COIC Past Updates – 2023 – 24

April 24, 2024 UPDATE

The Riot Report” on American Experience

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, WGBH-TV, 9 pm

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) urges everyone to watch the premiere of a landmark documentary revealing the story behind the infamous National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (aka Kerner Commission), a study group appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the causes of erupting violence in American cities. The Commission’s 1968 report offered such a shockingly unvarnished assessment of American race relations that Johnson refused to either acknowledge its findings or thank the commissioners. The Riot Report looks at the complex social dynamics that simultaneously both spurred the commission’s investigation and doomed its findings to political oblivion. View the trailer.

April 3, 2024 UPDATE

Join Us! First Parish Responds to Colonization and Slavery
Sunday, April 28, 11:45 a.m.

How do we want to respond to First Parish’s history related to colonization and slavery?

  • First Parish was involved in the colonization of Concord, which proved harmful to Indigenous people in this area.
  • Two of our former ministers enslaved people.

The Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) is hosting a discussion to consider our options. All are welcome.

March 18, 2024 UPDATE

  1. Members of the COIC voted on March 16, 2024 to sunset our group as of Annual Meeting 2024.

In the fall of 2021 the Standing Committee created our the COIC with the following charge:

  • Assess congregational policies, practices and procedures for their alignment with our UU values of equity, inclusion, and diversity.
  • To engage First Parish members, friends and staff in identifying opportunities for systemic change that will help FPC realize itself as a place of radical welcome and anti-oppression work. 
  • To recommend action(s) that serve to dismantle white supremacy within the culture, practice, policies and procedures within FPC. 

Though there is still much more anti-oppression work for the congregation to tackle, the COIC feels it has fulfilled its charge. We will issue a final report later this spring which be available online and plan to make a final presentation to the congregation in June. Details coming soon.

2. The recent Supreme Court decision that using affirmative action to guide college admissions is unconstitutional could mean big changes ahead, according to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Real her recent piece in the New York Times Magazine here

3. An upcoming educational series, sponsored by Concord Carlisle Adult Ed, explores anti-oppression in our schools. Diversity without Divisiveness: Understanding & Engaging with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Our Schools with Dr. Carlos Hoyt is a three-session series offered in-person at CCHS AND online, Thursday evenings from March 28 – April 11, 2024, from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. The series is free and open to adults and youth. Register here.

February 23, 2024 UPDATE

The hot economy in the United States has resulted in a job boom for people of color. Read The Economist article to learn why. 

February 22, 2024 UPDATE

Interested in learning more about our state’s role in the slave trade?

Prof. Sean Kelley

Massachusetts in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1644-1865, an online lecture (through Atlantic Black Box) by Dr. Sean M. Kelley, Professor of History at the University of Essex, UK, is scheduled for this week, February 28, 2024, from 4-5 PM. You must register in advance HERE to get the link.

February 6, 2024 UPDATE

Take a deep dive into the personal, transformative, spirit-growing work each of us needs to do around issues of race, identity, and justice. Registration is open through February 29, 2024 for the next 12-week session of Beloved Conversations/Within/Part II. The spring term begins March 12, 2024. Register here.

January 20, 2024 UPDATE

Were you intrigued by Rev. Seth’s sermon series on the First Parish Benediction? Do you have thoughts you’d like to share? Interested in discussing options?

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) is hosting two opportunities for our church community to share thoughts. We hope you will participate in whatever way is best for you:

Via Zoom: Tuesday, January 30, 2024, 7:30 – 8:30 pm

ZOOM Link 

In person: Sunday, February 4, 2024, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm in the Bulkeley Room.

Don’t Miss the First Parish Benefit Concert, “A Celebration of Inclusion” with our own Anna Huckabee-Tull and friends, on February 17, 2024 at 7:30 pm. Doors open at 7 PM. Light refreshments will be available. Funds raised will support the Welcoming Walls project. 

Parishioner Katharine Esty wrote a thoughtful blog about her own journey to understand the new choices surrounding the term LGBTQIA+. COIC recommends everyone read her article. The timing perfectly coincides with First Parish discussions about listing pronoun preference on our church name tags. 

