The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
The Pastors' Column
by Ralph Ahlberg
One of the prayers in Walter
Brueggemann's recent book, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth gives thanks "for the
reliabilities that curb our anxieties." Any sensible person entering a new
venture, meeting fresh faces, reflecting upon the complexities of large
congregations would do well, not only to give thanks for such "reliabilities,"
but would also seek to identify them.
The primary one, of course is God's love and promise to be with each of us in
every hill and valley through which our lives move. It is the promise the
Psalmist articulated so very often. "Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me
in the shadow of your wings." (Ps.17:8) "The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be
afraid." (Ps.27:1) And, of course, the familiar counsel of those comforting
words, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil."
(Ps.23:4) Scripture is filled with such "reliabilities" of God's love and care.
Another comes through the memory of many previous communities of faith where
acceptance and strong bonds of friendship are forged. For more than forty years
and as a part of five congregations, the last two during my "retirement" from
settled ministry, caring and relational congregations have embraced me,
sometimes with tough love mind you, but almost always in fair and sensitive
Then there is the reliability of First Church itself, a congregation that I've
known from a distance, but known through many years as members of several
congregations including Garden City, Manhasset, Chappaqua and Old Greenwich
gathered for occasional luncheon meetings at the Williams Club in Manhattan.
First Church introduced my son Dean while a student of the Yale Divinity School
to congregational life other than as a minister's kid. He was mentored by Sally
and Tom and still remembers the congregation and its ministers with great
affection. And the congregation's setting in Greenwich with its rich historical
heritage and its abundance of contemporary human assets is impressive. But most
of all, I find comfort in my initial impression that even during times of
transition and change, the members and friends of First Church have a strong
sense of belonging and a willingness to respond to one another's needs. The
commitment to sacred music has already inspired me. And in reading some of the
statements of last year's confirmands, I was filled with gratitude that a new
generation is embracing the gospel message. As Susie Craig, Ashley Grant, John
Stansell, Mark Swicegood and a blur of many other friendly faces introduce me to
some institutional and programmatic workings of the congregation, I feel a
growing enthusiasm and an eagerness to get going.
Let's make October a great month of new beginnings!
October Worship Schedule
Services are held at 8 and 10 am
in the Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.
Sunday, October 5
Rev. Susan M. Craig
“A Higher Law”
Sunday, October 12
Rev. Ralph Ahlberg
“Marked By the Moment”
Sunday, October 19
Rev. Ralph Ahlberg
“A Servant Community”
Sunday, October 26
M. Ashley Grant
“Let me see again”
October 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, unless otherwise indicated.. The October offerings are:
October 5 The Wellness Committee and the American Red Cross
October 12 Mrs. Gulafshan Alavi will speak on the topic: "Islam" (tentative)
October 19 Meet your new clergy! Discussion with Dr. Ralph Ahlberg and M. Ashley
If you have ideas about a second hour or questions, contact Ashley Grant at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 637-1791 ext. 26.
Tides of Thanks
The Homecoming Picnic on September
14 was a wonderful success! The staff and members of First Church extend our
deep-felt thanks to the Parish Life Committee for all the work of planning,
organizing, preparing, and serving that went into the Homecoming Picnic. We
stayed in the boat as the rains fell outside, but with the terrific decorations
we had a perfect nautical setting for the "Anchor's Aweigh" picnic. Our indoor
picnic featured Tod Hedrick's Quartet, the senior deacons on the grills, the
efficient kitchen crew, new members tirelessly helping serve, face painters and
stuffed animal judges, balloon experts, and especially our sextons. For all who
joined us at the picnic, who feasted, who played, who helped, thank you.
Tamara Ng-Yow Larry Haviland
Erlinda Haviland Sandy Phelps Nancy Fountain Tom Mahoney Betsy Kreuter Ashley
Grant Michaela Fossum Renate Setten Libby Fatum Lisa Hudson Susan Cohen Susie
Craig Rick Nelli Lilliam Mora
Robin Loughman George
Thalheim Tim Garlid
Mary Bausch Bill Bausch Brad Craig
Jacky Schofield Sara Fountain Julie Olsson Nina Kreuter Erica Videtto Ken Olson
Chuck McConnell Harlan Reynolds Gerry Isaacson Judy Goodchild Ruth Davidson
Peter Garlid Car Westbrook
Tom Oppedisano Art Delmherst Betsy
Jewell Michael Pelligrino
Around the Church
SAVE THE DATE
Red Cross Blood Drive
Saturday, October 18, 2003
First Church Auditorium
All you'll feel is good.)
