The First Congregational Church of Greenwich

Meetinghouse Monthly

April, 2004

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 Easter.

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
“Palm Sunday Passion”
Ralph E. Ahlberg

Thursday, April 8
Maundy Thursday
6 pm

Good Friday, April 9
10 am, Family Service
8 pm, Music and Meditations

Sunday, April 11
Easter Sunday
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
“Gone Fishing”
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 Together

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.

CPR/AED Training

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 Evening Out

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 officers.

The Women's Fellowship
Cordially Invites
The Women of First Church
To Attend

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 and desserts.

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 office.


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.

Sunday, April

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 (Local Mission)

25 - Art Night, including sundae building

SPF Videos

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 _____________________________________


by ____________________________________________________


Enclosed is my check for


Remember to set your clocks ahead one hour on April 4

Musical Notes

SAL Thanks

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 visit!

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.

Music Sunday

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.

Church School

Family Events and
Important Dates

April     3     2 - 4 pm A Walk Through Holy Week Begin in the Youth Room 103
  4 10 am Palm Sunday Service Child Care; No Church School
  8 6 pm Maundy Thursday Dinner
  9 10 am Good Friday Family Service
  11 Easter Sunday Services 6 am, 9:15 am & 11 am Child Care Only
  18 Regular Church School
  25 Regular Church School
May 2 Recognition Sunday
  11 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 are welcome.

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 important opportunity.

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 at 637-1791.

The 2004
Lenten Project

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 causes.

Goals of the 2004 Lenten Project

$26,300 for local food banks and pantries
$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:

$ 2,000 to ship goods via container (see below)
2,000 to complete the pastor's house at Subirana
6,000 to fund an agricultural specialist at Pinalejo
15,000 to help ensure adequate staffing at the Pinalejo medical clinic and nutrition center
1,300 to purchase Spanish/English and English/Spanish educational materials to improve communication among our congregation, Dr. Espana and AIEH
_ _ _ _  
$26,300 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:

  • Refrigerator

  • Industrial Stove

  • Clinical Scales (3)

  • Sterilization Equipment for 2 clinics (electrical)

  • 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.

Outreach Committee

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