January 16, 2024 UPDATE

COIC recommends a new resource for those who are interested in learning more about the topic of reparations. In December 2023, 170 people joined an online workshop entitled Call to Repair: Justice Healing and Reparations in Massachusetts sponsored by The Reparations Interfaith Coalition. Seven individuals, representing different faith traditions, made rich and thoughtful presentations. A video of the entire session is now available as in the slide deck

January 11, 2024 UPDATE

This coming Sunday, January 14 from 2-5 pm, please come to church to view the PBS documentary “The Busing Battleground“, following by a panel discussion with Sam Williams (Exec. Director, Concord Prison Outreach) and Eric Van Loon (an attorney for the Black families that took legal action against Boston’s segregated schools. Sponsored by RJAG, The League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle, Communities Organizing Against Racism, and the Town of Concord Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Commission. Register here.

December 29, 2023 UPDATE

How much do YOU know about the complex issue of reparations?

The COIC recommends we all watch AMERICA REFRAMED on two nights — Mondays, January 8, 2024 and January 15, 2024, at 10 pm on WGBH (Channel 2). This special program entitled “The Cost of Inheritance” uses personal stories to take a thoughtful look at our history and where some of today’s social inequities got started. For more information, click here. Please direct any questions or comments to either Toby Smith Ropeik at or Darien Smith at

December 12, 2023 UPDATE

COIC recommends an essay published December 9, 2023 in the Financial Times entitled The Culture Wars Dividing America’s Most Liberal Church which explores our denomination’s struggle balancing. DEAI political correctness, equity, and free thought.

December 3, 2023 UPDATE

On December 5, 2023 at 1 PM, you may want to attend a Massachusetts Statehouse hearing on Senate (S.1050) and House (H3921) bills supporting the creation of a Massachusetts Reparations Task Force. 

On December 10, 2023, 2-3 PM – The Reparations Interfaith Coalition is sponsoring an “Action Hour”. Register NOW.

An interesting article about reparations: “Movements of hope: Abolition and reparations in these times” by Trevor Smith and David Ragland, as printed in Prism, Aug 28, 2023. At the end of the article, there is also a list of additional resources with links.

Advocacy Ideas for supporting reparations:

• Call your state legislators and voice support for both the Senate bill (S.1050 – Miranda) and House bill (H.3921 – Fluker Oakley) which would create a Massachusetts Reparations Task Force. Find contact information for your legislators here

• Support the Mass Indigenous Legislative Agenda.

• Support the Building Up People Not Prison Campaign.

• Attend events sponsored by the MA Black Reparations Collective. 

Interested in making a donation to organizations that support reparations?

• Truth Telling Project’s “Rapid Repair Fund” (National)

Fund for Reparations Now! (National)

RIC & The Resource Organizing Project Collaboration (Greater Boston)

• The Resource Collective’s Community Reparations Fund

September 19, 2023 UPDATE

Carlos Hoyt PhD LICSW Photo from his website

Don’t miss our upcoming program, “Raising Consciousness and Confronting Social Bias in Concord: with noted therapist, social worker, and Assistant Professor at Wheelock College, Dr. Carlos Hoyt.

Coming Thursday, October 12, 2023, 6-8:30 PM, at Concord Academy, 166 Main St. in Concord

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) and the Racial Justice Action Group (RJAG) are co-sponsoring a special event, to provide an opportunity for us all to learn more about bias within our own community.  

This is a unique opportunity to hear neighbors recount their personal experiences and we anticipate an enriching discussion. 

September 10, 2023 UPDATE

Only 17 spots left!

Registration is open for the next session of JUBILEE THREE anti-racism training, co-sponsored by First Parish, along with other area churches. 

Event format: online & on-site

Dates & times:

  • Friday, October 20, 2023, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EDT
  • Saturday, October 21, 2023, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm EDT
  • Sunday, October 22, 2023, 12:00 pm – 6:30 pm EDT

Paula Cole Jones will lead an updated version of this powerful, unique and acclaimed program, partnering with experienced UU trainers Dr. Leon Spencer and Lutricia Callair. Registration is required. Financial reimbursement is possible by contacting Rev. Paul Langston-Daley at

If you wish to speak to someone about the value of the training, contact Darien Smith at

September 2, 2023 UPDATE

What do you know about Concord’s indigenous people, frontier settlers, farmers, militia, merchants, enslavers, authors, researchers, authors, immigrants, mothers, lovers, and friends? 

COIC and RJAG are co-sponsoring CONCORD STORIES, a five-session in person history course led by Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom. 

