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Children & Youth

First Church welcomes and supports families of all kinds.

Raising children? First Church can offer some of what we all want for our kids in this chaotic, sometimes frightening world. Ancient wisdom with a modern mindset, connecting us to the ancestors and to the Divine with joy, hope and a lot of laughter. A chance to inhabit a truly diverse community (queer and straight, multiracial, intergenerational, all abilities, all incomes). Moral development through stories, service and the arts. Honorary grandparents and community support through the red-letter days and hard seasons of parenting. Dance parties galore and nourishing home-cooked food. Supportive programming for kids ages 3-8 each Sunday (other than all-ages First Sundays of the month) so you can get a break from this hard and holy calling! And best of all, a chance for your kids to be loved by other human beings the way God loves them: unconditionally.
children seated with an adult on  a carpet

Children's Space

The First Sunday of the month at First Church, we celebrate All Ages Sundays, when children are fully included in worship.  Other Sundays, our coordinator Bella Vavra and a rotation of excellent and vetted volunteers support a children's space for kids ages 3-8.  Through story, craft, games, songs, and other activities, our kids engage with the big ideas of our faith.  Kids start in the children's space and return to the worship service for the last ten minutes for the blessing of the offering, a children's message or leadership moment, and the closing hymn.
two children putting items on a shelf

Amen Corner

At the back of the sanctuary, families with kids who are too small for the Children's Space or who prefer to stay in the service congregate around the shelves with quiet toys and activities, books, fidgets, and wiggle cushions.  Kids are welcome to take these items back to their pews or stay in that corner to pray and play in their own way.
youth seated at a table

Youth Group

High School and Middle School meet for Youth Group every Sunday after the worship service from 11:45 am - 1:00pm to enjoy snacks, games, community, and spiritual development.  Newcomers always welcome!

teenagers sitting on the grass outside

Work Camp

Every summer, our youth head out on a volunteer trip to a destination near or far to offer their talents in service to a community.  For more information, please contact Rev. Hannah Turner, Minister of Youth, Young Adults, and Emerging Ministries.
group of people sitting on floor tending to Christmas ornaments

Beloved Community across age, race and more

group of people on church lawn smiling

Service to others in the Way of Jesus

group of young children standing on the chancel singing into a microphone

Leadership development in worship

children doing crafts

Faith formation through all the arts

children and adults on the chancel

Rituals across the life cycle

a group of people gathered outdoors with signs

Family-friendly, faith-rooted activism

child singing passionately in a pharaoh costume

Learning our ancient stories

group of children and adults sitting on the floor coloring outside of a worship service in progress

The Motley Pew!

people gathered listening to a speaker in loper chapel

Supporting families through highs and lows

Young Adults

Our young adults (ages 18 - 20s & 30s) are a quirky, curious, queer-friendly and welcoming bunch — a mix of college & grad students, young professionals, single and partnered, seekers of all backgrounds and beliefs. We get together several times a month to share meals, wonder about God/life, read spiritual booksgive back to the community, play gamesexplore the bay area & more! To get connected, sign up to receive our Young Adult newsletter (monthly), and/or join our Young Adults @ First Church Facebook group.
cheerful young adults posing for the camera outdoors
Text in Word cloud:  "Warm, ritual, communal, diverse; Musical, reflective, collaborative; Welcoming, inclusive, nourishing; cozy; Fulfilling and a safe space; Friends; community; Open and affirming! Genuine. Love.; open, beautiful music, interactive; Reflection; Safe, sincere, socially conscious, devoted, accepting, enthusiastic; A blessed place; feels like community; Beautiful, intimate, touching, invites sharing; A great opportunity to connect with others; Innovative; Very friendly; Mid-week-Spiritual-Fix."

Open Chapelers describe it in their own words.

Second Thursday Supper Club

Anchoring the young adult community these days is our practice of meeting monthly for a meal and conversation.  We meet outdoors in the Play Yard, which is accessed from the parking lot through a gate.  Newcomers are always welcome to join this community.  It's a great place to make friends so when you come to church on Sundays, you have folks to sit with!
Emerging Leaders

Small Groups & Ministries

Learning & Faith

Progressive Bible Study

In the Progressive Christian Bible Study (PCBS), we understand what we do as conversation, conversation with the text, with our ancestors in faith, with time (theirs and ours), and with G-d. And that conversation is not a monologue (or for the spiritually squeamish)! Every voice counts. PCBS is unabashedly ‘progressive’ in orientation. For us, ‘progressive Christianity’ understands each of us as continually evolving in our experience of G-d … if we’re doing faith right, that is. That growth is nurtured by challenging unexamined beliefs and interrogating shallow understandings. That’s what we’re about at PCBS, that and nuts (…you’ll have to join us on Wednesday evenings to find out about the nuts!). Email Geoffrey for more information: [email protected]. Every Wednesday, 7pm, Durant House.

