The Unitarian – December 8, 2015

{ The Unitarian – December 8, 2015 (pdf file) }

Sunday Worship — December 13

Christmas Music Service — 10:30 a.m.

Join us on Sunday as we observe and celebrate the season of love and light. This week, the choir will be joined by a chamber orchestra, as we continue our annual Major Music tradition.

     Today we will be presenting C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat, an exuberant setting of the Song of Mary, from the gospel of Luke. Join us at 10:30 for a joyful celebration of the Christmas season!

Homily — Rev. David Bryce

Filled or sent away; which are we?

In the Magnificat, Luke states: “the Mighty One…has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty”. Are we among the “hungry” or among the “rich”?

Welcome and Announcements: Betsy George

Ushers: Ann Dexter, Ana Hammock, Sara Oaklander, and David Warner

The flowers on the Chancel table this Sunday are given by the Hicks family with gratitude for all of the love and support we received from the community during our time of need.

  • Service at 10:30 a.m.; childcare is provided.
  • Sunday, December 20: Rev. David Bryce
  • Sermon archives

Reflections from Rev. David Bryce, Senior Minister

Rev. David Bryce

Rev. David Bryce

Please remember to bring food items for the December 20 service, items that will be collected during the service and given to the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center.

This is the season for candles.

     I am already “late” in setting out our advent wreath. The Western Christian Advent began this past Sunday (Nov. 29).

     And then there is our menorah, our Santa Lucia crown and our solstice candle, all waiting to be unboxed, set out and lit.     I have once again failed to make my own Orthodox Advent wreath (this uses seven candles, not four; but then the Orthodox Advent wreath is entirely unofficial). I did purchase a seven candle Arch to act in lieu of an Orthodox wreath, but I have not yet put that up.

     I love the early darkness that settles on our portion of the world at this time of year, and I love the candle light that breaks into that darkness.

     I love the warmth of home when stepping in from the outside cold.

     And so there is that within me that looks forward to winter, that seeks the pleasures of the season, that wants to know and live in the winter time.

     There is something wonderful about walking on fallen snow that crunches beneath the feet;

something wonderful about a chill nip in the air;

something wonderful about a dark night with lights in the far distance;

something wonderful about the lights of a city in the midst of winter.

     So let us bring out our candles, polish the holders, decorate the wreaths and be ready for the beauty and joy of this season, welcoming it as a gift.

Season Ticket Sales Update: Getting Closer on the Matching Funds Challenge Grant! HOORAY!

But time is flying by! We need to sell six more in the next week or so, or it will be January and we lose all the grant money! Buy your ticket now, double your impact, and help this model social action program earn this generous validation of our work and make a one third increase in donations to beneficiaries. Don’t hesitate — now is the time! Many many thanks to all!

     Send your check for $99 made out to First Church in Belmont (memo line marked Coffeehouse) to First Church in Belmont, 404 Concord Ave, P.O. Box 113, Belmont 02478. Help your First Church friends to bring truly meaningful change to the lives of the grateful clients of our worthy beneficiaries, and enjoy the warm and wonderful music and fellowship of the Coffeehouse shows at a discount. And it’s fully deductible!

In Case of Severe Weather

As winter approaches, there may be unsafe travel conditions around worship service times. If a Sunday service is to be cancelled due to inclement weather, a message will be put on the church voicemail system. We will also post a message on our Facebook page, the church’s web page (, and send a church-wide e-mail.

Children’s Religious Education: It Takes a Congregation

The twin themes of our December 20th multigenerational worship service are giving and celebrating the holidays UU-style. We will hear personal sharing from congregants, listen to stories and sing some carols. If you or your children would like to participate as a reader or have a UU family tradition to share, please contact me ( ASAP. To get you thinking about what makes the holidays special, here is a personal story of my own.

