May 19, 2021
Annual Ministry Theme: Imagine

May Ministry Theme: Praise

“In today's sharp sparkle. . . any thing can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light.”

― Elizabeth Alexander

Sunday, May 23rd from 10:30-noon
FRS Annual Meeting
In lieu of Sunday Worship Service, we will gather for our Annual Meeting which provides us with a time to meet to affirm our faith and build toward our future.

At the Annual Meeting we will vote on amending outdated bylaws, divesting in companies that make weapons, becoming a ministerial internship teaching site, and, most importantly, approving the budget that supports our work.

RSVP here!
Check out the 2020-2021 Annual Report here!

Join on Zoom:
Meeting ID: 817 2180 1499  /  Passcode: 668856
One tap mobile:
+19292056099,,81721801499# US (New York)
Dial by phone:
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

Later in the day, starting at 3:00pm, our congregation will celebrate the ordination of Sophia Lyons, who has been a member of FRSUU since 2013. Our church has not only been her and her family's spiritual home, but also serves as her endorsing congregation – an honor that is the beginning step on a UU minister's path toward ordination.

We hope you will join us in recognizing, celebrating, and ordaining Sophia Lyons.
Meeting ID: 962 1577 7937 

Sign up to participate in Sunday, May 30th's outside Worship Service at
Atkinson Common here!
The Holy Act of Ordination,
By We the Members of FRS
When her service of ordination begins at 3pm Sunday, May 23, Sophia Lyons will be a lay member of the First Religious Society, just like the rest of us lay people – but when the service is over she will have been transformed into The Reverend Sophia Lyons, a Unitarian Universalist minister.

How does this happen?  What holy force propels this sudden transformation?

Not a bishop, wielding God’s authority; our faith has no bishops or any form of hierarchy, and, for that matter, no particular god whose magic we might tap into.

Not the 11 ministers who will take part in the ordination.  They’ll bring wisdom and insight to the proceedings, but no one of them nor all of them together holds the needed authority.  Reverend Rebecca will deliver the charge to the new minister, a crucial element of the service – but not the transformational element.

That falls to us, the members of The First Religious Society.  Members who take part in the ordination – this is limited to people who have signed the membership book – will have a mighty role.  We will read the words of ordination to Sophia in unison, and when we are done a newly minted clergy person will be standing before us.  Many UU church members who have taken part in ordinations never forget this experience.

We may rarely think of ourselves as conduits for the holy, but the bedrock theology of our liberal faith says that it is by coming together with all our differences and particularities that we summon the holy.  Viewed from another perspective, perhaps our choice to become a member of FRS is the holy calling us.  So in the ordination service individual members join their not just their voices but also their spirits in holy community to transform Sophia into Reverend Lyons.

The Act of Ordination will be conducted by Rebecca Brodish, chair of the FRS Board of Trustees. She was elected, of course, by we the members.  So our authority also flows to her.  She will lead us in saying the words of ordination as we read them from the Order of Service.  

This is way deeper than a one-person graduation ceremony.

Because of the pandemic the service will be conducted via Zoom.  No one will be able to take part in a tactile laying on of hands as a part of the ordination ritual, but there has been no small number of ordinations during the Year of Covid, and a way has been found to accomplish this virtually.

At 5pm, the new minister, in person, resplendent in one of the stoles she will receive as a traditional ordination gift from fellow ministers and our congregation, will be on the brick expanse in front of our church building to greet FRS people in person.  It will be her first formal act as the newest member of the more than-two-centuries-long tradition of Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist clergy.
BLM Banner at FRS Vandalized
We are saddened, but not moved to retaliation, with the recent vandalism of our Black Lives Matter sign on our church building. We will not react with hate or vitriol; however, we will not accept this either. 
I ask that whoever did this think of its impact, especially on Black children and teens, whose safety and feelings of worth should never be anything but sacred. 
None of us are free, until all of us are free. This means that racial justice must become reality in our political, organizational, and legal systems, as well as our minds and hearts. 
Love is the doctrine of this church and we will continue to respond with courageous love as we work for justice. 

The entire community and city is being supportive and a new sign has already been reordered.
Yours in faith and solidarity, 
Reverend Rebecca Bryan
FRS Dinner for 2 Anywhere in the World Raffle!
This one-of-a-kind annual FRS Raffle is a fun way to make a dream come true for a lucky winner! Tickets are $25.00 and we have a limited amount, with only 2500 being sold! All proceeds go to supporting the FRS ministry. Purchase tickets here and please share the link widely on your FaceBook page, with family and friends, co-workers, neighbors, and more!

Drawing will take place on June 20th!
FRS Community Art Project
"Hope Is the Thing with Feathers"
Stop by our church and enjoy the beauty of the dozens of hand-painted birds hanging from a tree outside Parish Hall. This FRS Community Art Project was coordinated by parishioner Bettina Turner, and is on display now. People are invited to take a hand-painted bird home!
Summer Series: Joy
Each summer, Reverend Rebecca offers an email series open to everyone. This year's theme is joy. Registrants will receive an email each Monday for nine weeks, from June 2-August 16. Each week will include a brief reflection and suggested exercises, including writing prompts, conversation starters, and embodied spiritual practices.

