Find your people and your purpose here.
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. Free, high-quality childcare every Sunday and more 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.
Ages 0 - 2
Ages 3 - 5
Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Introduction to Bible
4th - 6th Grade
Childcare from 11:45 am - 1 pm on Sundays
(Youth Every Sunday)
Middle school youth group
meets at 11:45 am on Sundays
High school youth group
meets at 11:45 am on Sundays
Beloved Community across age, race and more
Service to others in the Way of Jesus
Leadership development in worship
Faith formation through all the arts
Rituals across the life cycle
Family-friendly, faith-rooted activism
Learning our ancient stories
The Motley Pew!
Supporting families through highs and lows
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 books, give back to the community, play games, explore 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.
Open Chapel: Dinner & Worship
1st Wednesdays, 6-8pm
Our monthly Open Chapel service is an informal, intimate gathering that begins with dinner and discussion on a theme, and then moves into music, reflecting together on scripture and poetry, a “shared sermon” that opens up into heart-filled stories, and an open communion table. Open Chapel is led by Associate Minister Rev. Kit Novotny, Open Chapel Coordinator Rev. Sheryl Johnson, and local musician Thomas Gettys. Designed for ages 18-30s, all are welcome. Wheelchair accessible space (Loper Chapel - near Dana/Durant Sts). Vegan/vegetarian food options. LGBTQIA++ positive space!
Open Chapelers describe it in their own words.
Emerging Leaders Initiative
Since 2010, First Church's Emerging Leader Initiative has lifted up younger leaders in our community. Two Emerging Leaders (ELs) are selected from the congregation to help lead worship each week, and take on additional projects in the life of our congregation, as well as receive ongoing mentorship, with the hope of deepening their capacity for sustained leadership within the Progressive Christian church and beyond. First Church is in turn blessed by our relationship with our ELs! ELs serve a September-May term. While some are training for ordained ministry, others are students/professionals in fields from tech and business, to journalism and nonprofits.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Every Wednesday, 7pm, Durant House.
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@example.com.
The E-Team! was formed to be the face of First Church in the community, whenever the opportunity arises to show our progressive nature, whether in Pride Parades, Holy Week Flash Mobs, or other new ways. Flexible membership: all are welcome to jump on board! Email Convener Kate Lucchese at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join up or know more!
aka Sunday Learning Hours
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 Overstory, Why Religion?, My Bright Abyss, and Jesus and the Disinherited.
Have you ever wondered or been curious about prayer and how it can deepen and strengthen your personal and communal spiritual life? Do you have a personal testimony to the power of prayer? FCCB is in the beginning stages of creating a prayer ministry and would like to hear suggestions from all ages on how we can as a community develop a deeper sense of communion and intimacy with God through listening and responding to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts, in the congregation, in Berkeley, and in the wider world. Please send your thoughts, ideas, and questions to Emerging Leader Emily Carduff at email@example.com.
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 who identify as women (overnight in Marin), and the All Church Retreat to Camp Caz in September (1 or 2 nights, in the Russian River Valley). We also have an Annual daylong 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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Robin Kempster, Parish Nurse at email@example.com.
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.
Dinners For YEAH
Every month, we prepare dinners to support the YEAH! Shelter for homeless youth. We deliver the meal to the shelter on the fourth Thursday at 3:00 pm. For many years we cooked in the FCCB kitchen but for the last 3 years we have parceled out the dishes to be cooked in our own kitchens and delivered our efforts to the shelter. If you would like to participate send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 even numbered months at 9am - 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 Aficionados
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@example.com.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Drew Sperling (email@example.com).
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 (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
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.
Birthing a Mama
A creative spiritual support group for new & newish moms to share in collective wisdom and therapeutically process the birth experience and the wild ride that is transitioning to new identities of parenthood, with gentle yoga and art therapy. Facilitated by Michelle Sepe, LCSW & Rev. Kit Novotny (Fall 2019), contact michelle.sepe@gmail.
Does talking about racism make you feel uncomfortable? Join us and challenge our perceptions of racism at Racists Anonymous (RA), Thursdays, 6:15– 7:15 pm, Durant House.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
East Oakland down to Castro Valley
El Cerrito/Richmond up to Vallejo
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@example.com for more information.
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(firstname.lastname@example.org).
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) 859-8876. Revs. Kit 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 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. Our current First Friends are: Carolyn Ash, Leonard Ash, Janet Eadie, Ann Jensen, Rick Ayer, Jacki Dennis, Annis Kukulan, and Kathy Helliesen. Please contact Louise (email@example.com) if you would like more information.
Both staff ministers and ministers who are members of the congregation are available for extemporaneous healing prayers in the sanctuary after worship every Sunday and during communion on the first Sunday of the month. Meet by the Prayer Pole in the back of the sanctuary.
Our parish nurse Robin Kempster (firstname.lastname@example.org) is available for questions about medical issues and/or referrals to local health resources.
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. The Companionship Team leaders are Louise Specht and Karen Summers.
We are in the process of forming a lay-led Prayer Team Ministry. If you are interested in finding out more, email Emily Carduff at email@example.com
PASTORAl OFFICE HOURS
Both Molly and Kit host regular 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 Kit, 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 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 at FCCB.Helping.Hands@gmail.com and Rev. Kit at email@example.com. Interested in being some of those helping hands? Again,
Souper Sunday Soup Makers
Get to know us better...
Coffee with a pastor
Our pastors Molly and Kit love to get to know newcomers. Stop by their regular office hours held at local cafes and pubs, or contact them directly.
Discover First Church
New Members Lunch & Class, held 3x/year on a Sunday after worship (11:45-1:30)
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.
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.