Mindfulness Meditation

Curious about meditation? But convinced it wouldn’t work for you? A small meditation group has been meeting at FCCB for since 2009. We meet in Loper Chapel at 6:00 pm on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month. The group is led by long-time meditation teachers Barbara McHugh and Bill Coffin. This is a great place to learn more about meditation; there are two guided sits and plenty of time for Q&A. These sessions last about 1 ¼ hours, so it should be easy to fit into your day.

FCCB BOok group

FCCB Friday Book Group meets monthly on Friday mornings in member’s homes, usually the second Friday in the month. We owe our present existence to a group started in the late sixties called The Friday Group. It met weekly for over 40 years for book discussion and sharing of lives. Some years ago we changed to a monthly book group, except for the January meeting , which is devoted to poetry. All are welcome to come. We have about 20 members. It’s ok if you haven’t finished or even read the book. We find it interesting and fun to hear various reactions to the books we choose. No consensus required. Meetings and books are announced in the Carillon newsletter. Contact [email protected].

Each Sunday at 9am, a group of about twenty people meets to discuss progressive theology.  We're currently working our way through the Living the Questions video series.  Topics include evil and suffering, atonement, the meaning of the incarnation, justice and oppression, baptism and sacraments, our relationship with other faiths, and lots more.  Drop in any week to join the discussion and build your theological vocabulary!  See the schedule and catch up on past videos here.

Adult Education

aka Sunday Learning Hours
Adult education fosters spiritual, psychological, intellectual growth and knowledge, supporting learning opportunities that arise from within and beyond our community. We sponsor programs and lectures that deepen our lives on a variety of topics including social justice issues, as we collaborate with church ministries, teams, and staff.

Young Adult Book Group

This bookish, welcoming group (18-30s) gets together every other month or so to explore big questions through spiritual writing -- theology, novels, plays, memoir, etc. Recent titles include: The OverstoryWhy Religion?My Bright Abyss, and Jesus and the Disinherited. 

Prayer Team

Our Prayer Team meets every other week to lift up the prayers of this community. We invite you to share the prayers on your heart by emailing them to [email protected]. Please know that your prayer request will be kept confidential by the prayer team, the ministers, and the staff unless otherwise desired. If you would like to have your prayer read aloud during worship, or written in our church newsletter (The Carillon), please let us know specifically in your email.

Seasonal Retreats

We currently offer several retreats each year: Advent and Lenten daylong retreats on site led by pastors and laypeople, the Women’s Voices retreat in February for all the congregation's women (cisgender or transgender, and nonbinary folk who want to be in a female-centered space are welcome too), and the All-Ages Church Retreat in September (1 or 2 nights at a local retreat center). We debuted a Silent Retreat this year at St. Dorothy's Rest near Occidental and will repeat that next November. We also have an Annual Young Adult Retreat (usually held in the Spring, either onsite or off, past retreats have included a focus on the Enneagram personality tool for self-discovery and Quaker Clearness Committees around discerning life choices). All of our retreats are opportunities to take your spirituality to the next level, make enduring new friends and experience moving and healing mystical moments. Scholarships are available for all of these retreats.

Justice & Service

Second Sunday Sandwiches

Secretly searching solutions serving simple satisfaction sequences some Sundays? Seriously, Second Sunday Sandwiches supplies such simple sustenance solving samples! You guessed it! PB&J to the rescue of hungry folks in the area every Second Sunday. We gather to make 50 bag lunches of 2 peanut butter and jam sandwiches, homemade cookies, fruit, a sweet treat and moist towelettes. You can donate ingredients, $$, spreading PB&J on bread, bagging, stapling or simply serving them to those in need on your way home. Unfortunately it is impossible to drive from church and not see someone hungry. Contact Richard Brabham. 510-234-0545, [email protected]. Everyone can serve in some small way.

