The Pastors' Column
Pastoral Prayer delivered 23 March
2003 during the Morning Worship
This is a time of concern for our world, our country, our community and our families. I spoke to a friend this week who expressed awe and surprise as he realized that for one of the first times in his life he was truly seeking God in prayer, sharing fear, insecurity and asking for direction. Whether for a first time or as a familiar devotion, let us turn our hearts and minds toward God in prayer:
Eternal and Loving God, God of justice and peace, God of all people, so many voices call out to you as bombs fall on Baghdad and the nations of the world disagree. We look to the cradle of civilization, the land of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and we see the people who are the descendants of the patriarchs, an ancient and proud people. We ask that you watch over them and keep them from further loss of life. We look with faith for the triumph of that which is truly your will for the future of our world.
We ask that you watch and protect with your mighty and yet gentle hand all of the young people of our armed forces, whether on land, on the sea or in the air. Give them courage and compassion when they meet ultimate situations. Remind them of your presence and help them to feel surrounded by our continuing concern and love.
We pray for all of the world leaders who hold such power and command such instruments of destruction and disaster. Grant them forbearance and wisdom. Please keep all sides from letting loose weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical or nuclear. We pray for the President of the United States, for his advisors and senior staff. They have said that they desire to have this conflict end with as little loss of life as possible. Support them in that desire. Bless the leaders and ambassadors of the United Nations. May they supply comfort and healing to the community of nations in the wake of this emergency.
Spirit of Eternity, as we live minute by minute you see the future as clearly as the past. We are frightened by forces of the night, dark enemies of life who threaten our security as we walk the streets, commute on the rails, take the subways and airways. We know that our only security lies in you. Watch over all who are dear to us. Touch those who are vulnerable and reassure them. Hold us with the strength of your care and protect us with the might of your arms.
As life continues and we walk our usual roads at an unusual time we give thanks for the pleasures of spring weather, we feel blessed by our homes, our friends and family, our freedom to worship and meet together. We remember that this is the season of Lent, a time of reflection and confession. We look with hope toward Easter and a reminder of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this season may we find ways of working toward a more just and gentle world, a world of sharing and caring for others, a world where all would have the blessings of home, health care, education, food and water. We ask all of these things trusting in the power of your Holy Spirit to guide us that all may be well again. In Christ Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Middle School Programs
April Second Hours
SAVE THESE DATES!
CAN YOU HELP WITH
Remember to set your clocks ahead one hour on April 6
Help Needed: Chili Cookers
Quilt Raffle in Progress
An Evening with Donald Davis
First Church Day Camp
The Week of CCC is Coming!
20/30s Magical Mystery Tour
Lent 2003 began for me as a period of solitude and reflection. Caught in the grip of pneumonia, I was housebound for more than three weeks. Several significant winter storms accentuated the need for me to stay put and feel grateful to be inside my home, and quietly "on retreat" from the demands of the outside world. By myself, but not alone, I came to realize that the Lord God wanted my undivided attention to ensure my healing. From this experience, I understood more fully the power of the Holy Spirit to intercede in my behalf. Deeply grateful for all your prayers, telephone calls, flowers and "get well" wishes, the good news is that I am back on track and very happy to rejoin my First Church Family. Thank you for all your love and patience while I was absent from you, and "merci beaucoup" to the members of the Wellness Committee who pitched in to take blood pressure readings, write the Meetinghouse Monthly Parish Nurse column, and participate at meetings on my behalf!
Now that the pace is "full speed ahead" please make note that Wednesday, April 16 is a date to mark on your calendars for Lifeline Screening. The Wellness Committee will sponsor this "health event" as part of Stroke Awareness Month in May.
