The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

August, 2003

The Pastors' Column

Thank You, Friends

There are no words which can adequately express the deep gratitude that I feel to all of my First Church family and friends for the events and gifts of this past weekend. From the worship service in the morning to the closing slides late in the evening, Sunday, July 27 was a day which will remain with me for the rest of my life. It is a new Waypoint from which I will count time, a marker to send me into the future, but one which will always appear on my personal charts.

I am very grateful to the committee which co-ordinated all of the events. The coffee hour with beautiful cakes and wonderful words, the appetizers and “upstairs-downstairs” potluck suppers, the program in the evening, the photographs of special events, were all magnificent. Thank you to the many hands which helped set up tables, decorate, pour beverages, slice up cakes and clean up. You made possible gracious times in which to share memories.

As the 23rd settled pastor of Windham Hill United Church of Christ in Windham, Maine, I want to thank you on behalf of my new congregation for your incredible generosity in providing the new Pastor’s Discretionary Fund. Because of your gifts I will be able to continue to say to any young person who doesn’t have the money to go on a retreat or to go to Pilgrim Lodge in the summer, “of course you can go.” The fund will also be there in case of an emergency, so that I will be able to respond to family crisis situations in the parish. It will allow me to continue the ministry for which you have prepared me during these twenty-five years.

And as Sally, your friend, I am humbled and so grateful for the personal gift. The money will be a safety net for me that will go with me into the future. It is a tangible and continuing reminder of the love which we share. I will try to be a wise steward of both parts of this exceptional gift.

I tried to name a few people and express my thanks at the conclusion of Sunday evening’s program. I know I missed people, but the list is so long that, as I said, we might have been there all night. From the members of the First Church staff to the Task Force and Parish Life, the Chancel and Youth Choirs to all of the young people who are currently in SPF or who came back for the celebration, it was your gifts of love and memories which were the most precious that I received. And while I am no longer your pastor, I will always be your friend. The door will be open at 140 Windham Center Road, Windham, Maine.

God bless you all and much love,


A Letter from the Senior Deacon

Dear Friends,

Right now we are smack in the middle of the biggest transition First Church has faced in more than two decades. With many of our staff leaving, it is a very emotional time, full of tearful goodbyes. Yet despite the sadness, the creation of a new pastoral team makes this also a time of great optimism.

This past week we celebrated the rich ministry of Rev. Sally Colegrove and bid her farewell. The many events honoring her reminded us of just how important she has been to us over the past 25 years. But we share her excitement about her new ministry at Windham Hill UCC and know that God will work wonders through her there. She has now left First Church, and after a month of well-deserved vacation, will begin her ministry in Maine in September.

On August 3, we will also say goodbye to Aaron Sinay, who is off to Boston to continue his higher education. We were wonderfully blessed by his time with us, and fortunate that he was willing to serve us so ably and creatively at the start of our transition…and with such enthusiasm!

Rev. Tom Stiers will return from vacation on August 9 and will be with us for the remainder of the month. How nice it is to remember the wonderful weekend of celebrations we had for him at the end of May. We will have the pleasure of his preaching on three Sundays in August, with August 31 being his last sermon before retiring. Then we will wish him God's love as he begins to test his grandparenting skills in Pennsylvania.

As we close this chapter of our history, here's a look at the new leadership team that is coming into place.

On July 28, the Church Committee and the Board of Trustees unanimously called Rev. Ralph Ahlberg to be our Interim Senior Pastor. We are most grateful to Jerry Isaacson and the members of the Committee to Recommend an Interim Senior Pastor for finding this fine candidate. Rev. Ahlberg has many years of pastoral experience in large churches and is well respected among peers and parishioners in the region. Some of you may know him from his 10 years as Round Hill Community Church's senior pastor. He has an in-depth knowledge of Greenwich and is acquainted with many residents and members of the local faith community. These attributes, plus his warm personality, respected preaching abilities, and his training and experience in transition ministry make him a particularly good match for First Church.