     What is the true meaning of Christmas? What makes Christmas Christmas? I have spent many, many holidays away from my family of origin; 1987, when I was in Antarctica from mid-October until early January, was particularly instructive and meaningful with regards to what the true meaning of the holiday is for me. Back then I had not been home for Thanksgiving more than twice in ten years, but it was only my second Christmas away from home. I wrote to my parents on December 12th from our camp at the La Croix Glacier in Taylor Valley, “It doesn’t feel at all like Christmas here. We won’t be in McMurdo for the holiday. We probably won’t even get in at all before we pack up our field camps for the season sometime the first week in January.”

     A couple of days later, I sent a radio message to my family,

Greeting[s] to all for the solstice and holiday season. As your days start getting longer, mine are getting shorter. It won’t be long now. Rocks for everyone next year at this time [;] they won’t be in your shoes on Saint Nicolas Day! Thinking of you all and appreciate all your letters… Hope your days are full of love and warmth. Which are what make[s] the candles glow through the night…

     I didn’t get Mom’s reply until December 30th. In it she mentioned that I probably wouldn’t get her package for Christmas, but hoped that I would get letters. She also said that they would be thinking of me and “trying to picture how [I was] spending the day.”

     In the letter that I wrote from the Upper Marr Glacier Camp on the 26th, I was able to thank her for a small pre-Christmas package containing: “…Allerest, Vitamin C, Each Day A New Beginning and the stocking. I received it on the 22nd in time for Christmas. I hung the stocking up in my tent over the camp stove, but it remains empty. I got a bunch of greetings that day including Dad’s postcard from Paris…”

     This same letter describes what made Christmas Christmas for our Antarctic research team. I wrote,

We had a very nice Christmas together… We invited “156 Bravo” Camp …to come up and join us for turkey dinner since they didn’t get one, but they weren’t inclined to make the hike up here. …And anyway, the weather wasn’t great. …It was pretty heavily fogged in and blowing snow, so we had a “white Christmas” — near white-out conditions, but not actually and not very severe (still condition I).

          So, I spent the morning doing crossword puzzles which mom sent. “Santa” (i.e. Dave) left me some magazines outside my tent, which I will enjoy reading, …I also wrote a letter… Then we sat about the cook tent in the afternoon whilst our (pressed) turkey roast cooked in the oven. We played charades as we had the night before (Christmas Eve) when we stayed up late being festive. Thom and Scott each shared treats they had received in the mail; Dave, too, had stuff to share. (The only thing I had to share was the advent calendar…) In the late afternoon, I took the other oven to my tent to bake potatoes. At that time I wrote another letter… Dinner was good and plenty. Besides the above mentioned, we had corn and stuffing made from cabin bread. Fruit for dessert and more of the peach pie that was sent out by helo with all of the mail on Tuesday. We hung out in the cook tent listening to music and chatting on the radio.

     After we got back to McMurdo Station in early January, I sent a postcard thanking my mom for the cards and letters and the package I found waiting for me there. Three weeks later I was back at grad school in Maine and wrote, “I was not upset about not hearing from you before Christmas, rest assured. One has to temper expectations in an environment like that. Otherwise it is detrimental to oneself and the group as a whole. I was always pleased when I received mail, it would make the day. But there was no sense depending on getting anything.”

     What is the true meaning of Christmas? I wrote a poem that sums up what made Christmas Christmas that season that I spent in Antarctica. I sent it to my family as their Christmas present that year. At the time, I titled it “End of the Earth.”

There is nothing here.

The rocks of mountains.

The ice and snow of glaciers.

The wind which is the only sound

          apart from an occasional avalanche.

The Sun –

and sometimes the Moon.

That is something.

I am here –

And your thoughts are with me.

That is something else again.

     The true meaning of Christmas is loving-human-kindness and right relationships. The words of the song “Welcome Christmas” tell us: “Christmas Day is in our grasp / So long as we have hands to clasp / … / Christmas Day will always be / just as long as we have we / … / Welcome Christmas! While we stand / … / Heart to heart and hand in hand.”

