The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

March, 2004

Lent: A Time for Remembering and Forgetting
by Ralph E. Ahlberg

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
“Standing Firm”
Susan M. Craig, preaching
Communion Served

Sunday, March 14
The Reverend Dean C. Ahlberg
Redding Congregational Church

Sunday, March 21
Honduras Sunday
“Welcome Home”

Sunday, March 28
“Breaking the Bonds of Loneliness”
Ralph E. Ahlberg, preaching


Women’s Fellowship Bus Trip
Save the date
Wednesday, April 21
8:10 am - 5:00 pm.

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.




Note: A display featuring the bus trip is on the Auditorium Hall bulletin board.
*Please make out a separate check to the Women’s Fellowship.

Lenten Opportunities

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.

First Church
First Sunday

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.

Stephen Ministry

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!

Women's Fellowship

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 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.

14 Preparation for the 30-Hour Famine Project.
19-20 Begin the famine at 1pm; meet at church at 6pm
21 Stay for the Second Hour presentation on Honduras; No JPF in the evening
28 JPF should save this date for a special occasion in Milford, CT. You'll hear more about this from Ashley at the beginning on the month.

Think Spring

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 637-0213.
Volunteer Opportunities: We will keep members of First Church posted on how and when we need you. In early spring, or as soon as the snow melts, the ground will need to be prepared and the fencing installed. A creative piece of the fencing construction will be gate building, so if you have carpentry skills or an earthly artistic eye, this might be calling you. Next, we will lay out the plot, then till, then plant what we hope to grow, then tend, and reap the bounty to share with the community. Follow your Meeting House Monthlies, the Sunday bulletins, and the Coffee Hour Display as our means of communicating volunteer need and garden progress with you.

Submit suggestions for the First Church Garden Project "name" to the Front Office.

Yours in His service,
Don Walton (The Pruning Hook)

Pastor Emeritus

Dear Friends:

When Senior Deacon Rick Derr told me that the congregation had elected me Pastor Emeritus at the 2004 Annual Meeting I was thrilled. I want to express my appreciation to each of you for this honor. Relationships established during my 29 years of ministry with you are very deep.

Brenda and I are enjoying the first part of our post retirement trip here in Florida. Brenda retired at the end of 2003 from the Greenwich YWCA. In Florida we feel we have been visiting First Church. When we attended worship at the Sarasota UCC church we noted former First Church choir members: Betty and Harry Woodman, Paul Simpson, and Winnie and Carl Downes in the choir. At an 80th birthday party for Kit Hobbs we also visited with former First Church members: Martha Fingerle, Alan Toy, and Jeanne and Paul Simpson and Joyce and Curt Carlson. We have also visited with Marcia and Bob Wilson, and Yanna and Len Saari on the West Coast and Eileen and John Raynolds, David Williams and Nan and Bob Broeder on the East Coast. We missed many other folks on the East coast as we were only there for two days. We have experienced wonderful worship at the U.C.C. church on Sanibel Island and look forward to worship at the UCC church in Naples next week where we are visiting Tom's uncle and Brenda's sister. This week we are enjoying the warm weather of Key West, reminding ourselves of the rich history of this tiny coral island. Cuba is only 90 miles away but most of that mileage is coral reef.

Psychologically, we are finding that disengagement from work and people that you love is hard work but it is transformative as well. Relationships forged are not lost. They are transformed from the warp and woof of parish life into the rich patterns of life's quilt - never to be lost. It is with this deepening sense of how we are held together in relationship that I thank you once again for the honor of being Pastor Emeritus at First Church.

Love, Tom

Rummage Room

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 14 Spring Is Coming: First Church Garden Project. For all those interested in participating or supporting our efforts to feed the hungry, join us a 11:30 in the lounge. We will adopt a name, review the proposed schedule, dream together about what we want to grow and enlist volunteers. All ages are welcome.

March 21 Honduras: Members of this year’s trip to Honduras will present the highlights of their trip. Look forward to an update on the clinics in Pinalejo and Subirana, our relationship with AIEH and the schools in San Pedro Sula.

March 28 “Imagining and Imaging the Last Supper” Maryan Ainsworth will present and discuss various depictions of the Last Supper - including those of Dürer, Leonardo and Rembrandt.

