What to Expect in Worship
Because Unitarian Universalism welcomes and celebrates diversity, our worship services can be very different from one another. However, most will include the following elements:
Words of welcome
Lighting a flaming chalice, the symbol of our faith
Words of union and mission: "We unite in the power of love, and the strength of community. We nurture spiritual growth through worship, education, social justice, and service to others."
A short "interactive message" or story meant to be especially interesting to children
Music, both instrumental and vocal (we love to sing together!)
A "Common Prayer," said in unison, sometimes including versions of the Lord's Prayer
Community prayer and silent time for personal prayer and meditation
Readings and reflections, sometimes from the Christian and Hebrew scriptures
A sermon given by our professional minister, Rev. Elizabeth Bukey, a guest speaker, or a member of the congregation
An offering, collecting financial donations for the congregation or for justice work in the community
Everyone is welcome to participate as much or as little as they like in all aspects of our time together.
From time to time, worship services incorporate holiday celebrations, multigenerational plays and pageants, longer musical performances, child dedications, and coming-of-age ceremonies. We offer childcare and learning programs for children and youth during the Sunday service.
For a list of the upcoming services and topics, please see the upcoming services page.
Dress: There’s no dress code at First Church. You are probably more likely to find sweaters and jeans than you are a shirt and tie or “Sunday Best” attire. We want you to come however you feel most comfortable.
Time: The service starts at 11:00 AM, it lasts an hour and ten minutes and it is followed by an informal social time, during which coffee, tea and snacks are available.
Summer Services: beginning on Sunday, June 16, 2019, services begin at 10:00 AM, and are held in the Parish Hall instead of the Sanctuary, and can be accessed from the entrance at 6 Eliot St.
Children’s programs: If you come with children, you are welcome to have them either try out our Religious Education program or stay with you during the service. On most Sundays, the minister or worship leader will lead a message or story (a “Interactive Message”) early in the service, after which the kids go to the Stage room for their program. If you wish, you may also accompany them there.
Greeters: members of the congregation will be at the entrance to the church to welcome you and answer your questions. The minister or service leader will often greet people in the sanctuary.
Name tags: Members and regular attendees wear name tags most weeks. Newcomers are invited to wear temporary name tags, which are available at the greeter table.
Order of service: A greeter will give you a program that describes the sequence of the worship celebration for the morning including information on the hymns, prayers and readings. Hymn and reading numbers are also posted on the wall on both sides of the pulpit in the Sanctuary. Current announcements are on an insert in the order of service. The worship sequence is similar each week with some changes according to the worship theme, season or holiday. There are large print orders of service and announcements available.
Hymns: The hymnals we use and provide in the pews on Sundays are Singing the Living Tradition (the “gray hymnal”) and its supplement Singing the Journey (the "teal hymnal"). Lyrics to other hymns and vocal parts are included in the order of service. Rev. Elizabeth leads a simple unaccompanied "centering hymn" every week, but otherwise our singing is accompanied by organ, piano and occasionally other instruments. Music is an essential part of our worship celebrations and congregational life.
Choir: Our volunteer choir is open to all who like to sing and is directed by our Music Director Ellen McGuire. Rehearsals are usually held twice a month before the service.
Collection: We pass the plates each week for contributions to support the work and mission of First Church. Special collections, such as for the Minister’s Discretionary Fund, are taken occasionally during the church year. As a financially self-supporting, self-governing congregation, contributions by members cover most of our operating budget. We, at First Church, are grateful for all the contributions and support we receive, and we take an offering during worship both to collect money and to remember in ritual the importance of generosity.
Fellowship: After worship, coffee hour is held in the parish hall, accessible through the doors on both sides of the altar. This is our friendly and informal social time for the church community, friends and visitors. Coffee, teas, and beverages for kids are provided by congregants. A different church member or group of members volunteers to provide light refreshments and to set-up and clean-up each week.
We gather in worship to find meaning and live more deeply. Worship creates connections within, among, and beyond us, calling us to our better selves, calling us to live with wisdom and compassion.
Unitarian Universalist worship styles vary by congregation, and even within congregations. Some congregations’ worship is contemporary and high tech. Some congregations’ worship is traditional and formal. Some features exuberant music, some includes long periods of silent reflection. Our congregation’s worship is reflective, with roots in liberal Protestant Christianity, and increasingly drawing on a diversity of wisdom sources and spiritual practices.
Our minister, Rev. Elizabeth Bukey, leads worship most Sundays. She writes: "I deeply love crafting and leading worship that is unashamedly spiritual, while also integrating the best of “secular” wisdom on leading lives of joy, health, and integrity. I value creativity, informality, and participation in worship, incorporating ritual, reimagining old traditions, and retelling religious stories."