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Contra Dance on January 30

By , December 30, 2015

The Music Committee and the Towns South Neighborhood Group invite all members and friends to the First Parish Contradance in Parish Hall, Saturday, January 30th at 7pm.   Contradance is a traditional  dance with easy walking steps set to energetic live music. Come dance! No experience is necessary, and no partner is required. All dances are taught and prompted by a caller.  This evening will feature a fiddler and piano player; feel free to stop by just to enjoy the music and camaraderie.  We’ll also offer refreshments including beer and wine.  $5 suggested donation at the door.
This event will feature:
Linda Leslie, caller
Amy Larkin, fiddle
Debby Knight, piano

This Changes Everything

By , December 22, 2015
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All of you who are tuned in to environment, race relations and economic justice are encouraged to attend a potluck followed by a screening and discussion of a film based on Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, Sunday, January 10, 5pm at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St. The film weaves together issues of climate, race relations and economic justice. RSVP at 617 354-2169.

Group Forming to Discuss Waking Up White

A group facilitated by Susan McGarvey and Wendy Blom will meet on January 12th and January 26th from 7:30 to 9 pm in the church parlor to discuss the impact of reading Waking Up White by Debbie Irving. Would you like to join us?

  • We will ask ourselves the questions below to see if we are truly awake to our role in systemic racism and what we need to do about it.
  • Did you discuss race in your childhood home?
  • When did you become aware of your privilege?
  • Have you been moved to “help” the disadvantaged?
  • When did you learn that race is a construct?
  • Debby Irving says: “The only thing needed for racism to continue is for good people to do nothing”?

Please contact Susan at with questions or for more information.

RE Teachers Soiree

RE teachers are invited to a Soiree happening in “The Parlor” featuring drinks and apps to toast “Transition Sunday”. It’s happening Saturday evening, January 23 from 6-8 pm in lieu of our usual January breakfast. Childcare will be available — RSVP if needed.

Sorta makes you want to think about being an RE teacher!

Look for your evite. Questions? Contact Laura Long

FP Group Joins March for Climate Justice

By , December 16, 2015
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Climate Justice GroupSeven First Parish members participated in the Jobs, Justice, and Climate Rally and March in Boston last Saturday to urge action against further effects of climate change.  The march to “defend New England’s future” coincided with the conclusion of the U.N. negotiations in Paris and the 195-nation agreement to slow climate change.  A diverse coalition of about 500 people, including a dozen labor unions and workers’ rights groups, more than 50 climate and environmental groups, and more than 40 faith and social justice groups, listened to speakers and then marched to the State House.  Their message: In order to create real climate solutions, we need to build a grassroots movement that can unite organized labor, immigrant rights, racial justice, and climate justice groups. 

First Parish Book of the Year: Between the World and Me

between-the-world-and-me LargeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the 2015 winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, has been chosen as First Parish’s book of the year for 2016.  Discussions of the book will take place during the month of March.  It was selected because of its importance to the national conversation about race and social justice that has grown out of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

The book, written as a letter to Coates’ teenaged son, discusses the feelings and realities of being black in America today.  Inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 work The Fire Next Time, Coates, a writer for The Atlantic, wrote his book after a meeting with President Obama.  He explores the history of violence against black people and focuses on the over-policing of black youth.  He himself lost a close friend who was shot and killed by a police officer as he walked down a street unarmed.  

The New York Times calls Between the World and Me a “powerful and passionate book” that “often reads like an internal dialogue or debate.”  We look forward to meaningful discussions and conversations inspired by Coates’ words. 

Click here for a dialogue about the book sponsored by UU World.

Sunday Night Book Club: 20th Anniversary Reflections

By , December 13, 2015


Who are we?
Our book club celebrated its 20th anniversary in October 2015.  We are affiliated with First Parish, Unitarian Universalist in Needham, MA, but welcome readers who are not part of the Parish. Since our inception in 1995, we have had more than 25 members, but like other groups, have lost members because of illness, death, or relocation.  As noted by our name, we meet one Sunday evening per month.  Typically we average between 8 – 10 participants each meeting, but some books like Being Mortal draw upwards of 15 people.

book club

How do we choose our books?
We typically select in advance what we’ll read for the next six to eight-months. When it comes time to choose new selections, members are asked to submit their recommendations in advance.  We then prepare a list of all suggestions and vote at our next meeting.  Our only requirement is that the book must be available in paperback. The selections getting the most votes are then assigned to an upcoming month, and members offer to host the meeting at their homes for a particular month.  We’ve established some favorite rituals at individual members’ homes over the years; e.g., ice cream sundaes at our July meeting; a December gathering that offers a real Christmas tree and treats!

How do we structure our discussions and keep track of what we’ve read?
Generally one or more of our long-standing participants will start the discussion.  Typically our discussions are lively, especially if the group is split on liking or not liking a particular choice.  If we tend to get off track – which doesn’t happen very often – anyone in the group can remind us to refocus our comments on the book under discussion.  One of our members keeps an electronic record of what we read each month, and the list of all of the books we’ve read is available on the Parish website.

