’Connor will then lead a panel discussion on her latest book, Higher and Friendly Powers ,on February 8th. A limited amount of free copies of the book are available to attendees!

To register for these and other life-affirming courses, simply go to

Together Again: First Church stewardship campaign is launching

Stewardship season is here! Be on the lookout for pledge packets, which will arrive in your mailbox next week, and take time to consider what First Church means to you. The many gifts we receive from this special place are possible only with *our* financial support.Please pledge as generously as you can, by March 1st. If any questions, thoughts, or comments, feel free to contact the Stewardship Committee (, Bruce Logan and Gina Carloni, co-chairs, with Susan Kobayashi, Susan Galli, and Katharine Canfield.

The Bylaws Are Coming! The Bylaws Are Coming!

Please mark your calendars for a Special Meeting of the congregation on Sunday April 2.

The First Church Bylaws Task Force has been reviewing and updating the church Bylaws, and you the members of First Church will be asked to approve the amendments at the April 2 Special Meeting.

We invite you to learn more and share your thoughts at the Task Force’s next informational meeting on Zoom this Sunday February 5th at 4:00 pm. Please send an email to the Task Force at to request the Zoom link and the current drafts. You can also find the current draft materials at The Task Force also presented the current draft at a well-attended meeting after church on Sunday Jan. 29.

Please save the date for the congregational Special Meeting – Sunday April 2nd at 12:30 pm. With thanks from First Church Bylaws Task Force: Roger Read, Chair Martha Courant Anne Stuart

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 UU Urban Ministry

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.

First Church Annual “Moth” Hour

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. "Moth" stories are true, unscripted accounts (5 minutes or less) as remembered by the storyteller that remind us how fascinating, brave, complex, and fragile we are. It's been said that God created people because God loves stories.

Come to listen, come to share.

RSVP online by clicking here. Want to share a story of your own? Contact Richard Waring.

The Return of the Women’s Retreat

A beloved tradition of the women of First Church, rescheduled after a three-year hiatus, will take place at Rolling Ridge, in Andover, the weekend of April 28–30. All those who registered and paid for the 2020 Retreat are guaranteed their spots this year. Nevertheless, we anticipate some openings, given the change in schedule. If you’d like to be put on the waiting list, please get in touch with Martha Spaulding at

Save the Date for the First Church Live Auction: Saturday, May 6

Save the Date! Our highly popular, deeply memorable, fun-filled FCB fundraiser will take place on Saturday, May 6, with food, music, dancing, and a live auction. If you've attended in the past, you know how exciting this event is. If you haven't, be prepared to have a blast. Think about what you might donate, how you can help, and most of all, what a good time you can have. Email

Board Games and Crafts on Thursday Evenings

Join us after Vespers for an evening of crafts and games. Bring your knitting project, your favorite games, or just yourself. There will be hot cocoa and snacks.

We'll be in the Parlor from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Click here for more details on the church events calendar. Questions? Contact Samuel Foster.

Second Friday Concerts present JIM'S BIG EGO

Friday, February 10, 7:30 pm in the Parish Hall

Jim's Big Ego compares itself to such major players as The Great Wall of China, The Grand Canyon, Antarctica, and other things you can see from space. If you perform a Google search for "the Greatest Band in the History of Recorded Music," you will get only one result: Jim's Big Ego.

Jim's Big Ego has carved their unique place in the the music world by rocking harder, fresher, louder, sweeter and better than everyone else. Their secret to awesomeness is singer, songwriter, and all around super-genius, Jim Infantino. His innate ability to create songs that are more brilliant than all others in history gives the band the gift of greatness.

Attending this concert will be the greatest night of your life.

Upcoming Programs

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, 9:30 am in the Parish Hall, through February 15

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.

FCB Garden Group, February 2, 4 pm (online)

Share your gardening tips and learn from others. During the winter months we meet online but once the weather is conducive we meet outdoors to enjoy being together in a garden. The group meets monthly on the first Thursday of the month at 4:00 PM. Contact Jess Hausman for more information.

SoUUper Lunch every Wednesday

All are welcome to a soup-based lunch at noon on Wednesdays in the Upper Gathering Hall. Each week a volunteer brings a delicious homecooked soup to share with everyone. There will be bread, some sort of dessert, and tea and coffee. You are welcome to drop in for some sustenance, friendly conversation, and a chance to connect and deepen over something tasty. If you would like to volunteer to bring the soup, or something else to share, you can sign up online. Click here for more details on the church website. Questions? Contact Samuel Foster.

