The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

February, 2003

The Pastors’ Column

Prayer, Presence, and Participation
First Congregational Church
by Susan M. Craig

As I sit down to talk to you, I find myself first beginning with prayer - that I might write to you from my heart while also listening to God. The times in which we are living right now are amazing and challenging. Exactly where our path as a congregation will lead is unsure. However, the way is real and has integrity. Today as I write, it is Tuesday, only two days past the weekend in which Tom, Sally, and I preached - at the request of our Inclusiveness Committee - on our beliefs around the subject of "open and affirming."

We have not yet made a choice or responded to this subject in anyway as a congregation. Rather, we are in the midst of significant dialogue with many of you - and you with one another - as we approach this subject with care and concern. And without going a step further, I need to tell you that that is exactly what it means to be a vital and lively church. We are a church with a rich mix of ideas and experiences, and we are gathering around this subject, familiar or unfamiliar to us, with all the spirit, and care, and efforts to be faithful that any of us could dare hope for a church.

However, what I am not sure we all understand is what it means to gather as a church fully understanding our polity, fully understanding the ways we govern ourselves and make decisions, particularly understanding the "right of private judgment" and its place in our conversation. So let me explain. The First Congregation Church of Greenwich is you, the congregation. You have created and run our church for nearly 332 years. Over that time, as a congregation, we have addressed many challenging issues. Now we are doing so again. This past Sunday you heard us, as your pastors, speak our beliefs. What you need to know, is that what we think as clergy is just that. It is what the three of us think.

Now it is up to you first to think personally, and then as part of the congregation, vote to decide what is right for First Church at this point. No matter what you hear from the pulpit, the choice and opinion rests with you. We have spoken about the wording of our covenant. As individual members of this church, we give each other the permission to understand those words to mean exactly what God helps us individually understand. We also give each other the permission to be at a point of struggle with certain elements of this statement as different life experiences lead us.

Finally, what matters is that we listen to God, and to one another, and then speak honestly with our hearts. That is what I see happening in so many places, and I celebrate us for all those words wherever they are taking place.

Prayer, Presence, and Participation = First Congregational Church at its Best!

May God bless us on our way.

Susie Craig

February Worship Schedule

Sunday, February 2
8 am & 10 am in the Meetinghouse
Rev. Tom Nins
Communion served

Sunday, February 9
8 am & 10 am in the Meetinghouse
Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree
“Yes! and No!”

Sunday, February 16
8 am & 10 am in the Meetinghouse
Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
“If You Choose”

Sunday, February 23
8 am & 10 am in the Meetinghouse
Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
“With a Little Help From our Friends”


Around the Church

Our First Church Family Prays

The Church School has prepared a Prayer Board in the upstairs hallway. This time in our lives is filled with many challenges. One way to move through them is by bringing our concerns to God in prayer. All the congregation is welcome and encouraged to add your own prayers to the board. It is our hope that your prayers will be a source of support for us all.

Save the Dates

Friday, April 4 -
Sunday, April 6
The getaway retreat to Silver Lake sponsored by the Women’s Fellowship
More details to follow

Save the Dates

Tom Stiers Retirement Celebrations
May 30, 31 and June 1, 2003
Details will follow!


The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers

Thomas L. Stiers, Senior Pastor
Sally Colegrove, Senior Associate Pastor
Susan M. Craig, Associate Pastor
Aaron J. Sinay, Director of Middle School Ministries
Rosemary Lamie and Jennifer Lepoutre, Church School Coordinators
John Stansell, Director of Music, Senior Organist
Mark Swicegood, Associate Organist/Director
Carolyn Diamond, Associate Musician
Dee Coover, Parish Nurse
Dr. Reniery España, Dir. of Medical Services, AIEH

Sunday Services of Worship—8 am & 10 am
Church School—10 am
Nursery Care provided during the 10 am Service.
The 10 am Service is broadcast live
on WGCH 1490 am Radio.

First Church/First Sunday

Don't forget to bring your non-perishable food offerings for our local pantries on Sunday, February 2. Bags will be available at church the Sunday before. Most needed items are peanut butter (creamy) and jelly, cereal and canned fruit. Over 125 families regularly visit Neighbor to Neighbor each week for supplemental food. Your donations are critical.

Help Needed: Chili Cookers

Coordinators needed to round up a group of 5-7 people to shop for (a 2 hour commitment) and cook up (a 1-2 hour duty) the chili pots for First Church's monthly offering to the New Covenant House Community Kitchen. You can gather up your family with another, or a group of friends or ask your committee to pitch in once this year. Dates available for the first weekend of the month in APRIL, JUNE, JULY, AUGUST and SEPTEMBER. Please call Mary Bausch with your pledge to step in here and help -- 622-0309 or

Quilting Marathon

Our Memory Quilt has been assembled and is stretched on a frame. Now it is time for your nimble fingers to get to work. Join us for a Quilting Marathon on Monday, February 3 and Thursday, February 6 from 9 am to 6 pm in room 203. Come for an hour, come for the morning, come for the afternoon or come for the day! Bring a thimble and your favorite needle. No previous quilting experience is necessary. If you can thread a needle, you qualify!

