The Needham Lyceum:
A Forum on Public Affairs, Spirituality, Culture, and Science
There is a long-standing New England tradition of using the Meetinghouse for public discussions on timely topics. In the 19th century, nearly every New England town had Lyceums or similar programs. Built in 1836, the Meetinghouse of First Parish in Needham has long been a part of that tradition.
In the Fall of 2004, First Parish revived that tradition by launching "The Needham Lyceum: A Forum on Public Affairs, Spirituality, Culture, and Science." The Needham Lyceum brings important speakers and programs to our community to inform and foster discussion about compelling contemporary issues. Most Lyceum programs include time for open discussion. The Minister of First Parish typically acts as the host and moderator of the Lyceum.
Needham Lyceums are open and free to the public unless otherwise noted. Most Lyceum programs are scheduled for Sundays at either 9:15 am or 12:30 pm, but programs may occasionally be scheduled at other times on Sunday or weekday evenings. The Needham Lyceum convenes in the historic First Parish Meetinghouse at 23 Dedham Avenue, just across from the Town Common.
An audio library of MP3 files of many past Lyceum programs is available on this website.
Palestine Today and Tomorrow: A Personal View
with Jeff Klein (April 2013) Retired machinist and union activist Jeff Klein offered his unique insights into the Palestinian situation. Jeff has been active with Dorchester People for Peace in opposing US wars abroad and promoting social justice at home, in cooperation with AFAB and many other grassroots organizations. During the past decade Jeff has traveled almost every year to Palestine/Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, participating in solidarity efforts and promoting freedom for the Palestinians from occupation and racism.
Poetry Night with Jane Hart (April 2013) An evening of poetry with First Parish member and prize-winning poet Jane Hart. The evening also included chances for audience members to share poems.
Two Who Dared: The Sharp's War (April 2013) A screening of Two Who Dared: The Sharps' War, which tells the story of Unitarian minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha who, just days prior to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, left their young children in Wellesley, Massachusetts to help save thousands being persecuted in Eastern Europe.
Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers, Parts I and II (Spring 2013) Sunday, April 28 and May 5, 9:15 am in the Parlor. Ed Lane, First Parish member and the former chair of the Beacon Press Board, recounted the history of Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers, focusing in particular on how Beacon Press came to publish the Pentagon Papers and the lessons learned -- or not -- from the events described in the Pentagon Papers.
Screening and discussion of the documentary Fresh (April 2013) The evening was celebration of sustainable local food production with tastings from local farmers and the showing of "Fresh" (www.freshthemovie.com).
The Religious Satire of Mark Twain with Ed Lane (March 2013) Often called a “humorist,” Twain is more of a “satirist,” and much of his satire is about religion. He uses humor like a rapier to put a spotlight (pardon the mixed metaphor) on absurdity and hypocrisy.
Whose God Rules? with Reverend Nate Walker (February 2013) The United States is not a theocracy where one religion determines all law. Neither is it a purely secular nation where religion is banished from public life. If this is accurate, what is the true nature of this highly religious country? Reverend Nate Walker argues that the United States is a theolegal democracy, a system that permits, rewards and encourages officials to use theology to make law without formally establishing a state religion. Walker writes about it as co-editor of Whose God Rules? Is the United States a Secular Nation or a Theolegal Democracy? (2011) Palgrave Macmillan. The book originated from a sermon he gave in 2008. Additional contributors include Professors Alan Dershowitz, Martha Nussbaum, Kent Greenawalt, Robby George and William Schulz. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote the foreword and Cornel West calls Whose God Rules? “provocative and pioneering.”
Shale Gas and Oil Impacts with Bob Place (January 2013)
Energay expert and First Parish member Bob Place spoke about “Shale gas and oil impacts – do they spell the doom of renewables in a cheaper fuel energy future?”.
Giving Immigrants Their Due (November 2012)
Clark Taylor led a discussion on the question "What will it take to give immigrants all the credit they deserve to help make our society more healthy and just?"
Medical Marijuana (November 2012)
Should the medical use of marijuana be approved in Massachusetts? That controversial question was discussed by doctors and other professionals in preparation for the ballot initiative.
Campaign Finance Law with Bob Smart (October 2012)
Attorney and First Parish member Bob Smart will led a discussion about the Citizens United decision and campaign finance law and reform. Topics included public financing, limits on campaign and other expenditures, broadcast time for candidates, and other alternatives.
