The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

November, 2003

The Pastors' Column

The All Church Retreat
Building Deep Community
by John Stansell

About sixty members and friends of church met for two glorious days at Silver Lake Conference Center in the vibrantly colored hills in northwestern Connecticut. Rev. Ron Farr proved himself a most capable facilitator as he led the adult and youth participants in the study of two Bible stories and small- and large-group discussions of the implications of those stories for building deep community at First Church. Many of the insights we gained were summed up in short phrases that were written on flip-charts:


As a result of our small-group sharing many of us learned to see each other in entirely new ways and to appreciate others that we might not even necessarily like. The hardest task before the participants is to put these community building concepts into action now that we are home. In her introduction to prayer at the Sunday morning worship Ashley Grant described her observation earlier that morning of a flock of geese taking flight from the lake, flapping their wings and honking each other on, a beautiful image of what the participants in the retreat hope we can create in our congregation. Let us pray that it be so!

While the adults and youth were engrossed in their studies and discussions, there was an array of activities for the younger set, including discussions of their own on the meaning of being a friend. They showed us crafts they had made and led us in sung prayer at one of the meals. There were times when families were together, too, not just at meals. The weather was perfect and there was always someone frolicking in the large meadow. The moon was so bright it almost kept us awake!

We sang a lot, at meals, as we gathered for study, around the campfire on Saturday evening and at the Sunday worship. Bobby Fortunato had his guitar along, a great addition. The food is good at Silver Lake. And the participants especially enjoyed the new furniture in the main room of The Cedars and the new mattresses, gifts from the Women's Fellowship of First Church.

November Worship Schedule

Services are held at 8 and 10 am in the Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, November 2
Laity Sunday
Rick Derr, Senior Deacon
“High Expectations”
Communion Served

Sunday, November 9
Ralph Ahlberg
“Thin Ice and the Grace of God”

Sunday, November 16
Susan M. Craig
“Labor Pains”

Sunday, November 23
Ralph Ahlberg
“Grounding Faith and the Feast of Life”

Sunday, November 30
M. Ashley Grant
“Awakening to Love”


Sunday, November 30
for the
Advent Craft Fair
2 - 4 pm

Come begin Advent with the whole family with home made gifts for all ages. Photo ornaments and Advent Wreaths, safety pin snowmen and more. Gumdrop trees and shrink art accompanied by Christmas carols and hot cider. Make a gift for your family, make a gift for someone in need. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please sign up in the Undercroft or in the Church Office.


Yes! it is almost that time of year again. Please mark your calendars and set some time aside to help with our annual TREE SALE. We will need your help to set up racks on the Saturday November 22. Trees arrive on November 29, and many hands will make the unloading a short and painless process. The selling will begin at 9:00 am Saturday the 29. This is a terrific way to slip into the HOLIDAY SPIRIT. Come join us, bring the family and enjoy the fellowship. Sign-up sheets will be available at coffee hour.

20/30s Group

Looking for something more in the church? The 20/30s group meets on Tuesday evenings in the lounge, from 6-7 pm, for "My Cup Runneth Over" Bible Study. All are welcome. Please contact Ashley Grant at 637-1791 ext. 23 or if you have ideas or questions.

The H.O.M.E. Craft Show and Sale
proudly hosted by The Senior Pilgrim Fellowship
and Women’s Fellowship In the Auditorium at
First Church

Saturday, November 22nd
from 10:00 to 4:00
Sunday, November 23rd
from 11:00 to 2:00

Quilts, jams, Christmas decorations and gifts, woolens, pottery, wooden toys, weavings, Maple syrup, sweaters, and much more.

This is the Senior Pilgrim Fellowship's seventeenth year of association with H.O.M.E. Co-op. H.O.M.E. stands for Homeworkers Organized for More Employment and is a craft co-operative working with the rural poor in Hancock County, Maine. In addition to sponsoring this annual craft show, which is H.O.M.E.'s largest, the SPF journey to Maine each April to work with the Co-op's housing program, building homes for homeless families on H.O.M.E.'s land trust.

In a recent conversation with Lucy Poulin, founder and President of H.O.M.E. we learned that donations are down this year as donors here in New England have been affected by the downturn in the economy and loss of discretionary income. But more folk are out of work and are looking to H.O.M.E.'s outreach and housing programs for help. The food bank at H.O.M.E. is empty and every bed in H.O.M.E.'s shelters are full. We hope that First Church will be generous to our old friends in their time of need and come to the craft show in addition to remembering to bring canned and non-perishable donations for the Harvest Offering.