Red Cross Blood Drive on
February 22

The Greenwich Red Cross will hold a blood drive at First Church on Saturday, February 22 from 8:30 am until 1:15 pm. It will be hosted and staffed by Red Cross Volunteers. Blood supplies have been extremely low. Celebrate your own good health by giving blood to save others' lives. Please call 869-8444 to make an appointment

Considering College?

The good colleges are getting fussier as more and more quality students apply. Where do you fit in? Talk with our own Mary Leinbach, an experienced and respected college consultant. Her $200 charge goes to the First Church College Loan Fund and is tax deductible. You can reach her at 531-9434.

A Thank You

The New Covenant House of Hospitality (the Soup Kitchen) located in Stamford, have asked me to thank First Church for your wonderful and bountiful gifts of clothing, blankets, toys, and personal hygiene items during the past six weeks. Once again as a congregation you have responded quickly and generously in a time of need. ~Mary Jane Penwell

February Second Hours

The spiritual education of adults is a priority at First Church. This lecture series offers a wide range of topics from Bible study to spiritual and physical health. Sundays, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm in the Lounge. The February offerings are:

February 9 - Dr. Maria Melendez, Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools discusses current issues of the school system.

February 23 - Hunger - Right Here in Our Own Backyard - The Christian Outreach Committee discusses hunger issues in our community and what we can do to help.

March 2 - Dr. Stuart McCalley, director of The Sleep Laboratory at Greenwich Hospital will talk about sleep and answer your questions. Look inside this issue for a quiz to assess your own sleeping habits.


First Church Reaches Out!
Honduras 2003
our church school and preschool get packing

This winter the Church School and the Preschool at First Congregational Church are participating in an effort to help children in Honduras. Many of these children live in remote mountain villages and need our help both in the areas of their health and education. In fact, it is the doctors and nurses of these villages who have helped foster our efforts.

For this reason, for the next three weeks we will be collecting medicines, school supplies, and children's clothing. (Please remember Honduras is a warm climate.) The following is a list of the needed supplies.

School Supplies
Lead pencils and sharpeners
Chalk (white and colored)
Colored pencils (crayons melt)
Colored paper
Math flash cards
Soccer and playground balls (deflated)

Medical Supplies
Healthy Valentines
Children's Vitamins (economy size)
Toothpaste (large)


For Parents - You can help pack a suitcase too!

Contributions will be received toward the purchase of lined paper notebooks while in Honduras.

Contributions toward MAP boxes are also welcome. A MAP box is a collection of medical supplies specifically designed to meet the needs of the poor in Honduras. For the cost of $400, the box contents, contributed by American pharmaceutical companies, totals medications valued between $3,000 and $5,000. To date, we have orders for 3 map boxes from First Church families and neighboring churches.

In addition we will be packing donations of medicines (which must not have expired). Those most commonly needed are adult and pre-natal vitamins, anti-fungal creams, antacids, Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, hydrocortisone creams, diabetes medications, Neosporin ointments, etc. Medications will be received in the Church Office.

Donations must be received by February 9th

Fourth Grade Study of the United Church of Christ

Our Fourth Grade has been studying the United Church of Christ. In conjunction with their studies, they will be attending our service as a class on February 2nd to see and notice the elements of worship we choose to celebrate here at First Church. In addition, on February 9th they will be joining the First Congregational Church of Norwalk on the Green for their "Diversity Sunday" Service.

You are invited

To join with our Second Graders
and their Families
For a Candlelight Communion Service
Saturday, February 1, 5 pm
In the Meetinghouse
A reception will follow


by Dee Coover

At this time of year, the effect of losses and grief seem to be felt most acutely. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to this depressed state of mind and feeling of general distress:

  • Grey wintery days.

  • Short daylight hours.
  • Days darkened by storm clouds and icy precipitation mixed with frigid temperatures.
  • The "let down" from emotionally-packed holidays that sometimes elicit memories of sadness and disappointment.
  • The nagging ache of prolonged illness.
  • The hollow sound of an empty home.
  • The "what-ifs" and "I should've dones."
  • The stress of an uncertain future.

Situations such as these are extremely difficult. They can bear good fruit just as much. If we can endure the trip through dark intervals of life, we may:

  • Get to know better the depths of our own selves.

  • Discover personal strengths that, before now, lay hidden from view.
  • Realize more fully the depth of another's loss.
  • Be surprised by empathy shown by an unexpected giver.
  • Appreciate the beauty of the season - snow brings refreshment to the earth and to the soul.
  • Understand the value of reflection and "creative possibilities of solitude."
  • Sense anew the power and healing of God's Grace and Truth.

Count on His Promises to "never leave you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6) and "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will refresh you" (Matthew 11:28).

If you are hurting and need a word of encouragement, please feel free to contact your Parish Nurse, Dee Coover at ext. 21 (203-637-1791) all day Sunday and Wednesday, and Tuesday mornings.