A Screening and Discussion about the Documentary "Needham: Big LIttle Town" October 2012
A public screening of and discussion about the film that was created as the finale to Needham’s 300th-anniversary celebration in 2011, with special guests co-producers Kathryn Dietz and Marc Mandel
How Will You Vote on Ballot Question #2:
Prescribing Medication to End Life? (October 2012)
The Needham Lyceum and the League of Women Voters presented an informational forum examining both perspectives of this complex issue. which, for many, deeply personal and raises challenging moral and ethical questions. Two speakers will presented the opposing sides of the question: Kevin Kozin, MTS, LICSW, a representative from Dignity 2012 and Jane A Driver, MD, MPD, a representative from the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide.
Screening of “Bitter Seeds” (October 2012)
Bitter Seeds is an internationally award-winning film that explores the future of how we grow things, weighing in on the worldwide debate over the changes created by industrial agriculture, and focusing in particular on the plight of framers in India. Jointly sponsored by the Laurie Ann Gerber Memorial Fund, Needham Community Farm and the Social Action Committee of First Parish in Needham.
The Needham Lyceum: Criminal Justice (and Injustice), (October 2011) moderated by John Buehrens, with guests from the Innocence Project, criminal justice reform groups, prison visitation programs, and various legal perspectives.
Sustainable Agriculture: A Report From
EARTH University in Costa Rica (March 2010)
Representatives of EARTH University in Costa Rica led a discussion exploring the balance between agricultural production and environmental preservation in the tropics and the connections between the United States and the developing world. EARTH University is preparing leaders with ethical values to contribute to the sustainable development of the humid tropics and to construct a prosperous and just society.
Making the Good Life Last: Four Keys to Sustainable Living,
A Four-Part Study of the Book by Michael Schuler (Spring 2010)
Ever question whether the non-stop consumption and constant stimulation of modern life really leads to happiness? Or worry about the toll it takes on the world around us? Author and Unitarian Universalist minister Michael Schuler does, and in his recent book he shows how, by applying the principles of sustainability to our personal lives, we can discover treasures of perennial value: a beautiful and healthy earth home, enduring relationships, strong communities, work that contributes to the common good, and play that restores our bodies and lifts our souls. Schuler is parish minister of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin.
Sustainable Harvest: Local Food Initiatives in Needham
(February 2010) First Parish in Needham's Green Sanctuary Initiative kicked off its series of education events with a Needham Lyceum featuring an inspiring new documentary made by Needham resident and First Parish member Wendy Blom. The film, "Eating Local in Somerville", shows how an urban community can use creative programs to engage the schools, educate the public and get fresh, locally grown produce to its residents. Representatives of our own local farms gave brief summaries of their operations, and Needham Community Farm members talked about exciting new initiatives in the elementary schools.
Are We Living in the Post-American World?
Wellesley College Professor of Political Science Doctor Robert Paarlberg responding to First Parish's Book-of-the-Year: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria Every year, First Parish selects a "First Parish Book of the Year" as the basis for informal and programmatic discussions, sermons, and other events. In 2009-10 we continued the tradition with The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, selected in 2008 by the Christian Science Monitor as the Best Nonfiction Book, by the Seattle Times as the Best Book, and by the NY Times as a Notable Book. The Times went on to say that The Post-American World opens “a big picture window on the closing of the first American century and the advent of a new world.” As the culmination of our book-of-the-year discussions, Dr. Robert Paarlberg delivered a Needham Lyceum responding to the question posed in the title. Robert Paarlberg is the Betty Freyhof Johnson Class of 1944 Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.
irst Parish member Steve Goldberg will discuss his provocative and critically acclaimed book on philanthropy. For more information, see billions of drops dot com.
Sharon Kennedy is a Grammy-nominated storyteller & performance artist. Her new one-woman play will touch everyone, but especially those who are just trying to do the best they can while taking care of an elderly parent. Bring tissues — whether you're crying or laughing, you'll need them! For more about Sharon's work, visit sharonkennedy.com. There will be a $10 admission fee.
Louis Kruger: Children Left Behind: A Documentary on High Stakes Testing (October 2009) A screening of Louis Kruger's film about the well-intended purposes that are driving the high-stakes testing movement in the public schools — and its unintended consequences. Dr. Kruger was introduced by our own Pat Banker, who was associate producer and cinematographer on the project.
Local author Charlotte Gordon has written a highly readable book on the saga of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, one of the Bible’s most intriguing and troubling love stories — and the tale of origin for all three monotheistic faiths. Abraham must choose between two wives who have borne him two sons. One wife and son will share in his wealth and status, while the other two are exiled into the desert. Long a cornerstone of Western anxiety, the story chronicles a very famous and troubled family, and sheds light on the ongoing conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds. How did this ancient story become one of the least understood and most frequently misinterpreted of our cultural myths? Gordon sheds provocative new light on these biblical characters who — with their jealousies, passions, and doubts — actually behave like human beings.