Rev. Susie Craig, as Senior Associate Pastor, continues to serve as a strong support and foundation for us as we build our new leadership team. Susie has moved her office to the space formerly occupied by Sally, but can still be reached by phone at ext. #25 and e-mail at . Her generosity of time and spirit as "pastor to the transition process" is a gift of immeasurable worth.

We are delighted that Ashley Grant has now started work as Associate Pastor and will be preaching twice in August. You can find her in the office right off the Auditorium, in Susie's former space. Her telephone extension is #26 and her e-mail address is . Please make a point to stop by during the week or seek her out on a Sunday to welcome her and introduce yourself. We will have a Congregational Meeting on September 28 to vote on formally extending her our call to be our minister once she is ordained early next year.

Finally, we are delighted to welcome Josh Ziac into the newly created position of SPF Coordinator for this fall, while we search for a replacement for Sally. A former SPF member and advisor, Josh also has professional ties to Silver Lake where he has served on the Board of Directors and has been dean of several conferences. In his day job, Josh is the Business Manager at New Canaan Country Day School. In this new part-time, temporary lay position, Josh will fill the critical role of providing continuity for the SPF membership and leaders and taking care of the many details required to make the program run smoothly. Please congratulate Josh and thank him for stepping forward at this important time.

So the faces at First Church are changing. We can be grateful both for past ministry and that which the future promises. The transition will continue for months more, but with our new pastoral team taking shape we can begin to look forward to new possibilities in our congregational life together.


Rick Derr
Senior Deacon

August Worship Schedule

Sunday, August 3
M. Ashley Grant
“Encouraging and Equipping One and All”
Communion Served

Sunday, August 10
Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
“The House That God Built - Part Two”

Sunday, August 17
M. Ashley Grant
“Wise Ways”

Sunday, August 24
Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
“The Many Names of God”

Sunday, August 31
Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
“Wellsprings of the Joy of Living”

Put these dates on your Calendar

September 14
Homecoming Sunday and Picnic
with the start of Church School

September 28
Congregational Meeting after the
10:00 am worship service

October 10 - 12
All-Church Retreat at Silver Lake

October 17- 19
CT Conference Annual Meeting, New Canaan


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.

Signature Quilt for Sally
For those of you who did not attend the evening festivities in honor of Sally on July 27, we intend to make a Memory-Signature quilt for her. At the moment we are collecting signatures on squares, which will eventually be built into a blue and white quilt. Instructions and squares are available in the church office and during coffee hour on Sundays. You may want to embellish your square with a little drawing or a personal note. This time you are not required to do any sewing as with the quilt for Tom. We are collecting blue calicos, small prints, stripes and checks. Please leave them at the office marked “Sally’s Quilt.” The final assembly of the quilt will be done sometime during the winter months. If you are handy with the sewing machine we would greatly appreciate your help at that point. Please leave your name and telephone number with one of the coordinators: Ginny Breismeister (637.2461), Ruth Reed (637.9896), Beth Rollins (637.9551), Inge Thalheim (637.9614), Barbara van Buren (637.2373).

How to Contact the Clergy
During our period of transition, here is a reminder of how to contact the clergy at First Church:

Tom Stiers, ext. 13
Sally Colegrove, ext. 15 (on vacation)
Susan Craig, ext 25
Ashley Grant, ext 26,

First Church and Food Insecurity
No one leaves a First Church social event feeling hungry! At our picnics, celebrations, meetings and gatherings, inevitably there's an abundance of food. We are always generous to each other when we "pot luck" together.