Come Join the Fun at the
Intergenerational Movie Night
Friday, February 28th
6:30 - 9:30 pm

Bring the kids in their pajamas with pillows and blankets to the Daniels Center as we present two movies suitable for all ages. Pizza will be served at 6:30 pm in the Auditorium followed by popcorn and movies in the Daniels Center at 7:15 pm. Fun for all ages! A $2 per person donation will be requested at the door to cover the cost of pizza, drinks and popcorn. We hope to see you there!

Name: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Number of people attending: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Please respond by Monday, February 24 to: The Women's Fellowship box in the church office or mail to: First Congregational Church of Greenwich, 108 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT 06878. You can also email Cynthia DeRiemer at or call at 637-9536.


by John Stansell

I received two second-hand critiques of the music at the eleven o'clock Christmas Eve service. The first person told me that he had heard from two people that the music was "not very melodic" and in general "unfamiliar." The second person had heard from a woman that the music was the most beautiful she had ever heard and had been quite moving to her. How am I to process these conflicting reports? (I won't answer that. Just think about it!)

When people say "I know what I like," the truth is probably closer to "I like what I know." Here at First Church we have a wide diversity of backgrounds and there are probably very few things we all know. "Amazing Grace" and "Joyful, Joyful" are the only two hymns that I am absolutely certain that everyone knows.

While some in the congregation and choir have expressed their delight that there are now alternatives to the old Gloria Patri and Doxology, others have expressed a sense of outrage over this change similar to what they might feel if the church building had been bombed. To the people who speak directly to me about the new responses I explain why I really do like them. First, the texts are fresh and avoid masculine reference to the Trinity in language that feels natural. Second, the music is very melodic. Third, I like the word painting: In the Gloria, the harmony lands on a distant, mysterious-sounding chord for "Holy Spirit," the most mysterious person of the Trinity; In the Doxology, the melody descends to its lowest note for "here below." (We hope to purchase new copies of the Pilgrim Hymnal and then paste the music to the responses, old and new, inside the back cover of all of the hymnals so that they will be easy for newcomers to find.)

When I select the hymns (and I do select most of them) familiarity is only one of many criteria that I use. But very frequently the words to a less-familiar hymn are too perfectly fitted to a preacher's theme not to choose it. And there are occasionally instant hits among the totally new, like # 173 in The New Century Hymnal, the Spanish one about being called as disciples, with its honest, folk-song quality.

Next month I will address the issue of artistic quality. Meanwhile, please give me feed-back about what speaks to you, what lifts you up in worship and, yes, what you like!

Sunday Afternoons Live 2003

4 pm candlelight concerts in the Auditorium
Tea and hot chocolate from 3:30 pm

February 2 The Woodland Scholars

February 9 Eric Comstock , pianist and cabaret singer

February 16 Duo pianists Millette Alexander & Frank Daykin

February 23 NO CONCERT

March 2 Rautenberg-Saathoff Duo, violin and piano

March 9 Maryly Culpepper, flute, Dan Culpepper, French horn, Brian Krinke, violin, Jenny Undercofler, piano

Second Hour, March 2, 2003:
How are you sleeping?

On Sunday, March 2nd, Dr. Stuart McCalley, director of The Sleep Laboratory at Greenwich Hospital, will talk about sleep and answer your questions. Here is a quiz to help you assess your own sleeping habits.

1. Over the past month, how would your rate the quality of your sleep?
· Excellent
· Fairly good
· Fair
· Poor

2. Over the past month, approximately how many total hours of sleep did you actually get per night, on average?
· More than 8 hours
· 7-8 hours
· 6-7 hours
· 5-6 hours
· Less than 5 hours

3. Over the past month, how long does it take you, on average, to fall asleep, once you have turned out the lights?
· Less than 30 minutes
· More than 30 minutes

4. Over the past month, approximately how often do you wake up in the middle of each night?
· 0-1 time
· 2-3 times
· 4-5 times
· More than 5 times per night

5. Over the past month, how frequently did you wake up too early in the morning and not get back to sleep?
· Never
· Sometimes
· Usually
· Every night

6. When you wake up in the morning, do you feel refreshed, as though you've had a good night's sleep?
· Yes
· No

7. Over the past month, how sleepy did you feel during most days?
· Not at all sleepy
· A little sleepy
· Quite sleepy
· Very sleepy

8. How often, in the past month, have you taken a medication to help you sleep?
· Not at all
· Less that 6 nights
· 6-14 nights
· More than 14 nights

9. Does your family report that you snore loudly?
· Yes
· No

10. Does your work require you to work an odd shift?
· Night shift
· Evening shift
· Rotating shifts

11. Do you travel frequently across more than 3 time zones?
· Yes
· No

12. Do you take medications which might interfere with sleep?
(Ask your doctor or pharmacist about this)

If these questions raise concerns you have about your sleep, or if they pique your interest in the topic of sleep, plan to attend the Second Hour on Sunday, March 2nd.