The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
SUNDAY AFTERNOONS LIVE
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,
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
A FLUTE CHOIR ?
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!
THOUGHTS ON APPLAUSE IN THE
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
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
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
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Dinmore
Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Graham
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Griffin
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Hoster
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Luce
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Quinn
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Rogers
Mr. and Mrs. Johann Thalheim
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!
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 (www.fccog.org).
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
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
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