JPF kicked off its season in early
September. If you are in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade or if you have children in
middle school, come join JPF on Sunday evenings at 5 pm in room 103. We do a
variety of activities: play games, go on outings, watch movies, do service
projects, and discuss issues pertinent to the lives of our youth.
For the month of October, we are planning:
Oct. 5 A trip to the Pinetum, meeting at church at 4 pm instead of 5 pm.
Oct. 12 No JPF, but we hope that you will join us at the All Church Retreat at
Oct. 19 JPF "out-reach and in-reach," with lots of games.
Oct. 26 Halloween Teepee Party, with stories, friends, a camp fire and more!
If you have questions or concerns, contact Ashley Grant at 637-1791 or
RED CROSS BLOOD DRIVE
Saturday, October 18 8:30 am - 1:30 pm
Sponsored by the Women's Fellowship, this annual event always feels like a
friendly and downright festive party in the church auditorium. As valued blood
donors, you'll be impressed by a full menu of sandwiches, cakes, devilled eggs,
juice, etc. (critics call it the "premier culinary Greenwich blood drive") as
well as live piano entertainment.
Blood shortages are national news - and only one out of six people who are
eligible to donate actually do so. If you are 17 or older (no upper age limit)
and in good health, you are probably eligible. To assure adequate staffing from
the blood center in Farmington and to help with a smoother flow of donors,
please call 869-8444 to make an appointment to donate. If you can help staff the
drive for several hours and/or bring food, please call Mary Bausch at 622-0309.
My Cup Runneth Over
Bible Study for
20's and 30's
We invite those who are interested
in a weekly Bible Study to join us for an introductory gathering on Tuesday,
October 7 at 5:30 pm in the Lounge. We will decide on the time that best suits
our group and what we hope to cover. If you have questions, or if you have a
preference in scheduling contact Ashley Grant via email:
email@example.com or by phone at 637-1791
ext. 26. Please know that friends of the church are welcome.
Don't forget that October 5 is
First Church/First Sunday and that we will be collecting food for our local
pantries. The most needed items at this time are canned fruit, cereal and
Put these dates on your Calendar
October 10 - 12
All-Church Retreat at Silver Lake
October 17- 19
CT Conference Annual Meeting, New Canaan
Connecticut UCC Annual Meeting October
This year the Connecticut
Conference of the UCC will hold its Annual Meeting in New Canaan on October 17 -
19. 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
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Begin the day with prayer and
pathways as we begin our day with a short time of devotions and then enjoy a
walk about town.
We will meet in the Lounge at 8:00 am on Monday and Wednesdays and 6:45 am on
Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning October 1. All are welcome. Walk around the
park at a leisurely pace, or around the neighborhood with a bit more vigor. We
will complete our efforts one hour later.
In case of rain, we will have devotions followed by coffee downtown. Speak to
Ashley or Susie if you'd like to join us.
Women’s Fellowship Fall Luncheon
Wednesday, October 22
11:30 am - 2 pm
Our opening luncheon will feature
Kimberly Harrison, our Public Policy Advocate for the Connecticut Conference of
the United Church of Christ. As some of you may know, Kim is a dynamic speaker,
and her talk will cover topics both timely and informative to our Fellowship. We
will also enjoy a wonderful catered lunch, and take some time to catch up with
Women’s Fellowship is a very active organization that includes every woman in
the congregation. Among its many charges, Women’s Fellowship oversees The
Rummage Room and allocates its profits to local and worldwide mission every
year. The cost of the luncheon, which will precede Ms. Harrison’s talk, is $10
per person. Please join us!
Yes, I’m Coming to the Luncheon!
Number of people attending (at $10
Please make your check out to The
Women’s Fellowship and mail or bring to the Church Office.
"Seasons of the Spirit"
This month in Church School
As we begin these final months of
the church year, we are aware of the length of the Pentecost season which
actually continues until advent. The lectionary readings are now drawn mainly
from the ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Mark. In October, the
Church School curriculum will be looking at the concepts of respecting the worth
of all persons just as God makes no distinctions or qualifications for his love
for us. We also continue to learn ways "to be a disciple" through scripture and
being together in a faith community.
A few special activities will occur this month. The Pastor's Class will
experience a special traveling exhibit entitled Anne Frank: A History for Today.