Over five Tuesday evenings, from 7 pm to 9 pm we will explore some of Concord’s saints, rogues, freemen, servants, and chattel.  What might life have been like depending upon your sex, gender, race, and social class?

September 19, 2023:                 indigenous Musketaquid and Concord settlers

September 26, 2023:                 Frontier and Colonial Concord

October 3, 2023:                       Provincial and Revolutionary Concord

October 17, 2023:                     Transcendentalist and Patriotic Concord

October 24, 2023:                     Modern and Post-Modern Concord

To register find Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom at coffee hour or email him at

COIC Past Updates – 2022- 23

June 18, 2023 Update

King’s Chapel in Boston is working to come to terms with its connections to slavery. Read The Boston Globe article.

A recent Boston Globe poll indicates some improvement in the lives of Black Americans. Read the article

June 3, 2023 Update

PBS is offering two programs in June related to anti-oppression efforts:

  • June 12 and June 19 on WGBH: Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Frontsa two-part documentary examining the complex history of the all-Black military units that fought in our wars and were placed in the awkward position of displacing indigenous people during the settling of the West — all the while exempted from many of the benefits awarded to other soldiers and veterans. 
  • June 27 at 9 PM on WGBH: American Experience looks at a little known farmhouse hidden in the Catskills that offered an underground sanctuary of support to transgender people in the 1950s. Read more about Casa Susanna.

Upcoming Opportunity: coming this fall – November 8-12, 2023 – a chance to travel with the Living Legacy Project. A five day pilgrimage to Alabama to see key sites related to our nation’s Civil Rights history. Registration is now open. More information.

Finally, an article of interest: A community Freedom School model in Mississippi is working to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Read More.

May 9, 2023 Update

A state Task Force studying reparations today recommended the California Legislature pay billions of dollars in compensation to Black Americans for past injustices. Read the New York Times article.

May 8, 2023 Update

Be sure to visit the COIC table at the Democracy Festival. We’ll offer a game/display where you and your family can weigh in on where you stand on anti-oppression. Great learning opportunity for kids! Plus a take-home handout! May 20th from 11 am – 2 PM at First Parish in Concord. 

April 24, 2023 Update

Have you ever heard of the Phips Proclamation? Signed at the Old Boston State House in 1755, it legalized the genocide of the Penobscot Nation — men, women, and children and paid a cash bounty for proof of each person slaughtered. Watch a short (8:00) video with descendants of these victims to learn more. (Scroll to the end of the page until you see “Watch Bounty, Now Streaming.”)

April 21, 2023 Update & Suggestions

WATCH: Harvard University has produced a short film (22 minutes) about their own entanglement with the institution of slavery. Watch it online. The film is just one small part of a much larger effort you can read about on their website.

OUTING: Visit “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina”, an exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts until July 9, 2023. You’ll see pottery made by enslaved men, women, and children — some of whom left messages in the clay. 

JOIN: The UUA’s Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change: A Community of Practice invites you to their May 23 and May 25 online meetings to learn more about “Reparations and Tending our Tradition.”  To get the online link, register here

April 16, 2023

If you would like to know more about the work of the COIC, please read our first report to the Standing Committee. It summarizes the work we have done so far and presents our initial list of recommendations.

April 14, 2023 Update

Did you know that people of color are more than five times MORE likely to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service? Did you know that they also pay a disproportionate percentage of income tax? Take 30 minutes and listen to this NPR podcast, Code Switch on how tax law penalizes people of color.

April 11, 2023 Update

Why, and how have People of Color been excluded from full participation in nature spaces and outdoor sports? 

The AMC is offering an online webinar featuring lifelong adventurer Mardi Fuller, a Person of Color who will offer ideas about better understanding white supremacy and its impact on access to the outdoors. 

April 19, 2023, 7-8 PM. Register HERE

March 31, 2023 Update

Two upcoming events to note:

  1. Wondering why there’s so much attention paid these days to pronouns? On April 6, 2023 at 7 pm the Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education is offering an online program about pronoun choice and use. The program will be held on ZOOM. Find out why it’s important for us all to pay attention to pronouns. Register HERE.  Or call 978-318-1432 for more information.

  2. On April 14, 2023 from 6-8 pm the Robbins House is sponsored a family-friendly celebration of the 200th birthday of Educator/Activist Ellen Garrison at the Holy Trinity Church AND Concord Townhouse – both in Monument Square. A wonderful opportunity for kids to learn more about racial justice.

