The First Congregational Church of Greenwich
Signs of an Easter People
by Ralph E. Ahlberg
Easter demonstrates God's eternal
"yes" to love trumping hate. The values associated with caring being more
powerful than indifference are confirmed at Easter. It is that powerful event
that celebrates life as more powerful than death by affirming Jesus' victory in
finding his life by losing it for others.
There are signs of such faith and spirit alive at First Church! The witness of
our congregation's effort in Honduras has all the marks of authentically giving
new life and hope to a needful and hurting people. Ask member of our
congregation and oral surgeon, Dr. Wally Bloes if this congregation hasn't given
powerful gifts of healing. More than seventy dollars worth of medicine this trip
alone will provide doctors and nurses needed supplies in clinics our
congregation helped to build. And just as Jesus valued children, so too we have
enabled the building and support of pre-schools and nutritional centers that
will enable a healthier beginning for many of the winsome yet fragile children
living in Honduran poverty. An Easter spirit has empowered all these efforts,
and I thank God for them!
Then, too, I see an Easter spirit developing among us in our concern that the
coffee we drink on Sundays and through the week is purchased through a fair
trade importer. Small farmers in Central America have been devastated by
fluctuations in the price of coffee. Fair trade buyers pay double the market
price and add a premium charge for development projects. Their coffee costs
more. But it supports health and educational programs designed to bring life to
the very poor. Such interest in others clearly marks an Easter people.
Here at home, the signs of Easter are manifested in the recent decision to
announce to the world an open and affirming, inclusive welcome to all people. I
can imagine Jesus' smile of approval as we extend hospitality to all of God's
children. And I can also feel that spirit of Easter in the cool discernment many
within our congregation have expressed to Mel Gibson's rendering of Christ's
passion. His film distorts the complex dynamics of Roman power and Temple
leadership, as well as the tensions present among Christians and Jews at the
time when the gospels were written. And, sadly, it ignores the horrific
Christian anti-Semitism that such depictions have provoked in the past.
Finally, in all of the turmoil of a troubled and contentious world, I find the
Easter spirit at First Church especially evident in the music so carefully
prepared and so skillfully presented by John, Mark and the members of our
choirs. Voices, organ, instrumentalists are preparing for celebrating the heart
and soul of our faith as we move through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and then
We urge you to share these closing days of Lent and Holy Week and then join in
the joy and promise of Easter Sunday! "Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
April Worship Schedule
Sunday, April 4
“Palm Sunday Passion”
Ralph E. Ahlberg
Thursday, April 8
Good Friday, April 9
10 am, Family Service
8 pm, Music and Meditations
Sunday, April 11
Sunrise, 9:15 am, 11 am
“The Spirit of the Times and the Spirit of Easter”
Ralph E. Ahlberg
Sunday, April 18
“Signs of Restoration in the Wounds of Destruction “
M. Ashley Grant
Sunday, April 25
Ralph E. Ahlberg
Good Friday Discussion of
“The Passion of the Christ”
The church staff will lead a
discussion of the current film “The Passion of the Christ” on Good Friday at
2:30 pm in the Lounge. Study guides are available in the church office.
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.
Quilt Raffle Progress
The intricate “Steps to the
Courthouse” quilt created by the Kettle Quilters is currently on display in the
Rummage Room window and will be on display at Coffee Hour on May 2. You may
purchase tickets to win this lovely work of art for $2.50 each at Coffee Hour or
at the Rummage Room. The raffle will take place at the Women’s Fellowship Spring
Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5. The winner does not have to be present at the
drawing and will be notified by telephone. Thank you for your support.
First Church/First Sunday
On Sunday, April 4, we will have
the barrel out to collect food for our local food pantries. Please help support
this effort with your regular monthly donations. Suggested items this month are
cereal, canned fruit and small canned hams (for Easter).
The Senior High Pilgrim Fellowship
(SPF) would like to extend a warm welcome to all Senior High School Students who
would like to join us for events! The SPF meets every Sunday evening from 7:00
pm- 9:15 pm throughout the academic year, in the Youth Room. These meetings are
a time for young people to gather and share in a time of fellowship with peers
and advisors. SPF meetings include, but are not limited to; discussions on
current events, educational conversations, and dialogue that contributes to a
deeper understanding of our faith and how that is lived in the world.
The SPF is currently gearing up for the annual work trip to H.O.M.E. Co-op in
Orland, Maine. The dates for the trip this year are Sunday April 18 - Saturday
April 24. Information has been distributed to young people about this trip and
they should note the deadlines for returning forms to ensure their place on the
trip. If you or someone you know would like more information on this trip please
do not hesitate to contact me! Additionally we are seeking advisors for this
trip! If you are willing to graciously donate your time to a worthwhile cause
and a week of fun with the youth of First Church please contact Kelly.