Church School

March in the Church School

Thank you to all our families for participating in the coin collections for Honduras. We will soon have pictures of the children and the school you so generously supported. Come to the Second Hour on Sunday, March 21.

Special Programs for 3rd, 4th 5th and 6th Grades

March is a very busy month in the Church School. Many classes have Special Events.

On Sunday, March 7, the 3rd graders have their traditional Bible Breakfast cooked and served by the Church School Task Force; followed by a very challenging Bible Jeopardy Game when the children can show their parents how much they have learned - especially when the children's team wins!

The 4th graders will be studying the United Church of Christ and our own First Church's history and operations. They will visit another UCC church, the First Congregational Church of Norwalk on Sunday, March 21.

The 6th graders will be learning about Judaism and how it relates to Christianity historically and today. They will visit a local temple and have guest speakers who will talk about Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Finally, the 5th Grade will be concentrating on their Outreach project which is to raise funds for the Heifer International Project.

Our Lenten Project ~ A Church School Challenge of Reading, Art and Internet

First Church is very fortunate to have a nicely stocked Resource Library of books and videos for all age levels. During Lent, we are challenging our children to read or watch stories from the Old and New testaments, about God in our world, or any other works relevant to our faith. Each week, our children will bring in either a brief description of something they have read or a picture they have drawn about what they learned. Especially for our older children, we are researching some websites that will have relevant activities as well. For each story or activity a child does, they will get a link in their classroom's paper chain. There will also be rewards along the way. We will tally these by grade level and after Easter there will be a special "celebration" for the work accomplished as well as a wonderful display of the paper chains on Recognition Sunday. During Lent, we have also arranged to have some Family and Children's Bibles available for you to purchase during coffee hour.

Mark Your Calendars….

Friday, March 5 Evening - A Family Movie Night hosted by the Women's Fellowship. Two Movies - For all ages.

Saturday, April 3, 2-4 PM Walk Through Holy Week - a unique family experience which permits children and adults to experience and better understand the events of Holy Week

Sunday, April 4, 10 AM - Palm Sunday (no Church School)

Thursday, April 8 - Maundy Thursday dinner and Tenebrae Service

Friday, April 9, 10 AM - Good Friday Family Service
8 PM - Music and Meditations

Sunday, April 11 - Three Easter Services : Sunrise,
9:15 AM and 11 AM

Sunday, April 18 - Regular Church School

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.

This year we are doing something new! We are bringing along two dentists, Dr. Wally Bloes and Dr. David Thibault. They will be practicing in our Pinalejo Clinic. As guests of Dr. Espana, they will be serving people from the mountain villages surrounding the clinic which we funded five years ago. In addition, our group will visit the ongoing construction of a nutrition center in Subirana which is adjacent to the Subirana Medical Clinic.

New eyes and voices will see our projects this year. Our group will be led by The Reverend Dr. Ralph Ahlberg and our soon to be ordained pastor, M. Ashley Grant. Returning to Honduras with them will be Fred Laffan, Lisa Norrgard, Debbie Bocchino, George Thalheim, Elizabeth Mackell and Julie Olsson. James Burns, a friend of First Church will complete our mission group. His expertise in construction and work projects will be most helpful in assessing the progress in Subirana and considering future efforts.

While there, our group also hopes to bring supplies to the AIEH schools who have chosen to develop their program for teaching English. With the support of our CHurch SChool and Preschool supplies will be purchased and delivered to mountain schools as well.

We wish them godspeed and look forward to hearing reports of their trip.


Friday, March 5
Pizza at 6:30,
movies and snacks at 7:15
Kids: Wear your PJ’s and bring blankets and pillows!

Second Hand Lions
for the younger set
To Catch a Thief
for those wanting to revisit Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on the French Riviera.

Please respond by March 1 by submitting this form to the WF Box in the church office
or by email:
Debbie Lacivita at

$2.00 donation at the door.
More information is available
in the church office and
during coffee hour.

NAME ___________________________


# ATTENDING _____________

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
Kelly Stone, 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
Penny Gellmann, Director of Preschool
Dee Coover, Parish Nurse
Dr. Reniery España, Dir. of Medical Services, AIEH

Sunday Services of Worship - 8 & 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