Which books have we liked and why?
To commemorate our 20th anniversary, we sent a list to our past and present members of all of the books we’ve read since the group was founded.  Members were asked to vote on the books they liked and the ones they didn’t like.  Of the nearly 240 books we’ve read over the last 20 years, 53 made it to someone’s favorite list.  We were pleasantly surprised that our favorites included both fiction and non-fiction selections: Citizens of London; Cod; Guns, Germs and Steel; Old Filth/Man with a Wooden Hat; Orphan Train; Suite Française ; Team of Rivals; The Elegance of the Hedgehog; The Hare with Amber Eyes; The Housekeeper and the Professor; The Nine; The Professor and the Mad Man, The Warmth of Other Suns; and The Woman Behind the New Deal. Our group clearly has a strong interest in learning about past events as well as gaining more informed perspectives of historical events.  That said, we also enjoy beautiful writing that opens our hearts to a more compassionate understanding of the human experience.  

Which books were not so popular?
The good news is that we liked more of what we read than we didn’t like.  Our top  dislikes included: Claire of the Sea Light, Hotel du Lac, In Certain Circles, and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Three books – Secret Lives of Bees, The Hare with Amber Eyes, and The Peabody Sisters appeared on both the “most liked” and the “most disliked” lists.

What do members enjoy most about participating in the Book Group?
Members frequently cited that the Group   motivated them to read books that they probably would not have chosen on their own, thus leading them to new authors and different subjects.  Everyone seems to enjoy the discussions, even when we disagree with one another.  Our most passionate and lively discussions remind us of the validity of different viewpoints as well as help us appreciate the author’s choice of language, style, tone, etc.  We sometimes have to remind ourselves of the difference between “not liking a character” and the author’s “purpose or point” in telling the story.

January 10: The New Jim Crow screening & discussion

The book, “The New Jim Crow” by legal scholar Michelle Alexander traces the huge surge in the U.S. black prison population to racist policies and politics. The book has been extremely influential in the movement for change in the justice system to begin to eliminate racial bias.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP says, “Michelle Alexander’s book offers a timely and original framework for understanding mass incarceration, its roots to Jim Crow, our modern caste system, and what must be done to eliminate it. This book is a call to action.”  

The First Parish Racial Justice Task Force has a DVD of Alexander speaking to an audience at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem in 2012. Her engrossing talk summarizes the information and conclusions in the book. The Task Force will show the DVD on Sunday, January 10 at 5:00pm in the Sanctuary. Following the hour-long screening, we will move to Parish Hall for pizza and a discussion about the topics presented. Youth Group members are encouraged to participate before their evening meeting.

 All are welcome! Join us! Contact Wendy Blom for more information:

Waking Up White Discussions: January 12 and 26.

Last year, the First Parish Racial Justice Task Force members read the book “Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” by local author Debby Irving. Over a few weeks while reading the book, they got together several times in small groups to discuss the evolution of each participant’s own racial consciousness. Everyone enjoyed the process and learned a lot about how life experiences affect one’s ideas about race and how those ideas may help perpetuate structural racism in our country.  

As Irving writes: “As I unpack my own long-held beliefs about color, I reveal how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated my ill-conceived ideas about race. I also explain why and how I’ve changed the way I talk about racism, work in racially mixed groups, and understand the racial justice movement as a whole.”

This winter, as part of the Connect2Respond initiative, the Task Force will hold more discussion sessions about the book in the hope that more First Parish folks will read it and join the conversation.  Then, on February 4, there will be a follow up presentation and conversation with Debby Irving herself in Wellesley. The event is being sponsored by the group The World of Wellesley and the Wellesley Village Church.

The book discussion sessions, to be led by Susan McGarvey and Wendy Blom, are on Tuesdays, January 12 and 26 in the parlor from 7:30 to 9:00pm.  The books can be purchased at the New England Mobile Book Fair or or downloaded to a Kindle. Please RSVP to

In Our Community: Dana Robinson and Laurel Davis

By , December 4, 2015
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Many folks have already met new members Dana Robinson, Laurel Davis, and their son Cameron who have been coming to First Parish for about one year.  After visiting a few times, they jumped right in and got involved in many activities at the Church, with Dana serving on the RE Committee, and Laurel on Membership. Four-year old Cameron also loves coming on Sundays. He says, “My favorite thing is playing in the nursery because there are lots of toys.”

Dana and Laurel are both from the South; Dana is from Alabama and Laurel is from Central Florida. They met as freshmen at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and after graduation they both attended Boston College Law School. After law school, Dana worked as a criminal prosecutor in Lynn, MA for five years, and now she is a stay-at-home mom. Laurel took a different path. She realized fairly early in law school that she did not want to practice law so after law school she got a second graduate degree in Library Science at Simmons College. Now she has a challenging and rewarding position as a law librarian, rare book and manuscript collection curator, and lecturer at Boston College Law School.  

Dana and Laurel have lived in Needham for three years. They got to know Clark and Kay Taylor at the Needham YMCA and were encouraged to try out First Parish. They were not really looking for a church and don’t think of themselves as religious, but they felt at home right away and loved coming. They appreciate the community of people and enjoy the Sunday services where they can “contemplate the big questions.”

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