The First Religious Society Newsletter
The Steeple Biweekly

Scroll down to find these news sections. 
  • Sunday Services
  • Order Poinsettias
  • Calendar of Events
  • Within Our
  • Beyond Our Doors
  • Journey of Faith

Sunday Services

Monthly theme: Faith

December 3 - The Question of Faith - Rev. Susan Milnor. December, it could be said, is a month for faith. But what is faith for Unitarian Universalists? The most helpful question isn't necessarily, "What do I believe?" but, rather...what? Poet Wendell Berry gives us a helpful entry point to a reflection on a deep experience.

December 10 -Returning to Sit Together -Rev. Susan Milnor. Often "family" is cast in such nostalgic terms that it leaves many of us out. We know that today our understanding of family must be more inclusive than ever, but can it be more holistic as well? Writer Alice Walker offers some insights into the kind of faith it would take.  Our service today will include an infant dedication ceremony. In our tradition, the full meaning of dedication includes the congregation dedicating itself to spiritually nurturing a child - our version of "becoming the village," a very extended family of choice - so you, too, are an important part of this favorite Unitarian Universalist ritual.

Two men in Santa caps
December 17 - 10:30am - Pageant from the Pews - Multigenerational Service -Julie Parker-Amery, Rev. Susan Milnor, and So Many More. Come one, come all, and participate in our fun-loving, low-stress telling of the nativity story. Of course, we will end with the FRS tradition of singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

December 17 - 7:15pm - Candlelight Service - Candlelight Choir, Teen Choir, Young Church Choir, Dana Maiben, Rev. Susan Milnor. As always, music from the three choirs and from guest musicians, Christmas carols, and readings will mark for many that the season is truly here. Come enjoy both the music and the beauty of the candlelit sanctuary.

December 24 - 10:30am - The Still of the Morning - Rev. Susan Milnor. Our morning service will offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. With gentle readings and reflective harp music by our own Aster Shepherd, and a simple meditation or two, we will enter the quieter spirit of the winter holidays. A contemplative service for adults while Young Church spends the entire hour in the Lower Meeting Hall watching Charlie Brown's Christmas.

December 24 - 5:00pm - Christmas Eve Service - Rev. Susan Milnor. With all the usual joy, we will celebrate on this Christmas Eve with carols, song, reading, story. Of course, we will end by lighting our candles in the dark and singing "Silent Night." All ages welcome.

December 31 - Gong Meditation and Relaxation. Zach Field returns to FRS to help us bring in the new year with peace and calm. The soothing sounds of pitched gongs distract the mind as Zach leads us in meditation. Zach's percussion studio, Zach Field Drum Studios , and music school, the Musical Suite, are both located at the Tannery in Newburyport.

Collection for a Cause
Half of December's unpledged cash collection plate donations will go to the Salvation Army Fuel Assistance Program.
Order your Christmas poinsettias by December 8

Order your Christmas poinsettias in memory or in celebration of friends or loved ones. 
A list of donors and their messages will be included in the Christmas Candlelight Service program. You may pick up your plant after the December 17 Candlelight Service to enjoy in your home. Cost is $25 for a large plant. Deadline for orders is noon, Friday, December 8. Print the form and return it to the church office with your payment.
Calendar of Events

Thursday, November 30: Racial Justice Task Force forms. Lower Meeting House, 6:30pm. The issues of white supremacy and racism remain central points in our national debate and have, indeed, become issues within Unitarian Universalism itself. Where do we stand as individuals? As a community? Read more...

Tiny Gallery December artist
Sunday, December 3: Fair trade sale. During Coffee Hour. The ever-popular sale of Mayan Hands products featuring hand-crafted items from Guatemala will be back. Sales support families of this non-profit organization and benefit our church as well. For more information, please visit or contact Eileen Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, December 5: Short Story Group.  Lower Meeting House, 12-1pm. The story for discussion will be "Lust" by Susan Minot. Attendees are welcome to bring a lunch. (This group meets regularly the first and third Tuesdays of every month.)

Tuesday, December 5: Program Council. Lower Meeting House, 7pm. Representatives of each committee and interest group in the church are asked to attend. Meet our new Director of Finance and Administration, talk about budget, a joint theme, and more.--Diane Young , X409.

Wednesday, December 6: First Wednesday. Lower Meeting House, 7-8pm. Reformed ex-felon, Clarence Blevins, will present his experiences as he helps inmates try to succeed in their transitions between prison and home. This discussion is Part 2 of our Wednesday series on prison concerns in our area. Presented by JAM, Pennies for Poverty, and UU Church of Haverhill.
Wednesday, December 6: Jazz Vespers. Sanctuary, 8-8:45pm. December Jazz Vespers features Donna Seim who will read selections from her award-winning historical fiction Charley. Come see how this story relates to a member of the church and enjoy the house band of Lark Madden, Tomas Havrda, Susan Creamer and Michael Gruen. Jazz Vespers celebrates the inspiration of Jazz, Blues and Pop music, and includes readings and time for reflection.

