Virtual Candlelight Vigil On Thursday, June 4 In Response To George Floyd’s Death

Photo: The poster of Thursday’s remote vigil

In response to the murder of George Floyd and the resulting nationwide unrest, Belmont Against Racism, the Belmont Religious Council, and the Belmont Human Rights Commission are sponsoring a virtual candlelight vigil on Thursday, June 4 at 7 p.m. to be aired on Belmont Media.

Members of the clergy, Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac, State Rep. Dave Rogers, State Sen. Will Brownsberger and others will be giving short words of comfort/comments which will be followed by asking listeners to light a candle or flashlight on their front porches. 

A Decade Of Helping: Belmont Serves Turns 10 This Monday; Come And Volunteer

Photo: Belmont Serves has something for everyone.

The Belmont Religious Council is proud to announce the 10th annual Belmont Serves, a day of service for and by the Belmont community, will take place on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 8.

The family-friendly event is when Belmont comes out on one morning a year to make the town a better place for all.

This year’s headquarters for Belmont Serves is First Church Unitarian Universalist, 404 Concord Ave. Sign up on or at the door; there is a great number of meaningful work to go around.

“You can help make a real difference in our town, have some fun, and meet others who share a willingness to serve the community,” said Jen Hoyda, vice president of the Belmont Religious Council.

Schedule of Events

  • 8:30 am: Breakfast for all at First Church Unitarian and sign in/project assignment
  • 9:00 a.m. to noon: Service projects
  • Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Pizza and ice cream and wrap up at the Unitarian church

Each volunteer/group will be able to sign up for a project then join a team which will work together for the morning – bonding and making our town a better place to be.

Projects will include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Door-to-door collection of items for the Belmont Food Pantry — ideal for families with young children as well as other groups
  • Trails and conservation areas: Clearing trails at Lone Tree Hill
  • An assortment of clean up and landscaping projects

Door-to-door collection for the Belmont Food Pantry— Teams of volunteers will be assigned to specific routes, collecting bags of groceries left at doorsteps for delivery to the Belmont Food Pantry. These grocery bags are distributed door-to-door throughout the town during the week before Belmont Serves day. This service touches 8,000 homes and supplies food and much needed toiletry items for countless individuals in need.

Conservation projects at Lone Tree Hill — You can help with pruning, parking lot maintenance and invasive vegetation removal at Lone Tree Hill (former McLean Property) conservation lands. Wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid poison ivy. We will supply the tools, or bring clippers or loppers. This is a wonderful activity for families and individuals to spend time beautifying nature in our lovely fall weather.

Clay Pit Pond clean-up: Volunteers will work on pruning existing shrubs, cutting/removing invasives, and picking up trash and debris. “Last year, over the course of a couple of hours, walking the full perimeter of Clay Pit pond, I had the pleasure to get to know a fellow member of the community and bond over travel stories. This is someone I might have never otherwise met and it made me feel more connected to my town.” a volunteer said.

Learn more at and sign up to volunteer!

About Belmont Religious Council:

The Belmont Religious Council was founded in April, 1954 as an organization of the various faith communities that serve Belmont. Its purpose is “to enhance the spirit of unity through fellowship, to develop understanding and appreciation for the various religious faiths represented and to exert a positive influence in the social and moral life of the Belmont community.”

By promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation, the Council can also help enable Belmont’s faith communities to pursue important goals generally not attainable by a single congregation.

