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We are the First Religious Society, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  We're glad you're here. We aspire to be a welcoming and inclusive community that encourages spiritual growth as we strive for truth and meaning and serve the social and spiritual needs of our larger community.

Harold’s road leads to new life, leaving behind a healthy church

A conversation with the Rev. Harold Babcock

by Lynn Kettleson and Tom Stites
photos by Jay McCarthy and Pamela J. Fenner

Harold receives gift of mantel clockThe wonderful party celebrating Harold Babcock’s 21 years of ministry is in the rear view mirror now, and only four more Sunday services lie ahead of him. Beyond that there’s a new road, the retirement road, and who knows where it will lead?

For sure it will lead west, as Harold and his wife Sabrina jump in the car to make a clean break, visiting friends as they travel. After that, it’s less certain.

“People are constantly asking, What are you going to do when you retire?,” Harold told a couple of FRS members who came to interview him recently in his office, where most of the once-crammed bookshelves had already been emptied.

Louise Mold's Journey of Faith

Louise Mold gave this Journey of Faith on May 8, 2016.Louise Mold

So much theology, so little time. I think I could write a Journey of Faith every day. Every week, every month. And certainly every year.

I have participated in numerous and diverse flavors of religious, spiritual, and transcendent worship services. Traveled in a dozen countries visiting their great cathedrals, monasteries, temples and mosques.

So, where is God? Who is God? One or many? I have finally learned the meaning of the phrase God is within you. This is very personal. I didn't know God until I needed God.

Speeches from Harold's retirement party

Prayer by Stanton Barrett, FRS Community Minister Affiliated
 
I want to ask you to join me in a kind of rite of passage for Harold tonight: There is an ancient traditional act practiced at ordinations called Prayer with the Laying on of Hands, in which – at least as I experienced it at my ordination – a prayer is said while the man or woman being ordained is surrounded by the congregation, with those within reach touching his/her head, shoulders, arms or back, and those unable to reach him/her directly, touching the person in front of them, so that all are joined in body as well as heart and mind.

Harold's farewell letter

May 1, 2016
 
Dear Members and Friends of the First Religious Society,
 
“What are you going to do when you retire?” I am asked, over and over.  “Decompress for a while,” I say, knowing that isn’t a sufficient answer. It will be good to wake up with a blank calendar; it’s been a long time.  Since Sabrina is retiring also, we look forward to spending a lot more time together.  We want to improve our gardening and beekeeping skills.  We hope to increase our facility in Hungarian.  We will continue to travel, but we are especially looking forward to being able to travel in the autumn and spring when the highways and byways are less crowded and the temperatures and airfares more forgiving.

Seventh-graders thanked for service

Thank you to our 7th grade Young Church class for planning and leading such a beautiful worship service on May 15: Sadie Fountain, Alex Iannini, Kelly Kane, Andrew Litcofsky, and Stella Okaya. They took the initiative in becoming involved with the worship planning and worked hard on it for several weeks. And the result was beautiful! Also contributing to the service was the senior youth group, who led the congregation in singing “The Turtle Song” and Tess Broll, one of our graduating high school seniors, who shared her faith journey.

Candlelight presents "Venice, Valencia, & Vienna"

On Sunday, May 22 at 4pm, the Candlelight Chorale, led by interim music director Leonardo Ciampa, will present "Venice, Valencia, & Vienna." The program will feature the Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes by Brahms, accompanied by pianists Kirsten Helgeland and Christina Spurling. The program also includes music by the beloved Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo, as well as music by composers associated with St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.  

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