The good news is that we as a congregation are increasingly better at helping feed our neighbors who depend upon the generosity of congregations like ours to keep food on their tables for their families. Inspired by former member Dave Ficker, we learned that by joining his 99 for One neighborhood weekly food drive program, we can donate $3-6 worth of groceries each week. A neighborhood captain volunteers to organize her/his nearby block(s), provides them with blue bins and picks up the food which is delivered each week to the Food Bank in Stamford. For many years, a team of volunteers organizes each month to shop, cook, deliver and serve the noon meal on the first Monday of each month to the Community (aka Soup) Kitchen at the Yerwood Center in Stamford. Our Christian Outreach Committee allocates the funds to cover the costs of the food. On the first Sunday of every month, First Church members are urged to bring a food donation to the worship service (First Church/First Sunday). These non-perishable items are delivered immediately to local food pantry shelves. Let's not forget our Outreach Committee's wonderful Hunger Walk in April, when two full van-loads of food went to Neighbor to Neighbor (NTN) and the Food Bank later that Sunday afternoon. And, in addition, we're always mindful about excess food from our church events. Many faithful volunteers make sure this isn't wasted and cart it over to the Community Kitchen. We ARE good.

The Junior League of Greenwich conducted a thorough study last year on the issue of local hunger, interviewing food pantries, service providers and clients. The overwhelming conclusion was clear - the number of individuals and families in our community who experience "food insecurity" has grown dramatically each year. NTN at Christ Church (the only local food pantry, serving Greenwich, Stamford and Port Chester), currently serves over 550 individuals who receive supplemental food (3 meals a day for 3 days each week) - a 44% increase from last year at this time. That translates into more than 300 cans EACH of fruit, soup, vegetables, meat (not including cereal, pb & j, rice and tuna) that leave the pantry shelves every week.

Our church does an enviable job of helping address a tangible need that doesn't appear to be diminishing. Compared to all the other challenges facing our neighbors, this is an easy task for us as a congregation to do. For a minimal expense of our cash and time, we can help alleviate food insecurity on the local level. You and/or your family can commit to support 99 For One, the Community Kitchen and First Church/First Sunday efforts. Call Kate Lombardo at the Food Bank to volunteer for 99 for One (358-8898), Betty Sheridan to volunteer at NTN's food pantry (622-1121) and Mary Bausch to volunteer for FCCOG's Soup Kitchen's efforts (622-0309). We can't immediately fix all the ills on our troubled world, but we can make a dent in this one.

Acting Company Auditions
The Acting Company of Greenwich announces auditions for their fall play, the classic mystery "A Murder Is Announced" by Agatha Christie. The director is Laurie Newkirk, and the Artistic Supervisor is Lois Fern Hamilton.

Auditions Monday & Tuesday, August 11 & 12 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM at the First Congregational Church. Call backs are Wednesday, August 13 7:30 PM. "A Murder is Announced" is one of Agatha Christie's most popular murder mysteries. It is a classic Christie puzzle of mixed up motives and
concealed identities. A determined inspector intently follows the twists and turns with Miss Marple to provide a most unusual final solution. When it opened on Broadway, this timeless thriller "had the audience at the edge of their seats" and was dubbed "another whodunit hit!"

There are 7 women and 4 men in the cast. The show runs Oct. 5-6-7, 10-11-12, 18-19 in the auditorium here at the church. Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 pm, and the Sunday matinee on Oct. 27th is at 2 pm. For reservations please call: 203-863-1919.

Report from General Synod 24 - I

by John Stansell

From July 11 to 15, I attended the 24th General Synod of the United Church of Christ at the Convention Center in Minneapolis. I was there as president of the United Church of Christ Musicians Association which had applied for, and did receive, voice-without-vote status. Many of you heard me speak of my first impressions at worship on July 20th. I will summarize those thoughts here.

It seems to me that there are Christians who view their religion as being primarily about their own personal relation to God, spiritual growth, prayer, introspection and the like. Then there are those whose Christianity is primarily about responding to Christ's call to feed the hungry, visit the sick and the prisoner, lift the fallen and be an agent for justice and peace in the world. With our beloved right of private judgment, we all find ourselves at different points along the continuum between those two extremes.

Congregationalism can perhaps be seen to represent on a larger scale the first, more personal approach. Indeed in 17th century North America one was limited in how far beyond the local congregation one could reach. Our denomination, the United Church of Christ, represents in this comparison the second Christian response. At Synod most of the deliberations were about ways in which the denomination and its congregations and individual members can respond to social justice issues in the world.

