Throughout a child’s time at First Parish, there are a number of special moments where a child and his/her family have an opportunity to engage more meaningfully with one’s connection to this specific congregation and with Unitarian Universalism more broadly. We call these moments First Parish Milestones. Each is aimed at a particular time in a child’s life and development. Collectively, they mark a child’s spiritual growth from infancy into young adulthood.
Generally done during infancy (although it can take place at any place in a person’s life), a dedication ceremony is a public proclamation of the congregation’s commitment to the health and well-being of a child and his/her family. Presided over by the minister, the dedication is an important reminder that we are all bound as a loving community to care for one another, especially the youngest among us. Many parents will invite their extended family to the ceremony and may wish to present godparents will also proclaim their commitment to the child.
During the second grade year, children are invited to participate in the Chalice Keepers program. This milestone connects children to some of the specific aspects of congregational life and their first parish family. Children complete a number of tasks aimed at strengthening the relationship between them and this community. This includes serving as a chalice lighter and junior usher one Sunday, having a Q&A with the minister, and reading a couple of age-appropriate books about Unitarian Universalism. On completing the program, chalice keepers are recognized in a short ceremony and given the gift of personal chalice.
In the fifth grade year, children once again explore their spirituality through a guided self-study. This time, however, the goal is to develop an understanding of and a connection to the broader faith and traditions of Unitarian Universalism. Children in this program will learn about historic figures, study some of our important sources, and will complete a service project with their classmates or family. Recognition of this accomplishment will take place during a spring worship service and, once again, participants will be given a small, personal gift from the congregation.
The Coming of Age (COA) class meets during the spring term of a youth’s 8th grade year. It marks the culmination of their studies at First Parish and invites them to explore deeper questions of spirituality, faith and religion, and their own sense of belief. Each youth will work with a mentor who helps to guide him/her through the process. The program ends in a worship service built and delivered by the members of the COA class. During this time, each youth shares his or her personal credo and is recognized and honored by the congregation.
The final step in our milestones program occurs just as a young person graduates from high school and from the First Parish Youth Group. Each teen is welcomed into their adult years by the congregation in a special ceremony. We think of this as a moment “bridging” their childhood years with first parish and their spiritual life going forward as an adult.