     Knowing that both the Grinch and Scrooge found themselves transformed by the love which is at the heart of the Christmas holiday, if you found that you had a moderately-sized extra stash of cash or an abundance of something of value, more than you need for yourself, what would you do with it? How would you make Christmas Christmas? How would you reinforce the true meaning of Christmas in your life?

CRE Opportunities for All at FCB

  • Would your family like to lead the Chalice Lighting during the worship service one Sunday this year? CRE is coordinating this effort to involve families in this element of the worship service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Click on this link to sign-up: You will receive an e-mail reminder.
  • Non-parent teacher-volunteers are needed to assist our Childcare Provider, Denise Azar, in the Nursery at 9 and 11 am each Sunday. You can easily sign-up here: You will receive an e-mail reminder.

Special Activities for families in December

  • Multigenerational Worship Service on December 20th – celebrating the winter holidays, UU-style. Your participation is encouraged. Contact Charlotte ( for ways you can help.

Children’s Religious Education Program Registration and Information:

  • If you haven’t registered your children for CRE, please do so ASAP using the registration link found on the Children’s Religious Education web page (org/childrens-re/) which allows you to register children from birth through 12th grade. All children must be registered for CRE.

~ Charlotte Lehmann, Acting Director of Children’s Religious Education

Office hours: Mon-Tues-Weds, 10am-6pm. E-mail:

Among Us

Our deepest sympathies to our sexton, Luis Carrion, on the sudden death of his brother-in-law this week.

Musica Sacra performs December 12

Get into the Christmas spirit by coming to hear Mary Beekman conduct Musica Sacra in Born Today on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. The concert, held at 1st Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, includes selections by Eric Whitacre, Arvo Pärt, and arrangements of God rest ye merry, gentlemen, and other traditional Christmas carols, as well as a carol sing-along. A reception for all follows the concert. Tickets available at or by contacting Mary Beekman.

Pledge Reminders

The end of the calendar year is almost here. While the church’s fiscal 2016 year ends on June 30, 2016, many people like to make their entire contribution in 2015 for tax purposes. This week we’ll be sending reminders of the amount you pledged to contribute to First Church in the year ending June 30, 2016, and the amount you have already paid towards that pledge.

     Whenever you pay towards your pledge, please mark (on the memo line of the check or in an accompanying note) that this is a FY16 pledge payment. If you have paid in full, you won’t receive a letter (and thank you!).

     Please note that the church office will be closed from December 24 – January 4, 2016, so please send your payment in by December 15, 2015.

Adult Programs News

Living with Serious Illness — Kathy Lind; Thursday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m., Library

Our lives are constantly changing and facing changes that involve illness makes us feel vulnerable. This ongoing support group provides a space and time to understand and process feelings and circumstances related to dealing with serious illness, both for caregivers and people in all stages of discovery and recovery.

The complete events calendar is online }

Parenting Kids with Challenges — Andrea Prestwich; Sunday, Dec. 13, 2:30 p.m., Library

Does your child have special challenges? Has he/she been diagnosed with Aspergers, ADHD, or sensory problems? We will offer support and share experience in a non-judgmental space. Childcare upon request. Snacks provided.

Belmont Unitarian Universalist Alliance; Wednesday, December 16, Upper Hall, 12 noon: Lunch & Program “Lena: My 100 Children”

Please join us on Wednesday, December 16 from 12 noon – 2:20 p.m., starting in the upper gathering space for lunch. Please bring your own sandwich. We will provide soup, fruit, dessert and beverages. The suggested lunch donation is $1.00 per person.

     The program will be at 12:45 the church library. We will be viewing the movie, “Lena: My 100 Children,” staring Linda Lavin. This tells the true story of Lena Kuchler, who at the end of World War II took on the care of 100 Jewish refugee children in Poland. There is a First Church connection to this story as one of these children was ultimately adopted by Miriam Baker’s parents.

