The First Parish Blog

Thinking Beyond Categories

By , October 4, 2013
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A key element of the search process for UU congregations is an exercise that congregations go through called Beyond Categorical Thinking (BCT).

The purpose of the BCT program is to enable us as a congregation to be as open-minded as possible, especially as we plan this next big step toward our collective future. The BCT exercise will help us examine our thinking, and reveal subtle, often unintentional and unconscious biases that might lead us away from that ideal candidate.

The goal, of course, is to enable us to select the candidate who is best for First Parish, but who may not come in the exact age, gender, color or proportions we imagine. Continue reading…

Small Group Ministry Reflections: Phil Murray

Seven years ago I was asked to facilitate a new Small Group Ministry mid-way through the Church service year.   I opened that initial meeting with a reading from Henry David Thoreau’s essay entitled, Life Without Principle.

Let us consider the way we spend our lives…We select granite for the underpinning of our houses and barns; we build fences of stone; but we do not ourselves rest on an underpinning of granitic truth, the lowest primitive rock.  … I often accuse my finest acquaintances of an immense frivolity; for, while there are manners and compliments we do not meet, we do not teach one another the lessons of honesty and sincerity that the brutes do, or of steadiness and solidity that the rocks do.  The fault is commonly mutual, however; for we do not habitually demand any more of each other.

Looking over my notes from that shortened year it now seems the topics covered it all – worship, God, Being Human, Mothers, Fathers.  You might well ask why I could still be involved in Small Group Ministry.  Weren’t all the big issues of life covered in those five short months? Continue reading…

Search Update, Sept. 19

By , September 19, 2013
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20019240_sHere’s what’s happening with the ministerial search process. Your crack search committee continues to remain very focused on all the preliminary work to enable the actual search, including gathering information, telling our story, setting up dates in the winter, and more. If you have questions, suggestions or other advice, please drop us a note at

Okay all, we really need you on this one. As of today, 59 people have taken the Ministerial Search survey, which will close on September 29th. This is a great start, but with ten days left, we are hoping many more will go through the process, which is really important for our future. Our target is to get 100 – 120 survey results, so if you haven’t already please consider taking the time to let us know your priorities. Here’s the post describing the survey.

Continue reading…

Once More, with Feeling: We Need your Input!

Last year, through many cottage dinners, small groups and other discussions, we all shared and recorded vignettes, hopes and concerns about the future of First Parish. These narratives are invaluable as we compile a rich and multi-dimensional picture of the community now and going forward.

Following guidance from the UUA and the example of many other local parishes, there is one more exercise to complete the picture. This is a more quantitative survey where we can learn more specifically about our collective priorities and preferences. The online survey is detailed and thought-provoking, and really important for the ministerial search process.

The process is completely confidential: you will not be asked for your name or contact information. Please find time to complete the survey, which can be accessed at, and help us find the best possible person for our community.

Thanks in advance for refining our collective focus!

Sacred Moments

By , September 1, 2013
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Good morning, and welcome September! And what a day this is: September first, on a Sabbath and on a Labor Day weekend. There is much about this day that signals change. In fact you could say this is one of the three major transition points in the secular calendar, along with New Years and Memorial Day. This day represents not just a new month and a new season, today is a transition from one state of being to another, as many of us move from the relative detachment of the summer state of being back into a re-integration with the machinery of civilization. Continue reading…

Welcome to the Ministerial Search Site

By , August 29, 2013
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First Parish is in the midst of a major transition which began when Rev. John Buehrens retired and will culminate when we call our new minister.  But in reality the transition involves much more than simply selecting a new minister. We are engaged in two years of self-evaluation and forward thinking — and an ongoing conversation among all members of the First Parish community.

This site is intended to be an area where everything feasible about the ministerial search process is made available. This is a journey that we are all on together, and it’s really important that all members of the First Parish Needham community remain informed. Continue reading…

The Search is Joined

By , August 28, 2013
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Following a very productive retreat last weekend (Aug. 25-26), the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) has convened and, in the words of Katie Lee, “launched”.

In fact, thanks to the excellent facilitation of the event by our UUA Ministerial Search Representative (MSR), Laura Graham, we now consider ourselves as more than a committee but a well-integrated team. Continue reading…

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