Valentine's Day Card Workshop, Saturday, February 4, in the Parlor

Come join friends and make Valentines. Judi Berman will lead a fun workshop for all ages. There will be all sorts of craft supplies to help your Valentines look gorgeous, dynamic, tender, funny, cute, and filled with love. Why so early? Get your Valentines done this weekend, so you can mail some of them to those you love beyond Massachusetts. They'll arrive before the 14th! Kids are warmly encouraged to join in. There will also be childcare in the classroom wing. Email Samuel Foster if you have any questions. Sign up here:

Writing Memoir Workshop with Martha Spaulding begins February 5, 2 p.m. (online)

Begin weaving the story of your life using specific memories for thread. Before each meeting of the group, you’ll receive prompts designed to tease out pieces of your past. You may write in response to them or simply go your own way. When we’re together, we’ll share what we’ve written (though anyone may pass) and then talk about what other memories may have been evoked by the sharing.

This is not a workshop to teach or critique writing. Feedback on the style or technique of others is very strongly discouraged. We’re gathering to be delighted and provoked by the stories we hear and to strengthen our connections to one another. The workshop is limited to 10 participants on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact Martha to sign up.

“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. The protocol facilitates non-judgmental, collaborative “looking” at an object brought by a participant. We’ll accumulate observations, then share associations, questions, and speculations all before the “bringer” divulges the object’s provenance. The insights that emerge from such conversations can have deep and surprising emotional and spiritual resonance.

“Green Cuisine: Preparing and Sharing Plant Based Meals” with Michael Griffin, February 7, 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.

  • 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)

First Church Belmont UU Alliance Zoom Program - Thursday February 9, 11 a.m. (online)

Presented by John Howe: "A Virtual Tour of the Mount Auburn Cemetery"

This program will take us on a virtual tour of historic Mount Auburn Cemetery. John will show us some of the highlights of the cemetery and we will learn more about its place in the garden cemetery movement. We will then visit a dozen or so gravesites of especially notable members of our church, learn some biographical details and see pictures of several of the key individuals who helped to establish and grow our church during its first half-century.

John Howe, along with his wife Teresa, began attending FCB in 1995, soon after moving to Belmont. He succeeded Jim Landfried as our church’s lead parish historian in 2021. While he has served the church in many positions, his principal attachment to the church is as a chorister. Next month he will mark 25 years as a regular weekly member of FCB’s senior choir; for twenty years he has also sung occasionally with the Linden Singers quartet.

To get the zoom link, contact Miriam Baker at or at (857) 228-8456.

Saturday Film Discussion with Nate Sellers, 8 pm (online)

Contact Lillian Anderson for Zoom link

Feb. 11 - Vagabond (1987)

Vagabond is a 1985 French drama film directed by Agnès Varda, featuring Sandrine Bonnaire. It tells the story of a young woman, a vagabond, who wanders through the Languedoc-Roussillon wine country one winter. The film was the 36th highest-grossing film of the year with a total of 1,080,143 admissions in France.

Mar. 11 - Daughter of the Dust (1991)

Daughters of the Dust is a 1991 independent film written, directed and produced by Julie Dash and is the first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States Set in 1902, it tells the story of three generations of Gullah women in the Peazant family on Saint Helena Island as they prepare to migrate off the island, out of the Southern United States, and into the North.

The film gained critical praise for its lush visuals, Gullah dialogue and non-linear storytelling. The cast features Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O, Trula Hoosier, Vertamae Grosvenor, and Kaycee Moore and was filmed on St. Helena Island in South Carolina. Daughters of the Dust was selected for the Sundance 1991 dramatic competition. Director of photography Arthur Jafa won the top cinematography prize. The film is also known for being the first by an African American woman to gain a general theatrical release.

Films About Black Lives, Meets on the third Saturday of the month at 7:30pm on Zoom

February 18 - Indian Horse (2017). Film. Follows the life of Native Canadian Saul Indian Horse as he survives residential school and life amongst the racism of the 1970s. A talented hockey player, Saul must find his own path as he battles stereotypes and alcoholism. Based on book by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe). IMDB rating 7.3. Netflix.