Having grown up a Lutheran, a strong sense of denominational identity comes naturally to me. I have proudly embraced my identity as a member of the UCC. It is hard for me to imagine that there are in our denomination congregations where that sense of identity is so little that they choose not to support Our Church's Wider Mission. I am proud however that our congregation is one that has found a healthy balance between the inward and the outward look and that we do from our bounty support that Mission.

Next month I will report on some of the issues that were addressed at Synod.

Colegrove Thank You Fund Update

We want to thank all members who contributed to the Thank You Fund for Rev. Sally Colegrove. As you know this fund will be split between the Windham Hill UCC Pastor's Discretionary Fund to provide seed money for new programs and a gift to Sally to help her in her transition to her new life and new parsonage in Windham, Maine. At this point almost $25,000 has been contributed to this fund.

Connecticut UCC Annual Meeting October 17th-19th

This year the Connecticut Conference of the UCC will hold its Annual Meeting in New Canaan on October 17th - 19th. With the meeting being held so close by, this gives us a great chance to see the CT Conference in action and get to meet many people from UCC churches across the state. We are looking for nominations for official delegates to the meeting. If you are interested, please see Susie Craig, Robin Loughman or Rick Derr. There will also be opportunities to visit without being a delegate with a vote and to help with some of the many volunteer opportunities a meeting like this entails.


Safety and Planning
by Dee Coover

The focus of the Wellness Committee and Parish Nurse Program for the next year is safety. Planning for fall activities within this domain is well on its way. Second Hour sessions, staff orientation, educational programs for members of the congregation, and drills include activities that will cover the following three major areas: a) Fire safety, b) Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and first aid preparedness, and c) Disaster planning. All of the planning has been endorsed by members of the Safe Church Commission.

Fire safety is the first of the areas to be addressed. Members of the Wellness Committee and the Parish Nurse will be creating a pew card that will illustrate fire exits for the Meetinghouse. Plenty of advance notice will be given for a fire drill at the conclusion of a Sunday service that will "test" these plans, and help orient you to the safe route for exiting the Meetinghouse in an organized manner. Members of the Church School Task Force and Pre School have already designed fire exit plans for our children and youth. At least one fire drill has shown these plans are satisfactory for rapidly and effectively clearing the building.

First aid preparedness that includes competency in first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures will be a project that extends from September 2003 through Spring 2004. The first step is to identify individuals who are already certified in CPR, or members who are interested in taking Red Cross First Aid and CPR Certification Training. Depending on the response rate of "interested parties", the educational sessions will be scheduled at First Church. Members of the Wellness Committee and the Parish Nurse will survey the congregation for this information on September 7 at Second Hour, and the following week during Homecoming Sunday activities. The next step is to organize and provide first aid and CPR training sessions for Red Cross certification in First Aide & CPR so that there is a cadre of about 75 to 100 members who are able to provide first aid and CPR including use of an automated external cardiac defibrillator (AED).

Many members of the congregation have asked about having an automated external cardiac defibrillator available for use at First Church. The Wellness Committee plans to sponsor a Second Hour session in November where an AED device would be demonstrated. Timing related to purchase of such a device is contingent upon numerous factors. The most important of these is identifying an adequate number of trained individuals who would be certified in first aid and CPR before purchase of a defibrillator is considered.

The last area for safety planning concerns disaster planning. Members of the Safe Church Commission are involved in designing a plan that is consistent with the Town of Greenwich-progress is being made to include all age groups and aspects of church life. If you have any questions about the safety program to be undertaken by the Wellness Committee, or you are interested in being trained in CPR and first aid, please contact Dee Coover, RNC, Parish Nurse at (203) 637-1791 ext. 21 anytime on Sundays, Wednesdays or Tuesday mornings.

The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers

Thomas L. Stiers, Senior Pastor
Susan M. Craig, Senior 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.