Monday, December 21, 2009

A Special Thank You

A special thank you to teachers Scott Murphy, Henry Keyes, and Laura Kirshenbaum, and to BYKOTA (middle school youth group) advisors Martha Favre, Scott Hayman, and Diane Oullet, all of whom braved the weather to arrive at church on Sunday in order to be with our children! We enjoyed an intimate Spirit Play lesson with five children through the fifth grade, and seven of our middle schoolers went after church to volunteer at the Little Store, which has been collecting Christmas gifts for families in need this winter. We appreciated the presence of all these children, and a special time to get to know them even better.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What to Expect at the Christmas Eve Worship Service

We are looking forward to a beautiful Christmas Eve worship service on Thursday, December 24th here at First Unitarian Church.

We will have two identical worship services this year, so the 4:00 and 5:30 services will provide the same experience.

The worship service is fairly brief and consists of Christmas readings, choir music, and singing Christmas carols (they are usually fairly familiar carols for our kids). There are no elements designed specifically for children, but the service is planned as an opportunity for families to worship together.

We expect some rustling from the Rev. Merritt wisely points out each year, it wasn't quiet in the stable when Jesus was born either ;-). A couple highlights of the service for our kids:

1. The congregation is invited to recite "Twas the Night Before Christmas" together, and everyone mumbles along. Many of our children know this poem very well and can join in.
2. The finale of our service, as is tradition, is to lower the lights and light candles as we sing "Silent Night." This is always quite impressive, especially for our children who regard it as a precious memory from year to year.

One of our parents told us a story last year about how her son, then two years old, heard the choir on Christmas Eve, and leaned into her shoulder where tears streamed down his cheeks. She checked to make sure he was okay, and he was...he was simply very moved by the beautiful music. He has been talking affectionately about this service and its music since that time, and is so excited to come back this Christmas Eve.

It's a powerful worship service for all ages, and we sincerely look forward to seeing your family. In fact, we hope you'll invite your extended family and/or friends to attend with you. Please feel free to contact us at 508-757-2708 with any questions. You can dial extension 105 to reach the religious education office if you have specific questions about family participation.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did you miss the teen choir's Mummer's Play?

If you missed the teen choir's fabulous performance of their own Mummer's Play at the Master Singers Boar's Head festival last weekend, don't worry! There will be a repeat performance at the Holden Street church this coming Sunday at 9:00am.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Children and Youth Ministry Schedule Notations

Notes For Monday, December 21st
This is the day of our annual Christmas Potluck dinner, at 6:30pm. Bring the whole family, and if you'd like, friends who have been interested in joining the church. It is a festive gathering of the tribe! Hosted by our Advent Group, all members and friends of the church are invited to bring a dish to pass, and the wish to get to know one another better. Children are especially welcome. Sign up is helpful for planning dishes, but not required. The sign up form is on the bulletin board between the Bancroft and Dining Rooms. Categories of food include bread, salads, vegetables, main dishes (omnivore and vegetarian), desserts, and drinks.

Notes For Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th
Due to high attendance in previous years, this year we are holding two worship services on Christmas Eve. Please join us, and we hope you'll bring friends and family. The worship services will be identical, and will be held at 4:00 and 5:30pm. This is a family time, so there will not be childcare, and we expect the sanctuary will have some rustling. When the baby was in the stable, afterall, it surely was not perfectly quiet. Contrary to prior announcements, there is no "coffee" or "cider" hour planned at this time for between the services. However, if any of you would like to organize one, please contact the church office.

Notes For Sunday, December 27th
Due to the 2009 budget shortfall, we will be closing the church building and all programs this final week of the budget year. This closure will include Sunday programming in addition to Monday Night at the Church activities and all other events through the new year holiday. All church offices will be closed, and the church will be kept dark and without heat. There will not be a worship service on December 27th, nor will there be children's classes or youth groups.

Notes For Sunday, January 3rd
On this Sunday, our prekindergarten through third graders will return to classes. Our 4th-12th graders will be celebrating our entry into our 225th year as a congregation, either through their attendance at a worship service on our history as a congregation or by working on a time capsule and/or 225th banner for the sanctuary. The exact plans will be announced shortly. In the meantime, if any of you are willing to help with a time capsule project, a banner project, or in the interview of church elders, please speak with Sierra-Marie, Director of Religious Education. On this Sunday, January 3rd, a history display board will be unveiled in the Bancroft Room.

For Children and Youth: Sunday, December 20th

PreKindergarten, Kindergarten, and First Grade Classes (Spirit Play): When you come to class this week, be sure to look at the altar for the Kwanzaa Kinara, the Hanukkah Menorah, the Advent Wreath, and a Winter Solstice candle. We'll be thinking about the many festivals of light. Laura and Gina will be our teachers in prekindergarten, Renee and Diane in kindergarten, and Joonu and Vivian in first grade.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): Come make a simplified piƱata and celebrate Las Posadas with us. Las Posadas is a holiday of Mexico and some other Latin American countries. It comes before Christmas, as the journey of Mary and Joseph to the inn of Jesus' birth is recalled. Joyce and Kim will teach us.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): In this season as Jesus' birth is celebrated, we'll continue looking at the person Jesus grew to be. With teachers Scott Murphy and Henry Keyes, and through costumes and drama, this Sunday we will discover how Jesus chose his close companions. See Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, and Luke 5:1-11 and 8:1-3.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace), 7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology), and 9th-12th Grade (YRU2 Youth Group): Middle Schoolers, this Sunday afternoon please join us for our BYKOTA event, during which we'll be helping at "The Little Store" with donated Christmas gifts. Please note that there will NOT BE morning classes for 6th-12th grade or youth group THIS Sunday, including the "Our Whole Lives" values-based sexuality education class for 7th-8th graders. Instead, we have been invited to the worship service to enjoy "music Sunday."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thank You To Many Volunteers

Thank you again to all of our pageant parents and especially the MANY volunteers who made the Christmas pageant a success this year.

