Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Pageant

Please join us
This Sunday, December 14, 2014

Be Charmed by our Jingle Bell Choir

and entranced by 

Our Annual Christmas Pageant.

This year both starring and directed by our youth.

It's the same ancient story...

 Born new every year.
 Come journey with us...

Follow the wisdom...  

   See the Drama...

Be touched by an angel...

And experience the wonder all over again!

Hanukkah Party

All are welcome:

Please join us this Sunday, December 14,
Immediately after the service
In the Chapel 
and Unity Hall

At Our Annual
Hanukkah Party
Enjoy latkes, bagels, jelly doughnuts, chocolate gelt and more!

Our YRU2 and BYKOTA youth groups will lead our children in Crafts and Games. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Compass Points Theological Survey

Last week our middle school Compass Points class conducted a theological survey of the congregation during coffee hour. Thank you to everyone who participated and voted. If you were in church on Sunday, then you heard one of our students report back to the congregation. However, if you missed hearing this young man speak, here is a recap of the results:
Compass Points Theological Survey Results
First Unitarian Church of Worcester, 
November 9, 2014
There is a spark of divinity in each of us.
There are probably as many ideas about God as there are people.
We can use science and reason to understand our Universe.
God is present in the relationships among people.
I find God in nature.
God and the Universe are the same – God is in everything and everyone.
God is my conscience calling me to make the world a better place.
There’s no way we can know whether or not there is a God.
God cares for us and listens to our prayers.
Creation is ongoing, and we are co-creators with God.
God is like a loving mother who sustains us and all life.
My beliefs about Jesus make me feel closer to God.
There’s no such thing as God, and even the word is meaningless.
God created the universe and left it to run itself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Youth Are Amazing

When Given Lemons, Make…

Ever wonder how Biblical stories pertain to our Unitarian Universalist faith or the modern world we live in? Just ask our youth. 

Last week we gave our middle school Compass Points students each a lemon. Then we took the lemons back and mixed them up. Each youth was able to pick their own lemon back out and explain what made his or her lemon unique. If we can do this with lemons, surely we can do this with our fellow humans. This led to a discussion of our first UU Principle:  "The inherent worth and dignity of every person."

The class moved onto the story of The Good Samaritan and the subject of hospitality. Many of these same youth are members of our BYKOTA youth group, and had spent time that week volunteering at the Interfaith Hospitality Network house, helping to entertain the 11 homeless children staying there. 

When discussing our first principle, and the subject of hospitality, caring for those in need, and treating others as we want to be treated, it seemed an obvious “Of course we should.” Then the conversation turned to the Ebola crisis and how we should react. Yes. These are some deep thinking and caring youth we've got here.

This week, that caring was made visible when our middle school youth group BYKOTA, along with our senior high youth group YRU2 hosted the All Souls Day UNICEF Carnival with great success! Thank you to everyone who attended and bought tickets and to all the kids who returned a UNICEF trick or treat box.
We raised $475 for UNICEF. 

 If you missed this event, you missed seeing and hearing our Moderator, Seth Popinchalk perform "Let It Go," from Frozen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BYKOTA Rises to the Top and Ollie Soars

This past Sunday, our junior high youth group, BYKOTA climbed Mt. Wachusett.
Don't know what BYKOTA stands for? 
The only way to find out is to join BYKOTA as a youth or become an Advisor.
 BYKOTA rules one of the glacial rocks

 Ollie, our purple octopus mascot takes flight!

 Check out Boston!

View from the top of Mt. Wachusett

Jesus and His Kingdom of Equals

What have our  5th and 6th graders been up to? They've been learning about ancient Palestine during the time of Jesus' childhood. (Check a couple of the sandals they designed last week and the pictures of the Palestinian village they've built). Now they begin looking at the transition period between Jesus' childhood and early ministry. This Sunday, they will be going out into the wilderness (around our church) to hear the "voice crying in the wilderness" and to learn about John the Baptizer. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Under the Sukkah

Our 3rd and 4th Grade Holidays and Holy Days class went outside to decorate our Sukkah and to learn about Sukkot. One of our Jewish Unitarians built the structure and visited the class to share some Hebrew songs and traditions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Halloween Party for UNICEF

Halloween Party for UNICEF
All Ages Welcome!
November 2, 2014  11:30am  in Unity Hall

Wear your costume and come play games, do crafts, join the
Cake Walk, and even pay to have your parents (or friends) sing
a song on stage! More information to come!