The SPF has several other exciting events that are just around the corner.
Please mark these events on your calendar…The SPF Whitewater Canoe Retreat to
Silver Lake (June 4 - 6) and the SPF Year End Cookout (June 13). We always
welcome new faces to our meetings and events so feel free join us!
Rebuilding Day 2004 is set for
Saturday, April 24, 2004! Rebuilding Together Stamford/Greenwich is a nonprofit,
nonsectarian, volunteer organization that works in partnership with local
sponsors and volunteer groups to repair and renovate the homes of low-income
elderly, disabled, and families with children in Stamford & Greenwich,
Connecticut. If you can participate on the First Church Team, sign-up in the
Front Office at First Church by April 7.
The Wellness Committee is pleased
to report that at least 30 members of our congregation are now trained and
current in CPR/AED skills. Twenty-three people were certified by Greenwich
Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) training staff during the month of March, and
seven other members are current in their certification. Participants in the
March training included staff, ushers, choir members, youth advisors and church
school teachers. We thank them for their time, interest and energy in supporting
First Church's safety program. We hope to purchase and install an automated
external defibrillator (AED) in the church within a month or so.
The Women’s Fellowship Events
APRIL 14, 7:30 p.m. - Ladie’s
APRIL 21- BUS TRIP Attend a private rehearsal of the Coast Guard Academy Band
(the official band of the President) and enjoy the environs of New London, CT.
Seats on the bus are going fast so please get your reservations in soon.
MAY 5, 11:45 - 2 p.m. - "SPRING FLING" LUNCHEON AND ANNUAL MEETING. The Grace
Notes, a local women’s a cappela group, will entertain us as we enjoy a great
luncheon catered by Garelick and Herbs and welcome our incoming fellowship
The Women's Fellowship
The Women of First Church
Ladies Evening Out
Wednesday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.
In the Church Lounge
Please join us for an evening of
fellowship as we vote on this year's allocations budget, consider ideas for next
year's events (we welcome your input!) And relax while enjoying delicious snacks
In addition, lisa norrgard miller will reprise her slide show and presentation
on the recent trip to honduras. This is a great opportunity to learn how our
allocations dollars have helped to change the lives of our friends in honduras.
We look forward to catching up with old friends and welcoming new ones! Sign-ups
are appreciated but not required. You can sign up on the sheet in the church
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. 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. A special thanks to
all who participated in the 24 Hour Fast in March and those who supported us.
4 - Palm Sunday, No JPF
9 - Good Friday: join the SPF and
congregation in carrying the cross to the beach
11 - Easter Sunrise Service at the
Beach with SPF and Ashley preaching; no evening activities.
18 - Pastor's Class and JPF.
11:30- 1:30. Stay for Garden Catering and a game of Capture the Flag. Bring
money for lunch, and parents stay or pick up at 1:30.
24 - Rebuilding Together Saturday
25 - Art Night, including sundae
If you are interested in
purchasing a video of the SPF Production of "The River Runs Through Us" or of
any of the productions from the previous three years, please contact Kelly
Stone. Videos are being sold for $10 each.
Easter Memorial Flowers
The Chancel Committee invites
donations for Easter decorations in memory or honor of your loved ones. Any
amount is welcome. Your completed form with your check (payable to First Church
Flower Fund) should be sent to the church office no later than Monday, April 5.
In memory/honor of _____________________________________
Enclosed is my check for
Remember to set
your clocks ahead one hour on April 4
January and February marked the
22nd season of the Sunday Afternoons Live concert series. This memorable season
had large audiences supporting many talented artists.
The music committee works to coordinate the receptions on these Sunday
afternoons. We are appreciative of others who helped make this series a success.
Thanks to the following: Mary and Bill Bausch, Debbie Berner, Alice Ell, Mary
Fike, George Handley, Lucy Hedrick, Betsy and Chris Moore, Mildred and Gerry
Mulhull, Joan Osgood, Michael Pellegrino, Barrie Richmond, Beth Rollins, Janet
Sotzing and Barbara Van Buren.
Special thanks again this year to Michael Pugh and his daughter, Alexa. Michael
has made this series possible for two years running by being there and
coordinating the set-up, serving and clean-up. Thanks again Michael!
