The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

January, 2004

The Season of Epiphany
by M. Ashley Grant

May we be observant to see God's light.
May we be patient when it leads us down a long path.
May we be eager for the destination.
May we be humble when finally we see God.
May we not be ashamed but go, by a new way,
to tell of our epiphany.

Two thousand four stares at us, new and full of potential. According to the Church calendar, the expectant season of Advent is passed and Christmastide breaks onto the shore of Epiphany. We heard prophecies of old in prior weeks, fulfilled in Christ's birth. Jesus's coming gives us momentum for the season before us where we celebrate the Magi searching for and finding the unlikely king; Jesus's baptism; the first miracle of turning water to wine at Cana; stories of calling the disciples; and the sermon on the Plain. Through manifestations of God and signs from heaven, we begin to understand the potential of God's love for us in the person of Christ.

Epiphany is celebrated twelve days after Christmas, commemorating the coming of the three wise men, which was the revelation to the Gentiles that Jesus is the savior. That is the focus in the Western Church, and in the Eastern Church, they focus on the baptism of Christ. Christians began observing this festival day before 194 CE, long before the Christmas traditions that we observe today.

On the one hand, the accounts of Christ's presence and appearances give us cause for celebration. The Magi from the East, perhaps astrologers, were compelled to follow a star. Have you ever been stargazing? Aside from the occasional shooting star, it is kind of like fishing at mid-day when the fish aren't biting. There is more stillness in the cosmos in the dark night than movement, which tells me that these were observant and patient men who had been traveling for a long while. Their charts tell them that they are looking for one born king of the Jews in Jerusalem, and Herod's chief priests confirm the possibility by looking to the prophets: "from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel." The star guided them onward, until it stopped over the place where the child was. This is what most of us long for: a spotlight to show us God's revelation to the world; a blinding, undeniable beam pointing to the holy answer to all of creation's trouble. Even though the setting was shabby and the royal family was unconventional, the star overhead quelled any doubts of the stargazers. This was indeed the manifestation of God's self into God's creation. We celebrate God coming to us.

On the other hand, the accounts of real people experiencing epiphanies of who Jesus is also give us cause for celebration. For centuries artists and poets have depicted the wise men overwhelmed and bowed down before the Christ child. In Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi's "The Adoration of the Magi," c. 1445, Mary is holding Jesus in her lap, and one of the wise men bows, touching the foot of the infant who raises his hand in blessing. A North Netherlandish 15th Century version of the story illustrates the same perspective of recognition of holiness and power. The stories that we share during this season reveal Christ's divinity, which leaves us awe-struck and on our knees in the presence of God. Those gathered around Christ at his baptism, who hear the voice of God and see the dove descending from heaven, must have realized something unique about his turn in the river. The wedding guests in Cana knew something was up when Jesus told the steward to draw from the water jars; tasting was believing. Epiphany is about coming to a deeper understanding about who Christ is.

During this season of Epiphany that lasts until Lent, we share these stories in order to make Christ known to all nations. May we go forth, into this new year, letting our light shine into the darkest corners of our world and time.

Peace to you and all this year,

January Worship Schedule

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

Sunday, January 4
“A Metaphor of Light”
Ralph Ahlberg, preaching
Communion Served

Sunday, January 11
“Not Worthy But Called”
Susan M. Craig, preaching

Sunday, January 18
“The Wedding at Cana”
M. Ashley Grant, preaching

Sunday, January 25
“Striving for the Greater Gifts”
Ralph Ahlberg, preaching


Christmas Tree Sale Wrap Up

We want to thank all who helped set up racks, unload trees, sell trees, break down racks, and clean up. Our group of volunteers of all ages pitched in to help make this sale a success. A bonus was our sell-out one day early. Many thanks to all. -Eric and Betsy Kreuter.

Around the Church

First Church/First Sunday

Don't forget that January 4 is First Church/First Sunday and that we will be collecting food for our local pantries. The most needed items at this time are jelly, juice and jello/puddings..

by Dee Coover, Parish Nurse

Happy New Year 2004! May the Lord's Grace be with you throughout 2004, and may you and your family enjoy good health!

To start the New Year off on a positive note, I hope you all are spared getting sick during the flu season. We did have a good response to the flu shot program last fall, thanks to your enthusiasm! So my hope is that the members of the congregation are completely protected from any of the viruses.

On the off-chance that you do know friends or family members who have the flu, let's review some pointers on how to minimize your symptoms or lessen your chances for complications.

Good etiquette - that is covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough is a cardinal principle in preventive health.

