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.
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.
2021-2022 Parish Committee
Jean Merkl, Chair
Kate Hanson Plass
News from Parish Committee
In order to be an effective organization, we rely on the work of our committees and our staff. Many committees and staff are focused on planning programs and activities to carry out our mission. There are other committees which work with staff to make sure that all...
The Upcoming Ministerial Transition The Parish Committee has been spending time in each of its monthly meetings this church year, discussing the upcoming transition period which will begin when Mark Harris retires at the end of July. We have been in touch with the New...
Elected members of the congregation fill the offices of Clerk, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Historian, and Moderator of meetings.
The First Parish Trustees are responsible for the wellbeing and preservation of the church’s three endowment accounts. These include the Ministerial Fund, the Perpetuity Fund, and the Helen Robinson Wright Fund. Proceeds from the first two 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.
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.
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.