The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
Lent: A Time for Remembering and
Walter Brueggemann, one of the best-known Old Testament scholars in our country and a member of the United Church of Christ, was asked to write about the future of the Christian Church. It was natural for him to reach back to a time in the Old Testament that reflected something of our own time. So he chose Isaiah 40-55, the time of the Babylonian captivity when the people of Israel experienced exile and dislocation. It was a time when, as he writes, the people experienced "a deep displacement into a hostile environment that did not carry the faith." Then he predicted that Christians living in the 21st century will also face that kind of a time. So Brueggemann goes on to suggest some disciplines that will be necessary if we're to keep our faith alive when our values and our faith convictions aren't support by our culture.
As Lent is traditionally the time when we intensify the disciplines that nourish faith and keep it alive and vital, what follows is one of the disciplines this scholar of the Church cites. He calls for "memory in a world of amnesia," and suggests that the contemporary Church has to regain the wisdom of knowing what and when to remember and what and when to forget.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, there will be many of us visiting theaters to see Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. The film has become highly controversial because of what it chooses to remember. Apparently, a primary memory comes from a single verse in Matthew (27:24). "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowds, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.' Then the people as a whole answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'"
What should we remember and what should we forget? Given the history of Christian anti-Semitism, the verse sees a warrant for holding all Jews at all times responsible for the death of Jesus. Therefore, I would think the verse more worthy of forgetting than remembering. It is not found in Mark, Luke and John and is not essential in depicting Jesus' death. Sometimes it seems there can be too much remembering of the wrong kind, too many grudges harbored, too much clinging to past hurts and slights.
So why did Brueggemann insist we must practice memory in a world of amnesia? It's because without memory there's no identity, no personality, no individuality. We've all known a loved one or friend who's slipped into Alzheimer's. As memory disappears the future disappears with it. When there's only the present, the gift called identity is no more. Desmond Tutu, who lived through the evils of apartheid says, "Without memory, there's no healing; without forgiveness, there's no future.
So there is a great appropriateness that the first words of Lent as those of our Ash Wednesday liturgy. "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." The power filled words of our Holy Communion are "Do this in remembrance of me." Lent is a time to remember our faith history. It is a time to recall the positive and loving values that make us who we are. It is also a time for forgetting words that have provoked and stimulated hatred and negativity. What do you think?
March Worship Schedule
Services are held at 8 and 10 am in the Meetinghouse unless otherwise indicated.
Sunday, March 7
Women’s Fellowship Bus Trip
Join the Women’s Fellowship luxury bus trip, The Best of New London with a rehearsal by the US Coast Guard Band (a virtuoso ensemble), a visit to the Academy, lunch at the splendid Timothy’s on the shore, and a tour of the Lyman Allyn Museum, and MORE. The cost is $42 per person* which includes transportation, lunch and admission fees. Guests are welcome.
During Lent Susie Craig and Ralph Ahlberg will lead in a discussion of a book written by Erik Kobell entitled, What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life. In a review of the book, William Sloan Coffin praises the book as demonstrating "how the eight pillars of the Beatitudes - meekness, empathy, righteousness, peace, persecution, purity, poverty, and simplicity - remain valuable codes of conduct for our busy anxious lives." We hope that by reading and discussing Kobell's book during this Lenten season, we might find positive support for our own journeys.
For the convenience of those who might want to participate, a discussion of each chapter of the book will be offered twice each week during Lent on Sunday mornings at nine o'clock or on Wednesday mornings at ten o'clock in Dr. Ahlberg's office. The book may be purchased in the church office for $16.
On Sunday, March 7, we will have the barrel out to collect food for our local food pantries. Please help support this effort with your regular monthly donations. Most needed items this month are canned soup and fruit, spaghetti sauce and grape jelly.
Join the Stephen Ministers for an exciting, educational and spiritual Lenten Series entitled "Spirituality in Healing" to be led by Reverend David Wentroble, Chaplin of Nathaniel Witherell, Flora Generoso, Coordinator of Greenwich Adult Day Care, and the Reverend Kitty Garlid, Chaplain at Greenwich Hospital. Topics to be covered include: March 9: Aging: Is It Worth the Pain?"; March 16th: Alzheimer's: A Case for Long-suffering" March 22: "Respite From The Caregiver Burden" and March 29: "Joy and Healing in the Midst of Suffering". This series of lectures will be structured around the experience of suffering and joy as described by Henri Nouwen in his book "Can You Drink of This Cup?" The sessions will begin promptly at 7:30 PM in the First Church Lounge, and conclude by 9 PM. Please call the Church Office to register, or sign up at coffee hour on Sunday February 29. Any questions? Call Carole Lang, Judy Goodchild or Dee Coover. We invite you to come and bring a friend. 'See you there!
