Path to Membership
This page explains some of the possible paths to membership at First Parish. It contains the following four sections:
We truly hope that you will choose to become a member of First Parish, but we ask that you not do so lightly. As members, we hold the following expectations of ourselves:
- Showing up Although there are many ways to participate in First Parish life, Sunday services, classes, and Social Hour are the foundation of our community, and they are enriched by the presence of every member on a regular basis. No one takes attendance, and we all accept that some choose to be present more often than others. After all, for many of us spiritual enrichment comes in solitary settings or small groups. But the chance to see and worship with each other — with every “each other” — is the mortar that holds our community together.
- Service We are a community built on and committed to service — service both to First Parish and to the greater communities of which we are a part. Each of us finds our own way to contribute our time and effort, whether through committee work, Social Hour hosting, lay ministry, volunteering for church functions, or social action initiatives. But if our community is to thrive and reach others with our spiritual message and social justice actions, we each must make a heartfelt commitment of service.
- Stewardship Each of us annually pledges financial support to First Parish according to our ability to contribute. The act of contributing is far more important than the amount of the contribution. Many “friends of the parish”, who are not official members, also contribute generously. Pledged contributions provide the bulk of the Parish budget and are essential for maintaining the building, its staff, and our programs. Depending on when you join, a member of our Stewardship Committee may contact you soon after you join to explain the giving cycle at First Parish and answer any questions you may have. Our annual canvass campaign of members and friends happens in the late winter. More information about stewardship at First Parish is available elsewhere on this site.
On the one hand, becoming a member of First Parish is as simple as signing the Membership Roll, something that can be done on any Sunday in the presence of the Minister or an officer of First Parish. But the path to membership typically consists of several steps, beginning with your first visit to First Parish and hopefully gaining momentum through subsequent Sunday mornings and gradual involvement in some of the many, many facets of congregational life.
There is no set timeline or required path for becoming a member. Those who are new to Unitarian Universalism or new to organized religion typically take some time to learn about our faith and get to know us on multiple levels. Those coming from other faiths which somehow fell short in providing spiritual nourishment should take whatever time you need to determine if Unitarian Universalism shows promise of providing that nourishment. Longtime Unitarian Universalists coming from other communities usually know very quickly whether or not they wish to worship with us, whereas parents seeking a religious framework for themselves and their children may take more time. In short, there is no “right” length of time to wait before joining—it’s your decision.
Along the way, we try to provide some useful stepping stones, beginning with a visit with our minister. The minister usually gets together with newcomers over coffee or a meal. The conversation is likely to be wide-ranging, but is sure to include what brought you to First Parish and what you are looking for in a religious community.
Other stepping stones might include:
- Participating in a Newcomer Welcoming Session. These informal sessions give you a chance to get to know some current members as well as some other newcomers, and learn a little about First Parish and Unitarian Universalism.
- Getting involved by joining in activities, signing up for various volunteer opportunities.
- Attending an Introduction to First Parish and Unitarian Universalism, a short program that is offered 1-2 times/year. This class gives folks considering membership a chance to learn more about Unitarian Universalism and to discuss in greater depth the nature of the First Parish community, the role of Unitarian Universalism in our lives, and the responsibilities of membership.
Every signing of the Membership Roll is a cause for celebration — both for you and for us. We honor that celebration with a Chalice Dinner. New members are joined by other newcomers considering membership, as well as the minister(s) and members of the Membership Committee. For many of us, Chalice Dinners are some of the most memorable and cherished occasions of our First Parish experience. The evening is primarily social and the food and drink are always excellent. Sometime over the course of the evening, the minister will bring us together for a few minutes of fellowship and a toast to the new members.
The final step and celebration comes during the service on the following Sunday, when new members are recognized and welcomed by the congregation in a brief New Member Recognition ceremony.
Welcome to First Parish. The rest, as they say, is up to you.