March 13, 2023 Update

Wonderful news! Several UU churches in the Greater Boston Area are co-sponsoring ONLINE Jubilee Three Anti-Racism Training next fall, led by Paula Cole Jones. This is a deeply powerful, eye-opening, even life-changing weekend — an opportunity to collaboratively learn more about systemic racism.

We’ll publish registration information as soon as it’s available. For now, all you have to do is hold these dates: 

  • Friday, October 20, 2023 – 6:00pm to 9:00pm ET

  • Saturday, October 21, 2023 – 9:00am to 8:30pm ET

  • Sunday, October 22, 2023 – 12:00pm to 6:30 ET

March 5, 2023 Update

Many, many families of White Americans today are related to Black Americans today, part of the legacy of slavery. This Code Switch podcast from NPR tells one story of how two sides of a family worked to come together, across racial divides. Listen to the episode, Black History’s Family Tree. 

February 27, 2023 Update

Paula Cole Jones, one of the creators of the powerful Jubilee Three Anti-Racism Training is convening a Zoom meeting on March 8, 2023 from 7-9:30 PM on the two topics of Land Acknowledgements and The Doctrine of Discovery — both of which have a profound impact on our exploration of our own history and the UUA’s proposed adoption of the 8th Principle. There is no cost. Simply click to pre-register

February 19, 2023 Update

This coming Tuesday, February 21, 2023 between 5-7 pm please consider attending an online film screening of the documentary Fighting Indians which chronicles the last school in the state of Maine that didn’t want to give up its Native American mascot – despite a state law prohibiting such mascots in all public schools.

It’s a film about a small community coming to terms with its identity, history, and relationship with indigenous neighbors. The film will be followed with a conversation with the filmmakers and a representative of the Passamaquoddy.  Register in advance to get the link HERE.

February 13, 2023 Update

We’re hearing a lot of political talk about critical race theory and how it shouldn’t be taught in public school. Seven states have already banned it (Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida) Efforts are underway to ban it in sixteen more. But what exactly does the ban prohibit? Click to read AN EASY INTRODUCTION from CNN.

February 4, 2023 Update

Many members of the FP community are expressing an interest in creating a Land Acknowledgement at the start of our worship services. Members of COIC have researched this idea and found it requires more work to “lay the foundation“.

Here are two resources for those who want to learn more:

An article: Do Indigenous Land Acknowledgements Do More Harm Than Good?

A Podcast: Untying Knows: Beyond Land Acknowledgement from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center program,  Institutional Antiracism and Accountability.

January 29, 2023 Update

Three links of interest to today:

1. Registration for the ONLINE spring term of Beloved Conversations: Within begins February 1 and ends February 28, 2023. This powerful anti-racist training, offered by Meadville Lombard Theological School, runs from March 13- May 29, 2023. COIC believes this is training ALL of us should do. Talk with Rev. Paul Langston-Daley about getting reimbursed for the registration fee.

2. A link to the full UUA Article II Report which has interesting background information about how the group arrived at their new recommendations. These recommendations would replace the current Eight Principles used to guide and define our denomination.

3. In light of the recent killing of Tyre Nichols, you may find this article, Yes, Cops Can Be Racist relevant.

January 28, 2023 Update

Wondering why DEAI*, anti-oppression and anti-racism work are getting so much attention now?

Curious about why some people call the United States a racist country?

Explore aspects of our history that we DIDN’T learn about in school, by attending one of the upcoming viewings of the award-winning documentary, Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.

We encourage all members and friends of First Parish to attend one of the following screenings:

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 6 PM. Gleason Library, Carlisle

Saturday, February 11, 2023, 1 PM. Fowler Library, Concord

Sunday, February 12, 2023, 2 pm at First Parish, sponsored by our own Racial Justice Action Group (RJAG).

*diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion

January 20, 2023 Update

A family foundation has just given ALL its remaining money to fund a new, free newspaper for the Black community in Baltimore. Read more.

January 19, 2023 Update

Do we get accurate information about the number of people shot and killed by police? 

Are shootings reported accurately to the FBI database? 

How much more likely is it that police will shoot a Black American?

An article in the January 11th issue of The Washington Post tracks more than eight thousand fatal police shootings since 2015. Find out what their investigation found.