Religious Council’s Youth Mission Helps Rebuild Homes in Houston

Photo: Teens from the Belmont Religious Council’s Youth Mission at a Houston pre-school.
(Editor’s note: The article below was submitted by Doug John of the Belmont Religious Council, an interfaith council for the town.)
On Sunday, Feb. 18, a group of 28 teenagers and advisors from different religious faiths in Belmont left snowy New England to head to Houston, Texas, to help build houses damaged by Hurricane Harvey as part of the Belmont Religious Council’s on-going Youth Mission trips.
In Houston, we were housed in shipping containers converted into bunkhouses, in the parking lot of a Lutheran church. The living quarters were very tight, with 8 to 10 people crammed into each bunkroom. The Lutheran church provided food and a common meeting space.
Each day we were off to our worksites by 7:30 p.m. We took out walls, windows, ceilings and floor tiles. We put in new windows, plasterboard walls, and ceiling support beams. Everyone worked hard and was pretty dirty and exhausted by the end of the day. Each evening participants of a different religious faith made presentations about their religious practices.  Then we had circle time, where everyone shared thoughts about their day, as well as shout-outs praising different people in our group. There was a lot of singing and laughing and a little crying. 
Besides working hard, one afternoon we toured the Johnson Space Center and got to see the original mission control center as well as the actual last Saturn rocket and workspaces for future space exploration. Two afternoons after work, we went to a preschool where we read books and played with the kids. After work was done on Friday, we headed to Galveston to enjoy some time on the beach; the water was surprisingly warm for February.
The teenagers were, Heather Sorenson, Will Thomas, Abbie and Tyler Hafen, Barbara and Eddy Joseph, Ethan Andersen, Luke Jackson, Millie Sundahl, Grace Christensen, Andrew Choy, Harry Thidemann, Brad Harvey, Jake Parsons, David Ellison, Sam Harris, Ben Crocker, Eli Sseruwagi, and Mason Apke. There adult chaperones on the trip were David and Anne-Sophi Dankens, Daniel Adam, Dan Cherneff, Arianne Frank, Pastor Eric Wefald, Bret Sorenson, and Tina and Doug John. 
We got a lot of work done, made a difference in a couple of Houston families’ lives, made new friends, and had a good time. Next trip will be in 2020, and we highly recommend going.

A Community Contemplates, Comes Together After A ‘Terrible’ Week

Photo: Participants at the rally Tuesday. 

In the warm twilight of Tuesday, more than 250 men, women, families and children arrived at the courtyard of St. Joseph Parish in an act of community contemplation after what Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin described as “a terrible week.”

The residents came to demonstrate, in the truest sense, their concern to the violence inflicted onto two African-Americans – in Baton Rouge and Minnesota – and five Dallas law enforcement officers that left them dead and a nation in shock.

But the night would not be filled with slogans or protest placards, rather a quiet reflection and the light of more than a hundred candles.

“This event was prompted because there were a lot of conversation that ‘We need to do something and do it soon and to say really how much Belmont cares’,” said John Robotham, a leader of the Belmont Religious Council which with Belmont Against Racism and the Belmont Police Department organized the rally for hope and healing. 

The event began with prayers for the victims, survivors and for courage and understanding.

“Spur us to root out the demons of anger, hatred and racial disparity from our hearts and minds and our society,” said Parish member Suzanne Robotham.

Rabbi Jonathan Kraus of the Beth El Temple Center noted while “there is holy work for us to do” in acts of kindness and the pursuit of justice to help heal ourselves and the country, “before we can reach across the chasm of hurt, misunderstanding, distrust and violence, we must open our eyes with those we share communities but who, if we are honest, we really don’t know very well.”

“Even as we confess the legacy of racism and bigotry that continues to be a poison thread in the fabric of America, we must find the courage, the faith, and the strength to proclaim along with Anne Frank, ‘I simply can not build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.'”

Quoting from a passage from the Quran – “O mankind. We created you from a single pair of male and female, making nations and tribes, that you may know each other” – Furqan Sayeed, who graduated one month ago from Belmont High School, said what struck him is the phrase “know each other.”

Those words connote mutual respect and understanding “and that’s very important to keep in mind when we hear when those horrible things happen that attempt to divide us. I pray to God that we don’t get divided, and we face any challenge as a community together.”

McLaughlin quoted US Attorney General Loretta Lynch who called for “action; calm peaceful, collaborative and permanent … we must continue working to build trust between communities and law enforcement … and guarantee every person in this country equal justice under the law.”

“Above all, we must remind ourselves that we are all Americans and as Americans, we share not just a common land but a common life. Those we lost this week have come from different neighborhoods and different backgrounds. They are mourned by all of us,” said McLaughlin, who said his department is “here to serve you … to work with you, to make our community the best community we can.”

As the candles were lit, Robotham read from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Lecture, and the gathering sang verses from “We Shall Overcome” and “America the Beautiful.”

While Belmont is far from the despair and confrontation occurring in other parts of the country, Robotham said this demonstration was necessary “because sometimes we do need to protest and speak loudly.”

