First Parish of Watertown is one of the oldest parishes in America. It was gathered in 1630 as a Puritan congregation, and continues to follow the independent and democratic Congregational system, where there is no hierarchy and each congregation calls its own minister, controls its own finances and property, and establishes its own criteria for membership.  The Bylaws of the First Parish of Watertown, approved by the members of the congregation, establish our rules of governance. Today we are governed by a Parish Committee and the work of the church is carried out by a number of program committees.




Parish Committee

The church is governed by the Parish Committee, made up of seven members elected by the congregation at the Annual Meeting for a term of three years.  The Parish Committee sets policy, hires staff, and manages the overall direction and business of the church.

2022-2023 Parish Committee

Jean Merkl, Chair
Kelly Morton
Dia Warren
Norah Mulvaney-Day
Sue Sours
John Portz
Kate Hanson Plass

Weekly Reflection – Parish Committee, February 24th, 2023

Greetings from the Parish Committee One area of reflection at our last quarterly Parish Council meeting was thinking about how we live our shared ministry through participation in committee work.  We raised questions for reflection as we make decisions about our...

Parish Committee – December 23rd, 2022

Happy Holidays and Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy New Year! There are so many wonderful happenings, where to begin? The Newcomers lunch was well attended and a fun social time was had by all. We are so happy you are all here! The Pageant was a joyful...

From the Parish Committee – October 28th, 2022

Greetings from Parish Committee! What keeps us all connected and, is what we’re doing working well? This is a question came up at our recent Parish Council meeting (more on the council below). How many people read the Arbella? The group thought it might be low, some...

From the Parish Committee – September 30th, 2022

Greetings from Parish Committee! What is there to say after Sundays Installation service! What a celebration of our congregation and Rev. Sophia’s shared ministry, it left us speechless. The planning committee did an amazing job, committee on ministry and Will Twombly...

From the Parish Committee – May 27th, 2022

Greetings from the Parish Committee, It’s been a busy past month! The 391st Annual Meeting of FPW was held with a large number of the congregation participating. There was a lively discussion on the revised Social Action by-law that concluded with a unanimous vote in...

Parish Committee – March 25th, 2022

Greetings from Parish Committee!   After much deep consideration by the Opening Up Committee and the Parish Committee the decision was made to expand in-person capacity and lighten the protocols at the church starting on April 3rd. Please see the below information and...


The Trustees of First Parish are responsible for the wellbeing and preservation of the three trust funds that make up the church’s endowment. These funds are the Ministerial Fund, which was established in 1812, the Perpetuity Fund, established in 1929, and the Helen Robinson Wright Fund, established in 1995. While the Ministerial Fund was established by an act of the General Court of the Commonwealth (i.e. the House of Representatives and the Senate) and funded as part of the separation of local governments from the dominant church in each community, the Perpetuity Fund and the Helen Robinson Wright Fund were entirely funded through the generosity of First Parish members who left money to the church in their wills.

Income from the Ministerial Fund and the Perpetuity Fund are used to support the parish’s operating budget, while the Wright Fund is used exclusively for charitable purposes in the broader community.

As part of our congregation’s commitment to social justice, our Trustees work with a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) firm to manage our endowment funds.

The Trustees also work to increase the size of First Parish’s endowments through the encouragement of members of the congregation to provide for the church in their wills and estate plans.


Elected members of the congregation fill the offices of Clerk, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Historian, and Moderator of meetings.

Parish Council

The Parish Council is an advisory body, comprised of the chairs of the church committees and chaired by the minister.  The Parish Council works to form a shared vision and goals for the church and coordinates the work of program committees.

Congregational Meetings

In line with our fifth principle – “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and society at large” – the members of First Parish elect officers, Trustees, and members of Parish Committee at the Annual Meeting each April.  Members of First Parish also vote to approve an annual budget and extraordinary expenses, amend the bylaws, and call a minister.