Kris J.

Growing Times Choir Director
Madeline B.

Musical Accompanist
Cindy B.

Cindy C.
Sue P.
Gina D.

Hair Master
Michele B.

Kid Wranglers
Kim N.
Jen M.

Abigail H.R.
Kelley G.
Jerry B.
Laura K.
Brooke B.
Gina R.
Amy B.
Seth P.
Jennifer W.C.
Anita K.
Sue P.
Linda W.
Michele B.
Karen M.
Christine S.

(our apologies for accidental omissions...we had such a great and big crowd of helpers this year)

Staff Assistants
Abigail H.R.
Donna R.
Jim M.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't Miss the Teen Choir Mummer's Play

Don't miss the teen choir in the Master Singer's Boar's Head festival, during which teens from our congregation and the Holden Street congregation will together perform their own Mummer's Play. This is a fun way to celebrate the season! The performance takes place across the street at the Wesley United Methodist Church at 4:00pm on Saturday, December 12th. Please call the Master Singers at (508) 842-1349 for ticket price lists or orders.

Worcester Community Item of Interest

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported today that there will be a showing of the movie "Consuming Kids," free and open to the public on Tuesday, December 8th at 6:00pm at the Worcester Public Library. The viewing will be followed by a discussion led by Josh Golin, Associate Director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood in Boston.

Parent Help For the Pageant

If you have a child in the pageant, please help with one of the following.
  • We could use one or two more “wranglers” for our children who can come to the pageant rehearsal this Saturday and then help the children at the pageant on Sunday. We are in particular need of another shepherd wrangler, and perhaps someone to help the wise people and Mary and Joseph with their cues.
  • Parents, please bring a snack for the children to share to Saturday's rehearsal and/or on Sunday morning if you can. Fresh fruit, cherry tomatoes, and carrot and celery sticks with dip all make particularly good non-allergenic snacks.
  • We will need three or four Growing Times Choir assistants to help the children with the halos and during “waiting” time. We also need a volunteer to signal the choir director when it is time for the children to come upstairs and sing. Please contact Sierra-Marie to volunteer.
  • We have one "hair accessory master" who has volunteered to help the children bobby pin their hairpieces into place on Sunday, but we could use up to two or three more.

Pageant Costumes

Growing Times Choir and Christmas Pageant cast, below is a rundown of what to wear on pageant Sunday.

Growing Times Choir: Just come in whatever lovely clothes your parents ask you to wear. You are most welcome to wear your holiday clothes. Be sure to spend a lot of time practicing nice signing voices for your songs this week, and then please just bring your smiles.

If you want you can also bring a stuffed animal for our “woodland animal” props. We’ll give you a special garland halo, and we’ll have jingle bells for you to ring at the appropriate time.

Narrators: Dress nicely. If you have any special holiday clothes, you can wear those as well.

Joseph, Innkeeper, Herod, Wise People, Shepherds: Wear lightweight clothing (those robes are hot and heavy). Once you arrive, please wear sandals or slippers on your feet.

Mary, Gabriel, Star, Angels: Wear lightweight clothing. Also make sure your clothing is light in color as you are wearing white or light colored robes. Once you arrive, please wear sandals or slippers on your feet.

Additional Notes:
1. Please don’t spend money on your shoes. For costumed parts, we would prefer you wear slippers, ballet shoes, or sandles, but if you don’t have any, wear something simple or just wear what you have. Please no furry crazy slippers—they are adorable but not for the pageant.

2. All costume-wearing pageant participants were fitted for the pageant at rehearsal last Saturday. If you were not present for the rehearsal last Saturday, please come 15 minutes before your rehearsal time to get fitted. We have only one day for last minute alterations, which will be a tall order for our most gracious costume volunteers.

Pageant Weekend Schedule

This weekend is not only our final days of preparation for the pageant, but also our pageant itself. The pageant will be presented in the context of the worship service on December 13th.

Below is a basic outline of the schedule for the weekend. Please see your mailbox this week for a more detailed schedule.

Saturday, December 12th, 9 am– 12:00 pm: Rehearsal for all cast members. Angels and shepherds don't need to arrive until 10:00am, but all cast members, please be prompt.

Sunday, December 13th, 8:45 am: This is the morning of the dress rehearsal. All cast members should arrive by 8:45 am sharp to be dressed in costume and ready to rehearse at 9:00 am on the dot!

Sunday, December 13th, 9:45 am: Our “Growing Times Choir,” made up of children from our preschool and kindergarten class, will not have another rehearsal until this, our dress rehearsal immediately prior to the performance. Please arrive promptly at 9:45 am on Sunday if your child would like to sing in the choir.

Sunday, December 13th, 10:30 am: The Christmas pageant is the “sermon” portion of the worship service. We begin worship at 10:30 a.m.

See you this weekend, and call Sierra-Marie with any questions at 508-757-2708 ext. 105! Thanks for your participation...this will be a lot of fun!