What to Expect in Worship
We gather in worship to find meaning and live more deeply. Worship creates connections within, among, and beyond us, calling us to our better selves, calling us to live with wisdom and compassion.
Unitarian Universalist worship styles vary by congregation, and even within congregations. Some congregations’ worship is contemporary and high tech. Some congregations’ worship is traditional and formal. Some features exuberant music, some includes long periods of silent reflection. Our congregation’s worship is reflective.
Because Unitarian Universalism welcomes and celebrates diversity, our worship services can be very different from one another. However, most will include the following elements:
- Words of welcome
- Lighting a flaming chalice, the symbol of our faith
- A multigenerational segment, such as a “story for all ages”
- Music, both instrumental and vocal (we love to sing together!)
- A time for lifting up the joys and concerns of the congregation
- Community prayer and silent time for personal prayer and meditation
- Readings and reflections
- A sermon given by our professional minister, Rev. Tricia Brennan, a guest speaker, or a member of the congregation
- An offering, collecting financial donations for the congregation or for justice work in the community
From time to time, worships incorporate holiday celebrations, multigenerational plays and pageants, longer musical performances, child dedications, and coming-of-age ceremonies. We offer childcare and learning programs for children and youth during the Sunday service.
In addition, our congregation also specifically hosts a Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation practice as part of our spiritual offerings every Tuesday evening at 7pm (upstairs in the religious education classrooms).
Dress: There’s no dress code at First Parish. You are as likely to find sweaters and blue jeans as you are a shirt and tie or “Sunday Best” attire. We want you to come however you feel most comfortable.
Time: The service starts at 11:00 AM, it lasts about an hour and it is followed by an informal social time.
Children’s programs: If you come with children, you are welcome to have them either try out our Religious Education program or stay with you during the service. On most Sundays, the minister or service leader will invite the children to come forward for a message or story (a “Story for All Ages”) early in the service, after which the kids go upstairs for their program. If you wish, you may also accompany them upstairs.
Greeters: members of the congregation will be at the entrance to the church to welcome you and answer your questions. The minister or service leader will often greet people in the sanctuary.
Name tags: Members and regular attendees wear name tags most weeks. Newcomers are invited to wear temporary name tags, which are available at the greeter table.
Order of service: A greeter will give you a program that describes the sequence of the worship celebration for the morning including information on the hymns, prayers and readings. Hymn and reading numbers are also posted on the wall on both sides of the altar. Current announcements are on the back of the order of service. The worship sequence is similar each week with some changes according to the worship theme, season or holiday.
Hymns: The hymnals we use and provide in the pews on Sundays are Singing the Living Tradition (the “gray hymnal”) and its supplement Singing the Journey (the teal hymnal). Lyrics to other hymns and vocal parts are included in the order of service. Our singing is accompanied by organ, piano and occasionally other instruments. Music is an essential part of our worship celebrations and congregational life.
Choir: Our volunteer choir is open to all who like to sing and is directed by our organist Dr. Ana Sorina Popa. Rehearsals are usually held twice a month before the service.
Collection: We pass the baskets each week for contributions to support the work and mission of First Parish. Special collections, such as for the Minister’s Help Fund, are taken occasionally during the church year and the Meetinghouse Restoration Project is an ongoing fundraising campaign for our building. As a financially self-supporting, self-governing congregation, annual pledges by members cover most of our operating budget. We, at First Parish, are grateful for all the contributions and support we receive.
Altar flowers: The order of service includes the dedication of the altar table flowers each week. Members and friends of the congregation contribute for the flowers, which are arranged by the aesthetics group on the Worship Committee
Lighting candles: Time is usually reserved during the service for people come up to the altar and light a candle and share briefly with the congregation a joy or concern that they have. On the right of the altar, is another table for people to light a candle in private and if they like, write something in a book kept on the table.
Fellowship: After worship, coffee hour is held in the parish hall, accessible through the doors on both sides of the altar. This is our friendly and informal social time for the church community, friends and visitors. Coffee, teas, and beverages for kids are provided by the church. A different church member of group of members volunteers to provide light refreshments and to set-up and clean-up each week.