First Parish Dorchester is a spiritual home for all those who seek theological and cultural diversity, fellowship, justice and service. Membership in FPD is open to all adults who wish to make this congregation their spiritual home. We welcome you, whoever you are, whatever tradition, gender, race, class, sexual identity, ability, or age you represent.
Inquiry The first step toward joining is to discuss membership with the minister. The minister can answer any questions you may have and connect you to one of our new member classes, which lasts about three hours and serves as an introduction to First Parish Dorchester and the larger Unitarian Universalist denomination. This class is offered several times a year.
Ceremony Those who have attended the new member class and decide to request membership (there is a standard form that can be filled out) are invited to participate in a Right Hand of Fellowship ceremony during one of our Sunday services, where prospective members sign the official record book of the congregation and are welcomed by the Minister, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and the entire assembled congregation. These ceremonies are incorporated into the Sunday service as needed.
Paperwork The names of those who request membership and take the Right Hand of Fellowship during any particular church year are submitted by the Clerk at the congregation’s Annual Meeting in May. Existing members then officially vote in the new members and from that point forward, the new members can participate in church governance discussions and voting. Members cannot serve as elected officers (Trustee, Treasurer, Clerk, etc.) until they have been members for over a year, but service in other ways, on committees or for particular projects, is always welcome from all our parishioners and community friends, whether members of FPD or not.
If the membership process seems a bit complicated or overly formal, that is because of the history of how FPD was created and how it is organized. We are a self-governing and self-supporting congregation. This means FPD has a form of church governance based on the local congregation, not a hierarchy of bishops (episcopal polity) or an assembly of congregational representatives that exercise authority over individual congregations (presbyterian polity). Each local congregation within Unitarian Universalism in the U.S. is independent, self-funded, and governed by its own members. Because we are self-governing, we are technically an individual non-profit corporation under Massachusetts law, even though we have a longstanding affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Association. As a non-profit corporation, we need to have some formal rules and procedures about adding voting members, and our current by-laws date back to 1913, though there have been some small amendments over time. Please do not let the formal process put you off, if this is the right spiritual community for you.