“There are times in our town when there is a racial divide or divisions along ethnic or religious lines and we need to call that out and to make a statement that we do care about dialogue and living with and knowing each other and not just tolerating our neighbors,” said Robotham. 

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Belmont Serves With a Helping Hand

More than 200 Belmont residents sacrificed lingering in bed or taking a long, Columbus Day breakfast on Monday morning, Oct. 13 to work to make their town a little bit better.

Starting out at 9 a.m. from St. Joseph’s Parish on Common Street, they took off to spread, hacked, lugged, painted, sorted and planted until noon. They drove all around town snatch up countless bags of groceries waiting on front stoops. Finally, they eat Rancatore’s ice cream and Sorbet.

For the sixth time, Belmont came out to give to the community in the most basic ways on a day of service as the annual event – sponsored by the Belmont Religious Council – sends volunteers to locations where maintenance, gardening and a quick paint job will do a world of good. In addition, the most popular task is driving along streets to pick up grocery pages of can food, baking goods and sundries for the Belmont Food Pantry.

Over at the Lone Tree Hill Preservation Land parking lot off Mill Street, mulch was spread onto the trail head, invasive plants removed and the bicycle rack freed of vegetation.

“We absolutely count on [Belmont Serves] here,” said Ellen Cushman, who with Jeffrey North from the Belmont Conservation Commission, depend on volunteers to clean up the parking lot area, “which makes it very clear that we are not a ‘broken window’ syndrome, that we are caring for this very public area.”

A secondary result of the clean up is that many volunteers have never been at Lone Tree Hill “and this is a great welcoming event for them,” said Cushman, who is chair of the Land Management Committee for Lone Tree Hill.

Come spring, the bulbs planted at Joey’s Park adjacent the Winn Brook School will in all likelihood bloom, which along with scrubs and mulch, will add a dash of color and beauty to the location while kids painted the ticket booths at Belmont High School’s Harris Field.

At the Burbank Elementary School, a new layer of wood mulch was laid at the play structure by many current and past students while volunteers planted new shrubs and filled lawn bags with stray saplings and vegetation.

The Burbank is also the location of the start of an Eagle Scout project proposed by Belmont High sophomore (and Burbank alumni) Walker Thomas. By spring, the below-grade “bowling alley” site adjacent to the east side of the building will become a multipurpose area were a garden will be planted and where classes can take place.

“I’m working with the teachers and students to make it an environment that they can play in as well as planting an edible garden so they can have vegetables for their lunches as well as incorporate some aspects of their science curriculum,” Walker said as he, friends, fellow scouts and residents removed wooden planks and pavers while leveling the area.

The busiest location was the Belmont Food Pantry; that serves a growing number of Belmont residents who are finding it increasingly difficult to make their food dollars stretch from week to week. The more than 1,800 bags brought by volunteers to the location behind Belmont High School were examined outside for each item’s expiration date before being brought inside.

“This is our family’s second time, but we will be doing this all the time,” said Sheela Agarwal, who drove up to the drop off zone with bags filled with cans and paper products. Her young helpers – who served as lookouts from Brighton to Alexander streets and who slogged the bags into the vehicle – “made this a blast.”

“It was a great experience for these guys because this is about helping your neighbors,” she said.

Belmont Serves is the pantry’s largest donation day each year, said volunteer Laurie Graham, allowing the facility to stay stocked through Thanksgiving and Christmas and into January.

Back at St. Joe’s, Rev. Joe Zacco, pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church on Pleasant Street was participating in his first Belmont Serves. He had driven his motorcycle around to each volunteer site documenting the day’s effort with his camera.

“It was amazing to ride around the different sites to see the kids especially. I saw an 18-month old picking up weeds with his mom. It’s great to see service in action but also modeling service for others so that kids will grow up learning to be generous and giving and having that be second nature for them as adults,” he said.


Residents Turned-In 67 Firearms at Gun Buyback Saturday

A total of 62 guns were turned into the Belmont Police during the town’s first gun buyback event held this past Saturday, May 31, according to Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said a variety of firearms were accepted including, rifles, shotguns, pistols and a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun.

Officers are investigating the possibility that two firearms were previously reported as stolen.

Belmont Police, in partnership with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, Belmont Religious Council and individual Belmont houses of worship, held the event – which took place at the town’s DPW Yard on C Street – to allow Belmont residents a safe way to dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition.