Mental Health Ministry Team

Mental Health is a big and important subject for many people, but it has often been talked about in the shadows or, more commonly, not talked about at all. The Mental Health Ministry seeks to encourage our congregation to be welcoming to those living with mental health challenges, and their loved ones. We seek to educate ourselves about mental health with Forum presentations and also to provide support in a confidential setting with our Spiritual Support Group. We have a Companionship Team which actively engages with people at church who may be isolated or having a challenging day. The Mental Health Ministry spearheaded First Church’s journey to vote in February 2019 to become a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged (WISE) Congregation for Mental Health, a designation within the United Church of Christ. We actively support an atmosphere of openness and acceptance of those with mental health challenges, creating a place of belonging where truly everyone is welcome and is a part of our church community. For more information, contact Rev. Kelly Colwell at [email protected]

Sanctuary Team

The sanctuary team is a large group of concerned people who have mostly supported immigrants through interfaith demonstration/vigils at the West County Detention Center in Richmond. 

Green Team

The First Church Green Ministry Team's mission is to promote environmental stewardship so that we may respect, enjoy, and preserve God's gift of life on Earth. We meet on the first Sunday of the month at 9:10am on zoom - come join us!

Berkeley Food Pantry

The Berkeley Food Pantry has been part of First Church’s outreach into the community through the Justice and Service Ministry efforts. Over the years, First Church members have put their commitment to helping to feed families and individuals in Berkeley and Albany into unloading trucks of food, cleaning and organizing the Pantry facilities, organizing a weekly peanut butter and cereal drive and helping out by grant writing. This commitment has spanned more than half of Berkeley Food Pantry’s 50 years. First Church volunteers at the pantry have been seniors, middle and high school students and adults. Please join with First Church by donating nutritious breakfast cereal and peanut butter every Sunday in our Hall of Entrance or volunteering at the pantry. Contact Anne Rowe for more information.

Affordable Housing Team

The Affordable Housing Aficionados educate, advocate, and take action to prevent homelessness and to restore unhoused individuals and families to safe, permanent, dignified shelter in Berkeley and throughout the East Bay; and actively advocate for increased availability of fair, inclusive and affordable housing for all.  Contact Alice Clark at [email protected].

Disability Empowerment

Our Disability Empowerment Team welcomes all who identify as a person with a disability, without a disability, or a little bit of each to roll their way with us as we seek to go beyond the ADA and create a more inclusive and intersectional church, community, and world. We all have gifts to offer and receive from one another. Just as bread needs to be broken to be shared, so too we are blessed by each other's unique gifts in community across a diversity of dis/abilities. Contact Helen Walsh ([email protected]) and Drew Sperling ([email protected]). 

Support Groups

Mental Health Spiritual Support Group

The ​Mental Health Spiritual Support Group​​ meets the ​third Sunday of each month, ​11:45 am–1 pm​​ in Durant House and is an opportunity to share our stories with each other in a safe space. This is an on-going group but anyone is welcome to join at any time.

Mindful Self-Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) is a 9-week course periodically led by Rev. Nancy DeNero. In Mindful Self-Compassion, participants have the opportunity to re-examine outdated beliefs and habits, and learn how to be self-motivated by kindness instead of criticism—an effective way to care for yourself in times of stress, dislocation or difficulty.

Parent Support Circle

⚠︎ Currently on hiatus. ⚠︎
Parents, grandparents and people of all parenting/child caring experiences meet monthly for this drop-in affinity group to share, listen and empathize with other parents. The group is led by therapists within our church as well as special guests. Topics are usually sourced from the group in the moment.

Neighborhood Groups

We're a regional church serving the entire Bay Area. To help us feel connected, we have newly forming neighborhood groups that get together for occasional potlucks and community support. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Downtown Berkeley


Martinez/Pleasant Hill/Concord

San Francisco

Emeryville/Temescal/North Oakland

Piedmont/Oakland Hills  

East Oakland down to Castro Valley

North Berkeley/Kensington

El Cerrito/Richmond up to Vallejo

Walnut Creek/Orinda/Lafayette/Moraga


Alameda/Fruitvale/San Leandro/Hayward

West Oakland/Downtown Oakland

Summer/Shared Interest Small Groups

We host seasonal small groups around shared interests. Previous groups have included Journey Into Music, Park Picnic Fellowship, Socially Conscious Cinema & Conversations, Bread Baking, and Exploring Compassionate Communications. View descriptions here. Contact [email protected] for more information.