Discarding the tissues immediately into a plastic bag in the trash is wise to prevent further contamination of surfaces around your home, school, or office space.

If a sneeze deposits "droplets" on a countertop or desk, wipe it down with a mild bleach solution (1tbsp household bleach in 1 quart of water) to prevent further spread of the virus.

Good handwashing cannot be underestimated. Lather with antibacterial liquid soap and "scrub" for one minute before rinsing off the soapy foam.

Use paper towels that are discarded immediately to prevent cross contamination between family members or guests in your home. The extra money that you spend on paper towels will be far less expensive than missing a day at school or work, or better yet, your winter trip!

Remember to cleanse the mouthpiece of your telephone with alcohol - at home, and at work - frequently - this will help to prevent the spread of those unwanted germs.

When someone gets ill with the flu, isolate them in a room to themselves preferably one that has a bathroom attached so that other members of the family can maintain minimal contact with the "patient" for four to five days - or, until the sneezing, coughing, etc. (respiratory) symptoms subside.

Meals and other activities should be taken into the "patient" on disposable meal-ware. Washing china and glassware in the dishwasher is not adequate in eliminating cross-contamination of flu viruses.

Likewise, handle bed linens and clothing of the "patient" carefully, and wash them separately for best protection. Add a ½ cup of bleach to the wash water to kill the virus present on the linens.

Wearing a mask when you have direct contact may be helpful especially during the interval when the respiratory symptoms are most acute.

In general, for those of you who want to stay well, focus on getting adequate sleep (6 to 8 or more hours/night).

To the best extent you can manage, drink 2 to 3 quarts of fluids a day unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Vitamin supplements can be helpful. Check with your doctor before you begin any new medications, even vitamins and herbal preparations.

Try to avoid gatherings of people who might not be as considerate as you to stay at home if you have symptoms of a cold or flu viruses.

If you do develop fever (101 degrees or greater), chills, cough, sneezing, body aches, CALL your doctor rather than making a trip into the physician's office - again, to help prevent the spread of the virus. Your doctor will direct you on how to manage the symptoms you report.

Your Parish Nurse is another resource you may call… She is available Sunday mornings until 12:30 PM, all day Tuesday and Thursdays (8:30 AM to 4 PM).

Happy New Year from the Church School!

As we look back over the wonder and joy of this Christmas Season we know how blessed we are as a community of children, teachers and parents. Our pageants and outreach projects, our special services and prayers, all contribute to a sharing and coming together that so often happens during this season. May we all have the grace and goodwill to go forward this year carrying with us the spirit of these special times. And to help us do that, we would like to share the Christmas Prayer composed by our Fourth Grade Church Class as it was spoken at the service, Sunday, December 21, 2003:

Dear God Our Creator, We have so much to be thankful for. The love from our friends, family and pets no matter what. They take care of us and cheer us up when we're down. We are thankful for our homes which are lit when it is dark out, warm when it is cold out, and full of food when we are hungry. Thank you God for letting us come to our church and speak what we believe in. We are thankful for all the people who have encouraged us and helped us grow. And last but not least, we are thankful for all the small things that make our world great, especially recess. Let us pray for help to those who don't have a home this winter, and everyone who is hungry. We pray for peace on earth and that the soldiers overseas return home safely. We hope that people throughout the world can be treated equally, no matter how different they are. Please heal and watch over those who are disabled and need your help. We are all blessed and we thank you God for all you have given us. Amen.

January is the time in our church school year that classes begin to cover the material in what we call their special emphases. The First Grade will learn the Lord's Prayer, the 2nd Grade will learn about and participate in a Communion Service; 3rd grade continues learning the Bible Stories and prepare for a face-off with the parents in a rather spirited Bible Jeopardy Game at their Bible Breakfast on March 7; 4th graders will learn about First Church and the United Church of Christ; 5th grade continues and expands their Outreach efforts; 6th grade will be learning about Judaism as they further their faith understanding; Pastors' Class continues to learn about worship in its various forms. Throughout these very diverse and specific lessons, we continue to follow the lectionary in our Curriculum.

A special schedule for the Second Grade Families:

January 22 Parent Night (Thursday) - Communion 101 in the Lounge

January 25 Parent Child Workshop during class time learning about Communion together and making a family banner.

January 31 A special Saturday Evening Celebration of Holy Communion at 5:00 PM. All are welcome to attend. Children will take part in this service in the fashion appropriate to their families and traditions. The service is followed by a reception in the Lounge.

