May 5, 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 Worship
"Side With Love"
In 2021, the annual 30 Days of Love celebration centers four themes from Widening the Circle of Concern, a report from the Commission on Institutional Change, a UUA Board-commissioned group charged with researching, reporting, and making recommendations for transforming white supremacy and other oppressions in the institutional history and practices of the UUA and its 1,000+ congregations and covenanted communities. This "Side With Love" Sunday worship service lifts up those themes: living our values, hospitality and inclusion, educating for liberation, and restoration and reparations. What if to "side with love" meant making bold, faith-full choices? What if it were even a little bit scary? This worship service brings together worship leaders and musicians from across the country to offer hopeful, moving, challenging reminders about what we, as Unitarian Universalists, are called to do, and BE, in the world. 

Service at 10:30am on Zoom only
Join the service:
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)

Following the service we will host a virtual coffee hour on Zoom.

Each Sunday, weather permitting, parishioners are gathering for an in-person social meeting in front of our church from noon-1pm. Please wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines.
Sign up for outside Worship Service on
Sunday, May 16 at Atkinson Common
(seating is limited)
Dear Members and Friends, 
Please join me in thanking Sharon Broll for many years of service to the FRS as our Young Church Assistant. This is yet another difficult decision made in response to the changing needs and size of our children’s programming. Her last day as an employee will be May 30th, where she will be a part of the Young Church Sunday. 

Sharon’s steady presence and loving support of our children and staff team will be sorely missed. In addition to being such a positive influence, Sharon has been flexible in meeting needs as they arise during the pandemic, including preparing the Annual Report. We are fortunate that Sharon will continue to be part of our beloved community as a church member. 

With gratitude, 
Rev. Rebecca 
Dear Young Church families,

I am deeply grateful for the time I have had over the past decade to get to know and love the families of FRS. I've watched over the "littles" in the nursery and joined parents' tears while singing The Circle Game to our graduating seniors. I've painted chalices and watched the OWL slideshow. I've laughed and I've cried over the things in their lives that your children have shared with me. And through it all I have learned and grown. Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with me. I will continue to be a part of the FRS community as a congregant and a volunteer, and I look forward to seeing you all once again.

Best regards,
Sharon Broll
Sophia Lyons
Coming Home
By Lynn Kettleson and Tom Stites

May 23rd will mark a rare event in the life of our congregation: the ordination of one of our members as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  For the soon-to-be-Reverend Sophia Lyons, the ordination ceremony will mark a homecoming, and what a long and strenuous journey she has traveled to reach this moment.

Since entering Boston University School of Theology in 2016, she has earned an M Div degree; worked as the island minister on Star Island, a Unitarian Universalist conference center on one of the Isles of Shoals seven miles off of Portsmouth; and served for two years as intern minister at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill. During her second year at seminary, she worked as a chaplain at a long-term health care center serving patients with advanced dementia in a required program of clinical and pastoral education. Now, she has been accepted into preliminary ministerial fellowship by the Unitarian Universalist Association, and, to cap all this, the membership of First Parish of Watertown, a UU congregation dating to 1630, has just voted to call her to be their 30th settled minister.

Through all this The First Religious Society has been here for her.

“I’ve had the rare and precious gift to get the call to ministry, and to have the FRS as my church home,” she said. “This is my endorsing congregation.”  

In Unitarian Universalism, which has no bishops nor any other kind of hierarchical authority, ministers are ordained by congregational vote, as they have been since our Puritan forebears arrived on these shores.  New ministers can be ordained by their home congregation, by the congregation where they served an internship, or by the first congregation that calls them.

Sophia chose FRS, which is not only her home congregation but also the place where she connected to Unitarian Universalism, the place where she first heard her call to the ministry, and the congregation that, by formal vote of the membership in 2016, sponsored her for the ministry – a crucial first step to gaining fellowship as a UU minister.

Last year, by formal vote of the membership, we agreed to ordain her.

“The members of the congregation in Newburyport have loved me and my ministry, and now, they get to join in that story,” she said in an interview. “This particular homecoming is about this incredible moment in which I will be held by those who loved me and saw me in the first place.  It leaves me wordless.”

Because of the pandemic, the ceremony will be performed virtually by way of Zoom, but nonetheless it will be a quite an event – 11 UU ministers in several cities will take part and our Zoom circuit has been expanded to accommodate 500 participants.  We expect many members of the Watertown and Haverhill churches to join us, as well as Sophia’s ministerial colleagues far and wide. Sophia herself will be at her home in Amesbury together with her husband Jason McLin and their children Olive, 14 and Poppy, 12. 

Reverend Rebecca will open the proceedings with a welcome. The sermon will be delivered by The Reverend Frank Clarkson, whom many will remember as an FRS student minister who went on to be minister of the UU Church of Haverhill, where Sophia served her internship. Reverend Rebecca will deliver the crucial charge to the new minister.  When the membership speaks the words of ordination, traditionally there is a laying on of hands – and we will accomplish this despite the virtual setting.  By tradition, UU ordinations culminate with the gift of ministerial stoles made specially for the new minister.

“The story of this place – The First Religious Society – is that I’m the first woman member who gets the blessing of this congregation,” Sophia said.  “My story is wrapped up in yours, and I’ve become a part of the history that your children and their children’s children can look back upon.  I’ve thought about what it means to me, but there is a reciprocity in this ritual.  When you hand me the stole, there’s a sacrament in it for you, too.”

The most recent minister ordained at our church was student minister Christina Sillari, since 2010 the settled minister up the road at The First Parish in Portland.  The last ordination before that, Sophia said, is recorded in an old, dusty book from the 1800s. 