Duke University Chorale
By all counts, the spring tour of
the Duke University Chorale in early March was a huge success. The large
supportive audience was treated to a wonderful evening of music, both sacred and
secular. Forty singers were under the direction of Rodney Wynkoop, with
accompanist Glenn Mehrbach. The success of the tour was due in large part to the
families that graciously opened their homes to host the college students. Thanks
to the fifteen households of Alden, Anderson, Bonnell, Collins, Dinwiddie,
Ekernas, Hanbury-Brown, Isaacson, McCalley, Olsson, Oppedisano, Osgood, Pruner,
Stansell and Tutje. The tour has visited First Church three times. Judging from
the enthusiastic audience response, one could hope that the chorale could tour
in this area more often than every four years. Be sure not to miss their next
Music for Good Friday
On Good Friday evening at 8:00 the
Chancel Choir will present a service of music including hymns for the
congregation and readings appropriate to Passiontide by members of our clergy
staff. Musical selections will include "Ó Vos Omnes" by Pablo Casals and John
Rutter's beautiful setting of Psalm 23 from his Requiem. A highlight will be
Carolyn Paulus and Charlie Baird singing the "Pie Jesus" duet from Andrew Lloyd
Webber's Requiem. Our bass soloist Erik Kroncke will sing an aria from the St.
Matthew Passion of Johann Sebastian Bach. "Weep Ye Waters" by Dave Brubeck and
"Drop, Drop, Slow Tears" by Kenneth Leighton will also be sung. This expressive
music and the related readings set a somber tone that makes us all the more
prepared to hear the joyful sounds of Easter Day.
One of the traditions of Music
Sunday is the traditional Maypole dance on the church lawn. Children in the
younger elementary grades for years have been delighted to be a part of this
special event. Older children have happy memories of being honored to be
selected to dance the Maypole. Our goal is to have at least sixteen children for
this dance. Join us if you are experienced or would like to try for the first
time. Please check you calendar for Music Sunday, May 23. There will be one
rehearsal on Friday, May 21 at 3:30. Let us know your interest by signing up on
the clipboard in the church office. All are welcome.
Family Events and
||2 - 4 pm A Walk Through Holy Week Begin in
the Youth Room 103
||10 am Palm Sunday Service Child Care; No Church School
||6 pm Maundy Thursday Dinner
||10 am Good Friday Family Service
||Easter Sunday Services 6 am, 9:15 am & 11 am Child Care Only
||Regular Church School
||Regular Church School
||Last Church School Day; Confirmation Sunday
A Walk Through Holy Week
Saturday, April 3, 2-4 pm
Sign up at Coffee Hour or call the Church Office 637-1791
Together we will hear the story of
Holy Week, as we experience the events of the week as well. Come and wave palms
as Jesus enters into Jerusalem, experience a foot-washing, share in the food of
the last supper as gradually lights are extinguished, help us carry a life-size
cross as we sing "Were You There?", and even enter into the darkness of the
tomb. This powerful experience is appropriate for children four years and older.
It will inform and enhance your Holy Week and Easter experience. Enjoy being
with your child as he/she hears and participates in the most important story of
our faith. Refreshments and a special craft project will also be provided. All
Teacher Recruitment Begins for
Don't miss the chance to sign up
for Church School teaching positions!
Over the next few weeks - by Recognition Sunday, May 2 - we will be building the
Teaching Teams for each age and grade level. If this is your umpteenth year
teaching in the Church School or your first, you know the rewards you gain. For
those of you who have not experienced this unique process, we hope the following
questions and answers will help you carefully and prayerfully consider this
Am I "qualified"? Everyone is qualified in some way if only by your love of
children and a willingness to share your faith. The ability to hear your
children's questions is important, but you don't have to have all the answers.
You need a willingness to teach - but also be taught. Many of us were motivated
to teach because our congregation asks each family to donate two years of your
time for each of your children in the Church School. Once you do it, you realize
the rewards far outweigh the risks.
What are Teaching Teams? A team is usually a mix of six to eight parents and
high school students in each class. Each Sunday there is a Lead Teacher and at
least one backup rotating the responsibility for teaching class and preparing
lessons. This enables flexibility for your personal plans and will allow you to
worship at least once a month in the Meetinghouse. If you are a skier or a
sailor - we can make that work. For those of you with children in the seventh
and eighth grades, you may simply like to support the pastors in our Pastors'
Class - not preparing, but rather facilitating discussion. Sign up with your
spouse, with a group of friends, or with your child.
How can I find the time and skills to prepare and to teach? Our active Church
School is possible because we work together. Our UCC curriculum, entitled
"Seasons of the Spirit," provides you with lesson plans, enrichment activities
and a good biblical background each week. It is lectionary based so it will
follow along with what is being used in the Meetinghouse. Our Task Force is here
every Sunday to provide support as "Sunday Supers" and our coordinators cover
the Church School office all week to help you prepare and take care of the
administrative and communication tasks. Further, there is usually at least one
Sunday every month that is not a Church School Sunday due to holidays, school
vacations or Special Events.
