Worship at The First Parish of Bolton…

Worship at The First Parish of Bolton feels both traditional and relaxed, and is always engaging.
Worship will begin at 9 a.m. this summer starting July 2, 2017. We gather in our classic Georgian sanctuary each Sunday at 10 a.m. during the regular school year.
There is usually lively conversation before our gifted director of music plays music — usually classical —as a prelude.

Following the prelude, there are announcements and the sharing of joys and concerns. A “call to worship” (a poem or reading drawn from a variety of sources) begins the service. You will be invited to stand and share the call to worship.

The congregation sings a hymn, as the choir and minister enter. We use hymns from many different traditions. When the hymn ends, we share a common prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.

The minister invites the children to join him in the front of the church. Each week, our minister sends a specially decorated tote bag home with a different child. The child chooses an object to place in the bag and brings it back the next Sunday. The minister improvises a short “children’s sermon” based on whatever is in the bag. Our minister loves improvisation and is skilled at it, which is fortunate, because he never knows what is in the bag. One week, it was a live chicken!

After the children leave for Religious Education (RE), there are one or two readings, an anthem from our choir, another hymn, and the sermon. In our New England tradition, the sermon is perhaps the most important component of the worship service. It is a reflection based on the readings, and often on current events. Our minister is well-known for the content and eloquence of his sermons.

Prayers are next, and then the offering is received. The “presentation song” we sing, “We Give Thee but Thine Own,” has been used for more than a century. In the weeks after 9/11, we added one verse of “My Country ’tis of Thee.”

Another hymn and benediction (blessing) close the service. In keeping with our Quaker heritage, after the benediction, there is a “Quaker Parting.” We shake the hand of the person next to us as a sign that worship is ended and as a symbol of community.

There are special services at Christmas and Easter, usually enlivened by guest musicians. The sounds of jazz, rock, and even African drumming have also been heard in worship. On “Mardi Gras” Sunday, we even throw beads from the balcony, ala Bourbon Street! Each summer, we travel to Old Sturbridge Village to have a traditional Quaker service in the old Bolton Quaker meeting house.

Communion, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is observed simply on the first Sunday of each month. All are invited to participate. The bread (gluten-free) and “wine” (white grape juice in individual cups) are passed among the congregation.

Speaking of communion, someone has suggested that for churches in our tradition, “coffee hour” is the real sacrament, and visitors are welcome to stay after worship and enjoy conversation, coffee, and other fare in the church hall. (There are cookies and juice for children, who retreat to the playground in good weather while the adults are chatting.)