(and your holiday shopping too)

A First Church Preschool
Holiday Bazaar
presented by the Parent Committee - to benefit our school

Thursday, November 13th - 7pm to 9pm
Daniels Center

Featuring jewelry, handbags, stationery, and other unique gift items. Details to follow.

Call Melanie Garnett ~ 698-1679 with questions.

Keeping the Faith
Stewardship 2004

As of October 17, First Church has received 64 additional pledges of financial support toward the 2004 Stewardship campaign bringing the total number received so far this year to 166. The Trustees gratefully acknowledge pledge commitments that have been received since October 9 from the following members and friends:

Mr. and Mrs. Eric Baker
Polly Barten Gordon
Mr. and Mrs. William Boles
Howard Bollinger
Mr. and Mrs. David Condon
Mr. and Mrs. William F. Cordner
David Cowles
Jane Crossley
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Dadzis
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Davidson
Mr. and Mrs. Alan Diamond
Mr. and Mrs. Dana Dolloff
Mr. and Mrs. William Edgar
Jeannette Egan
Mr. and Mrs. Dave Erickson
Anne Fox
Mr. and Mrs. Donald
John W. Fryback
Mr. and Mrs. Richard
Ann Goodson
Helen Grimm
Louise Guy
George Handley
Mr. and Mrs.
Lawrence Hathaway
Lucy Hedrick
Eileen Houseknecht
Newton Hoyt
Jane Ives
Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Janelli
Mr. and Mrs. Roland Klingner
Ruth Lindegren
Bobbie Littlefield
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Livingston
Mr. and Mrs. John Maarbjerg
Patricia McCarter
Mr. and Mrs. Leon McKenzie
Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Medvey
Mr. and Mrs. Jan Meyer
Letty Militana
Elizabeth Mose
Mr. and Mrs. John Norrgard
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Olsson
Michael Pellegrino
Dorothy Pidgursky
Michael Pugh
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Ramer
Beth Rollins
Lori Romano
Mr. and Mrs. William Sandberg
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Schay
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Schieferdecker
Charlotte Schmidt-Fellner
Mr. and Mrs. William Schmitt
Jacki Schofield
Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Serenbetz
John Stansell
Mr. and Mrs. John Sweger
Mr. and Mrs. Scott Tagliarino
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Taylor
Dwight Warren
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Weigner
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wheelock
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas White
Barbara Wilmink
Mr. and Mrs. Jay Winthrop
Mr. and Mrs. Josh Ziac

Moment of Concern
Bill Dakin to Congregation
Sunday Oct. 26, 2003

As you may have noticed, the Trustees have begun to thank people, by name, for their pledge commitments. We will continue to treat the amounts of pledges with absolute confidence and privacy, as we firmly believe that the amount of anyone's pledge should be a private matter for their own prayerful consideration. The two most important reasons for keeping pledge amounts private are:

• First, we don't want to create status tiers, or a class system, where large donors might appear to be more important to the church than small donors. For example, the Trustees feel that it would be divisive and offensive to create special donor categories, like "Pastors' Associates", or "Founders' Circle", or any other such designation.

• Second, we don't want to embarrass people whose financial circumstances might only permit them to make a pledge of a token amount, such as $52, or even a lesser amount. Their names should be acknowledged equally, alongside the names of $5,200 pledgers, without distinction.

Indeed, as written in Luke, 21:1-4, Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

So, we feel the pledge amounts should be kept private, but we also feel that our willingness to make a financial pledge is no less deserving of acknowledgement than any other gift of time or talent to the Church. There are a couple of reasons why we feel comfortable with disclosing the pledger names:

• First, our very affiliation with the Church is already a matter of public record, since our names appear in the Church Directory, and we've all, at one time or another, stood up on the worship platform in a public ceremony of the Owning of the Covenant.

• Second, our Church regularly publishes names of Church School teachers, Honduras outreach travelers, soup kitchen cooks, ushers, coffee-hour hosts, rummage room volunteers, and many others who have contributed their time and talent.

We routinely name these givers of time and talent, and with two objectives: a) to thank them, and b) to encourage others to follow the example they set. For these same two reasons, the Trustees have begun to thank pledgers, by name.