Where do I sign up? At Coffee Hour, from now until all classes are filled, there
is an easel with a sign-up board organized by age and grade level. Or you can
speak to Susie Craig, Rosemary Lamie or Jenny Lepoutre. Just stop by or call us
Last year, we divided our Lenten
efforts between two causes of great importance: our continuing work in Honduras,
and our new focus on local hunger. Based on the success, and impact, of last
year's dual mission, we will once again distribute our collection between both
Goals of the 2004 Lenten Project
$26,300 for local food banks and
$26,300 for Honduras support
A Container load of vital goods
A mountain of food
Here, too, we will take a
two-pronged approach designed to maximize the impact we have on the problem of
hunger in Fairfield County.
First, we have set a goal of $26,300 in raised funds, to be contributed to local
food banks and pantries. There is nothing these agencies need more than cash,
and for good reason: demand on these resources has risen dramatically, at the
very time when both cash contributions are off and government surplus foodstuffs
are being diverted to a greater extent to military and international support. To
make the need even more desperate, we will be raising these funds as we head
toward the summer, a time when demands spike and contributions ebb. The former
is largely due to the fact that thousands of children who receive free or
reduced-price breakfast and lunch nine months a year are suddenly home for the
summer, with no new assistance to replace what they had been getting in school.
The latter is a result of donor vacations and, frankly, the lack of any holidays
associated with hunger. Many of us who are more fortunate, even those of us who
contribute heavily to food drives and holiday drives, simply don't think of this
issue in the summertime.
Cash contributions to these agencies will be magnified many times, by the buying
power they have and the subsidies they receive. It is conceivable that we could
cause to be purchased more than 25 tons of vital and nutritious product by
meeting this goal.
The second prong will be a food drive to mirror the Honduras container effort.
Donors of Honduras wish list items will be encouraged to also drop off
non-perishable foods; a list of most-needed items will be published. These items
will be stored until the Hunger Walk, scheduled for May 16, at which point they
will be added to donations made on the day of the Walk and piled high on the
church lawn. From there they will go directly to Neighbor-To-Neighbor of
Greenwich and the Food Bank of Stamford and, possibly, to other agencies
identified by Outreach.
"Staying the Course"
Our travel team has researched a
multitude of needs, both in areas in which we are already engaged and in new
parts of the country. This time, however, they returned with the news that the
challenging global economy, which has resulted in a reduction in all manner of
financial support, now threatens the sustainability of our past work in
Honduras. To ensure the success of the vital programs already implemented, and
to continue our support of populations for which we have built medical clinics,
hostels, housing, nutrition centers and agricultural support projects, we have
decided to devote the international portion of our Lenten offering as follows:
||to ship goods via
container (see below)
||to complete the pastor's house at Subirana
||to fund an agricultural specialist at Pinalejo
||to help ensure adequate staffing at the Pinalejo medical clinic
and nutrition center
||to purchase Spanish/English and English/Spanish educational
materials to improve communication among our congregation,
Dr. Espana and AIEH
|_ _ _ _
||is our goal for Honduras assistance.
Container for Honduras
Wish list of vital materials
needed for medical and family concerns in several regions of Honduras:
Clinical Scales (3)
Sterilization Equipment for 2
Audiovisual equipment for clinics
Lumber for making beds and cyclone
fencing and posts
Furnishings for Nutrition Center
in Subirana-children's tables, chairs, forks, knives, spoons, dishes for 50
people, dish cabinet, stewpot, pressure cooker, frying pan and pot set,
utensils, knives, 2 large cutting boards, dish towels, 50 glasses, coffee pot, 2
strainers, 2 blenders, 2 waffle irons, 10 grain bins, 4 big garbage cans,
freezer for food, toys, playground equipment, playpens (3)
Vehicle for Dr. Espana
Collection sites-maybe you have a
garage or basement (drop sites)
In summary, the dollars raised
will allow us to protect the integrity of the investments we have already made,
helping to assure that vital services continue while we strategize with AIEH,
the UCC and with other congregations as to how to fund operating costs over the
long term. The goods raised will allow us to further buttress the infrastructure
of the clinics we have created, while simultaneously allowing us to expand our
reach into support for a day care center in El Japon which provides care for 48
children of factory workers.
The Members of The First
Congregational Church of Greenwich, Ministers
Ralph Ahlberg, Interim Senior
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,
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