March 18 - The Color Purple (1985). Film. Based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple is a richly-textured, powerful film set in America's rural south. Director: Steven Spielberg. IMDB rating 7.7. Apple TV, HBO Max. Complement with NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast Revisiting “The Color Purple” wars.

April 15 - Uncle Tom (2020). Documentary. An oral history of the American black conservative. Director: Justin Malone. IMDB rating 8.3. Amazon.

May 20 - The Woman King (2022). Film. A historical epic inspired by true events that took place in The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood. Still in theaters. Amazon.

June 17 - Till (2022). Film. In 1955, after Emmett Till is murdered in a brutal lynching, his mother vows to expose the racism behind the attack while working to have those involved brought to justice. Director: Chinonye Chukwu. IMDB rating 7.2. Still in theaters. Amazon.

Facilitated discussion led by Diana Dill and Eva Patalas. Contact for the Zoom link.

Confronting our History: The Stories behind the Tiffany Window

Two important programs in February will explore the early history of First Church and its ties to chattel slavery in Cuba. On Sunday, February 12, at 12:30 PM, the First Church History Group will present "The Stories behind the Tiffany Window." This session will explore the group's findings on the topic of the Tiffany window in the sanctuary, its connection to the Atkins family during the nineteenth century, and the family's economic ties to the labor of enslaved people on sugar plantations in Cuba. On Sunday, February 26, at 12:30 PM, the History Group will lead a follow-up session, "How Do We Respond?" The group will pose some questions about what these historical findings might mean for the church today, for general discussion. All are welcome. Email Samuel Foster with any questions.

The Revelation of John: Notes from the Edge of the Abyss: February 14, 7:30 pm (online)

Intern Minister John O’Connor leads a two-part series of virtual workshops as part of the Community Collaborative. As Unitarian Universalists, how are we to engage with the Apocalypse, one of the most troubling texts from our Christian tradition? John argues that because this text continues to inform popular US culture and politics, we cannot ignore it. Rather than “predicting the end of the world,” John argues the text offers humankind the chance to reconsider its ways, and to make better decisions. Join us for discussion of John's thesis, which offers his translation of the Apocalyse, the original Greek text, an introduction, study questions, and original artwork. For a free PDF copy click here. To register for this two-part program, fill out this form. The second session will be on February 28. There is a full catalogue of Community Collaborative programs.

New Fellowship Events at First Church: Brainstorming and Planning Session: February 19, 12:30 pm in the Parlor

Want more fun-filled social events at First Church? Join us after the 11:00 AM service on February 19 to brainstorm ideas and even start planning events. A contra dance lesson in the Parish Hall? A trip to the mountains? A talent show? A quilting group? A hootenanny? We can make it all happen. You can even lead an event yourself! Let's team up and brainstorm. There will be snacks. Email Samuel Foster with any questions.

First Church Cooks, February 19, 5:30 pm

This month, Lauren Crocker will be demonstrating her "Shallot Shebang" recipe. Join us on February 19 at 5:30 PM over Zoom.

At First Church Cooks, each month's recipe is demonstrated step-by-step in real time, as you either cook along in your own kitchen, or just enjoy the demonstration and fellowship of First Church friends. All are welcome. Email Lillian Anderson for the Zoom link.

Below are Lauren's instructions.

For our February First Church Cooks, I thought we would feature a recipe from an up-and-coming young chef named Will Coleman. I’ve made Will’s 10-Shallot Braised Chicken several times with great success. We will cook Will’s recipe as well as a vegan version where we will braise an assortment of veggies with our shallots. This recipe always takes me longer than I think it will, so I recommend the “Do Ahead” steps below.

Will serves his chicken over mashed potatoes. I usually pair it with rice and a big green salad.