All proceeds will benefit UNICEF:

UNICEF upholds the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We
workto assure equality for those who are discriminated against,
girls and women in particular. We work for the Millennium
Development Goals and for the progress promised in the United
Nations Charter. We strive for peace and security. We work to
hold everyone accountable to the promises made for children.

Come join the fun!

Sponsored by the BYKOTA and YRU2 youth groups 
for more information, contact Youth Ministries Coordinator 
Lesa McWalters lesamcwalters@yahoo.com or call the church.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

YRU2 October Events

YRU2 Youth Group Update
This Sunday, October 5th, the YRU2 High School youth group will be meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 90 Holden Street at 6:00 – 7:00 pm to attend the Soulful Sundown Service.  From 7:00 – 8:30 pm the YRU2 youth group and the UU Youth Group will have a joint gathering of pizza and games.  This is a great opportunity for all youth in grades 8-12.
Also, on October 4th at 6:00 pm, all youth in grades 7-12, and all adults, are invited to attend a movie screening of “A Place We Can Call Home” at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 90 Holden St. in Worcester. 
"A Place We Can Call Home" captures the story of three youth who journeyed from three different continents to live in the United States.  As young people living in Worcester, Massachusetts they confront the same joys and hardships of teenagers anywhere in the United States, but these youth face additional challenges as immigrants.  This film, conceived, written and produced by youth, brings young people's realities and perspectives to the national debate on immigration.  This film screening is free and open to the public.

YRU2 meets every Sunday evening from 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the Youth Lounge and is open to all youth in grades 9-12.  For more information contact Lesa McWalters, Youth Ministries Coordinator, at lmcwalters@firstunitarian.com or by calling the church.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Faith Development Classes Begin This Sunday!

I hope all our families who spent the weekend at Ferry Beach had an excellent retreat. We had a small group here who went to the kitchen for a web of life story, a bursting experiment, and a service project. We also enjoyed seeing some of you a couple weeks ago for our welcome back Water Communion in the Children’s Chapel.

Faith Development Classes begin this Sunday.

You do not need to re-register your child if you have done so previously. However, if your child has a new medical condition or allergy, please make sure to let me know. This is important for your child’s safety! Also many of our classes and stories deal with major life issues. If your child has had a major development in his or her life during the past year, such as the birth of a sibling, death of a loved one, wedding of a parent, divorce of a parent, etc. I would ask that you let me know, so that your child’s teachers can especially sensitive if the subject come up. Also feel free to contact me with any questions. I can be reached at ahannaford-ricardi@firstunitarian.com or by calling the church office 508-757-2708 and asking for me or leaving me a message at extension 106.

We have exciting plans for this year. We are blessed with an extremely dedicated and energetic Faith Development Team, as well as many volunteer teachers, advisors and family greeters.  Plus, next month we expect to welcome a new Acting Director of Faith Development.
I hope to see you this Sunday.


Abigail Hannaford-Ricardi

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Curricula 2015-2016

Curricula 2015-2016

Room for our tiniest ones
Nursery for infants to 3 years of age
10:15 AM – 12 Noon and for some special events and meetings
Room 3 Lower Level

First Unitarian provides childcare for newborn children through three years of age. Our Nursery staff consist of a dedicated team of paid care providers to offer children a safe and nurturing environment where they can have fun, play together and learn. Parents are warmly welcome in the Nursery; in fact, their presence is at times recommended, especially if it is the first time your child attends our Nursery. Families using the nursery are asked to sign in before leaving their child, and to sign out when they are picking up their child. 

Parent & Child Quiet Space
Available during Worship Services
Room 7 Lower Level

We value and welcome children in our sanctuary, but you have options: If you have a young child who is not ready to be separated from you, this is a quiet space available during worship services for nursing or safe baby play time. There is a speaker system in place so that you can tune into the worship service while still seeing to your child’s needs. No child should be left unattended in this space.  A changing table is available in the youth bathroom.

Preschool (ages 3-4)
Spirit Play I     The Promises
Children begin in the service. After Time for All Ages, the children and teachers go to classrooms. 
Parents pick up at the classroom at 11:45 AM.
Room 6 Lower Level

Spirit Play is a Montessori-based program designed specifically for Unitarian Universalists. It is a unique program which follows a set structure.  The program encourages students to explore creatively, think independently, and develop a sense of ritual and sacred space. Spirit Play is a way of learning and experiencing spirituality in a meaningful setting where every aspect of the class is imbued with sacred significance.