The screening will be held in the Undercroft (PreSchool) of First Congregational Church from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Note well: that you need to pre-register by phone by calling 1-800-407-4557 to make an appointment for your screening. The ultrasound tests that are offered through Lifeline Screening include: carotid artery (brain circulation), abdominal aortic artery, and osteoporosis screening (bone density of one heel). You can pick up a flier that gives further information on cost from the Sermon Rack. Please note: members of the Wellness Committee have agreed to offer "scholarship" assistance to anyone who wants to take advantage of these screenings but finds the cost of the tests prohibitive. Please see Dee for details
The Grief Support Group meets Sundays 2 - 4 pm in the Lounge. A new group started March 16, and will run through May. For further information, please talk with Dee Coover, RN who is the facilitator for the group.
As we move into the Spring, there are numerous opportunities to assist in the expansion of the Parish Nurse/Wellness Program: volunteers are needed for Friends Helping Friends Ministry; your ideas for topics for educational programs and Meetinghouse Monthly columns, and Second Hour presentations would be most appreciated. In the Fall 2003, the Wellness Committee would like to sponsor a "health spot" on the First Church Website. If you have any interest in developing this opportunity, please contact your Parish Nurse at 203-637-1691 ext. 21 any time, or stop in to see her Sundays, Wednesdays (all day), or Tuesday mornings.
Thanks Michael Pugh for SAL Success!
The Sunday Afternoons Live concerts that First Congregational Church presents during the winter months are an important part of our church outreach. Seven concerts were given during this 20th season. Many in the audience might have their first welcome at this church with one of these concerts. Even at the last concert this year there were half a dozen people signing up to be notified of music events at First Church. Performers don’t wait very long to be included in the concerts for the next year.
The series was originally started to celebrate the purchase of the concert Steinway that belonged to Victor Borge. This year we celebrated the much-needed rebuilding of this instrument. The series has grown over the years to include soloists, vocal groups, solo instrumentalists and quartets from classical to jazz. We also plan to keep this piano in the auditorium and not move it back into the Meetinghouse as has been done in past years.
Providing the candlelit ambience involves a crew of at least six people for every concert. To create the atmosphere, we have to attend to many details. With a committee that is smaller that the number of people needed to serve, we have come to rely on the help of other church members. Thanks to Persis Alden, Mary Bausch, Mary Fike, Susan and RIchard Gilbert, Janetta Hoekstra, Elizabeth and Chris Moore, Sherry and Dale Myer, Mildred and Gerry Mulhull, Joan Osgood, Alexa Pugh, Barrie Richmond, Beth Rollins, Janet Sotzing, and Barbara Van Buren. Your help enabled us to provide this valuable outreach.
Music Committee participants who helped organize these events included: Bob Alden, Bill Bausch, Marty Berlin, Debbie Berner, Marti Easton, John Gelb, Carol Mawhinney, Barbara Norrgard, Joyce Nye, Michael Pugh, Bill Sandberg, Anne Wachsman, Nancy Whiteman.
This series is no easy feat to accomplish when I have to be away most of the winter weekends. A great deal of the organizing goes on ahead of the concerts and each week once the series is rolling. Special thanks, though, go to Michael Pugh and his daughter, Alexa. Mike attended each concert and should be recognized for all of his contributions. He is the Twinings tea and hot chocolate guru and makes sure things run smoothly. Alexa is always a willing helper. Thanks to all!
GOOD FRIDAY comes before EASTER
by John Stansell
On Good Friday, April 18, at 8:00 pm, there will be a service of music and word to observe this most solemn day in the Christian calendar. The Chancel Choir will present A Service of Darkness - Seven Choral Meditations on the Last Words of Christ by prolific contemporary church music composer Dale Wood. Composed in the early nineteen-sixties, the music is hauntingly beautiful. It will be interspersed with short meditations from our own and invited guest clergy. Use this evening service to deepen your experience of Holy Week and to prepare yourself for a glorious Easter morning.
On Easter Day, April 20, our 9:15 and 11:00 am services will be filled with the sounds of organ, brass, timpani and our choirs. At both services The Chancel Choir will offer "Christ Our Passover" by Richard Dirksen, former choirmaster at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., as well as a 16th century motet by Andrea Gabrielli, "Maria Magdalene." Easter is always thrilling at First Church. If you also experience Good Friday, you will find it even more so!
