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The Unitarian — August 25, 2022


Summer Worship in the Parish Hall at 10 am

August 28

Rev. Lauren Smith

Director of Stewardship and

Development at the UUA

September 4

Rev. Chris Jablonski


Childcare is available.

From Your Minister

I was preparing for one of the summer worship services, having arrived habitually early, having helped to set up chairs and a table outside to bless the animals. Holy water and chalice in place, all was ready and I turned to go back into the church, and the light was just so, and the reflection was just so and I saw the image above.

And it looked as if there was light and life inside the church. It looked like there was a bright, growing life inside the church. And it made me smile.

Partly because it is so true.

We have so much life right now at First Church.

After a few challenging years of unknown programming parameters, of plans made and changed, we enter this year in a different way.

Building on our COVID strategies of last year we will continue to provide many ways for folks to connect and to deepen and to serve, allowing everyone to manage their own risk tolerance with many different sizes and styles and mechanisms of gathering.

We will have outdoor services once again, three in the fall and three in the spring, inviting the whole community to gather outdoors for worship. These were such a joy last year, and will continue this year. The first of these will be on October 2nd pending town approval.

We will also continue to have vespers services every week from Labor Day to Memorial Day. We will experiment a bit with these but for now we are thinking Thursday evenings again, an opportunity for folks to connect for some contemplative worship in the middle of the week.

And we will also return to Sunday worship at 9:00 and 11:00, starting with our Water Ingathering Service on September 11th. Please remember to bring water from someplace special to you to combine on that morning with everyone else’s water.

And then we will also have lots of online programs. Many small groups and committees and classes will meet online. Many will also return to in person meetings, each group finding its way.

First Church is alive.

Stay tuned for exciting invitations this year. This year will see the return of the youth service trip, as well as a service learning journey for adults. We will have retreats and workshops, both online and in person, so many ways to reach out and to dig deep.

And as always, lots more wonderful ideas we haven’t even hatched yet.

And this, I think is the verdant, growing, alive thing in the center of the church.

This, I think, is what I saw that day.

It is you. Yes you, dear reader, you are the thing which makes the church come alive. You and your creativity, these ideas just forming inside of you.

And this magical thing that happens when you bring all of you and your ideas and your creativity and your commitment and your passion, and then the person next to you in your row at the outdoor service, or the person in the box next to you on the zoom meeting, when you all, when we all bring all that we have and all that we are, this beautiful community comes alive.

So thank you.

I am so deeply grateful for this opportunity to serve you as your minister.

We have the beginnings of something special here together, and I am so excited for this next chapter, for this coming year.

As always, if you have any questions, if you are hungry to dig deeper, if there is any way I can be of support, do not hesitate to reach out.

I am here for you.

And stay tuned, there will be lots coming your way in the coming weeks from the church, and our communications are always most effective when you read what send you. But you know this if you’ve made it all the way to these words. (Well done! I appreciate you!)

I am often in the church alone. Coming in for meetings before anyone is in the building, I was preparing to meet someone a few days ago, and walked into the sanctuary, and the light was just perfect and illuminated our beautiful window in such an exquisite way.

And I sat in the empty sanctuary and thought of you all.

And I thought of this glowing, beautiful window, this vibrance at the center of our worship space.

And I thought of last year, a year in which we had six different open up strategies, pivoting and pivoting, swirled up in so much change.

And through it all, this glowing center, this aliveness.

Friends, we have been through a lot these last few years.

Know that you are held by your community.

Know that this aliveness, that this glowing warmth and love at the center of First Church is holding you now and always.

I look forward to seeing so many of you in these coming months.

I look forward to this new year, to this next chapter in the long and beautiful story of First Church.

So much love to you all,


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.

Candles of Joy and Concern

Each week, Samuel Foster lights candles of concern and celebration in his weekly video. Samuel looks forward to receiving your news, your reflections, your prayers, indeed anything you feel moved to share with your congregation. Click here to email Samuel. Emails received by Tuesday night will be included in the video for that week; otherwise, the week after.

From the Music Program

The summer is winding down, and that means that once again it's musical season at the church! The children's choir will be starting out the season with a fully staged production of The Sound Of Music, and registration is open! If you would like to learn more or register for the show, please click here, or visit and look under music. You may also contact Ian Garvie, the Director of Music, for more information. Performances will be the weekend of November 17th through the 20th, so mark your calendars!

Second Friday Concerts Update

We are thrilled to announce that tickets to the first six shows of our 2022-2023 season are now on sale! Tickets will go on sale for the last three shows later in the fall. Individual tickets purchased for shows from last season will be honored at the rescheduled show. Season Tickets for this year are also on sale now. And if you purchased a season ticket for 2021-22 it will be honored this season. Visit our website for more details about tickets and concerts.

We're absolutely thrilled about our schedule of performers this year. We know that you're going to love every show and we can't wait to see you. Thanks for your understanding, encouragement and support during these continued difficult times. We are looking forward to seeing you in October -- and every month after that!