Spirit Play I, our program for 3 and 4 year olds, is the first of three Spirit Play programs. SP I focuses on the Seven UU Principles and our liturgical year through story and work time. In this class, the principles are called the “Seven Promises” and we use language children understand. Story baskets are filled with tools of exploration. Art projects are also included.

Please see the Family’s Guide to Spirit Play

Kindergarten and 1st grade
Spirit Play II     The Sources
Children begin in the service. After Time for All Ages, the children and teachers go to classrooms. 
Parents pick up at the classroom at 11:45 AM.
Room 4 Lower Level

Spirit Play is a Montessori-based program designed specifically for Unitarian Universalists. It is a unique program which follows a set structure.  The program encourages students to explore creatively, think independently, and develop a sense of ritual and sacred space. Spirit Play is a way of learning and experiencing spirituality in a meaningful setting where every aspect of the class is imbued with sacred significance.   
Spirit Play II, our program for first and second grade students, is the second of three Spirit Play programs.  SPII encourages critical thinking, and a sense of spirituality through cooperative independent work time as chosen by the children. SP II focuses on the Six Unitarian Universalist Sources:
Wonder and Awe: Stories of the Mystery that some people call God
                        Beginnings and Endings
                        Sacred Places
                        Church Corner or Altar Table
                        Ways to Pray
Heroes and Heroines (Prophetic Women and Men)
World Religion Stories and Lessons
Judeo-Christian Stories
Stories based in Science and Humanism
Stories of our Interdependent Web/ Earth Centered Spiritualties

For more information please see the brief Family’s Guide to Spirit Play

2nd and 3rd Grade
Spirit Play III     Holidays and Holy Days
Children begin in the service. After Time for All Ages, the children and teachers go to classrooms. 
Parents pick up at the classroom at 11:45 AM.
Room 5 Lower Level

Holidays and Holy Days – the third Spirit Play program - is a Montessori-based program designed specifically for Unitarian Universalists.
It is a unique program which follows a set structure.  The program encourages students to explore creatively, think independently, and develop a sense of ritual and sacred space. Spirit Play is a way of learning and experiencing spirituality in a meaningful setting where every aspect of the class is imbued with sacred significance.

Through exploring the various celebrations and traditions of the world religions, children are introduced to the variety of beliefs, symbols, rituals, and stories as well as our history and values. Each lesson is connected to an aspect of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

For more information please see the brief Family’s Guide to Spirit Play
4th and 5th Grade
Children begin in the service. After Time for All Ages, the children and teachers go to classrooms. 
They are dismissed from the classroom at 11:45 AM.
Room 1 Lower Level

This is the second year of a two year cycle of Bible literacy classes. Following last year’s in depth look at the Old Testament Bible, this year focuses on the New Testament.
Jesus and his Kingdom of Equals introduces our 5th and 6th graders to an interpretation of the historical Jesus based on contemporary biblical research, principally from the Jesus Seminar. In thirty-three weekly lessons students experience an unfolding narrative of a Jewish reformer who saw through the hypocrisy and elitism of first-century Roman Palestine. This itinerant sage brought a message of affirmation and egalitarianism to oppressed and powerless Galileans and described a kingdom of love, not in the future but already present in the hearts of people. Drama, simulations, crafts including clay and weaving, songs, social service initiatives, and other creative hands-on activities reinforce values concerning such teachings as respect for all, sharing worldly goods, conflict resolution, and friendship.

6th through 8th Grade
D'oh God! 6th through 8th Grades
Youth begin in the service and leave the classroom at 11:45 AM.
Above Stage Classrooms through Unity Hall
Compass Points is a curriculum which guides adolescents on a yearlong spiritual journey with opportunities to explore their identities, their beliefs, their Unitarian Universalist faith, their relationships with others and their connections to the world.  Compass Points is designed for middle school youth groups and is often used in conjunction with coming of age programs.

The Goals of Compass Points are:
·         To help participants sort out their feelings about themselves and their world as they do the difficult work of starting to create their adult selves
·         To help them discover what they believe about life's big questions -- the nature of humanity and the divine, beliefs about life, death and faith
·          To help youth think independently, assume responsibility, make decisions, explore values and adopt the practice of radical hospitality
·          To guide participants in acquiring enough background in Unitarian Universalist history, polity and theology that they can know and express what it means to be a Unitarian Universalists
·          To help them understand that religious liberty is a hard-won legacy that continues to need protection

The Kaleidoscope Classroom
Multi Age
This class is specifically designed for children who fall on the PDD spectrum.