News from First Church Preschool

During the month of November the Preschool said good-bye to Tim Holman, the Director for the last year. Everyone at First Church wishes him well. Penny Gellmann has joined us as Interim Preschool Director with over 18 years of director's experience at other preschools in town. She plans on being with us through the end of the school year so that the Preschool Board may conduct a search in the spring for a permanent director. Welcome, Penny!


Jerome Berryman was a theologian in residence in a Quaker church in Portland, Orego, where a university student came in one Sunday with long hair and tattered pants. The student looked around to find a seat, and seeing none he sat in the aisle. A Quaker with white hair and a three-piece suit slowly made his way down the aisle and with great difficulty got down on the floor with the young man. It so impressed the student that it changed his life. Berryman proposes that every time adults see an adolescent in church, they should walk up and, with no strings attached, say, “I’m glad to see you.” It doesn’t cost anything and you don’t even have to have a committee meeting.

Middle School Programs

JPF 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.

4 - JPF Cooks for the Soup Kitchen
6 - Parent Meeting in Youth Room at 7:30 PM
11 - JPF Dinner and More (reps come at 4:30 PM)
18 - JPF Community-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Service
25 - JPF Regular meeting & prep for Ski Trip
30/31 - JPF attend the SPF Variety Show

Mark your calendars for the SPF Musical Revue on January 30 and 31!

January 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 January offerings are:

January 11 Dee Coover and the Red Cross - What to do until help arrives!

January 18 Dennis Patouhas"Comfort Keepers" - How do we best care for those who are dear to us as they age? What options do we have?

January 25 Ralph Ahlberg"Pakistani Islam and the West" - Dr. Ahlberg will discuss the relationship between Muslims and Christians and East versus West ideologies explored in his recent visit to Pakistan.



First Church's winter series of Sunday afternoon musical offerings begins on January 11 this year. Those who regularly attend the concerts will have already checked the schedule and marked the ones they don't want to miss. If you've never attended, make this the year you start. It is an especially good opportunity to expose your children to a wide variety of musical styles in a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. Most fourth and fifth graders have the required attention span to start attending such events. The tea, hot chocolate and cookies might help keep their interest. And don't worry about the cost! Though we ask for a $ 10.00 per person donation to cover the expenses, whatever a family can comfortably afford is happily accepted. It's completely anonymous. So look at the schedule below, pick a few programs that are particularly interesting to you, and bring the family along. You'll be glad you did!

The 2004 SAL Schedule
Sundays at 4 pm ~ subject to change

January 11 Duo dell’Arte: Dorothy Darlington, oboe, Harris Becker, guitar
January 18 Jeni Slotchiver, piano
January 25 Andrew Armstrong, piano
February 1 no SAL – watch for Youth Musical Revue
February 8 Vocal ensemble Musica Plenti
February 15 The Tod Hedrick Jazz Trio with (vocalist) Crystal Phillips
February 22 Trilogy: Lynette Wardle, harp, Linda Boyd, flute & Brett Duebner, viola
February 29 Carolyn Paulus, soprano & Thomas Woodman, baritone

We invite you to join us in the church auditorium at 3:30 pm for Twinings tea and hot chocolate


We all know about our very fine flutist in the congregation, Mary Fike, whom we hear often. But there are many more members, both youth and adults, who play the flute. The sound of a group of flutes playing in ensemble is very unique, and Kathryn Atkin, one of our flute-playing members, has the dream of organizing such a group here at First Church. We all know about the piccolo, the flutes higher pitched relative, but there are also lower pitched ones which make such an ensemble possible and make the sound so intriguing. Younger or older, if you play the flute, consider giving Kathryn a call at 203.857.0375. This can be an intergenerational activity and add the magical sound of a flute choir to our worship!

by John Stansell

Whenever the subject of applause has been discussed at Church Committee I am told that the group is divided 50-50 over the issue. Many in the congregation find applause extremely inappropriate. Recently a member of our Youth Choir spoke to me passionately about how she felt applause detracted from her group's contribution to the worship. Others feel that applause adds spontaneity to an admittedly formal setting. We recently talked about this at staff meeting and Ralph Ahlberg asked me to share my thoughts with the congregation. Here are the reasons for my personal opposition to applause for musical offerings in worship:

1. This is worship, not a performance. We all, especially the children, need to be aware of the difference.
2. Choirs are offering their praise, not asking for approval.
3. Applause interrupts the flow of the service.
4. Applause for one anthem and not another, while perhaps expressing the congregation's delight, suggests less delight in other offerings, an unwanted by-product.
5. Applause for the postlude has become pro-forma, expected, and therefore rather meaningless. It makes me uncomfortable and I chose not to acknowledge it when I am playing. This isn't spontaneity, nor would it be if the congregation applauded every musical offering.