FCB Green Insulation Project

Over the summer FCB Green arranged for RISE Engineering to address the air sealing, weather stripping and insulation needs of the church. The work was completed in August at a cost to the church of $3.5K. National Grid kicked-in another $8.2K towards the effort. The payback period is expected to be 2.4 years.

This is the first of many projects that FCB Green will be pursuing as we move to de-carbonize the church. Questions? Contact John Kolterman.

The Johnson House is being revitalized

The First Church in Belmont (FCB) has signed a 10-year lease with The Henry Frost Children’s Program, Inc. (HFCP), which is a Massachusetts for-profit corporation, whose owner and director is Iris Ponte, Ph.D. HFCP intends to remodel the Johnson House for use as a preschool and to renovate the playground for shared use with FCB. The playground will remain a memorial to Edward R. Hennessey, Jr. FCB will be leasing Powers Music School use of religious education classrooms (except Sundays) so we expect to continue our long relationship with them.

Iris Ponte is a Belmont native, attended Belmont High School, was a Fulbright Scholar, and is a respected educator. Dr. Ponte’s approach to early childhood education draws on a broad variety of philosophies and techniques, and FCB is delighted to have HCFP as the new tenant of Johnson House. HFCP currently has one location at Belmont’s Henry Frost Farm on Pleasant Street. There is high demand for their services, which prompted Iris to approach First Church about using the Johnson House as a second location.

In early 2022, First Church’s Parish Board President formed the Johnson House Committee to explore this opportunity with HFCP. The Committee looked at the current use of the Johnson House, current leases, current lease rates in Belmont, anticipated building transition and construction issues, and explored with HFCP their anticipated use of the Johnson House building and the playground. The Committee’s work culminated in a lease signed with HFCP in early June of 2022.

First Church then established the Johnson House Steering Committee (JHSC), which will have oversight of the Johnson House and playground renovation project, which will be led and paid for by HFCP. Pending the issuance of permits, construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2022 and to be completed by September of 2023. Members of the JHSC are: Brian Caputo (Chair), Bob McGaw, James Hencke, Joel Mooney, Jonathan Wolf, and Roger Gallagher. On behalf of FCB, Roger will serve as the point of contact with HFCP. Roger can be reached by email at:

The relationship with HFCP will benefit FCB financially, as well as from the capital investment in the Church-owned property. The resulting improvements should give FCB relief from the burden of maintaining the Johnson House as well. HFCP will benefit by expanding their operations, using a property that is consistent with their philosophy of early childhood education. The families who are part of the HFCP community may become aware of our FCB community as they visit. The Powers Music School will continue to lease our facilities for music lessons.

The Johnson House was built in 1885 as part of the Underwood Estate. It was purchased in 1968 from the estate of Miss Rachel Johnson, a longtime FCB member who had served for many years as the children’s librarian at Belmont’s Underwood Library. The purchase was made possible by a generous bequest from longtime FCB member Marion Gardner. Since the purchase, the Johnson House has been used by First Church and it has been home to a variety of entities, most recently Powers Music School.

To learn more about the school and the environment that will be created, the JHSC expects to host a meeting for our congregation to meet Dr. Ponte in the fall of 2022. You may also view these videos that give a good sense of the existing school and playground created by HFCP.

New and Ongoing Adult Programs

FCB Sangha: Mondays at 7:30 pm

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

Belmont Unitarian Alliance: Thursday, September 8, 11 am

“Retirement Security: It’s Not Just About Money”

Presented by Dr. Jacquelyn James

Jacquelyn “Jackie” James PhD is the Senior Advisor, at Sloan Research Network on Aging and Work at Boston College. Jackie and her husband Sam have been active member of the First Church, Belmont since 1988.

Jackie will present “Retirement Security: It’s Not Just About Money” including her research on the psychological, physical and social dimensions of retirement at any age. She will discuss the resources available for assistance for people retiring. To get the zoom link contact Miriam Baker.

In Our Community

We are community volunteers providing support to an Afghan refugee family of four living in Belmont. The family fled Afghanistan under heartbreaking circumstances a year ago, leaving behind the only life they knew.

The family includes Amin, Zakirah, Asma (16), and Ali (14), who feel very fortunate to be in the US starting a new life. This involves learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture, attending school, and finding appropriate employment. They love Belmont and hope to be able to remain here.

To volunteer to tutor English or high school subjects, provide transportation as needed, or help in other ways, please email Fran Yuan.

Thank you,

Fran Yuan and Shelley Bertolino, with support of the Social Action Committee

Next Issue: Thursday, September 1

Please use this form to submit your news or event (you can also upload photos and graphics and paste links to further information) by noon on Wednesday, August 31. 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.

We Are Here For You

Staff are working from home. Church office hours are Monday - Thursday, 9 - 2. Feel free to contact the church office for anything you need.

Keep Up-to-Date on Church Operations


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