The Women's Fellowship - Family Movie Night and other upcoming events. Please join us for "Movies for a Winter's Night" Friday, March 5 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Two choices for your viewing pleasure: Second Hand Lions (rated PG) downstairs in the Youth Room, and To Catch a Thief in the Lounge. Pizza and beverages will be served in the Daniels Center prior to the movies. You can sign up for this event in the church office or by calling Debbie LaCivita at 698-0179 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Other upcoming events include our "Ladies' Evening Out" open board and fellowship meeting on April 14 at 7:00 pm. in the Lounge. We look forward to catching up with old friends and meeting some new ones as we vote on this year's slate of officers and the Allocations budget. More details to follow. Registration for the bus trip to New London on April 21 is in full swing. Sign up soon as seats go fast on this event!
Middle School Program
JPF (Junior Pilgrim Fellowship) 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. A special thanks to those who attended the ski retreat last month and especially to parent chaperones and drivers! Part of the youth ministry at First Church is involving the youth in service projects and teaching them about issues of need in our local and global communities. In March we will focus on the issue of "Hunger," and JPF will be raising money to contribute to the 30-Hour Famine Project of World Vision. "Every $30 will feed and care for a starving child for a whole month." Your financial support and prayers are appreciated.
Sunday, March 7 To Be announced.
The First Congregational Church Garden Project is under way. On Monday, January 5, 2004, the Church Committee officially approved the effort to grow fresh vegetables for distribution to the hungry.
The deer fencing is on hand. The posts are available (thanks to Susan and Richard Gilbert). The space is staked out (thanks to Brad Craig and Bill Bausch). We will have the use of an electric rototiller to reduce the amount of heavy digging. Bill Dakin has offered the use of his post hole differ.
Now we need to adopt a name for the project. Please let us have your suggestions. Lucy Hedrick suggested "Plowshares;" Connie Walton likes "Seed, Weed, and Feed." Please offer your own suggestions.
Also, we are collecting empty, plastic, gallon jugs that will be used to protect young seedlings during their first few days in the ground. Please bring them to Coffee Hour each Sunday after the worship service. We will need a lot of them!
The first meeting of everyone interested in the garden project is scheduled for the Second Hour on March 14 in the lounge at 11:30. In this meeting we need to adopt a NAME, approve a proposed time line, and enlist volunteers. Please come. Everyone can help! All ages are welcome.
Thanks for all your help and
encouragement. We hope to make a difference this summer. Please call Don at
Submit suggestions for the First Church Garden Project "name" to the Front Office.
Yours in His service,
Spring has sprung at the Rummage Room! Our shop was cleaned out and beautifully restocked by several of our great volunteers. A huge thank you to Carol and Jack Sweger, Maureen Johnson, Lu Baldwin, Lois MacDonald, Barbara Van Buren, Nancy McConnell, Decima Button, Marcia Livingston, Pat Pollack, Leslie Walker, Ginger Liddel, Pat Myer, Nan Snyder, Sharon Paris, Barbara Norrgard and Helen Hallas. They did a wonderful job and had us up and running on schedule Monday afternoon. On our wish list to keep our shop stocked is bric-a-brac, gently used spring clothing and shoes, a blender and a few new happy volunteers to join our RR family.
March 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 offerings are:
March in the Church School
Special Programs for 3rd, 4th 5th and 6th Grades
Our Lenten Project ~ A Church School Challenge of Reading, Art and Internet
Mark Your Calendars….
First Church Returns to Honduras
This Tuesday, March 2, we will
begin our seventh year in partnership with the Evangelical and Reformed Churches
of Honduras (AIEH). In our time together we have supported their medical
ministry, housing and schools. It has been a time in which we have had the
opportunity to live out our faith sharing our gifts with the least of these. At
the same time, we have been richly blessed living and learning from brothers and
sisters of great faith.
THE WOMEN'S FELLOWSHIP
The Members of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim Senior