Ingredient List:

10-Shallot Braised Chicken Thighs

12 ounces shallots (6 to 10)

4 cloves garlic

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary leaves

2 large sprigs fresh thyme leaves

3 to 4 large sprigs fresh parsley

1 large lemon

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, or any oil with a high smoke point

6 slices bacon (about 6 ounces)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or olive oil) 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup dry white wine

Do Ahead

10-Shallot Braised Vegetables

12 ounces shallots (6 to 10)

4 cloves garlic

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary leaves

2 large sprigs fresh thyme leaves

3 to 4 large sprigs fresh parsley

1 large lemon

Assortment of green cabbage, potatoes and carrots (and whatever else sounds good)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, or any oil with a high smoke point

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 cup dry white wine

You can add all of the below to a bowl as you complete each step (it will smell great!):

  • Peel and thinly slice 12 ounces shallots (about 3 cups)

  • Mince 4 garlic cloves (about 2 tablespoons)

  • Pick the leaves from 2 large fresh rosemary sprigs, 2 large fresh thyme sprigs, and 3 to 4 large sprigs fresh

  • parsley and finely chop (2 teaspoons of each)

  • Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

  • If you are making the chicken/bacon version, cut 6 slices of bacon crosswise into 1-inch pieces.

Will was introduced to us by our older son Ben. Ben and Will met in a summer high school program at Northwestern. I follow Will on Instagram ( and have made a number of his recipes.

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

Feb. 22 Station Eleven, E. St. John Mandel

Mar. 29 Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Coming Up in March

Revisiting Our Covenant: Next Steps with John Howe, March 5, 12:45 pm in the Parlor

Our third discussion regarding updating our church's traditional Ames Covenant.

Why Transylvania? March 7, 7:30 pm on Zoom

Find out about our relationship with our partner church in Transylvania.

"Eating a Jewish Life" - a facilitated discussion led by Eleanor Sugarman with Judi Berman and Susan Kobayashi, March 12, 12:30 p.m. in the Parlor

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

Little Worlds: Four Novellas with Peter Guthrie, begins March 19, 2 pm in the Parlor

In this program we will read and discuss four remarkable novellas: Ivan Turgenev’s First Love, Henry James’s Daisy Miller, Katherine Anne Porter’s Old Mortality, and Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These. Enrollment is limited to 12 participants. If you are interested, please contact Peter Guthrie at

From the FCB Green Committee

Over the last 21 months, the sole focus of the FCBGreen Committee has been to make the case for the importance of decarbonizing the church building systems by 2035 and persuading the congregation, through its governing structure, to commit to achieving this objective.

Our goal was to persuade the Parish Board and the relevant church committees to make the commitment to achieve the goal of church building carbon neutrality by 2035. The importance of achieving this objective has, historically and ethically, become increasingly compelling and apparent. But demonstrating the feasibility of achieving it was more challenging. And until FCBGreen was able to chart out in broad strokes what we would have to do and what kind of financial commitment this would require, the Parish Board was, understandably, reticent to make this commitment.

By 2035, the church building’s current heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems will be nearing the end of their life expectancies, so our congregation will need to replace them - one way or another. The objective is to replace them with systems that do not rely on the burning of fossil fuels. From our current vantage point – 13 years before the goal date – it is not possible to know what zero emissions HVAC technologies will be available to serve the needs of the church efficiently and economically. It is also not possible to predict the trajectories of electricity and natural gas rates between now and 2035, nor the technological advances that will be made, nor the extent to which these technological solutions will become cheaper, nor the availability of government incentives, nor the extent of the savings our congregation will certainly realize as a result of this conversion. Everyone understands this.

FCBGreen is charting out what actions will need to be taken and what replacements will need to be made over the upcoming 13 years. The initial steps - weatherizing our church building and adding insulation to the sanctuary and parlor – have already been completed.

According to Laurie Graham, Parish Board President…

"The Board has written into the church's Strategic Plan that ‘FCB is committed to moving toward a carbon neutral building space'. To set a path to achieve carbon neutrality of the building and its systems by 2035 FCBGreen will be presenting to the Parish Board a draft of a 13-year work plan. This plan will be refined on an on-going basis, considering the need for equipment replacement, new technologies becoming available, the life cycle cost of those technologies, and considerable government incentives that will cushion the up-front costs. Steps in the plan will be implemented in collaboration with, and approved by, the Property Care Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Parish Board. Given the considerable unknowns, the Parish Board is not able to commit to achieving total carbon neutrality by a specific date. It is hoped, however, that by adopting and implementing an approved 13-year plan, that this important goal can be met by 2035."

We will continue to report on the progress our congregation makes toward the achievement of our goal of church building carbon neutrality by 2035.

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 Complete Church Calendar of Events

Next Issue: Thursday, February 16

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, February 15.

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.


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