Sign up here! Please share with a friend or relative who may be interested. They need not be a member to participate.
Exploring Elderhood Together Upcoming Program
When: Thursday, May 20, noon-1pm 
Join Zoom Meeting

Death with Dignity: End of Life Options
Presented by the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Organization

Come join us for an informational forum on Massachusetts' proposed End of Life Options Act to allow certain terminally ill people to voluntarily and legally request and receive a prescription for end-of-life medication. 

In this live Zoom event, John Berkowitz, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Organization, will present and explain the current bill before our state legislature including its requirements and safeguards.  Nancy Kidd, LICSW, will share her experience working as a hospice social worker. There will also be time for questions and answers.

The Massachusetts bill is modeled on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the first U.S. state to officially legalize medical aid in dying. Since that time similar laws have been enacted in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and New Mexico.

This is important legislation to understand not only for ourselves but for friends and family.
Justice Action Ministry Meeting
When: Thursday, May 20, at 5pm by Zoom

The Justice Action Ministry will talk about General Assembly, discuss making the church more accessible to those facing physical challenges with Howard Mandeville, and explore what we hope to do next year.

All are welcome to come.

Zoom Link:
Program Council Meeting
When: Tuesday, May 25, at 6:30pm by Zoom

The Program Council offers an opportunity for representatives from the groups in the church to meet and share information as well as hear about what is going on in the church. All members of the congregation are invited to come as well.

This meeting we plan to hear about using Realm as a tool to more effectively communicate with our groups and get our message out to the congregation. We will also have an update on the Dinner Anywhere in the World raffle and learn how we can help make it a success. Finally, we will hear from a group in the church that is working to make us more accessible for those facing physical challenges. The meeting will conclude with a chance for groups to share the work they have done and the work they have coming up.

A link for the meeting will be posted on the church webpage and sent out to all who are on the Program Council mailing list.
Spiritual Gatherings
When: Sunday, May 30 and Sunday, June 13, from 3:30pm-4:30pm

Spiritual Gathering is an opportunity to gather and reflect on our own spiritual experiences and journeys together. We will meet at The Mall across from CVS on Pond Street in Newburyport.

If interested people can email me at
Monday Night Meditation on Zoom
When: Mondays, 6:30pm

These weekly sessions are led by Joyce Haydock, Senior Dharma Teacher with the International Kwan Um School of Zen. She has been with the school since 1989. This FRS UU Monday group was established over ten years ago. Our sessions consist of two or three chants, two readings/teachings and 30 minutes of sitting meditation. Beginners are welcome.

Contact Joyce at 978-363-5457 or email to be added to our list and receive access information.
Spiritual Practice with Julie Parker Amery
When: Tuesdays, 11am

This is a drop-in program, so come as often as you'd like. Each week, we dive into a poem, reading, photograph, painting, or wisdom tale and notice what it's saying to us in that particular moment. This is not interpretation—it's not about trying to figure out what the writer or artist is trying to convey—but what it stirs within you. Questions? Contact Julie Parker Amery at

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 944 4098 2749
Passcode: 867415
Dial by phone: +1 646 558 8656
Guided Relaxation with Susan Cooper
When: Wednesdays, 10am

Join FRS member and LICSW Susan Cooper on Wednesdays at 10am for a brief period of mid-week relaxation and renewal. Each 30-minute session will include a guided visualization and reflection on questions around where we hold stress and how we can release it. You'll also learn some relaxation techniques to use on your own. This is a drop-in program; come one time or many.

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 873 4945 8812
Passcode: 884416  
Dial by your location: +1 646 558 8656
Online Friday Book Group
When: Fridays, 10-11:30am

We are reading the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This stunning work of fiction follows a blind French girl and a German orphan boy whose fates intertwine in the siege of Saint-Malo during WW II. Despite the war setting Doerr captures the goodness of people under dire circumstances. On Friday, May 21st we will read through Part 2 (through page 103 in the paperback edition).

We encourage group members to purchase the book from our local bookstore Jabberwocky if at all possible. Library copies should also be readily available. 

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 870 4388 5100  
Dial by your location: +1 646 558 8656
closed captioning is available
The deadline for the next Steeple newsletter is Sunday, May 23, 2021. 
Send your questions, ideas, and submissions to
Minister–The Reverend Rebecca Bryan; Affiliate MinisterStan Barrett; Affiliate MinisterHelen Murgida; Minister EmeritusThe Reverend Harold Babcock. Staff: Multimedia Specialist-Andrew Bakhit; Religious Education Assistant–Sharon Broll; Office AdministratorDiane Carroll; Youth Group CoordinatorBecky Dill; Director of Children's MinistryMara Flynn; Director of Church Music–Justin Murphy-Mancini; Director of Faith Formation and Spiritual ExplorationJulie Parker Amery; Business Administrator-vacant; Director of Congregational and Community Engagement–Cynthia Walsh. Parish Board: Chair–Rebecca Brodish; Vice ChairJudy Fayre; Clerk–Holly Cashman; Treasurer-Endowment—Kim Kenly; Treasurer–Finance-Rich Johnson; Finance ChairTom Himmel; Maureen Adams, Juliana Beauvais, Micah Donahue, Vern Ellis, Michelle Kimball, Jennifer Rabold, Forrest Speck, Renee Wolf-Foster.
First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist | 26 Pleasant St., Newburyport MA 01950
978-465-0602 |