Moment of Concern: Planned Giving
Good morning. I'm Bill Dakin, currently serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and I'm here today with Dana Low (a former Chairman of the Trustees) who is now serving as our Director of Planned Giving.
It takes a special breed of person to be Director of Planned Giving, as he or she needs to be able to discuss, with great sensitivity, two very upsetting topics: death and taxes.
May I ask for a show of hands of people who have heard the term Planned Giving? Many people have, but the term has a variety of definitions, depending on whom you ask.
One way people can plan to make a gift is to name First Church as a beneficiary under your will. This is certainly a good thing to do, but the church doesn't always know about the plan, and you may miss an opportunity to avoid some taxes.
It's really preferable to give money to the church while we're alive. However, many people live on the interest and dividend income from their accumulated savings. Since they need that income, they're concerned that they may not be able to afford to make a gift - yet. So they wait until they're sure they won't need the money….. if you catch my drift.
That's why Planned Giving programs were invented. Basically, a Planned Giving program enables you to give a sum of money today, keep the interest and dividend income from that money through your lifetime, and then have the principal pass to the church upon your death.
One kind of Planned Giving program uses annuities. In this case, you make a gift, say $10,000, and are guaranteed to receive a fixed investment return, say 7%, through your lifetime, meaning an annual payment of $700 until your death, at which time the church receives the remaining principal. The national UCC has established a gift annuity program, and some members of our Congregation have used it to make planned gifts to First Church.
A couple of years ago, First Church set up our variation on that basic idea by establishing a Pooled Income Fund. So far, 18 donors have contributed $278,000 to this fund, which basically works like a mutual fund.
You make a gift ($10,000 minimum) to the Fund, and your gift is added to others in a pool. The pool is invested in a variety of income-oriented investments. Currently about 70% of the pool is invested in bonds, and the other 30% of the pool is invested in dividend-paying stocks. The current yield from our pool is 4.42%.
The nice part about our Pooled Income Fund is that your income can grow as the value of the pool grows. If you give $10,000, and over a period of years the pool's investments grow in value by, say, 50%, you'll receive the investment yield on $15,000 of principal, not just on the $10,000 of your original gift. For many people, this potential upside to the income they'll receive during their lifetime is preferable to the annuity type alternative, where they know they'll never receive more than that fixed $700 payment each year.
You'll be entitled to a charitable tax deduction in the year that you make the gift, although the deduction isn't for the full amount of the gift because of the continuing income you're entitled to receive. The exact deduction is calculated by a slightly complex formula, which I won't get into today.
Plus, the tax savings can become especially powerful if you're in a position to make a gift with low-basis stock. Instead of selling the stock, you can give the stock to the Pooled Income Fund, and both you and the Fund will be exempt from any capital gains tax.
I'll conclude by just reminding you that our church needs your support. Won't you please consider making a gift in the near future through one of these programs? At least take some time to learn a little more about it, without any sales pressure, by contacting Dana.
Thank you, Bill, for helping me to do my job. Our planned giving program at First Church comes under the aegis of the Board of Trustees and it has been gratifying to have received such strong support from the Board all along.
In the last two years about two dozen couples or individuals in our congregation have made planned gifts to the church. As you mentioned, 18 of them are in our Pooled Income Fund; three have established UCC gift annuities for which First Church is the ultimate beneficiary; and the others have utilized charitable remainder trusts or other planned giving vehicles to make their gifts. Fortunately all those donors and the income beneficiaries they designated when they made their gifts are still around, and we hope they will be with us for a long time to come. The Church will not receive the financial benefit of their gifts until they are gone. But they have the satisfaction NOW, and for the rest of their lives, of having included First Church in their estate planning while they're still around to enjoy the feeling ……. and it's a good feeling.
Please give me a call when you're ready to think about making a planned gift to First Church.
Easter Memorial Flowers
The Chancel Committee invites donations for Easter decorations
in memory or honor of your loved ones. Any amount is welcome. Your completed
form with your check (payable to First Church Flower Fund) should be sent to the
church office no later than Monday, April 14.
Enclosed is my check for _________________________________