The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

October, 2003

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 ways.

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”
Communion Served

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 Grant

If you have ideas about a second hour or questions, contact Ashley Grant at 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

Red Cross Blood Drive
Saturday, October 18, 2003
First Church Auditorium
(Give blood.
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 Silver Lake.
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 .


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: or by phone at 637-1791 ext. 26. Please know that friends of the church are welcome.

First Church
First Sunday

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 spaghetti sauce.

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 17-19

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 entails.

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 each other.

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 each):

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.


Preschool Bookfair
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
Old Greenwich.

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 "care-receivers".

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 Sunday.

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 203-637-1791 x21.



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 States.

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.


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 security.

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 families.

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 all humankind.

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 us.
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.