The First Church in Belmont provides lay-led services throughout the summer. The Worship Committee works with members of the church community to plan and conduct these services. Childcare is also provided throughout the summer. Services are typically less formal, smaller, and quieter than the services during the regular church year. They often involve interactions among congregants both during and after the service. Attendance at these services has increased in recent years. Both experienced and inexperienced leaders have created very powerful services. An array of topics are included that range from “ethical eating” to the meaning of Unitarian hymns, to practicing the UU principles in political life.

Creating a lay-led service can be a meaningful and engaging process. Prepare to be moved and to move others. Give yourself enough time to see the full potential of what you are bringing to the congregation. 


You may want to speak with a member of the Worship Committee first to indicate your interest. Ariane Frank coordinates the summer services. Other members of the committee are also available to help you think about your idea [click to list of committee members].   The next step is to develop a short proposal.

    • Describe your service topic and goal(s) in writing. State the message you are trying to get across. It doesn’t have to be polished at this stage.
    • Include any information you already have formulated, such as ideas about music, readings, and the people involved.)
    • Present it to the Worship Committee, which meets the 4th Tuesday of each month (except December).

The committee discussion will center on the spiritual mission of your service and resources available to you. One or more Worship Committee members will act as liaison members of your service team to help guide the process. NOTE: The Committee will review your idea and let you know about approval at a later date.


Find other people to work with you  Lay-led services are a great collaborative activity. You will learn much from each other and enjoy it more. The beauty and power of this type of service comes from the outpouring of those you work with to create something that will be a lasting collective memory. The original idea will often be bettered, and then bettered again as the spirit of the group takes hold. Allow time to fully develop your message.

  • Sermon vs. shorter talks  It is generally easier to have three or more short talks than to have one person deliver a sermon. A few short talks can also be more interesting since different perspectives are included. It breaks up the service nicely, too. The congregation really appreciates the variety of inspiration that comes from having more than one participant.  That said, we have had many successful single sermon presentations.


Once your proposal is approved the following staff members might help you develop the different elements of your service if you can arrange to meet with them during the regular church year, prior to June 30:


Alfa Radford, our Minister of Music, is a great source of support and ideas for your music needs.

Music can add immeasurably to emotional tone of your service. Rightly chosen, the hymns, or solos can take us places beyond words or act as a needed solace or counterpoint to the service theme. Reminders of our fine tradition in the form of music and responsive readings give us a context in which to comprehend and digest your service’s meaning.  The Worship Committee will work with you to find an accompanist if you want one.  Some people also bring “canned” music. 


If you want to include a story/homily, Laurel Whitehouse, the Director of Religious Education, is a wonderful resource. 


Rev. David Bryce is willing to consult about this aspect of our service, which is a valued tradition in our community.


As mentioned, members of the Worship Committee are willing to work with you to develop your content as is Rev. Bryce.


You probably need at least 8 weeks to plan and bring about a well thought out service. It’s much like a theatrical performance: content will need thought and work, and delivery will require rehearsals at home.  Summer services are conducted in the Parish Hall.  You will need to arrive early to be sure the sound system is on and to get accustomed to hearing your voice amplified. It can be very disconcerting at first. Coordinating the various elements is no small task.


The Worship Committee needs titles of sermons by April or May in order to publish the full list before the end of the regular church year. You will be expected to plan, write, print and copy your own order of serviced for about 40 people. More details about logistics and a packet of resources will be provided by the Worship Committee at an orientation meeting that is usually held in May.  It is always a lively meeting as summer service leaders collaborate with previous lay leaders, the minister, and members of the Worship Committee to bring their ideas for summer services to meaningful fruition.