Staff Listing for First Parish of Watertown

Woman in black robe and white stole with chalice

Rev. Sophia M. Lyons, Minister

Reverend Sophia received her Master of Divinity from Boston University’s School of Theology in 2019 and was ordained by the First Religious Society UU of Newburyport, MA in 2021. Before coming to FPW, Rev. Sophia served as Intern and Sabbatical Minister at the UU Church of Haverhill, MA, year-round Island Minister on Star Island, and Memory Care Chaplain at Hebrew Senior Life in Dedham, MA. She also holds a BA in Education having taught high school English for a stint, spent many years in the theater performing in Chicago and Los Angeles, was a public relations executive, as well as a natural childbirth instructor! The path to ministry was most certainly a winding one… Rev. Sophia Lyons joyfully accepted the call to serve as the 30th settled minister at First Parish of Watertown in May of 2021 and considers it a great honor to minister to this beautiful community.

Rev. Sophia is committed to radical welcome and spreading the good news that is our bold Unitarian Universalist faith. Some of her areas of interest include interfaith partnerships, addictions ministry, spiritual direction, and working towards collective liberation for all. Rev. Sophia aspires to live her life and fulfill her ministry guided by spiritual seeking, big love, and the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.

Raised in Los Angeles, CA, Rev. Sophia moved to New England in 2011, having lived in Chicago, IL and Portland, OR for a long while in between. She lives in Watertown with her husband, Jason, and two daughters, Olive and Poppy. Rev. Sophia enjoys yoga, music (particularly the kind you can dance to), communing with Nature, and looking after her two lop-eared rabbits and Siberian cat who seem to never be satisfied.

Rev. Sophia is generally in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Friday is her sermon writing day and Monday is her day of rest, or Sabbath.

Charlyn Bethell, Music Director

Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor.

As an undergraduate at Western Washington State University, she received two Bachelor degrees: one in oboe performance and one in music education. Further studies at the state conservatory in Aarhus, Denmark (where she received a diploma) led her to a busy life as a professional freelance musician when she returned to the Boston area. She has played in Carnegie Recital Hall with the award-winning New Art Winds and is currently an active member in both the Solar Winds wind quintet and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Ensemble.

While her performing career flourished, she continued advanced studies in music education. She received a certificate in Kodály studies from the Kodály Center of America. (Zoltan Kodály was a Hungarian composer who founded a unique way of teaching music that has gained adherents around the world.)

For the past eleven summers, Charlyn has taught Kodály pedagogy, materials, and conducting to postgraduate music teachers at New England Conservatory. She is also an endorsed trainer for Education Through Movement: Building the Foundation, and she has taught elementary general music and chorus for the past twenty years in the Concord Public Schools.

Charlyn feels that one of the best things about being the Music Director at First Parish is that she can join these two paths in her musical life in a fulfilling way.

smiling woman in glasses and lace knit sweater

Lauren Strauss, Director of Religious Education


Lauren has served this congregation since 2011.  She is credentialed at the Credentialed level in Religious Education by the UUA.

Lauren began her career in Deaf education after college and graduate school.  She taught at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham for a total of ten years, both in their residential treatment program and in their high school, where she taught English, Literature, and Sex Ed.

During that time Lauren was a part of the field test for High School OWL, and used the curriculum in her classes there. She spent some time teaching English and History in a residential treatment program for girls in Arlington and returned to The Learning Center. When her child went to Kindergarten she decided to leave full-time teaching, and began teaching preschool, which enabled her to gain experience with small people.

Lauren taught four- and five-year-olds in Sudbury for four years, and then decided to make her dream of becoming a DRE come true.

Lauren came to Unitarian Universalism in her 20s when she and her husband Tom decided that they wanted to raise their children in a church environment, but neither his Catholic upbringing nor Lauren’s eclectic one would suffice as a church home. They discovered First Parish in Framingham, where they happily joined the church choir. Lauren was Senior Youth Group advisor for seven years, taught several semesters of RE classes, and served on the Worship and Arts Council.

Lauren’s background in education, music, and RE led her here, and she feels privileged to be able to share her love of Unitarian Universalism with the members of this parish.

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Allison Hewett, Church Administrator

Allison joined the FPW staff in January 2019.  As the Church Administrator, she is the main point of contact for church announcements, administrative questions, scheduling, and rental inquiries.  She is also the administrator for the Helen Robinson Wright Fund.  She is the technical host and stage-manager of our online services.

Allison has a background in library and information science and theater arts.  In her free time, she enjoys fiber arts and studying medieval music and culture in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

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Frank Griggs, Sexton

Frank Griggs joined the First Parish of Watertown staff as sexton in June 2017. As the owner and operator of two cleaning companies, he is a professional window cleaner.

He is a recent retiree from a middle school in Wayland, MA.  After fifteen years as head custodian, Frank has the training and education necessary to be a successful sexton. As a window cleaning contractor, Frank had the opportunity to work with many skilled tradespeople.  That experience will benefit First Parish. The maintenance and repair skills acquired will eliminate the need to hire professional contractors for many projects.

Mark Harris, Minister Emeritus

Mark was minister at First Parish from 1996 until 2019, serving the first two years as part of a co-ministry team with his wife, Andrea Greenwood, who had been settled in Watertown in 1992.  Mark’s ministry was grounded in the importance of carrying on the traditions of the congregation and the UU faith.  He loves congregations like First Parish where everyone ministers to one another and the community is central.

A denominational historian, Mark wrote and edited many works on UU history, including The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism (2009), Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History (2011), An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions (with Andrea Greenwood, 2011), and An Ancient Parish: A History of First Parish of Watertown, Massachusetts (2019), and the pamphlet “Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith.”