Applause to celebrate a special guest, an achievement or a birthday, or to acknowledge someone leaving after many years, is a completely different matter. This seems appropriate to me. Others disagree.

The Psalms have several references to clapping our hands. Some easily memorized and repetitive congregational song lends itself to this kind of expression. Usually we're holding a hymnal. Shall we incorporate some old-fashioned hand clapping into our Sunday worship?

I am interested in your responses. Let me hear from you in writing. Perhaps we can publish some of your thoughts.

Keeping the Faith
Stewardship 2004

The Board of Trustees gratefully acknowledge the additional 19 pledge commitments received from the following members and friends between December 6 and December 17 (omitting those who wish to remain anonymous):

Ingeburg von Boehm-Bezing
Mr. and Mrs. Francis Claps
Mary Dell’Abate
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Dinmore
Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Graham
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Griffin
Anne Hamilton
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Hoster
Gordon Jamisson
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Luce
Marion Nolan
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Quinn
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Rogers
Anne Sherrerd
Lindsay Stafford
Mr. and Mrs. Johann Thalheim
Anne Wachsman
Mr. and Mrs. Clarke Whittemore

Hats Off Resumes on Thursday, January 8 at 9:30 am

This month we will be discussing the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This controversial and compelling book calls us to consider the fields of art, literature, and biblical interpretation. It calls us to take a second look at our foundational beliefs both in the context of the story line, the life of Jesus Christ and the politics of the church. Come join us for lively discussion and add your own opinions. Join us at 9:30 for coffee and refreshment, and then from 10 - 11:30 for discussion. All are welcome!

January 2004

Bill Penwell

Betsy Kreuter
Vice Chairperson

Cyndy Anderson

Bill Bausch

Martin Berlin

Tim Coleman

Jack Davidson

Michaela Fossum

Barbara Norrgard

Edward Oppedisano

Meg Sherman

Senior Pastor Search Committee
Report to the Congregation

The oft referred to Church Profile/Job Description continues to generate suggestions and comments, but as is the case with any document of this type, there comes a time when it has to be declared finished. Both Reverend Ahlberg and Reverend Susan Townsley, the recently assigned UCC Western Region Minister, have read and endorsed the Profile/Job Description (after helpful and appropriate comments) so the Search Committee will now turn its attention to the other important work that has to be done. We again thank those who took the time to read and comment on these important documents and acknowledge that they are better because of your involvement. As has been the case for several months, the latest versions are available in the church office or on the church Website (

Other activities of note:

  • The Communications sub committee continues to work on a narrative introduction to First Church that will be “packaged” with the Church Profile and sent to Senior Pastor candidates to pique their curiosity and spark their interest. Where the Church Profile is primarily a standard form for presenting a rather stiff and statistical description of First Church, the introductory piece will hopefully present the human side of First Church … our congregation and its achievements, goals and spiritual orientation.
  • The Communications sub committee is also working on a set of form letters to use in communicating with each person that honors us by submitting their application. We want to acknowledge the application when it is received, keep the applicant informed of our progress and where they stand in the process, and respectfully advise them if they are no longer under consideration.
  • The Solicitation sub committee is working on a multi-pronged plan to solicit as many qualified applications as possible for our consideration. It will involve (in no particular order) direct solicitation of recommendations from the 50 largest churches in the denomination, encouraging recommendations from the congregation, posting our opening in the appropriate UCC publications, networking through the various divinity schools where we have a connection, and working through Susan Townsley and her many contacts within the UCC. If you have any experience or ideas in this regard that you feel would be useful to the Search Committee, please let one of us know.
  • Reverend Townsley met with the Search Committee on Sunday, December 7th and was immediately helpful. In addition to her observations concerning the Church Profile, she brought with her 10 Candidate Profiles for our review and is arranging a mock interview with a non-candidate minister so we can be better prepared when the time comes to conduct real interviews. The Committee was quite impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to this first meeting.
  • The Evaluation sub committee continues to review a number of methods, forms and considerations for evaluating potential candidates. The objective is to be ready to quickly, uniformly and fairly compare candidates to our Job Description as applications start to arrive.
  • As you may recall, one member of the Search Committee moved to another area mid-year and the Church Committee is going to propose a replacement at the Annual Meeting in January. We look forward to welcoming whoever joins us in this endeavor.

The Senior Pastor Search Committee