     R.S.V.P. to Janice in the church office (617-484-1054,

Science and Spirituality — Ken Bernstein and Edwin Taylor; Thursday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., Conference Room

Edwin Taylor will lead a discussion on A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek, Nobel Prize winner, MIT professor, and popular science writer. Three chapters, The Question, A Beautiful Answer?, and Emma Noether – Time, Energy, and Sanity, may be downloaded from

Program & Committee News

Ushers wanted for the Holiday Services

The Membership Committee is looking for ushers for all four Christmas Eve services — 2, 4, 6 and 11 p.m. It’s now easier than ever to sign up with our online form:

Grow Clinic!


Thinking about your upcoming holiday feast? How about remembering some turkey, vegetables and desserts in the form of BABY FOODS (Stages 1&2) for the underweight infants and toddlers at the Grow Clinic? 

     Please pick up a shopping list or bring a Special Request. November and December is “Start the day Strong!”

  • infant rice cereal
  • cold and hot non-sugared cereals
  • Flintstone chewable vitamins
  • Polyvisol with Iron liquid vitamins

There are collection baskets in the Lower Hall and the vestibule outside the Sanctuary.

Food: One of the Most Important Medicines

Caring Connection

The Caring Connection provides support to members of our community who need short-term help. Please let us know if you or someone you know would benefit from our support. Contact Laurie Graham at or Janice at the Church, 617-484-1054, ext. 201.

Lay Pastoral Care Team

The Lay Pastoral Care Team works with and supports the senior minister in reaching out to members and friends of the First Church who are adjusting to change, loss, illness or death. We share in moments of celebration and happiness. We reach out to those who are unable to get out and who would like a visit. Please contact us through the Web site or the church office if we might be of help or comfort.

 { A list of all church committees & groups is online. }

From the UU Urban Ministry

  • Save the Date: On Saturday, January 23 we will be hosting an Anti-Racism Conference at the UUUM. Stay tuned for more details!
  • Visit org for details on this and other events.

Connect with UU actions, events & resources

Church Staff

  • Senior Minister………………….. Rev. David M. Bryce; 617-484-1054, ext. 202;
  • Minister Emeritus……….. Rev. Dr. Victor Carpenter; 617-676-6186;
  • Minister of Music Emerita….. Rev. Alfa Joy Radford;
  • Director of Music…………………………….. Ian Garvie; 617-484-1054, ext. 206;
  • Organist & Assistant Music Director: …Dylan Sauerwald; 617-484-1054, ext. 206;
  • Acting Director of CRE…………. Charlotte Lehmann; 617-484-1054, ext. 205;
  • Director of Youth Programs………………. Julie Ennis; 617-484-1054, ext. 204;
  • Adult Programs Advisor……………. Lillian Anderson; 617-484-1054, ext. 207;
  • Church Administrator………………… Janice Zazinski; 617-484-1054, ext. 201;
  • Membership Coordinator…………………. Jim Staton; 617-484-1054, ext. 207;
  • Sexton………………………………………… Luis Carrion 617-484-1054
  • Office hours: Monday – Friday, 9 – 3. 
  • 617-484-1054 |
  • Street: 404 Concord Ave., Belmont
  • Mailing: PO Box 113, Belmont, Mass. 02478

Parish Board, 2015 – 2016


  • Catherine Claypoole
  • Deveaux Duckworth
  • Betsy George
  • Peter Guthrie
  • Jackie James
  • Sarah Oaklander
  • Jack Weis

Parish Board minutes are available online and are posted on the Lower Hall bulletin board.


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Our Facebook page is regularly updated with news, events & programs – and you don’t need an account to view it!

Next issue: December 15

The next issue of The Unitarian is Tuesday, December 15. Please send your submissions to Janice Zazinski at by noon on Wednesday, December 9.

Posted in Caring Connection, Fellowship Events, Second Friday Coffee House, Unitarian