All firearms turned in at the gun buyback were turned over to the Massachusetts State Police to be destroyed.

Gift cards to local grocery stores were exchanged for the firearms from donations made by residents, local businesses and houses of worship including the Belmont Religious Council which raised nearly $5,000. Approximately $2,600 in left over grocery gift cards will be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

“This event demonstrates the accomplishments that can be achieved when members of the community and law enforcement partner together to work towards a common goal,” said McLaughlin.

“Reducing the number of unwanted firearms in the community addresses important public safety and public health issues,” said Jean Dickenson chair and founder of the Belmont Gun Buyback Committee, also thanking the Belmont Religious Council, Belmont Police Department, members of the Gun Buyback Committee, individual faith communities and local businesses and individuals who supported the program.

The Belmont houses of worship co-sponsoring the event included All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church, Beth-El Temple Center, First Baptist Church of Belmont, The First Church in Belmont, UU, Plymouth Congregational Church and St. Joseph & St. Luke Collaborative Parishes.

“With more than 31,000 fatalities and 74,000 firearms-related injuries across the country each year, giving residents a way to safely dispose of these unwanted firearms makes all our communities safer,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.

If residents have questions regarding the gun Buyback Program or would like information on what to do with unwanted and unused firearms and ammunition please contact Belmont Police Lt. Kristin Daley at 617-993-2554 or via email at

Belmont’s Gun Buyback Event This Saturday, May 31

In the wake of increasing incidents, nationally and locally, of accidental injuries and deaths from guns, the Belmont Religious Council, faith communities in town, the Belmont Police Department and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office have joined for a community Gun Buyback event on Saturday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belmont DPW Yard, 37 C St.

The Belmont event is modeled on recent successful gun buyback events held in other towns across Massachusetts and in other parts of the country, including one held in Arlington in September 2013.

Belmont Police officers and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office will be on hand to accept any and all hand guns, rifles, shotguns, assault weapons, BB guns and air guns, working or non-working, antique or modern, registered or not, and ammunition for safe storage, followed by disposal in accordance with state law.

A key aspect of the event is the “No questions asked! No identification required!” policy. Amnesty will be extended for gun law violations by residents traveling to the event. Firearms must be brought to the event with empty chambers, clips or magazines unattached, safeties on and in a carrying case, box or other container.

Those who bring in firearms will receive gift cards to local grocery stores, in the following amounts:

  • $25 for BB or pellet gun or inoperable firearm
  • $50 for a revolver, semi-automatic, shotgun, or rifle.
  • $100 for an assault weapon.

The Belmont Police Department has set up a special phone line to receive questions and requests for assistance in transporting firearms to the event: 617-993-2529.

Aided by the Religious Council, seven faith communities – All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Belmont, Belmont- Watertown United Methodist Church, Beth-El Temple, First Baptist Church of Belmont, The First Church in Belmont, UU, Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, and the St. Joseph and St. Luke Collaborative parishes – banded together to push for the program, which is supported by Belmont’s state legislators, State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers.

“In addition to removing unwanted firearms from homes, another benefit of the gun buyback is the dialogue that has developed among community members on how we can all work together to reduce gun violence in Belmont and beyond,” said Jean Dickinson, a member of the First Church in Belmont UU, who led the initiative.

Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said, “Personally, I feel that it is a very worthwhile voluntary program and an opportunity for our residents to dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition, especially in light of some of the tragic situations we have seen throughout Massachusetts, the country and the world.”

“On average, more than 34,000 people are accidentally shot or commit suicide using a firearm each year. I believe that providing residents with a safe way to dispose of firearms they no longer want can help reduce these numbers,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.

“These buybacks also encourage dialogue among those involved about ways to make our communities safer.”

Several Belmont businesses have already stepped forward to make donations in support of the event. The Belmont Gun Buyback Committee invites other businesses and individuals to do the same. The Committee hopes to raise $5,000 to purchase grocery gift cards to be provided in exchange for firearms. Any leftover grocery gift cards will be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

Donations may be made by sending a check or money order payable to: Belmont UMC/Gun Buyback Program and mailed to: Belmont United Methodist Church, 421 Common Street, Belmont, MA 02478, or via pay pal on