The program will be held at Greenwich High School and details will be mailed to
the families involved. Sunday, October 12 will be a "Big Event" in the Church
School. We will be offering a multi-age program in the Daniels Center during the
worship service. So, although there are no individual Church School classes,
there is a program for all school age children who wish to participate that day.
Children begin with their families in the Meetinghouse and then proceed to the
Daniels Center following the Children's Sermon.
A number of Church School families will be attending the All Church Retreat at
Silver Lake that same weekend. Have you considered this for your family? For
more information, call the Church Office.
Wednesday, October 8,
11 am - 1 pm
Thursday, October 9,
11 am - 1 pm
Sunday, October 12,
11 am - 12:30 pm
in Room 104
Featuring children’s book s from “Just Books” in
Preschool Open House
Meeting for Members
All First Church members with
children who will be three by December31, 2003 are invited to attend an
information session with Rev. Susan Craig and Tim Holman, Director of the
Preschool. At that time, you will be able to enroll your child in the Preschool.
If you are interested, pleased attend the meeting on Monday, October 20, at 7 pm
in the Undercroft.
Immunization Against Flu Season
Has Come Again
by Dee Coover, Parish Nurse
The mild days of September, and
changing color of the foliage signal the time to consider preparations for the
flu immunization program at First Church. Mark your calendars. Sunday, October
19 and Sunday, October 26 are the occasions that flu shots will be available at
First Church. The proposed time schedule on those dates include: after the 8 am
service: 8:45 to 9:45 am, and again after the 10 am service: 11:15 am to 12:30
pm in Room 203.
While the strains of "flu viruses" have changed, the criteria for getting the
shots really are the same as in past years: Individuals must be over 18 years of
age, not allergic to eggs or to the flu vaccine. Pregnant women, and young
people less than 18 years of age are referred to their private medical doctors.
Individuals who have Medicare can take the flu shot free of charge at the Senior
Fair on Tuesday, October 28 at the Civic Center. Here at First Church, there
will be a fee charged for the flu vaccine. Check the church bulletin or call the
Parish Nurse for more details.
The Parish Nurse has "new hours" at First Church: 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on
Sundays, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This new schedule is
already showing benefits-there is time for our Parish Nurse to make home visits
for safety evaluations, or to provide follow-up for individuals recently
discharged from nursing homes or the hospital. Visitation to nursing homes
spreads the Pastoral Staff more widely. Our Parish Nurse is working closely with
the Stephen Ministers Program - both for planning and providing educational
sessions, and to keep the individual Stephen Ministers connected with
Do you know of anyone in the congregation who possibly needs some extra, regular
attention of a spiritual nature? Someone who is burdened with bereavement,
chronic illness, or disappointment from lost employment or disability? Maybe
they would benefit from having a compassionate friend, a Stephen Minister, to
"walk alongside" them for a few weeks. Let Dee know the individual's name -
information is kept strictly confidential! There will be a Second Hour about
Stephen Ministry on November 2, so please mark your schedules to attend that
The Parish Nurse is offering a new service for all First Church members - the
medication brown bag consultation. Put all of your medications in a "brown bag"
and bring them to the Parish Nurse to assist you with a medication check-up!
This service requires you to make a 30 minute appointment with her to discuss
each medication, the medication's effects, side effects, and interactions with
other medications. Bring your vitamins and herbals that you take along with your
prescriptions because they exert an important effect on your health, too! The
best occasions to schedule your appointments would be on Tuesday afternoons, and
any time on Thursdays. If you need a Sunday appointment time, please call Dee at
John Stansell will open the
ELEVENTH Annual Organ Oktoberfest in our Meetinghouse on Sunday, October 5, at
4:00 pm with a recital featuring Symphony II by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) and
showing its relation to the beginnings of the French symphonic organ school,
represented by the Grande Pièce Symphonique by César Franck (1822-1890.)
The series continues on Sunday, October 19, also at 4 pm, with the 6th visit of
German organist Heiner Grasst to our console. He will play a varied program:
Toccata in E Major, BWV 566, and Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr, BWV 663, by
Johann Sebastian Bach; Mendelssohn's Sonata VI; Toccata in B Minor by Eugene
Gigout; Mozart Changes by the contemporary Hungarian Zsolt Gardonyi: and Sonata
No. I by Alexandre Guilmant.