January 17, 2023 Update

To fulfill our charge from the Standing Committee, COIC is regularly sharing information and articles we have found helpful in thinking about how to closer align our UU values of equity, inclusion, and diversity with our church policies and procedures.

This week we discovered an interesting podcast called UNTYING KNOTS, from Harvard Kennedy School’s Program entitled Institutional Antiracism and Accountability. We recommend you listen to the January 10, 2023 episode entitled “Beyond Land Acknowledgement – Accountable Action in Partnership with Native Nations”. It runs about 38 minutes. 

January 3, 2023 Update

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) is studying how to better align our policies, practices, and procedures with our UU values. To help all of us expand our understanding and prepare for future congregational discussions about change, we are periodically recommending interesting readings. 

This week, we recommend an article from The Boston Globe entitled, “Why Some Young Black Bostonians are Choosing to Move to the South” by Tiana Woodard from November 5, 2022.

If you have a Boston Globe Subscription, you should be able to use the this direct link:

If you do NOT have a Globe subscription, you can read the article here.


COIC Past Updates – 2021-22

December 20, 2022 Update

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) is at work on a comprehensive, multi-year review of our church’s policies, practices, and procedures — to see how we might better align them with the core UU values of equity, inclusion, and diversity

As we pursue our charge from the Standing Committee, we want to share articles and information of interest with the wider congregation. This will help us all navigate upcoming discussions about proposed changes. We invite you to begin by reading an article by the UUA’s Joe Sullivan, entitled “Liberating Governance for Our Times.

October 18, 2022 Update

The COIC sponsored our kickoff event last Sunday (Oct. 16) – a 90-minute walking tour, arranged through the Concord Visitor’s Center, and focused on the history of Afro-Americans in Concord. First Parish’s own Mary-Wren vanderWilden (School Programs Coordinator at the Concord Museum) led the tour. Even those of us who have lived here for decades learned so much.

A few examples. On the plus side, it was the women in town who were the first to push for abolition. And many were hands on in assisting the underground railroad (which supported so many enslaved people on their way to freedom). But, It also turns out that, in addition to being the home of the patriots who launched the Revolutionary War, Concord was also the first town to legalize slavery. And many of our leading thinkers (Emerson, Thoreau, others) were either slow to speak out against slavery or never did. In addition, many prominent Concord families benefited financially from the triangle slave trade. So, like many places in our country, our history is mixed.

June 27, 2022 Update

On June 25, 2022 at General Assembly, representatives of UU congregations voted in favor of an Action for Immediate Witness (AIW) that calls on members of our faith to address Anti-Racism work and Reparations NOW. 

It is a clear, direct, and powerful call from our faith to all of us to ACT.

We on the First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) ask everyone in our congregation to please take the time to read this 2- page document. The link is provided below.

AIW Anti-Racism and Reparations via Restorative Justice 2022.

We also recommend our congregants invest in the following resources:

Wilderness Journey: The Struggle for Black Empowerment and Racial Justice  (Running Time: 1:16)

Wilderness Journey is a documentary that tells the eyewitness history of the schism between Black and White UUs that dates from UUA actions taken between 1967-70.  Former First Parish minister, Dana McLean Greeley plays an important role.

April 5, 2022 Update

The First Parish Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) was established by The First Parish Standing Committee in the fall of 2021.

COIC members are: Jennipher Burgess, Peter Nobile, Ken Reeves, Toby Smith Ropeik (co-chair), Darien Smith (co-chair), Dana Snyder-Grant, Cindy Soule

The COIC’s charge from the Standing Committee reads:

The First Parish in Concord Commission on Institutional Change (FPCOIC) is charged to:

    • Assess congregational policies, practices and procedures for their alignment with our UU values of equity, inclusion, and diversity.
    • To engage First Parish members, friends and staff in identifying opportunities for systemic change that will help FPC realize itself as a place of radical welcome and anti-oppression work. 
    • To recommend action(s) that serve to dismantle white supremacy within the culture, practice, policies and procedures within FPC. 

This charge is a broad one and will require slow, deliberate, and thoughtful work over years, rather than months. Members of COIC are committed to involving the entire congregation in this work. We welcome your input. You can contact any member of COIC with your ideas and suggestions. 

If you want to begin now, we encourage everyone in the congregation to download and read the UUA report, Widening the Circle of Concern. It’s free.

You can also read more about what actions have led to this work below.