Class begins at 10:45 AM and lets out at 11:45 AM. Parents may choose to have their child attend the first 15 minutes of worship in the sanctuary, or they can spend that time with their child in the Parent & Child Quiet Space (The Bride’s Room # 7 on the Lower Level) before taking him or her to class.
Gather in Room 2 (by the elevator) Lower Level

First Unitarian is committed to addressing the needs of all the children in our program, and we strive to integrate children with special needs into our regular classes. If your child requires accommodations to ensure a successful experience, please let us know. We also recognize that sometimes typical classes may not be a good fit for a child.
The Faith Development Ministries program is thrilled to offer a new special needs ministry class on Sunday mornings that will provide an alternative to traditional FDM classes. This class is for children whose needs can be better met with more consistent leadership, additional staff, a more structured space, and a smaller group size. The Kaleidoscope Classroom will provide participants with an opportunity to engage in imaginative play, creative crafts and spiritual rituals led by nurturing and committed teachers who have specific skills and experience in working with children on the spectrum. If you are interesting in signing up your child for this class please talk with Abigail Hannaford-Ricardi, our Children’s Ministries Coordinator, or include information on your child’s registration form describing your child's special needs and how we can best meet his or her needs.

Youth Groups
BYKOTA – 6th-8th Grades
Our Junior High youth group meets on the first Sunday of each month from 9 a.m-10:00 a.m. In their meetings, they check-in with one another and plan for a variety of social activities and service projects, both in the church and in the community. BYKOTA meets in the “Bride’s Room” downstairs in the Sunday School wing. Youth entering 9th grade have the option of staying in the BYKOTA youth group or moving on to the YRU2 youth group.
 YRU2 – 9th-12th Grades
Our High School youth group meets each Sunday from 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the Youth Lounge located on the Mezzanine Level of the church. The YRU2 program is based on a balance of worship, youth-adult relations, community building, social action, learning, and leadership. They also get together for outside events, fundraisers, and retreats.  Youth in this age group are encouraged to attend or participate in worship services, and assist in other leadership roles within the church.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Faith in Action Proposals are Now Being Accepted

What is your passion?  What cause would you like our congregation to learn more about and support? 

In 2013-2014, First Unitarian sponsored 50/50 collections for nine different organizations that were proposed by members.  We plan to do the same in 2014-2015, and we would like to begin accepting proposals now.  

Each month, on the first or second Sunday, a short “Faith in Action Presentation” will be offered from 12-1 pm.  This will include a short presentation (preferably with/from someone involved in the organization) and discussion of how it fits with our UU values and mission.  On the following Sunday, 50% of the cash collected in the Sunday offering will go to the chosen organization.  

In order to have a broad spectrum of organizations, we have separated the year into “categories.”  The category dates may be shifted if necessary, and some organizations may fit into more than one category. Please return your proposal as soon as possible.  The deadline for proposals is November 1.   You may also submit a proposal by following this link to the online proposal form.

When the adult programming team (Tom Crowley, Gene Johnson, Ken Mandile, Fran Nase, and Paul Ropp) receives all proposals, we will determine which fit the best for each category and submit these proposals to the Lay Leadership Program Council.  Organizations that are not chosen for 50/50 collections may still offer educational Faith in Action presentations to raise awareness on other Sundays.

The following categories are suggestions of possible types of organizations. Your proposal may not fit into any of these categories.  We really want a diverse collection of organizations.  Those who have received 50/50 collections in the past are encouraged to apply again.

Race Relations:  
Anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism is a social justice issue on which Unitarian Universalists have taken a specific stance.  How can we contribute to this cause?  

Education:  What types of educational organizations can we support?  One example is the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, which we chose to support through our youth faith in action in spring 2013.  How can we contribute to education?  

Animal Rights and other Animal-related Justice:  Animals are an integral part of the interconnected web of all existence.  Three years ago our children chose for us to support the Worcester Animal Rescue League.  But this category could also include such diverse organizations as Heifer International or even NEADS, an organization that trains service dogs. 

Disability and/or Illness: There are so many organizations that help people with disabilities (including learning disabilities) and illnesses.  It's impossible to list them all. 

Environment: What organizations can help us support positive environmental preservation and change?  This is another opportunity to connect directly with the interconnected web of life.  

GLBTQ:  As a Welcoming Congregation, what organizations support equal rights and awareness for people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning? 

This is an excellent opportunity for us to give generously and learn more about how to put our faith in action.  Please consider attending the programs and proposing one of your own.   

NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services - See more at: http://www.neads.org/about-us#sthash.avg9e3wF.dpuf

NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services - See more at: http://www.neads.org/about-us#sthash.avg9e3wF.dpuf

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jedi Academy Details

If you have not signed up your kids for Jedi Academy this weekend, it is not too late!  You can sign them up in advance (http://www.imaginedcollective.org/jedi-academy-weekend.html) and walk-ins are also welcome.

Just a couple of notes to help you know what’s going on:

·      All of our activities will be upstairs at the church.  All students should enter through the upstairs Unity Hall entrance.  If your child is only coming for either the morning or afternoon, the best time for them to come in would be during lunch – but they are welcome any time. 

·      A parent should come in to check the student in and come in to check the student out (even if they are coming in at an odd time).

·      Our lunch will be 12:30-1 pm.  Students need to bring their own bag lunches.  We will have a morning snack (grapes) during one of the training times. 

·      Students are encouraged to wear padawan costumes or other Star Wars related costumes/T-shirts if they like, but please leave light sabers at home.  Adults who are staying are definitely encouraged to wear costumes and may bring light sabers.

·      Adults and DROIDS (teens) who are staying for the day are asked to arrive early (8:15 am) so they can get oriented.

·      We will have a limited number of UU Jedi Academy T-shirts available in a variety of sizes for $15 each.

·      We are asking a $15 donation for the weekend, and the proceeds of these donations will go toward a Jedi Academy mission trip planned for 2015.  Checks should be made out to First Unitarian.  The donation is not required to participate.

May 3, 2014

(Staff should arrive by no later than 8:15 am)

8:45-10 am – Entering and Opening Assembly

10-10:30 – Training 1
  • Skill (Unity Hall) - Younglings
  • Senses (Youth Room) - Padawan 1
  • Courage (Left side Jedi Room) - Padawan 2
  • Insight (Chapel) - Padawan 3
  • Spirit (Right Side Jedi Room) - Free period
10:30-11 - Training 2
  • Skill (Unity Hall) - Free period
  • Senses (Youth Room) - Younglings (Snack??)
  • Courage (Left side Jedi Room) - Padawan 1
  • Insight (Chapel) - Padawan 2
  • Spirit (Right Side Jedi Room) - Padawan 3
11-11:30 - Training 3
  • Skill (Unity Hall) - Padawan 3
  • Senses (Youth Room) - Free period
  • Courage (Left side Jedi Room) - Younglings
  • Insight (Chapel) - Padawan 1
  • Spirit (Right Side Jedi Room) - Padawan 2

11:30-12 – Training 4
  • Skill (Unity Hall) - Padawan 2
  • Senses (Youth Room) - Padawan 3
  • Courage (Left side Jedi Room) - Free period
  • Insight (Chapel) - Younglings
  • Spirit (Right Side Jedi Room) - Padawan 1

12-12:30 - Training 5
  • Skill (Unity Hall) - Padawan 1
  • Senses (Youth Room) - Padawan 2
  • Courage (Left side Jedi Room) - Padawan 3
  • Insight (Chapel) - Free period
  • Spirit (Right Side Jedi Room) - Younglings

12:30-1 – Lunch - all will eat in the “Center of the Universe”

1-1:45 – Free Training

  • All Padawans who are planning for the trials must attend the Spirit “Planets Game” in the Jedi Temple (Spirit Training Room).

  • All others are encouraged to rotate through the other training areas.  Younglings will have adult guides with them during this time.  If they complete all four activities, they get a prize.

1:45-2:45 – Trials and/or Pod Races

  • Padawans who have participated all year will undergo the five trials to become a Jedi Knight.  All other padawans and younglings will watch part of it and then be guided in pod races (basically relay races).

2:45-3:00 – Closing Assembly

May 4, 2014 - May the Fourth Be With You

10:15-10:45 - Opening Activities -
At First Unitarian, children usually begin the morning in the worship service until 10:45.  We will have a special “Time for All Ages” about Jedi Academy, so all are encouraged to attend.  Padawans who are going to be knighted must attend the beginning of the service as it is a part of their knighthood ceremony.  There will be supervised activities upstairs for any children who do not attend the first part of the service.

10:45-11:45 – Free Training - Kids can rotate through all of the training areas for short activities.  

11:45-12:15Knighthood Ceremony - Teachers and parents will be encouraged to join us.  We will gather everyone in the “Center of the Universe” for this ceremony as soon as the other adults arrive.

12:15-1Snacks, Pod Races, and Closing Activities

During the congregational meeting, we will offer snacks to the kids and other fun activities.  When an adult comes up to tell us that the meeting has finished, we will close with the Jedi Code.