The series concludes on October 26 with a program by The King David Duo entitled
"Oh, Mio Dio: Verdi's Operatic Prayers." Simon Dearsley, former music director
at The First Congregational Church in New Canaan and dean of the Fairfield West
Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, will play transcriptions of
orchestral overtures and accompany his wife Philippa in "prayer" arias. The
Dearsleys recently had to return to their native England due to illness in
Simon's family, but will return in October for a concert swing through several
Don't miss these entertaining and diverse programs. While there is no admission
charge, a ten-dollar donation is suggested. Each recital will be followed by a
reception in the Lounge.
As they did last year, the First
Church organists will be highlighting the music of two composers during this
program year. On the second Sunday of the month, organ music of Louis Vierne
will be featured, and on the fourth Sunday, that of Felix Mendelssohn. (There
may be a little flexibility in scheduling.) John Stansell began on Homecoming
Sunday with the first and last movements of Vierne's Symphony I, and Mark
Swicegood played Mendelssohn's Sonata II on September 28. On October 12, Mark
will play selections from Vierne's Twenty-four Pieces in Free Style, and on the
26th, sixteen years after his first Sunday at First Church, John will play
Mendelssohn's Sonata VI.
PASTORAL PRAYER - FIRST CONGREGATIONAL
CHURCH OLD GREENWICH, CT JUNE 1, 2003
delivered by Dale M. Greene
For this time of prayer, I hope
that you may center yourselves, still the noisy chatter of your minds, and be
assured of God's presence and everlasting love as we pray.
Most Holy God, we come before you in great numbers this morning - each with our
own stories, with memories of all the roads leading to this moment in our lives,
this moment of celebration in the life of this church.
You know us all. We come to you with our confessions, our joys, our
accomplishments, our concerns, our hopes. And, you know them all. So, here we
are - remembering the past living the present wondering about the future.
Our prayers of hope overflow the atmosphere in this Meetinghouse. Our minds are
geared toward celebration. Yet, you know, O God, our hearts hold mixed emotions.
Soon we are going to say farewell to familiar, good friends. And new, untried
ones will come to take their place.
Transitions are hard to bear. We need you, God. We need you every moment. By
your Holy Spirit, we pray you will strengthen us - pastors, staff and
congregation - and move us through these transition times. Help us encourage
each other to try, earnestly and faithfully, to walk in the ways of your son,
Jesus - to be the people you created us to be, and a church family which
continues to be a welcoming and united one.
Most Bountiful God, you surround us with such wondrous treasures, the support of
loved ones and friends and all the natural beauties of your splendid creation.
We thank you for all that is good and fine in our lives. Yet, O God, so much we
take for granted - so many simple things to say "thank you" for, again and
again. Even a leaf, a shell, a stone are miracles! A loving glance, a caring
touch, the laughter of children - each one - a miracle! Even the moon and stars
and sun are miracles! They're there all the time! Gifts from you. Please help us
pay attention to them and give you thanks.
Most Merciful God, help us remember that the same moon and stars and sun shine
on us all - all people in this conflict-ridden world of ours. As we pray for
peace and security for us, in our own land, help us remember to pray for those
in other lands - so many war-torn lands, whose people have neither peace nor
By your Holy Spirit, help us be instruments of your healing mercy. We pray for
those who are wounded in body, mind, and spirit: the victims of natural
disasters and human cruelties, the lonely, the confused, the down-hearted, the
fearful, the bereaved. We pray for our service men and women, and their
We pray for our pastors, for the leaders and members of this church, as they
strive to make, and carry out, fruitful decisions. We pray for the leaders of
nations. May they govern with wisdom and work together for peace and justice for
O, God of Hope, we pray over and over and over again for peace and justice - for
peace and justice to prevail in this trembling world which holds and surrounds
Hear our prayers. Help us be instruments of your peace, wherever life takes us.
You know our histories, you know our triumphs, you know when we have fallen -
and yet, by your amazing grace, we rise to begin again. We receive new hope, new
beginnings, new relationships, new ways of ministry. Thank you, God.
God of Grace and God of Glory, today we celebrate and give thanks for the long
and faithful ministry of one who is moving on to new callings. May your servant,
Tom, continue to heed your call and experience the joys and satisfactions of
yet-to-be-discovered new opportunities for ministry during his retirement. May
you continue to bless him on his life journey.
And may all of us, who look ahead to not-completely-known futures, trust in your
grace, witness to your command to love one another, and follow Jesus' call,
"…that we may all be one" --- in our hearts, in our church, in our nation, and
in our world.
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
The Members of The First
Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim Senior Pastor
Susan M. Craig, Senior Associate Pastor
M. Ashley Grant, Parish Associate and 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.