Sophia’s journey to ordination could not have been predicted when she was born in Los Angeles to what she described as “eccentric, artist parents.” Her father, a third- or fourth-generation Angeleno, was an actor and performance artist. Her mother was an actor and a painter who went back to school to become a Jungian psychoanalyst. 

Continue reading here.
FRS Dinner for 2 Anywhere in the World Raffle Is Back!

Imagine flying to France in search of an authentic cassoulet or to Louisiana for some spicy jambalaya. This could all be yours with the "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!
The FRS Annual Meeting
On Sunday, May 23rd at 10:30am, 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. We need a quorum, so please register here to attend.
Show Support for Rainbow Crosswalks in Newburyport
The Newburyport Human Rights Commission (HRC) will be petitioning the City to install Rainbow Crosswalks to honor our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, black and brown neighbors. There will be one across from City Hall and another on High Street across from March's Hill.

The Newburyport Clergy Association and the FRS have both signed the petition as organizations. Please show your support by adding your name.

Click here to add your name! All signatures will be tallied and included in the HRCs letter to the City.
Spirit Matters dives into questions such as: What does it mean to be spiritual in these times? I know I believe in something, but I don't know what it is, or how to explore it. What can I do?

Listen to Spirit Matters on WJOP or "Joppa Radio" (96.3) with host Reverend Rebecca Bryan and Mary Jacobsen. The show airs on the 2nd Saturday of the month and will simulcast at 9:00am (broadcast at the same time on radio and television) on WJOP 96.3 FM Newburyport and Comcast Cable Channel 9. Your questions and discussion topics are welcomed! 

Please email questions to Your name will be kept confidential if you prefer.
Jazz Vespers
When: Wednesday, May 5 at 8:00pm
Where: Youtube Livestream link:

The First Religious Society's Jazz Vespers service welcomes back Newburyport jazz master Danny Harrington (baritone sax) along with long-time collaborator virtuoso guitarist John Baboian and superb bassist John Hunter for an evening of improvisation on jazz standards. Our own FRS congregant, writer and poet John Mercer will be the reader for the evening.  Don't miss this one! 

The once-a-month Wednesday Vespers service has become a tradition at FRS and features live improvisational music, poetry and meditation. Guest artists and FRS members and friends have participated including instrumentalists, singers, writers and various ensembles.

To read more about next Wednesday's performance click here!
Friday Reflections: Making Peace with the Pandemic
When: Friday, May 7 and May 14, 5-6pm

Join Reverend Rebecca as she leads us in a time of reflection and sharing. We have all gone through a lot over the last year. It matters that we take time to reflect upon what we've learned and decide what to carry forward. We also need a space to grieve our losses and reconnect to our dreams. This is an opportunity for all of these things.

Register here! A Zoom invitation will be sent prior to the first session. Please plan to attend both sessions.
Mother's Day Peace Walk
When: Saturday, May 8 at 10:00am

Join us outside the church on Saturday for coffee and donuts. We will gather, sell some last-minute raffle tickets, draw the raffle winner and share a prayer with Rev. Rebecca as we send Young Church on their way to walk around town spreading Love, one of the 7 "Principles of Peace" at the heart of the Peace Institute's work. Members of the FRS Walk Team will also embark on their own walk!
It's not too late to make a donation here! to support the FRS Walk Team!
Bird Installation: "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers"
Join us in the second community art project of this church year!
When: Saturday, May 8 from noon-1:00pm

Come and participate in this art project in-person by creating a bird on the church patio among the company of others.

Sign up for May 8 at noon -1pm:

If you can not make it on Saturday, you can pick up a bird form to decorate at home. Plain birds are available to pick up from Bettina Turner —they will be left in her garage at 7 Pheasant Run Dr. in Newburyport.

Use paint, collage, or words to make your bird special. Write a favorite quote or poem on it. Consider making it somewhat water-resistant, in case of rain. Be creative and know that it will bring others joy. You can either return your finished bird to Bettina's garage, or bring it to the installation on May 15.

The art installation will take place on Sunday, May 15.

Questions? Contact Bettina Turner at or Julie Parker Amery at
ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) 
When: Tuesday, May 11, noon at Loretta's, 15 Pleasant Street, Newburyport

To attend you must have had both your Covid shots (one if J&J) at least two weeks before the meeting. RSVP required as seating is limited to 12, two tables of 6, under current rules.

Please bring small bills to facilitate payment of your portion of the check, and your sense of wonder at being able to experience new things.

The Officer of the Day is Art Henshaw, 508 829 6797, 
Contact Art by phone or email to make a reservation because you won’t get in without one.
Climate Action Project
When: Tuesday, May 11, 7:00pm via Zoom

Mission & Goals:
An informed citizenry insistent on urgent government action to slow climate change! In response to this need the FRS Climate Action Project plans to:

  • Think globally, work locally, act personally.
  • Raise awareness within FRS and the local community on the urgent need for climate action by organizing a series of events, discussions, and communications on key climate change topics.
  • Grow the reach and effectiveness of our small group by attracting more FRS members and friends to join with us in this cause, and by collaborating with other like-minded local organizations and agencies of government.
  • Publicize concrete actions by which concerned citizens can combat climate change in their personal lives, through government channels, and/or by participating with advocacy groups.

Meeting ID: 814 8673 2029
Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
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

On Friday, May 7th we will be voting on a new book. We hope we will have a good turnout and especially look forward to welcoming back members who took a pass on Middlemarch! New members are always appreciated. We are very pleased to have had some new members join us for the reading of our last book.

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 8, 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-Pam Sharrio; 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 |