Summer Gatherings

Summer gatherings, typically led by parishioners, offer a chance to come together for informal discussion and reflection on different topics and experiences. They include a presentation, readings, prayers, meditations, the sharing of joys and sorrows and, we hope, some lively discussion. A Lay Minister will be present each Sunday.

The gatherings will be held in the Vestry Sundays at 10 a.m. Come and engage in the discussion. Zoom access will be available, but we hope you will give us the gift of your presence if you are able — it makes a difference.

If you are interested in attending our Summer Gatherings via zoom, please sign up for our e-blasts to receive log-in information. Contact if you need help or have questions.

Summer Gatherings 2024

Here’s what we have in store for this summer.

June 23
383 Years of Church History in a Closet – First Parish was founded 383 years ago by Pilgrims from England, a mere 20 years after the first Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Join Jay Woodruff, former chair of Archives, as he presents some extraordinary facts and artifacts from our Archives collection, including a pre-Revolutionary War Bible and a letter from a US president, and explains our close connection to Lydia Maria Child, a parishioner and one of the most influential women of her time. We’ll discuss why it is critical to maintain the treasures of our past for future generations.
Led by Jay Woodruff; Lay Minister: Debbie Levens

June 30
Rachel Carson: Nature as Nurture (or A Sense of Wonder) – Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and conservationist who wrote about the environment in the 1950s and 60s. Her books The Sense of Wonder (1965), Silent Spring (1962), The Edge of the Sea (1955), The Sea Around Us (1951), and Under the Sea-Wind (1941) were instrumental in birthing a global environmental movement. Together we will read a few of Rachel Carson’s poetic and personal writings on the importance of connecting with the natural world. The readings will be a prelude to talking about our own favorite memories of exploring the great outdoors.
Led by Joel Angiolillo, President of Weston Forest and Trail Association. Lay Minister: Debbie Levens

July 7
How to Maintain Peace and Secure Justice in the Taiwan Straits – In light of recent modifications in the political positions of the Republic of China on Taiwan island, the People’s Republic on the mainland, and the United States in North America, we need to understand the past and present of Taiwan and its neighbors near and far if we are to have any chance of avoiding a catastrophic civil war like the two currently unfolding in Russia/Ukraine and in Israel/Gaza.
Led by Roger Des Forges, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Buffalo.
Lay Minister: Erik Felton

July 14
Free Will: Philosophical Perspectives and Debates – Join us as we delve into the complex and provocative topic of free will, a concept central to philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. We will begin by defining free will and then explore the nuanced perspectives that have fueled debates for two thousand years. We will consider whether humans possess free will by drawing on the influential works of contemporary philosophers like Daniel Dennett and Robert Sapolsky. This summer service will examine different philosophical approaches to free will, such as libertarianism, compatibilism, and determinism. Additionally, we will consider the implications of these approaches for moral responsibility and social justice. We will leave time for questions and discussion. A list of readings on the free-will debate will be available about two weeks before the service.
Led by Chauncey E. Wilson. Lay Minister: TBD

July 21
Love Me, Love Me, I’m a Liberal – Our democratic republic and the freedoms it affords are under existential threat. This country was founded on liberal ideals but are today’s liberals — and liberal religion as we have known it — part of the problem or might they represent the best solution? Dr. Matthew Shear will examine this question through the lens of his experience in behavioral and cognitive science, politics, and, more recently, as a full-time Lay Preacher. Your thoughts in response will be encouraged.
Led by Dr. Matthew Shear. Lay Minister: Ted Barnes

July 28
The Improbability of Us (i.e., The Science of Just How Lucky We All Are to Be Here) – In this service, you’re invited to discuss the science of just how lucky we all are to be here. We’ll go on a journey through cosmology, climate, catastrophes, and human evolution to see how at any point humanity could easily not have survived. A year ago, as part of a First Parish service called “Science and Wonder,” Evan delivered a “minisermon” on this theme that aroused much interest. Join him to revisit the topic through discussion and excerpts from scientists, philosophers, poets, and, yes, even The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He will suggest that we look at the fragility of humanity’s past and present not as a source of fear or gloom but with wonder and gratitude.
Led by Evan Hadingham. Lay Minister: TBD

August 4
Walk a Labyrinth and Create a Mandala – Join us for a ritual which draws from a rich variety of spiritual and religious traditions. Weather permitting, we will have an opportunity to walk a labyrinth and create a mandala at its center, that is filled with our hopes and prayers for the church and also for ourselves and those we may be concerned about. Everyone will have a chance to write their own prayer cards to place beside the mandala. We will leave the mandala up for a week so others may add their hopes and prayers during the week. Bring your hopes and prayers to the ritual.
Led by Laurel Whitehouse and Suzanne Reitz. Lay Minister: Julia Kenney

August 11
Embracing Disappointment
     Each year I hoped they’d keep
     Knew they would not
           Picking Blackberries, Seamus Heaney
At this very moment, you may have disappointed someone, maybe yourself. Or been disappointed by someone. Or something hasn’t happened, or didn’t happen in the way you hoped, the way you imagined it would. And that can be painful. In this service, we will explore how disappointment can be a spiritual teacher, helping us to have more meaningful relationships with ourselves and others.
Led by Emily Miller Mlcak; Lay Minister: Kathie Schmidt

August 18
(Topic TBD)
Led by Rev. Lisa Perry-Wood. Lay Minister: Kathie Schmidt

Online Donations and Weekly Offering

All unspecified donations made during the service will be used to support the programs of First Parish. Once a month we share our Sunday donations with a deserving organization. Thank you for your support!

Donation Options:

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    Please have your credit card available the first time you text.
  • Download the Vanco Mobile Faith Engagement app (Apple) (GooglePlay)
  • By check to First Parish - please indicate in the memo line "Sunday Donation - <Date and/or Share Organization>"