Over the last week, a few members of our Congregation have expressed a discomfort in seeing their names mentioned as financial supporters of our Church. If, for some reason, you don't feel comfortable with being publicly identified among those people who are willing to support the church financially, please jot a note to that effect on your pledge card, or call Kirk Young, and we'll certainly respect your wish to remain anonymous.

But we hope that people won't be shy about expressing their support for the church in this manner. Ashley Grant recently asked "who is with us?" Susie Craig recently asked for "all hands on deck". Ralph Ahlberg recently suggested that it's time for us to "cowboy up". Please help lead others by your example, in our effort to get 100% participation.

This is a Good Time to Make a Planned Gift to First Church

Get the income tax advantage in 2003!

Planned giving is a subject that most of us will want to think about and ultimately act upon sometime during our own lifetime journey. The emphasis is not so much on meeting a particular future need within the church, but rather primarily on fulfilling a need within ourselves.

More and more First Church members have been making planned gifts in recent years and have enjoyed these benefits:

  • Avoidance of capital gains tax (assuming it is an appreciated security such as stock that is given, rather than cash).

  • Retaining an income interest over the life of the donor and/or other beneficiaries.

  • Current charitable income tax deduction for the remainder value of the gift.

  • Diversification of assets and frequently higher income.

  • Removal of the asset from one's taxable estate, with the consequent reduction of estate taxes.

  • Providing a future benefit to First Church.

  • Gaining the personal satisfaction that comes with being a good steward.

First Church has received several planned gifts already in 2003 - a blessing to the church and for the donors! Are you ready to think about what you might want to do?

There are many types of planned gifts, but most planned gifts made by First Church members during the last few years have taken one of these forms:

  • individual charitable remainder trust set up through the donor's personal lawyer

  • gift to our own First Church Pooled Income Fund

  • UCC gift annuity naming First Church as the ultimate beneficiary

There are major differences among these alternative planned giving vehicles with respect to ease and cost of execution (with the latter two being very simple and requiring no legal costs); size and future rate of change of the income payments that will go to the donor's named income beneficiaries for the rest of their lives; and probable value of the gift that will finally be realized by the Church when the named income beneficiaries are gone.

For information that can help you decide what type of gift might best fit your objectives and circumstances, call Dana Low, First Church Director of Planned Giving, at 637-9315.


Stephen Ministry
by Dee Coover, Parish Nurse

"Love one another as I loved you"

is a favorite Scripture passage that describes the credo of members of First Church. Likewise, this passage characterizes the mission of Stephen Ministry. As one of the outreach programs at First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Stephen Ministers are trained volunteers who bring Christ's healing love on a one-to-one basis to people suffering everything from illness and grief to family troubles and job loss.

Sunday, November 2 is Stephen Ministry Sunday. Several Stephen Ministry members will be honored during the worship service. Also, current Stephen Ministers will present the Second Hour Program. Using a roundtable format, the discussion will center on describing the components of the training program that is provided for all volunteers. Hearing about the benefits to the congregation and community over more than 20 years of ministry is offered to stimulate interest among other individuals who may themselves want to become a Stephen Minister.

Stephen Ministry is a confidential ministry. Those receiving care can be sure that their identity and what goes on in the caring relationship will always remain private. Stephen Ministry at First Church enables our congregation to grow as a loving and nurturing community where individuals are cherished and cared for as Christ has taught us to do. By "bearing one another's burdens…" we extend our gifts to others in the community. Through Stephen Ministry, First Church can be recognized as a place where people's needs are taken seriously.

If you are interested in recommending someone to become a Stephen Minister, or have a friend or neighbor who may benefit from this outreach program, please contact our Parish Nurse, Dee Coover, RNC at (203) 637-1791 or come in to talk with her Sunday mornings, or during the day on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Over Eight Gallons!

More than seventy people offered to donate blood on Saturday, October 18, and we collected for the Red Cross 66 units of life-saving blood for hospital patients. Thanks go to the many members of the Women's Fellowship who prepared a full table of gourmet treats, greeted, served and hosted the donors and their families, and to our piano players (Bob Button, Marty Berlin and George Stockbridge) who entertained us non-stop for many hours. If you missed the opportunity to donate, there's a blood drive nearly every week in Greenwich. Call the Red Cross at 869-8444 to make an appointment.

Have you had your flu shot yet?

Vaccine is available from the Parish Nurse on Sunday, November 16 for $20. Please call or see Dee Coover for details.