Saturday, December 9: FRS on Newburyport Holiday House Tour. 10am-4pm. Will you help us welcome hundreds of people? Sign up with Lynn Kettleson. Learn about the tour at

Sunday, December 10: Tiny Gallery reception. 12-5pm. Artist Ann McCrea invites the community to her exhibit and sale.

Wednesday, December 13: Alliance holiday luncheon. Bradford Tavern, Rowley, noon. Private room, handicapped accessible, separate checks. Yankee Swap is optional-bring a thrifty and nifty wrapped gift. RSVP to Patty King.

Wednesday December 20: Retired Ladies lunch. Hart House, Ipswich, noon. Special time; Peg Mays to reserve (carpool).

See the website calendar for a complete listing of events.
Within Our Community

Send holiday cards to imprisoned UUs
The holidays can be tough. Over 800 incarcerated UU members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship are hoping for cards from us to bring them some holiday cheer! On Sunday, December 3, get your card at the church entrance, and sign with a warm message. Don't bring your own cards as there are very special requirements for cards to be accepted in prisons. Read more...

Annual Toy Drive: fulfill a child's wish
Fulfill a wish for each child residing at Kelleher Gardens in Newburyport. We have continued our relationship with Kelleher Gardens since we spearheaded the drive to build a playground a few years ago. The Community Human Services Committee will have a table at Coffee Hour on December 3 and 10. Please stop by to choose a wish and bring a smile to the face of a child this holiday season. Return the toy to the vestibule by Sunday, December 17. Thank you.--Barbara Garnis, Community Human Services Committee

Pile of Christmas presents
Last chance to donate items for "The Gift of Giving" is Sunday, December 3. Please bring your items to the Conference Room in the Lower Meeting House after the service. In addition to unused items (candles, mugs, lotions, jewelry) that the kids of Kelleher Gardens can give their parents, we also need bows, tags, small boxes for jewelry, tissue, and gift wrap. Contact Nancy Crochiere with questions, or if you would like to volunteer for the event, which takes place Friday, December 8, from 1-3pm.

Send encouragement to Sutherland Springs
Stop in the vestibule before church to add your name and message to a card for the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Cards are available through December 3, when they will be mailed out with a cover letter from Rev. Susan.
Beyond Our Doors

Scratch class: Using Math and Design Based Thinking to Create
Classes for children, learning to create projects in Scratch Junior or Scratch, using MakeyMakey. These projects can be animations, games, puzzles, simulations. Our approach to learning is design-based knowledge construction, and thinking about thinking process. These classes will be tailored to those who are interested. We like working with small. If you are interested in these classes, now or in 2018 please contact us. Susan McPhee, Alan Papert and Sandra Thaxter are the instructors. Read more...

Newburyport Choral Society 2017 Winter Concert: "The Rose and the Night Star"
The Newburyport Choral Society will perform its annual Winter Concert on Saturday evening, December 9 at 8pm and Sunday afternoon, December 10 at 2:30pm at the Belleville Congregational Church in Newburyport. This festive program will highlight Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns' beautiful Christmas Oratorio, various musical settings of Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming, and many other seasonal favorites. The Greater Newburyport Children's Chorus will also be featured. For ticket information, visit or call 978-462-0650.

Massachusetts passes progressive criminal justice bills
This legislation is a big step forward for justice. We are grateful to FRS members who helped promote this legislation with our State Representatives. It has been a long haul. Many UU Churches, and UU Mass Action should be honored for their remarkable commitment to over several years. This legislation, now passed by the house and in debate in the Senate puts Massachusetts in the forefront of achieving a more just society. Read more...
Kim Dowling
Journey of Faith

Kim Dowling shared her Journey of Faith on November 19.

No one can predict how they are going to react to bad news. In years past whenever I heard tragic news about someone, I'd think, "I can't imagine..." and then would continue on with my invincible life. Until one day, the tragedy happened to me. At the age of 36, with three children under the age of 3, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which I was told had spread to my spine and for which there was no cure. I would be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life and my life expectancy was only about 2 to 5 years.

In the time since, I have found that this devastating diagnosis has helped me to discover parts of myself that I didn't know were there. It is really where my spiritual journey begins, and helped me arrive at a peaceful place. Read more...
The deadline for the December 12 newsletter is Friday, December 8 at noon.
Send your submissions to Diane Young.
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