Congregational Care

We all have times when we need support – someone to listen, be present and accompany us through crisis or transition. At First Church Berkeley we are blessed with a large and caring community. We have a variety of ministries, forming a strong web of congregational care. If you are in need of care, are interested in helping with any of these ministries, or would just like more information, please contact Louise Halsey, our Congregational Care Program Manager([email protected]​​).

Pastoral Emergency Line

Any time you have a pastoral emergency (sudden illness, death, other critical incident) you are invited to call the pastoral emergency number: (510) 854-0187. Revs. Kelly, Hannah, and Molly take turns being on call, and whoever is on call will get back to you ASAP. We suggest adding this number to your contacts (do it now!).
First Church Friends
First Church Friends ​​are trained lay volunteers who are matched 1:1 with anyone who needs a confidential listening presence. First Friends meet with you for an hour each week (for up to four weeks) to listen, pray, and hold sacred space for you.  Please contact Louise ([email protected]) if you would like more information.

Healing Prayer

Both staff ministers and ministers who are members of the congregation are available for extemporaneous healing prayers in the sanctuary after worship every Sunday.  Ask one of the pastors after worship and they will help you get connected.

Parish Nurse

Our parish nurse Robin Kempster (​[email protected]​​) is available for questions about medical issues and/or referrals to local health resources.

Companionship Team

Companionship is: offering hospitality, sharing the journey side by side, listening, accompaniment. Two Companions are assigned each Sunday to be aware of people at church who may be experiencing difficulty due to a variety of things—loneliness, sadness, confusion, and in-the-moment mental health challenges. The assigned Companion will respond by talking with them and inviting them to talk, possibly share a cup of coffee.

Prayer Team

Our Prayer Team meets every other week to lift up the prayers of this community. We invite you to share the prayers on your heart by emailing them to [email protected]. Please know that your prayer request will be kept confidential by the prayer team, the ministers, and the staff unless otherwise desired. If you would like to have your prayer read aloud during worship, or written in our church newsletter (The Carillon), please let us know specifically in your email.


Our pastors host occasional office hours at local cafes, open to all (for time/location, check the ​First Church calendar​​). This is a good time for 1:1 conversation and prayer about whatever is on your mind, or stay with all gathered and crowdsource your spiritual needs amidst community! Molly and Kelly, along with other members of staff, also regularly visit the retirement communities at Lake Park and Piedmont Gardens where many First Church Berkeley members reside.

Visitation TEam

Visitation team volunteers are linked with members of the congregation who are 75+, and/or have mobility issues and therefore find it hard to get to church, and/or who would like a monthly visitor. Please contact Louise Halsey ([email protected]​​) if you are interested in joining the visitation team or if you would like to be matched with a visitor.

Operation Love Notes

The art of snail mail is alive and well at First Church! The Ministry of Worship and Spiritual Life hosts card writing for those in our community who are homebound, far away, ill, recovering from injury, surgery or having a difficult time. Open to all ages, and held quarterly on Sunday mornings.

Lotsa Helping Hands

Meal Train Ministry

Because the needs of the spirit sometimes means we first need help caring for our bodies, the Ministry of Care, Fellowship & Invitation helps coordinate meals and/or other support for those in need due to surgery, illness, a new baby or other life challenges, using email, phone and the web-based services Meal Train or Lotsa Helping Hands. Want to request meals/support for yourself or others? Contact Helping Hands Coordinator, Louise Halsey ([email protected]) and [email protected].

Souper Sunday Soup Makers

At the moment, the practice of making soup for our AfterParty coffee hour is a solitary one.  But once we have the new kitchen up and running, the soup makers will have a space to gather and cook together on Sunday mornings before the service again!

Get to know us better...

Coffee with a pastor

Our pastors Molly, Kelly, and Hannah love to get to know newcomers. Stop by office hours held at local cafes and pubs, or contact them directly to set up a walk or chat.

Discover First Church

New Members Lunch & Class, typically held 3x/year on a Sunday after worship (11:45-1:30).  Discover First Church is for you if you have questions--whether or not you're ready to join as a member!

New Members’ Dinners:

Ready to join? You’ll be invited to a New Members Dinner, sharing crepes, bubbly beverages and faith stories. In the first year after joining, you’ll be invited to bi-monthly dinners in members’ homes, an opportunity to connect more deeply into the heart of our community.

Private Community
Facebook Group

For current/local members and friends of First Church Berkeley, where you can: ask for prayer requests, share news about social causes and events, ask questions, share articles, links and ideas, share free stuff, job/housing opportunities, etc.! Local members request to join here.