November Notes

This Season at Home…. In November the Church School curriculum continues to follow the lectionary and study the gospel of Mark. Beginning with the two great commandments "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" moving on to more lessons of discipleship and finally, with the theme of giving thanks for all God has given us, we approach Advent with great anticipation. At the end of the day, some families identify one good thing that happened during the day or something they are thankful for. Perhaps when we do this we could also add how we might share our gifts and talents in a way that Jesus would have done.

Stewardship in the Church School…. Speaking of sharing, our Church School classes have begun to talk about sharing our gifts of time, talent and treasure. We are trying something new this year by asking the 5th and 6th graders to be our Church School stewards. Each week a 5th grader will accompany the Sunday Super to each class and collect any food offerings that have been given. Similarly, a 6th grader will collect the offering envelopes. The children have received “My Thank You to God” cards. Those that have been returned are being displayed on the large bulletin board near the center of the Undercroft. Additions are welcome. We hope these actions will help our children know that their pledges of time, talent and treasure are meaningful to all.

Media Center…. Do come to the very end of the Undercroft and see the new media center which we share with the preschool. It has a large TV donated by one of our families and built in shelving to store books and videos. Church School classes may use this resource any time.

Looking ahead….Harvest Dinner Sunday, November 16; Festival Service Harvest Sunday, 10 am November 23 (No Church School; Child care only); H.O.M.E. Co-op Craft Show November 21-23; Advent Craft Fair, Sunday, November 30 at 2 pm.

A Prayer for our teachers….Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of knowledge and inspiration our teachers bring to our children each week.. May their spirit and teaching help us to be disciples in our everyday lives. Amen.

November 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 November offerings are:

November 2 Stephen Ministry - The Program & Care for Our Members

November 9 Meet Ralph Ahlberg and Express Your Hopes, Priorities, and Concerns; representatives from the Trustees and Deacons will also be available

November 16 Nancy Rosanoff - Listening Place - Interfaith dialogue and Lives of Service

November 30 Red Cross and the Wellness Committee - Safety

If you have ideas about a second hour or questions, contact Ashley Grant at or 637-1791 ext. 26.


Middle School Programs

Seventh and eigth graders are invited to the Pastors' Class, starting in the Meetinghouse during the 10:00 service on Sundays. Join us as we look at the parts of worship services, the differences and get to know the pastors and peers.

The JPF group focuses on fellowship, service and activities for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We meet on Sunday evenings 5-6:15 pm in the Youth Room.

Sunday, November 2 JPF Pastor’s Class

9 JPF Pastor’s Class

16 Harvest Dinner, Pastor’s Class

JPF families sit together

23 No JPF No Pastor’s Class

30 JPF Pastor’s Class

New Twists for Youth Ministry
what the church offers
by M. Ashley Grant

For decades, youth ministry at First Church has achieved excellence in programming, in nurture, and in outreach that reveal God's blessing and presence. Another aspect of the continued success exists in living with the tension of tradition and re-invention. While sitting in on the first meeting of the Senior Pilgrim Fellowship in September, I heard Josh Ziac introduce their theme for the year: "Putting a new twist on old things." I believe this is a way we leave room for the Holy Spirit, a way to let young members of our congregation discover and grow as God leads them, while giving them a foundation to stand on.

The latest issue of The Christian Century, a journal that focuses on thinking critically and living faithfully, featured a series of articles and reflections on Youth Ministry. To continue on the path of excellence that we strive for at First Church, we must re-visit the question: What are we the church offering our young people? Marti Reed Hazelrigg, an associate pastor in New Jersey, insightfully articulates the uniqueness of what the purpose of the church ought to be for its youth. Hazelrigg writes, "We can go on a ropes course with youth and they might have done that at school or the YMCA, but if somehow we don't have another message or exegete another part of their experience, then we're missing something…I believe that God is working with youth even before they know it. I want them to understand that God is working even when they don't see God." (The Christian Century, October 4, 2003).

Church is different from other communities and activities that engage our young people today. It is our hope that we can offer them--and all members--a safe space for exploring their faith; a fun place where relationships are fostered; opportunities to be creative, to be challenged, and to be reminded that they are valued and chosen people. The message that we have to offer to our youth should be nothing less than: God is a God of abundant love, of second chances, of grace to receive our questions, of creativity, and of hope even when we feel hopeless. Of course, this is a traditional message, connecting us with Christians of all times and places. When we allow room for the Holy Spirit in our programs and relationships, then the divine twist makes all things new.

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
Josh Ziac, Interim SPF Director
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.